Saturday, 10 December 2011

Christmas List

You're going to hate me for saying this, I know. I hate myself. (Especially this year, when I've never been so unprepared for Christmas!) But... but. I have a Christmas confession, a December disclosure, a mid-winter mea culpa. It is this. I actually like buying presents. I don't find it a chore. I enjoy taxing my brain cells every year in an effort to think of what to buy.

Let me just make one thing clear. This isn't one of those holier-than-thou better-to-give-than-receive type missives, although I do believe - especially as one gets older - that that latter assumes an importance ever greater.

No. What I mean is that the creative energy expended in thoughtful present buying can be immensely satisfying. And bears absolutely no relation whatsoever to the monetary value of the present purchased. Indeed, some of the best, most well-chosen, most satisfyingly given and most gratefully received presents can sometimes be the cheapest. And - just to make it absolutely clear that this isn't some kind of sanctimonious pre-Christmas sermon - allow me to confess to occasionally delighting in giving some of the most impractical, incongruous presents ever. I'll spare yours (and my sister's) blushes by telling you what.

But I digress (of course). The point is I - we - like giving presents. We like receiving them too, of course. And although money's nice (of course it is) it's never quite the same is it? It's never quite as special merely opening an envelope on Christmas Day (or one's birthday) no matter how generously stuffed with lucrely largesse. Because a present - however small - implies an element of choice, an effort made to understand or second-guess someone else's wishes. No matter that it can sometimes go spectacularly wrong (I'm sorry, Nic, for that indoor fountain); it's the thought that counts. Really it is.

But oh, the thinking takes up so much time and energy to say nothing of the shopping. And at this - the busiest - time of year too. Well, dear readers, help is at hand. As a daddy blogger of three years standing I've been asked to look at a number of things this year, and I'm happy to share some of them with you now in the hope that it provides you with some present-buying inspiration. There's something for everyone here, with prices raging from almost £90 to under 90p. So don't just give cash this year - have a bash at your own entirely gift-wrapped open-and-be-amazed Christmas.

Starting at the upper end of the price range, the Scalextric James Bond C1254 Race Set (£88 from Amazon, via Idealo) is the kind of gift guaranteed to get some parent-child bonding on Christmas Day. But be warned! It's addictive, which might be to the detriment of the turkey. Charlie and I were invited to a Scalextric PR event earlier in the year, and Charlie did me proud by opting to play not with the McClaren Jenson Button/Lewis Hamilton race set, nor the Disney Pixar cars track, but with this little beauty. He's quite good at it, too, as you can see from this short video. Which is why I'd better get practising before Christmas Eve.

But what if you haven't got the floor space for a Scalextric? Well, Hot Wheels have come up with an ingenuous solution whereby you attach track to the wall. This also has the advantage of keeping it out of the reach of younger siblings, something Charlie has had to contend with quite a lot just recently. A Hot Wheels Wall Track Starter Set can be had for just £29.99 either on Amazon or via Idealo.

Next, you all know how difficult it can sometimes be to get a bit of inter-generational bonding going on at Christmas? Well, this next gift idea might give a positive spin to any 'it weren't like this in my day' comments from older generations as they watch your offspring opening their presents. Record their Stories costs just 69p on iTunes and despite having a built-in edit suite and more than a 100 scrollable questions to help keep conversation flowing, it really is child’s play to use.

And we all know that - whatever we've spent, however long we've thought - those presents aren't going to keep the kids' Christmas attention indefinitely. So downloading this app and appointing them 'in dulci (jubilo)' interlocutors for the day might be a wonderfully effective way of keeping everybody happy, as well as recording some wonderful memories.

Finally, a couple of things for the grown-ups. My good friend and fellow-blogger Tom Briggs has just - literally - launched this upon the word: an anthology of the best of daddy blogging.

If the Christmas telly palls, you cannot fail to find some entertainment between the pages of this carefully crafted volume. If you're a blogger, come and have a read of what we dads are writing; if you're not (yet) come and have a look and see if you can't do any better. 

And talking of books, James Corden's autobiography May I Have Your Attention Please is another entertaining. We quite like James Corden here. He is, after all, the voice of the mouse in The Gruffalo animation (as you can see in the behind-the-scenes film The Making of The Gruffalo). And I enjoyed his performance in The History Boys enormously. He's a very talented actor. As well as writer. But oh, what a performer! This warts-n-all book certainly doesn't fight shy of his attention-seeking tendencies (hence the title) nor does it shirk the laddish excesses that accompanied Corden's rise to fame and it can be had for just £8.99 - a saving of £10 - from W.H.Smith.

 So, there are just a few of my ideas to save you from the dreaded 'money' option for this year's Christmas stocking.  No doubt you'll have your own, too. In which case, please add them to the comment box below. Go on - let's make this the biggest Christmas present list on the 'net this year. Let's get creative with our present giving. And give no-one an excuse to send anyone any money.
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