Wrapping paper and Xmas presents

It’s that time of the year. Christmas presents. I am OK, I think, at selecting them, not very good at receiving them (exactly how many ways are there to say ‘thank you’?), but completely, no completely rubbish at wrapping them. I suspect that this is a male thing, but I cannot for the life of me see why or how. Surely there is no DNA code for the act of wrapping?

My solution is both elegant (well…) and also problematic. I find myself almost unconsciously gravitating towards gifts that are square or rectangular, because anything else, anything with a curve, anything with a handle, anything without a fair proportion of ninety-degree angles, just ends up looking like a badly-managed-wodge of paper. It does not look like anything. I suppose that this could lead to a surprise factor (‘whatever could it be?’), but actually it just looks like a puppy has been handed a bunch of sellotape and some shiny stuff and asked to get on with it.

This accounts, therefore, for my instinctive search for something which is either a book or in a box, or a book which is in a box. Readers and non-readers alike receive something suspiciously like printed matter – and even when there is something to wrap which requires only a couple of triangular flaps and some nifty bits of sticky tape, it generally comes out looking like a pig’s ear and a sow’s purse at the same time.

My aunt – my mother’s elder sister Eleanor – used to send presents which were so elegantly wrapped, and so beatifully be-ribboned, that it seemed a shame to open them. These elegantly-wrapped objects were also, since they came through the post from the mystery faraway land known as Essex, contained within strong brown paper and string so subtly knotted that it must have taken the nous of several girl guides to accomplish. I am not good with string, any more than with sellotape. Just as sellotape has the infernal habit of sticking to my fingers, and then to itself, and then to any passing stranger or animal, so string also knots itself into impossible configurations the moment I so much look at the stuff. And something about the very act of wielding scissors also causes me problems with hand-eye-brain co-ordination. If I start on wrapping a present, the scissors immediately take on a life of their own, and what starts out as a straight line turns into a wayward one, and then into a jagged rip.

So I have to make sure I have several hours of spare time, a very flat surface, and enough rolls of sellotape to set up shop as a fairground stall which involves throwing hoops over skittles (which I also can’t do). Then I do my best, which is precariously close to my worst. Even a solid block of wood – quite a handy present, in my opinion – presents me with seemingly intractable problems. Something cylindrical or spherical, and that’s a cue for complete disaster.

It is the same with making beds. Show me a duvet and a duvet cover, and my brain slips into neutral. If I want to go to sleep in a freshly laundered bed, it is generally advisable for me to miss out on any major event in the three hours preceding the estimated time of unconsciousness. I could probably make more money as a comedy act than as a hotel chambermaid, although the act would be booed off long before the first successful arrival of one corner of the duvet in its appointed place in the cover occurred.

Show some compassion if you are on the receiving end of a gift prepared by me. It will look like a dog’s dinner, and a dog’s dinner that any average dog would turn its nose up at.

That bloke who wraps up mountains, and whose name begins with C: how does he do it? (And how big a waste paper basket does he need when he has to remove his piece of conceptual art?) No, I am not all fingers and thumbs. I am all thumbs.

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