Chris Van Schaick on gift buying dilemma’s

Chris van Schaick

Chris van Schaick - Credit: Archant

Our man in the Meon Valley, Hampshire Life’s sparkling new columnist, Chris Van Schaick, is grappling with the perils of present buying.

What to get as a present for the ladette in your life? As Christmas looms, it’s always a problem for me because, by the standards of the Meon Valley, Mrs. v. S. is something of a ladette.

A rock chick of a certain age; she’d never wear a skirt if there were a pair of Levi’s available. She’d always choose a pickled onion over an olive; she knows the football results - a bit more Suzi Quatro than Katherine Jenkins.

But that can present a gift-buying dilemma. Hermes scarf? I don’t think so. Pearls? Nah. Jam thermometer as a stocking filler? Do me a favour.

Then, a couple of years ago, I got some inspiration. What about a ladette experience? My internet research was of the most blokishly last-minute kind. But it yielded up the very thing; a chance to drive a high performance car round Lord March’s rather extensive rear patio at Goodwood! Perfect. The presentation box went down really well on Christmas morning. Job was a good ‘un.

But then, by Boxing Day, an unexpected reaction - she bottled it. Frit. Nervous. Didn’t want to do it.

We passed the voucher to my mate Jeff. When he reported back, it became clear how unnecessary the bottling had been. You didn’t need to be Lewis Hamilton. You didn’t even have to drive. Jeff had seen a very old man - maybe 90 – tenderly lifted by two burly helpers into the very same red Ferrari that had been earmarked for Mrs. v. S. Old man was taken for his spins round the course at 30 mph.

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When we were all together in the Bakers Arms that weekend, Mrs. v.S. included, we laughed at her about it. Mercilessly, I think it’s fair to say.

But it does point up the perils of the gift experience voucher. Have you ever suffered?

But until I first became a recipient, I didn’t realise how debilitating it can be. Some friends thoughtfully sent me and the ladette vouchers for the National Theatre.

How lovely, we thought. Until we tried to co-ordinate a day when we could both be in London, with somebody to mind the cocker spaniel on a date when the National was doing something we actually wanted to see. It took months of rather grumpy faffing to get that sorted.

Yes, I know I sound ungrateful. And I know the Southern Federation of Gift Experience Providers will be in touch to tell me how much happiness said gift experiences bring to the people of Hampshire.

In fact, their impending call has reminded me. We did have one that worked beautifully; tickets for dinner in the hall at Hinton Ampner – the National Trust’s bijou pile-ette near Cheriton. Mrs v. S. shed the Chrissie Hynde look for a night, and slipped into a long dress. We shared a lovely candlelit evening with a select band of other happy voucher recipients.

So, if a gift experience wings its way to you this Christmas will you be pleased? Or will it be consigned to the present drawer until December 2014?