Sure-fire Stocking-filler Winners

Let me begin by saying that I am no more an expert in gift-giving than anyone else. So why, you're asking, am I attempting to offer any advice on the subject? Well, in truth I'm not.  What follows are five simple ideas for types of gifts that will suit almost everyone.

Personalised Gifts

Personalisation is now available on all manner of items. From garden equipment to barware and just about everything in between. Not only can you pick something that might otherwise seem a bit of a bland gift and make is special, but you can also show that a person is special enough to make a effort on their behalf.

Foodie Gifts

Everyone likes to eat and drink. If you shop around, particularly on the internet, you can find all kinds of special and hard-to-find food items that make ideal gifts at Christmas. And for the person who has everything (and don't we all have one of those in our lives?) a special food is a perfect present.

Gift Vouchers

Okay, I know these are traditionally the domain of long-distance aunts, but hear me out. These days there are plenty of imaginative gift vouchers available, from theatre vouchers and beauty salon gift cards to garden centres, and some hotels even offer vouchers for afternoon teas. Perhaps you know the favourite hair salon of a friend - why not give a gift voucher for a luxury treatment? It shows you know their tastes.

Something Homemade

Don't shout! I'm not suggesting you go all Blue-Peter but you could make a batch of jam, or chutney, or even flavoured vodka. It doesn't seem cheap because you've spent time and effort making something.

A Themed 'Care Package'

Whether it's full of pampering items, gifts for gardeners or a selection of classic books for the avid reader, a gift like this doesn't have to cost the earth but it is a thoughtful present.

Now five gifts to avoid at all costs …

We've all had them - the items that disappoint - largely because our 'loved one' clearly has no idea of our tastes (or of what suits us) - or those that insult us. So here, in case you were tempted, the items NOT to buy for Christmas.

Any item of clothing that needs to fit.

If you don't know someone's size please don't risk it! If you buy something too large you run the risk of insulting them by implying you think they're bigger than they are; and if you give something too small then any brownie points you might have earned by under-estimating someone's size will disappear once the recipient has the indignity of exchanging that sweater or blouse for something larger. Don't do it.  Note to men. There is no such thing as 'one-sized'. I know a label will often say this - but this is a fallacy used by marketing people. Unless it is a scarf, there is no such thing as 'one size fits all'.

Any beauty item with 'anti-ageing' written on it.

Really, do you want your Christmas message to be 'I think you're looking old'? The only exception is when you have been specifically requested to get something of this nature. You might get away with body products that 'firm' but only if the primary attraction of the product is luxury.

Domestic items of any kind.

If you, particularly if you are a man, give a woman any item of a domestic nature, you are sending a dangerous message. It's a message that says you think that person's place is in the kitchen, at the ironing board, in the laundry etc. It's almost guaranteed to annoy/upset that person and you are likely to get that spanking new pressure cooker dropped on your toe at the very least. If your loved one has asked for a domestic item, then that is fine, but please also buy something feminine and pampering. Your life will be much more pleasant.

Chocolate for the Dieter.

If you know someone is on a diet and yet you still gift them highly-calorific presents, it shows nothing but that you don't listen to them or take an interest in their lives. And don't be tempted to send anything with low-calorie written on it - it's like calling them 'fat'.


In my experience women, in particular, have very personal tastes when it comes to fragrance. Unless you are absolutely sure you are buying their favourite, you have next to no chance of picking something they will like. Even if they've complemented you on your own fragrance, it doesn't mean they'd like it on themselves. And there's always the chance that they were just being polite. There is no universal fragrance that everyone likes. Some of us don't even like lavender …