Round about now I’d ordinarily be spending a day with my mum, mooching around the good shops of Cardiff or Swansea. I say ‘mooching’; to be honest, you’d find me collapsed in the doorway of the fourth shop reached, weakly scanning the horizon for a tearoom, while Mrs Lees breezed her way around tinseled shelves. Give me a 12-mile hike any day over navigating a path from one end of the Quadrant to the other.
Anyhow. I say ‘ordinarily’ because 2020 has been anything but, and this year I will be lucky to see the Leeses Senior for a Boxing Day buffet, let alone pre-festive festivities such as Christmas shopping. 2020 has done nothing if not put sharply into perspective what we have and what we need, so look away now if you’re expecting a gift from me, because I’m shopping small and supporting local this December. Here are my best buys, none of which cost the earth, some of which will hopefully help save it and all of which can be bought from the safety of your own sofa.
Best bar none
*SPOILER ALERT* Literally everyone I know is getting a Shine shampoo bar in their stocking this year. Their eyes will narrow at the charcoal appearance and they will take a suspicious sniff, then their face will light up at the delicious, unexpected lemony scent and the love affair will begin.
This gorgeous shampoo, made in a citrusy bunker (ok, it might be a salon) somewhere deep in Brighton, is actually the only bar I’ve tried that leaves my hair silky, smooth and tangle-free (take note, gloopy, greasy shampoo bar makers). I’ve already not-so-sneakily introduced the Shine bar to a number of friends’ bathrooms and my mission to reduce our hideous plastic waste with small, simple wins continues. Buy your first bar in a lovely travel tin and thereafter opt for the refill in cardboard packaging – it’s a tad cheaper, too!
Have I mentioned previously in this blog that I like books? Books are always my favourite Christmas gifts, especially those I wouldn’t have necessarily found if left to my own browsing. You don’t have to step foot over a real shop threshold (although this is a shame, as bookstores are the only retailers I’ve missed in this strangest of years), but you can support independent booksellers by buying the latest hardback or a book voucher online.
I love Book-ish in Crickhowell, while Hive Books is another fab one. It makes a donation to an independent bookstore of your choice with each purchase and also sells DVDs. Honno supports women writers in Wales, one of which I’m fortunate and proud to be (*SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT* – find out more about my books here!). Far be it from me to deter you from shopping at that global retailer selling everything you could never want, but I swear that each time I hear one of its employees talking (anonymously) on the radio about working conditions, another Christmas elf dies.
In normal years, I do enjoy a nice nosy around a Christmas market, and in 2020 I am doing so virtually. So many talented crafters, artisans and artists have set up stall online, such as my friends at Crafty Dog Cymru. Three of our most treasured glasses, featuring our greyhound Lionel, were commissioned from Crafty Dog by an equally treasured friend. You don’t even have to be a crazy dog person to shop here, as the Swansea-based brand also does a roaring line in preserves and chutneys (I hope my dad’s not reading this as he’s getting the Wickedly Hot Chilli Jam. Again). But being a crazy dog person definitely helps.
Neck and neck
Not only has the air recently taken a distinct turn for the nippier, but what better gift could you give in these face-covered times than a stylish scarf? I’m a big fan of the multi-purpose Buff and it becomes even more brilliant in the current climate (actually, it’s awesome in any climate, its UVP Factor 50 fabric making it as clever on a hot summer’s trail run as it’s cosy on a winter’s walk). Or look at Páramo’s Grid Neckwarmer for the hiker in your life (just saying). Yes, Páramo is a global retailer, but check out the brand ethics! Páramo also kits out those Mountain Rescue volunteers, who, I hear, have been a bit busy in 2020, so go on, have a browse… there are so many plush winter colours to choose from!
A heartwarming hand up
Make your gift last all year with a magazine subscription to a darn good read. Near the top of my wishlist would be Trail or Country Walking magazines, but, this year of all years, I don’t think you could do better than subscribe to The Big Issue. I’m a huge fan, chiefly because it represents the best kind of journalism in a clickbait world, but also, of course, for the vital hand up it gives its lovely vendors (and those I know really are smiley). 2020 has been a kick in the teeth for many of us, but Big Issue sellers more than most, so please pop over to the online mag and support your local vendor.
The gift of the outdoors!
The one constant for me this year has been that the outdoors remains wondrously open – if a little closer to home than my ‘Mountains to climb in 2020’ list promised. The Ordnance Survey shop has all the lovely goodies you could wish to giftwrap, from personalised maps and microfibre towels to GPS devices and quirky books. All the better for making a new year’s resolution to get outside more with these amazing ideas for solo adventures and family fun!