Present Tense: Getting Tense About Presents.

KL - grandson Santa

I’m currently sobbing in a foetal ball. My condition? Severe P.P. – Prezzie Paranoia. With Santa already harnessing his reindeers, I still haven’t made any purchases. What to buy? It doesn’t help being a chronic dilly-dallier. When my headmaster told me I’d never amount to anything because I procrastinate too much, I replied? “Just you wait!”

And that’s exactly what I’m doing right now – waiting for inspiration. This invariably results in a desperate dash to the shops on Chrissy eve when all that’s left on the shelves are a packet of rectal thermometers.

Clearly I’m not alone. What else could explain some of the presents I’ve received from family over the years? The musical loo roll holder which played “Why Don’t We Do It On The Road?’ by the Beatles; the talking mirror that hollered “Lose weight, heffalump” ; the nose shower gel dispenser – seriously, the gel squirted from each nostril.

A woman’s least favourite presents are functional. Men take note. No gal ever wants to be given a stand up female urinal – a Wee She. Breath freshener and foot odour spray will also go over like Pavarotti over a pole vault. (As I put my foot in my mouth so often, surely one or other would have sufficed?) And don’t even think about gift wrapping a domestic appliance. Give a woman a cooking implement for Christmas, and you can forget about turkey because your goose is well and truly cooked.

Even more annoying are offspring who forget to buy a present for Mums who’ve sweated over every Yuletide detail, from the spraying of pinecones silver to the stuffing of walnuts up tiny bird’s bottoms for the gourmet lunch spectacular. (Neck a bottle of whiskey and try to remember that a child is for life and not just for Christmas.)

But no gift is infinitely better than a wrong one. A girlfriend once gave me a book on surviving infidelity – while I was happily married… Or was I? Another girlfriend was accidentally given a beautiful pen from her husband, engraved with another woman’s name. (His mistress got the pen meant for his wife, so the writing was clearly on the wall for that doofus.)

Living in environmentally sensitive times it’s important to recycle. I recycle everything – plastic, husbands, jokes… But recycled gifts? Never. There’s a certain white elephant that’s done the rounds of my family at least three times. And I mean ‘white elephant’, literally; the chipped pachyderm is made of palest porcelain.

My godmother has a present box which rivals Tutankhamen’s tomb. Each Xmas she just throws in the gifts she’s been given and the next year rewraps them. They are then thrust, willy nilly, at the nearest rello; which at least explains the whiskey decanter she gave me, aged eight.

A survey by Beaverbrooks suggests that many couples struggle to get it right at Christmas – with a shoehorn, toilet seat and tin opener among the most despised presents. Nail clippers, windscreen wipers, a mop and a bag of rice also emerged as gifts mistakenly thought suitable for a beloved.

The study of 2,000 adults found that women are most unhappy receiving cleaning equipment from a partner (52 per cent), or cookery lessons (37 per cent.) Researchers via found that millions of blokes fall foul of the woman they love after purchasing them clothing a size too small or underwear that would look more at home on the haunches of a vajazzled lap dancer.
The same OnePoll survey revealed that men are equally unimpressed with any gift which suggests they need to hone and tone. Some 25% of men hate getting exercise equipment and 35% resent a gym membership. 15 % of men have ended a relationship with a partner who bought them a terrible gift; no doubt departing with the words, “That’s a wrap.”

In my experience, whatever you’ve so lovingly chosen is bound to be most ungratefully received. “I’m so glad you took me at my word and didn’t go to too much trouble!” they’ll bitch. But surely the most exciting aspect of Christmas is receiving all those presents – which you can’t wait to exchange?

Of course, top of a woman’s Christmas wish list is world peace and climate change reversal … But failing that, boys, you really can’t go wrong with jewellery. Alternatively you could just organise for us to be whisked off to a deserted beach in Bali by Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page…Now, that really would make all our Christmases come at once.

Still, one thing’s for sure; when it comes to buying the wrong presents, guilt is the gift that just keeps on giving.

Of course, books make the best Chrissy pressies – especially novels by certain tongue-in-chic Antipodean authoresses you might know….Hope you find Santa’s grandson (see piccie) in your Christmas stockings this year, girls.


Enjoy a joyful, festive family reunion. After so long separated by closed borders and lockdowns, it’s going to be a very cool Yule. Happy Christmas to all.

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