Today’s guest on This Chick Reads is Jenny Oliver. We met lovely Jenny on twitter short before she launched her debut ‘The Parisian Christmas Bake Off’ and are thrilled to welcome her on our blog. Today she’s here to talk about what else, then Christmas:) Thank you for being with us Jenny, and guys stayed tuned. We’ll be reviewing ‘The Parisian Christmas Bake Off’ tomorrow. Off to you now Jenny.
To be honest, there were too many things that I want, and of course none that I really need, for me to reel off my shopping list of desires for this blog. But the question did make me think about the art of present buying.
For as long as I can remember a Christmas list has been required of me. My mum would tell us when it was needed by, and me and my sisters would set to work thinking of everything we’d seen in Toys R Us. But it’s hard writing a list! (NB. For point of this blog, spirit and essence of Christmas ruined by ruthless commercialism aside here.) And when we once just wrote ‘lots of nice things’ our lists were pretty quickly sent back our way.
On the lead up to Christmas I remember one of my sisters showing me the crumpled lists in my mum’s bag and we had to stop ourselves from peeking at what had been crossed off and what remained unticked. This sounds very unfestive, I know, but there was something really exciting about it – would we look, would we not? Over the years our lists became something of an art. I have a vague memory of actually laminating one of them and my sisters would elaborately decorate theirs or cut patterns in the edges. The lists went from vague – mine – to very specific – my oldest sister’s. And with the advent of computers hers became even more to the point with links and pictures to everything her heart desired. Similarly no longer were they on scraps of paper but A4 printouts or emailed to one another with annotations and additions for when nephews/ grandchildren were born. It’s a rigorous process but, without fail, everyone’s to this day still says ‘lots of nice things’ on the bottom of it.
It’s this sentence that I see almost as a challenge. In some sense, going ‘off-list’ feels like the only way to give a proper gift. The list itself, while clearly being what the person wants, could be seen to show what they don’t yet know that they want. And, perhaps, it’s the present buyer’s job to nail just what that is. This is where I straddle the two sides of the present buying population – the Listers and the Non-Listers. The people who think the list is a must to those who think it quite possibly the most hideous invention in the world (ignoring those, like my husband, who say that they don’t know what they want and just buy them a book. Who’s list, I have to confess when the call comes, I write for him.) I am torn, divided, split between a romantic ideal of skipping down a Victorian alley, all sorts of beautifully wrapped goodies clutched in my arms, and the much more practical option of not wasting any money on pointless presents and buying exactly what the recipient wants. So, after much internal debate, this year I am going to try to do both – go half off list and half on. I’ll buy one present I think they’ll like and one I have a website link to (including size, colour etc) and know they’ll like. But there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s the nicest thing seeing someone’s face when they unwrap something they weren’t expecting and truly seem to like it.
My friend though told me of another way, which goes someway to bridging the gap between the Listers and Non-Listers. A list she gave her husband a couple of Christmases ago that simply said things like: something that will make me smile, something that will make me cleverer, something that will make me feel sexy, something that will make me laugh. I have no idea whether it worked or not but the idea I thought was pretty lovely.
So, with that in mind, I would like things that make me smile for Christmas. Moments that are shared with all my family and make us laugh, food that tastes of everything festive and makes me feel happily fat, a frosty walk, a bit of rubbish TV, a ramshackle Christmas tree and, of course, lots of nice things.
Hope you all get something that makes you smile, too. Jen x
About Jenny Oliver
Jenny Oliver wrote her first book on holiday when she was ten years old. Illustrated with cut-out supermodels from her sister’s Vogue, it was an epic, sweeping love story not so loosely based on Dynasty.
Since then Jenny has gone on to get an English degree, a Masters, and a job in publishing that’s taught her what it takes to write a novel (without the help of the supermodels). She wrote The Parisian Christmas Bake Off on the beach in a sea-soaked, sand-covered notebook. This time the inspiration was her addiction to macaroons, the belief she can cook them and an all-consuming love of Christmas. When the decorations go up in October, that’s fine with her! Follow her on Twitter @JenOliverBooks