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The life of a Yorkshire widow: Harrogate shopping centre

13 Dec 2023 | Written by Jan Dunbar

In her latest installment of ‘The life of a Yorkshire widow’, Jan Dunbar’s protagonist tackles the hellishness that is Christmas shopping..

I expect you’ll remember the saga of the garden shed and the mystery of the walnut box? And I expect, like me, you’d like to know what’s inside. Well, I’m sorry to say we’re both going to be disappointed because I haven’t opened it yet. I’ve decided that I don’t want any surprises this close to Christmas so I’m going to wait until the New Year and look at it then. In the meantime, it’s back in the shed where I don’t have to think about it.

To take my mind off this conundrum, I phoned our Margaret yesterday and asked if she’d like to come to Harrogate for some Christmas shopping. I’d planned to do it anyway but I thought I’d best have a bit of company as this is my first Christmas without Jack. Unlike me, Margaret does love a shopping trip but she’s a terrible one for impulse buying. Last time we were there, she saw this very fancy kitchen gadget in a shop window. Ooh, I like that, she said and promptly bought it. Paid a small fortune for it and she’s never used it. It sits there on her kitchen counter looking slightly menacing. She says she just hasn’t got round to using it but I don’t think she knows what it does. It was the same on holiday in Scotland. She spotted a tartan kilt in a fabric shop and even though all our family are Yorkshire born and bred – even with our Cameron surname – in she went and paid a fortune for enough red tartan for several kilts. It’s Cameron of Lochiel, she said, as if that was supposed to make me question my Yorkshire roots. I said You’re the wrong age for a tartan kilt. Personally, I think any age is the wrong age for a tartan kilt, unless you’re a Scot of course. But she bought it anyway and, as far as I know, it’s still in a bag in the bottom of her wardrobe, with the pattern for an authentic Scottish garment.

I started making a list of people to buy for, and ideas as to what to spend. We’re not a close-knit family and, with Jack gone, I don’t see all that much of them. The one I do keep in touch with is Sheila, Jack’s oldest sister and her son Robert. At least Sheila’s sensible. Boring, but can be relied on in an emergency. On balance, I think I’ll buy small presents for everyone, but I’ll buy things that I can use afterwards or return if they don’t reciprocate. Thrift rather than extravagance at this time of year, I think.

My normal Christmas shopping routine is to head for the nearest Marks & Spencer and buy a selection of food, clothing and bathroom items, then allocate them as appropriate. It’s always worked in the past. Our Margaret wanted me to look around every single shop and see if anything inspired me but I was adamant. She got quite shirty about it and told me I was being boring. I told her a small fib and said that, as a pensioner, I couldn’t afford to splash out at Christmas. (I still haven’t told anybody about Jack’s life insurance money, nor do I intend to). The fact that the shops are ringing out with God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen and there’s tinsel everywhere, does not encourage the abandonment of prudence in my mind.

So, Sheila’s having some rather cosy brushed cotton pyjamas; Angela, Jack’s younger sister – that’s the flighty, three times married one – is getting a fancy room diffuser. It’s called Calm and I’m rather hoping she’ll take the hint. Angela’s so excitable she might be better off drinking it than smelling it. David, Jack’s younger brother – the unmarried ‘confirmed bachelor’ one – is getting a bottle of port as it’s much less expensive than whisky. Then there’s Robert, Jack’s nephew. Robert was very fond of his uncle and he’s been very kind to me since Jack died. He set up his old computer for me, taught me the basics and set up an account with Amazon for my online shopping. Online shopping! At my age! Anyway, I’ve spent a little more than I usually would and bought Robert a Classic Mixed Case of 6 red wines, which only leaves Abigail, that’s Angela’s daughter in Australia which is where I had a small flash of inspiration and thought of Amazon. I’ve bought her a gift voucher. Now I know that sounds terribly boring but it isn’t an ordinary gift voucher. It’s an e-Gift Card for 50 Australian dollars which goes straight to her computer. My word, the things you can do these days with a computer. It’s a whole new world.

By the way, I’ve also bought our Margaret’s present. It’s an online kilt-making course.


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