Christmas shopping done? Then you’re not normal – Lesley Keating

She's not normal...
She's not normal...
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If one more friend smugly says, ‘I’ve bought and wrapped all my Christmas presents already’ I shall scream.  I actually know people who achieved this minor miracle back in October. How can they even be normal? 

Some buy everything in the January sales, and, off they go, on the Smug train, miles ahead of we mere mortals who are always planning to do Christmas shopping ‘later’.

I’m a big fan of buying vouchers. OK, granted, they’re not that exciting a prospect as gifts go. But they do free you from having to graciously accept with that fixed ‘Oh it’s just what I’ve always wanted’ grin. No one ever opened a voucher with trepidation.

And what am I supposed to buy husband Mike?

He’s a complete nightmare to buy for as he either buys himself stuff throughout the year anyway or drops massive hints. So, I buy and hide it. But – lo and behold – a few weeks later, he marches in triumphantly with said item in tow. He’s bought it himself!

Sometimes he says, ‘Don’t get me anything’, which is clearly a non-starter.  I mean, can you imagine Christmas morning when everyone else is knee deep in wrapping paper?

To avoid this scenario previously I’ve bought him various experience day vouchers.

He’s driven virtually every supercar known to man, been off-roading, met racing drivers, visited Top Gear, driven tanks, met Meerkats, fed Tigers… I think you get the picture. So, yes, if you’re reading this darling, I’ve officially run out of ideas now.

And, presents aside, I will also have to galvanise myself over the Christmas cards soon. I usually find a brandy and a cute metallic pen helps with this gargantuan task.

The first few are usually written beautifully, then things tend to unravel and, by the time I get to the end, they’re one-word scribbles and barely legible. God help the Royal Mail.

So… if you get a card this year filled with scrawled hieroglyphics and just cannot work out who it was from, it might be from me.

Especially if it came with a voucher.

Do(ug)h! You’re meant to put it on a level surface, stupid

A friend was going to be home alone overnight but didn’t relish the prospect as she lives in the middle of nowhere. To busy herself she thought she’d experiment with her new bread-maker. Looking forward to waking to the smell of a fresh loaf, she settled down for the night.

Two hours later she was wide awake. What were those noises downstairs?

Grabbing a hefty torch, she tiptoed down, heart pounding. A terrifying noise was coming from the kitchen.

Fearing the worst, she peered inside where, instead of a burglar, she found the bread-maker clonking around the floor, lid off, dough everywhere. She’d overlooked instructions about putting it on a completely level surface.

The lure of the Highlands works its restorative magic 

After a busy few months, there’s nothing nicer than taking a quick trip away to recharge batteries – and to hopefully shake off the end of a nasty virus before Christmas madness descends. 

So, last week, we grabbed cheap flights to Glasgow, hired a car and drove to Oban in the Scottish Highlands to spend a few days with our good friends Sian and Garry. They just happen to run the most fabulous, luxury B&B, Blarcreen House, on the banks of Loch Etive. 

Given our normally hectic lives, the sheer joy of a few G&Ts in front of a crackling log fire, with nothing outside at night but bleating sheep and a deep black sky studded with stars, then waking to spectacular views – was all the medicine we needed.