THE 50 BEST: SANTA IS COMING (BUT HE'S; RUNNING A LITTLE LATE...)
Saturday 18 December 1999
Tyler Brule is editor of Wallpaper*. Katie Bryan is fashion and beauty assistant of Bliss magazine. Bronwyn Cosgrave is commissioning editor of Vogue. DIY Dad is the pseudonym of the DIY columnist on Living Etc. Elaine Griffiths is editor of Here's Health magazine. Richard Ingrams is editor of The Oldie. Simon Munk writes on technology for the Express and Maxim. Nicola Rose is fashion and style editor of Red. Graham Thompson is technical editor of Trail magazine, and author of Backpackers' Guide to the Lake District and Classic Mountain Scrambles in England and Wales. Jason Weston is deputy editor of .net magazine.
MOSCHINO TROUSER SUIT
The little black dress, says Bronwyn Cosgrave, is, well, so last decade: "It's boring." Enter the drop-dead glam Y2K alternative: the black trouser suit. The lapels and trouser legs of this Moschino tuxedo suit are lightly dusted with matt black sequins - that word matt being all-important. "They make it slightly flash, but it still looks understated," approves Cosgrave. And, yes, something this earth-shatteringly chic can be practical, too: "The suit's much warmer than the LBD."
Where: Moschino, 28-29 Conduit Street, London W1 (0171-318 0555); 10am- 4pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 2,120.
MARC NEWSON WHISKEY GLASSES
"These glasses are destined to be a design classic," opines Tyler Brule. Quite apart from their pared-down, wafer-thin elegance, these tumblers, by hip Australian designer Marc Newson for the Finnish company Iittala, won't date, he says. "They're very `future' - you know they'll sit on your coffee or dining table in years to come and not look naff." There are also beer and cocktail glasses in the same style.
Where: Vessel, 114 Kensington Park Road, London W11 (0171-727 8001); 10am-6pm 24 Dec. How much: pounds 35.90 for boxed set of two.
ULTIMATE LIME GIFT BOX FROM JO MALONE
This gift box has cult status among slaves to the latest beauty products. But it's also a must-have for beleaguered mums. Nestling within a frame of Sicilian lime potpourri are lime-, basil- and mandarin-fragranced cologne, bath oil, body lotion, shower gel, body creme, shampoo, conditioner, linen spray and soap. "Forget Body Shop gift sets," says Nicola Rose. "This is the perfect self-indulgent box of goodies for any harassed woman in Y2K."
Where: Jo Malone, 150 Sloane Street, London SW1 (0171-720 0202); 10am- 4pm, 24 Dec. How much: pounds 199.
FRENCH CONNECTION UNDERWEAR
Where do cool teenagers get their swanky but no-frills underwear these days? From French Connection, not Knickerbox, it seems. "It's definitely the chicest high-street retailer," says Katie Bryan. "Its range of girls' and boys' undies comes in comfortable, sporty stretch-cotton, in stylish black, white and grey. They're very reasonably priced, and beautifully and unusually packaged in cardboard tubes you can use for storing other things in later."
Where: most branches open 10.30am-2pm 24 Dec; for information, call 0171- 399 7200.
How much: girls' shorts (above) pounds 10.
LOGITECH CORDLESS MOUSEMAN WHEEL
It's a discomfort cybersurfers know only too well - the way a mouse's flex forms messy loops, so slowing down all that wrist action. Logitech's Cordless MouseMan Wheel utilises a radio technology that enables it to do away with the flex. What's more, objects between it and the computer don't affect the cordless contraption's performance. "It's even got a button you can use as a browser `back' button," says Jason Weston. "And its curvy shape makes it extra-comfortable to use."
Where: PC World (0171-374 6444); most branches open to 4pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 29.99.
LEATHERMAN WAVE TOOL
A cut above a Swiss Army knife, and then some, the Wave multi-purpose tool contains wire-cutters, pliers, a wood saw, Phillips screwdriver, bottle opener and scissors, to name a few of its invaluable accoutrements. And it's only 10cm long. "This is an essential piece of kit for anyone who's adventurous in the outdoors," says Graham Thompson. "It's useful for everything from fixing your windsurfer to adjusting spokes on a bicycle wheel. Or just opening a bottle of beer!"
Where: Millets (01604 441111); open 24 Dec, but closing times vary. For other stockists, call Whitby & Co (01539 721032). How much: pounds 89.95.
NAKAMICHI CAR AUDIO MB-75
Changing CDs in the car can be a darned nuisance - not to say dangerous when your eyes stray from the road. Even boot-mounted CD-changers are pesky gadgets: who wants to get out of the car to reload them with fresh ones? Now Nakamichi has produced a six-disc changer to go in the dashboard. "It's much more convenient than having to fumble about in the boot," says Simon Munk. "The sound doesn't suffer either: this is high-end audio at your fingertips."
Where: A&D, 17 The Arches, Munster Rd, SW6 (0171-751 9712); closes 12noon 24 Dec. For other stockists, call 0181-863 9117. How much: pounds 699.99.
QUATTRO BY BLACK & DECKER
DIY-inclined dads will be pleased to hear that the days of rummaging for separate gizmos in a toolbox could soon be over, thanks to the pioneering Quattro tool. "It does exactly what it says on the box," says Living Etc's DIY Dad. "This one versatile tool has facilities for drilling, screwdriving, sanding and jigsawing. It's really space-saving as a result." What's more, this battery-powered gizmo is cordless, lightweight and comes in a box, making it easy to wrap. The number below, incidentally, also provides technical advice.
Where: large DIY stores; B&Q branches open 8am-5pm 24 Dec. For other stockists, call 01753 574277.
How much: around pounds 90.
AROMATHERAPY GIFT SET
You could treat New Ager pals to an aromatherapy kit by picking out a selection of essential oils at your local branch of boots. But a far easier alternative is to present them with this gift set. Produced by Element Press, it incorporates five key oils, a bottle of carrier oil and another bottle for blending, plus a 256-page aomatherapy book. "Essential oils are an inexepensive, yet potent, way to enhance health and wellbeing," says Elaine Griffiths.
Where: from good bookshops; Waterstones (0181-742 3800) branches close between 3pm amd 5pm 24 Dec. How much: pounds 24.99.
Exasperated at having to buy a hideously ornate, not to say expensive, bookrest to relieve him of severe neck pain, Gary Lancet invented the Bookchair. Shaped like a deckchair, this will ease the back or neck pain of any grey panther reading in bed or at a table. It can also be used as a cookbook-holder in the kitchen. "It's an attractive alternative to the traditional common reading stand, and ideal for those with neck and back problems," says Richard Ingrams.
Where: selected branches of Waterstones, open 3-5pm 24 Dec. For other stockists/mail order, call 0181-520 5678.
How much: around pounds 16.50.
JEAN-PAUL GAULTIER: FRAGILE
Gaultier's latest scent was inspired by childhood memories of magical snowstorms. Standing with all the poise and glamour of a Fifties diva, a siren stands at the domed bottle's centre. "The scent is tuberose, and utterly seductive. Gaultier is the most creative fashion perfumer around," says Bronwyn Cosgrave. "His packaging is always the most inventive, and the scents are divine."
Where: larger branches of Boots are open to 3pm/4pm 24 Dec. For other stockists, call 01372 469222.
How much: pounds 36 for 25ml.
NEW YORK RUG BY WOODNOTES
Contemporary rugs are back - thanks to Seventies retro, with its unearthing of shagpile rugs, and a desire to soften the stark look of wooden floors. "Woodnotes' New York rug is as chic as they come," says Tyler Brule. "This Finnish company make lots of rugs for Prada because it uses great colours." The New York design, whose grid pattern recalls the Big Apple's street plan, is the rug world's equivalent of Armani: in other words, it comes in myriad shades of beige.
Where: Scandium, 72 Wigmore Street, London W1 (0171-935 2077); 10am-3pm 24 Dec. How much: from pounds 150.
`COOKING FROM LAKE HOUSE ORGANIC FARM' BY TRUDIE STYLER AND JOSEPH SPONZO
Not everyone leads the charmed life of Trudie Styler (wife of Sting). But any busy mum who takes a look at Styler's cookbook, co-written with American superchef Joseph Sponzo, will be able to take a sizeable bite out of it. "It has 150 delicious, easy-to-follow recipes made with healthy ingredients, and beautiful photographs, which make it both a great coffee- table book and cookbook," says Nicola Rose. The food? Old English and Mediterranean. Think rustic fruit pies, goat's-cheese burgers, chocolate souffles... Mmmm.
Where: from good bookshops; Waterstones (0181-742 3800) branches close between 3pm and 5pm 24 Dec. How much: Ebury Press, pounds 25.
CLINIQUE HAPPY FOR MEN
You can't get a much zestier men's fragrance than Happy for Men - the brother to Clinique's Happy for Women. Bearing absolutely no connection to Prozac, it's an upbeat blend of lime, mandarin and grapefruit. And it's packaged in a zingy orange bottle. Teenage style-watchers will have awarded it extra cool points on noticing that its ad campaign was shot by fashion photographer Steven Meisel. "Happy for Men is fresh, sharp and, more importantly, great value," says Katie Bryan. "And it also looks great on your bathroom shelf!"
Where: Selfridges, London W1 (0171-629 1234) and Manchester (0161-629 1234); 10am-4pm 24 Dec. How much: pounds 25 for 50ml.
IOMEGA ZIP 250 USB
With its funky electric-blue shell, the Zip 250 drive is guaranteed to complement an i-Mac in aesthetic terms. But more than looks, we're talking economy of size: only one inch thick, it'll fit in your pocket. And each of its floppy disks holds as much information as that on 175 regular 3.5-inch floppy disks. "Tired of downloading files that won't fit on a floppy? Then make the change to a Zip drive, and carry 100Mb around in your pocket," suggests Jason Weston.
Where: PC World (0171-374 6444); most branches open 9am-4pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 149.
PLAS Y BRENIN MULTI-ACTIVITY WEEKEND
An exhilarating adventure-sports weekend at Plas Y Brenin, at the heart of the scenic Snowdonia National Park, offers everything a nature-lover and hardened outward-bounder could want. "It's a great-value holiday, which, for only pounds 99, allows you to experience the thrills of canoeing, dry-slope skiing, orienteering, climbing and abseiling," says Graham Thompson. All activities are supervised by some of Britain's best outdoor instructors - and all equipment is provided.
Where: Plas Y Brenin (01690 720214).
How much: pounds 130 (inc full board and lodging).
SONY SUPER AUDIO CD PLAYER SCD-777ES
Blissfully content with the sound quality of your CDs? How aurally insensitive can you be! True audiophiles will tut that what you are hearing is crude and musically inaccurate - compared, that is, with Sony's new Super Audio CD player SCD-777ES. The latest in hi-fi gadgetry, this painstakingly reproduces the full nuance and atmosphere of original recordings. "Its amazing sound reproduction makes CDs sound like a scratchy old 78," says Simon Munk.
Where: Sony Centre, Baker St, London WC1 (0171-486 2526); open until 6.30pm 24 Dec - but you'll need to order the player a few days in advance. For other stockists, call Sony infoline (0990 111999).
How much: pounds 1,615 inc VAT.
MINI TOOL KIT
Part of Habitat's Christmas range, this tool kit is stylish, compact and versatile. In its smart, silvery box it contains, among other things, pliers, various types of screwdriver, tweezers, wirecutters and a set of screws. In short, it's a great capsule tool kit. "It's really dinky, really handy - a lot easier than lugging around a huge toolbox," says DIY Dad. "It would be particularly useful to keep in the boot of the car."
Where: Habitat (0845 601 0740); 9am-2pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 6.99.
THE SMUDGE PACK KIT
If any of your New Ager friends are in thrall to the space-clearing fad - the unblocking of dense, negative energies which act as an obstacle to spiritual and physical happiness -give them this Thorsons kit, and they'll be over the moon. "It contains all you need to give your surroundings a spiritual spring clean," says Elaine Griffiths. "It has a smudge stick for burning, a rose-quartz crystal and a book of inspirational rituals. It will add a whole new dimension to housework."
Where: good bookshops; Waterstones (0181-742 3800) branches close between 3pm and 5pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 16.99.
`THE ART OF PIANO'
This video of a film by Christian Labrande and Donald Sturrock is one of a series exploring different aspects of classical music, using globally sourced film and television archives. A must for older music-lovers, Art of Piano profiles some of the 20th century's greatest pianists, such as Jan Paderewski and Josef Hofmann, and compares their styles. "Our music columnist at The Oldie, Richard Osborne, gave it rave reviews, describing the footage as extraordinary and its anecdotes compelling," says Richard Ingrams.
Where: good classical record shops; larger branches of HMV (0171-432 2000) are open 24 Dec, but closing times vary.
How much: pounds 16.99.
CUTLER & GROSS BLACK SUNGLASSES, MODEL NO 0486
Part of Cutler and Gross's "Glamour" range, these black-tinted shades are limo-window enigmatic. Not that they're vulgar. "They don't have a logo, aren't ostentatious, and are utterly glam," says Bronwyn Cosgrave. "They make your face look instantly better." Wear them on the ski slopes, in the city in sunny weather or to face the day after your riotous new- millennium bash - incognito.
Where: Cutler & Gross, 16 Knightsbridge Green, London SW1 (0171-581 2250); 10am-4pm, 24 Dec. For other stockists, call 0171-627 8232. How much: pounds 98.
PETER REED SHEETS
Who'd have suspected that sheets would ever be hailed as a design classic, and be praised for their longevity in the same breath? Then again, when design-worshippers go into paroxysms of delight over tough, top-quality Tocca and Ralph Lauren bedlinen, is it so surprising? At the more democratic end of the market are these Peter Reed sheets from Selfridges. "They're double-stitched and won't fall apart," says Tyler Brule.
Where: Selfridges, London W1 (0171-629 1234) and Manchester (0161-629 1234); open 10am-4pm 24 Dec. How much: single flat sheet pounds 25, double pounds 30.
OUTPATIENTS CHRISTMAS HAMPER
Hampers are shaking off their fuddy-duddy Fortnums image, judging by Outpatients' futuristic-looking offerings. "The Christmas one, which comes in space-agey plastic packaging, is great for a mum in need of a luxurious treat," says Nicola Rose. "It's full of delicious food, for example from Carluccio's. Just don't expect ham in a tin." Indeed not: look out instead for chocolate amaretti, wild honey, wild fennel sauce, aromatised olives, rosehip cordial, and more.
Where: Outpatients, 154 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 (0171-221 9777); 10am-4pm 24 Dec (last Christmas orders to be taken by 3pm on Christmas Eve in the shop, or call before 12pm for a same-day delivery service in the London area). How much: from pounds 45 (inc delivery).
BOOTS DISPOSABLE PARTY CAMERA
Don't limit yourselves to diamante false eye lashes or contact lenses with a spooky spiral pattern at the new-millennium festivities, is the message to teens from Boots this winter. "The camera's snazzy hologram packaging makes it a fun accessory in its own right," says Katie Bryan. "Of course, the idea is to capture the night of a lifetime on film, but if you lose it in the depths of a brilliant party, it won't matter as it's cheap."
Where: Boots (0845 070 8090); larger branches close between 3-4pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 7.99 or pounds 15.98 for three.
PHILIPS VESTA PRO
Know a cybersurfer gagging to send video images via e-mail (or V-mail, as techies call it)? This video PC camera (or webcam) not only offers V-mail, but also captures high-quality video, zooms in on minute details, digitally enhances images, can be used for video-conferencing via the Internet, and incorporates an editing suite. Anything else? Oh, yes, it's in a fashionably organic ovoid shape. "It's the cutest webcam around," says Jason Weston. "It's got a useful `Stills' button. And it has a built- in microphone and audio circuitry to record live sound."
Where: PC World (0171-374 6444); most branches open 9am-4pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 69.99.
SNOW CLOGS BY SALOMON
When clogs came into vogue a few years back, they were rehabilitated as stylish footwear - gone, suddenly, were their associations with clumsy clodhoppers worn by Dutch tulip-gatherers. Now they've been tipped as hip by campers and travellers, too, claims Graham Thompson: "They're perfect for lounging indoors or outdoors. While the underfoot grip is ideal for snow, their trendy styling says you're a cool outdoor dude. They're a perfect gift for your image-conscious male or female outdoor partner."
Where: Snow + Rock (01932 570070); branches open 10am-4pm 24 Dec. For other stockists, call 01256 479555.
How much: pounds 49.95.
Wear this gadget, and you'll risk looking like an extra from Blake's 7. The payoff is that you can experience cinema and gaming, complete with top-quality 3D sound, at its most in-your-face - or should that be in- your-ear? "A giant yoke of speakers fits round your neck to bring cinema and gaming sound really up close and personal," says Simon Munk. "You might look like a lemon wearing it, especially in the street, but it's totally innovative."
Where: Maplin Superstores (01702 556001); 9am-4pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 199.95.
TEA BREAK MUG BY BLISS
"Every dad about the house should have his own mug - it's his natural- born right," says the very territorial DIY Dad. With its distinctive trompe l'il design of a teabag tag with the words "tea break" on the outside and a teabag inside, it won't be mistaken for anyone else's. "You need it when you're tinkering away in the shed or in your luxury shed-cum-garage complex. The words on it serve as a constant reminder that a labouring dad needs his tea break like anyone else."
Where: House of Fraser stores (0171-963 2000); branches close 4pm 24 Dec. For other stockists, call 01789 400077.
How much: pounds 6.
PERSONAL SUCCESS CALENDAR 2000
Reach for spiritual enlightenment and worldly success with this calendar, dreamt up by John Gray (above), author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. A New Age take on the traditional calendar, it comprises a set of 366 cards offering advice on how to achieve inner happiness, as well as success in the here-and-now. "Perfect for anyone with a holistic approach to ambition and success," says Elaine Griffiths. "And it beats a fluffy-cat calendar."
Where: good bookshops and New Age stores. How much: Harpercollins, pounds 8.95.
TILLY ENDURABLES' OUTDOOR HAT
Made in Canada, Tilly Endurables' outdoor hats are proven indestructible, and popular with older outdoorsy types, according to Richard Ingrams. Prepare yourself for a bizarre anecdote: this weatherproof hat was eaten by an elephant three times at a zoo in Ontario, and excreted intact each time. A quick hosedown, and its owner, a zookeeper, was able to plonk it back on as protection against both sun and rain. "All its clothes have a lifetime guarantee, and are very high quality," says Ingrams.
Where: Captain Watts, 7 Dover St, London W1 (0171-493 4633); open until 4pm 24 Dec. For other stockists, call 0800 374353.
How much: from pounds 39.95.
BODY BALANCING TREATMENT AT SPACE.NK
"Beauty treatments make you feel like a million dollars," says Bronwyn Cosgrave. "As a former beauty editor [of Frank], I know they're not mumbo jumbo. They're very therapeutic. This one, which combines essential oils and chi massage, is the best one around." The calming decor of the new Westbourne Grove SPACE.NK, where the treatment takes place, can't help but have a soothing effect, while the massage is a great way to revitalise yourself in January.
Where: SPACE.NK, 127-131 Westbourne Grove, London W2 (0171-727 8002); 10am-5pm 24 Dec.
How much: initial consultation, 1hr 30min, pounds 75; further treatments, 1hr 15min; pounds 60.
THE ECONOMIST DIARY COMPANION
Designed by Sebastian Conran, this diary is a three-in-one product. It contains The Economist Travel Diary 2000 (a week-to-view diary), 12 Time Out city guides and The Economist World in Figures 2000 section (with statistical profiles on 70 countries, including comparative figures on inflation and the fastest-growing economies). The first two parts come in a leatherbound removable volume; the third is also leatherbound, in a separate volume. "It's very well planned out, and its travel information is incredibly useful," says Tyler Brule.
Where: The Economist Shop, 15 Regent Street, London SW1 (0171-839 1937); 9am-1pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 76.
"100 per cent cashmere socks are something you'd never buy for yourself but always aspire to have," says Nicola Rose. "They're great for lounging around the house in, and make you feel both sexy and cosy." Which makes them perfect for a mum whose hectic schedule doesn't normally allow for such (entirely justified) indulgences. These socks, made in Hawick, Scotland (Pringle country), come in smart neutrals - black or a variety of pastels.
Where: Selfridges, London W1 (0171-629 1234) and Manchester (0161-629 1234); 10am-4pm 24 Dec.
How much: from pounds 32.95.
URBAN OUTFITTERS COLLAPSIBLE CHAIR
When 90 per cent of a teenager's time spent in his or her bedroom, the last thing they want is a frumpy decor. "Urban Outfitters' collapsible, cowhide-covered chair is a brilliant way of updating a bedroom," says Katie Bryan. "It provides an extra perch for mates, and can be folded up to give more space." Alternative chair covers come in leopard (pictured) or chinchilla fake fur, brightly coloured canvas or velvet with a sari trim.
Where: Urban Outfitters, 36-38 Kensington High Street, London W8 (0171- 761 1001); 10am-4pm 24 Dec.
How much: chair pounds 50, cowhide cover pounds 30.
NOKIA 7110 WAP
You may not know, or care, that, in techie-talk, WAP is short for "wireless application protocol". But your cybermates will thrill to the notion that, attached to Nokia's latest mobile, this allows you to surf the Internet while waiting for a bus or trundling down a supermarket aisle. "Thanks to the new Nokia mobile's WAP technology, you have access to such Internet- based services as news, weather, sport and e-commerce sites, and can send and receive e-mails - all on the move," says Jason Weston.
Where: Orange, Oxford Street, London W1 (0171-399 0670); 9am-5pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 129.99 plus pounds 35 connection.
DUO HEADTORCH BY PETZL
Petzl headtorches were originally conceived as an aid to cave exploration. Now, outward bounders with a troglodyte bent have a more sophisticated variation at their disposal - the Duo design, fitted with both a halogen and a standard bulb so you can switch between the two, depending on light conditions. "It's used by rescue teams and cavers around the world," says Graham Thompson. "But it's got other uses: it makes fixing the car at night on the motorway a breeze."
Where: in the south of England, Snow + Rock (01932 570070); branches open 10am-4pm 24 Dec. In the north of England and Scotland, Nevisport (01535 692666); branches open until around 3pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 39.95.
SEGA Dreamcast is 15 times more powerful than a Sony PlayStation, and has four times the graphics processing power of the fastest Pentium II processor. But this gadget's greatest asset is its ability to connect with the Internet. Plug it into to your TV and phone socket, and you can play the same game online with several others. "It's the most advanced games console on the planet this year," says Simon Munk. "Superb gaming and online capability at under pounds 200 makes this a snip."
Where: John Lewis (0171-629 7711); the Oxford St, London W1 branch closes 4.30pm 24 Dec. For Sega's online information, visit the website at www.dreamcast-europe.com
How much: around pounds 195.
BREVILLE DAISY SANDWICH TOASTER
Sandwich toasters don't have to be lumpen eyesores. "Home-alone dads can fix themselves a sarnie with this toastie-making gadget featuring a fabulously cool cowhide design," says DIY Dad. Exhausted after a morning's tinkering, he'll be relieved to know that this requires no elbow grease (it's non-stick), is reliably safe (non-slip feet and a power-on indicator), and requires minimal creative input for a simple but appetising snack.
Where: Argos (0870 600 3030); selected branches open 8.30am-5.30pm 24 Dec. For other stockists, call 0800 525089.
How much: pounds 14.99.
HOLISTIC HEALTH TREATMENT GIFT VOUCHERS
Today's beauty salons offer more than the traditional diet of leg waxes, manicures and eyebrow-shaping. For a physical and spiritual makeover, check out their holistic health treatments for a revitalising dose of reflexology, aromatherapy massage or reiki healing. According to Elaine Griffiths, men are more recalcitrant than women when it comes to sampling a holistic treatment. "But a gift token - a great, convenient, last-minute gift idea - will encourage them to try it out."
Where: tokens available from most high-street salons and health centres.
How much: approx pounds 20 per hour.
COUNTRY HOUSE: 100 FAVOURITE HOUSES BY CANDIDA LYCETT GREEN
This lavish tome features an idiosyncratic collection of eccentric homes and gardens around the British Isles, from the medieval pile Lacock Abbey to Creek Vean, a futuristic edifice in Cornwall. "It's a superior coffee- table book that's proved a hit with my generation," says Richard Ingrams. Author Candida Lycett Green, daughter of John Betjeman, livens up the proceedings by peppering her prose with gossipy anecdotes about feuds between families as well as enmities between owners and architects.
Where: from good bookshops; Waterstones (0181-742 3800) branches close between 3pm and 5pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 25.
LOUIS VUITTON THOMPSON STREET BAG
Fendi baguette bags the last word in winterwear? Pah! Street-savvy glamourpusses are so over them. According to Bronwyn Cosgrave, the latest knock-'em- dead accessory is the Louis Vuitton Thompson street bag, available in mouthwatering pastel shades: palest blue, beige, grey, pink or lime. "It's glossy, glam, the uptown, urban handbag to have," declares Vogue's Delphic fashion oracle.
Where: Louis Vuitton, 17-18 New Bond Street, London W1 (0171-399 4050); 9.30am-4pm 24 Dec. For other stockists, call 0171-399 4050.
How much: pounds 430.
DIPTYQUE FEU DE BOIS CANDLE FROM SPACE.NK
This iconic candle (yes, there is such a thing in this wax-revering age) came into existence in 1963. Since then, Diptyque has become the world's bestselling name in home fragrances. Enclosed in a stylish plain- glass container, the wax lasts for 50 hours. "The smell is just wonderful, and the packaging great," says Tyler Brule. "Any design junkie would be really chuffed to receive it."
Where: SPACE.NK, Westbourne Grove, London W11 (0171-727 8063); closes 5pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 25.95.
FAUX-CHEETAH FUR NECK CUSHION
Just when you thought peanut-shaped neck pillows smacked of the Innovations catalogue - or of something Jayne Mansfield might have attached to a Lilo in her tacky heart-shaped pool - along comes a neck cushion that reeks of glamour. "It combines everything a stylish, highly pressured mum could wish for," says Nicola Rose. "It's a designer cushion in vampish faux-fur, yet it's incredibly comfortable. Great for resting against while watching telly in bed after a long day."
Where: Liberty, Regent Street, London W1 (0171-734 1234); 9am-4pm 24 Dec. For other stockists, call Harkin (0171-286 0718).
How much: from pounds 48.
`THE SIMPSONS GREATEST HITS'
The Simpsons surpass themselves as underachievers in this celebration of their endearing failures. Highlights include Homer making a hopeless stab at being a department-store Santa, and Bart's humiliatingly futile efforts to shirk his schoolwork. The video features five episodes, including the first - "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" - and "Lisa's First Word", in which the birth of Lisa brings a rare streak of intelligence to the cerebrally challenged family. "The Simpsons are a surefire bet," says Katie Bryan. "They're appeal is universal."
Where: good video and record stores. branches of HMV (0171-432 2000) are open 9am-5pm 24 Dec. How much: pounds 12.99.
DIAMOND RIO 500
Looks no different to the tinny Walkmans of old? Come off it! You can download music from the Internet onto this, and so create some truly original compilations for your personal stereo. "Music on the Internet is this year's hot topic," says Jason Weston, "and with this you can listen to it anywhere. If you want to look cool this Christmas, you need a Rio 500."
Where: PC World (0171-374 6444); most branches open 9am-4pm 24 Dec. For other stockists, call the Diamond infoline (01189 444400). NB: call your local branch to check availability before setting out, as the number of these products imported from the States is low, and they are likely to sell out quickly.
How much: pounds 299.
OAKLEY FIVES SUNGLASSES
You may be blinded by science when told that these glasses were designed using "condensed cranial geometry" (translation: ultra-light/ stress-resistant) - but wear them, and you certainly won't be dazzled by the sun. Their pure Plutonite lenses block 100 per cent of UV and harmful blue light, making them irresistible to outward-bounders. "Outdoor gear is now cool enough to wear on or off the hill," says Graham Thompson. "Snap a pair of these on, and you'll look good and be protecting your eyes."
Where: Selfridges, London W1 (0171-629 1234) and Manchester (0161-629 1234); 10am-4pm 24 Dec. For other stockists, call 01462 475400.
How much: from pounds 55.
I-ZONE POLAROID CAMERA
Polaroid cameras have never been so cheap. "This reloadable model takes no-frills, passport-sized photos, making it perfect for millennium bashes," says Simon Munk. "It uses really cheap film, one of which takes sticker snaps - great for slapping on to the necks of unsuspecting fellow partygoers. It's very dinky, which makes it more portable than most Polaroid cameras." Each new camera includes a six-exposure film; 12-exposure films thereafter cost pounds 3.99 (non-sticker version) and pounds 4.99 (sticker version).
Where: Argos (0870 600 3030); selected branches open 8.30am- 5.30pm 24 Dec.
How much: pounds 17.99.
SHOE-CLEANING KIT/ WASHBAG BY MULBERRY
Ultra-practical dads will appreciate the usefulness of this cowhide shoe-cleaning kit-cum-washbag, whether at home or on the move. "It's a great way to keep shoe-polishing and grooming products together in one handy container," says DIY Dad. Brainchild of Mulberry, maker of swanky leather accessories, the shoe-cleaning compartment, which is attached to the washbag by a zip, contains two brushes, neutral polish and a cloth.
Where: Mulberry (0171-491 3900); the Bond St, London W1 branch closes 4pm 24 Dec. For other stockists, call 0171-491 3900.
How much: pounds 139.
INNER AND OUTER WELLBEING BOX
You can't go wrong by giving a health-conscious New Ager a "wellbeing box" stuffed with nutritional and soothing goodies - from a good-quality multivitamin and mineral supplement to a chakra pulse-point oil or a lip balm. Cull them from Boots - or, even better, a healthfood shop such as Holland & Barrett. "Healthfood stores offer lots of original present ideas," says Elaine Griffiths. "They're often ethically traded products, so it's not just the recipient who benefits."
Where: Holland & Barrett (02476 244400); Christmas Eve opening times: approx 8.30am-4.30pm, but varies according to region.
How much: lip salves from pounds 1.49, multivitamins around pounds 4.99.
`ALISTAIR COOKE' BY NICK CLARKE
Older fans of BBC Radio's Letter From America will know about Alistair Cooke's impressive knowledge of US history. But given that Cooke is something of an enigma, they will be less familiar with his private life - from his early life in Salford and Blackpool to his Cambridge education and beyond. "This book has proved very popular with our readers, many of whom consider him the most distinctive voice on the wireless today," says The Oldie's Richard Ingrams.
Where: from good bookshops; Waterstones (0181-742 3800) branches close between 3pm and 5pm 24 Dec..
How much: pounds 16.99.
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