Yes, the festive season looms once again, bringing with it tacky decorations, rampant consumerism and a load of pious tosh about the true meaning of Christmas (something about plying children with electronic tat in a bid to avoid spending any time with them, I gather).
One of the advantages of Christmas in France over the UK is that they don’t have anything like as much of it. I’m all for advance planning and organisation, but I really don’t need people starting in on the shopping days countdown when I’m on holiday in early September. Particularly when I intend doing as little shopping as possible because a) I will be busy, b) it’s likely to involve going into shops and c) I won’t have any money anyway. Festivities which persist in falling immediately before your first sensible pay packet in four months can get lost as far as I’m concerned.
But no doubt everyone else will be out there throwing their cash into the gaping maw of the retail beast as usual, and probably a good thing too, because if the experts are to be believed it could be the only thing standing between us and economic meltdown. Or is austerity the thing this week? It’s getting difficult to keep up. Still, spending your cash before you start having to cart it about in a wheelbarrow a la Weimar republic could be the wisest move – at least a barrowload of euros still gets you an impressive number of shiny trinkets at the momet, whereas next week you might well be looking at nothing more than a bag of yesterday’s croissants.
Obviously the first thing you should spend your cash on in these straitened times is a festive ski holiday. Let’s face it, you might as well have fun with it rather than give it to a bunch of eurocrat bankers who are only going to trouser it all and then abolish your health service anyway.
And having splashed out on Christmas skiing, clearly you need appropriate wintersports-related prezzies to open around the bald stick which is all that’s left of the chalet’s Christmas tree since the resort manager insisted it had to be ready for the previous week’s arrivals and of course all the needles wouldn’t fall off within three days of being put next to the fire in a centrally heated building. And no, you can’t have a new one just because all the needles have fallen off and it looks like a bald stick with three pieces of tinsel on.
Socks are a a good traditional choice at Christmas, and when you factor in the wintersports aspect you’ve got almost limitless options. Try to avoid the appalling ski tube option – socks have turned heels for a good reason, as you will find out in short order when you try to cram all the creases round your ankle into a ski boot. Besides, if the name of the game here is spending your cash before panicky bond traders turn it into so much confetti you want something a lot more expensive. I recommend the likes of Falke or Smartwool for a good money-burning option. And you’ll have warm comfy feet as well, which will stand you in good stead when you can no longer afford to heat your house.
For warmwear with comedy value (and let’s face it we’re all going to need something to make us laugh) I point you once again at the beard. Thanks to the boys at Canadian company Beardowear and their woolly face protection you need no longer make the rather Hobsonesque choice between galloping frostbite and impersonating Hannibal Lecter on the slopes. The knitted beard attachment even folds away out of sight for occasions when you have to do something vaguely sensible, like order a beer. Alternatively you could go for the Beardski, essentially a Lecter mask with a rug stuck to it. Long enough to keep the neck warm as well, bargain.
In view of the impending economic apocalypse this might be the last ski trip anyone sees for a while, so nostalgic resort posters could go down well. If you still have enough cash to interest the tax collectors after you’ve satisfied all your footwear and facial fungus requirements, an original vintage resort poster can set you back anything up to 600€ from the people at Ski Vintage in Grenoble, though the same sort of thing is available a lot cheaper from Colorado-based Vintage Ski World.
Still on the poster thing, the innovative chaps over at Illicit Snowboarding have reworked some of the old classics with boarders in mind and put them out for general consumption on Zazzle - proceeds to environmental charity Protect Our Winters. Not that we’re going to have to worry too much about global warming once we’re back to a medieval barter economy with Brussels-based technocrats doing duty as feudal overlords. Never mind liberal democracy, it’s your Count that votes.
Further warmth-plus-comedy-value is on offer at Blingy Piste Star (is it just me or is that the worst ever name for a retailer?) whose range of faux-diamond encrusted thermal vests is aimed at “women like me, who want to make a statement sipping an après ski vin chaud”. Apparently this self-obsessed bint spends her time “whizzing down the slopes in the latest and most fabulous skiwear” while “images and thoughts swoosh into my head of the superchic 50’s and 60’s skiing jet set, basking on restaurant decks at the likes of Le Cap Horn”. At which point presumably she skis slap into a pylon, having been so engrossed in her wannabe daydream that she didn’t have brainpower left to look where she was going. One for the complete retard in your life.
Those of you with gizmo-obsessed chaps to buy for are well served for expensive gadgetry. A mere £300 or so gets you a camera which your man can stick to the top of his head, making him look like a cross between a Dalek and a Teletubby and allowing him to take exciting action movie footage, usually of the ground and the tips of his skis. He can then post the resulting video on YouTube, where absolutely no-one will ever look at it. This is a huge improvement on the old-fashioned procedure, which involved spending half an hour setting up a screen and balancing the Super 8 projector on a pile of books before boring the entire family into a stupour with the footage. ‘Be A Hero’ says the strapline. I suppose they wouldn’t sell nearly as many if it said ‘Be A Dork Who Looks Like A Teletubby’.
Further money-burning technical wizardry is available from the people at Garmin in the form of a range of hand-held GPS widgets which can tell you exactly where you are at any given moment. Just in case you’ve forgotten which resort you booked and have been skiing about with your eyes shut, presumably. These things also give you essential information like average speed, distance skied, total vertical distance and the time of high tide in Aberystwyth. No, I have no idea either. Must be a man thing. You can also get one which attaches to your dog and transmits his precise location direct to your handset. So much easier than just yelling ‘Here Fido!’.
So where have we got to now? Come on, we must have spent at least £1500 so far, especially if we go for the top of the range GPS gizmo with digital camera, tide tables and fold-out ironing table, not to mention the mutt-tracker. And that’s before you factor in the Quality Street, After Eights, chocolate santa, multiple gallons of booze and industrial strength Gaviscon. Get it right and come the economic meltdown we’ll have nothing left to give the technocrats and then we really will all be in it together. Merry Christmas!