Present and correct

Need some last-minute gift ideas? Then look no further

As I said some weeks ago, I have been so full of anticipation over Christmas from early on that, by this stage, I almost register on the Richter scale with my shaky excitement. For those of you who were a bit slow to it, however, and still have Christmas presents to buy, let me help.

It's a really bad idea to give perfume or aftershave; you'll either get it wrong or you'll buy what they always wear and that smacks of restocking, rather than buying a present. If you want to buy someone, male or female, a smelly present then forget scented candles, nice though they are, and get Living Cologne by Jo Malone (

This is basically air-freshener, but is like no air-freshener you'll have (probably) tried before. First, it's £45 a bottle, but I've had mine (Napa Leather for downstairs bathroom, Pine and Eucalyptus for upstairs) for two years now and there's still loads left. (I covet the Grapefruit and Rosemary, if anyone is reading.) Second, it's just so classy and gorgeous and sublime and so worth every penny. You'd be hard-pushed to buy a better present.

A lovely, slightly silly present, but one that would be very welcome, is a pair of cashmere mittens, £22.50 from . These have three big selling points: they're cashmere, so very warm; they're mittens, which makes everyone smile (you just can't take mittens too seriously); and they're long-cuffed, so super-snug. I adore mine. This website is also where I buy all my pashminas: great prices, quality and service.

If you're going to someone's house for Christmas but aren't sure what to buy them, I have two suggestions: Persephone books, which are magical little volumes - short stories, journals, old cookery books. All are housed in dove-grey covers, but the inside covers are splendidly patterned; each book is different. You can buy them for £10 each, or £27 for three, from selected bookshops or www.persephonebooks. All the most fashionable people eat Tracklements Chilli Jam at £3.15. (I once introduced it to a bunch of fashion editors, in sausage sandwiches, and they still berate me for getting them addicted to it - and the sausage sandwiches.) Have a look at for local stockists, as online you need to buy a minimum of six jars (although . . . ).

Never underestimate how great a present a magazine subscription is: while most people can afford a magazine, a subscription seems such an indulgence.

The super beauty of it is, also, that you can buy a copy of said magazine at the last minute, include a note, and set up the subscription at a later date. And, of course, you are giving a present for every week or month of the year, for what works out a bargain price.

Have a lovely Christmas. See you in the New Year, when we're talking warm sheepskin boots à la Ugg.

Annalisa Barbieri was in fashion PR for five years before going to the Observer to be fashion assistant. She has worked for the Evening Standard and the Times and was one of the fashion editors on the Independent on Sunday for five years, where she wrote the Dear Annie column. She was fishing correspondent of the Independent from 1997-2004.

This article first appeared in the 17 December 2007 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas and New Year special 2007