A week before Christmas and I am readier than usual. This is because, as a family, we will be celebrating Christmas together on the 21st when we are all in England. There will be four generations sitting down to eat a festive feast.
Most of my shopping has been conducted via the internet, which I have to say is an absolute boon. The service has been impeccable with one hitch for which some unknown agent is to blame. One of my parcels arrived battered with the outer plastic wrapper torn. The box inside, a large Lego set for a grandchild, had suffered very obvious, unsellotapable, damage. It was in a sorry state. (It was probably the wrong packing for such a large box.) Nick and I checked the contents which were unharmed and resolved to keep the item and explain to the young recipient what had occurred.
But, as I wrapped up presents yesterday, and came to the Lego set I looked at its sorry state. What kind of Granny would I be deemed to be if I gave my grandson a toy which looked as if it had passed through several hands beforehand? I contacted the company who could not be more helpful. I could take the item to my nearest store and it would be changed. They even checked ‘their system’ and informed me that there were 4 in stock, it would be wise to phone and reserve one, which I did.
This morning I made the swap. I enquired, hopefully, whether the original item would be returned to the manufacturer for repacking. Oh no, I was told, it would be “binned”. “Binned?” I said, “You mean thrown away?” Apparently yes. There is no other provision for damaged goods. Could the contents not go to a good cause? Apparently not. I left the shope with my pristine box, expressing the hope that at least a member of staff could take the ‘faulty’ item home. Even though it would be ‘against the rules’.
All that lovely pristine new Lego must be scrapped, because, no doubt, Health and Safety requires this to be so. The only word that described how I felt as I left the store is gutted. If it were not important to me that my grandson should feel ‘special’, if it weren’t Christmas with all that means to children in particular, I would have run with my Plan A.
This afternoon I sat at my dining table, wrote cards, wrapped gifts. I looked out of the window and it was starting to snow. Beautifully transforming the views which we enjoy from the side of our house which faces our hillside garden. It wasn’t a heavy fall, but enough to whiten the slopes and it did remind me of the snowfall which surprised us at the beginning of February this year.
It fell the day we were due to travel to France, the day before my birthday. It was auspicious for me because I know that on February 3rd in the year I was born my brand new 13-year uncle trudged to school in deep snow, the like of which has, reputedly, not been experienced in southern England since. This February I captured some images of the black and white winterworld that snow gives us, from the rear windows of the house.
It was lucky for us, the family, that the snow persisted long enough to provide us with some days of wonderful fun when we went to Inshriach House, near Aviemore, for half term a couple of weeks later. Inshriach is an Edwardian country house in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. It is available to rent for groups of up to 17 people for holidays, house-parties, photo shoots, location work, creative courses and events. Fifteen of us joined a group of young parents – we squeezed the small fry in cots into parental rooms – friends of my son Dan. Whilst we were there Dan, who works in the film industry, put together a Swede of Lord of the Rings. I’d not heard of that kind of swede before, although I love the vegetative kind hugely.
We are booked to go again in February 2010. A rather different film has been chosen to receive the swede treatment. We improvise with props and the dressing-up cupboard which Lucy Mickelthwait allows us to plunder. But this time, I’m advised it might be wise to rustle up a nun’s wimple beforehand. (I just went onto the web to check my spelling of wimple – would you believe there is a website which tells you how to make one……….. for your dog?!!