Christmas shopping in LA promised to be a darn sight cheaper than it has been in Paris the last couple of years.
Where the exchange rate between the pound and the euro just gets worse and worse, the dollar against the pound has been pretty solid around the $1.60 mark for some time (and even higher). With consistently falling prices in the US now reflecting the depth of the recession, I was looking forward to a bit of a spree.
US TV commercials have been full of gift suggestions, although not many that really appealed to me.
“Give her a gift that even Santa can’t deliver,” said one, presented by a man in a suit. “Give her a pap smear.”
How does that work? I don’t know about you, but a pap smear isn’t something that would have me rushing down the stairs on Christmas morning, checking to see whether Santa’s reindeer had drunk their saucer of milk, and squealing: “Oh, I really hope this is the year there’s a pap smear in my stocking!"
Breast enlargements, yes; a tummy-tuck too (you might as well be sliced for a sheep as a lamb, if you’re having the general anaesthetic anyway); but I ask you, a pap smear?
For men not in the know and really, really stuck for a present for the lady in their life (or ladies – I’m sure they could run to a discount for a bulk purchase), pap is short for Papanicolaou, and is a screening test in gynaecology to detect abnormal cells in the cervix.
I didn’t check out the details, so have no idea whether the gift is just the appointment with a doctor, or a DIY kit to conduct your own test while the turkey’s browning; but either way, any man who bought me a pap test for Christmas wouldn’t live to taste the pudding.
Williams Sonoma e-mailed about yet another set of pointless holiday-themed gadgets and foodstuffs, none of which I want but suddenly feel I cannot live without. Having missed out on their mandolin chipper, I was thrilled to see a mandolin dicer, before remembering that I buy everything ready-chopped, sliced and diced these days (I suspect it is only a matter of time before I start buying “ready-eaten” to save time).
I also resisted buying their gingerbread house – a snip at just under $60. I’ve always associated gingerbread houses with paedophiles, after a child-devouring witch lured Hansel and Gretel to one (child-eater my arse; we know what that was all about). I could no more eat a gingerbread house than . . . well, do my own pap smear.
The American Tea Room has taken over from Williams Sonoma as my favourite gadget shop, even though tea-pots and kettles are the main gadgets on offer. But oh, what pots and kettles.
Exquisite sculptures from China, ultra-modern electric kettles that keep water at different temperatures, according to what tea you are making; a tea-pot and kettle in one, that you can keep boiling on the stove.
And dozens upon dozens of teas – my current favourite being the fruity Martinique (it is actually a bark) that I drink hot, but also make by the gallon and keep chilled in the fridge.
The ATR is not a shop, it’s a shrine to the best drink in the world. I’m not quite at the stage when I can give up my three mugs of PG Tips in the morning, but I now have an entire cupboard containing nothing but exotic leaves.
The only problem with doing my Christmas shopping there was that I ended up keeping everything for myself.
The Beverly Hills branch of the Taschen bookshop kindly provides me with PG Tips when I am out and about, but this week there was champagne, as Hugh Hefner (whom I interviewed a few weeks ago) launched his six-volume autobiography.
It was the only Christmas party I went to and was rather jolly. Centrefolds Stacey and Deanna, dressed as Bunny Girls, greeted me, and Beautiful Barmaids had provided waiting staff for the night – all women well over six feet tall.
I even met Benedict Taschen, the man behind the great bookshop, and stacked up on several Christmas presents, which, like the teas, are sitting on a shelf in my apartment.
I took respite from this exhausting gift-buying for myself in the Montage Hotel, where a man sidled up to me and said: “Is that your perfume I can smell?” It was Estee Lauder’s White Linen, which I told him women really like, should he be looking for Christmas present ideas.
“Yes,” he said. “It smells . . . oily. Would that be right?” I wasn’t sure whether he meant oil as in aromatherapy, or oil as in Castrol GTX, but it just didn’t have quite the ring of compliment I normally hope for from a man.
But then the kind of men I meet generally aren’t the complimenting sort; they’re the kind who’d buy me a pap smear for Christmas, but check on Amazon before ordering from the TV, in case they could get it just that little bit cheaper.
And if you do happen to be one of the unfortunate women who gets given one on Friday, worry not.
Remember, a pappy is only for Christmas, not for life.