One of the most memorable, hedonistic and glamorous characters in my family was my Great Auntie Johnnie. That name – a nickname, and the only one she would answer to – was but the tip of the glacier of her eccentricities. And as far as my younger brothers and I were concerned, nothing shone a light on them more than Christmas Day.
I was about nine when she gave me a square scrap of floral material (‘I thought you could sew a nice dress with it for your dolls’). Another year I received a lovingly wrapped pair of scuffed white shoes, circa 1950, that were too big (‘I thought you could grow into them and then you’d have some vintage heels for all your parties’). I didn’t think anything could top the garish orange lipstick she gave me, complete with the very visible groove marks of her own lips, until my brother reminded me that she once gave him a doll with a missing eye, and a pair of underpants with her (adult) son’s name sewn into them.
Auntie Johnnie was reclusive and, as you may have twigged, notoriously ‘careful’ with money. My mother and grandmother would tut and raise their eyes to the heavens, but I have to admit, for my brothers and me this annual gifting event was elevated to cult status. The three of us were regularly at war with each other, but Auntie Johnnie’s presents were guaranteed to unite us horrid little imps and have us giggling in a corner until we cried. At some point I would always notice my father quietly seething, because she hadn’t given him anything and, well, at this point I’d be close to passing out with the hysteria from it all.
I had some great presents as a young kid, but I don’t really remember any of them as much as the used shoes and the lipstick. If you would like to be renowned for your excellent gift-giving skills – and limit the risk of being affectionately ribbed decades later by a distant relative in a national newspaper – I think I have the answer. This issue features a spectacular 14 pages of fantastic gift suggestions, selected by our expert editors, approved by me. The range of ideas, not to mention prices, is brilliant, and I hope it goes a long way to helping you streamline your Christmas to-do list.
A few things I’m coveting this week
The brilliant fashion designer Olivia Rubin now does homeware. Lamp, £175, Olivia Rubin x etsy.com
These will dress my Christmas table. Mini Christmas trees, £20 for three, thewhitecompany.com
All proceeds from this tee go to the Help Refugees charity. Rixo T-shirt, £30, asos.com