A Guide to Buying the Perfect Christmas Gift

by Down and out in Dover and district, with Len Oldfeep Sunday, December 7 2014

As the years march on Christmas shopping for your friends and family gets harder. It’s a fact. Tasked with coming up with something different for your loved ones each year you can lose sight of what the season is all about. This guide is not for those who sneer at the new band aid single or for those non-religious types who get out their soap box each year to whinge about how Christmas is just a consumer holiday and has lost all it’s true meaning, but is intended for those who can see the good in the act of giving, and enjoy watching for a second that glimmer of long forgotten childhood excitement the scrunch of wrapping paper and the snap of sellotape brings to a loved ones face.

Buying a great Christmas present has always been a matter of pride to me and something I like to do. If I’m remembered for anything I’m sure it will be that: ‘He did buy a good Christmas present didn’t he’. I enjoy the challenge of coming up with something that will hopefully surprise and delight and most importantly of all is thoughtful. Don’t get me wrong I haven’t always got it right. There was the learn to speak French CD and book set I got my Mum a few years back that was banished to the darkest recesses of her wardrobe before you could say au revoir. However these failures have only made my present buying skills become stronger over the years as I have honed my skills and learnt from my mistakes, and I have since chalked up many victories come December 25th.

But just how do you do it year in year out Len? I hear you cry. Well come closer and listen up, I’m about to reveal all dear readers in my Christmas present to you, the gift that will keep on giving. Print out and keep this indispensible guide to buying the perfect Christmas gift. Follow these tips for guaranteed success every time and step into Christmas with confidence and style once again!


 Look and Listen. Every conversation you have listen for ideas and hints. Observe as your dad watches a commercial for a new black and Decker work buddy/ mate station with intense joy and make a note or take a picture on your smug phone. Don’t try and remember it because you won’t. 

 Always be thoughtful. Remember your goal is to buy a gift that shows you have gone that extra mile because you care. It should be a physical representation of the words we often can’t express to our nearest and dearest.

 Be humorous. If you’re struggling for ideas a gift that makes them laugh is a great alternative.

‘Laughter is the shortest distance between two people’- Victor Borge

Be practical. People will appreciate something they can eat or drink or can use and get a lot of use out of if all else fails. However try not to buy something they would ordinarily buy themselves or there is no point.

Don’t be too ambitious. You want to impress but think realistically, is the recipient really going to use the gift past the Queen’s speech? I heard my mum say she wished she had continued to learn French after she left school so I got her the set....she also said she wished she had trained to be a nurse but I didn’t enrol her into college.

Allow yourself plenty of time. Try to pick up things throughout the year and don’t leave it all to December! You might find you are all out of time.

Have conviction. If you are indecisive about something put it down. Having to convince yourself they will like it means you are in desperation territory. If you also find yourself on websites selling expensive tat like a lunch box made from the spoiler of a Ferrari you have lost. However these sites can sometimes provide inspiration or unusual gifts:, and

Don’t buy for yourself. Something I have been guilty of in the past. You think it’s wicked but will the person you’re buying it for think so? Think on.

Don’t budget. You don’t have to spend the same on each person. Money is irrelevant unless you are buying for children in which case you can’t spend more on one child than the other. It’s a good test to see who your favourite is really though. In any case this guide is not for you, go away!

Online is not always best. I know its 2014 and drones have made poor St Nic redundant and climate change has forced him to move into his holiday home in Deal permanently but you should not dismiss the high street. They are a good source of inspiration and you can get advice from real people too! Visit Charity and antique shops and markets where you can pick up things you won’t find on-line and are utterly unique.

Merry Christmas,

Love Len.

Categories: blogs and bloggers | Dover Town centre | Humour | Shopping

My wife's shopping logic is beyond my understanding

by The Codgers' Club Friday, June 21 2013

by David Jones

I know this is dangerous, and well-trodden, ground, but I have to say it: The shopping habits of our other halves, the ladies that is, never cease to amaze and baffle me.

My wife works hard and the occasional bit of retail therapy is her way of relaxing. Last week, she set off at 9am for a shopping trip with a friend.

Nearly nine hours later, she had still not returned, or called me and I began to wonder if something had happened.

Maybe she had found someone with more money than me (not hard) or someone better looking than me (also not hard, do I hear you say). After 41 years of being married to me, she might have thought it was time for a change.

But, no, at around 5.15pm, the phone rang and it was my wife. “We haven’t finished yet,” she said.

“Surely you’ve had enough after eight hours,” I said. “No, we’ve still got a few more shops to do. I’ve bought a jacket but I may take it back.”

“What do you mean, you may take it back – you’re still in the town where you bought it. Either you like it or you don’t like it. If you don’t like it, why did you buy it?”

Silly of me, I know, but her response was that she wanted time to think about it. Think about it she did, and a week later she took it back. It turned out that the jacket wasn’t “her.”

I am still puzzled by the logic of it all. I cannot conceive how it is possible to spend good money on something you only like slightly, thus lumbering yourself with the hassle of a 20-mile drive to take it back.

One day, perhaps, I will understand.

It’s also a mystery to me why I am ever asked for my opinion on whether a dress, coat, or whatever, looks good.

There will never be a situation in which my wife doesn’t buy an item after I say I don’t like it but she says she does. Conversely, if I say I like it but she says she doesn’t, she’s never going to buy it.

So the whole “What do you think?” conversation is a charade which husbands/boyfriends etc are obliged to go through.

For my own part, I hate shopping for clothes, and I find it a chore, rather than a day out. I know what I want, I go straight to the shop, and I either buy it, or I don’t buy it. There is no in-between.

Therein lies the difference. Men, in general, hate shopping – shopping for anything, that is, unless it’s a boys’ toy of some kind.

For most women, I suspect, it’s an experience to be savoured, a day’s outing, if you like.

And how naive of me not to realise that I laid myself open to the possibility of more shopping trips when I decided to retire a couple of years early.

Mind you, Bluewater’s not all bad. Even if I don’t buy anything, which is usually the case, on the few occasions I allow myself to be dragged up there, half a dozen circuits of the malls at a fast pace is a wonderful way to get some exercise, without getting wet and windswept or, more importantly, without even opening my wallet.

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Categories: Moans and groans | Shopping

There are some offers I can refuse

by Nikki's world, with Nikki White Tuesday, February 21 2012

One of my friends was banging on about how great these discount voucher websites were.

She’d had a lovely meal out, and her hair styled at a top salon for less than half the price you’d normally pay.

Always on the hunt for a bargain, I couldn’t resist taking a look, and now I’m hooked, but perhaps not for the reasons the websites wanted.

Every time I get an email with their latest round of offers, I can’t wait to open them because they really make me laugh. It’s the randomness of it all that I love.

In just one day, I could get a personalised photo book for just £8 (I’ve always wanted to produce my autobiography), buy a mini fridge for £40 (presumably so I can put it on my desk so I really don’t have to leave it all day), and cut-price ski goggles (a month too late, mate, sorry).

For those weekend dinner parties, I could invite my mates round to try out my half-price murder-mystery game (or just imagine all those people I’d cheerfully wish a fictitious gruesome end), while sitting down to eat with my beautiful new cutlery set.

If I fancied a change of career, I could learn to become a web designer (at a massive 81% off, it was worth a serious thought).

I could also get my teeth whitened and my eyebrows tattooed on my face while sat in my Italian leather armchair, watching my robotic vacuum zoom around doing all the work.

If I was feeling really daring, I could turn my life around completely in just one day. But you know, I’m not that brave (or have that kind of cash to splash around).

In the meantime, I’ll keep looking forward to those emails, tempting me into a deal or two.

Although that robotic vacuum might be worth a go…

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Categories: Shopping | Internet

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