As I volunteered to host Christmas dinner for my in-laws this year I couldn’t help getting stressed about the mountain of shopping that had to be done while the shops were really busy and terrifying. Although it amuses me to read about shoppers coming to grief and battering each other with a bag of sprouts in the frozen food aisle in Asda, I would genuinely hate to get caught up in the wrath of one of these passionate yet unstable last-minute shoppers. With this in mind, I made plans to stock up on everything that wasn’t going to go out of date a few weeks in advance, leaving only the purchasing of the fresh stuff to the 21st December.
Even though I had got up really early on 21st in order to minimise the risk of a sprout-related battering, the supermarket was absolutely heaving. By the time I had wrestled a trolley out of the shelter-thingy and made a run for the door through the rain and wind, I already had the Parking Sweats*and the supermarket anxiety and the tail end of an illness that made the task in hand seem ten times worse than it actually was.
Fortunately I didn’t get into any brawls on this occasion, but the whole encounter made me wish I had never volunteered to cook Christmas dinner. Things were about to get much worse though, as my next stop was to visit the sorting office to pick up a parcel that had been delivered while I was at work the day before. Now, if there is one thing that I hate marginally more than the supermarket at Christmas, it is the post office. Our sorting office operates a somewhat militant approach to Christmas parcel collection which although unpleasant seems to have made things run marginally more efficiently over the years. Basically, you have to queue outside until you are close enough to enter a tiny little room where you have to stand uncomfortably close to more people than it should be possible to fit in such a tiny room, and when your turn comes, you hand over the card with your address on together with your ID, and a burly fellow with a slightly terrifying no-nonsense attitude will go and get your parcel.
On this particular day the whole experience was made marginally more uncomfortable by a sobbing woman who had forgotten to bring her ID. She insisted through tears that she had been queuing for over an hour (She hadn’t. It was twenty minutes tops) and that not having the parcel in question would ruin Christmas for her entire family, and that of the postal worker (“I hope you enjoy Christmas knowing that you’ve ruined someone else’s”… and various other pointless statements were reeled off before she flounced, or rather squeezed, out the door). I must admit I had some sympathy. A couple of years ago someone stole our wheelie bin, so I know what a ruined Christmas is like.
I know none of this sounds all that bad but I genuinely was having a horrible morning. Fortunately the task I had to do last before returning home was somewhat more pleasant. I drove to a nearby wine store to stock up on some wines for the festive period.
My mood lifted greatly during the short drive from the sorting office to our local wine shop. There were tons of parking spaces outside. On arrival, a member of staff asked if I wanted any help. I asked where the Sherries were and he advised me he had some open – would I like to try one while I browsed? I replied that I certainly would, and with a little drop of sherry in hand, I perused their rather brilliant selection of wines. Later on, I asked what deals they had on Champagne, and the sales assistant said they had some open, would I like to try one? I replied, again, that I certainly would.
Now I’m not as naïve as you might think – I worked in wine retail for ages and I know that customers are much more likely to part with cash when you’ve given them a lovely glass of something to enjoy while they browse, thereby ensuring that they won’t leave the store until said glass has been quaffed and ample schmoozing has taken place. Or maybe it’s because drinking a tiny bit mid-morning, albeit in the interest of researching what to purchase, is sort of forbidden and enjoyable. Maybe it’s because any mental strength I had left had been wrenched away from me in the Asda car park. But compared to my rancid morning dealing with the parking sweats and the lunatics at the sorting office and the whole terrifying Asda experience, I genuinely felt like all my Christmases had come at once.
So as a final sign-off for this year, I just wanted to say that buying wine is awesome. It is a rare pleasure and a privilege that is topped only by the experience of drinking wine. If there is any better argument for buying your wine from a proper wine merchant and not a supermarket (other than the quality of the wine, of course) than making a hideous day seem sort of brilliant, then I haven’t found it.
We at 12×75.com would like to wish all our readers a fantastic new year with good health and plenty of good wines!
*The Parking Sweats: a type of terror induced cold sweat that overcomes novice drivers in the event of not being able to find a parking space in Asda’s car park, even one that is miles away from the door. The Parking Sweats often re-occurs on leaving the supermarket when one can’t remember where one parked despite having purchased a vehicle that is tall, yellow and easy to identify from afar with this exact scenario in mind.