Retail Therapy

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The Independent Online
Christmas stocking

WE wanted to know whether it was possible to do all your Christmas shopping in one place, and most readers said it was. The place they suggested was the fireside. Charity, museum and gallery mail-order catalogues were the popular choice, particularly the ones from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. For one-stop shopping, charities again were the obvious answer, notably Oxfam and the Countrywide Workshops Charitable Trust (catalogue from 47 Fisherton Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP2 7SU; 0722 326886).

But the winner of our prize for the best suggestion for a single source of presents is Yvonne Ford, who chose the Merseyside Maritime Museum. Its shop sells gifts with a 'Ports of Call' theme: you can buy recycled glass from Mexico, tea and unusual teapots from the 'Boston Tea Party' section, Greek God statues in stone and alabaster (from pounds 7.30), coloured African candlesticks ( pounds 4 each), gold-painted Buddhas from the Far East ( pounds 12.95) and delicate Egyptian glass perfume bottles ( pounds 4.70 small, pounds 8.85 large). There is plenty on a nautical theme, too - traditional wooden boats (from pounds 1.95) and ships in bottles (from pounds 2.95), as well as calendars and books. The Maritime Museum shop is in Albert Dock, Liverpool (051 207 0001 ext 422).

A close second was Mrs F Barnacle of Croydon, south London, who suggested buying bat boxes and bird boxes (a variety of types are available) from the Surrey Wildlife Trust; you can telephone the trust (on 0306 043404 until 16 November, thereafter 0483 488055) for stockists or mail-order details.

Belinda Wells of Stockport suggests her local gift shop, Glass Works (1 Market Street, Hayfield, Stockport; 0663 741056) for hand-made stained-glass windows, window hangings and glass plant containers. Others supporting local shops were Patricia and Deryck Dillon (Navenby Crystal, 37 High Street, Navenby, Lincoln; 0522 810919) and Ann Farrel (Lucky Parrot, 2 Bellevue Parade, Bellevue Road, Wandsworth, London SW17; 081-672 7168).

Martin Thatcher suggested the shop within the Royal College of Art which sells the well-known brands of artists' materials at reduced prices (Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7; 071-584 5020).

Among the quirkier ideas was Jennifer Cuming's: W S Surplus Supplies of Oxford, which sells new and second- hand surplus goods, among them ex- prison sheets in cotton ( pounds 2 a pair), bashed US Army tin mugs ( pounds 1), boots, belts and canteen equipment (41-47 George Street, Oxford; 0865 241433).

Less quirky is the suggestion from Sheila Lexham, who recommends the Lakeland Plastics mail-order catalogue. It offers all kinds of kitchen things, from pots and pans to baking parchment, and during the Christmas period also includes candles, glassware and so on (from Lakeland Plastics, Alexandra Buildings, Windermere, Cumbria, LA23 1BQ; 05394 88200).

Setting out their stalls

THE magazine Homes and Gardens is hosting a Grand Christmas Sale on Friday and Saturday, 13-14 November, at the Royal Horticultural Hall, London SW1. There are more than 80 stands, so this should be an excellent chance to do some early Christmas shopping. The event is split into three sessions per day, and stallholders will restock before each session.

On stand No 1 will be the American Country Collection, selling Mid-West household items, many of them made by Amish and other religious groups. From Kansas there will be decorative wooden prairie dolls with fabric dresses and hand-painted faces ( pounds 42); from Virginia, patchwork armchairs featuring lots of different fabrics ( pounds 750); and from South Carolina, typical cotton throws ( pounds 39 and pounds 49). Youwill also find a large selection of cards showing Williamsburg Christmas scenes at pounds 11 for 21 cards (American Country Collection, 0932 843438).

Still on the country theme, but closer to home, Somerset Creative Products (stand No 21) will have a wide range of trugs (slatted baskets), trays, footstools, cider benches and basketware in distress-painted autumnal shades. The wooden trugs are useful for displaying plants and dried flowers, breads and cheeses, or as magazine racks. Colours include lichen, sedge green and cow parsley. Prices from pounds 27 for a small country tray to pounds 36 for a large trug (Somerset Creative Products, 0278 641622).

The hand-made tapestry cushions, rugs and carpets on the Dragonfly of Warminster stand, No 37, should be worth a look. The most unusual items in their selection will probably be the tartan carpet and matching cushions (about pounds 400 for the carpet, pounds 40 for cushions). There will also be copies of old French carpets.

Tickets for the show are pounds 5 and must be bought in advance. Applications close on Friday 6 November. Cheques should be payable to Homes and Gardens; send with a stamped addressed envelope to Home and Gardens Christmas Grand Sale, PO Box 427, London SW10 9XE.

Tickets are allocated for different time periods so state your preference: 10am-1pm, 1-4pm or 4-7pm Friday; 10am-1pm, 1-4pm, 4-6pm Saturday. A donation from each ticket will be made to Save the Children.

Riverside cash flow

THE Bentall shopping centre opens in Clarence Street, Kingston-upon- Thames, on 2 November; it offers a continental food court and a health and fitness club as well as 100 shops, including Dillons, Toystack, The Pier, HMV and Disney.

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