I’ve been away on my travels again and found many things that have caused concern and annoyance . . .  Firstly,  I do like to buy folk back home the odd little gift or token of affection from the places I’ve been to.  This gift buying is reall a carry over from the Victorian and Edwardian days – when little momentos were in the form of bone china miniatures with engravings of the location – Blackpool tower as an example.  These giftware trinkets and novelties then expanded to include pretty lace handkerchiefs and head scarves.   I have been bought quite a selection over theyears and have returned the favour whenever opportunity has presented itself.  I look for items specifically made in the country or area I’m visiting.   It was seriously disappointing to discover that out of all thegift choices in one particular market hall, only one style of winter hat was actually made in the country we were visiting.  Almost everything was made in the far east and Turkey.

There is always an element of risk when you order goods online.  Unless you’re very familiar with the store you’re ordering from, there is sometimes the feeling that perhaps you should be able to check their authenticity.  I’ve had exactly this problem.  A problem arose with the USB charger cable for my mobile phone.  I’ve got two of the fantastic fast chargers – brilliant, but the cables themselves have flimsy connection and of course, after many pluggings in and yanking outs, over time, the plastic protective coating wears out and I note a few bare wires visible.    I ordered what was described as genuine maker, C type cable – listed my phone exactly.  Great, it came next day – but it was obvious from the first use this was not a genuinely compatible item – the connection into the phone does not engage satisfactorily and keeps slipping out so the phone then alerts me to it’s failure to fast charge, or charge at all.  This has happened three times from 3 different suppliers, so I’ve now had to buy a complete charger and cable at ten times the price, just to get a reliably genuine cable.  A tad disappointing but at least the online business allowed me to find what I needed!

Getting the perfect birthday present for anyone can be quite a challenge.   Some folk are perfectly content with an item for the home but others like to have strictly personal presents.  Other relatives of mine don’t mind having the homestead present for an anniversary or for a joint Christmas present, so long as they get something nice just for themselves on their birthday too.  Looking at the vast array of gift sites, it can be a further daunting challenge to find the right sort of personal present – one person’s favourite perfumery product is another man’s allergy trigger.  I do know of a couple who bought each other their own favourite perfume, knowing the other would not want it and thus they would happily exchange – bizarre but true.  Goin on the very best gifting web sites is the best idea – using the button provided you can select all the favourite attributes of anything with a choice and filter out the bits you’re not needing.  It’s so much easier these days and so very reliable too!

Gifts can come in the most surprising shapes and sizes.  We don’t always have a nice little box tied up with a bow these days.  I was out with some chums on one of our monthly walks – plodding around a nature trail. Then suddenly around the next set of bushes we came across a divine little cottage – I had no inkling we’d find this absolute gem.  If Hansel & Gretel had walked out, we wouldn’t have been any more surprised!   We were just staring up at the pretty carved gables and disgussing the tiny little windows when the owner came out to greet us.  Very fortunate we were there at the time – she was getting it ready for the next lot of holiday renters; a couple coming for two weeks to celebrate a wedding anniversary.  Well we didn’t take much persuading to accept the invite in to look around the cottage – the hostess was very quick to spot a chance of free advertising – we were a social group who report on our walks.   Ideal timing for us to publish details of this dear little gingerbread cottage with crooked beams and squeaky floorboards but with such a feeling of age and belonging!

One of the more unusual gifts I can think of passing on to children is the one of gratitude and good manners.  However, the moralising over, another idea, which should stand them in good stead throughout their future lives is some sort of hobby skill.  I was taught to knit by my father – he had been in a branch of the navy for many years and they all learnt to knit – socks and presents for mother-back-home was my Dad’s phrase.  This ability to knit has been an absolute boon on many occasions.  I used to like knitting simple hats and tea cosies at one time – they were easy for my small hands to manage.  I now like to knit sweaters and cardis in colours and designs that I never see in shops.  Being able to choose from a ver wide selection of yarn colours and thicknesses is still an absolute joy today.  The tactile sensation as you check each ones characteristics shouldn’t be under estimated!

The secret to a long and fruitful life is to eat well, drink moderately, exercise lots and relax even more.  It would be really fab if everyone could just get this organised and we’d need no docotrs, hospitals, clinics etc.   But we do.  I have to say that in the major toy superstores, there don’t seem to be as many role play items on show that there used to be.  I always like to visit a proper toy shop whenever I’m tasked with organising the gifts for any child  under 90.  I have definite ideas for the smaller ones – very specific and generally suiting what I think I’d like to receive if I was that age.  It’s not quite on the rocket science edge of things but it works.  Every present I’ve handed over to all the age groups have appeared to be thrilled to bits.  Every one has been gratefully accepted as out of the normal boring run of things.  That, from any age of child is a win win situation for a wrinkly!

Top ideas for kids is something that you can really make a go of, or flop entirely.   I recently stayed with relatives who live in the States.  They have two children under ten and it’s a frantically busy but really happy household.  Games and learning go hand in hand and everything seems to involve some kind of friendly competition.   Be it racing to the washroom or to get the games out of the store cupboard.    We spend hours playing a form of the well known property tycoon board game – except it involved buying breeds of dog  instead of roads.  The piles of chance and community chest are replaced by good dog and bad dog . . . . . which are an equally haphazard selection of fun and unfun things.  But on the whole, we had a real hoot playing for hours after the evening meal.   Those kind of board games that involve counting out money and giving change are so amazingly effective – sheer brilliance.

Sometimes the idea of giftware for children can seem very daunting.  It’s a worry that comes round at least twice a year, and three times if you take Easter into consideration too.   Of course, in my day – hundreds of years ago, the question of whether I was to receive chocolate easter eggs never came in to any question.  We always had about six or seven each.  In those days the thoughts of obesity were never raised and we were grateful for this wonderful treat.  After all, the rationing of the second world war had made everyone race for the treats for decades afterwards.  Now that famililes are being more conscious of the health aspects, east gifts instead of eggs are often appropriate.   Going on to a really good gifting site that dedicates it’s wares to the child market is such a good idea.  There are so many themes and gifts that you would never think of looking at in the high street.

I have a very cute and impossibly busy little great neice.  My word she can shift, and it seems unbelievable that she’s only just two years old.   Never one for hanging around, she decided to completely miss out the crawling stage and instead manages launch herself at an object by literally flying/shunting herself in that direction.  Now though, she has learnt to pull herself up the front of the sofa or big chairs.  She then turns around, triumphantly before attempting her return journey.  The level of concentration and effort for these exercises, together with a very healthy diet controlled rigorously by her mum means she is not going to be a stodgy school child in years to come.   I was rather expecting her sensible mum to opt for toys to help celebrate Easter – but she  has relented on this occasion and will allow a small egg to be received.  From each willing benefactor.

Times change and we often sit back through the year and wonder what’s happened to the months that have shot by already.  It’s now time in my calender for me to check on lots of birth dates and get cracking with the card and gift list.  It starts in January with a sister – card only these days. Then next month, a couple of junior birthdays – this I do like.  Every excuse to visit my local general toy store.  One of the kiddies is two this year so I’ve extended the  wardrobe of the dear little tom-boy soft bodied doll she had for Christmas with two changs of clothes.  This time I’ve bought an oudoor coat and a toy high chair.  I had thought about the stroller push chair but knowing the Mum is very busy, she may not appreciate having to take toddler and a dolls stroller along when time’s not on her side!