Ho Bloody Ho Ho

What goes ‘Ho Ho Plop’ ?

Father Christmas laughing his head off.

I know only a few jokes, and that is one of them: it may not be funny but it’s clean and seasonal. It’s not a funny time of year anyway what with bad music, kitsch decorations and a heatwave from hell, not to mention the illusory obligation to spend spend spend.

Despite all the above, it’s a good time to be in Johannesburg since most of the population have gone to the coast, giving rise to irate comments on Facebook regarding crowded beaches. Sorry for you, all you seaside people, but even in the week before Christmas the shops are quietest here in Egoli so please keep all the holiday makers.

After being away for a few days I went to the shops today: it was pretty good, actually. For starters, the Mall acknowledged for the first time that it doesn’t need to be hotter inside than out.

Generally the ambient temperature at the Rosebank Mall is at least three to four degrees warmer than it is outside: in a heatwave that translates into a Bikram Yoga studio.Today however it was in the region of 26, a huge improvement on the scorching conditions outside.

Since even the beggars and the builders are on holiday, the shops were pretty empty and the queues quite short while on the Pick ‘n Pay shop floor there were more ‘workers’ standing in groups chatting than there were shoppers.

Well, I think they were employees. They had branded blouses and name tags at any rate, but none of them could point me in the direction of Bicarbonate of Soda or Maize Flour so I can’t be certain.

The art shop Herbert Evans was similarly denuded of helpful staff, but the moment I walked into Musica [DVDs, computer games, music etc] I was offered immediate help. As it happened I was there only to browse.

But this is not a poor service rant, or a tirade about the commercialisation of Christmas: I want to talk about shopping – which regular readers will now I enjoy – in December. December is actually a good time to shop for anything  except gifts.

“Gift” type things are  big sellers now of course as people with no imagination – often husbands, sons and fathers – buy over-priced and over packaged gift sets to give to their wives, mums and daughters, corporates buy expensive booze, cosmetics and linen for their most valuable clients, and families Xmas specials [biscuits, bath products, confectionery] for relations they barely know and hardly ever see.

But, as the less affluent know, this is the time of year that you can acquire bargains on things you actually need: Those builders, beggars and domestics who are no longer forming long queues at the supermarkets buying their loaf of bread, packet of polony and litre of coke for the day, are pending their bonus or their savings at the superstores.

At Game and Macro the Specials really are special: you may pay through the nose for a special ‘Yuletide Candle’ or ‘Christmas Cookies’ but if you need a stove, microwave, fridge, TV or other appliance, December is the time to buy it.

But non-Christmas type luxuries are often marked down at Supermarkets as well: the Pick ‘n Pay in the Republic of Rosebank has recently been upgraded  to cater to the needs of the upmarket ‘New York Apartment’ and Air B’n B tenants.

At the same time they cannot afford to lose the builders, beggars, domestics etc etc who visit daily for their bread, polony and coke. Or take-away pap en vleis. Or their Walkie-Talkies [chicken feet and beaks] and sour milk.

So it’s a somewhat bi-polar shop, where Paarl Perle shares a shelf with Pongracz, and processed cheese is next to the Provolone. The Christmas Stolen is more expensive than the one you get at Woolies, as is the non-alcoholic beer, but the freshly baked bread is half the price of other shops.

Good Stuff luxury hand cream is simply the best: no, seriously, it really is. And it’s cheap. I went to buy some for a friend and found only gift packs of lotions and gels and creams: the usual stock was removed and replaced with expensive Festive Packs.

So no Gift-type products at affordable prices, and wrapping paper could have been hand-made and hand coloured, considering the cost, and don’t get me started on Christmas Crackers! [BTW, more expensive is not always better: Most of the R99 for 8 crackers contained the exact same stuff as the R89 for 10].

Fahter+Christmas+-+supper.jpg (1600×621)

However, as I walked around, I picked up some wonderful bargains. Hug-in-a-Mug selling for R35, down from R50. Specials on cats’ food and cleaning products. Not to mention tinned fruit salad, Bicarb, Maize Flour and cream being relatively cheap.

I had to use my credit card in the end because I bought a lot more than I intended. But it was all stuff I would have bought anyway – semi-essentials as it were. I still don’t have the Good Stuff luxury hand cream but will make bath bombs from cheap Maizena and Bicarb instead.

Rather than slabs of Chocolate I will give Hug-in-a-Mug – Creamy Cappuccino, Hazelnut, Vanilla, Coco-Choc, take your pick. And with the cheap coconut oil, sea salt and sugar I can replace shower gel with home made body scrubs

Poverty and imagination, December and shopping centres: I set a target of R50 a person -except for those without whom l would die – and I think I will reach it. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to present a bag of beautifully wrapped and creatively decorated presents with home-made cards and envelopes tailored to the recipient.

Father Christmas may laugh his head off at the time and effort I take to create personalised presents; possibly the recipients of the exfoliants, bath bombs and body scrubs might brace themselves to fix their faces in a rictus grin when I hand over the fruits of my loom…

But I don’t care.  It is more blessed to give than to receive, and while it is easy to buy an expensive ‘gift’ online or in the rarefied and elitist atmosphere of an exclusive shop, nothing says ‘I love you’ more than a hand made present bought with ingredients bought from the purgatory of a holiday Mall.

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