Susan Morrison: What to buy the woman who has everything?

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THE problem with buying my husband presents is that we’ve been together these 30-odd years. In that time, I’ve bought enough jumpers, ties and shirts to stock Top Man. Bottles of aftershave slowly ferment in dark corners. Gadgets rust in crannies and nooks are rammed with unwrapped hobby suggestions.

There comes a point where you just run out of ideas. Familiarity breeds anxiety around gift buying time.

So, what would you buy the Queen if she announced she was popping round? It’s a challenge and no doubt about it. What do you buy the woman who quite literally has everything?

Obviously, she can stash what she doesn’t need, like or want. Doubtless, the combined attic space of Balmoral, Holyrood and Buck House is big enough to hide everything from bath salts to a gift-wrapped frigate, but what do you do with a pair of sloths, a gift from the grateful people of Brazil in the 60s? You can’t shove a sloth in a cupboard. For one thing, a sloth and the average chinless aristocratic sycophant can be difficult to tell apart. You don’t want to be opening doors on long disused cabinets to find the desiccated remains of the third Viscount of Woebegannit clattering out.

Second, I imagine Her Majesty wouldn’t like to have her Foreign Minister explain to the Brazilians what happened to their sloths. Big on sloths, the Brazilians. Well, they must be to hand them out as the gift to impress.

Oh, in case you’re worried, they went to London Zoo. The sloths, that is, not the Brazilians.

I’m not really a great fan of monarchy, but the control that woman exerts as, say, the Oipoloi people of Upper Ugumis (a Crown protectorate we acquired at the height of Empire and promptly forgot about) present her and Philip with a matching pair of pyjama cases woven from native leaves and grasses is exemplary.

It’s not like she can bung them on Ebay, or Gumtree. People can spot these things. Why, I bet even the Oipoloi can access mobile broadband these days.

What to do with those awkward gifts? I wondered that the other day as I perused Gumtree and spotted an advert describing a fancy machine for removing facial hair going for a song, still in its wrapping, never used, listed as an ‘unwanted gift’. It had a woman’s name in the reply-to section.

Consider, for the very briefest of time, what was the thought process behind the purchase of a facial hair-removing machine as a gift for a woman?

And what incredible muscle control would that face have had to endure to manufacture a look of surprise, delight and pleasure, and not homicidal rage?