Catalogues of wondrous things
October is when the earliest Christmas catalogues will arrive in your mailbox and you can turn this into retail symbiosis by keeping them to provide you with useful present ideas.
You can also hand the catalogues to the people on your present list and ask them to initial anything that appeals. Encourage them to go hog wild, saying it’s nice to have some lavish options in case you come into a fortune because even their extravagant choices may give you ideas for affordable gifts: If they’ve mentioned that they’d like a yacht, perhaps they’d also like a tide clock.
My nephew Ben has scored an interview with Palmer & Sons. He told me the names of the people on the panel and I do know one of them: he happens to be the husband of my ex‑colleague Donna who stuffed up the birthday cake roster! I told Ben that it was lucky we have different surnames so that Larry doesn’t spot the connection but I actually only met Larry a few times so Ben should be right. (And being the nephew of a woman who does a better cake roster than your wife shouldn’t be a mark against you in a job interview!)
 My old neighbour Gustav used to impale them on the spikes of his iron railing fence. But it didn’t deter the people who delivered them and it just made his house look messy so it’s not a good idea, even if you’re annoyed that your “No junk mail” sign isn’t working.
 This can surprise you. I would never have guessed that my brother-in-law Don wanted a pewter pot pourri dish (and it’s just as well I smelled a fish and got him novelty socks instead because it turned out that Jack had forged Don’s initials on quite a few items in that catalogue, including a rose-patterned hammer for ladies and a solar-powered garden gnome that disconcerts passers-by by targeting them with a spotlight and singing merry ditties).