How will you be gift shopping this year? I hear Christmas bells in the distance, and it strikes as much dread as it does joy into the hearts of the gift-giving population – and myself. What to buy for my difficult father-in-law, and will my fussy friend appreciate my hasty last-minute choice? A gift, as the saying goes, is an obligation to reciprocate. The best ones are those which the receiver loves but would be unlikely to find or buy for themselves.
Belt bag, Dhs3,300, Bottega Veneta
Men are more difficult to buy for, as the range of small consumer goods they appreciate is more limited. However, they increasingly use skincare products so you can choose from the many new ranges that offer beautifully packaged, travel-sized collections of must-haves. An affordable lithograph, print or artist photograph makes for a lasting memento for the art-loving man (check out online auction sales where Dhs3,700-Dhs7,000 will get you something decent), while the more conservative amongst them will appreciate beautiful cuff links in lapis or other stones (the Turkish designer Begum Khan makes adorable ones). A quirky idea is the traditional pocket square in a fabric like ikat (he’d never find that himself), or an exquisite scarf from any of the good designers.
Women love most gifts, though are likely to recycle useless ones, so avoid being one of the bad gift brigade. Soaps and candles must be eschewed at all costs. Try cashmere travel sets (I received a beautiful one last year from the White Company); Hermès and Asprey always have something delightful for the more discriminating gift-giver, while leather goods are becoming more popular. Think purses, belts and bum bags.
Cuff, Dhs3,350, Hermès
To me however, nothing beats the thoughtful gift: a beautifully-made photo album, a favourite book in first edition, an iPod filled with their favourite music. Experiences also top the list of best-loved gifts: a set of golf lessons? A month of tuition in a language they want to learn? Dinner with an author they love? A day at the spa? The idea is to imagine that spark of pleasant surprise when the gift is opened. That will make all your efforts completely worthwhile.
How should I ward off old age? Did you see the news item that a man has petitioned to officially change his age to 20 years younger? He claims that since gender, name and nationality can be changed, why should age not be a matter of what one identifies with? Age is just a number. If you keep fit and healthy, and adopt a positive attitude to life, there is no reason to feel the passing of time as a negative. Age brings wisdom, friendships, a personal history, and above all, experience. Why fight it? We are lucky to have a good life and in my opinion the best age-buster is a sense of gratitude.
Brow Sculptor, Dhs328, Tom Ford Beauty
My biggest tip is to work from the inside out: physical fitness and a strong mindset first and foremost. If the signs of age are bothering you, there are countless ways of looking your best. Hair is a key element. Keep your hairdresser close and your colourist even closer. A little Botox goes a long way, and the occasional gentle face peel can keep that radiance going. Forget expensive creams, focus on non-invasive fillers (but in the very best hands – Maryam Zamani in London is a goddess). Hands are a dead giveaway, and some swear by the rather painful ultherapy or tried and tested fillers. Eyebrows and lips disappear with age so use a good brow-shaper and absolutely avoid nude lipstick. Exercising facial muscles and posture were in vogue two decades ago but should be brought back: yoga for the face, Alexander technique for spine health, general toning through Pilates or whatever method that floats your boat (so long as you do it regularly!) will ensure that you keep as young as your genes allow. But here’s what I’m thinking: smile, laugh, dance – you would be surprised how these simple things knock the years off.