December 26, 2010
My other half, known to some readers as Mr Bonkers, hates Christmas. In his view, it comes round far too often and far too soon. Yes, he considers once a year to be too often, made worse by the coming too soon. We spotted mince pies in Sainsburys as early as September. Christmas gift catalogues started coming around the same time, and rival supermarket Tesco put its tree up in mid-November.
From the Bonkers Archives
From the Bonkers Archives
Before I met him, Mr Bonkers never used to celebrate Christmas in any recognisable way. The only tradition he observed was going for a lunchtime curry with his best mate – a fellow Bah Humbug!-er – in Birmingham’s famous Ladypool Road. Such was the fervour behind his Christmas embargo that he brought out his own line of greetings cards and T-shirts, with the slogan: “Santa Claus is dead” (modelled by another friend in this photo).
I have managed to moderate Mr B’s antipathetic stance on the festive season somewhat – under duress he buys me a proper Christmas card in a shop now and actually writes in it, and he will happily tuck into any elaborate vegetarian feast I might care to prepare – but at bottom he remains sceptical. Christmas has no religious significance for him and the rest is all just a huge, commercial, gut-busting junket.
And there is also another reason, as he explained to me: ”You are often disappointed by the presents you get, when you go to such trouble and expense to choose appropriate things for other people. I can’t bear to see your face as you sit on the carpet, surrounded by piles of useless tat.”
Well now, I think this is perhaps a bit harsh, for I have had some lovely gifts from friends in the past, some of whom may even be reading this. But there is a grain of truth in what he says. I can’t top the worst gift my mother ever received, which was a pair of Marigold rubber gloves with a hole in them, but I have had a few lemons. Actually lemons would be quite nice, as long as they were “epitomes” of the fruit ie quintessentially lemon shaped…
I guess some of my worst presents include, in no particular order: a bottle of scented ironing water, an evening clutch bag which shed sequins on contact, a gravy separator, an adult humour book, a scratchy scarf, a garish orange paperweight, a leaky jar of antipasto peppers, a sickly fruit liqueur and a fiendishly difficult tapestry. Actually, that last one I bought for myself, so I am also not infallible in the present-buying stakes.
Reviewing the ghosts of Christmas presents past has got me thinking about the fragrance market, and the huge percentage of annual sales made in the run up to Christmas, often as gifts for unsuspecting family members and friends. There are two key pitfalls inherent in the notion of buying perfume for somebody else, assuming people aren’t buying to order, or getting a back up bottle of something the giftee already owns. Oh, and Diptyque Eau Duelle please, if anyone on present-buying terms with me is reading this! – mind you, by the time they do, it will be too late for this year.
Yes, your average punter under pressure to shop for a whole bunch of disparate relatives and friends may just randomly grab a boxed set (of perfume and scented body lotion) from the tottering pile in the centre of the sales floor – and run. In 1995 I bought my own mother a Rochas Byzance set for Christmas on just such a hurried and thoughtless impulse, a failure of care that has come back to haunt the perfumista I have since become.
And to complicate matters, many of these purchases may be made without the shopper even smelling the tester, assuming there is one. And even if they do smell the scent first, the “spray and pray” M.O. of fragrance selection is, as we all know, flawed by the fact that they are only smelling the top notes before they buy, which may not be indicative of the perfume’s subsequent development.
All of which means that people will have woken up on Christmas Day all over the world to inappropriate perfume purchases…Kouros for the guy who likes clean, soapy scents, Aromatics Elixir for the student who really had her heart set on Vera Wang Rock Princess, Lacoste Touch of Pink for the maiden aunt who is a life-long Dioressence loyalist and most unlikely to get through her stash of back up bottles in this lifetime. Okay, so these may be crass and exaggerated examples, but I am sure that olfactory gaffes of varying degrees will have been committed on a global scale this Christmas.
As for our household, buying Mr Bonkers scent of any kind would be unthinkable. If you must buy him a present at all, he is perfectly happy with a tightly specified Digitech JamMan looping device and a box of After Eight mints.
For myself, the boxed sets of perfume I am hoping not to receive are far too numerous to mention. The more flagrant examples might be anything by Paris Hilton, Beyoncé, Jade Goody and Katie Price. I would also be pretty crestfallen to receive a set of Elizabeth Arden miniatures.
If any of my friends were bold enough to choose a perfume for me without prior consultation, the potential for error is so vast that I have been dropping hints about needing new handkerchiefs since August. By the time this goes to press, I may be sitting on the living room carpet surrounded by a selection of my worst scent nemeses, but I doubt it.
And sure, as you may all be thinking, it is “more blessed to give than receive”. But sadly I haven’t yet mustered the moral fibre you need to rise above the bumper sets of screwdrivers, frog bath hats and Margaret Thatcher-shaped nutcrackers…
– Vanessa Musson, Contributor
E ditor's Note: I agree with V wholeheartedly about one thing….know your perfumista. Scented gifts are best outside the bottle. Don't be a Scent Scrooge…share your perfumes; one person's Poison is another person's Obession.
Do good and someone will smell good….take your unwanted flacons to your nearest Salvation Army, Homeless Shelter or to any charity where a gift of scent would be appreciated (if you received Eau Duelle and don't like it, let us know as Scent-a didn't deliver.