Christmas gift ideas to inspire and excite (Satan in the Supermarket)

Lush Life - 'the schnoz' bronze eyeglass stands from lush life
Lush Life - 'the schnoz' bronze eyeglass stands from lush life

It’s that time of year again folks!

Christmas lights glisten on the rain soaked pavements up and down the High Street, there‘s fake snow and glittery baubles in every shop window, jingley-jangley Christmas tunes, complete with the obligatory bells, follow us around, everyone wants to sell us something, and Sir Cliff Richard has just come out of retirement again. Oh bliss!

‘Tis the season to be jolly. ’Tis the season to spend our lolly. Time to be thinking of gift ideas for all the family.

Thank heavens for the internet. It’s full of wonderful on-line gift ideas to inspire and excite.

Just to give you a sample: how would you like to rip open the Santa-sleigh, snow-scene wrapping paper on Christmas morning to reveal.... a Spectacles Stand? It’s a burnished brass sculpture shaped like a nose on which to place your spectacles, to avoid losing them after reading your newspaper or book. Handy for the bedside table. Unfortunately I’m not all that sure you’d know what it was supposed to be. A brass nose. Hmm, yes. How nice. Just what I’ve always wanted. How did you guess that my own nose was about to fall off? A snip at $350.

Then again, you might like to consider buying the sophisticated gentleman of your acquaintance a battery-operated milk-frother. How could anyone not be delighted by such an exclusive and yet useful object? Frothy milk. It’s as if the manufacturers had read your deepest, most secret thoughts, nurtured since early childhood, to own and control a gadget that allows you to froth your milk at any time of the day or night, in any circumstances. (Batteries not included.)

Imagine. You have a guest around for a romantic evening. You’ve savoured a candle-lit dinner for two and are sitting, cuddled up on the settee, in the flickering half-light, preparing for the customary kiss. She waits. He smoulders. She pouts. He burns. He turns to her with eyes of flame and says, in a deep and sultry voice, “frothy milk darling?” How could anyone resist?

Prior to this, of course, he would have proffered his silver-plated toothpick holder - an inspired gift for the elegant host - personalised with his own initials.

Or what about a Cosy Creatures Microwaveable Reindeer Comforter, an unusual and thoughtful gift for all the family? What’s a “comforter”, you ask? I don’t know, but it’s self-evidently a good thing because it’s microwavable. Very modern.

Or a silver-plated pocket ashtray, perhaps, for those odd occasions - such as in the garden, or on a hike - when an ashtray is not readily available?

Or perhaps you know someone who would like a personalised, solid-glass paperweight (£8.00 + £1.50 post & packaging) into which you have inserted your own photograph, preserved for all time?

Satan buying Christmas sherry in Tesco by William Blake
Satan buying Christmas sherry in Tesco by William Blake

Hell on earth

On the other hand, is shopping on the High Street any better?

I was in Tesco the other day when I overheard a young couple talking.

“This is Hell on earth,” the young woman was saying.

She was referring to the Christmas shopping.

We all have our images of what Hell might be like. I imagine a dark pit of gloom lit by scorching fires, with demons with scaly skin sitting on high stools overseeing the tortures of the damned, like umpires at a tennis match.

Me: I’m a great fan of Hell, having been brought up on John Milton and William Blake.

In Blake’s work Hell is the source of creative energy, while in Paradise Lost you can tell that John Milton is sympathetic to his towering, defiant anti-hero Satan.

I’m not sure you will catch sight of Satan wandering the aisles of Tesco, however, pushing a shopping trolley, forked tail draped loosely over one arm, while he picks out bottles of Christmas sherry from the shelves, two for the price of one.

You will, however, find Mammon there.

Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy in his Dictionnaire Infernal (1818) describes Mammon as “Hell’s Ambassador to England.” And you might add that Christmas is his time of year.

Personally I am inclined to agree with that young woman in Tesco. I’ve started on my Christmas shopping at last and it is, indeed, a form of Hell.

The problem is that in your desperation to get it all done you go into some form of a blind frenzy. This is a bit like that battle frenzy that Viking Berserkers were said to experience, where they see red and want to kill everything in sight.

Only you don’t see red, you see bargains. And you don’t want to kill everything in sight, you want to buy it.

So I came out of WH Smiths in Canterbury and saw a wooden dragon on the stall outside and I bought it. What a bargain! It was one of those cut-out packs of pressed wooden shapes which you assemble yourself.

It was only on reflection that I realised I had no one to give it to. My son is 30 years old: far too grown up for wooden toys.

This is not as bad as the story told to me by a particular couple of my acquaintance, however.

Every year they go through the same ritual. The wife buys the presents, while the husband has only one present to get: the one for her. And every year he makes a fuss. “I don’t know what to get you,” he moans.

This particular year, exasperated, the wife told him: “If you can’t be bothered to go into Marks and Spencer and look in the women’s clothing department for something in a size fourteen, then forget it.”

On Christmas day she hands him a nice pullover, all wrapped up in shiny paper with a bow. She gets…. nothing.

“But I did what you told me,” he wailed, as his festive turkey dinner landed in the dog. “I remember distinctly you saying I should forget about it this year.”

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Comments 25 comments

Lou Purplefairy profile image

Lou Purplefairy 5 years ago from Southwest UK

Not one for retail therapy (unless its for photographic equipment or anything in purple) this time of year is torture and as such i would love to take every retailer to the ECHR for infringement of my human rights not to be subjected to torture.

I subscribe to the theory that everyday should be a gift giving day and not on just one day at the end of the year and that the xmas retail industry does much harm to the environment. It produces shit we do not need to buy, with resources we don not have, to purchase with money we don't own for people we can't stand, from companies who would not exist if the market for this crap wasn't there. Aside from the annual mugging i receive from my teenage kids, and the presentation of a few small handmade gifts for a few select family members, anyone looking to see me play the part of santa will be sorely disappointed. I am not a Christian, and therefore do not celebrate Christian festivals, but I am subjected to this commercially hijacked pseudo-religious occasion, year in year out.

You are right Chris, had Dante had to endure Tesco's ( or any other retail outlet) at Christmas, I am sure he would have included a self service checkout and a "buy one, get one free" sign in his depiction of Hell in his famous "Inferno" work.

CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Of course, Christmas is only Christian by name. It was originally the birthday of Mithra, the invincible Sun. But it's been taken over by the commercial fiends of the capitalist world, and is, indeed, a form of hell. But it's hard to ignore, as I've found to my cost in the past, so I just go along with it these days. Sigh.

madame mazuni profile image

madame mazuni 5 years ago

Chris I loved reading this. I found it quite hilarious imagining Satan wandering around Tesco with his shopping trolley deciding which bottles of Christmas Sherry to buy this year...

Personally I detest Christmas. So I try to keep well away from the whole stupidity of it as much as I can which is quite difficult having two children. They are okay with it and I do recall Sam saying one year that he would rather Santa give his presents to a child in the Third World which I thought was lovely.

Great work...Thanks

Hillbilly Zen profile image

Hillbilly Zen 5 years ago from Kentucky

Everyone can relate to this, CJ (although I pictured Satan sashaying down Wal-Mart aisles vs Tesco). I agree with Lou, in that total blame does not rest on the Armani-clad shoulders of capitalist commercial fiends. At the risk of going all Dr. Phil-ish, we have *let* the fiends have free rein. Have sold our collective fiscal souls of our own free will, albeit lured by the fiends slick, shiny advertising. If we didn't buy it, they couldn't sell it.

As for your unwilling participation in the hoopla, well, just hang in there, it'll be over soon. Not soon enough, but soon.

Voted up, funny and interesting.

Talisker profile image

Talisker 5 years ago from UK

Oh this hub is just great! The Christmas lights are just starting to appear on the outside of people's houses. The weather is turning, my two (very mini) kids are starting to get very excited. I love it all. Being a bit of a Blake fan, I thought your caption for Satan shopping at Tecos was just great.

I too find the shopping thing just that little bit stressful, but I shouldn't complain, pretty much whatever you place in front of a 2 and 3 year old should create smiles, (provided it's from a toy shop)

However the daft thing is when all your relatives are adults and you end up buying... a big nose to hold glasses on, that or a rubix cube...

CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks madame mazuni: yes I iked that image too. I have such a clear impression of his, with his tail draped over his arm, pushing the shopping trolley. I tend just to get on with Xmas these days. You can't escape it, so it's probably best justy to enjoy what you can of it. This hub is a sample of that.

Thanks Hillbilly Zen: our version of Mal-Mart is called Asda: owned by the same people. I'm sure you are right: we made this festival into what its become. Pity, because in its original form (back in the bronze age) it was still an important festival.

Glad you like it too Talisker. The Blake picture actually looks like he is pushing a shopping trolley, have you noticed? I wonder how many bottles of sherry he has in there?

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Much more amusing than my own Christmas hub, Chris, but I was so uninterested that I wasn't feeling properly motivated though it did come over as sarcastic! As usual I don't have any money so can't do any spending even if I wanted. Bah humbug!

CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Yes that's the problem with Christmas Steve. It's great if you have plenty of cash: much less fun if you don't.

Au fait profile image

Au fait 5 years ago from North Texas

I've dated a couple of those guys with milk frothers . . . (just kidding)

Very funny hub. I enjoyed. I love the British sense of humor!

Voting you UP and funny . .

CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks Au fait. I hate to tell you this, but those weren't milk-frothers those guys were weilding...

robie2 profile image

robie2 5 years ago from Central New Jersey

Ah CJ-- that spectacles stand in a must have. I can see it now on my bedside table, crashing to the ground as I reach out half asleep to stop the alarm and hit the spectacles stand instead.... great because I am blind as a bat without my glasses, er I mean spectacles:-) Delightful and very creative holiday romp. I am particularly annoyed with both Satan and Mammon this year but I wish YOU a very merry Christmas. Thumbs up!

CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks Robie. I think you need a milk frother near your glasses stand so you can wake up in the morning, put your glasses on and then froth your milk. What could be more natural or appropriate. And a merry Xmas to you too.

Tania Ahsan 5 years ago

Great post, Chris. I am about to start mine and it is surprisingly rubbish if you don't have any money. It's a shame I can't revert to childhood and make everyone pictures out of pasta and expect them to ooh and aah and say thank you. Actually there's an idea...

Talisker profile image

Talisker 5 years ago from UK

My mum actually got one of those for Christmas last year,(spectacle stand noses). She was delighted! (I wish I had thought of it first...) Now the milk frother has become a little seedy on this hub, so perhaps I should opt for the shiny toothpick holder. :-)

CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Thanks Tania. If you want to send me a picture made from pasta, I'll eat the pasta and then say "aah".

Have you thought about a Cosy Creatures Microwaveable Reindeer Comforter, Talisker? Your Mum might like that.

Talisker profile image

Talisker 5 years ago from UK

I'll let you know on Boxing day! :-)

Jon Elliott profile image

Jon Elliott 5 years ago

Christmas is a big disappointment i would ban xmas advertising completley because all its doing is getting adults into dept just so their children can be happy, i don't think the original st nicolus would approve at all and would probably turn in his grave. went up to st pauls last wednesday and asked myself what came first, st pauls or the stock exchange sinse mammon sits on st pauls group of directors. all exits and entrances to paternoster square were block save one and you had to have a pass to enter it or be blessed by st paul. I asked one of the young people who were looking at the passes why i could'nt come in since st paul has now blessed the tent encampment to which they just giggled in fact all the questions i asked they thought funny. Their a bronze statue of a naked man with a crook with 4 sheep in front of him, i asked them why he was naked and then it occurred to me it was to make certain commoners even way back didn't carry explosives or weapons like robin hood an ancient form of body scanner. It was a very interesting day as well for another reason as i came appon a group of soldiers waiting outside downing street and i asked them why they were there. one said it was for charity save the heroes or something like that and i said well you know this doesn't mean a thing to them in their because their the ones who are making a mint out of the death and disfigurement of his and his friends comrades and that the charity they get wont last for long and pails into insignificance to what they will put up with for the rest of their lives, to my surprise he and the others didn't hit me but seemed interested in what i was saying and agreed with most of what i had said but replied that it was just politics. I asked one of the more interested ones why he joined and he said he was naïve, not what i was expecting, but i totally understood because it also crossed my mind when i left school and their was no work about. Mammon is an opportunist and will use especially the naïve for its own ends and it is psychopathic in nature but how do we make it accountable or afraid, i've chosen my route now because of this beast but most people are shepherded by it like sheep to their doom because of their believe that theirs no were else except the woods were they would be devoured by wolves. Christmas is the time of the wolf now more than ever and theirs no were to hide from it. 5 years ago

Just back from Seattle to visit our grandchildren. Our first Thanksgiving turkey in situ. Normally in Malta Turkey is for Xmas lunch only. In Seattle on Thanksgiving day the Xmas lights were on already and so were the post Xmas sales and discounts. My beloved consort went to town to overwhelm our toddlers with toys and bargains whether needed or not. I took an A4 sheet of paper and made a paper aeroplane. Then I made a paper boat with another blank sheet. Then I wrote all sorts of happy messages and drew jokey cartoons. My grandchildren take after me so they innocently preferred the paper toys of simplicity and inventiveness. The long tailed shopper disassociates herself from my attitude.

CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Hello Jon, I was interested in your reading of the St Pauls situation. I was there a couple of weeks ago and it does seem ironical to have St Pauls sat there amongst all those large banking institutions. But then, the church and the state are linked in the UK - the church being the ideological wing of the state - so i guess it's natual enough really.

Hello Narcy: yes Christmas is in full swing here too. Glad your grandchildren enjoyed their paper planes and their paper boats so much, but I bet theys till enjoyed their more expensive presents too.

CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

One funny post script to this hub: I was looking up the various items mentioned in the story in order to put links in, which means that Amazon are now sending me adverts for milk frothers amongst other things, on the assumption I'm interested. Oh joy!

Hillbilly Zen profile image

Hillbilly Zen 5 years ago from Kentucky

Hee hee! C'mon CJ, you know you secretly covet that milk frother so you can use that deep and sultry voice you've been practicing.

CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

It's true Hillbilly! You found out my secret vice: frothing my milk.

fen lander profile image

fen lander 5 years ago from Whitstable

I was in the supermarket last week when Satan came up to me and asked if I knew where he could purchase a milk frother. Now I know.

Syzygy 5 years ago

Very funny Chris :) I hope you get at least 12 milk frothers for Christmas.... then you won't need to buy birthday presents for the rest of the year.

CJStone profile image

CJStone 5 years ago from Whitstable, UK Author

Must admit I'm almost getting tempted by the milk frother idea. The more I think about it, the more I like it. (Satan can get one of his own).

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    CJ Stone is an author, columnist and feature writer. He has written seven books, and columns and articles for many newspapers and magazines.

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