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This is a question Presents

What are you buying your loved ones this Christmas? We're looking for inspiration and reckon a big share-a-thon of ideas will help everyone buy better gifts this year.

BTW: If your family reads B3ta and you're worried about giving the game away then tell us what you bought last Christmas.

(, Thu 26 Nov 2009, 12:34)
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In which disappointment and hand-tooled leather
And another one...

It was the first Christmas of my high-school career. I was twelve years old, skinny, white as fuck and with a lovely Hilary Clinton bob. I was not, you might say, at my best.

Although I was getting on OK at school, I was eternally conscious of the fact that my peers' parents had a heckuva lot more money than mine (I was a scholarship kid) - we did have uniforms, but mine was second-hand from a girl who lived in the same village as me and was about 4ft 10 and quite rotund. It did look a bit daft - skirt held together with safety pins, torn pockets, fingerless gloves Oliver Twist whinge whinge blah. As everyone knows, though, when you have a school uniform it's the little things you do or have that make you stand out. Tiny things, insignificant to the adult eye, that mark you out as cool or not. The way you knot your tie. How long you leave the secondary part of it hanging down. How many buttons you do on your blazer (none! ever!), how you do your hair, how you knot your shoelaces.

And then of course, there's your bag.

Despite going to a school Nazi-ish enough to stipulate in the rulebook the exact height of shoes, brand of swimming costume and colour of hair bobbles one was permitted to wear, bags were a free-for-all. Those were the heady days of the brightly-coloured Head rucksack and the Adidas holdall. I can still remember the bag my longstanding crush touted for five years (Willys, mustard yellow with a reflective stripe and a chunky zip.) I, on the other hand, was in a bit of a fix, bagwise. I had a plain, slightly foetid, thin black canvas drawstring with a single strap. Sort of like a slightly more sturdy version of a primary school PE kit bag.

It wasn't branded
It wasn't brightly-coloured
It wasn't bloody waterproof

It was the millstone around my neck, the shameful burden I was forced to bear. And the single strip dug into my shoulder something rotten on the mile walk to the bus stop.

I hated it. It was beginning to exact comment from some of the louder, bitchier members of my class. And I wasn't yet anywhere near secure enough to carry it off. This bag - this wretched, second-hand, flimsy horror - could be my undoing. I was savvy enough to know that. The vultures were beginning to circle. And so, for Christmas, I asked for a rucksack.

I knew the one I wanted. It was a modest beigey mushroom colour, with a nice front pocket. It had two straps and reflective bits. Best of all, it was Quiksilver. Quiksilver! My cool rating would go through the roof. It was about twenty-five quid, which was slightly more then than it is now (but only slightly.) And so began my stealth campaign.

'Dad. Daaaaad! You know that shop in the town? The one next to the arcade? Yeah? The sports one? Yeah? There's a rucksack in the window. It's beige. I've seenitandireallythinkitwouldimprovemyacademicperformanceif - '

'Don't worry,' said Dad, with an overexaggerated wink. 'I think I know what you mean. You'll just have to wait and see what Santa brings you, eh?'

Brilliant! My plan was coming together, in all awesomeness. Christmas arrived, and the parcels were placed under the tree. There was the one from my parents I'd been after. I duly poked and squeezed and assessed the undeniably baglike contents. Not long now, I thought to myself, after enduring another round of snarky comments on the school bus. Not long.

Come Christmas morning, and all is shiny and bright. There's a tradition in my family of opening our presents slowly at individual intervals throughout the day, and so it was afternoon before it was my turn. With a look of great pride and collusion, my parents pushed the bag-shaped parcel towards me. My hands itched as I carefully peeled away the sellotape. This was it. This was...

This was not it.

This was a rectangular, brown leather briefcase, something between that which could have belonged to a nineteenth-century doctor and a down-at-heel telemarketing executive. It was a briefcase. A briefcase. To take this out of the house, let alone to school, would be social suicide. No. Social jihad. Even the smelliest old teacher didn't have a briefcase. To a twelve-year-old neurotic girl, this was the worst thing that had ever happened to anyone.

I looked at the briefcase. It seemed to glow with the fires of the hell of mockery into which I would be cast forever come next term. Then I looked up at my Dad's face. He was beaming with joy, oblivious.
'Now I know you said you wanted a bag,' he explained, 'but I thought I'd get you something a bit special for doing well at your new school. It's real leather. Cost quite a bit, but it'll last for years. There's a special compartment to put your pencil case it, here. And....' (with the flourish of a magician performing his best conjuring trick...'I had them engrave your initials on it. Just under the handle there. See?'

I saw.

'So that everyone will know it's yours.'

I stared at the briefcase, then back at my dad, who had gone way out of his way and probably budget too to make his only daughter happy. I gave him a massive hug and told him it was just what I wanted.
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 12:21, 16 replies)
This story deserves to win.

C'mon you fuckers, get clicking!
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 12:34, closed)
It's a great story, and an early favourite, in my book.
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 12:37, closed)
How lovely of you
This just made me go all funny inside. The world could do with more people like you.
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 12:36, closed)
I feel your pain
I remember many times having to show gratitude for things that really weren't that great or were to make do, we never had any money growing up either and it's an akward position, wanting what your mates have and knowing your parents can't afford it :(

anyway, I like this!
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 12:59, closed)
i clicked
now you gotta tell us what happened the first day of school with the briefcase
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 13:06, closed)
A million times over.
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 22:57, closed)
This is absolutely marvellous !
Have yourself a click... makes me feel all Christmasy, this does.
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 13:13, closed)
Its like De-ja-vu 'cept my briefcase was black plastic. All I wanted was an Adidas bag like everyone else. I made my son choose all his own clothes and bags and stuff and I try like hell to avoid cramping his style in public.
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 13:15, closed)
Top Tale
As others makes me think back to the good old days of being happy for what you have...

Bloody kids today... moan grumble
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 13:20, closed)
This brought a tear dangerously close!
I loved it! Have a click
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 13:32, closed)
sounds familiar
except for me it was shoes.
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 13:54, closed)
blimey how cruel
Being made to carry your books to school in shoes
(, Sat 28 Nov 2009, 6:03, closed)
Please win
This is the spirit of Christmas: catastrophically awful present generates only feelings of overwhelming love. Well done you.
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 15:58, closed)
I feel your pain.
With me it was a leather bag, which looked like a handbag (I'm male), bought for me by my brother, who is 15 years my senior.
In the unlikely event that I have kids I will do as the previous poster says and let them choose their own clothing and accessories.
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 18:12, closed)
their hearts are always in the right place
it's just a shame our parents are so utterly fucking clueless when it comes to fashion.
(, Fri 27 Nov 2009, 21:16, closed)
That exact same thing
happened to me a couple of years ago. Only I was about 25, not 12. It's still sitting in my room at my mother's place (on the other side of the world) and I promised her I'll use it one day.

The worst bit was when she said "Your aunt told me not to buy it because brief cases are a personal thing and everyone has their own style, but what does she know?". It took a lot of strength not to tell her exactly what I thought the answer to that question was.

That was the year my younger brother and I decided that since my mother insists on buying us expensive presents we end up feeling guilty about, from now on we give her exact specifications and ensure she doesn't waiver for each other's presents.
(, Mon 30 Nov 2009, 7:02, closed)

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