Basically, there's now only three-quarters of a shopping day to Christmas. OK, you still have time to make a last-minute dash up the high street, zoom round a motorway service station, or spend half an hour dithering in an off licence, but you are cutting it a bit fine. And, all right, some shops will be opening on Christmas Eve, but do you really want to spend the day in a bad-tempered chase that results in two packs of lavender guest soap and a decorative jar of sun-dried tomatoes?

In any case, the person you've forgotten to buy anything for probably lives 200 miles away. So you've had it. Well, no, not quite. Here are some ways the last-minute shopper can still save face.

Gifts

Global Presents Shopping Service will send gifts to addresses in central London up to Christmas Eve. Simply call them up, tell them what kind of thing you want, and they will leaf through their catalogue and find the exact thing. Ideas range from a cashmere scarf from Johnson of Elgin (pounds 55), a pencil holder made from faux leather book spines (pounds 18), Links teddy bear silver cufflinks (pounds 62), a Wallace & Grommit alarm clock (pounds 26.90), or a Fischer Price Touch and Listen cordless phone for under-threes (pounds 6.99). They also have a good stock of drinks, including liqueurs and malt whisky.

Gift wrapping costs pounds 2 extra, but messages are free. Delivery from pounds 3.95. If you're desperate to send something outside London for Christmas, they can arrange it but it will cost - a lot. Call 0171-731 3000 to place an order or message http://www.shoplondon.co.uk. on the Internet.

Flowers

Interflora florists will be running out of Madonna lilies and pointsettias but they should be able to rustle up something. And most of them will deliver on Christmas Eve if you ring early today. If you're lucky, they'll be able to do you a Christmas basket of red carnations, fir and holly (pounds 19.95 to pounds 29.95), a box of 18 Belgian chocolates, gift wrapped with a spray of flowers (pounds 14.95), a planted basket with cyclamen, ivy etc (from pounds 19.50-pounds 27.50). Failing that, you'll have to make do with a bouquet of whatever they've got left.

If you call the Interflora Freecall number (0500 434343), they will connect you to your nearest Interflora shop. Alternatively, the central Flowerline (01529 45454) will sort out the order for you. Call today, if possible before lunchtime, for Christmas Eve delivery. Or call on Christmas Eve for deliveries from the 27th.

Hampers

It's also not too late to send a hamper, but only to people in London, unfortunately, if you want it there by Christmas. Basket Express does a tempting range: from the pounds 450 Premier Hamper (Bollinger champagne, Glenmorangie malt whisky, silver-plated serving spoons...) to a chocolate basket decorated with festive ribbons, berries and baubles and filled to the brim with Belgian chocolates (from pounds 30). There's also a Boxing Day Breakfast basket (pounds 59.50) or A Taste of America, India, Italy or France (from pounds 30). Add your own message. Delivery costs about pounds 7/pounds 8. If you want to order something outside London, Basket Express will deliver between Christmas and New Year (pounds 12 delivery). Call/fax them on 0171-289 2636.

Too late for Christmas week, but there for New Year:

Drinks Direct: Call today, and you could have a bottle of vintage Veuve Clicquot on a doorstep anywhere in the country on the 27th. There are 1,500 bottles to choose from, or send one of their gift packs. The Croft & Jenga pack (a 10-year-old port in a box with Jenga, the wobbly wooden tower game), would revive flagging festive cheer for pounds 29.99, or the Iona hamper (pounds 35) which includes a 1994 Sauvignon Blanc, a 1993 Petite Sirah, Belgian chocolates, plum pudding, fruit cake, shortbread and more, would help restock a post-Christmas larder. You can add your own message. All parcels are sent by courier, costing from pounds 5.99. Call 0800 232221.

Tesco Direct: Orders can be placed now for courier deliveries on Thursday 28th. Hampers are sold out, but a range of wines is available, and flowers, too. The "Luxury Bouquet" sounds suitably festive: gyp, chrysanthemums, gerbera, carnations, lilies, orchids, for pounds 23.99. Messages included. Call 0800 403 403, 9am-8pm, or fax 01992 644464. Internet: telesales@tesco.e- mail.com

Thorntons Chocexpress: Whizzing a box of truffles round in time for new year might also save your skin. Prices from pounds 9.95 (200g of pralines, truffles and mousses) to pounds 36.95 for the 1370g Continental selection (100 chocolates). There's a charge for gift wrapping. The drawback here is that all chocolates travel by post, so they should arrive for New Year if you order before the 27th, but there are no guarantees. Call the ChocLine: 01763 241 444.

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