Island Life by David Slack

Only while stocks last

In seven short weeks, we will all be waking to another Christmas morning. The frenzy and stress of the preceding weeks (which began to build on the day you read in a blog that Christmas was only seven weeks away) will be steadily ebbing, unless of course you're expecting to spend the day in the company of people you don't particularly care for.

Let's assume you'll be seeing only people you like. The day will dawn quietly. You will open the front door and listen. You will hear neither bus nor truck nor courier van.

Inside the house, the air will be fragrant with pine needles, or perhaps Christmas lilies, unless of course it's swamped by the residual odour of sundry illegal substances that made last night's party such a terrific Xmas bash. In which case, you will be looking forward to the fragrance of lilies and pine needles when you get to your Mum's later this morning.

Jesus X ! you will think to yourself, I forgot to get her a present. I wonder what I can get at the BP station?

I am an unimaginative gift shopper. The best I ever manage is nice jewellery for Karren. Apart from that, it's pretty much books and CDs, CDs and books. Books are our friends, and in my view, you can't buy too many of them.

This approach to shopping also suits that aspect of my personality that finds few shops very exciting if their name does not have "Book" in it somewhere. If you can order it on the net, rather than have to drive somewhere and get it, that has its appeal also. It's not that I don't like the thought of giving imaginative Christmas gifts. It's just that it inevitably calls for more work than I am willing to undertake.

From a safety and convenience point of view, this is possibly not a bad thing. Many years ago I gave my brother a pair of boots with springs on them that purportedly functioned in a pogo fashion. I was taking the piss, and he understood that, but a few days later he was several drinks into the night when he remembered the boots, went and fetched them from the car boot, strapped them on and began moon-jumping around the campsite. The plaster came off in about mid March.

From then on, it was books and CDs, CDs and books.

However this year, things may be different, for I am very much inclined to buy a novelty item or two from the reputable trading house of Hammacher Schlemmer.

This is absolutely my kind of store. It's online, it ships worldwide and it's just loaded with ingenious stuff.

Some people look at a TV remote with a bottle opener on the end and say: tacky.

I say: how convenient.

Here's the item I most want to buy, and a small part of me wants to believe Karren would like to open it on Christmas morning.

What's not to admire about a toaster that is also a radio?

Look at the chrome! Admire the timeless design lines! See how you can be stuffing in two slices and adjusting the volume on Sean Plunket at the some time!

But perhaps you might be more interested in the Wall-Mounted Fold-Out Basketball Game.

Or perhaps the wristwatch television?

Maybe a Cell Phone-Charging Hand-Crank Radio might be a good gift for the outdoor type in your family.

I can think of at least one member of the Public Address family who would appreciate this gift on Christmas morning.

And who hasn't wondered at some time or other whether it might not be possible to make a contraption that could produce a gentle whooshing noise that would help block out intermittent or continuous annoying sounds such as traffic and ticking clocks, the better for you to relax and fall asleep easily? Wonder no more, the Sleep Sound Generator is yours for just 49.95.

My only cause for hesitation in recommending these fine products is that the last thing this Plasma-TV-buying nation should be doing is spending more money on consumer fripperies from other countries and putting yet more of a burden on the current account.

Well, too late for this Christmas, but maybe what we need is our very own Hammacher Schlemmer selling the clever creations of all our redoubtable Bruce Simpson types hunkered down in their sheds across the nation. If we have the people here with the smarts to make a cruise missile for less than the cost of a Big-Screen TV, then surely to X we have the talent here to design something as simple as a toaster radio.