Monday, 8 March 2010

Five Boring Presents That Are Actually Great

Well, it's nearly Mothering Sunday and the nation's manufacturers of cheap, plastic wrapped chocolate and growers of limp, forecourt bunches of chrysanthemums are no doubt gearing themselves up for a bumper year. Mothering Sunday is a bit like Christmas - bad/boring gifts abound. But I musn't be cynical, because a) all presents are actually great, because someone has taken the time and spent a little bit of money thinking about you and b) there are at least 5 unfairly maligned gifts that are actually rather nice to receive (sometimes with a little tweaking):

1. Chocolate.
Come on, do I need to explain this one? It's chocolate! I could ponce on about how it's much better to have Fairtrade, 90% cocoa solids, Green & Black-type fanciness but sometimes, in all honesty, only a Cadbury's Cream Egg will do.

2. Forecourt Flowers
Yes, not very prepossessing but all is not lost. The way to make them look much more expensive and prettier is to chop the stems down short, so the flower heads are massed in a bunch and tie the shorter stems tightly near the top with ribbon or twine. Get rid of the horrid cellophane and present them to the receiver as a cute little posy, or in a lovely container such as a pretty little jug, glass or something more esoteric, like a tea pot. Incidentally, cut flowers last much longer if you add a couple of teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda to the water and freshen it frequently.

3. Socks
As the Prince Regent (Hugh Laurie) put it in Blackadder the Third, "To me, socks are like sex. Tons of it about, and I never seem to have any." Indeed. Socks are a great present to receive because, in truth, you can never have too many pairs of socks. Why? Because socks are like celebrity couples - their pairing lasts a matter of months (sometimes weeks). Socks get lost down the back of the chest of drawers, mislaid on the way to the laundry, eaten by the washing machine. No matter how many pairs of socks you buy, sooner or later, you end up with a drawer full of odd socks. And this is why socks are a great present. Particularly (hint to friends) any type of sock that is made with cashmere...

4. Candles
I have been rather guilty of this myself as a boring present giver. But seriously though, I think candles are great. They're beautiful when lit, they cast a lovely light and they're useful too, in the event of a power cut. If you have a open fire grate, you can fill it with candles in the summer, when it's too hot for a fire, and still have the illusion of firelight. Dot them around the bath or shower and you make an everyday chore into a spa experience. The QuirkyPig shop will soon be offering vintage tea cup candles for sale so I'm biased, but of all the boring presents, these are probably the best. And the cheap ones don't tend to be heavily scented, so they're inoffensive too.  (Safety bit - never, but never leave a burning candle unattended).

5. Smellies
Possibly one of the most unimaginative presents in the world but still salvageable. Alright, it's a bit harder when you're handed over a plastic bottle of some acid-green bubble bath that looks radioactive and would probably work better as a toilet cleaner. So, use it as a toilet cleaner! For the slightly nicer smellies you get given, they all look loads better decanted into pretty containers. You can pick up cut-glass jars and delicate ceramic pots in charity shops for buttons. Decant the smellies from the cheap plastic tubes, arrange them artistically in your bathroom or on your dressing table - job done. I've also been known to use shampoo and bubble bath to wash clothes. Don't over do it as you could have a foam explosion but a small amount will get your clothes clean and make them smell nice too.

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