Caroline Verdon: Bad Christmas gifts? It's the thought that counts

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As Christmas presents go, we all ought to stop being so greedy, stop asking for more and count our blessings for what we have. But it's hard. Especially when someone buys you something a bit naff.

A few years ago in a work Secret Santa, Santa gifted me a mushroom scrubbing brush. I like a mushroom as much as the next person but I’m no fungi aficionado. I didn’t even know there was a particular type of implement you were meant to clean mushrooms with. To be perfectly honest, I rarely even bother to wash mushrooms – if there isn’t a clump of mud on them then they’re chopped and chucked straight in the pan. If there is, then I flick it off before allowing them to meet their fate. I know. I’m an animal. The point is, it was a weird gift to give and it was a bit naff but four house moves later and I still have it so it can’t be all that bad. Granted, I haven’t used it, but I can’t help but think that one day, maybe one day, it might just come in handy.

Ant has had a whole host of terrible gifting experiences. He has an uncle who lives in New Zealand and years ago he sent Ant a Christmas stocking through the post, brimming with gifts including five strange green and white fluffy balls. After playing with them for a good few minutes and after closer inspection it turned out they were moldy satsumas. Still, it’s not as bad as the time 10-year-old Ant was very excited and thrilled to receive a 10inch flick knife from his Great Aunt only for his mum to whip it away from him faster than you can say ‘young offenders institution’. Inappropriate gifts anyone??

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I don’t think I’ve really ever received a terrible Christmas present, which worries me because that means I’m probably the terrible present giver and by ‘probably’ I mean ‘definitely’. I won’t take the blame though. It’s my husband’s fault, he is seriously hard to buy for. He never wants anything and on the rare occasion he does want something he’s bought it for himself before I’ve even had a chance to find my wallet. He’s also painfully honest about everything in life and this works for his thoughts on his gifts too. He’s not rude, he won’t say “what’s this, I don’t like it”, he’ll be polite and say “thankyou” and then I’ll push. “Oh no don’t you like it?” I’ll ask. He’ll reply with “I didn’t say that” so I’ll prod some more. “You don’t, you don’t like it do you” and then he’ll say something like “It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that I wouldn’t have chosen it myself but I’ll probably learn to like it”. It’s become a bit of a joke now. Last year he was short on casual shoes so I bought him a pair of grey Converse All Stars. You can’t go wrong with them can you? Turns out you can. You see I also bought myself a pair so they were matching and then got our names and our anniversary date stitched into the back. Turns out he isn’t a fan of matching. He made this abundantly clear which was awkward as his other present was a matching monogrammed dressing gown. I can’t help it, it’s practically a compulsion. Do I want a mug? No! What’s that? A mug with my name on? Give it here! You’ve got to be careful with gifts for your other half, I’m aware of that. My friend Darren bought his wife a strimmer for Christmas and they were divorced by June. Anne rang us this week to say her husband bought her a fold up shopping bag and a set of car jump leads. If that doesn’t scream “I bought this on Christmas Eve at the garage” then I don’t know what does. It can be hard to get that balance right. You don’t want to over or under gift or go too soppy or go too practical. It’s a bit of a minefield at times.

The way I look at it, it’s the thought that counts. By that I mean that if you know that your other half of your friend or family member is an atrocious gift buyer then do them a favour and give some thought towards what you want and then tell them so they can buy it. It’ll work out better for everyone in the long run. Either that or practice your poker face.

A story for everything

We do a feature every day around 8.30am called ‘Story For Everything’ and it’s basically Ant’s theory that if you give me a topic or a phrase or ask me a question about something you can guarantee I have a story for it.

We’re about six months in and so far I haven’t failed. Tessa in Rothwell called this week and asked if I’d ever talked my way out of a speeding ticket and as it turned out, I have!

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It took me a long time to pass my test. I had weekly lessons from the age of 17 until I was 23. I didn’t pass my test until my sixth attempt.

I was pretty hopeless. About three months before I passed, I received a speeding ticket for doing 34 in a 30. I ticked the box to say I wanted to contest it.

Not because I wasn’t speeding, I probably was, but I included my six failed tests as evidence and told the court that I was a learner driver and my failures even cited my inability to stick to a speed limit but they didn’t revoke my learners permit, they encouraged me to keep trying and that was exactly what I was doing when I was caught driving four miles over the limit.

The court dropped it and a few months later I passed my test.

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No idea if that argument would stand up in court today but it’s further proof that when pushed I could talk my way out of a paper bag!

My son knows his own mind

Sometimes I wonder where my son got his tastebuds from as it certainly wasn’t from my husband or me.

On Sunday, when it came to teatime I offered him the option of all sorts – soup, beans on toast, jacket potato, pasta, macaroni cheese. All of these got turned down.

“I know zactly what I want. Zactly please” was the response. He’s a boy who knows his own mind and I’m sure when he’s older we’ll be grateful for that.

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It turned out that the food he was desperate for at teatime was porridge with custard mixed in and sweetcorn on the top.

I tried giving them to him as three separate items but he was insistant. Not only did he eat it all but he then asked for more.

Apparently it was yummy. I opted for a cheese sarnie myself.

Caroline Verdon is one half of the breakfast show on Radio Aire. You can hear Caroline and Ant between 6-10am every weekday morning.

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