Dear Santa, I have been good. Please do not give me...

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IT IS customary at this time of year for journalists to compile lists of Christmas gift ideas, compendia of helpful suggestions of things to give each other. What nobody ever does, and which would be much more helpful, is to compose a list of things which you should never give each other.

Therefore, in the spirit of Christmas, I am compiling a check-list of bad gift ideas, of presents which you should never sink to giving. Please cut it out and pin it to that absolutely hideous kitchen notice board which somebody gave you last year, so that you can refer to it from time to time.

Sweet little wicker baskets of equipment for producing mulled wine, with which you are paying 90 per cent of the purchase price for the wickerwork, and 10 per cent for tea bags of dried herbs.

Tall thin glass jars which are supposedly for keeping spaghetti in, which have all the storage capacity of an empty wine bottle and all the stability of a drunk giraffe.

Grey jerseys.

Any corkscrew which claims to use a system of extracting corks from bottles which nobody in history has ever thought of before.

Books which have the name of Sir David Attenborough (who only wrote the introduction) in larger type on the cover than the name of the author.

A video which seems to offer lashings of someone's favourite television programme but which actually only offers out-takes and previously unseen bits of it...

Flash bottles of vinegar containing sprigs of herbs, peppercorns, etc, so designed that when you first try to get some vinegar out, all the foliage comes to the neck of the bottle and blocks the exit of the liquid entirely.

Jars of marinated figs.

Anything with the recipient's first name painted brightly on the side, especially mugs.

Anything of which, at the time of purchase, the shop assistant says brightly, "Of course, if it's not quite right, they can bring it back any time and exchange it," which is all very well in its own way, but which means that you have to keep the receipt all through the Christmas period and remember where it is afterwards, and also run the risk that the recipient may take back the present and exchange it, and then find out how little you paid for it...

Anything which is described on the box as "easy to assemble". (Did you ever see anything described as "difficult to assemble"?)

Moisturising cream sitting in jars in suspiciously flowery boxes.

Anything designed to dangle inside a car.


Any autobiography of any sportsman.

(Or any politician.)

Machines which claim to allow you to make your own pasta, or bread, or ice cream, or yoghurt...


Bits of clothing which claim to be of a "rich, wool/cotton mix".

General Pinochet's memoirs.

Scented candles, where the wick has a mind of its own.

A wristwatch with more than five functions.

Anything which claims to be "showerproof".

Any humorous book whose title begins with the baleful words The Wit and Wisdom of...

Papier-mache vases, which are not even showerproof, let alone waterproof.

Bath toiletries which contain little bits of fibre, which when liberated in the bath float free till they reach your waist-line then attach themselves to it and later became coagulated on your towel...

Anything which is designed to hold anything else, whether Indian craft boxes, napkin rings, furry tissue box containers, musical bog-roll holders, etc, etc...


To be continued.