Christmas Gift Guide (of Sorts) 2020

Another year (no, really, it actually has been a whole year), another gift guide. This gift guide has always aimed to include a decent number of indies, but I have tried to make sure that’s where the majority of suggestions come from this year. There’s normally a charitable suggestion, too, and I haven’t done that this year – please pick your local cause that needs the help the most, because this year they really will need it. Oh, and Merry Christmas.

  1. Read to me babygro, £11.95

Almost a reason to have a baby, the cuteness of this. Available in three different colours, and three different age ranges. Best paired with a book.

2. I’ll always be a European print, £35

At least Rebecca Strickson’s art is cheerful, even if Brexit really, really isn’t. 20% of all profits go to The Trussel Trust because, as Rebecca says, ‘Guess what? They’re probably gonna need it.’

3. Yeti decoration, £10

My heart.

4. How to eat cock, £9.99

I don’t need this book, because I’m already good at … cooking chicken.

5. Kinky embroidery, £20-£40

Not only is Rosie, who makes these, a wonderful person to follow on Twitter, her work is gorgeous. Prices range from £20-£40 depending on size and complexity and Rosie is happy to discuss custom pieces.

6. Callie drop hoop earrings, £30

At the time of writing, these pretty silver-plated hoop earrings are only £21.

7. Vegan sausage roll pin, £6.95

There’s always a lot of food of one form or another in these gift guides, isn’t there?

8. This is fine dog, $25

He comes without his fire, but hopefully in 2021 he won’t need it. Either way, I love him.

9. Fuck, I love cheese tea towel, £12

I told you there was a lot to do with food…

10. Vulcan mug, £28

Are handmade ceramics expensive? Yes. Are they tactile as fuck and therefore worth what you pay for them? Yes. Plus, you’re going to be drinking your morning latte at home for a while yet…

11. Enamel mustard yellow jug, £38

Something cheery for their flowers.

12. Good boys not fuck boys print, £15

Word.

13. Hippos go berserk, £5.99

These hippos break literally every Covid rule going while going berserk. Good job they’re cute.

14. Petit bateau knickers, £34.30

Anyone know what it says on the bottom pair?

15. A Winter’s tale, £38

It’s not that clear from the picture, but there are little fairy lights in the houses. I think this would look super cute on a windowsill. A good one for your grandma, perhaps.

16. The Fixed Stars, £14.37

Molly Wizenberg used to write one of the best food blogs on the internet, and has written two previous memoirs. This one explores the breakdown of her marriage and the realisation that she wants to date women, all rendered in stunning prose.

17. Ultimate Fenty Beauty Hamper, £175

Ok, it’s madly pricey. But can you imagine opening this on Christmas Day?

18. Taco truck and donut van, $15.95

For reasons I can’t quite explain, I have become completely obsessed with these during lockdown. I want them all. Brits can get a smaller range of them from here.

19. Paint by sticker, £9.41

Because everyone needs some mindless creative fun.

20. Sod sprouts ‘meat’ card, £10

What do you get your friend who’d rather be having an affair with their local butcher? Er, this?

21. Paper coral princess plant, £60

A good option for your friend who loves things that are green, but also kills things that are green.

22. Christmas chocolate collection, £23

Oh god, more food. Aren’t they pretty though?

23. Attention Chenin Mechant, £21

I love a wine with a good label and this one, which is designed to mimic French ‘Careful nasty dog’ signs, ticks all the boxes for me.

24. Clementine and clove soy candle, £9

It feels a long time ago now, but I bought some of these as stocking fillers at a Christmas market last year. They smell super Christmassy, and they have beautiful packaging.

25. Digital nude commission gift voucher, £35

Personally, I’d love to buy this for a friend who didn’t realise just how gorgeous she actually is.

26. All I Want For Christmas Is You Tree Decoration, £16

Because everyone loves a bit of Mariah, don’t they?

27. Hollywood frame, £32

An extremely delicate and pretty frame – and, around Black Friday, you can get 25% off the price above.

28. Super Happy Christmas Window Decoration Set, £18

Yes, these are garish af. No, they’re not in particularly good taste. But nothing this year has made me as happy as that sprout’s face. Quite fond of the trifle, too. Last orders for these are December 4th.

29. Tom Ford Private Blend Lost Cherry Eau de Parfum, £189.24

Sure, the name of this is ridiculous. And it smells like bakewell tart. But in a good way, trust me on this. Shame I can never justify anything other than a quick squirt when I’m walking through John Lewis.

30. Simple rustic computer desk, £135

Honestly, if the person you love is going to be working from home until Spring, is there any kinder gift you could buy them than a handmade desk?

31. Our tiny bees bath melt, £5.95

This one looks like food, but isn’t food. Promise.

32. A notebook for bad ideas, £15

Because maybe it’s easier to write the damn idea if you pretend it’s shit. Maybe?

Guest post by @WolfishBadger

The lovely @WolfishBadger took up the challenge to write a 300 word story based on one of the images in this tweet and he very much came up with the goods. As he doesn’t (yet!) have a blog of his own, you can read the story here:

He bought it as a joke. Something he thought she’d roll her eyes at. But ever since he bought that…thing into the house it’s like she’s obsessed. Sex used to be, well…fine. Ok. A release but nothing more than that. Now she’s dragging him from the bedroom to fuck like teenagers in their living room, always facing the massive, ugly ornament, ‘Tears of a Clown’.

The first time, he thought it was funny. She’d marched him to the sofa, facing the bay windows and yanking at his jeans, commanded him to fuck her there and then. He’d assumed she was feeling daring, half wanting the neighbours to see. She faced away and straddled his thighs and as she eased her (unusually soaking) cunt down on him he noticed that her eyes were fixed on the statue. Her jaw was clenched as if she was focusing on the monstrosity, like it was controlling her hips slamming down onto him and making him yelp. When he came in her she snapped out of her trance and strode away to the shower.

Every time they fucked it was the same. Sometimes he’d fuck her while her head dangled over the end of the table, sometimes from behind on the rug, but always with the same intense stare at the statue and the low, guttural moans as she clenched his cock inside her. He’d never made her come til now.

He passed it off as a phase, impressed at his own improving performance. Bragging to his friends how his girlfriend was now insatiable, never knowing in her head she was picturing the clown as him. Weeping and not daring to look as she was fucked by someone better. Someone bigger. Someone rougher.

Someone who wouldn’t have brought that fucking ridiculous thing in the house.

Zoo

‘This fucking house is like a fucking zoo,’ she tells him, on what feels like the 900th day of the summer holidays, as she hoovers up cornflakes from under the sofa.

‘Less than a week to go,’ he tells her, ‘we’ve got this.’

She feels bad that the start of the school term can’t come round soon enough. She loves her kids, really.

‘If this house was actually a zoo,’ he says. ‘What animal would you be?’

She barely hesitates. ‘A panda.’

He laughs. ‘Really? I’d have you down as something fiercer. How come a panda?’

She looks him straight in the eye. ‘Cuddly,’ she says. ‘Cute.’ She pauses. ‘And barely ever fucks. Like us.’

‘We fuck!’

‘Not during the school holidays.’

‘That … that is true.’

‘Did you know,’ she asks, ‘that they think that one of the reasons pandas in captivity have so little sex is because they can’t get any privacy, because they’re being watched the whole time? And that’s kind of true for us, too – if it’s not one of our kids hanging around, it’s one of a million visitors … my mum, your dad, all the friends the kids have over for sleepovers. I can’t even pee in peace, let alone fuck.’

‘Well, I’m sorry you feel like a panda,’ he says. ‘I really am. But even pandas get it on a few times a year, I think, so maybe our day is coming.’

‘God,’ she says, ‘I hope so.’ She sighs. ‘Anyway, if I’m a panda, what would you be?’

He thinks for a moment, then laughs. ‘A lion,’ he says.

‘King of the animal kingdom, huh?’

‘Well,’ he says, ‘that’s part of it, sure, but I was thinking about the fact that the men last roughly 15 to 20 seconds. Which, given how long our dry spell has been, is roughly how long I expect it to be for me, too.’

 

Yardstick

It may not be a great thing to use as a yardstick for how much he cares about her, but what else does she have to go on? She wants desperately to know where things stand between them, where they are headed, but she is too scared to ask. What if asking sends him running in the opposite direction?

And so she keeps track of the kisses on his messages until it almost drives her fucking insane. She longs for consistency and he is far, far from consistent – some days there is one kiss, others three, some days there are none at all. It’s meaningless, she knows, but she can’t help but read too much into it – how can three kisses not mean more than one? They must, right? Or has she got it the wrong way round – does a single kiss in fact mean more than a whole of string of them? Is that more sincere?

Eventually, she decides it must mean more when he sends just one. After all, they are seeing each other regularly, he sends her ‘Goodnight x’ messages before she falls asleep and, well, she just has a good feeling about things. After all, it’s been a while since anyone sent her any kisses at all.

The good feeling lasts until they are out together in a bar one night. It lasts until he goes to the bathroom and leaves her alone with his phone.

She has never been great at resisting temptation and she is even worse at not playing with fire. And so yes, she does look at his messages, and yes, immediately she wishes she hadn’t. Because it it turns out he doesn’t always communicate his affection with kisses. Sometimes he communicates it with pictures of his dick. And he has never, ever sent her one of those.

 

Xenophile

He tells her that he thinks she must be a xenophile and she laughs and says, kindly, ‘You can date a Frenchman and not be a xenophile.’ He is not wrong about her love for France though. What is it they call it? The delicatessen with beaches? How could anyone not love it?

That is not what I meant, he says. I wasn’t talking about your feelings for me. Doesn’t she know, he says, that xenophilia can also mean a love for foreign objects, and she laughs again, loudly this time. Foreign objects, makes her think of losing things up her bum, for some reason, of having to go to A&E on a Friday night to have them surgically removed.

As it happens, she is not so far off the mark with that thought. ‘I am right, though,’ he says. ‘Aren’t I? You’re fascinated by objects, things that are foreign to you.’

She knows what he means now, sort of. It is true that she can get kind of obsessed with things. She will see something in a shop, something she doesn’t even need, and she won’t be able to stop thinking about it until she buys it. Her house, because of this, is filled with all kinds of nonsense.

‘I … I guess,’ she says. ‘Yeah, I guess that’s fair.’

‘I wanted to get you something,’ he says now, ‘something that I think will be foreign to you. Shall I show you?’

She has a bad feeling about this. ‘Sure,’ she says. ‘Show me.’

He pulls a carrier bag out from inside his satchel. She recognises the branding. Uh oh.

He hands it to her and she pulls out the object inside. She forces herself to smile, a big, bright, forced smile.

Of course it is something to put in her arse.

 

 

Waist

It has been six weeks since he last touched her. She dreams about fucking him, sure, but here are the other things she thinks about, too:

  • the way that when they’re eating at a restaurant and he goes to the Gents, he squeezes her shoulder tenderly before he sits back down
  • all the times he’s ever kissed her forehead
  • the way he smells, oh god, the way he smells
  • his empty wine glass on the bedside table
  • that curl that he can’t ever quite tame
  • dressing for him, all the way from the black lace knickers to the dusky pink lipstick
  • the way his chest gets all flushed after he comes
  • the anticipation at the station, as she waits for his train to pull in
  • the way he smacks her arse when she walks through a door in front of him
  • his hands pinning hers high above her head
  • the way that, when he wants to be inside her, he touches her waist, casually, as if he’s trying to get her attention
  • walking into a bar, alone, but knowing that he is already there, waiting

It has been six weeks since he last touched her, and fuck knows how many more it will be before he does again.

Vase

When the Robinsons come for dinner, which they do often. they always bring flowers. She wonders who buys the flowers. It could be him, sure, but she can’t imagine it – he doesn’t seem the type to hang around in Tesco, agonising over whether to choose the roses or the new season tulips.

She can’t imagine him agonising at all. He never does when he’s with her. With her he is surefooted, or sure-fingered, more like, whether he’s pinching her nipples or sliding them one, then two, then three inside her.

And so no, it doesn’t see likely that he chooses the flowers. But he manages to get his hands on them every time, because every time there’s a little post-it note from him folded down somewhere among them. Sometimes the note says something pretty sweet, I missed you this week, perhaps, or Can’t stop thinking about you. Other times – most times, truth be told – what is says is not sweet at all. I’d love to fuck your arse was one from a couple of weeks back, and there’s been one about coming all over her face, too.

That’s why she’s glad that Tom has never arranged a bunch of flowers in his life. It means that she can always take the bouquet, a big smile on her face and then have a moment to herself in the boot room as she puts the flowers in water and reads about whatever Matt wants to do to her this week.

Tonight the flowers are peonies. She loves peonies. But as she goes to take them from Susie – trying, the whole time, to read the expression on Matt’s face, to guess how filthy he’s feeling – the baby monitor roars into life.

Tom takes the flowers. ‘You go,’ he says, ‘it’s no problem. I know where to find a vase.’

Unsure

Sometimes, usually when he wears the button-fly jeans, she remembers what it was like the first time, when she was the one unsnapping those buttons and she’d been unsure if she was doing it right. No, scrap that, not unsure. She’d had absolutely no clue what she was doing. She still remembers the jut of his dick against the denim, the fear of somehow hurting him, the fact that he was nice about her trembling hands.

He’s not nice now. And she doesn’t undo his jeans anymore.

These days, she couldn’t undo his jeans if she tried, most of the time. As soon as they reach the bedroom, he has both of her hands pinned above her head, while he snaps his fly with the other hand. Gone are the days when he would undress her, slowly, carefully, and although she misses it sometimes, she knows that really, she prefers it this way, where she rarely gets her clothes off at all – often her dress is just pushed up and her bra pushed down, so her tits spill over the cups, eager for his touch.

Sometimes, she wonders how they got here, how he figured out who she was, under all that insecurity, that fumbling. How did he know?

Not that it matters of course, how they got here. All that matters is that they did get here. It’s just that sometimes she likes to think about the journey they took to get to this point. It turns her on, remembering.

 

Tension

In some ways, you know it’s funny. You know that you will make a joke, when you turn up at his apartment later, about how you bumped into his ex at your beginners’ knife skills class and, well, you could have cut the tension with a knife. 

It’ll be funny later, but to be honest, while it’s happening it’s not so funny. At first, your worry is that you will somehow slip and chop off her finger, but that worry is soon replaced by something more tangible. You will realise that, beginner or not, she is better at this than you are. The teacher will praise her for her excellent knife control and you will glower and resent her the compliment. You will nearly take your own finger off because you are hypnotised by the smooth movements of her blade as she segments citrus fruits for a delicious caramelised orange tart. You will watch her efficiently fillet a seabass and feel like she is in fact cutting your self-esteem from your bones. You will make such a mess of the task yourself that you’ll feel bad for the fish.

That evening, you will take the onion focaccia that you’ve made to his, and he will tell you that it’s delicious, and you will remember the joke you wanted to tell him, the tension one. You will not tell it, though, because you will not be in the mood. You’ve worried about this for a long time, the day you would inevitably meet his ex and the fact you knew you’d be jealous. And you were right to be worried, because you are jealous. It’s just that you were expecting to be jealous of her shiny hair or her bouncy tits, but you’re not. You’re jealous of the way she dices a fucking shallot.

Serendipity

Because she is a writer, she would like there to be more of a plot to the way it all works out in the end. She knows how it’s supposed to start, with her establishing her normal life – which, in this case, is the fact that she never manages to come during sex – and then immediately move on to how she tries to fix that.

The truth is, though, that she doesn’t try to fix it, not for five whole years. She’s content –more than content – with the sex, not least because they’ve discovered other stuff that turns her on: biting and bruises and giving head, to name just a few of them.

Already, as a story, it’s way out of shape.

At the midpoint of the story, she should already know what the ending will be – she should be foreshadowing that ending a bit. But there is no foreshadowing, because the situation remains the same. She is no closer to orgasm than when they began.

After that, things do get a bit more plot-heavy. They start to try things. Toys, porn, his fingers on her clit, her fingers on her clit. She doesn’t enjoy any of it. It’s just a distraction from all the things she does like about the sex.

So they stop trying. Bad, from a sex point of view, perhaps, but good from a story one. This is the darkest moment, the point where everything the heroine is trying to achieve seems beyond her reach.

And then, one day, when they are not trying to make her come, either of them, when he is on top, and her leg is on his shoulder and they are kissing and her hips are thrusting back towards his, she does come, just like that. Pure serendipity.

Bad, from a story point of view, perhaps, but good, so damn good, from a sex one.