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All present and incorrect

The Yuletide season brings with it a plethora of joys but, let's be honest, it also comes with a light smattering of irritants which it can be taboo even to mention

Peter Edgerton
PETER EDGERTON

Not many sleeps to go now until the most important festivities of the year. But that's enough about my birthday, it'll be Christmas soon as well.

The Yuletide season brings with it a plethora of joys but, let's be honest, it also comes with a light smattering of irritants which it can be taboo even to mention e.g. uncle Dave and his pungent cigars, vegan family members with a list of dietary demands longer than uncle Dave's face when you stub out his cigar and those difficult-to-buy-for relatives i.e. everybody. Not to worry, at least we can look at the last of these categories and identify some dos and don'ts. Let's take the family members one by one.

First, dad. For him, anything that's a child's toy masquerading as an adult pastime or hobby will do e.g., snooker cues, harmonicas, fishing rods, vintage football shirts or, ideally, a yard of ale. Also, bear him in mind when you get something for your eight-year-old because dad will be playing with whatever it is far more than the child, just 'trying it out'. Don't get him anything that smells of anything unless it's creosote. See, this is easy. Next comes mum. Not quite so easy. Do not, on any account, buy anything related to household chores. If you've just cooked a meal for sixteen people plus two belligerent vegans, the last present on earth you want open shortly afterwards is a silicon bread maker or a rotator pro lift-away vacuum cleaner (yes, there really is such a thing). Do buy your mum something to do with pampering. You know, like a luxury spa gift voucher or two slices of cucumber or something.

Now, what about teenage boys? Crumbs, there's a minefield right there. Anything with a screen on it is ideal but that's going to be quite expensive. You could get him a walnut, a tangerine and a football annual and explain that that's what you used to get every year and he doesn't know he's born, etc. You could also want to make it through to boxing day in one piece. Oh, I don't know, buy him some headphones or something. He's already got too much stuff anyway. Ah, and a walnut.

Next, teenage girls. Oh, Lordy Lordy. Sorry, absolutely no idea. Ask mum.

Well, it looks like I thought I knew a bit more about this gift-buying lark than I actually do but at least we're all in it together, to coin a phrase. So, when, you're out trawling around the department stores or - in the case of anyone under sixty - wearily clicking your mouse in an attempt to please all concerned, just remember that everyone else is having just as hard a time as you are.

Next week, hot tips on buying birthday presents for middle-aged men. I don't know what made me think of it.