As the Christmas decorations are dug out of the attic and dusted off, the Christmas cards are laboriously written (I am, yet again, the last person to get round to writing any), thoughts to Christmas presents. Kids are easy as they’ve had all year to think about what they want and my youngest wants the entire toy section of the Argos catalogue – which he may just get, each and every page carefully cut out and wrapped up!
Each year the houses receive a token gesture from me to remind them that it is, indeed, Christmas and a time for giving and sharing rather than a licence to spend their rent money on drink and the new girlfriend’s to-die-for present. As any company gives its customers a “thank you”, I think it only right to say “thank you” to my lot – thank you for mostly paying your rent, thank you for not giving the police an excuse to break down the door, thank you for not flooding the bathroom but most of all thank you for wanting to stay in the house and giving me something to do.
What do you give a house full of completely unrelated people in terms of interests, personalities and tastes? In the early years I used to turn up with enough items to have a drink with each other but soon realised that the first tenant home that night would drink everyone’s share, leaving the shortbread and the booze was probably inappropriate for recovering alcoholics. Easter’s easy – everyone gets a Cream Egg with their rent slip but it’s only this year that most of the tenants have admitted that they hate Cream Eggs and were only being polite.
So, what to give? I want to go back to giving them a couple of bottles of wine, half a dozen beer cans and a tin of chocolates/shortbread but expecting them to sit down together and wait until the cocktail hour is probably pushing the realms of possibilities. So I went to my local Co-Op and bought the individual houses let to families a box of Black Magic each – small enough to get through a letterbox and tasty enough to satisfy the kids even after they’ve been battered and squashed by Royal Mail.
For the HMOs, I’ve settled on tins of shortbread and a big tub of Celebrations which should be something for everyone and, in return, their present to me will be NOT to call on Christmas Day to ask for the internet password or tell me they’ve locked themselves out!