All I Want For Christmas

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat… or the mung bean sprout if you are of the vegan persuasion.  It may only just be December but you know that now is a good time to sort out those present dilemmas. Make decisions, get it ordered, delivered, wrapped and ready and then on that last shopping day you can sit back with the eggnog feeling smug whilst all around you panic and stress and end up throwing money at the problem.

'Christmas presents in great variety' COPY 1/184 (1901)

'Christmas presents in great variety' COPY 1/184 (1901)

We retailers love Christmas Eve you know, it is our opportunity to rake it in and to finally shift that unloved item, the one the dishy publisher’s rep talked you into stocking, which has languished in a dark corner ever since it arrived (who would have thought no-one wants to buy elf gaiters ?). But times are tight and although it is the season of goodwill to all you don’t have to make my day by buying the gaiters when you could get something better and cheaper by planning ahead.

To return to my point you need to do that Christmas shopping now. Like me you probably say this to yourself every year and like me every year you head out into those tinsel strewn shops with a list of the people you need to buy for Mum, Dad, Gran, the odd aunt you only ever see at Christmas, friends, family, the cat, the cleaner (ok, I only put the cleaner in so I could buy something for myself). You gird your loins, pick up the November pay cheque and go out shopping. You come back disillusioned, you have something for mum maybe, but now you are not sure if it is right, a pair of impossibly high heels and a sparkly dress for the Christmas party which you couldn’t really afford, sore feet, a slight headache, a craving for a glass of Chardonnay and the firm decision not to do that again in a hurry. But dwell in the dappled uplands of the vale of illusion with me for a moment. Imagine you do it all now, imagine you do it all online, imagine you have an online personal shopper to help… I am not asking you to forsake the high street but just go there to find twinkly sparkly little treats for yourself (you can always find those when you are looking for things for someone else) that you will be able to pay for from the money saved by careful present shopping.

This year we thought we’d help you with the hard part, deciding what to get people. Visit our bookshop home page and see what different people at the Archives want for Christmas. Come join us online on Thursday 5 December between 5 and 6.30pm or Friday 6 December lunchtime from 1-2.30pm. You bring your list and we’ll bring fresh ideas and some inspiration. Now I don’t want to oversell this – we are rather one trick ponies here in the bookshop – so obviously we are talking books and book related gifts but then books make fabulous presents. There is something slightly flattering about giving someone a book as you clearly consider them bright enough to be able to read (well my brother excepted, obviously for him the books have to have pictures). A well-chosen book shows you have thought about the person, their tastes and interests and,  in the interests of saving you time for that de-stressing eggnog,  books are supremely easy to wrap (don’t knock it, remember that time it was midnight on Christmas Eve and you were in tears trying to wrap the feathered pogo stick). They come at prices to fit everyone’s budget and can be serious or humorous, practical or quirky, romantic even (no, not that one, I’m thinking classy leather-bound editions of Byron or Christina Rossetti).

So the plan is you log-on, come to the blog (or you can be on our Facebook page or tweet in), tell us a little bit about the person you want to buy for and we will make some suggestions. For example: Jane, keen gardener, wicked sense of humour. How about Hedge Britannia? A quirky history of the British obsession with hedges, full of weird anecdotes and I-didn’t know-that facts or the Shire book on the history of Garden Gnomes (maybe with a small gnome figurine) either less than a tenner. Or Uncle James, he who talked all the way through The White Queen pointing out the inaccuracies. He would love Chris Skidmore’s latest book Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors, a great work on the battle that did for Richard III. Or Dominic: devours crime and espionage novels and fancies himself as a latter day Smiley. How about Dan Fesperman’s Double Game? An intriguing novel about a man trying to tease out the truth from a series of clues left in classic spy novels. And I’m saving Fancy Cycling for my brother the triathlete because he needs to know that after 50 if you need special clothes for cycling, a boater and blazer is more flattering than ‘day-glo’ lycra.

 Come, join us, bring your list. It will be fun. I can’t promise mince pies, unfortunately,  there are limits to the virtual world (a fact some people would be well advised to take on board) but we will try to help. Give us that really tricky one you can never get right. We will consider it a challenge. Talk soon.



  1. Greenstone says:

    Ooooh, I’ve been waiting for inspiration – pen portaits of reciepients being penned (typed) now

  2. Greenstone says:

    What would you suggest for A librarian who combines a love of World War I history with a passion for triathlons ? (we’ve already done all the sports kit one man can use !)

    1. Sally says:

      Is it just triathlons or sports generally ? If the later then we have The Final Whistle which is a really moving account of fifteen men from the same London Rugby Club who fought and died in the Great War
      or if the round ball is preferred then there is When The Whistle Blows which uses letters and diaries to tell the stories of men from the 17th Battalion Middlesex Regiment known as the footballers battalion.
      And finally for completely off the wall we have Surfing Tommies which is a bizarre little play (script) about how surfing came to Cornwall via the Western Front.
      I hope this gives you something to think about.

  3. Greenstone says:

    I hadnt thought of Rugby, and yes that would probably suit him – thanks for the recommendation.

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