Letters to a Sister : 34

This is a reply to my sister’s letter, which you can read at:


Glad you have noticed that it’s nearly Christmas (I never like to assume.) Though I’m not sure Christmas Eve is a great time to do all your shopping. I was relatively organised this year – not working helps a lot with that. Then I had a few days with a nasty cold, so was glad I had got ahead.

Colds are the worst illness I think, you become very aware of everything physical (like not being able to breathe or swallow.) I’m reading The Martian, which son gave me for my birthday. Have you read it? I will have to see the film now, the book is brilliant, though some of the science was a little beyond me. He (the main character, not son) also had trouble breathing (due to low oxygen on Mars) so I felt we had something in common. Good book – perhaps I’ll send you a copy.

It’s hard to be too sympathetic about your dog’s tail swooshing the tree. I am writing a photo-book entitled, “207 places a cat can hide up a tree.” Perhaps you can help with the sequel : “Symmetry is for Cowards”.

Buying gifts for everyone is always bit of a challenge – it’s the deciding bit that’s difficult isn’t it. Our relatives seem to fit into several categories. There are the ones who give you copious ‘hints’ about what they would like from about August onwards, love receiving gifts and would be happy with an old shoe box really as long as it was wrapped up. (That’s Mum.) Then there are the very organised ones who send a list, often with computer links to the shops that sell things. Makes gift buying very easy. (That’s daughter.) Then there are the people who mainly just want food and alcohol or money. They are harder to buy a ‘real’ gift for (that’s the boys.) Then there are the people who don’t really want anything. They are mostly men.

Do you remember how Dad used to tell us what he didn’t want each year? We clearly got it wrong too many times. I can hear him now saying,
“Not pear-drops or barley-sugars or extra strong mints. And I’ve got enough socks.” Not very helpful of him.

Do you remember that year when I collected all those different sized boxes to wrap his gift in? I think the actual present was socks (it usually was.) I wrapped them in paper, then put them into increasingly bigger boxes. The last box was a big box that I had filched from the back of the supermarket. I was so excited! I remember not sleeping the night before, imagining him opening the first box, only to find another box inside, then opening that one to find an even smaller one. He would have have been good at opening it too, would have made a big deal about being surprised that it was another box, being disappointed that the gift was getting smaller, sharing the joke until, surprise, he reached socks. However, I never saw him open it. I had left the big box next to the dustbin so he wouldn’t find it. The dustbin men did and took it away. Was a low point.

Husband is another difficult person to buy for. This year I wondered about buying him an air-rifle, so he could join the cats in exterminating the rats. So I went to a gun shop. I have never been to a gun shop before. It was very interesting and a lot like buying a magic wand in the Harry Potter films (so you would enjoy it.) The shop was in a nearby town, but it could have been in Diagon Alley, was very dark and foreboding with grills at the windows and a bell to ask for access. Inside were all kinds of guns displayed on the walls. And men. It was a very masculine shop, lots of hunter types. It even had a magic wardrobe – well, a very tall gun safe, but probably it could transport you to other places. The shopkeeper came to help. He didn’t actually look like a character from Harry Potter, disappointingly. To be honest, even if he had, I wouldn’t say, he owned a lot of lethal weapons. Apparently you have to hold a rifle, try it out for size to see if it suits you (like a magic wand.) You have to bond with it. Then I was given a safety talk, about how every gun, even an airgun, must be used properly or it can be dangerous, that there are limits to where and how you are allowed to use them (like magic wands.) I didn’t buy one. It was all too difficult. Plus am not too comfortable with the killing aspect (which I also didn’t mention in the shop. Felt they didn’t want to hear that.)

Any ideas for what I can buy him? Otherwise it will be socks and extra strong mints.

Take care,
Anne xx

PS. Your idea of going to Hawaii next year is tempting. However, I rather like being in England for Christmas, it feels right. I do though think my whole extended family would just love to join you. I will suggest it to them.


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