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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Panic present buying

It’s confession time. I bought a panic present.

I was sitting at JFK airport in New York, about to fly home to Brisbane after four weeks in the UK, France and the USA, when I started to remember people for whom I hadn’t bought anything.

One last look at the airport souvenir stand and $85 later, I had a bag full of random goodies!

I was chuffed with the I-heart-New York pewter cow key-ring for 612 listener and farmer “Lord” Julian of Boonah.

But I really don’t know how my radio producer Anne Debert will react to her present, which I shall reveal to you shortly and give to her tomorrow.

The business of gifts from overseas holidays is tricky. Do you buy for someone only if and when you see something perfectly suited to them? Or do you make a list beforehand and make sure everyone on the list gets something?

The range of place-branded items is astounding. Oddly, I didn’t see spoons or thimbles anywhere but there were coffee cups of all shapes and sizes, fridge magnets, cushions, baseballs, beach-bags, photo frames, coasters, pens, shot-glasses and all manner of clothing.

Snow domes remain a constant – just ask Liam Renton from Brisbane’s community radio station 96-Five who has one of Australia’s biggest collections.

There are desk models of iconic buildings such as the White House, Buckingham Palace and the Eiffel Tower.

You can even take home a miniature set of a city’s public transport or emergency vehicles.

To get an idea, pop into one of Brisbane’s souvenir shops next time you’re in the city or at the airport. They have much more than just clip-on koalas these days. You can probably even buy a mini City-Cycle play set by now. If not, someone can have that idea for free.

One thing you can get at Brisbane souvenir shops is kangaroo jerky.

Before we went overseas, I asked my 612 Breakfast listeners for gifts ideas from Brisbane. Someone suggested roo jerky so I bought some and we taste-tested it live on air.

I have to say that it might be a fun novelty gift, to be consumed with alcohol and washed down with lots of laughter, but roo jerky is not the sort of thing anyone should have to eat on the radio at 5.20am! The smell alone!

Still, I gave a packet to BBC Radio 2 Breakfast presenter Chris Evans after I’d spent some time with him in London. Sensibly, Chris said he would take it home and try it later. I haven’t heard how – or indeed if – it went down!

I suppose for the most part, souvenirs are bought for oneself as a reminder of places visited.

On this recent trip, I bought five tee-shirts including one from London’s “Dr Who Experience” and another from the Calvisson Barrel Organ Festival, as well as New York and Washington fridge magnets, a New York photo frame and theatre programmes from “Spiderman—Turn Off the Dark” and “Much Ado About Nothing” starring former Dr Who stars David Tennant and Catherine Tate. (I did tell you I was a Dr Who fan, didn’t I?!)

We’ll see how many of these survive the next spring clean.

On previous trips around Queensland, I’ve proudly returned with a small pottery sheep (from Cunnamulla), a scrap metal dog (Blackall) and a 750ml beer “tally” somehow stretched to about a metre (Central Highlands).

We still have the sheep and dog but the beer bottle – which I always regarded as artistic genius – has gone to a better place!

Which brings me to the panic present I bought at JFK for my radio producer Anne Debert.

No, let me withdraw that word. I didn’t panic. It made complete sense at the time! It’s only in the hours since that I’ve started to panic – about how she’ll react to such a random workmate gift!

You see, Anne’s husband Len is from St Louis, Missouri. And at JFK airport, sitting in the middle of all the fluffy toys marked “New York” was one bearing the name “Missouri”.

I rifled through the toys. There was no other “Missouri”. This was clearly a mistake and just as clearly, in my mind at least, it was meant to be bought for Anne.

So next time you call in to the breakfast show, ask Anne how she likes her very cute, bright green and purple, floppy-earned puppy-dog!

What’s the best and worst souvenir you’ve ever bought yourself or someone else? It’s confession time!

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