Give and receive: the feel-good gift guide

— by Alyson Walsh

That’s me on a London Calligraphy Course at Wilton’s Music Hall.


Remember how flummoxed you’d feel after asking an older relative what they wanted for Christmas only to hear the reply, ‘Oh don’t bother. Really, I don’t need anything.’ I’ve now reached the point in life where I finally get it. That IS My Age. Rather than being a bit Bah Humbug, this response actually makes good sense. Particularly when the planet is wilting under the weight of plastic and stuffed like a giant turkey full of landfill. I’ve never been particularly materialistic and am fortunate enough to have all the basic needs covered, in other words, I don’t need anymore stuff. Much better to have a new experience – for the second year running I’ve bought Mr That’s Not My Age a National Art Pass (well a joint pass, gift-to-self included). The Pass gives free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic houses across the UK as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions – after a few trips the art card pays for itself. And it’s worthwhile finding feel-good presents, gifts that create a lovely memory, or give back and spread good cheer. From supporting charitable initiatives and social enterprises, to enrolling on a creative course and experiencing something new, here are four gift ideas with long-lasting benefits you’ll feel even better about giving (or receiving).


Give the gift of learning this Christmas

New website Obby is on a mission to get everyone to rethink learning, try new things and be inspired. Connecting users to over 2500 creative courses, classes and workshops in London, with everything from salsa to Spanish, piano playing to meditation. Each class is properly hands-on with expert teachers, is an amazing way to meet new people – and switch off the smart phone. Find out more about Obby gift cards HERE.

One skill I enjoyed learning this year (and I definitely need a follow-up session) was calligraphy. Whether you simply love beautiful handwriting and don’t want to lose the skill, or have a special event to write personal invitations to, upgrade your handwriting with London Calligraphy courses. I found the experience very therapeutic – and not just because it encouraged me to step away from the screen for a couple of hours. London Calligraphy holds a range of classes including workshops for beginners and improvers as well as event and seasonal workshops.

I’m also tempted to design and make my own leather belt with Rye Hide leather craft workshops. Based in Peckham, and run under the guidance of designer Gary Meehan, attendees master the two-needled saddle stitching technique, use a range of hand tools and personalise their leather work. For more information and to check available dates click HERE.


Give to charity

By donating £10 to Book Trust you can send one child in care a book. Or give money to Refuge’s Christmas gift list for women and children escaping domestic violence.


Buy gifts at the Choose Love store

For every single purchase made at the Choose Love store, a similar item goes to a refugee (delivered via one of the 80+ projects Help Refugees support across the world). Help those in need with gifts including everything from a child’s coat (£5) and sleeping bags (£20) to medical care (£50) and accommodation (£200). Gifts start from just £3. Choose Love is the world’s first shop that sells real products for refugees; e-commerce with a heart.

Shop online or visit in person. There are two stores, one in London and one in New York.


Know Your Style

Feeling good about yourself matters, too. Stuck in a make-up rut? Need a new look? Make-up artist, Louise Heywood offers make-up lessons and makeovers if you’d like some advice and inspiration. After an initial chat, she’ll do your make up using her extensive collection of beauty products (and your products too, if you like) and towards the end of the lesson you will practice doing an element of the look yourself. Louise has done my make up numerous times for book launches and events, and even though I am a bit cack-handed, always encourages me to have a go myself. The lessons are not a set of prescriptive rules but teamwork. The focus is on looking like you but on a really good day. They take place at Louise’s studio in Crystal Palace, London, or alternatively she can travel to your home. More info here.

Menswear stylist Sarah Gilfillan runs a fantastic personal style consultancy Sartoria Lab – for men who want to re-think their wardrobes. She offers a range of services including personal styling, wardrobe edits and personal shopping, taking into account colouring, body shape, lifestyle and budget, to give men more style confidence. Sartoria Lab also offers gift vouchers and Sarah travels to customer’s homes to carry out individual Wardrobe Edits. Find our more here.

And, if you don’t have a copy already, may I recommend Know Your Style. It has loads of brilliant tips, interviews and expert advice; the book’s main emphasis being on choosing perennial style over fast fashion.


(If it’s traditional presents to pop under the tree you’re after have a look at our Christmas Gift Guide)

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  Remember how flummoxed you’d feel after asking an older relative what they wanted for Christmas only to hear the reply, ‘Oh don’t bother. Really, I don’t need anything.