Christmas is growing near. No, it’s no good burying your head in the sand and screaming “PLEASE NO! IT’S ONLY NOVEMBER!”.
For one thing, I can’t hear what you’re screaming if you bury your head in the sand, but assuming I manage to make out your muffled complaints, you need to accept that Christmas is just around the corner and we need to prepare.
This year, i’ve decided to make a charitable donation in Marital Unit’s name (check the end of this post for some words about a bloody good cause. Please?). I thought it was a better plan than last year’s debacle.
You see, Christmas 2014 was marred somewhat by my attempt to present Marital Unit with what I can only describe as the most ludicrously lavish gift basket of all time.
Have you ever heard “The Twelve Days Of Christmas”. It’s a pretty little ditty, but a bugger of a shopping list…
First up, you need to buy 12 pear trees. People often forget that the poem actually calls for a pear tree and partridge combo on each of the twelve days. Then two turtle doves on each of the next eleven days, etc, etc, so on and so forth.
So, 12 pear trees. I got a bargain online, finding them for twenty quid a pop, buy one get the second half price. That’s £180 for the lot,
Next I had to source 12 partridges. After a bit of research, I found some bird breeder sites and the Chukar partridge seemed to be the most common. They were going for $42 a bird, so $504 or about £333.41.
Turtle doves next, 22 of them. Try as I might, I couldn’t find a single breeder selling turtle doves but I found a guy with a lovely line in white fantails, so I snapped up most of his stock at 20 quid each. Another £440.
At this point, it’s dawned on me that I have to feed all of these birds. 100kg of bird seed set me back about £85 online, I figured that would cover it for a while.
Scraping the bird crap from my laptop, I hit up the farm stock sites and acquired 30 French hens for £300 all in. I figured they could share the seed with the doves and partridges. The constant squawking seemed a fair price to pay to see Marital Unit’s face light up at the sight of her new menagerie.
Next up, calling birds. After hours sat at my laptop, birds pecking and crapping all over me, I found out that no-one can agree on exactly what the hell a calling bid is. Best guess, the word is actually “colly” and refers to sooty birds, probably the European Blackbird.
Now, turns out blackbirds are a bugger to source online. After some frightening hours in a dark corner of the internet, I found BirdsExpress. At first I thought it said BirdSexPress and assumed it was some sort of horrific breeding equipment, but the penny dropped eventually and a minute or two browsing their stock turned up a ready supply of Eurasian Blackbirds. Not quite what I was looking for but the best I could do, although the price was a lot higher than expected. £297.68 PER BLOODY BIRD! My festive flock set me back £10716.48!
Looking back, I would have been better off buying a long handled fishing net and catching my own blackbirds. You live and learn.
What with the chirruping and tweeting and cawing, not to mention the neverending torrents of bird shite, I thought it was time to get out of the house for a bit so I headed to town to buy 40 gold rings.
The woman at F.Hinds was understandably baffled by my bulk buying but after some explanation and a muttered curse about “paying for all them feathery bastards”, she was happy to help me pick out 40 plain, 9 carat gold rings. At £50 a ring, they were a bit of a bargain. Even so, that’s another £2000 on the total and i’ll admit that by that point, I was starting to think that a book token might have sufficed.
Returning home, I fished my laptop out of the puddles of bird doings and after much wiping, set to work sourcing geese.
I’m not sure how many geese makes a gaggle but I bought 42 of the honking gits and you can describe that many geese as a bloody nuisance. They weren’t actually “a-laying” when I bought them, but the farmer assured me that they had the potential to lay and at that point I wasn’t overly fussy, so £10 a bird, £420 all told and I bunged the farmer an extra £20 for his shovel so I could clear up some of the bird crap that was now threatening to drown me.
Swans were my next buy. I’d heard somewhere that the Queen owns all of the swans in the United Kingdom. I can’t remember who told me that but i’d like to give them a slap. A right arse I looked, emailing Buckingham Palace to ask them for a price list. A kind soul on the royal PR team suggested I search for waterfowl breeders and long story short, I ended up buying 21 pairs of Whooper Swans (that’s your bog standard looking swan, with a yellow beak and whatnot) for £380 per pair.
That wasn’t the end of it with the swans, though. They had to be “a-swimming”, so they needed something to a-swim in. I bought 42 six foot paddling pools (swans are big birds) at £20 each. All told, the swans set me back another £16800.. Thank god our water is rated, not metered, otherwise that would be another bloody cost.
Mind you, I think the cows trumped the birds. Obviously, I had to buy eight cows, for the eight maids-a-milking. The problem was I was still a little dazed by the cost of the blackbirds and the swans and I really don’t understand livestock auctions and…well, to cut a long story short I bought 21 cows. They were a bargain at £1000 for the herd, but the bird crap was naught compared to the gushing rivers of mess that ran out of these mooing monsters.
This is when the complaints really started to roll in. The neighbours were already getting sick of the noise and smell of 184 cawing, honking, crapping birds so imagine their horror when 21 cows appeared, turning their beautifully kept lawns into grazing land and pooing all over the patio furniture. Obviously I could have kept them somewhere else but using the local gardens as a source of grass kept costs down and by now I was starting to feel the hole this Christmas pressy plan was burning in my bank balance.
Oh I didn’t even mention the cost of the maids, did I?! Turns out “milkmaid” isn’t even a thing now! Since the advent of teat-tugging technology, the closest you’ll get is “herdsperson” and that’s a job that usually comes with a house on the ranch. I couldn’t justify the cost of buying acres of land and building homes for the eight staff i’d have to hire, just for a few days of novelty gift giving, so I improvised. Turns out you can hire a housekeeper for £12 per hour, so two hours a day for the five days, I got myself eight “maids” for £960. They weren’t particularly gifted when it came to cattle management, but they made a good show of it.
Next came nine ladies dancing and i’ll be honest, it wasn’t everything i’d hoped. As a bit of a gift to myself I indulged my love of burlesque and hired nine performers (at £180 each, per day) to come and ply their artistic trade. The eroticism and beauty of burlesque is a powerful thing, but it struggles to shine through three feet of animal crap and you couldn’t even hear the music for birdsong, mooing and eight housekeepers complaining about the working conditions.
The real trouble started in the last few days, following the introduction of the “lords-a-leaping”. I spent a depressing day in London, pleading with the gentry, but it turns out that it’s bloody difficult to secure the services of just one peer of the realm, let alone ten of the buggers.
In desperation, I turned to one of those tacky gift sites and bought ten “Become a lord or lady” kits for £30 each. I bunged 10 of my mates £50 a piece to turn up for ten minutes each day over the last three days, bounce around the house for a bit and then bugger off. Lords-a-leaping for £1400.
Trust me when I tell you that ten men jumping about the house like over-caffeinated kangaroos is a good way to scare the shit out of your massive collection of birds and cattle. I thought the poo problem was bad before, but by crikey you’ve never seen or smelt anything like it.
I should have called the whole thing off at that point. I know I should. The thing is, I was living with a neverending cacophony of animal sound, not to mention the constant smell of faeces. On top of that, I was trying to deal with the endless complaints of a team of housekeeping staff who knew bugger all about milking and a burlesque troupe who made the poor decision to wear feather boas for their performance and were being constantly attacked by birds, all while pulling newly-made lords out of poo-puddles. I was frazzled.
So, given all of that nonsense, you’ll understand why I forgot to cancel the pipers. Eleven of the buggers turned up on the eleventh day. The ensuing riot ensured that three of the dancers will never dance again, left two leaping lords with broken legs and was the cause of no less than sixteen bird deaths by trampling.
Day twelve and there were eleven more pipers, along with twelve drummers. I sent the buggers home but I still had to pay for them.
All in all, my 12 days of nonsense cost me £46564.89, without factoring in legal costs.
I mentioned a charitable donation at the start of this post and that’s probably the one thing i’ve written here that isn’t absolute flannel. You can check out more info here.
Fancy sponsoring one of the items from this list? Pay for a French hen, perhaps? You don’t actually get a hen…it’s a charity thing. I’m not MADE of hens, damn it. Just drop me an email, Tweet or whatever.
If you could check out my JustGiving page, spread the word, maybe even bung me a pound or two, I would be eternally grateful.