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Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Christmas shopping in London [20041220|18:17]
Mad Scientess Jane Expat
I'm so behind on chronicling my life here. In the past several weeks, I've been to Windsor Castle, a Groove Armada show at Brixton Academy (two thumbs up as a venue), performances of Part I and II of His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, and the Laibach show at the Electric Ballroom (a "meh" at the Electric Ballroom as a venue).

Today, I went Christmas shopping in London for the first time. It was every bit as insane as I expected it to be. I bought a travelcard for the day. I went to Green Park first, home of Fortnum & Mason, the Ritz, and the chocolatier Prestat. F&M has everything priced at approximately triple its value. It's all beautifully packaged, though. At Prestat, on the other hand, you get what you pay for. It is there that you can buy the Napolean truffles mentioned in Roald Dahl's My Uncle Oswald, which is one of his few grown-up novels and is decidedly "adult" in content. I recommend both novel and chocolates.

I walked up Regent Street and stopped in at several of the shops (Molton Brown, Waterstone's). All the women on my gift list are thus accounted for. I had lunch at Selfridges (gee, I'm done, and I don't remember eating) and was stared at by the dyed-blonde orange people. I sipped my peppermint tea and firmly read my book at them. I have no use for orange people. If you are pasty-white, please learn to live with it. Fake tans inevitably turn you into an orange person.

I went back up to Camden, dropped off my loot and went back out to Covent Garden. I utterly failed to locate gifts for all but one of the tech guys that Marco works with. Why is it so difficult to buy gifts for men? I gave up and popped down to Victoria to drop off a gift for capitalflash and sparklepbass and quickly waved hello to a very busy Mary.

And now I'm home, and completely knackered. Someone bring me a cup of tea, please. Please?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: chibaraki
2004-12-20 19:12 (UTC)
I hate buying gifts for men. Especially men I don't know really well. With ones I DO know really well I can usually find SOMETHING for them, but...

Well, with girls whose tastes you don't really know... you can always give them (if you're me) a cute Korean stationary set and some writing implements, or a cute cup and some tea, or silly smelly candles, or similar. But you can't very well give a boy smelly candles. That just wouldn't do. So what DO you get? There ARE no Standard Issue Personality-Irrelevant Gifts for men!

And then you have boys like my brother, whose entire Christmas list is composed of things $20 or more outside my budget. Hmmf.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-20 19:20 (UTC)
Exactly! The one gift I found was for a guy with whom I've actually had multiple conversations, and the gift referenced back to one of them. I have only the vaguest notion what the others like.

The only Standard Issue Personality-Irrelevant Gift for males that I know of that doesn't suck (pocket knife) or isn't hideously expensive (electronic gizmos) is alcohol. And these guys are mostly past the age where some cheap-ass six-pack of Grolsch will do. They have, like, taste, now.
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[User Picture]From: thefounder
2004-12-21 01:11 (UTC)
i suppose men with taste would command real ale, in theory, but then they might not like it. buying alcohol for men can be tricky because of the fussiness of at least some of them on that front. i suppose you could always surprise someone with a bottle of mead.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-21 10:23 (UTC)
Yeah, I know that two of them have very specific tastes. One is Russian and likes vodka, and the other is part Scottish and likes whiskey. I'm terribly afraid of getting them something and having them turn up their noses at it, considering that I know very little about either.

I considered mead (I love it), but the problem is, there are people who love mead and people who loathe the stuff. I don't know how they feel about it.
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[User Picture]From: thefounder
2004-12-21 23:21 (UTC)
yes. very understandable. it's strangely ironic that people with specific or specialised tastes should be the hardest to buy for. i considered getting my girlfriend a pentagram for Yule, but i'd have had absolutely no idea whether i was getting the right type or a type she'd like or anything.

by the way, in case this knowledge is any good to you, i am told that Bladnoch single malt is very good [and rare].
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-22 10:48 (UTC)
I suppose that's why gift certificates were invented, although with friends, I prefer to give something more personal. It's a tough choice, since I like these guys lots, but have only known them for about two months. :-/

That is very helpful, yes. Going today to the whiskey shop on Gower to have a look around. Thank you!
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From: ripperlyn
2004-12-20 19:53 (UTC)

please please please...

...tell me how his dark materials was, as it seems I will NEVER have the chance to see it performed at the national.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-20 20:30 (UTC)
I loved it. Have you read the books? I read the TimeOut blurb on it and it just about sent me through the roof, as the person who wrote it clearly wasn't familiar with the source material. I was going to skewer the thing, along with my commentary, which will be spoiler-heavy. Want me to write it up?
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From: ripperlyn
2004-12-20 20:44 (UTC)
YES PLEASE.
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[User Picture]From: leidan
2004-12-20 21:52 (UTC)
I've read them and really liked them too, so I'd love to hear your commentary.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-21 10:14 (UTC)
I'm working on it. Trying to finish a short story first, though. :-)
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[User Picture]From: katyakoshka
2004-12-20 23:12 (UTC)
1. Need to read My Uncle Oswald.

2. Orange is bad. It must be worse in England, because they're all my degree of butt-white, and there's less sun to cause the mild color (pink, of course) which helps mitigate the orange. So. Wrong. At least you know a few pasty people who've embraced their butt-whiteness, myself included.

3. Men often buy the shit they want when they want it. My brother is giving me nightmares just figuring what the hell I'm getting his ass, and he's relatively easy. I'm thinking that he'll be getting It's a Shame about Ray. 'Cause he should have it. Then I'll have to ask him to lend it to me so I can burn a copy, since I only have it on cassette. But my father used to drive me up the wall, too. I don't know where to start with a token gift to the mom's new bf.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-21 10:20 (UTC)
Yes! And I am glad for people like you and Nancy, because you understand that your complexions are most attractive when left untouched, and not when they are turned into the approximate texture and color of old shoe leather. Gah. This should not be so difficult to understand.

It doesn't help that the Christmas industry is completely geared towards easy gift-giving for women. I mean, look at all the bath products, home knickknacks like colored candles, chocolates, blah blah blah that every single store carries in winter. If you walk up and down a shopping district, nearly all the generic gifts you find for under ten quid are for women.
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[User Picture]From: katyakoshka
2004-12-21 18:34 (UTC)
You'd think all the stuff about skin cancer and the fact most fair people look like ass in orange clothing, period, would be enough of a cluestick. And it's even worse when they color the hair and it gets all brassy. Dark-haired fair people should never ever ever try to go blonde and tan. 'Cause then they look like really tall Oompa-Loompas who didn't even rate green hair.

Give the men candles. It'll help them with the sexx0ring or something. Or candy. Everyone likes candy, right? The music mix idea is a winner, however. In the next year, take up knitting and make them scarves. Or hats. Or something.

Now I need to learn to knit. Because I suddenly realized I want to make Cthulhu hats. Green. With face-framing tentacles.
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[User Picture]From: greyface
2004-12-21 00:45 (UTC)
I don't know if you go in for Drum and Bass at all... but several years ago, there was a truly terrible venue for some kinda nice D&B out in Brixton on Thursdays. Pub by day, but towards later they move most of the seating, set up an act and get stupendously crowded. Umm... Three Dogs? Dog Bites Dog? Something Doggy.

Wow, I just realized I'm Not Helpful. I don't know if you like the music at all, enjoy that sort of environment (kinda bog quality and crazy-busy) and I don't remember the name of the place. I don't even know if they're still open and/or doing that. I rule?
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-21 10:12 (UTC)
I love drum&bass, esp. techstep and darkstep. I can't find a listing in TimeOut but that doesn't mean that the place doesn't still exist. I'll ask around. Thanks!
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[User Picture]From: ironed_orchid
2004-12-21 09:18 (UTC)
Buying gifts for tech guys is a hassle, especially when they have a decent income and are likely to buy everything they want as soon as they see it. Probably too late for this year, but ThinkGeek has saved me on more than one occasion (with the funny t-shirts). An alternative could be to make them a cd or USB memory stick worth of mp3 mixes - like a home made present for the technical age.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-21 10:04 (UTC)
Ahhh, dammit! I didn't remember ThinkGeek, or realize that they shipped internationally. That would have been a good idea. The music idea is fantastic, though! We have all our music ripped to mp3; I could easily burn a few DVDs for people. Thank you.
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[User Picture]From: ironed_orchid
2004-12-21 10:07 (UTC)
You're welcome. I should probably be making music mixes for people too, but the burner is in the other computer, and therein lies hassle, whcih I am trying to avoid.
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[User Picture]From: nanila
2004-12-21 10:54 (UTC)
Procrastination is what the intardnet is all about.
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