…. or boyfriend, or wife, or girlfriend or partner. It’s that time of year again! My letter to your other half, whomsoever that may be, about what TF to get you for Christmas so that you do not end up with a set of knives, a pair of floral-patterned gardening gloves, (despite regularly claiming that you’re not interested in gardening, in fact you hate gardening, you are allergic to gardening … and all they heard was “gardening”), and a lacy thong not even in your size. Of course, you might hate all these suggestions and think I am a weird, bourgeoise snob in which case you can quietly delete this email and we’ll pretend it never happened.
I’m doing this early this year because I don’t know, I get the sense that people are starting on Christmas now. I may be wrong about this, as I am about so much. Anyway, let’s get started.
Olverum bath oil
I have recommended this for a few years now – it’s like very expensive Badedas, a eucalyptus-y ointment that you add a tiny drop to any bath for a really excellent effect. One bottle will last a year, easy. I have bought Giles one of these every year. For a straight man he is surprisingly keen on bath things that smell nice, in a very modern way that we used to call “metrosexual”.
A fragrance discovery set
These are really fun and increasingly more brands are into the idea of selling a selection of 5ml bottles of their bestselling scents rather than expecting people who shell out £100+ on one large bottle which will probably go off before you can get to the end of it
An appointment with a great dermatologist or facialist
It’s getting the appointment that’s the faff, so do that please, and also cough up for the consultation fee. The greats are Dr Sam Bunting (020 3475 4773), Dr Anita Sturnham (020 3971 9031)and Sarah Chapman (020 7589 9585). Hit the phones.
Wireless, in-ear headphones are life-changing for listening to podcasts while you’re doing the washing up or making handsfree calls. I have got one set from Huawei, which were a gift and one set of AirPods. Both amazing and I’ve managed not to lose either yet.
Ralph Lauren sweatshirt in navy
Okay you’re all going to laugh at me, but I think Ralph Lauren is about to have a massive renaissance. As far as I’m concerned, a men’s navy RL sweatshirt is one of the hardest-working things in anyone’s wardrobe. Must be from the men’s section for full preppy points. I am a size 10-12 and I take a men’s size M.
Did Ye Hear Mammy Died by Séamas O’Reilly
This is getting on for being my book of the year. It’s a very moving memoir, which is also funnier than anything I have read for a long time. As the title suggests, it’s about the death of author’s mother when he was five. It is also about growing up with ten brothers and sisters on the North/South Ireland border in the 90s and just how the hell his Dad coped with eleven children alone. Usually books about death, grief and sad children are anathema to me. The very real possibility that some form of cancer will take me away from my children is ever crouched at the back of my mind and I really don’t want to read about the actuality of it. But this is irresistible. For O’Reilly’s series of cruel jokes about Irish fruitcake alone I would be willing to also absorb the fundamental tragedy of maternal loss. But there is so much more than fruitcake jokes here, it is a swirling epic of funny and sad, all handled with the deftness of a Riverdance chorus line. I am recommending this rather than other more famous recent books, as it is one of those small masterpieces that has flown slightly under the radar. Without this recommendation you might easily miss it among other more heavily publicised yet massively inferior books. I do hope he writes more.
Eve Lom Kissmix
Stupidly expensive for a lip balm, but it’s the best and, listen – it’s Christmas. Available from John Lewis.
Or maybe even two pairs? Brora or White Company have got you covered.
A Bandolier phone-bag case whatsit
Actual handbags feel increasingly to me like they are going the way of high heels and push-up bras. The closer I get to the masculine freedoms of flat shoes, no underwire and leaving the house with only the things I can carry in my pockets, the closer I feel to true equality. Quite often – not always, but quite often – all you really do need when you leave the house is your phone. (I keep my house keys in one of those metal security boxes screwed to the side of the house.) These Bandolier cases give you hands-free attachment to your phone, make it much less easy to snatch by a passing scallywag on a Tier scooter. It also has a pocket in the back for a bank card. They take a while to ship, so don’t delay.
This Works Deep Sleep Pillow Spray
I know, I recommend this all the time, but it’s great stuff. I’d love to wholeheartedly recommend a box of Spacemasks as they are really so genuis-ly, almost erotically good, but they also look to me like single-use, unrecyclable nightmares.
Cult Beauty gift card
I would be delighted to get one of these then you can shop for colours, lotions and potions at your leisure.
If you’re in the market for something very, very expensive, but don’t know where to start, consider Foundrae, which is extremely fashionable and insanely pricey.
Otherwise Brooke Gregson is a classic choice.
Back to financial reality, friend of The Spike Margot & Mila has a range of beautiful and unusual jewellery, hand-made in the UK.
I think Jigsaw make the best pyjamas. I know, this is weirdly specific, but if we’re talking about the precise perfect point where quality meets value, these are it. Pyjama bottoms must always be long – I know a shorts set looks nice online but unless you are a pants-with-pyjamas person, you will flash everyone your twinkle (or, possibly just as bad, your pants) at breakfast.
And you? How are you feeling about Christmas this year?
Brilliant list. Thank you!
Ciara Petty says
Couldn’t agree more regarding Airpods, they have changed my life. Best birthday present ever, thanks to my husband!
Thanks Esther, great suggestions. I’m already a fan of the Jigsaw pjs and Eve Lom lip balm but would like everything on the list; not least a fat facial!! Am also going to ask for a Drowsy Face mask from drowsy sleep company as have heard they are fab.
Tom B says
Huge thanks! That is all!
OUTRAGED you have recommended Jigsaw pyjamas. They are the best. But now everyone else will know!
I know. I did briefly hesitate
Lovely suggestions. I am obsessed with pyjamas and like the look of the Jigsaw ones. I am looking for the perfect black dress to wear over Christmas if anyone has found it please share! Many thanks xxx
I have a Bandolier phone case and I LOVE it.
I definitely get the Ralph Lauren thing. Have been thinking for a while of Kristin Holby as style inspiration, especially in Trading Places.
I’ve nearly finished my Christmas shopping, except I keep getting the twitch as regards my children, deciding one has more than the other so buying something else, then that one has more so the other one needs something else etc etc. Like cutting your own fringe and trying to even out the sides until you’ve cut the whole thing off.
Thank you Esther your list is always welcome. The Olverum bath oil is indeed gorgeous and makes the whole house smell wonderful and I’ve just ordered some more and you get a free body oil Just a thought could you do a what to get for a man for Xmas?
I don’t know anything about men, least of all what they want for Christmas 🙁 I’m glad you got a free body oil!! Result !
My husband always likes cashmere sweaters, anythng in Bay Rum from Trumpers (smells like Christmas in the best way), socks from Cordings – ignore TimTimNiceButDim on the website, go for plain wool or cotton in jazzy colours, no novely motifs thank you – shortbread Scotties, strange foreign toothpaste from TKMaxx, festive novelty crumpets and the very very boozy Polish chocolate cherries you can buy in some Sainsburys. Also recommended are Polish advocaat-filled chocolate bars. In fact, Poles seem to do a good line all round in alcoholic chocolates, for which I cannot thank them enough.
There’s also usually something boring that he hasn’t got/won’t get round to replacing like wellies or ipad cover etc which I will just buy and wrap which will delight him because he doesn’t have to do it and please me because I was going to end up doing it anyway and that’s one present I didn’t have to think hard about! Hope that helps.
PS husband is 48 going on 78 which is pretty restful actually. Esther, I too feel like I live with someone from a Victorian novel, though mine doesn’t have gout as far as I know …
Emma Dawson says
Mein gott, Esther – will you be MY husband/boyfriend/whatevs?
YES! I’d be such an amazing husband
Damn you for posting this Esther. I have gone with at least 3 of your suggestions and then gone even further down the rabbit warren of SpaceNK. ALL FOR ME!!! Thank – you some excellent suggestions.
Seconding the sweatshirt. My washing-machine is currently overheating on a wool wash so I bought a grey John Lewis sweatshirt as a cheaper alternative to servicing a Miele, and now wonder why I haven’t been wearing sweatshirts for the last decade. I can imagine RL a massive improvement on JL. Thank you.
The sweatshirt is the miracle item
Olive green knee high boots from Grensons. They look like posh wellies and I am obsessed. They probably won’t fit, (healthy calves) and cost £470.00, but Christmas and birthday money…………..I will give in.
I think if you are going to see out a Scottish winter you probably ought to have whatever you want
Bandolier is just THE BEST THING EVER. Always use mine in summer when I’m pocketless and need my hands free for horses. Jessimara stock them in the UK & are v quick to send. And exchange when the wrong size is ordered 🤦🏼♀️ Terrific list, as always Esther x
I need both hands for when I’m being dragged in/out of a field!
I’m always really envious of people who hang out with horses even though I am scared of horses and feeble with my hands
Oh this is great! Thank you so much, absolutely love a new book recommendation in particular. I don’t suppose you’d consider writing a piece on how you managed to scale down your Instagram use so dramatically would you? I suspect there are a LOT of us out here who would love to read that…,
I have written about this in Stella! But the elevator pitch goes… First, I understood how shitty it made me feel. Second: I put a 15 minute screen time limit on the app and I stick to it. Easy!
Sarah L says
Love these ideas! Jigsaw PJs added to basket immediately, have been looking for nice pyjamas forever. Really looking for a nice backpack too that will store nappies and broken bits of rice cake but from the outside looks chic and put together? And why is everyone so organised about Christmas this year? One of my closest friends messaged me to say she’d wrapped (!) everything by the 12th of November…which gave me slight anxiety as I haven’t started even buying anything yet. But I’m a pescatarian so at least no anxiety around the turkeys running out.
I did actually once get flowery gardening gloves 🙁
All I want this year is a Dyson hairdryer which is pretty easy to get to if I don’t I’m going to be mega cross. Last year I got some stacking rings from Daniella Draper which I’d seen on Kate M and I really love them https://danielladraper.com/silver-stack-ring
The important thing is to be direct about this sort of thing as it sounds like you’re being. Husbands are not mind readers
He’s absolutely terrible but honest about it and I just give him a long list and he chooses something off it. Having teenage daughters has improved things enormously though as you can imagine. I did also rather fancy a Sophie Robinson online interior design course so that’s gone on the long list too…..
You know what you want and that is 90% of the battle of LIFE
Also I have got a Dyson hairdryer and it’s VG
Angela Thomas says
Yes to all and huge thanks for the reminder to read Did Ye Hear which should fill my next 10 days of covid isolation nicely. Have you read the Twitter thread about the time he met the President while off his face on ketamine? Gold. Absolute gold.
Do you have a recommendation for a good mirror, maybe with a light, for the dressing table? I have a feeling I saw a recommendation for one that looked really good but I can’t find it anywhere so maybe it was a dream…
I love my Simple Human mirror, battery charged, enough magnification to see that you’ve got everything blended well without being terrifying, looks nice.
Thanks for this Kate – yes this is a really good one. I have this too and it’s fab for close-up work on your eyes etc. I love that it’s rechargeable just with a normal Kindle charging cable
You influenced me previously to get the Olverum bath oil and it is truly lovely. And after a year, there is still loads left – Giles must bath a LOT…
He sploshes too much in…. you only need a spritz but he goes for a longer pour
Thanks as ever Esther. Christmas – it’s just like another job (and I have my daughter’s birthday on the 6th). Sigh. So this I love because it makes me stop and think about myself for ten seconds. I took one of reader’s recs and bought The Paper Palace – which I enjoyed but got a teensy bit frustrated at the ending… So now have asked for the Mammy book (I hail from NI) and space masks… My tips for Xmas are 1. eat out 2. Flying Tiger has everything for stocking fillers 3. Every woman will love an Ugg glove (and no matter how many times I mention – husband hasn’t picked up on it…) 4. If in doubt a Terry’s Orange cures all ills and 5. Always ask for a book (and bourbon) so you can avoid family and read it on Xmas Day, sipping an Old fashioned, but still look grateful for your gifts.
Do I sound a bit grinchy? Apologies – this lurgy cold thing (not covid) has me in it’s grip and won’t let go. My new rule for gifts is to try and buy experiences – rather than ‘things.’ Theatre tickets/high teas http://www.buyagift.co.uk / vouchers for Fischers https://fischers.giftpro.co.uk – although can imagine Giles wouldn’t fancy such a busman’s holiday…
Men? Black Bush whiskey, cook books – though none by Jamie Oliver – anything from Aspinall or failing all a cushion with your face on it?https://firebox.com/products/two-faced-mushion-personalised-cushion
Crummy thank you, you always give back in the comments and at a time when I am struggling for content I’m grateful x
Hi Esther – thanks for this, useful as ever. Do you have any woollen wear recommendations this year – a cosy jumper or top? I fear the sweatshirt might not be seen as luxe enough – and will get stolen by my 17yr old daughter anyway…