Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Just 19 shopping benches til Christmas

As everyone knows, shopping is exhausting. It's a nightmare. The food shopping alone is enough to make you start smoking again.

Lady Brassica has her very own replica mall in the basement of Drizzly Manor but even so, she often has to take to her bench after a long day of retail therapy.

To get through the Christmas shopping period we're going to need some solid shopping benches and some sound advice. 

First off, make sure the shops are open.

Take a roomy shopping trolley with you. This one is actually a bench so if you get tired, you can sit down on it.

The shops will bedazzle you. Try to think what you're shopping for before you go out.

With a good list, the shopping just flies by.

Women are easy to buy for. I've already told my husbands what I want.

But gifts for men are tricky. Shops will give you ideas of stuff you don't want. 

Neither of my husbands would be caught dead in this nightie.

I could, of course, buy a bench but that's what I do every year. It's a bit obvious.

Men tend to get socks and ties but this year I thought I'd give His Excellency a bright, trendy Christmas jumper that he can wear all through the festive season. 

This fellow looks really chuffed with his.

Miggy, my imaginary friend:  His Excellency will not thank you for a jumper. Believe me. He will hate it. You'd be better off giving him a subscription to Bench Dude.

No, I don't think so. What about this jumper?

Miggy:  Are those reindeer doing what I think they're doing?

Oh, crikey. I didn't notice that.

Miggy:  I think you'd better give up on the jumpers.What are you getting for Mungo?

Mungo is my imaginary husband; he's easier to please. 

He's going to get this t-shirt that's right in the Christmas spirit.

Miggy: I suppose you chose this because Mungo used to be a maths teacher? 

Yes, I thought it was exponentially witty.

Miggy: But Mungo hates Christmas. He will not wear this t-shirt now or ever.

You could be right, Migs. Maybe I'll just get it for myself.

Miggy: If you get one in double extra large, I'd like one. 

Dream on, Fat Girl. You're getting a subscription to Bench Girl.

Miggy: No thanks. I'll take the bike though. 

Sorry, Migs. I'm getting a bit stressed out with all this shopping. It's hard to know what to do next.

©Graham Horn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license 

I'm just going to sit down on these nice red shopping benches and rest my brain.

I'm watching the Christmas shoppers and I know what everyone is thinking.

These women in Liverpool found everything they wanted in Primark but one of them is worried that she might have bought something stupid.

OK. Deep breath. Ready for more advice?

The apostrophe is missing in heart's. Maybe they couldn't afford one after all that spending.

Dress up to do your shopping trip. A bit of glamour won't go amiss.

Try to do your shopping alone. If you have to, set off in the rain in the dark of night.

Or take your dog with you. Have a seat in the mall and think things through.

Whatever you do, don't take your kids. 

You will end up on a bench doing all manner of childcare.

Either that or you'll spend the whole time queueing to see Santa.

It goes without saying: don't go with a man.

If you have to, find a convenient husband-parking bench and leave him there.

Kids left in a shopping centre ball-pit tend to have a whale of a time. Men, however, tend not to be able to find anything to do. 

This man was sensible enough to bring a book but even so, he's had enough. He's been there ten minutes and already he's holding his head.

He seems to have a lot of problems. Maybe I could get him this?

With all these men hanging around shopping areas it's no wonder shops put up anti-loitering signs.

Wouldn't it be nice if men waiting on benches would tell each other a Christmas Story?

Then we could all return home as happy couples laden with presents.

The truth is, most men will not enjoy the pleasure of talking to each other whilst waiting on a bench.

So all in all, you'll need to be quick with your shopping. You can't just run in and grab a bench for half price.

It's a matter of finding just the right shop, and friendly staff who are eager to serve you.

If you're lucky, helpful staff will pack up the presents.

Then, of course, everything has to be wrapped.

But once the Christmas shopping is done you'll be so pleased with yourself.

You can go and collect your kid that, three or four hours ago, you left on a bench outside The Cookie Shoppe.

You can go and find your man.

With a sense of relief, you can stand on a bench surrounded by bags.

Or, like Innocent, you can sink down into your purchases with a sense of satisfaction.

The control freaks among you can come home and arrange your shopping in alphabetical order.

Hmmm. I can see that you are wondering if there is a way to avoid all this. 

Yes. There are two ways I can think of. 

Like Miggy's mum, you can sit on a bench and make your own presents.

You'd need to plan ahead though. Miggy's mum has been working on these woolly scarves since October. 

Or you can stay in and order stuff online.

Maybe that's the way to do it? 

A harem of friends, wifi access, a hookah pipe, an unlimited credit card, and an elegant banquette where you can put up your feet while the stresses of Christmas roll by. 


Karina photographs Bunches and Bits, including the colourful bench and shopping bags at the top of this post. A stay-at-home-mom who isn't home very much, Karina lives in Pennsylvania. She loves Bench Mondays and there are glorious photos of Karina and her family doing all kinds of things on benches, chairs and brick walls. Like me, she is amazed by the talented, creative people who share their photos on Flickr.

Supermarket Shopper is a sculpture from artist Duane Hanson in 1970. It was photographed by Rene Spitz in June 2011.  Rene is based in Cologne and has an interest in design. As his photo sets show, he is addicted to taking pictures in museums and galleries, which is fortunate for me because I am stranded on Paradise Island and never get to see things for myself. Duane Hanson created a number of lifesize, realistic shoppers, including a man on a bench with a paper bag. Ausstellung Hyper Real, Ludwig-Forum Aachen 13. 

Primark Shoppers is a photograph by Jan at The Caravan Gallery  Jan and her colleagues travel all around the UK and elsewhere finding, capturing, and exhibiting fascinating little slices of life. Caravan Gallery photos have featured on Benchsite before and I have been lucky enough to visit the caravan. What a treat!  

Lady Jessica Brassica is the wife of Lord Brassica, Fifth Earl of Drizzly. She does indeed have her very own shopping mall in the basement of Drizzly Manor, from which she has unlimited credit and access to all manner of shoes, dresses, handbags, and Young Male Readers of various kinds. On more than one occasion she has been so exhausted by her shopping experiences that a doctor has had to revive her from her condition of Shopilius Extremis  What's the best thing to buy someone like this for Christmas? Well, one year she was delighted with a throne.

The yellow Patient Husband bench was photographed by Aga Slodownik in Porto Fino, Italy. Aga lives in Warsaw ans works as a Polish polisher; she says she does this work with German precision. Aga's photostream shows much interesting travel and she also has a thing for feet.

I only recently discovered Sign Fail and I'm really glad I did. Sign Fail are funny sign replicas inspired by real-life hilarity, the best of Chinglish & Engrish on handmade funny signs, cards & magnets. The signs are handmade to order in Melbourne, Australia by Michael Bancroft. Some of them seem too good to be true but I've picked out several which are just right for Benchsite.

Etienne Reijnder's Toosh-e is an ex-shopping trolley converted into a bench. It features as one of my Alphabet of Dutch Benches and comes in really handy here as a Christmas shopping trolley. Etienne Reijnder describes himself as '. . . a headstrong designer, who especially loves to walk the road of sidetracks and loves challenges. I believe in simple work. The design and material must fit in with the thought process, so don't make it prettier or uglier than it needs to be. I work very crisp, and pure.'  His website is at

The mens' nightie and other gifts for men is a 35mm slide of a display at Binns Department store at Newcastle upon Tyne in 1966.  The photo is from the Robert Sanderson collection, available through the Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums on Flickr Creative Commons at   The other shop photograph of Christmas decorations is Woolworths in Newcastle, taken in the same year and available through the same collection.

Shop Until You Drop is graffiti by Banksy, photographed by POOP in January 2012.

Paula Picard creates funny magnets, wine labels, and greeting cards like All I want for Christmas is everything.  My sentiments exactly. There are loads of funny ornaments and greeting cards for Christmas. Paula's shop is in Illinois at

The BENCH bench was photographed in Buchanan Street, Glasgow in 2008. The photographer is Steve Gore, who has a photostream full of all things Scotland. Scottish weddings, Armed Forces Day, stunning beaches, The Edinburgh Festival - it's all going on in Scotland.

The silly red dog jumper is 1980s from Stefano International Sportswear. It's sold by Joseph Murawski at Carnival of the Maniac, an intriguing shop full of vintage clothing, vintage paraphernalia, and conjurings. The shop is packed full of ugly Christmas jumpers and a guy who models them in a perfect deadpan way.

Gettemfast has a lot of ugly, funny, cool, custom and geek tee-shirts at his etsy shop in Michigan. I particularly like the reindeer cotton crewneck, which comes in a variety of colours and costs £22.22.  It's not the usual sweater you get from your granny.

Dave Fiorante runs his Classy Whale Tees shop from Toronto. There are all kinds of joke tee shirts in a huge variety of colours. It should be possible to find one for just about anybody you know.

The Next shop and metal benches are in the High Street in Exeter, where I once spent a summer. They were photographed by Graham Horn for Geograph in 2009.©Graham Horn and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license   I saw the photograph at

Choo Yut Shing lives in Singapore and has an eye for benches. There are lots of sleek, modern benches in public places, like the red plastic benches he photographed in 2009.

City Girl Night Rain is a fine art print from Agata Lawrynczyk's Art Corner in Ottawa, Ontario. Agata does original paintings, multiple canvas, abstracts, and textured artwork.

The woman with the dog in the mall was photographed by Emiliano in 2007. No clues where this mall was, but it's in the euro zone. He also photographed the man reading a book on a bench in Liverpool. Emiliano is an actor and songwriter from Livorno in Italy. Livorno just happens to be an incredible Bench Place, frequently appearing in the excellent Bunch of Benches. Emiliano has photographed his share of benches too. You can see them at  in his Flickr photostream at

The two women with children were photographed in a palm tree mall in Bristol in 2008.

DressyFlats specializes in greeting cards which are cheeky, sassy, un-PC, obnoxious, and adorably hip. They're made by Jessie in Brooklyn and available through her etsy shop at Please Don't Buy Me Anything Stupid This Year is a 5x7 holiday card, laser printed on acid-free cardstock. The image is a digital collage made from vintage and contemporary magazine images, with hand lettering and cutting. Jessie will put a message of your choice inside the cards so you can use them for any occasion.  

Terry Bell is from New Mexico and has some fantastic photos of the southwest, including a whole set of benches. He took the picture of the yellow bench Shop til your heart's content in the Las Placitas mall.

The little girl visiting Santa is Joan Wilson from St. Augustine in Florida. The photo is from the 1951 Department of Commerce Collection, made available through Creative Commons at the wonderful State Library and Archives of Florida

It's Just Slate is a shop full of hand painted home decor, especially signs like the Shopping with your husband one. It's run by Jessica Beare in Virginia and features yard, door and walls signs which are handpainted on old roofing slates.

The man and woman bearing gifts are from the Netherlands National Archive in 1961.   The well-dressed woman shopper with gifts is from the archives 1950-1960  Both are from the Spaarnestad Photo Collection at

Marji is the Rain City Girl from Seattle. The picture of bags and bench at the end of the story is called Been Shopping and comes from her set of Flickr Bench Monday photos.

Starting Lineup Tees are described as attitude tee's that are sure to propel you to the starting lineup... or at least get you a few high fives on the way into the game. I particularly like I bust mine so I can kick yours.  There are sports tees galore, including bench ones.

The Bench was a play performed at the Delta Stage Theatre in Greenville, North Carolina in December 2010. Written by Larry Larson and Eddie Lee, it's a true modern tale of Christmas featuring the story of two men who meet on a bench at the mall while waiting for their wives to finish Christmas shopping. As the weeks progress, they get to know each other, along with all the other wacky characters who inhabit the mall. They enjoy mall-style entertainment on the nearby stage, including a version of A Christmas Carol performed in under 5 minutes. The Bench is apparently full of singing and dancing and is hilariously funny. It sounds like just the thing for getting into the Christmas spirit; I'm sorry I missed it.

Bench in a Shopping Centre is a watercolour painting by Oliver Lovley in Nottingham. Oliver uses watercolours and coffee to create pretty, fluid landscapes of Nottinghamshire.  I just know these men on the bench are lonely but however long they wait, they will not talk to each other. Oliver's etsy shop is at

The helpful shop assistant was photographed by Roberto Trm in 2011. He doesn't say where it is but Roberto is from Venice and is widely travelled. Guessing from his wonderful travel Sets, including lots of benches, I'd say Bali or Indonesia.

My Dutch is normally just about good enough to work these things out but I can't for the life of me find out who is the painter of Entry of St. Nicholas into the Toy Shop (Intocht van St. Nicolaas). It's a Dutch painting by either A.C. Callenfels of Alkmaar or Gebr. Kluitman. The date, I think, is 1903. I saw it on WikiCommons at 

I would love absolutely anything from Julie's StitchinStash fabric studio in North Carolina. Stitchin' Stash offers the highest quality designer cotton fabrics from Michael Miller, Robert Kaufman, Riley Blake, Henry Glass, Studio e and more. There are colours galore, including the obligatory red, green and candycane stripe for Christmas. I just took a deep breath and chose the Holiday Hostess Fat Quarter Bundle to show in the story but if I had any of these, I'd be sewing forever.

Nikolay Titov took the photo of the two men sleeping on a bench in Taipei City, Taiwan, in 2011. He calls it Exhausting Shopping, which makes sense.

Killing time while Mom shops at the mall kid on bench is from the Fair Use policy of Uncyclopedia at   I am extraordinarily patient in tracking down the original source of images where possible but sometimes, as in this case, you just have to accept that the photograph is Out There. Having said that, I am always pleased to add a credit to the rightful owner if they want to get in touch. 

Shopping in the Harem is by Austrian painter Rudolf Swoboda, 1859-1914. The date of the painting is unknown. Swoboda was one of Queen Victoria's favourite Orientalist painters and she sent him to India to paint scenes from her empire. His Indian paintings now hang at Osborne House, Queen Victoria's summer cabin on the Isle of Wight.

I wouldn't want you to get the idea that I am in any way sponsored by Bench dot or any other company. Far from it. These are my very own purchases from the Bench dot outlet store. None of them fit me and they are all the wrong colours but never mind, they bear the Bench message and that's what's important. 

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