The mother-in-law always comes up trumps with Christmas and birthday presents. Her own brood – two sons, three daughters – all get a say in their presents. But she never asks me. I married her eldest, most precious son and therefore I need useful pointers in making his domestic life as comfortable as possible, masquerading as thoughtful gifts.
This started off with piece after piece of fake Le Creuset – wedding gift, birthdays, Christmases…It could have been worse – at least they were pretty colours, even if they disintegrated fairly rapidly in a manner which the real things would never have deigned to. But then we progressed. A sewing machine, a knitting kit, a copy of ‘Parenting for Dummies’. Despite these most subtle of hints, we still haven’t started a family.
While my husband got an ipad, John Lewis vouchers and a gift certificate for a massage at a shudderingly expensive spa, I endured a voucher for ‘fertility acupuncture’, an offer for her amateur hairdresser friend ‘Big Perm Sue’ to cut my hair and, the salt in the wound, a gift certificate for Botox.
And then she retired and had an epiphany. She went on a yoga retreat to Brighton and, ever since, our gifts have been of a handmade, spiritual nature. For my last birthday, she made – yes, welded them herself – a set of wind chimes. They bong together endlessly on a particularly excruciating discord. I consigned them to the shed immediately but we have to dig them out and hoist them over the kitchen window whenever she (frequently) comes to stay.They jangle in the wind relentlessly while we wait for her to arrive, putting me in mind of the type of collar sporting a massive bell often inflicted on ruthless cats partial to hunting down blameless birds.