OK so it's not as bleak a thought as "Winter is coming" perhaps, but it does herald a new round of struggle and frustration and a battle against pale and dead eyed hordes- I speak of course of my fellow Christmas shoppers.
Most years I can barely summon up the kindness to pity them as they bob and weave, getting in the way and generally clogging up the place, acting as if collecting vital sacrifices of paper and faff for an unreasonable festive god.
This year is a bit different, however. I'm feeling a certain sort of sympathy for them as they worry their way from one toyshop to the next, hoping that the item they set their hearts on will be in stock, that they won't have to compromise and get something slightly sad and rubbish... A last-moment gift that screams "lack of forward planning" and whispers "You care about this person slightly less than you make out, don't you, you bastard". All of that is now my own little festive nightmare.
I've reached this point though the simple fact that I'm an uncle. I have a wonderful niece and nephew who I don't see nearly enough of and that puts me squarely in the middle of the "must not fail" present buying camp. Every uncle worth his eccentricities feels the same way around Christmas and birthdays I reckon (Aunties seem to have the festive gifts sewn up in August- how I envy them) ; He feels he must buy gifts that strike a balance between being fun and being formative and this creates a bit of a mountain to climb; how do we get that balance spot on to avoid that split second of Christmas day disappointment in the eyes of a small child?
I've decided to jettison a little of my pride and go for the figurative jugular. I have deployed a secret weapon- my mum. My mum, being the one who knows is a reliable source of inside information for those of us who are stuck where we are for most of the year. Hopefully by combining her insider knowledge and my maverick gift sourcing skills we'll make this a PGP to remember, at least until the kids lose the tags from their gifts and forget who bought them.