There was no sparkling settled snow on pine trees. No dark quiet forest that would enchant the week before Christmas. That was for those north of the snow line. It was raining and a quieter than normal Wednesday while most were still in work and I was able to finish all my Christmas shopping, put a line under it, and not be landed with a building anxiety of unbought presents.
I walked through the department store into a cloud of different scents of perfume and eau de toilette. Bustling with people being talked into purchasing sizes of bottles that would. by two thirds of the bottle spent, become tired and boring or stale. A bottle of perfume caught my eye and I was instantly curious because I’d remembered the shapely clear bottle that was necked with a set of gold wire-like rings and the woman on the advert that had been on the television for months walking across a lake wearing a thin dress with hints of gold flowing in the breeze that tried to convince that ‘you too could be as free as we’re trying to make out’; and it certainly worked. The bottle widening to the bottom with it’s contents like being held in the palm of the hands and presenting it’s whiskey-like copper liquid in an almost elixir of life beyond water. The top like a stopper formed like a decanter top. Inviting, understated and rare – despite it being sold in the millions.
I picked up the bottle and looked around it but placed it back on the shelf. An assistant seemed to appear from nowhere much like the assistant in Mr Ben but much more pounced in a pushy sales tactic. “Did you get to try it?” she asked without as much as a ‘hello, can I help.’
“Er, yes.”, I hadn’t. I don’t even know why I said yes other than some panic reaction that would be the quickest way to move her on. I hadn’t any intention of buying any being short on money and just wanting to see the price out of curiosity for the future.
“So we have this size which is seventy pounds – ” already I knew this was going to be more than just expensive, it was the up-sell about to come, “and we have a special offer on the one hundred millilitre at…”
She didn’t need to finish. My mind had already switched off from what she had been saying because my eyes had locked already locked onto the top shelf where the largest box stood behind the glass door with a mediocre lock. One hundred pounds.
It’s not just the price. I have refined tastes, usually, which also means expensive tastes but even so the size of the bottle if it was that big would feel indulgent and may be even a little crass. That said, if someone gave it to me, I’m hardly going to complain. I would probably just have to use it twice as often. This is unlikely to happen.
“OK, thanks, that’s great.” I said kindly but nudging her away with words and slowly shifting down the banks of other perfumes pretended to look at others and hoping to escape. Her pushy tactic had turned me off any interest and I wasn’t planning on buying. It was a future pin in the board and all I wanted to do was seal or release my interest. I didn’t even get to smell it and now I didn’t even want to. I would leave it until another time. A retail therapy markup in my new year’s resolution diary for when I did have the money. Besides, this was yet another distraction from allowing me to actually get my Christmas shopping done, today. I moved on.
I walked up the wide staircase, the banister thick dark glossy wood, heavy and robust, and squarely turning back on itself to the upper floor. The heat held in by shelves full like a condensed forest in the form of books. Insulated and sound deadening and why people tend to talk a little hushed I don’t know. A hangover from how we used to behave in a library – which these days is a noisy place full of chatter and foreign exchange students leaching internet access to call home. I pulled a book from the shelf. A potential present.
I opened to a random page and the smell of ink on the page hit me. Unmistakable new book smell. I opened to the inside column of the front cover of the hard back to read the introduction. I suddenly felt an excitement inside. That new feeling you get when you start something new. May be starting an exciting new job, joining a new group of people of something that interests you or taking a holiday in a new place, it was the same. It was partly a feeling of wanting to read books again that I had taken a break from since the last time I went on holiday. It was also the possibility of what it might be like to be a writer. Successful, may be not, but just to have my words in print suddenly felt like something I would like to do. A feeling I’d had before but reignited by a match in the form of a description of an author. ‘An author.’
Not about riches, though that would be nice, not even about a face on the back cover or the inner sleeve but my own words for others to read and if not enjoyed but something to think about or to allow a strangers mind to imagine. It was a complicated feel of what could happen but it was also a simple feeling of doing something that mattered. Food for thought.
I closed the book and bought it. I came away with a present for someone and a reignition of motivation. I didn’t know where it would lead, if anything, but it solidified what was important and that was the words. On the way out I spotted a book that had been on sale last year for twenty pounds and now available on the bargain table for three pounds. The reality.
The reality didn’t really matter anymore because that wasn’t the dream and that last day of Christmas shopping did as much for me, my future and state of happiness as it did for the short term feeling of not having to worry about finding any last minute presents. The bottle of perfume and realising it wasn’t a contrived notion of femininity, it was just something I wanted and the book and it’s ability to light a fire inside about expressing myself in words and having it on paper was just as instinctual and innate.
And so I returned home where the only twinkle of snow on pine trees was the ice white lights on the Christmas tree shining out from the shadows of the living room barely lit by the dull winter light struggling to get through rain clouds. But with the tree and it’s razor-sharp lights reflecting in the gloss black paint of the piano and a warm mince pie on a plate, there was a little of that Narina type Christmas approaching.
This Christmas Eve would have been nice by an old log fire in an equally old typically British cottage pub with someone special but at home with a-glass-of-something and a supply of romantic films would do just fine for now.
I feel in a good place about myself and my well-being. I might not have made as much progress as I want, and when is that never the case, but I feel at one with who I am right now – and that’s probably the best Christmas Present I could ever have.
Until next time.
Merry Christmas x