The George Soros of Sandton City


My family thinks I’m a millionaire. They think freelance writing is the most lucrative gig this side of tender fraud.

What gives them this idea is that I buy the most opulent, lavish and extravagantly generous gifts since Oprah needed a ratings boost.

Little do they know that after I unload my bakkie full of colossal Christmas presents and spend turkey day fielding tearful hugs of gratitude from my family, I go home to a year of surviving on tinned fish and noodle mugs.

On any given Christmas Eve, up to a point, I am the most generous man in Sandton City.

The reason is that in order to get a decent Christmas present, you have one of two options: shop conscientiously, or spend big.

The former requires thoughtfulness, thoroughness, diligence, and that most elusive of commodities, shopping stamina.

Unfortunately, I have the shopping stamina of a smash-n-grab looter. Of a tobacco addict in a Quickshop queue. The long-distance shopping tolerance of a man with a court date in ten minutes. I just can’t get out of a mall fast enough.

So I am genetically unable to spend time shopping conscientiously. You know, the one where you think, “Ah, my sister would love one of those woven wicker handbags; not too big; yellow; with a floral design on the front,” and then you scour the city for days finding just that item?

I can’t do that.

That is my idea of pure and utter hell. Also, I have more important things to do for 363 days of the year. Then, somewhere around the time the summer’s first cricket Test concludes, Christmas crystallizes out of the holiday mist and I am stuffed.
Generally, we are leaving for our rural stronghold in Port Elizabeth in two hours’ time when I eventually decide to go Christmas shopping.

At this point, every shopping mall in South Africa resembles the beer line at Kings Of Leon. It’s impenetrable pandemonium.

The only way to minimise your time within the throng is to use the same policy you employ in a beer tent. Buy once, and buy big. Except here, instead of buying 18 beers, you just buy one big gift for every family member.

At least you know an expensive gift will be appreciated. With a cheap gift, it’s either got to be clever and thoughtful and cunningly remembered after a throwaway mention by your lady six months ago, or it’s a fail. Cheap and appropriate is great. Cheap and wrong has no redeeming features.

I can’t run that risk. So I go big.

For my niece? Some dress from Burberry. Hope it fits. For my nephew… er, something motorized. Do you guys sell little quadbikes?

For my lovely lady? Jewellery! Because expensive. For my dad, a coffee-table book the size of a suitcase. Mom gets the collected works of Paulo Coelho, boxed in gold leaf. Either that or a laptop.

By the time I’ve dropped a month’s earnings on presents, I can no longer afford food, clothes or deodorant. I report at my mom’s place in PE like a prodigal child failing at life, needing fifty bucks for petrol and a square meal. But dude, have I got presents!

This piece appeared in City Press iMag

Writer, editor, ghostwriter, writing coach. I've been involved in 30+ book projects - for myself and for clients, partners and colleagues. Experience in marketing, PR, advertising, television, print and digital, corporate and editorial. Former editor of FHM magazine. Currently Director, Editorial and Content at Ogilvy PR, Johannesburg. Musical performance, spoken word as Inspector Ras. Guitar/vocals for The Near Misses, (Worst Band In JoburgTM). @hagenengler

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