Paula Davies on the present problem
W ALKING round a toy shop the other day I was staggered by the fantastic selection of toys and equally shattered by the prices.
A dolls' house for our fiveyear-old was the object of my visit. I left without one, for the standard of design was dull and the prices prohibitive for such tedious-looking buildings. The only one I liked cost nearly £7 so, until I can find someone to make us a dolls' house, I'm settling for the "instant" version, a brightlycoloured cardboard house, selling at 23s. 6d. in branches of Boots and W. H. Smith.
The other customers in the shop, however, might just as well have been buying a loaf of bread for all the surprise they showed at the cost of the toys they were buying. One man, a very fond father, no doubt, was trying to make up his mind between a walkingtalking doll at £8 12s, and a walking-only doll at not much less.
Since I can't bring myself to spend a fortune on a toy that will be broken or a bore within weeks if not days, and in the interest of those who become positively Scrooge-like at the thought of Christmas, here are some ways of fighting the financial battle of presentgiving at Christmas.
So far as your own children are concerned Christmas may be the time when you buy them an expensive, longed-for present or it may be the time for a nominal gift so that you can save up your shekels for a birthday bonanza. So far as other children are concerned, you have a problem.
The first essential is to come to an agreement with parents. whether they be brothers, sisters, parents of your godchildren or what, that none of you will buy expensive presents for the others' children. It may even be possible to cut some presents out altogether.
My youngest brother worked out that if he and his wife bought a present for all the close relations in the family the grand total would be £25.
If you can't get away with cutting them out altogether then inexpensive presents must mean genuinely cheap ones. These can be well worth buying, provided you don't touch a cheap plastic car, doll, train or animal for good value in plastic invariably means expense.
A few shillings, however, will buy a painting or tracing book, a roll of sugar paper and crayons, a cut-out doll with clothes, a jigsaw. One of the best presents to be bought this Christmas is a 5s. book containing the pieces for making up an excavator, a tower crane or a gravel. tip loader.
Made of stiff card the models won't last long, but they work and will give a tremendous amount of pleasure to children as well as keeping them occupied for hours. These are available at most toyshops and branches of W. H. Smith.
One of the most acceptable presents for children is an addition to a set they already possess. If little Johnny has "Lego" then you can buy him some more pieces. If Emma Jane is the proud possessor of a small doll which can be dressed you can buy the doll a new outfit at no great expense.
Presents for adults pose more difficult problems unless you have an unwritten law about not spending more than lOs to f I on each other or even less. Asking the family what they want.often seems a good idea until it boomerangs. One of my family requested a pair of sheets for Christmas. I presumed she was joking. Pillowcases is about my limit unless she cares to wait for her Christmas present until the January sales. My husband wants a book on the Alvis motor car. That sounded delightfully inexpensive until I discovered that it was a glossy version at an equally glossy price.
My mother is the easiest customer for Christmas presents,. "Stockings and cigarettes, dear," is her perennial comment. The problem here is the sheer boredom for the present-giver which is not entirely mitigated by the pleased expression on the aged parent's face on Christmas day as she sits surrounded by mountains of cigarettes and rivers of stockings.
If the family don't know what they want, won't tell you what they want or have tastes too expensive for your pocket then a good bazaar makes a splendid hunting-ground even if the gift ends up at yet another bazaar. Five members of my family don't know it but they will be reaping the rewards of my visit to the school bazaar.
Although worse than a rugger scrum it was well worth the effort to buy some attractive presents at less than half the shop prices. Equally pleasing is the thought that the money spent goes to a worthier cause than swelling the profits of some large store.