Unwanted on return voyage

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The Independent Online
GOING abroad for your holidays in the near future? Maybe you're even sitting in Heathrow as you read this? Then you'll be needing advice on that most delicate of topics, the buying of presents for the folks back home. The niceness of even the nicest holidays can be wiped out if you suddenly realise, on the last day, that you haven't bought gifts for half the intended recipients. Or, even worse, that the gifts you have bought are totally unsuitable.

So here are the ground rules for bringing back the right holiday present for the right person.

1 - Don't buy holiday presents in the duty-free shop on the way out. Not only will you spend too much, you'll have to carry them around the rest of the time. And you'll almost certainly consume them before returning.

2 - Don't buy edible items you wouldn't eat yourself. (Think of that dear little salami sausage which has been hanging, untouched, in your larder for the past three years. And that's something you actually bought for yourself . . .)

3 - Don't buy anything made of glass from a shop where they are blowing the glass as you watch.

4 - Don't buy exotic items of food native to the little town of Paraguas where you are staying, if you have even the slightest suspicion that you may already have seen them on sale back home in Soho, Fortnums, Sainsbury's, etc. That means they are probably also on sale in Tesco.

5 - Don't buy recordings of local music.

6 - Don't buy big things. They are too much bother to carry and will probably get broken anyway.

7 - Don't buy small things. They look cheapskate.

8 - Don't buy things simply because you would like them, and therefore think other people would as well. They wouldn't.

9 - Don't buy presents for people simply because you think they would appreciate them. Only buy for those who would be highly offended if you didn't.

10 - Don't buy anything if the instructions are only in Portuguese. Or Basque. Or any language not spoken by your friends. In fact, don't buy anything that has instructions.

11 - Don't buy anything that has no recognisable function except to hang on a wall.

12 - Don't buy a bottle of any drink that might be described as brightly coloured, especially if it's bright green.

13 - This year, don't bother to buy anything hailing from Barcelona or Seville. Especially if you're not on holiday in Spain.

14 - Don't buy anything in the duty-free shop on the way back. It will look like something you bought in the duty-free shop on the way back.

15 - Don't buy the local cheese.

16 - Don't buy anything you suspect may be a priceless medieval Italian art treasure that has been looted from a church, offered to you at a knock-down price after dark down a small back street in Florence, or indeed anywhere like Florence. Unless it's really nice.

17 - Before you buy a present, close your eyes and see if you can really visualise the person it's intended for using it happily. If not, don't.

18 - If you close your eyes and can't even visualise the person in question, don't buy him or her anything at all.

19 - If you see something ideal for one person, don't get three of them and think they will be ideal for three people.

20 - If you see something nice, and buy it on the principle that you will think of someone to give it to sooner or later, the odds are 8-1 that you will end up keeping it for yourself.

21 - Don't buy anything that contains a view of the place where you were staying.

22 - Don't buy anything made of wicker, white ceramic, glass, etc, that looks quite impressive when surrounded by hundreds of identical items in the shop, but is going to look sad and bedraggled by itself when you have brought it home.

23 - In fact, don't buy anything made of wicker, white ceramic, glass at all.

24 - Actually, don't buy anything at all. Make this the year that you finally stand up and say, I'm going to break free of this tyranny of feeling I have to buy gifties for everyone, because I don't] It's even worse than buying going-away presents at children's parties] Down with the holiday present syndrome]

25 - When you get home, rush out guiltily and buy people presents from the garage shop up on the main road which stays open late when everywhere else has closed down.