Present (and correct?)

Lets Talk Magazine, Post on 22nd November, 2012

Some people love buying Christmas presents. It comes easily. For others it is an annual headache which has a habit of backfiring.What do our county ambassadors – Rachel Banham (Suffolk) and Derek James (Norfolk) think? Perhaps unsurprisingly, they adopt slightly different approaches. . .


Rachel Banham


I’ve always loved Christmas. With two members of the Banham family having birthdays in December and one in January it’s a time of year that has always been a cause for extra celebration.

And buying presents is an integral part of the festivities. They don’t need to cost a lot – some of the best-received gifts are the least expensive ones. For me, it’s the planning, searching for and wrapping of the presents that’s the fun bit, along with the endless quest to buy gifts that are a surprise to the recipient but that they will still love.


It’s also a time when me and my partner’s contrasting shopping strategies come to the fore. My gift buying is planned well in advance and takes months to accomplish. His is done on the internet, just before the big day, and takes minutes.


So, while I’m still knee-deep in wrapping paper on Christmas Eve, he can afford to relax. His presents will already be lined up under the tree – albeit wrapped in quirky shapes bearing no relation to the gift underneath, and with several metres of sticky tape holding each package together.


My only problem is that, as I begin to look for gifts from January onwards, by the time Christmas comes I’ve often forgotten exactly what presents I have bought – and where I have squirrelled them away. So Christmas Day can be a rather protracted affair, as I remember these hidden gifts at the last minute and frantically wrap them.


My mum has always loved festive shows, so we usually buy her tickets to the panto at Ipswich Regent Theatre or Norwich Theatre Royal, or seats for the Co-op Juniors’ Christmas Spectacular at Snape Maltings. For several years after my great uncle died, we would collect my great auntie from her house near Eye so we could celebrate Christmas Day with her at ours. People she knew were so generous that she needed a bag the size of a dustbin liner to bring all her presents in, and it would often take her until lunchtime to open them.


But while many of us are celebrating with family and friends, Christmas can be difficult for some, as next month’s feature about loneliness will show. That’s what makes the befriending work done by volunteers for Age UK all the more valuable. It is clear that this can be as rewarding for the befrienders as it is for the befriended. And it’s a chance for us all to make a difference. Happy Christmas.

Derek James

We have a “present” drawer in a bedroom where my wife puts various bits and pieces she collects during the year.

So when it comes to Christmas most of her gifts are already there. You see, women are like that, well organised and thoughtful.

My wife can spot a bargain at 50 yards and has always been able to buy presents which people really love – including me. And the number of presents she buys seems to get bigger every year.

An elderly aunt or uncle who pops off is usually replaced by some cousins having babies. She has a real knack of buying a gift someone will really want and enjoy. I on the other hand…

While my wife has numerous people to buy gifts for I just have one person to buy for, and that’s her. You would think that after more than 40 years of marriage the act of buying a Christmas present for the one you love would get easier. I can assure you that it doesn’t. The search normally starts around September when I start wandering around the shops – looking at things.

I never buy anything then. Just look and get more confused, especially when it comes to clothes. I can’t stand wandering around fashion departments. I feel very uncomfortable. From fashion I tend to move into the jewellery, electrical and then kitchen ware before heading out through “bric-a-brac” – you know the kind of thing, ornaments, china, gloves, scarfs and whatnot.

Then I am back in the street, empty-handed. Panic slowly sets in as Christmas draws nearer and nearer. Then, on the spur of the moment, I buy something that’s, well, unusual. Here are just a few of my presents which raised an eyebrow on Christmas Day.

  •  A pair of car mats (I thought I could buy her the other two for her birthday).
  • A vacuum cleaner plus attachments (try hiding that in a drawer).
  • An answer machine.
  • A car radio (I don’t drive but enjoy listening to the radio).
  • A set of paint brushes.
  • A dressing gown which, apparently, looked terrible and very old-fashioned. I would describe it as cosy.

And last year I thought it was time she moved forward in this high-tech world of ours, and I brought her a Blackberry. We both took one hard look at it, tried to understand the instructions, failed miserably, carefully put it back into the box, and returned it to the shop.

 As you can see my presents are usually opened, followed by a look of surprise and a question: “Have you got the receipt?”

 Oh yes, the receipts are kept in my present drawer, which occupies a small space under my socks. Must go. I have some shopping to do. Happy Christmas.

  •  Do you have tips for buying pressies? Write to Derek and Rachel at Let’s Talk or email them at or






Lets Talk Magazine (writer)

the lifestyle magazine for East Anglia with features about local people, local events, competitions plus a nostalgic look back at the way we lived, worked and played.

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