Christmas gifts 10: presents for under £20

OK, last post of the year – no, really – and I’ve been looking at cheaper Christmas gifts. It’s all very well smug gits like me pointing to jeans for £120 please, and oh yes I’ll have one of those £85 Fat Face jackets – but what if you were looking for a stocking filler for a bloke and had a fiver to spare?

If that were the case I’d suggest the Radox for Men gift set. Lime and ginger shower scrub, lemon and tea tree gel/shampoo. Of course it’s not the finest scent on the market or designed to match a particular fragrance – it’s a fiver for goodness’ sake – but it’s pleasant enough, does the job, includes a face cloth and if mum buys it on behalf of sprog who wants to get daddy something nice everybody should be happy.

Moving a little upmarket, fancy a reminder that it’s sometimes our turn in the kitchen? Sorry, slipped back to the seventies for a moment there – but many blokes love cooking. Have a look at some of the accessories at The Pampered Chef including this rather nice barbecue mitt – other mitts are of course available. There’s also a rather nice lemon zester/peeler, and you’d get change from £15 for both of them.

Cooks are also spoiled for choice when it comes to cookery books. To continue the 1970s cliche-fest a little longer, blokes love curries (well this one does) and you’re almost always better off making your own as you know what’s in it and can use sensible amounts of ghee and salt. “Food of the Grand Trunk Road” is a book based on the TV series with Hardeep Singh Kohli, written in conjunction with restranteur Anirudh Arora and is less predictable than the latest Jamie Oliver (that said, I always get good results from Mr. Oliver’s books – but this time of year they can look a lot as though you’ve just grabbed the nearest best seller). If you’re into your spices, try the Harissa sauce from Olives et al – another nice filler and it’s a princely four quid. If you’re not then the pickled onions from Garner’s come in a nicely decorative jar this year

There’s other fun stuff around. Scented phone cases from Jelly Belly for £17.99 from Carphone Warehouse, for example. I can’t think of a reason I’d want my phone to smell like chewing gum but I bet someone will get these from their kids. If I do, I’ll be somewhat bemused. Equally there are some fun gimmicks in Boots but do have a think; if I get given the Wallace and Gromit cufflinks they’re selling for £8 I will of course have a silly grin on my face for hours. I’ll put them on once and then they’ll stay in the box with the Dalek cufflinks I was given three years ago (the rule with novelty cufflinks is that you wear them once to appease the giver, realise they’re really not going to go down well in meetings and abandon them immediately afterwards).

QVC tends to be thought of as a TV sales channel but the website is full of stuff you might just get in time for Christmas if you order quickly. The gumball travel speaker looks quite fun and there’s a nice key chain with an LCD photo display on it, both around the £15 mark. More interesting to me and still with a  vaguely tecchy angle is a range of crime e-Books from Blasted Heath; small publisher, encourages new authors (always a welcome sign) and sells a USB stick with five novels on it for £12.99.

Yesterday I wrote about the prospects of s dry Christmas, alcohol free. This is still an interesting idea and worth it from health reasons and all sorts of other stuff (although healthy drinking shouldn’t be just for Christmas) but for me a good festive ale is going to be welcome after all that driving on Christmas Day. Innis & Gunn is from Edinburgh like my late father so gets an automatic vote of confidence; the fact that its limited edition Highland Cask (7.1%, handle with care) tastes fruity and oaky and comes in a nice box makes it an excellent top-up pressie for anyone with £2.50 to spare.

Your bloke not a beer drinker? A nice bottle of wine might go down well. I tend to enjoy sharing wine more than being given a bottle but there’s some good stuff on offer; Wine Rack will sell you a very nice Septima Malbec from Argentina which is on the softer side of fruity with slight woody overtones – don’t have it with the Christmas meal, it’ll be overpowered by all that heaviness, but if like me you’ll have resorted to snacking on leftovers by Tuesday it’s an ideal accompaniment. Majestic is doing a good Vina Pomal which is a bit more in your face – I liked this one very much, with more strident flavouring. If you’re into turkey curries it would stand up well. Actually just with a cheese board it would stand up pretty damned well. If you’re into rum punches for New Year’s celebrations you could do worse than to look at a 35cl bottle of Captain Morgan’s spiced rum (pictured); I wouldn’t think of spiced anything at any other time of year (my idea of spoiling a good wine is by mulling the blasted stuff) but on this occasion it works well in a number of cocktails, with the rum taking on vanilla and cassis flavours. Try it in a hot rum punch. It’s good that the smaller bottles are available and I’d like to see more spirits around in this form – personally I like to try different whiskies but buying 70cl bottles means it takes me months, sometimes a year, to get through a single bottle (and I have no intention of accelerating that).

That’s a few thoughts to be getting on with anyway and the end of any Christmas guides you’re going to get from LifeOver35. Have a great break, this blog will be back in 2012!

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