1. Get in their good books
No one has too many books. Well actually maybe we do and Mrs Eastofdulwich has been on at me again to get rid of some so that there's actually somewhere to put the new ones I keep bringing home. But all the same, as Marx* said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.” At the small but beautiful Rye Books on Upland Road, Alistair will ably suggest the ideal present for parents, children, siblings, aunts and uncles. And he makes a mean latte too.
Rye Books: 45 Upland Road, London SE22 9EF Tel: 020 3581 1850.
2. All I want for Christmas is uke
Everyone should learn to play a musical instrument and few come easier than the ukulele. And children can easily get there little hands around these bite-sized marvels. What's more unlike recorders, they won't wake you up at 6am with a shrill ear-shattering squeal. And they're not just for kids, either. Ukuleles have been clinically proven to reduce stress, lift depression and cause giggling. As a good friend once told me, you can't see a grown man with a ukulele without smiling. You can find a superb selection of ukes at South London Music – starting at a mere £20 – with lovely and helpful staff to assist your choice.
South London Music: 29 Grove Vale, London SE22 8EQ Tel: 020 8693 9879.
3. I'm only here for the beer
Why not give the man or woman in your life a case of their favourite tipple, or a selection to savour? The last couple of years have seen an explosion of craft beers, and I've not seen a better bitter selection – not to mention India pale ales, lagers and stouts – than at Boss Man Wines on Lordship Lane. I would particularly recommend the Forty-niner from Ringwood Brewery but you can find beers from as far afield as Iceland and New Zealand.
Boss Man Wines: 79 Lordship Lane, London SE22 8EP Tel: 020 8693 6623.
4. Say Cheese
Why have nightmares thinking what to buy when you can give your loved ones weird dreams instead? Mootown sell delectable artisanal cheeses, mainly from England and Wales, including a Stilton to die for. They can knock you up a gift box too, I believe. You can find their stall on North Cross road on Saturdays, Herne Hill Farmers Market on Sundays.
5. And finally...
If you've got a present for everyone you know, why not buy something for someone you don't? Pick up a few extra items when you go shopping and take them down to the Southwark Foodbank run by the charity Pecan. Then somebody who is struggling gets food for them and their family, to tide them over a crisis. There's a shopping list of the kinds of food they need on their website.
Pecan: 121a Peckham High Street, SE15 5SE Tel: 020 7732 0007.
And finally, sit back, relax and have yourself a merry, little Christmas.
*Groucho, rather than Karl.