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Baal I Want For Christmas

23 Dec 2023 4 minute read
Baal I want for Christmas

Ben Wildsmith

I’ve already got ‘All I Want for Christmas Is You’ burned into my consciousness like a PTSD flashback, so missing the Amazon deadline for Christmas delivery and having to shop for presents in the real world was a sanity-threatening proposition to start with.

It’s a lonely business, Christmas shopping, isn’t it? In many ways it reminds me of doing my GCSEs. There’s societal pressure, personal peril, it’s time-limited, and you’re not allowed to ask for help.

What if I get this horribly wrong?

You’re only as good as your last effort. Even if you smashed your spouse’s birthday with a gift that demonstrated your keen understanding of their nuanced preferences, it will count for nothing if now, at Chrimbo, you succumb to end-of-year exhaustion and opt for a thoughtless McPresent that reveals you as inattentive.

Stop-start grind

The drive into Cardiff doesn’t help. Shall I ever be released from the A470? It’s my route to work and back every day and here I am back on its stop-start grind on my day off.

Oh look, it’s the bottleneck after the Caerphilly turn-off, look right in 5..4..3..2..1

Yay! It’s that bafflingly hideous Jubilee monument, oh fabulous, it’s the bit after Nantgarw where everyone has to change lanes at the same time!

Then it’s the chug…chug…chug section through our becalmed city traffic. It would have been cathartic to beat my fists against the steering wheel and curse Mark Drakeford for the speed limit at this point, but I can’t, can I, having defended the policy on here several times.

I wish I was Jeremy Clarkson; he never gets morally conflicted.

Retail Nirvana

On arrival at the St. David’s Centre, there’s a queue for the car park. Eventually, I get to the ticket machine and press the button. This is fraught enough at the best of times. There’s a pregnant pause before the machine issues the cardboard visa to retail Nirvana as you are photographed by some unseen camera to log the registration plate.

As a seasonal special, the experience is enhanced by the machine saying ‘Error. Short term parking full’. What now? There’s about eight thousand cars behind me and no way out. Am I supposed to get out of the car and inform them all personally that there’s no room at the inn?

I begin jabbing frantically at the button. Minutes pass. I try again. Open Sesame!

Now it’s round and round and round and round the spiral ramp up to the parking floors. Helpfully, there are LED screens telling me how many spaces are available on each floor. Unhelpfully, they are lying. Six parking spaces, five gold rings…

In the lift going down to the shops there’s precious little goodwill to all men in evidence. After I get in, a couple manoeuvre a buggy for twins into the remaining space and I’m sure I hear a hissed, ‘For f…’ which strikes me as shockingly unchristmassy, especially when I realise that I’m the only other passenger.

Credit card Valhalla

Then I’m in it at last: Credit Card Valhalla. The light, the noise, the anonymous crowd. I once attended a Roman Catholic Latin Mass, and it was nowhere near as alienating as this.

Everybody else seems to know what they are doing, marching purposefully between familiar outlets and performing contactless benedictions at the till. I am not of this faith.

Sure, I wander down to the corner shop to buy vape juice every week and do the Lidl run, but that’s tin-roofed chapel stuff. This is the Vatican.

I stumble between stores with names I can’t pronounce, staring vacantly at acres of merchandise that all just ends up looking like jumbles of colours.

Mariah Carey stares out of an Ann Summers poster. All I Want for Christmas Is You…

Not now, Mariah, have a heart!

Finally, I arrive at the entrance to John Lewis and sink to my knees in despair.

I feel a hand on my head, stroking comfortingly and look up to see Him: 25 feet tall, horned with fleecy legs and cloven feet. His eyes burn with reassurance.

‘I’m David Beckham, you look like you need some aftershave.’

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