Christmas shouldn’t be a time for getting things you need. Where’s the magic in that? (Though, Mum and Dad, if you’re reading this, I really do need that new camera. And… a pony?) Christmas presents should be treats. They should be special; unique. I thought I’d pick out a few traditionally boring gift categories, and show you how to make them a bit more exciting.
Socks are sort of a joke present these days aren’t they, but actually I think Grandads are onto something here. I’m a big fan of these woollen lovelies from Really Wild. Warm and sturdy, they’re perfect for popping under gumboots for long muddy walks, or if you live in a real country house that’s always bloody cold in winter.
£35. You can buy them here.
Another dull necessity, but something designed to be displayed on your desk, to be weighed in the hand and stared into for inspiration, should be worthy of its place. These are:
£30 for the small size, £40 for the large. You can buy them here.
Some people like porcelain kittens but, er, not me. I recently discovered the work of the wonderful Mister Finch stocked in York’s Imaginarium. He sews together the most beautiful animals, toadstools and insects, inspired by British folklore. His creations are magical, and I’d be delighted to find one of his giant bumble bees or delicate toadstools under the Christmas tree.
4) Book Vouchers
These are always boring. Even for a bookworm like me! (Well, actually, I do find them pretty exciting, but most people are normal.) Gifts should be memorable, even if they don’t last, so go to the effort of finding out what sort of book they’d like and buying it for them. If you are adamant that you’d prefer vouchers though, why not go for something different, like a voucher from the Royal Opera House? Your lucky recipient can still make their choice from the different ballets and operas being staged, so you’re leaving them an element of control, but it’ll be far more memorable than a trip to Waterstones for them. Go on, surprise someone – it won’t be what they expected!
Spend as much or as little as you want to! You can buy them here.
Chocolates in any form and shape are always welcome, but some are more welcome than others. William Curley was awarded the prestigious ‘Britain’s Best Chocolatier’ accolade four times by The Academy of Chocolate (doesn’t that sound like a great place to work?) You can of course just purchase the chocolates, but if you’re keen on vouchers and have deep pockets, then they also offer a three month membership voucher. For £75, you receive a box each month full of their best sellers and new products. For £155, you will be contacted directly by one of their team to establish your likes, dislikes and favourites, then receive a bespoke selection of new products, seasonal lines, best sellers, award winners and your own personal favourites.
You can buy them (for me) here.
It’s very difficult to find affordable jewellery that is still personal and interesting. Etsy is always a useful place to start online, but antique stores and markets are the best place to turn up something unique. One particular antique dealer in Tenterden knows that I collect black wedgewood, so last time I popped in he showed me a mid-nineteenth century, black wedgewood ring set in gold (that he’d just happened to get his hands on). It was the most expensive piece of jewellery I’d ever bought for myself, but I couldn’t resist it because it was so unusual.
I’m particularly enamoured of these sea urchin rings at the moment. I used to spend hours beach-combing when I lived on Nauru, and found hundreds of sea urchin needles, but an intact skeleton was always an especially great prize. I think it’s important to hold onto our childhoods, where we came from and what made us who we are, and the jewellery we wear is often an expression of this.
I’m also a big fan of the small dog-rose rings by the same designer, however… it would be difficult to decide!
£65-£160. Buy them here.
Don’t get me wrong, I like pencils, especially ones in tins with names like ‘Graphite MASTER‘ and ‘Uber Skizze‘, but… exciting? No. For the creative person in your life (or the creatively deficient who frankly, needs the practice) why not go crazy and invent a new hobby for them so they can actually play with stuff at Christmas. A block of clay and weirdly invasive-looking tools? Yes please! Maybe try gilding, with sheets of actual gold. You could gild your children – they’ll love it, I promise. I sometimes give my female students gift-card-making paraphernalia: blank cards and envelopes, ribbons, charms, stamps and ink pads, which always goes down well.
Buy art materials here.
Head here for ribbons, but do go in person, because it’s a wonderful, wonderful place.
No, it isn’t boring – of course not! However, if you are trying to find something a little bit different, perhaps try an accompanying toy:
Elegant cocktail shaker and matching ice bucket? Yes please!
Go on, throw in the glasses as well. John Lewis will sort you out here.
I also found these completely pointless but strangely tantalising moulds for making round ice cubes. Perfect for whiskey apparently, as the ice chills without diluting.
£15 for two. You can buy them here.
There is something wonderful about a practical object being also beautiful, especially if it’s also a bit strange. I told you about Ibride’s stunning trays before, but they’re too good to forget (and, like, nobody’s bought me one yet? Hello?!)
£44-£166. You can buy them here.
10) Something You Made Yourself
Right, so I know this is sort of breaking the ‘shopping theme’ of this post, but having heard someone recently bemoaning being given home-made gifts, I thought I’d clarify the issue. Home-made gifts are of no value at all at Christmas if they’re any good. The BEST home-made gifts, are absolutely bloody awful. Stay with me. If you’re terrible at drawing, draw caricatures of all your friends and frame them (the frame is the clincher, as it means they’ll have to display it, at least when you visit). They’ll laugh at a portrait your cat could have drawn better, and you’ll laugh for years to come when they have to look at it on the wall every day. See, Christmas should be a time of frivolity and laughter. Zero culinary skills? Make the worst cake/ biscuits/ liqueur you can, and its consumption can be used as a forfeit when the drinking games begin! Tom used to eat a lot of pickled eggs (I don’t know why, I think it’s a Northern thing. Or maybe he’s just disgusting.) so I gave him a jar of pickled quail eggs one year. He and his brothers had a great time forcing each-other to eat them. I think someone vomited. Now THAT’S what you want out of Christmas.
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