Tag Archives: Christmas gifts


Boxing Day arrives in a burst of sunshine, decorated with a cool breeze and its obviously Beach Weather. So I grab my towel and cozzie, crank up the VeeDub, and  drive to Melkbostrand.  Because I’m an early bird, I actually find parking, and also a free patch of sand to deposit my towel, beach bag and book. My spirits lift. Christmas Day is always a bad day for me . Too many painful memories, no prezzies, no big family lunch, no …. Stop it, stop it, I scold myself, no wallowing! My eyes are watering.  I sternly tell myself focus on the seagulls, the gentle incoming waves, the ozoney-suntan oily smell of the beach.

There’s plenty of activity. People are being towed along the beach by ecstatic dogs on leads, some owners semi -running to keep up with their joyful dogs.

But  a huge St Bernard has other ideas, jerks free of the leash, and runs full tilt into an elderly lady sitting nearby, in an old fashioned striped canvas deckchair, complete with canvas canopy. She’s shrouded in towels, scarves, enormous sun hat, huge dark sunglasses,  long green skirt topped with a long-sleeved red and white striped shirt, and seemingly absorbed in her knitting.  So the express train weight of a runaway St Bernard capsizes the old dear, chair and all. Confusion reigns.

I dash over, kick the St Bernard who yelps and looks confused. I glare at the panting, red faced owner who has finally lumbered up, ineffectually waving his arms,  and too out of breath to do anything but make a feeble lunge for his runaway hound, who promptly takes off again, at speed.

I leave him to it, and set about righting the capsized chair and its bewildered occupant.

Once the old dear is set to rights,  reunited with hat, sunglasses, knitting, towels and cushions, I take a good look. She has the whitest skin I’ve ever seen. No wonder she’s shrouded  herself from the sun’s invasive rays. She’s even wearing red and white socks – in this heat.

“Thanks you, my dear,” she says slowly in  heavily accented English. “That was a surprise, for sure! Thank you for rescuing me.  My name is Klara. And your name, my dear?”

“Umm, I’m Susie. Are you here alone? Should I fetch you some water, or a coffee maybe?”  I gesture to the mobile coffee cart further down the beach.

“No, no, I’m alright, thank you. Just a little adventure. Nothing serious. Wait ‘til I tell Klaus. He will laugh a lot, I know,” she says cheerfully. She points to the surf where a sturdy  old man is emerging onto the beach.  He’s wearing striped red and white baggy boardshorts, has a green and white striped bandanna tied around his head. His   bushy, white beard cascades downwards, pushed upwards and outwards by his  splendid, solid tummy .

“Oh, Oh, Klara! I go for a swim and what happens? You are alright? “ Again the heavy  accent. German maybe? Or Scandinavian perhaps?

“Ja, Klaus,  I’m okay, Susie here chased away the dog and helped me up and all is well. Don’t worry,” and she beamed at her husband, who huffed out a big sigh of relief .

Klara hands Klaus a towel, and he starts to towel off.

“We do love the beach, especially after our hard Northern winter,” Klara informs me, “but I have to be careful of the sun. Klaus gets outside more than I do, so he can wear the swimming costume. And you, my dear? You are living here? You are very brown. So your skin is used to the African sun.”

Klaus  has departed with the beach bag towards the change rooms.

“You are here alone? Where is your family?”

“ Ummm – I …. I …. “ I can feel my eyes brimming.

“I’m so sorry my dear,” says Klara, removing her sunglasses, and examining me with a piercing, clear blue gaze. “Life is cruel, ja? It is  especially difficult at Christmas. But I will  remember you at Christmas time. Next year will be easier, I am sure”.

Tears well up again, and  “Sorry, gotta go, “ I mumble, “take care, look after yourselves, have a nice holiday.”

Klara nods, carefully replaces her glasses and resumes her knitting .

I stumble off in the direction of my bag, stop at the mobile cart for a coffee to regain my composure, and find a nearby sand dune where I can settle down to read. I look around for the old couple when I leave the beach, but they’re nowhere to be seen.

That was a year ago, and now its Boxing Day again.

On Christmas Eve I watched the Royal Command Variety show, drank too much whiskey, and went to bed too late. Even though I slept heavily I was vaguely conscious of a thumping and bumping coming from the roof. Burglars? Stray cats? My whiskey induced coma  held me captive in bed.

The strangest thing happened on Christmas morning.

I surfaced  pretty late, and once my blurry gaze cleared, I saw … At the end of my bed? No way!   A lumpy parcel wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper, tied with tinsel and sporting a prickly sprig of real holly  over the knot. What? Real holly? It prickled like hell. I sucked my bleeding finger as I hunted for a gift tag. There was no gift tag.

I blinked. Too much 100 Pipers is one thing, and  a hefty  hangover is an old friend, but a mystery Christmas gift on the end of my bed was another thing entirely. I staggered through the house, checking for open doors, or smashed windows but found nothing untoward.

 After a mega strong cup of tea, I cautiously snipped through the tinsel and jumped back. Nothing happened.  So: not a parcel bomb. I prodded the parcel with my scissors. The paper crackled but nothing happened. Okaaaayyyy – time to unwrap.  I discovered a crisp green and white beach towel, wrapped around a knitted  floppy  red sunhat.  Perfect for the Beach on Boxing Day. And, the perfect  Christmas gift for me. Huh. Strange.

My foggy brain couldn’t deal  with the mystery, so I went to the beach, with my new beach gear. Another perfect sunny day on Melkbos beach. This time no runaway dogs, or elderly Northern tourists.

For  two years running, on Christmas morning  I’d wake up to a mystery, lumpy parcel at the foot of my bed. The next  year I found  a beautiful hand  knitted red and green cotton  bikini; the following  year a light green  cotton beach wrap, plus a pair of hand  knitted  socks  – you guessed it – in red and green.

But on Year Four  – no mystery parcel. Because I woke up next to my new husband Sam, and now I have my own family. We have prezzies galore and mammoth lunches, Family Christmas with bells on. And  I’ve made it a family tradition that we have to go to Melkbos Beach on Boxing Day.  Its non-negotiable.

 When I told Sam my story, and he was  as baffled as I am. You don’t suppose? he wondered ….. well, who knows? Does it matter? Christmas time is a time for family, gifts and the joy of giving.

Happy Christmas to us all.


Filed under HUMOUR

The  Christmas Gift  –  by A M Smith ©

This short-short story was my entry to our Writers’ Circle monthly writing exercise.  The prompt was, “underneath the Xmas tree…”  which starts off  the story. Read on!  

Underneath the Xmas tree lay the long box, the contents of which would end my marriage, remove that which I held most dear. I didn’t know it at the time of course, and hindsight is hardly useful after the event.

I noticed Pam’s expression when she spotted the long box  under the tree on Christmas Eve. She looked at the box, and turned to me with an odd expression. A mixture of despair and anger, I suppose.

“If that’s my gift,“ she said slowly, pointing at the box, “you obviously didn’t buy me perfume, like I asked you to, did you? You just don’t get it, do you?” she snapped, and left the room, slamming the door behind her.

Women! What can I say? I was accustomed to her seemingly eternal disappointment. I shrugged, and went outside to brush stray leaves off my front lawn. Although small, it was perfect in every respect.  Edges neatly trimmed, grass evenly mowed; glowing  emerald green, despite the deepening dusk. I surveyed it with pride, and felt my customary  warm glow of satisfaction.

Christmas Day came and went. Pam’s  lukewarm reception of  her Christmas gift  was unsurprising. I can’t bear wasting money, and perfume – I ask you? An   overpriced product with over-elaborate packaging; a few squirts and it’s all gone. Whereas the new Hoover I bought  her for Christmas would last us for years. A five year guarantee on the motor, the latest technology, light and easy to handle, and only a subdued hum when you switched it on. I gave it a trial run on the lounge carpet. It worked like a dream, as I knew it would.

Returning to work after the Christmas weekend came as a relief. To say the domestic atmosphere had been  frosty would be an understatement. But I bore it with my accustomed cheerfulness. These things are sent to try us, as we all know.

I walked briskly from the station, down our street towards home, a nice cup of tea, and then some  lawn maintenance – the perfect end to my day.

Hello, I thought, what’s a taxi doing outside our house?

And: why is there soil on the pavement outside our property?

   And then: What’s the new Hoover doing on my  lawn? why is my long extension cord running out  through the lounge French Doors?

As I hesitated by our gate, trying to make sense of  these unusual  factors, Pam burst out of the front door, wearing her coat, and yanking her biggest wheelie suitcase behind her.

She pointed to the Hoover in the middle of my lawn.

“Seeing you’re so keen on the Hoover and your bloody lawn, I thought I’d put the two together and make life absolutely marvellous for you – now you can Hoover your lawn and have the most perfect grass in the world!”

I stood there gaping.

“Watch!” she commanded, abandoning her suitcase, marching onto my lawn – in high heels,  in high heels! How could she? My lawn …

Pam grabbed the Hoover, kicked the start button and it purred into life, moving smoothly and efficiently over the grass.

“See?” yelled Pam. “The perfect combination  – you and the Hoover on your ruddy lawn. Now it can be spotless. You love spotless, don’t you?  And don’t worry about  the grass mucking up the Hoover engine, I’ve taken care of that too, don’t you worry!”  She shot me a malevolent glare as she barged through the gate, wrenching  her suitcase into the waiting taxi,

How could the Hoover operate on grass? My grass! My precious lawn! I rushed over to the Hoover and suddenly it hit me.

Astroturf .








Filed under SHORT-SHORT's


Christmas in the post-War United States

Christmas in the post-War United States (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The dog helpfully tidied up the leftovers in the kitchen and was spectacularly sick on the hall carpet.

Meanwhile 12 year old James polished off the sherry trifle and the dregs of everybody’s wine glasses and was spectacularly sick en route to the downstairs loo.

The twins plugged in their new PlayStations, which blew the Christmas tree lights which set off a chain reaction and tripped the mains, and in all the excitement nobody realized the deep-freezer in the scullery needed switching on again. Twenty kg of thawed deep frozen fish is a very un-festive event indeed.

Grandpa George had words with George Junior because he wanted to watch the cricket and George Junior wanted to watch the World Darts Champs.

George Junior gave me a new Hoover for Christmas despite my hints about wanting a season ticket to the Artscape Ballet.

Little Amanda was devastated to discover that Father Christmas is actually George Junior, and George Junior equally devastated to discover that there is no sporton any channel after 1700 on Christmas Day. This gloom was only surpassed by his expression when he opened my gift to him – well, I thought he’d enjoy The History of Rugby, in two de luxe volumes; he’s always saying rugby is his substitute for religion. Will I ever get this gift thing right?

Aunty Joyce carefully refolded 53 pieces of Christmas wrapping paper because we should all re-cycle dear and didn’t really enjoy the December Hazel Nut Loaf as her turkey substitute – you know I never eat garlic dear, but never mind.

Uncle Basil broke his front tooth on the R2 coin inhis Christmas pudding, there’s a break-in next door while the neighbours are on holidays, and all three of my credit cards have broken the records, broken their limits, and I’m a broken woman.

But you know what? The thing that breaks my spirit completely is the grim knowledge that next December we will do it all again!  VOLUNTARILY. Can someone please explain that to me?





An e-mail is currently doing the rounds, suggesting that this year we support local businesses in our area and give vouchers for six haircuts, or monthly car-washes, or deliveries of fresh flowers or home cooked meals at intervals throughout the year. All of the above are useful, thoughtful ideas, and should bring joy to the suppliers in our neighbourhood (if not to the recipients).  BUT …but … but … what about the wrapping paper? What about the ribbon?  What about the  gift tags?  What about the mysterious lumpy parcels in that tantalising pile under the Christmas tree?  Or the feverish search through drawers and cupboards to find out where your present is hidden?

What about the annual haul of hand cream, bath salts, soaps, lotions, that will last you throughout the year and provide a few on-the-wing birthday presents later in the year? I mean, where would our houses be without that annual soap-on-a-rope?

And what will Aunt Bessie do without her annual pile of carefully hoarded Christmas wrapping paper, which she takes home and irons to remove the creases, and thriftily re-uses next year? “We must all re-cycle, you know” she reproves us every 25th December.

And I would miss going to the shops and seeing the decorations, the Father Christmas cut-outs. I would even miss the sound of BoneyM carolling out in the malls.  Don’t tell anybody, but I enjoy BoneyM at Christmas time.  My favourite radio announcer hates them with a passion and says so every year at every opportunity – must say I’m curious to know why he harbours such an undying hatred, but I guess we’re all entitled to our little quirks.

My favourite Lit blog, The Millions recently posted an article titled “Gifts Writers will actually use” which sets us straight on the fact that writers don’t want any more journals, notebooks or fancy pens.  What we really would like is booze, chocolates, pre-cooked meals, and the latest novel, which we’ve been too busy or too broke to buy.  And what we probably desperately need  are Yoga lessons (to take out the kinks from too much sitting & typing), a dog (to get us out into the fresh air – the theory is that walking leads to inspiration) and a new dressing gown, for those days when we sit for hours, welded to our keyboards, unwashed, uncombed, dressed in our old disgusting dressing-gowns.  So there you have it.

Actually, I’d happily settle for the book, food, and booze – but nicely wrapped, please! I’m a sucker for tradition.

A merry Christmas to you all, and Bah! Humbug! to gift vouchers for car valet services and haircuts!  Bring on the tinsel!


Filed under PRESENT & FUTURE