Daisy Buchanan: ‘My life in Christmas gifts’

From sentimental scents to novelty mugs, writer Daisy Buchanan revisits the nostalgic power of presents

1989: Early lessons in power dressing

‘When I was little, my heroine was Tinkerbell – like me, she was small and cheeky but, unlike me, people paid attention to her because she had a wand. Mum told me that Santa might struggle to get a fairy dress on the sleigh, but a regular party dress would do the job if I imagined hard enough. So, after lunch, when all the presents had been opened, I wasn’t expecting my parents to produce one last gift. It was a frilly tutu with wings and a wand. I later learned that Mum had been up all night sewing for months. For a long time I felt as though I had to dress sensibly to be taken seriously but, at 32, I still feel like the most powerful version o my self in frills and ribbons.’

1994: Discovering a cure for crippling shyness

‘When I was younger, my family joked that I should bring a book to breakfast, otherwise I’d start reading the back of cereal packets. I was verbal, not visual, so was surprised when my parents got me a camera. Yet this was to be the gift that took me out of the house and my own head. I was so self-conscious that i refused to go to the shops, because I felt too shy to talk to a cashier. But my camera allowed me to see the world differently. I took it to school, took photos of my friends and learned that it doesn’t matter if you’e a painfully shy nine-year-old; you can let someone else be the centre of attention. It ignited a curiosity about humanity that has made me a better journalist.’

Daisy Buchanan

1997: Becoming a grown-up

‘No Christmas felt more awkward than the one when I was a teenager in waiting. I felt furious with my body – I didn’t understand why it was growing up before the rest of me. I’d cover my adult-sized breasts with unflattering jumpers so that I resembled a knitted marquee. But the patent-blue make-up bag containing clear mascara, lip gloss and glittery nail polish gave me the chance to take back control of my face. Mum took some persuading when she saw it on my Christmas list, but my glam Auntie Maria twisted her arm. It was my passport to grown-up freedom, making me feel more confident, feminine and less like a human chip – pan fire in an oestrogen factory. I learned that life and lipstick sometimes go wobbly, but you can always start again and have another go.’

2010: The reality check in a novelty mug

‘I wasn’t expecting my boyfriend of 18 months to present me with a novelty Coronation Street mug. The year before, he’d bought me a beautiful Alex Monroe necklace. I’d hardly seen an episode of Corrie, so I hope it was a joke. Then, I spotted the sticker saying “NOW JUST £2!” I knew before I opened the gift that my boyfriend wanted to end our relationship and, naively, I’d hoped he might see Christmas as a chance to make up for the ways in which he’d hurt me during the year – cancelling dates at the last minute, criticising and undermining me. He’d been making me feel worthless long before he gave me a discount mug. We finally broke up the following March. Fairy tales tell us that it’s shallow to demand extravagant presents, and that love is the most valuable gift of all. Common sense finally told me that I could only hurt by loving someone who thought I was worth nothing but the contents of a bargain bin.’

addicted to love

Daisy with her husband in 2017.

2014: The present that said hes the one

‘ “If I had a million pounds, I’d buy that watch,” I told the man who would become my husband, showing him a picture of a 70s men’s Cartier. I’d lusted after that watch in the way that one dreams of a beach house or a private jet. Jackie Kennedy had one. It was the epitome of old-fashioned glamour, and a hell of a status symbol. It screamed success, discreetly. The only way I’d ever get that watch was if one turned up at the Cash Converters at the end of the road and they accidentally sold it to me for £50. Fast-forward a year and a half, and when I opened the last gift under the tree I found a narrow leather box. I burst into tears. It’s the most extravagant item anyone has ever bought me, but that’s not why I adore it. It’s because the man I love listened to something I told him was important to me. It doesn’t matter that I’m consumed with self-doubt – he believes I’m allowed to look at my wrist and feel like Jackie Kennedy, or rather, the best version of myself.’

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