My phone bursts to life. A text message reads. ‘Xmas fair; children’s toys, stocking fillers, great gift ideas. 200/- Entrance. Come & buy!’ Or words to that effect...
Even though I always have a huge amount of Christmas shopping to do (16 nieces, a nephew, godchildren etc), the prospect of setting foot inside any kind of fair fills me with trepidation. There are a number of reasons why:
• First there is the dread of actually setting foot in the place. It’s always worth enlisting a friend to accompany you for moral support. Browsing round tents manned and peopled by trendy mzungus takes some nerve!
• You often have to pay to get in which frankly seems a bit of a cheek and often forces you to make rash purchases so that you don’t have to go back.
• Once inside you’ll find that there are more people selling than there are buying. The pressure is on!
• Nothing is ever priced so you find yourself having to ask. Challenging; since stall holders are often more interested in chin wagging with friends than attending to customers.
• When you are casually told the cost of an item you fall into shock. The only option is to reverse out of the tent at top speed, trying desperately not to knock anything over.
• Will anyone back home actually appreciate the gifts? Sadly, the perception in England is that if something is bought in Africa it’s bound to have cost next to nothing. The reality is that when it comes to gifts, clothes and toys, it’s almost certainly cheaper to shop back home.
• Lastly ... and this is the kicker; totally undisciplined, I’ll invariably emerge having blown my entire budget on a single item bought for yours truly. It’ll be something that I’ve decided I cannot live without and the Christmas list be damned anyway! I’m a hopeless case.