Donald MacInnes: Don't sock it to him anymore, make your gift an experience

In The Red

If you have regular access to a man, do you find that you struggle to buy him presents? Personally, I have never bought the idea that it's difficult to shop for men (and, by "men", I mean, of course, people like me). In the past, certainly, you could have argued that there wasn't as wide a selection of potential gifts for Harry as there was for Sally. If only chaps liked chocolate bubble bath and charm bracelets.

Years ago, if you had an imagination and wanted to get your fella something other than socks, you probably had to buy him a bottle of Glaswegian punching juice (often referred to as "Scotch").

I've had my fair share of socks, but I recall the joy I felt one Christmas when my Auntie gave me a six-pack of Red Stripe. What better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus than with some strong Jamaican lager?

"And lo, it was written that in those days, did the shepherds distribute amongst their number containers of intoxicant and thence did forget where they had placed their flock."

Nowadays, there are more options. No longer must hosiery and booze dominate. You could even give your male one of those "experience" days – not so much a gift as an event in which he will participate.

What better way to say "I love you" than by presenting him with the keys to a 1923 Tiger Moth and allowing him the freedom of the skies for half an hour? And if by chance you are unhappy with the burping, scratching, lazy sod, and are looking for a way out of your matrimonial jail cell, there is always the chance that said vintage (and by that, I mean, "old") aircraft will end up coming to rest with its nose buried 12 feet under the eastbound carriageway of the M4.

I trust this wasn't the motivation when I got just such a gift from my girlfriend last Christmas, in my case, barrelling around a track in a race-spec saloon car.

I only mention that because, less due to the time constraints placed on me by working on this newspaper and more to her stated desire to be there for the event, the first chance we had to match our schedules was a couple of weeks ago.

I'm hoping her desire to attend wasn't to do with her wanting to watch me hit a wall at 200mph. As it turned out she would have been disappointed, as I had a crash-free afternoon.

It was amazingly good fun. So, think on. If you want to keep your man happy, ditch the socks.

d.macinnes@independent.co.uk

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<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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