An adaptation of an earlier post.


Hello. What are you doing here? Why aren’t you with your family? Same reason I’m not, I suppose. But since you’re here…

In 2013, my nearest shop was open. I found it mildly reassuring that at least one place in the country wasn’t succumbing to the faux religious disruption that Christmas causes. There’s no public transport, no banks open, expect to pay at least 250 quid callout if your drains get blocked, tough luck if your cable/satellite television goes down the Swannee, and just hope you don’t need emergency medical treatment. You’ll get it, but don’t expect the usual amazingly cheerful and genuinely concerned attitude of A&E in the UK. You’ll be in and out like a shuttle on a steam loom.

This shop is bucking the trend, refusing to surf the festive zeitgeist. Open for business as usual. Good for them. But what on earth can they expect to sell? The town’s supermarkets and shops, markets, the out of town malls, everywhere has been heaving for weeks. The news programmes have been full of the feeding frenzy in the run-up to Yule. What can people possibly want to buy on Christmas Day? It can’t be food, can it? So I sat down and had a ponder. If I opened a shop on Christmas Day, what would I make absolutely certain I had in stock? You might find all these items at a petrol station, but you can’t drive there because you’ve been pissed for four days solid, since today is a Sunday and you started Wednesday night. Anywhere you can walk to is a real find. To be honest, after four days on the lash, if you can walk at all it’s a result.

Beer Definitely beer. It’s quite hard to run out of spirits. If the scotch runs out, punters will be pissed enough to head for the brandy or vodka, even gin at a pinch. The usual festive bottle of crème de menthe may come in handy, or Cointreau, Drambuie maybe, even acquavit. Spirits drinkers aren’t too selective, they’ll just keep going till they fall over. Beer drinkers, however, as a rule like beer, and that’s pretty much it. And it’s very easy to underestimate just how many cans you can get through trying to dull the pain of the early morning Christmas frivolity on television. By the time the merry James Bond movie comes on, supplies may be running low, so that’s where your local shop comes in. It will be rammed with desperadoes on the same mission. I’d hike my prices on principle. Market forces and all that.

Aspirin/paracetamol (acetaminophen in the US) Demand may be higher this time of year than normal household stocks can support. The last thing you need is open warfare among hungover aunts and uncles.

Cigarette papers Not cigarettes. The tailor-made crowd will have ample supplies, and even if you drop a cigarette accidentally into your flaming Sambuca while trying to light it, you can dry it out in the airing cupboard and it will be none the worse, though may flare a bit on ignition. But if you as a roll-me-own guy find that an overfilled kettle has dumped water all over the kitchen work surface, and thence into the drawer where you store your papers, you are stuffed.

Sanitary protection With all the excitement at this time of year, hormonal disturbances are distressingly common, and the female members of the house may be taken by surprise. I know this from bitter experience.

Nappies (diapers) All the chocolate, Christmas pud, mince pies, and sprouts can exact a terrible toll on undeveloped digestive tracts. Just saying.

Toilet paper All the chocolate, Christmas pud, mince pies, and sprouts can exact a terrible toll on even well developed digestive tracts. Not to mention the fact that this is the first year your family of four, your four houseguests, and the neighbours you drunkenly invited while you were in the pub with them about two weeks ago, has ever been exposed to roast potatoes done in goose or duck fat. And of course all the womenfolk will be drinking more than usual, and will be at home for longer periods of time than during the average week. Just saying.

Eggs I suggested earlier that nobody could possibly need to buy food today. But think on’t. Tomorrow morning everybody will be heartily sick of rich food, and will really really fancy something as simple as scrambled eggs on toast. You won’t have run out of bread, since your freezer will be full to bursting with the stuff, but it’s very very easy indeed to underestimate the number of eggs you need to scramble for the eight people in your house. Scrambled eggs do not go far; one per person looks positively niggardly. Still, never mind, a bottle of champagne to go with breakfast will lessen the shock. You won’t have run out of that, I’m sure. If you have, dry white wine in the SodaStream works. It does, honestly.

Condoms After a few sherbets, people get a bit frisky. Just saying.

Having said all that, I should point out that my local shop is only open from 11:00 AM to 3:00 PM. It’s still a heroic gesture given the time of year, but they are rank outsiders. When I used to live in Bishop’s Stortford, two minutes’ walk would take me to a local shop called Ashley’s. This was open from 6:00 AM (it was a newsagent in part) to 10:00 PM, every day of the year, without fail. Every day, 6 till 10. Even Christmas Day. I know, because one year I went up there about 9:45 PM to say ‘Belated Merry Christmas’ to the two people who ran it, who both were so pale they looked like creatures that had evolved in deep caves. I also needed to get some beers. We’d nearly run out. I rest my case.

To finish on this theme, while I was at university in Norwich, back when dinosaurs were just thinking feathers might be cool, Mac’s Caff opened all day, every day, all year round. If you wanted to have Christmas dinner there, you had to book pretty much on New Year’s Day.