At this time of year, my inbox is a frightening place. Rare is the email that doesn’t mention Christmas parties, Christmas food, Christmas supermarket ads or Christmas gifts. My favourite of the season so far confidently offered the solution to the dilemma of what to buy the person who has everything. Which was spending twenty grand on some bit of nonsense or other. If you’ve got £20,000 to spare and still can’t think of what to Uncle Brian then you don’t deserve that kind of cash.
After more than 10 years of putting together shopping pages and gift guides, it’s no surprise that I get so many mails from companies pushing their products, but my present buying bears scant resemblance to all the luxury hampers and sparkly shoes I receive press releases about. The best present I ever bought for my mum was a subscription to her favourite magazine and it’s one that keeps on giving. Not only have I renewed it for the last three years, I get to read the copies when she’s done and every month she gets a little bit of Christmas present through the door.
The other top present, in my humble opinion, was the day I spent with my little sister last year. It was a bit more expensive than 12 months of Prima, but I think it had similarly long-lasting benefits. My sister, who had just turned 13, was desperate to go to a spa. I’d read about The Runnymede-on-Thames hotel (runnymedehotel.com) and the fact that it offered a teenage spa day. Forget spray-tanned mini Kardashians or nail art so bright it could be seen from space, the idea behind the treatments here is to teach teenagers about their skin, and how to be comfortable in it. There was a menu of treatments for boys and girls, and the staff were fantastic with my little sister, showing her how to apply light make up that suited her rather that the sort of slap I slathered on with a heavy hand when I was her age.
It might all sound a bit LA, but it was one of the best days I can remember - hanging out with my sister in the beautiful water-side spa, wrapped in bathrobes and watching DVDs (I vetoed her choice of Sex and the City and we went for Mama Mia instead). It’s another gift that has kept on giving - she’s still following the advice of the facialist she saw, we still talk about the fun we had together and pore over the pictures we took. I honestly don’t think a £20k speaker system could compete. The only problem now is working out what to get her this year.