Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Clear and present danger

The Bible tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

Fine. Perfectly happy with that.

Thing is, nobody in the Bible is having to try and sort out a birthday present for my mum by next week, are they? They’d be a damn sight less carefree with the old ‘blesseds’ if they did, I can tell you.

I’m really struggling to get her something and it’s only 6 days away. Yes, I know, it comes around once a year.  Yes, I know it’s not a moveable feast and does not occur randomly and I shouldn’t act all surprised about it. Hehe, imagine if birthdays were random. I bet the only cards on sale would be Sorry-I-Failed-to-Accurately-Predict-Your-Special-Day ones.

But I digress.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I don’t want to buy her a present. I enjoy giving gifts, and not just to get extra helpings of blessedness either in case you were wondering. No, I’d happily fork out for several presents - a small Everest of presents even (can you have a ‘small’ Everest, or do they only come in one size. Never mind!  Focus!). It’s the least I can do after all she’s done for me in my life. No, I promise I have absolutely no generosity-deficit issues .

The thing is, she’s seventy-seven this year, which kind of cuts down on the choice of suitable giftage.

I cannot, for example, buy her a snowboard and, to be fair, she’s never actually showed much interest in snowboarding anyway.  Besides, a snowboard would only end up at the back of the cupboard with that scuba gear I bought last year. Talk about waste of money!

I’m joking of course - she’s a little old lady for goodness sake, what kind of daughter do you think I am?

She is still very busy and active though, and has in recent years done crazy stuff like camping in the Amazonian rain forest (3 years ago), doing a rainforest canopy walk (same holiday) or climbing to the top of Sydney Harbour Bridge (2 years ago). She’s almost never at home in the daytime. Her and her posse of pensioner pals are usually chilling at the Thursday Lunch Club or busting some moves at the old time dancing - when they’re not comparing medical horror-stories or practising extreme flower arranging, that is.

Hobbies? Yes, she likes jigsaw puzzles and crosswords.

Thing is, I’ve pretty much done them to death aver the last few years and I want something a bit different. Ditto with flowers and chocolates.

Funeral gift vouchers?  Hmmm, maybe not.

She has plenty of clothes, perfume and smellies. She’s not big on jewellery and lives in a modern, well-equipped house. She lacks for nothing. Nothing, I say!

And that’s the trouble.

I keep asking her what she’d like, to which she invariably replies “oh, nothing”. But let me even consider the merest hint of the possibility of rocking up on her special day armed with “nothing”, and let’s face it, you’d be able to stop worrying about global warming for a start. There’d be polar bears strolling about in Harrod’s before you could turn around. There’d be, as we brits say, a bit of an atmosphere.

My brother made that mistake once, turning up with the “nothing” that she’d suggested and she’s never forgotten it (he was three, for pity’s sake, Mother! Let it go!)

There’s always money, I suppose.

She does like to save it up for when she goes on holiday with my older sister and you can never have too much spending money on holiday, can you? Yeah, that’s all very well, but money’s not a proper present, is it? It just seems a bit lazy and lacking in imagination somehow. Also, there’s no mystery to it. The recipient knows exactly how much you spent on their present (read: how much they think you’re worth). Mind you, the upside is you pretty much never have to return it to the shop because it’s the wrong size.

If only she collected things like stamps or antique garden gnomes or something.  She did used to collect stuff (not garden gnomes thank goodness). Years ago, there was this range of ornaments she was fond of, featuring comically anthropomorphic pigs in various humorous situations, each called Piggin’-something-or-other. Not especially brilliantly funny, these ceramic porkers, but damned convenient for the would-be gift giver.

She gave them all away to charity a couple of years ago after seeing even the rarest of them going for about 60p on eBay.

But this is not helping!

I need ideas, people!


  1. What about a coach trip? E.g., I love Portmeirion in Wales and noticed that our local coach firm do daytrips there. It's a long way, but the "itinerary" was quite reasonable. It looked fun. I might do it myself sometime. Hm. Wrong time of year...

    Likes crosswords? OK you want a change, but does she have a Chambers dictionary?

    A map of the world? A big map of Britain?

    A ukulele? (I'm getting silly now... but a group of old ladies in our village have got a ukulele group going...)

  2. Oh, I can identify. My profligate mother (like, the inheritance, Mum?) appears to be able to buy a new 3-piece suite each season, and I never recognise the car she's driving (only get home every 6 months or so) (explanation: 'I don't understand the MOT test'). She is 83
    Anyway, I favour the delicious sponge bag sets that are sold for trendy twenty-year olds, anything with a fake fur collar and 3/4 length sleeves (old ladies have shrinking arms) and expensive sweets from the country of origin.
    And failing that, a walk through your local TK Maxx. All sorts of completely unnecessary items that once you see, you think, 'I must have that'.
    Warning: ignore the Christmas bits available at the moment. I never knew I needed a brushwood reindeer, but lo! I have one now.

  3. Smoked salmon and a nice bottle of white wine, all of which she can share with her friends, whilst bragging about her clever daughter, and all of which can be ordered and delivered remotely, if you don't live close by.

  4. i can never think of things for Herself - so i tend to sneak into her Amazon account and look at her wishlist - but i'm guessing technology not high on the list of things enjoyed by a 77 year old.

    What about some kind of kit for making things - you can get embroidered pillow kits - or if she's always on the move some kind of talking book she can listen to?

  5. Maybe some kind of travel gizmo? I don't know what exactly, but I'm always drooling over gadgets in travel catelogs. And I don't even really travel!

  6. Dominic - the coach trip idea is a good one and I love the idea of a bunch of elderly ladies forming a ukele band!

    Titus - Your mum sounds like a real character! I think I might just stroll through TK Maxx...

    ER - Liking the luxury food idea....

    DFTP - I wish my mum had an Amazon account. She used to be a prolific knitter at one time but her hands are a bit arthritic these days but I shall persevere and find her something nice and constructive. Hmmm, Talking books..... and a CD player to play them on? Could be....

    Bug - The travel gizmo idea could work also. I can check with my sis what gadgets they have.

    Thanks all. Much food for thought here.

  7. My mother is 81 and one of the best gifts I've given her recently is a colourful pashmina ( scarf. She can wear it as a shawl, or a scarf and it goes with many things and she loves it! If I could just get her to stop calling it a PashMINI!

    Good luck!


  8. Kat - I like the pashmina idea a lot.

  9. I've started buying art from local artists for those difficult to buy for people. At least it pleases the artists, it pleases me, and I keep it tasteful so only a truly ungrateful person would turn their nose up...any local artists or artisans who need a meal?

  10. Art from local artists is another smashing idea. At this rate, Christmas will be sorted as well.


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