It used to be perfume, lingerie and fine wine. Now give me a dehydrator?
Our Christmas gifts have been getting more pragmatic and that’s fine by me
We want a dehydrator so that next autumn we can slice and dry surplus apples
Our household Christmas wish list is looking disconcertingly pious. Contrary to the season’s traditional spirit of gluttonous overconsumption, most of our items are in some way connected to avoiding waste. This reeks of a smug virtue verging on the sanctimonious and I feel almost nostalgic for younger, morally shabbier days.
In the early years of our relationship my wife and I indulged each other. I bought her lingerie, dresses, jewellery, books, perfume and occasional objets d’art: things calculated to delight her eye, amuse her mind or adorn her body. She reciprocated with fine wines, elegant shirts, interesting music and, on one memorable birthday, a nude portrait of herself.
Her enlightened yet stern gaze illuminated the uncomfortable truth that most plastic, although theoretically reusable, actually ends up in landfill
But time passes and priorities shift. After we bought our cottage I realised things had fundamentally changed when one festive morning I was thrilled to get an electric sander then melted her heart with a good stockpot.
Since then presents have become predominantly pragmatic and increasingly ecologically minded. This Christmas, with irony typical of the zeitgeist, we intend buying more stuff so that we need less.
Since September our apple trees have fruited copiously. We’ve made jars of chutney, jugs of juice and baked till we tired of tartes tatin. But the fruit kept coming. Then a wise eco-warrior pal visited and revealed to us the existence of the dehydrator. Now we want one so that next autumn we can slice and dry surplus apples – then they can be stored indefinitely till we figure out a use for them.
We also ought to get a SodaStream. I have a fizzy water habit which is hard to shake. To me water without bubbles is pointless, there’s just no buzz. I’ve tried reducing my reliance, sampling products with a lighter sparkle – but I can’t withdraw entirely. I need the frissance of that narcotic tingle on the taste buds and I like to offer the same hit to my guests.
However, I sensed eco-warrior’s mild disapproval as I poured and she watched the empty plastic bottles accumulate alongside the empty wine ones. She didn’t stage an intervention because she didn’t need to. Her enlightened yet stern gaze illuminated the uncomfortable truth that most plastic, although theoretically reusable, actually ends up in landfill. We have always been scrupulous recyclers and I had thought my habit was harmless – but all addicts delude themselves.
A SodaStream might save me from a shameful future as a furtive user lurking surreptitiously in the shadows, with only the sly hiss of an opening bottle betraying my guilty secret.
Conscious of my own ethical frailty, I take comfort from the fact that our eco-warrior pal is not entirely above reproach. She and my wife have a shared lustful weakness for Tupperware. This fills me with dread. I live in fear and loathing of our Tupperware cupboard.
I accept the usefulness of the stuff as a means of freezing chicken stock and pasta sauce or for storing leftovers without fumigating the fridge, but we have far too much and it’s mostly mismatched. Whenever I open the door I’m assaulted by a horde of receptacles pouring forth like bats from a belfry in a horror movie.
I foresaw a dystopian post-Brexit black market like the contraband contraceptive trade of old – only now with unavailable plastic cartons replacing unavailable rubber condoms
I once forwarded a droll pie chart to eco-warrior. It illustrated that most time using Tupperware is spent looking for the right lid. I thought it might amuse her but I touched a nerve. She vehemently responded that only idiots store the product incorrectly. I wondered what was correct but feared to ask. I can’t see how this can be done efficiently without becoming anally retentive and using only uniform sets.
But that way lies obsessional brand loyalty, dinner party bonding with fellow enthusiasts and the inevitable death of the soul. Then, over our recent supper, my blood was frozen by that precise ghastly spectre. I shivered over the washing up as she and my wife eagerly discussed a new range of something chillingly called stack-a-boxes.
The fact that these are only available in England was swatted aside. I foresaw a dystopian post-Brexit black market like the contraband contraceptive trade of old – only now with unavailable plastic cartons replacing unavailable rubber condoms.
Thankfully eco-warrior’s higher principles reasserted themselves. She conquered her baser instincts and muttered darkly about nano-plastics manufacturing processes making her reluctant to buy any plastic ever again. So I’ve dodged a bullet. New Tupperware is not on the Christmas list and I’m glad.
I recently watched our younger boy get mugged by the cupboard whilst looking for something to store cake. I nodded dispassionately to see him overwhelmed by the avalanche. He has yet to learn the knack of swiftly flinging stuff in whilst whipping the door shut. Perfecting this takes long experience, but perhaps I have some wisdom to transmit. Or maybe when he’s older he will wrestle with a Tupperware cupboard of his own and experientially reconnect with his (by then) long dead father.
In the meantime, I should be swayed by him. Our wish list is joylessly worthy, but he wants a slide leading from his bedroom to a swimming pool.
In Sight of Yellow Mountain by Philip Judge is published by Gill