First of all, we chatted to Patrick Dillon about his book The Story of Britain. It seems, on good authority, to be the sort of book even "silly 14 year old boys addicted to computer games" (direct quote, from Mother of Silly 14 Year Old) enjoy. He took inspiration from the stories he used to tell his own children, and his own love of history. Nice to have a present that doesn't beep and whirr.
Then on to some very last minute Christmas shopping opportunities. Yes, because that's what today is all about. So, there's an Art, Craft and Design Market on Leather Lane this Thursday and Friday, from 10am to 4pm. They promise you can nip by on your lunch hour and finish off your shopping - true, or just tempting? You decide. There will be art, photography, clothes, ceramics, jewellery - usual fare for a fair (UFFAF).
On Friday night, the Barbican are hosting a Barbican Lates event, from 6pm until late. They assure us it will be an extravaganza of bargain fun and there will be festive drinks. And music. So you may be tempted to buy more than you would during the day, but that's half the fun, surely.
On Saturday, there's another fair in Primrose Hill Community Centre, noon until 4pm. (UFFAF)
If you're closer to Hampstead, try their fair in the Interchange Studios, Hampstead Town Hall, from 10am-8pm
I like this book which sets itself up as a design-lovers' illustrated football chant guide. Litho printed in two colours, it's in an edition of 1000, and is - ONLY - £3.50 (plus postage, £4.90). It's by London illustrator Mark Long, and is bright and clever, and - not being an expert in illustrated football chant books, but still - an unusual take on the subject. Here it is:
Obviously, I don't get many of the jokes, but plenty of people I know will, and that is good enough for me. Plus, if you order more than one copy, Mark Long will refund you postage. You can buy it here.
Then I thought people would like the limited edition posters that cycle shop PUSH (in Newington Green) is selling now. They launched on Saturday evening, so all the designs are still available - which is good news, because they look like this:
At a limited edition of 30, and costing £30 each (and half the profits going to the Brain Tumour Trust), they make a pretty nifty present for cyclists. When a design runs out, a new one will take its place (and they accept submissions). All the shop details are here.
The Tate came next - they've got membership packs from £52, a very nice present for a year, which includes unlimited entry to all the exhibitions, use of the Members Rooms, the TATE ETC magazine, and - alluringly - fast track entry. I think Tate members would be too genteel to jump queues.
If the budget is a bit less, I am a fan of these 'On the Wing' plates (£19.95), cups (£15.95) and bowls (£15.95) by the artist Mark Hearld:
Next, to Folksy - which I didn't know about until yesterday. It's an online crafty emporium - don't switch off, I know everything is crafty these days - which seems to be more thrifty than you'd expect. For instance, the London Clay Birds company sells little birds that fit in the palm of your hand, beautiful things, for £11.50. They're made from (go on, guess, guess) London clay ("a marine deposit from the Palaeogene period, 50/60 million years old" they say. It sounds true - that's as far as I'll go). What I like is that the clay comes from the ground in Islington, where a Victorian workhouse once stood. Feels like the very earth, and so that little bird, is steeped in history.
And how about this? For £5, a useful visual joke from Sixes and Sevens:
Hope that helps! Merry Christmas!