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Time to lash the plastic.

Byline: Hilarie Stelfox

THIS week I'm doing Christmas, then you won't hear another squeak from me on the subject until next year (unless something REALLY interesting happens).

For someone whose many roles include "Consumer journalist" my Christmas begins in August when the first press releases arrive touting gifts and festive grub.

That's possibly why I'm unusually organised on the Christmas present front - although cards are quite another matter.

The thing is that I enjoy buying pressies and I hate writing cards. "Don't I do enough writing at work?" I wail to the Man-in-Charge, who is equally reluctant to pick up a pen and get on with it. What is it about "Hope you're well, Love from Uncle Tom Cobbley and all" that makes your hand seize up and transforms your handwriting into Arabic script.

Gift buying, however, is the best kind of shopping and, as my daughter likes to point out, I'm a girly girl who likes clothes, make-up and shopping. It's a bit feeble, I know, but there it is.

So when it rained at the weekend and we couldn't do any gardening - what a shame! - I suggested that we hit the shops and lashed the plastic.

First stop was Kingsgate and the menswear department of Beatties. I can't say any more because my brother reads this column every week.

"I'm bored already," said The Man, as we emerged into the mall, with a fine selection of paper carrier bags. "Let's have a coffee and cake." I've heard it said that men don't do shopping because they are hunters and not gatherers. They like to go to one shop, stab a few items with their spears, cough up the cash and beat a hasty retreat.

Women, however, forage for bargains and "something really special." They will spend hours browsing in one shop and then happily abandon it for another with richer pickings.

I have friends who meet up for a shopping expedition with a cutting from a newspaper or magazine. They'll then browbeat shop assistants until they find what they want.

After the coffee we split up - I went off to find earrings for the The Girl and he disappeared into Waterstones saying: "I may be gone some time." I quite enjoyed the jewellery store; confusing the assistant by asking for tray numbers that didn't exist, looking at all the lovely sparkly things and then being unable to make up my mind. When the Man appeared with yet more carrier bags, triumphant that he'd solved another Christmas present "problem" (that's how he sees it), he did that instant decision thing and off we went again.

Our last mission of the day - it was nearly closing time - was to find a piece of techo-wizardry for the Offspring. This involved going in to a game shop.

It's game shops that make me realise how The Man feels when dragged into dress shops.

The sight of all those DVD boxes, cables and things that defy description or explanation saps my natural shopping energy. I begin to yawn and whinge. "Just buy something so we can get out," I say, impatiently, "Do we really need any MORE games." In your regular shop there's always something a girl can browse but in a game shop there's absolutely zilch. It's tedious beyond belief.

And it was then that I realised girls and boys are not entirely different after all because The Man actually failed to make a purchase and said that he'd have a good look round all the other game shops to see what deals they had before committing himself.

It all boils down to a question of merchandise.

Men, it would seem, are from Planet Playstation while women are from a Galaxy far, far away where telephones are for making telephone calls and there are no such things as scart leads, USB ports or VGA interfaces, and, absolutely no football on any other day than a Saturday, or boring car talk.
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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Dec 8, 2007
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