Thursday, 11th December 2008
Her name is not really that, of course. In fact, she never really existed – she is just a composite person made up of some people I have met in my life, for whom the words Bah! Humbug! were invented.
So when the Christmas sales come around, she stocks up… for next Christmas. Not only in the shops, but also at the parish bazaars, where she can pick up unwanted gifts such as fluorescent green scarves and toe-socks. And gently-loved books. It’s the thought that counts.
Of course, she makes sure no one interrupts her routine rout in the shops by parking in the bays reserved for people with different needs.
She’s sharp. She does not buy any Christmas-related items – so that she has presents for all the year round. Sometimes, she even has the audacity to make a hamper of stuff she does not like (in a cane basket cadged from the Kappillan) and donates it in someone else’s name to a charity for further fund raising.
Then she asks for a receipt, so that she can tell the birthday girl she made a donation “in her name”.
She also has the knack of saving labels and packets to redeem against merchandising items or free gifts – another source of presents.
She has made thrift her Face Book password. Everything, if possible, is re-recycled. Wood from pruned trees in her garden is cured and saved for the fireplace. She uses the ash from the fireplace in a solution of her own making to clean brass and copper.
Magazines are a whole new ball game. She wraps presents in them… first by making huge folios by sticking the edges of eight sheets in two rows of four, neatly over each other with tinned milk or egg white, or hideous-coloured nail polish bought from he bargain rack. The rest she shreds up as bedding for the cats; used bedding becomes compost. The staples go into a tin for taking to the recycling skip.
She asks her friends to give her their Christmas cards after the season is over. These give her enough raw material to make her own cards for the year following, whenever she has a spare moment during the year.
When she finds two or more identical cards, she cuts out shapes or figures from one, and attaches them to the other, separated by bits off a spent dishwashing sponge, for a 3-D effect.
Then there is the act she puts on when she says she’s a homebody, and loves to do the honours of entertaining. Of course she does. That way, people have to come to her house bearing gifts (which she can then recycle) rather than the other way around.
She gives people mutton dressed as lamb, figuratively; shop-bought cakes cut horizontally across in four slices, and sandwiched with chocolate coconut filling (this is so sweet that a thin slice, rather than the usual wedge, will suffice). Yes, she has made her calculations and it really comes out cheaper like that.
Her dips are finger-licking good, with and crudités or galletti for them. She stuffs her own olives and boils her own butter beans. She saves the ice scraped off her freezer in a plastic bag – in the freezer. And then she brings this out to use with drinks. The crusts from sliced bread become mini-pizzas. But why, and how, do we tolerate her? Because we actually enjoy her foibles, that’s why! And her stuffed olives are the best in the world.