All I want for Christmas...

Will it be Pogs or perfume? Cafetiere or cultivator? Three families confide their hopes and aspirations, disappointments and frustrations to Sally Williams. Photographs: Keith Dobney and Nicholas Turpin
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The Snape family: Nigel, 36, farmer and landowner; Angie, 32; Hugo, 5; Toby, 3; Flora, 10 months. They live in the Alkham Valley, Kent

Nigel

I do all my shopping on Christmas Eve. I only ever buy presents from shops where they wrap them up, and I always make sure the receipt is with it. Angie normally tells me exactly what she wants, and I go and buy it. That works very well. Except one year I was detailed to go and buy a gold bracelet. For pounds 700 all you got was a little strip. So I bought a silver one instead. It made much more of a splash. But that didn't go down at all well and was promptly swapped for the gold one.

I don't think children need many toys. The boys usually get some toy farm machinery. They're expensive, around pounds 22 each, but at least they don't break after 10 minutes or need batteries.

I don't know what I want this year. My parents are giving me wine glasses - I know that as I've already bought them. Last year Angie gave me some golf lessons which was a good present for a man.

Angie

Nigel is incredibly fussy. Last year I bought him golf lessons, but he only used four of them, and a very smart rubbish bin, which he just laughed at. I never get any surprises. I have to tell Nigel exactly what I want, even down to the code. I asked for Rive Gauche scent one year and he bought the deodorant. But if Nigel bought me bubble bath for 90p I wouldn't care. It's the children that are important.

Nigel thinks the boys have too many toys, but they have hardly any compared with other children. Last year Hugo asked Father Christmas for a rubber and a pencil and he would have been quite happy with that. I've bought Flora a china mug from Peter Jones. I'm taking full advantage of the fact that she's still too young to care.

Hugo

I sent a letter to Father Christmas - not the one who comes to my school, but the real one - and asked for one pencil, one sponge, one glove, one sock, one cup, and a bailer and a cultivator.

Toby

I want a bailer and a cultivator like Hugo.

The Taylors: Annie, 49 (centre); Mishkin, 27 (left), building crafts student; Milly, 25 (second right), environmental researcher; Henry, 22 student (right); Martha, 21 (second left), assistant for fashion buying agency. Annie's husband Jimmy died in 1991. They live in London.

Annie

Last year I bought Milly a stripy cardigan. I wasn't going to get it. Whenever I buy clothes for my children I always get it wrong, but my friend said it was very Milly. She was right, and it was a huge success. In fact, Martha who is very fashion conscious has since "borrowed" it.

Jimmy was an amazing present buyer. The idea of cost didn't interest him at all, he would spend hours buying hundreds of books. I keep the tradition going, but don't buy nearly as many. Even Henry, who hates reading, gets a book. I haven't given up trying to wean him off Jilly Cooper.

Last year a great friend of mine made me a breadboard from a lovely piece of wood and carved my name and the year on it. It was the perfect present. Quite the nicest I've had for years, and yet it cost him nothing beyond his efforts. This year I'd like a folding pruning saw for the garden.

Milly

Mum always claims she'd be happy with a kiss, so she's very easy to buy presents for. Mima and I always buy each other the Red Stone Press Diary, because we're rather sad like that and for the past couple of years we've bought one for Mishkin, too. I have no idea if he likes them.

Mum would never give us vouchers as that implies no thought. But all clothes are bought with the knowledge that we will almost certainly go and change them. The stripy cardy, however, really was very nice.

We still have stockings. I'll get masses of make-up, which is obviously meant for Martha because I don't wear any make-up, or Mima will get four pairs of Christmas knickers and the rest of us won't get any.

Mum always gives Mima and I matching pyjamas. Martha used to get them too, but she has made it very clear that she's not interested in those sorts of presents.

This year, I'd like loads of books. Nothing makes me happier.

Mishkin

I usually buy the girls books, because I like being given books, but I buy them more highbrow ones than I would read.Martha doesn't like reading, so I normally give her a record. Dad always bought masses of books and that's why I do it. People can always grow into books. Henry is very difficult. Unless you have lots of money it's impossible to make him happy.

The first Red Stone Diary I was given, Drawings by Writers, was great. Last year's wasn't quite so good. I've no idea what this year's is like. I'm sure I'll soon find out.

This year I'd like a big medical dictionary. I've been quite ill recently and so far I've been told I've got shingles, glandular fever and meningitis. I'd like to find out exactly what is wrong with me.

Henry

Martha is very easy to buy for. She normally goes shopping with me and unlike the others, we always tell each other what our presents are anyway. I have been given some truly awful presents, especially from old people. Embroidered handkerchiefs and nylon socks - that kind of thing, but I'd never say anything, we're all quite tactful.

Last year Mum gave me a Jigsaw jumper which I liked and a pair of Jigsaw jeans which I didn't like and took back.

Other than things for my new flat, I'd like - but I'm absolutely not going to get - a massive television with Nican digital stereo. It costs about pounds 1,000. Mum would think that was incredibly naff. I think it's naff too, but what the hell.

Martha

If I had the cash to buy all of my family something to wear I would, but I don't. Last year I did all my shopping on Christmas Eve and spent far too much money on not very nice presents. I got Mima some really expensive, rather pointless, body lotion for pounds 35. Last year Mum gave me a Jigsaw jumper. I knew I was getting a Jigsaw jumper, because I get one every year.I took it back. There was nothing wrong with it. I just didn't want another Jigsaw jumper.

A few years ago I would have gone with Mum to make sure she chose the right thing, but now it doesn't really matter. She can get me what she likes. This year I'd like a cream Jigsaw knee-length coat. But I won't get it. It costs pounds 200. But if I got a Jigsaw jumper, I could exchange it and pay the difference. So, I hope I get a Jigsaw jumper after all.

The Hills: Nick, 59, journalist; Liz, 40, residential letting agent; Ashley 11; Megan 9; Geoff Richards, 69, and Joan 66, are Liz's parents. They all live near Ashford, Kent.

Nick

Before Lizzie gave me instructions I always got it wrong. I have had some success in buying her scarves, but only because they all come from Next, one of her favourite shops. Last year Lizzie gave me a watch but it never worked. Joan gave me a greenhouse heater which I use in my office and is brilliant. I'd like books and clothes, but what would make me really happy would be to have some Christmas tree lights that work.

Liz

I always buy Nick clothes. Nothing matches if he chooses for himself. I've already given him one present. It's a framed portrait photograph of me. The girls are easy to buy for. I spend much more on them than on Nick or my parents. This year I've asked Nick for boots, a cafetiere and leather gloves. I never like to know if he's actually gone out and bought any of them. I still like some element of surprise.

Ashley

Last year Granny and Grampa bought me and Megan a Walkman and some pyjamas. They always buy us the same thing to stop us fighting. Once, Megan was given a Game Boy. I really wanted one. So Mum had to buy me one, but she got the wrong one and had to buy another one. I'd like a big teddy bear and a Mr Frosty lolly maker, but Mum says that's for four-year-olds. So I'd like a Spirograph Studio instead.

Megan

Last year I got the Crocodile Dentist game. And this year I'd like a Pog Maker. I've got about 20 Pogs already, but Katie Deneray from school has got about 90.

Geoff

Last year Lizzie gave me a cordless drill. I'm no good at DIY, but I did manage to put up a rack. The binoculars my wife gave me never worked very well. This year I'd like the latest Dick Francis.

Joan

Geoff bought me an idiot-proof camera last year, which was a surprise. Geoff is good on surprises. Last year I had a vacuum cleaner. I was thrilled with it - I like practical presents. Perhaps I'll get a washing machine this year.

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