Back home, I am rediscovering the utter tedium that is Christmas Shopping. Last year I made most of my presents so I didn't have to face this. And of course, it wasn't at all tedious earlier in the autumn when I was dealing with my good ideas presents; seeking out things which I was confident that my donees would like and appreciate. But now we're down to those people who possess very few passions or interests in life, but for whom a novelty tie would be an admission of defeat.
There is so much useless tat about. There are now two dozen on-line shops dedicated to gadgets and novelties which are amusing in concept but which you know would be lost at the back of a draw before New Year. Most of it is so dear. And yet, we really haven't sorted the ettiquette of getting charitible gifts; planting trees, buying goats, wheelchairs etc. on other people's behalfs. It is quite different if that is something someone has asked for, but if not, is it really on?
I have had at least some luck. The present I am most chuffed with is a custom-made stamp for making wax seals and a load of coloured wax for one donee who doesn't do e-mail. If you're going to live in the seventeenth century, you might as well as do it with style. And purple wax.
I must also recommend the National Gallery Shop. I think I mentioned the Create Your Own Calendar facility last year, which I think is great. They also have a collection of Hieronymous Bosch figurines - all the surreal characters from Hell. Some of their art-inspired items are less convincing. Take for example, the iconic Whistlejacket by Stubbs; not my cup of tea, but it is a pretty amazing painting.
And here is the specially commissioned soft toy which claims to represent it. Can you see the likeness? Can you any connection between that painting and this item apart from the fact that the painting features a brown four-limbed creature and this toy apparently has four limbs and is brown?
Perhaps almost as bad is the "Pop-Up Sunflowers", after Van Gogh...
The Tate has a shop too, but it's very much dearer on account of the fact that many of the artists in their collection are still living.
And then of course Amazon is great for most people - unless they don't read books or listen to music. Or if they do, but they can never muster enough passion about books or music to make it worth me finding something for them. Which is the case with some of my donees.
Important tip to men buying gifts for women; if you look in a shop on-line and it says Gifts for Her, don't get anything from there. Gifts for Her consist of anything which is shiny, smelly, slimey, pink or made out of chocolate - and often a combination of the above. Many women do like gifts with these attributes, but there are generally better sources, places where the packaging is worth significantly less than the item; try to buy shiny things from a shiny shop, smelly and slimey things from a smelly and slimey shop and chocolates from a chocolate shop. Pink things for the over-14s? Use your own discretion.