Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Don't panic: more last-minute gift ideas...

Well, I’ve been told my last blog was a bit, well, orientated towards the nerdy end of Christmas shopping. Sci-fi, transport, and all that. S0, here’s another set of ideas for that last minute gift with a wider range of interest.

A great place for nice and very individual presents is to go to a museum gift shop. You don’t actually have to visit the museum itself, and of course most of the big museums in London are free to get in. Apart from being distinctive, the quality is usually very good, you know you are supporting a good cause, and in London, you really are spoiled for choice. And an added bonus at this time of the year is that none of these shops is anything like as busy as Hamleys or Harrods. It'll also look like you've really thought about it - it won't give away your last minute panic shopping.

Fabulous art books, prints, stationery, calendars, packs of notelets and cards are the preserve of places like The National Gallery, Tate Britain and The V&A. Perfect for that hard-to-buy-for Great Aunt. More high-brow still, and with fabulous (and expensive) coffee-table books from the current exhibition of the Terracotta Army, the British Museum shop is a very discerning and up-market choice.

For something more cutting edge for your designer-conscious friends, there’s always Tate Modern. At the moment, you have the added bonus of walking past the current work by Doris Salcedo: "Shibboleth" is described as "the first work to intervene directly in the fabric of the Turbine Hall". Salcedo has created a “subterranean chasm” (well, more of a large crack, actually) that stretches the length of the Turbine Hall. Just mind your step.

For children, there’s plenty of choice, with the benefit of lots of good educational items. The Natural History Museum has lots of great stuff for budding naturalists and, of course, dinosaur fanatics (of all ages). The Science Museum has more technically orientated and educational options for children, and a fantastic alternative in Covent Garden is the re-opened London Transport Museum. The new exhibition space is wonderful in itself, but the revamped store also has a huge range of merchandise. There are books, DVDs, posters and toys, mugs and t-shirts with the iconic logos and tube maps, a whole collection based on the recent Tour de France visit, through to some quite funky items. How about a ‘fridge magnet in the shape of a tube train door opening button? Or a Routemaster bus tea-towel? The choice seems endless.

So, there. I’ve done my bit. Plenty of ideas. You've absolutely no excuse for picking up a gift on Christmas Eve at a petrol station...

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