When you get a present you don’t want and you can’t even imagine why your beloved relative or friend bought you it, it’s customary to murmur the self-soothing cliche “It’s the thought that counts.” You couldn’t be more wrong. Because if your dear one had put more than 30 seconds’ actual thought into what to give you, your face would have lit up the moment you set eyes on it.
The truth, as most of us know, is that it’s the present that counts. The only kind way to give is to find out what your recipient wants, either by intelligent guesswork or asking them straight out.
That’s why your children write letters to Santa. Then match that with your budget and get them it. With that in mind, I’ve compiled my own pre-Christmas list, “Top Ten Useless Gifts For People You Can’t Stand” (like Donald Trump or Bashar-al-Assad, for instance). If you have money to squander, send them one of the following:
1. A Chocolate Teapot, £25: Yup, a real chocolate teapot. You put hot water in it then drink the gloopy brown liquid and eat what’s left.
2. The Illumibowl, £19.99: A toilet bowl nightlight for when you have to ‘glow in the dark’. It’s motion-activated (“motion”, haha) and colour-rotating so you just can’t miss it, even if you’re a man.
3. The ‘New Mac’ Scented Candle, £20: A candle that has the fragrance of a brand-new Apple Mac, fresh out of the box (update: it has now sold out).
4. Manties, £19.99: Rose-embroidered lacy panties for men in Black or Hot Pink. Sweet revenge for every woman who’s had to take back inappropriate lingerie on Boxing Day.
5. The Only Fools ‘N’ Horses Adult Fleece Robe, £26: A dressing-gown designed to look kind of like Del Boy’s sheepskin coat. Baaaa humbug.
6 Bike Balls, £19.99: They’re scrotally useless. Two swaying, shimmering, illuminated balls in a flashing red sack, to dingle-dangle from the saddle of your bike.
7. Beard Bells, £10: Multi-coloured jingle bells you can hang from your beard to warn people that the Idiot Hipster is here, giving them just enough time to run and hide.
8. Hoverboard With Bluetooth Speaker System: As if you wouldn’t look stupid enough on a hoverboard, this one has speakers controlled by an app so that the Village Halfwit can announce his arrival with ‘Ride Of The Valkyrie’.
9. Colossal 11kg Gummi Bear, £129.99: Weighing in at 32,000 calories, this Edible Ted stands nearly three feet high. Don’t tell your dentist.
10. Dancing Cat Speaker, £39.99: Can you tell what it is yet? Uh-huh, it’s a life-size, life-like cat that dances in time to the music on your iPod or laptop.
Can’t get enough of this Christmas Crapola? Let me fade out with these: Marmite Popcorn, Raygun Nose-Hair Trimmer, Pufferfish Slippers, Hatching Velociraptor, Yellow Submarine Tea Infuser, Wallet Made Of Fake Bacon, Wireless Eye Massager, Nose-Shaped Shower Gel Snot-Dispenser, Under-Desk Office Treadmill Trainer, Ultra-Violet Toothbrush Sanitiser, Sixteen Foot Six Inch Extendable Selfie-Stick, 360-Degree Mirror, Exploding Kittens, Hologram Backpack (Guess which one I made up?).
Tree service leaves me pining for traditional Christmas
Eight days ago, barely into the second week of October, the Farrell inbox received glad tidings of great joy: The Marks & Spencer Christmas Food Offer. “Let Marks & Spencer serve up your Christmas Feast while you sit back and relax.”
A day later we walked into Debenhams to be confronted by our first, fully-dressed Christmas tree, a sparkle-strewn catastrophe of fake snow and glittery balls, as if one of Santa’s Little Helpers had spewed up a box of Poundland Christmas decorations. But I’m saving the worst till last. Imagine how hard it is to think up the perfect Christmas present for the stinking rich. Right, stop imagining. John Lewis just did it. For a mere £450, you can order a John Lewis ‘tree-stylist’ to come to your home and decorate your tree for you. “It’s a premium service but having someone take the weight of Christmas tree decorating off your mind is something special.”
No it bloody isn’t something special, John Lewis. Something special is taking the kids to buy a proper out-of-town tree with real needles you may have to Hoover up later. It’s climbing up into the loft and bringing down that box of decorations your family has accumulated over the decades. The wee straw angels your granny used to hang on her Christmas tree, individually wrapped in tissue paper to keep them good. The Christmas tree lights shaped like strawberries, limes and pineapples, strung on green fuse-wire. The chocolate decorations you know will get mysteriously eaten before Christmas morning. It’s hanging those precious bits and baubles, with your little helpers, just a few days before the big day. And maybe, even if you’re not that religious, it’s laying out a wee crib with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, just in case that old tale of poverty, sacrifice and redemption turns out to be true after all.