Thursday 17 January 2019

Help! I have been completely cleaned out

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)

John Masterson

Present-giving is an art that very few of us excel at. We leave it too late. We think too much about the cost. We worry about the message it will convey. Is it too cold? Or too intimate?

I spend the year picking up small presents hoping that quantity will make up for any lack of quality. That said, recently I came across two examples of present-giving genius. And in one case I was the lucky recipient.

First to my London friend. She and her boyfriend have been together for five or more years and she had run out of Christmas ideas. But she did know that he loves eating out. Her solution? She gave him a five-Continent gastronomic trip around the world. And lest it sounds like she is a multi-millionaire, there was a stipulation. All of the restaurants had to be in London where every national cuisine imaginable is available. "But was he not looking for the plane tickets?" I asked, since I would tend to take such a present very literally.

It turned out she had made a unique card and designed all of her own graphics and he was nearly as pleased with the card as the meals. At the time of writing they have done Italy and Vietnam and Japan is next on the list. It is going very well indeed. It is going so well that I suspect she will get another decade out of the idea. Genius!

Mine was more of a delayed present. I was given a shirt by a close friend who likes to improve my lack of style and told me that my real present was in the pipeline. I know when I say that it means that I have forgotten to get something and all I am buying is time. As January slipped by the missing present never entered my head and I assumed she was as shallow as I am. Last weekend I went to Catalonia for a ski trip for this newspaper's travel section and had a very good time. It will be published later in the year. Before I went away the slow present giver asked for a house key and offered to feed the cat. I arrived home late on Sunday night and knew as soon as I opened the door someone had been in the house. It smelt different. Fresh. As I wandered from room to room it became clear that everything had been deep cleaned to within an inch of its life. My living room stove was shiny black again. The desk was dust free for the first time ever.

When I visited the bathrooms I may as well have been in a five-star hotel. It was a great feeling. So that was my present. I texted thank you and slept with a smirk. Good present. But that was not all. I made my coffee for breakfast and strolled outside to discover that my overgrown garden had received a makeover. Now it wasn't full of new plants or anything like that. But that first awful weekend when all you do is get rid of weeds and cut things back had been magically done. There was not a weed in sight. There is no job I hate more than the first digging of the garden and it had just been removed from my future. So if you want to make someone truly happy get them a house clean and a garden spring clean. They may not think they would like it, but they will be delighted. I suppose when 'present giver' reads this she will expect to be taken to restaurants in five Continents. There is always a downside.

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