Sod the Man in the Moon and his stupid telescope. Give Londoners what they actually want for Christmas.
'What do you want for Christmas?' my boyfriend asked me yesterday for the seventh time. I don't want to sound ungrateful, but I'm sick of the question. The real answer - 'some winter tyres for my bike and a really good lint roller, please' - has so far fallen on deaf ears. Apparently extra-grippy wheels, which may save me from being crushed by a big red bus, are just not Christmassy.
We're nearly at that time of year when London's entire population completely lose their shit in a panic over what to buy their loved ones. The perfect gift, we're told, is useful, creative, well-designed and/or delicious, luxurious but not frivolous, thoughtful but not overgenerous. As we hit the West End, hastily scrawled lists in hand ('Dad? Hammer???') we're already labouring under a massive gifting inferiority complex thanks to department store Christmas ads. A handcrafted telescope for the Man in the Moon? How delightful! Except the poor old sod would probably have preferred a ticket to Earth or, at the very least, a bottle of decent whisky. Even a 'good book', the most classic gift of them all, would have been better. A telescope? I can hear my mother now: 'He'll play with it once and then up on the shelf it'll go.' And she's right.
It's time to take a stand against crap presents. Nobody in my life, or yours, needs a fried-egg-shaped handbag or a model reindeer-poo candy-dispenser. Let's face it: unless they're an investment banker or an expat Saudi prince, most Londoners will be broke as balls this December, surviving on beans on toast in between canapés and the obligatory drum of mulled wine. Living here is expensive at the best of times, and worse when there are presents to buy and mandatory fun scheduled every night after work. Trust me, when your little cousin asks for a new mattress topper because she's just moved to town and is sleeping on a third-hand mattress she found in a skip, it's time to put that breadmaker back on the shelf and get the lady what she asks for.
If you really can't bring yourself to give friends and family something they actually need, you can at least show them a bloody good time in January when they're recovering from the financial duffing-up they got in December. After all, in the words of Dr Samuel Johnson, 'If you're tired of London, you're a boring bastard because there is literally ENDLESS fun shit to do here' (I forget what he said exactly, but it's something like that). For instance, booking has just opened for Get Into London Theatre Week, which means you can pick up tickets for all sorts of shows at about half-price. You can up your dinner-party game at School of Wok, Covent Garden's Asian cooking school, or learn the flying trapeze at Gorilla Circus. You'll score points for thoughtfulness and originality, and - bonus! - you can do it all from the comfort of your bed. That means you won't have to deal with the twin dread-portals of Westfield or go within 500 feet of Oxford Street. And if that isn't a gift that keeps on giving, I don't know what is.
Illustration: Nate Kitch
Want more ranting and raving? Read Jonny Ensall's column on why he won't stand for standing on an escalator.