Clicking down to Christmas

BBC Ouch 7th December 2008

There’s nothing us disabled people like more than a good online shopping spree, and Laurence Clark is no different. But when there’s a curious four year old in the house, having everything delivered brings its problems, as the Clarks found out.

It’s a pretty safe bet that sometime in the coming week, you’ll end up having a conversation with a fellow human being along the lines of “I can’t believe we’re in December already”. Love it or loathe it, there’s no escaping the fact that Christmas is almost upon us.

Having been through that stereotypical phase of being disparaging towards anything festive in my teens and twenties, these days I’ve come back round to enjoying this time of year again. Thankfully, gone are the days of me braving the cold to plough through crowds of desperate shoppers with a cartload of shopping bags suspended from each handle of my electric wheelchair, using my footplates to clip the heels of anyone who dared linger in my path too long.

Today, Christmas shopping is an altogether more relaxed experience thanks to the internet. Instead of all those fraught weekends of aimlessly wandering up and down the aisles desperately searching for inspiration, nowadays I only need to spend a few hours surfing the web with my credit card to hand to get the perfect gifts for everyone.

The downside is that it’s now become extremely difficult to maintain the pretence of Santa Claus to my four year old son Tom, as every morning he spots the postman turning up on our doorstep with yet another toy-shaped package. Day by day it proves increasingly harder to fob him off when he demands to know what these mysterious newly arrived parcels contain. We eventually attempt to throw him off the scent by explaining that the postman brings Christmas presents to our home so that we can send them on to Father Christmas in Lapland; who in turn then delivers them back to our house on Christmas night. I suspect, however, that it won’t be long before he starts to question the incredible inefficiency of this system and smells a huge rat. The fact that he’s already caught a glimpse of some of his presents on the top shelf of our wardrobe has not exactly helped to sell the whole Santa illusion either.

When I was a little boy I’d write a letter to Father Christmas with a list of all the presents I wanted. I’m all grown up nowadays, but I still maintain a similar tradition around this time of year by emailing my wife with a set of web links to the various CDs and DVDs I want her to buy for me, just to make sure I get the right ones. Being the sort of considerate husband that I am, however, I do run them all through a price comparison website beforehand, to make sure that I’m pointing her towards the cheapest possible online deals.

The only accessory that we don’t currently order online or have delivered is our Christmas tree. The first Christmas after we got married we had absolutely the tackiest fibre optic tree I have ever seen, donated by my new mother-in-law, which we had to have positioned in our front window for the whole world to see.

I loathed every inch of it, from the multi-coloured tinsel branches to the constant, irritating whirring of the motor which rotated a series of differently coloured filters, thus cascading a sequence of reds, purples and greens up and down the branches. In my paranoia, I used to imagine the flashing ends of each branch was actually a signal in Morse code, blinking out the message “these people have bad taste” over and over again to anyone passing by.

The solution turned out to be a combination of cerebral palsy and too much whisky. About four Christmases ago I ‘accidentally’ toppled backwards whilst pissed and landed on the damn thing, completely flattening it forever. Nowadays I get my own way, as we always have a lovely real fir tree which is so large that we end up struggling to transport it home and get it through the front door. Although this may all sound a little impractical, I cannot help but feel this is one of the reasons why God made personal assistants.

Anyway, I’m sorry if this column has proved an unwelcome early reminder that Christmas is just around the corner and it’s time to start frantically buying everything in sight. But let’s face it – you had it coming sooner or later, so may I be the first to wish you a Merry Christmas! 

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