Selection Box: Sinéad Keogh “The Opposite of Puppies”

Today’s Selection Box star is Sinéad Keogh, Mistress of Inkheart.

Could we all just agree not to buy each other bath sets? Especially the ones displayed in a Tesco or Dunnes Stores wall of uniformity, smack bang in the centre of the imagination void? They are the opposite of puppies. They are just for Christmas and you don’t have to love them and you never jump up and down asking for one (please please Mammy please, the one with the 50mls of generic bubble bath, please!!). It doesn’t happen.

We all suffer the temptation. You get the weird one who frequently asks you out in the work Kris Kindle. You’re so afraid to give any gift that might suggest you have an emotional bond or any knowledge of what their heart desires that you consider giftwrapping your stapler in sellotape and slapping a name tag on it. You realise that you’ll need your stapler come January. You buy them a box with soaps and lotions small enough to render them ridiculously useless. For the people who you really don’t know who you’re somehow stuck buying a present for with a spending limit that would make it difficult to buy wrapping paper, this is almost excusable. Almost. Except for the fact that bath sets are basically everything that’s wrong with Christmas. They’re generic and thoughtless and bought with good money only to sit gathering dust on a shelf until the gift recipient dusts it off and passes it on to a new owner the next year, complete with new name tag.

Perhaps it’s the inner curmudgeon who never really liked smellies coming out, but soaps, salts, lotions and potions feature high on my ‘smack in the face’ gift list. Thankfully, I haven’t received one in years. I am notoriously easy to shop for. If you buy me a book, I will read it. If you buy me silver jewellery, I will be so delighted that you didn’t get gold that I’ll wear it even if it’s a blingin’ dog collar. If you give me some sort of voucher, my practicality will be basically delighted that I don’t have to find shelf space for some useless toss that I don’t want.

Yeah, Christmas shopping can sometimes be the seasonal devil, flittering away your salary for December while simultaneously having you living on your nerves – “will she like it? what if it’s the worst thing I could ever buy and I don’t know her at all. am I spending too little or two much?” – but you can get some joy out of it by handing over something that’ll put a smile on the recipient’s face.

If you’re buying someone a bath set you really shouldn’t be buying for them at all. It doesn’t safe face in any manner. You might as well attach a card that says ‘here’s the thing I was obliged to buy for you’ and yet clearly it’s something we all do year in year out, as evidenced by the mass production of pampering product.

I love getting a present right. My chosen shopping method is to make a list of things I associate with a person or that I know they like and then Google until some mystical product shows itself. My Mother is addicted to some complete crackpot psychic who has a Sunday evening tv show on ‘the channels’. I Googled him. He’s written a book.She’ll be receiving his book. I can tell you that because she has yet to realise that you can Google a person’s name. My Grandpa, on first inspection, you would say, is completely devoid of interests. He watches the Discovery Channel a lot and does crosswords – neither of which are particularly condusive to present buying – what to get him, what to get him – like, some sort of wildlife based crossword books? Hells. Eventually, by insistently Googling words associated with any item the Granda owns and appears to like, I found an exact toy replica of his classic car. Sorted. Obviously, I inject a lot of time into Ultimate Present Buying. Obviously, not everyone does or should. Alls I’m saying is (and I’m saying it for the last time, I swear) is that bath sets are the Digestive biscuits of Christmas presents – they’re sort of unpleasant yet somehow in the press because at some point somebody decided to spend money on them.

Avoid temptation. Buy imaginatively. Merry Christmas.

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