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The second train of thought that flowed on was to do with the recognition that around the place we have signs and ‘things’ that have been given to one or other of us or to both of us, that were presents by loving individuals. Now I don’t want to do a disservice to those people because I genuinely believe they have given to us out of love and kindness. They are nice, loving people, often members of the family and I really appreciate their intentions – well mostly!

You see there are two times of the year I am coming to increasingly dislike – my birthday and Christmas, and I want to scream to the world (mostly my lovely family) “Stop buying me things!” I have voiced this, and they have heard it but take little notice. The older you get, I observe, the less people (younger generations) take notice of your views. I suspect they just think, “Oh dear, Dad is growing into a grumpy only man.” Only partly true.

Like many people of our generation we have an adequate income and spare time and so we will find ourselves in a variety of garden centres in the area, all of whom have worked out two things. First my generation is quite happy to go out for coffee/tea and a scone/tea cake and so all have restaurants, which are increasingly busy if not full.

The second thing is that they are promoting this, “we must find something different but not wildly expensive to give mum / dad / Aunty Mavis / cousin John / brother George / sister Angelica / baby Taylor / baby Jackson / baby Grace (from top lists of baby names of gender neutral, boys and girls names of 2017) for their birthday / Christening / Christmas / retirement / new home.”  The consequence of all this is that we are buying nice things, unusual things, nifty and natty things, quirky things that are, yes, nice but which given time become boring and collect dust or clutter drawers, dressers and sideboard and sills. Yes, they are nice, they were given with good intent but, in all honesty, if my wife goes first, most of these things will follow her.

If you want to bless me at Christmas or birthday, play it neutral: book tokens, film tokens, tickets to a play, tickets on a flight (????), a meal out with the giver, THAT will be a better deal. I like you, I love you, spending time with you is of more value to me than remembering you by the plaque you gave us. I no longer want to hold on to things – we’ve had the conversation more than once, always initiated by my wife, “You know the kids are going to have to go mad, having to get rid of all this stuff when we’re gone.” When we’re gone, makes me think of us doing a runner to Australia leaving them to cope with the house we’d abandoned and that leaves me sniggering. Then I think, “Well, it’s their own fault, they shouldn’t have given us so much stuff; if they want to bless the local charity shops when we’re gone, do it now, don’t give to me, cut me out of the chain, give directly to them.

I suspect that actually I care more about what other people think when they come into our home than I’m usually willing to admit. Yes, we have the comments about one of those happy go lucky signs on the wall of the kitchen, about ‘how interesting’ it is, meaning, “Whatever are you doing having that on your wall????”  I was given it by someone who loves me!!! And, yes, I’m living with it – for the time being at least.  

The other side of this particular coin is us giving to them. I’m happy to give but I’d much rather give money / coupon / token / tickets, than something I know they will probably end up putting in the bin or taking to the charity shop, or living on the wall / dresser / sill (been there before) or, even worse, taking back and exchanging because it’s the wrong size / wrong colour / wrong style, or will be consigned to the bottom drawer or back of the wardrobe. But why won’t I do that? Because there is an element of “skinflint, can’t be bothered to take some time looking for something nice.”  No, the point is that you’ve already got ‘everything nice’ that you want. You are fortunate enough not to need a tenth tee-shirt, a third spade; it is incredibly difficult to buy for you – almost as difficult as it is for you to buy for me!

Avoiding the ‘over pious appearance’ can also creep in here. I won’t name the elderly relative who said, “I don’t want you to give me anything this Christmas, dear, just send a decent donation to the starving children of Africa.” Well, yes, that is a good idea but it does leave us feeling you are trying to imitate Mother Theresa of Calcutta and that in itself raises a whole bunch of guilt issues in us.

And while we’re on the subject of Christmas, how about a moratorium on sending cards, especially cards that having nothing whatsoever to do with the historical Christmas. No, I don’t want robins or holly or snow scenes cluttering up the house. Angels, Mary, wise men, crib scene, yes, I know they’re old style but at least they act as reminders of what it is really about. A modern Christmas approach? How about sending a greeting card with a carved turkey picture, or a pile of discarded paper and string, or a knocked over glass of something or other similar. Or perhaps just all agree to put these terrible card manufacturers out of business by stop buying and sending cards all together. And as for the growing fad of sending terrible Easter cards… let’s not go there!

Look, I am the first to say what a wonderful world it is, and how incredible the five senses are, and how great it is to enjoy life in this incredibly affluent part of the world (I’m not out to impart guilt so I won’t get into giving to those who really need it; you can ponder on that on your own) but it does seem sad that we don’t have the courage to say, “Let’s think how we can show love to one another by some way that doesn’t end up with us cluttering up our homes with nice things that eventually lose their gloss.”  OK, rant ended. Let’s see if I can end as we usually do with some light quotes.

“It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.” (Good starting place)

― Mother Teresa  

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” (That needs thinking about but I really like it)

― Kahlil Gibran

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” (even more thought required; probably should be before the previous one)

― Winston S. Churchill  

No one has ever become poor by giving.” (seriously challenging!)

―Anne Frank

Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.(yes, it’s their pleasure, not yours to come first)

Eleanor Roosevelt

"Guilt---the gift that keeps on giving."   (Ouch!)

— Erma Bombeck

"The best gift you can give is a hug: one size fits all and no one ever minds if you return it."  (I said something like that!)

— Marge Piercy

Sorry all these quotes from the Internet sound a shade moralistic when it comes to giving. There seems nothing light or humorous around. Does that suggest we feel bad about what, how or why we give? It used to be so much easier when we had so little when we were kids, but how about the following:

`My watch had broken and Christmas was coming, so I dropped several not-so-subtle hints about wanting a new watch. To my disappointment, Tony gave me a toaster. A week later we were driving in a very congested area and Tony said, `Look at all the traffic. Is it lunch hour?` I said, `I don`t know. Why don`t you go back home and I’ll check my toaster?` ``

A man bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas. After hearing about this extravagant gift, a friend of his said, "I thought she wanted one of those sporty four-wheel-drive vehicles." "She did," he replied. "But where was I going to find a fake Range Rover?"

Store manager: "Okay, people, we need to cook up a new holiday for the summer. Something with gifts, cards, assorted gorgables."

From The Simpsons  (‘Nuff said!)

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