I have to admit, even in my youth, when the Argos book could be picked up by a child in one hand and not with the aid of machinery, I loved these 'guides'. They proved good to flick through and have always been good, mindless browsing.
But as I have got older, I question more (is this wisdom???). This year in particular I have been quite disgusted at the tat and crap that is being peddled through these bibles of the Christmas list. Plastic, throwaway, cheap and nasty, or massive, indulgent, unnecessary and vulgar it's all been there, and I have struggled to look at one without putting it down with a nasty taste in my mouth.
So, it was with horror I discovered the Observer magazine on 7 Dec had dedicated 36 PAGES to their 'essential...guide to the Christmas presents even Santa would be thrilled with'. hmmm. We'll see...
I am glad to say I was (mostly) surprised, shocked and gladdened by the selection.
Chosen by a panel of resident contributors to the Observer, the guide was split into sections, with each bit selected by a suitable expert, so Nigel Slater kicked off with his page for cooks. C'mon Nigel - don't let us down...
It was great - no crappy gadgets, minimal plastic and everything I would gladly receive as a pressie. Carol Klein's book 'Cook your Own Veg' was there, along with 'Forgotten Fruits' by Christopher Stocks, Le Creuset pans (all mine are ancient - great investments), linen tea towels and wooden spoons. Well done Nigel.
Next up was Dan Pearson with his selection for gardeners. Again - a sterling effort - proper timber seed trays, a proper timber trug, wind up torch, recycled strawboard and felt stool (I really loved this) and Japanese 'toe wellies'. Great. No tat, sensible, useful and some good eco stuff. Well done Dan.
And so it continued - for kids by Mariella Frostrup (some plastic, but not much - and some very good creative solutions), for ethical shoppers (surely this should be all of us?) by Lucy Siegle - all good, etc etc. Not all sections would have been my perfect selection, but most of it came damn close.
The point is, this is the first guide I have read this year that had good, ethical, organic, recycled, and innovative solutions to the gift buying problem. And in all sections. Not just the 'green section' which is shoe horned into most guides.
So - well done the Observer - hopefully others will take your lead next year and we'll all have something useful to flick over with a cuppa.