Welcome to what has become our annual Christmas gift guide, featuring a range of interesting and original (not to say quirky) gifts to give you inspiration in your Christmas shopping and - this being Cyber Monday - hopefully save you some money into the bargain.
First, a gadget for the technophile in your family. You will know if you read this blog even intermittently, that mobile use whilst driving is a real bête noire of mine. Of course, hands free kits are ten-a-penny. But what about a hands-free kit that also doubles as a wireless bluetooth music player AND an in-car phone charger?
That's what the TaoTronics TT-FT02 promises, packed in the most innovative and compact (and wire-free) design I've seen. It simply plugs into your cigarette lighter from where - by means of the groovy little joystick-style control - everything is literally at your fingertips: your phone, your playlist, your contacts, the lot.
Next, something equally innovative. A hair brush. But not any old hair brush. The Braun Satin Hair 7 works by delivering ions through a uniquely designed jet within the brush’s central core. At the push of a button, it releases charged particles from the central delivery system straight onto the hair, instantly helping to smooth minimise frizz and static and significantly boosting shine and restoring smoothness. A bit, I imagine, like having hair straighteners and a brush combined. I say 'I imagine' because for once I am, by dint of having rather less hair than the target market for this product) unable to offer personal empirical verification of its charms. But I know someone who can...
Christmas, of course, is nothing if not a time for singing - as well as giving. So why not combine both with a wonderful new book from DJ, ex-Catatonia lead singer and all-round musical evangelist Cerys Matthews. Hook, Line and Singer - a sing-a-long book for all the family - has been described by Jools Holland as 'maybe the most useful book I've ever read' and comes with an innovative design and exposed binding that allows the book to lie completely flat - on the piano, for example. And as well as the music the book is bursting with anecdotes and information about each of the songs so that even the non-singers can discover something fascinating about what they're hearing. It's wonderful!
But of course, it's not impossible that you're faced with the task of buying gifts for the perennial person with everything. In which case there are an increasing number of opportunities to donate to good causes while gifting something to someone into the bargain.
One of the latest schemes to be launched is the 'sponsor a mile' campaign by sustainable transport charity, Sustrans. You can help keep your favourite cycle routes open by sponsoring a section of the 14,000 mile long National Cycle Network.
Over £1m every year is spent in the upkeep of this UK-wide network of both long distance and shorter routes and and your donation will go towards these costs. Simply pick it - search for your favourite mile on the map - click it - click on the map to choose where you want your mile to start - and sponsor it - sponsor your own mile or give as a gift. It's just £30 for a whole year and you can see how it works in true 'Blue Peter' style because here's one I made earlier: