I went Christmas shopping the other day. Christmas window shopping, to be more accurate. I walked around the North Laine area of Brighton, a slightly trendy cum alternative area of mostly small independent shops and cafes with a few pubs and venues thrown in for good measure. The shops are mostly in narrow streets of two or three storey Victorian terraces and for me typifies what is good about commercial Brighton.
Walking round, surrounded by others trying to get their shopping done on a week day, I felt somehow excluded. Of course, having very little money in a commercial area at a particularly commercial time of year does that to you at the best of times, but I wasn't sure I knew what to do, or if I wanted to join in.
I tried hard. I walked around many different shops - bookshops, clothes shops, junk and curios shops and a flea market. I increasingly felt that, unless your relatives either had an active interest in collecting something or had a clear need for something, all you are doing is buying more stuff to fill up their lives, that hopefully they'll like. I don't mind doing this for kids - they continuously need eclectic
new things to build their characters around and the input of older
generations is a good thing, but for adults it feels a bit forced.
The only alternative to buying something they actively needed or wanted, was to walk around and hope that something cool jumped out at me. Junk shops are good for that - for the unexpected. I looked around a couple, finding old nicknacks, brassware, toys and household goods from decades past. But nothing really interesting suggested itself to me. In Snoopers Paradise, I rifled through boxes of photos and postcard of up to 100 years old, presumably retrieved from house clearances. I hoped to find an image of something that would have some meaning to me or someone I knew. Unfortunately, the closest I found was a postcard sent from the next village to my own around 80 years ago. I bought it for 30p.
Having failed to find anything, I will be forced to go shopping again next week. Something I genuinely want to give people usually turns up. It's just that like this career thing, it takes a little time to crystallize in my mind.