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  • Writer's pictureGenevieve Collett

What is the perfect present?

My family all differ wildly in their attitude to presents. I have a father who actively discourages present buying and gets very annoyed if he gets a present. He doesn't like receiving or giving them but in every aspect of life is loving and giving. It is very strange.

As a child I remember choosing all my presents from the hallowed tome of the Argos catalogue, thumbing it greedily for a couple of months before putting my choices forward to my mother. My sister and I were naughty girls who liked to ferret in my mother's cupboards for our presents in December and took great delight in leaving no trace of our crime. It was almost part of our Christmas experience.

A really good present is difficult. Some things are so down to personal taste that it seems foolhardy to risk but are often bought nevertheless. Jewellery and art spring to mind.

I think the best presents are the things that you didn't realise you needed but when given them realise that you very much do!

I have a few rules and tips:

Smaller and better quality beats bigger and poorer quality. Always go for a full size of a very expensive, beautifully scented hand cream rather than a basket of poor quality miniatures.

Buy something which is special and unique when you travel. So if you go to India, pick up textiles, Indian silverware, silk sarongs - basically anything you can't get easily in Europe.

I generally like to buy presents throughout the year, as and when I see things. It spreads the cost out and I get things which are genuinely lovely rather than a last minute rush and panic buy.

Another good idea is to give people a price limit if you are celebrating with a big group at Christmas say, it is amazing how ingenious people become when faced with a £10 limit.

If I'm honest I've given a fair few duds over the years and received a fair few in return. It is always good manners to be polite as possible. As a child we would often shout rudely 'Have you got the receipt' on opening something. Awful when I look back.

An experience is a good idea if you have the budget. When I worked at Burberry the then CEO treated her close friends to dinner for 6 at the recently opened at the time Delaunay restaurant. What a treat.

I also like visiting museum shops for presents. The British Museum for example has wonderful books and puzzles. The V&A is great for fashion prints which you can then get framed and look fabulous in a bathroom.

Think small - one of the best presents I got was a natural sponge. It gave me great pleasure to look at it and it was lovely to use everyday. Beautiful and useful.

To sum up few of us need presents but life without them would, I think, be rather greyer for it.

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