Revival: Gift Giving

  Amy Choi’s Revival column was one of the highlights of The Saturday Age before The Personal Shopper got the proverbial chop, so I’m delighted she accepted my invitation to bring some of her op-shopping tales to Girl With a Satchel. Prettier in print – but nothing’s stopping you from hitting ‘Control P’ and sharing it with your granny.

It’s not that some people are more deserving than others, merely that some people are a darned sight easier to buy for. So the contents of my present cabinet is weighted very much in favour of those family members who are possessed of an identifiable aesthetic; a sense of personal style.

I keep a well-stocked present cabinet because I do most of my shopping in op shops. In op shops, you can’t always find what you want when you want it. Instead, you have to keep your loved ones in mind at all times, and when the right item presents itself you snap it up and put it away until you need it.

Needless to say, stylish things are much easier to find in op shops than fashionable or faddish things. I’m yet to come across a MasterChef cookbook or Susan Boyle CD, and by the time I do it’ll probably be passé.

But things that were never really “in” will never really be “out”. I have a brother-in-law whose interests include band T-shirts, wooden masks, tiki mugs and cane furniture. I have so many things for him in my present cabinet at any one time that some of them languish in there for years. After all, just because he is more fun to buy for doesn’t mean he ought to get more presents than everyone else come Christmas.

For other family members, I have to be alert to whatever little titbits of information I can glean from conversation. For instance, my father-in-law recently revealed that he hadn’t even heard of the BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit. I happen to know he enjoyed Bleak House and most of the recent Austen adaptations, so I’ll be on the lookout for a second-hand copy of the Little Dorrit DVD between now and his birthday in June. If I can’t find one in an op shop, Dixons and Cash Converters stores or Ebay will be a good bet.

Amy Choi grew up in the family business (a Chinese take-away) and is a three-time university dropout. She was once a finalist in the Vogue Talent Contest and flew all the way to London for lunch at Vogue House. She has worked in customer service, as an usher, foster carer, freelance writer and columnist, most recently for The Age. Her first book will be published next year. She's still dating her first boyfriend and they live in country Victoria with their two daughters. Keep track of Amy's op-shopping adventures at her Revival blog... or at GWAS each fortnight.