Cycling Sindy and the Christmas of invisible tears

When I was a little girl the only item that I remember really yearning for was the Sindy doll which came with a little white walking dog, called Gogo.

When adverts for the Sindy and Gogo doll were shown on TV, my heart soared. It was the most brilliant and technically-advanced toy ever created.

I knew that if I brought Gogo into school, I would be, for at least one glorious day, the popular girl in the playground.

I'd been direct with my parents. I wrote them a note requesting this particular doll and nothing else. I wasn't really into dolls, but this was something special.

When Christmas Day came, I made a bee-line for the Cindy and Gogo-sized box. I unwrapped it and inside I found Cycling Sindy and 'Fun Bike'. For the first time, Sindy's perma-smile repulsed me. 

It was a terrible moment.

How could my parents get it so wrong? I had been so clear. 

I didn't dare show the torment that I felt. It was acute.

As I unwrapped the gift fully, I honestly remember thinking that I’d better make the best of it.

So I played with Sindy and her silly dangly broken-at-the-knee legs and the bicycle which was pointy and sharp. I played until I could bear it no longer. Such a martyr.

Tell me about your biggest gift disappointment and how you managed to stay strong.

Step-by-step guide to managing gift disappointment:

  • Receive the gift with both hands
  • Thank the giver. Even before you tear off the wrapping. It's nice that they thought to give you anything at all, so say that.
  • Think of one great thing to say about the gift. If I'd had a bit more wherewithal, I would have said 'Mum, Dad, thank you. This bicycle is so intricate.'
  •  Put the gift somewhere safe, or on display for the afternoon. Don't leave a gift on the floor (unless it's a table or a bed).

Throwback Thursday: How to Excel

Nothing makes me feel less like a human than when I have to record something in a spreadsheet.

I write things for a living. My exposure to Excel should be limited! It isn’t! In the workplace, I'm often asked to record what I've done in tiny boxes. 

Inputting data into spreadsheets reminds me of a depressing quote by the writer Edward Thomas: ‘We do it because they can’t invent a machine for doing it’. 

The only thing which reduced my overwhelming hatred for spreadsheets was the discovery of a couple of really beautiful examples which record gifts given and received are definitely the work of humans.  

Specifically, the Hale family. 

The Hale family, an old and prominent family from Massachusetts, comprised writers, politicians and painters, including the impressionist painter, Ellen Day Hale who painted Morning News, below:

Ellen Day Hale

The  family recorded the gifts they gave and received in beautiful pictorial charts. They were kept inside the family notebook. 

This chart is held by Smith College  in Massachusetts.:

©Smith College

This one is  held by The Smithsonian.

© Smithsonian Institute

Both were created between 1858 and 1878. They both feature columns and rows for members of the Hale family: Mamma, Nathan, Lucretia, Edward, Emily, Judy, Nelly, Arthur, Charley, Edward, Philip. 

The notebook in which they were kept also lists the likes and dislikes of the family. 

Recording gifts in this way seems like quite a mindful exercise to undertake. 

I like the simplicity of the gifts.

Hopefully you’ll be able to make out the illustrations. You should be able to spot dominoes, beds, chickens, a sword and guns. What a family. 




Universally useful stocking fillers

I'm calling these ideas 'stocking fillers' but they are perennially useful gifts. Serve them in a large sock if you wish.

Brilliant Baubles

One of my favourite Youtubers, Marie, from the channel BitsandClips buys her children, Scarlet and Luca, one new Christmas tree ornament every year. I love this idea.

Perfectly curated Christmas trees (the ones that look like they should be in the reception of an office block) are nice but they don’t tell a story. At least, that’s what I say to make myself feel better. I buy a bauble whenever I go on holiday and none of them complement each other. See below.

Baubles from Bath, Florence, Stratford-upon-Avon, Mexico and France 

Baubles from Bath, Florence, Stratford-upon-Avon, Mexico and France 

This year we’re buying a little Christmas tree for the for the first time. I’m completely wedded to the idea that each bauble should tell a story, so each Christmas we can look at the tree and be reminded of happy past events.

However, as these are the only baubles I have and the tree would look a little sparse, I’m going to bolster the collection.

I’m not going to over-bolster because I know more baubles await in souvenir gift shops around the world.

I think they would make quite nice secret-santa gifts, stocking fillers or as elaborate gift wrap embellishments.

Hark! My pick of baubles 2015:

'I think this belonged to your ex...'

I went on a few dates with a Norwegian which happened to fall over the Christmas period. On the night before returning to his homeland, he called at my flat with red glitter all over his pale, chiselled, Scandinavian face.

On my doorstep in the cold and dark he presented a gift wrapped in red glittery wrapping paper. It was a very sweet scene. I welcomed him into my living room where my two flatmates sat, eager to find out what was in the package.

I was reluctant to open the gift with an audience, but he told me to open it, so I did. It was a copy of the collected plays of Henrik Ibsen.


What’s wrong with that? I hear you ask. Nothing. But when I flicked through the book, there was something tucked between the pages: a photograph of the Norwegian. And his ex-girlfriend.

I thumbed further through the book, it felt as though there was something else. Yes, yes there was! The stub of a plane ticket which belonged to her.

It had once been her book.

My two flatmates and I looked down at the floor. The Norwegian looked away. I must say that he recovered it well. Early the next morning, he posted an Moleskine notepad through my letter box, with a card which read: “No nasty surprises in this book. Fill it with your poems.”

The Norwegian was a recycler of gifts sure, but he was also a good guy with a sense of humour. It wasn't meant to be between us but he wins the award for the best recovery.