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In praise of - Socks, pants and hankies.

How did your present-giving go?

Never mind "was Santa good to you?", how good a Santa were you?

I know a little girl who is, frankly, embarrassed by the whole business of present-receiving. She unwraps with reluctance if she thinks she is the centre of attention and assesses the value of the gift (not monetarily, but as a thing she might want, need or enjoy) at her private leisure. When you receive a thank-you note, you know every word is meant.

Watching my nearest and dearest tearing the paper off on Tuesday, it has become obvious you really can't go wrong with socks, pants and hankies. Obviously you can go badly wrong with the underwear but, assuming you are aware of the taste and – crucially – size of the recipient, you will always be rewarded with gratitude. No-one wants to spend time and money on socks, pants and hankies, and everyone needs them.

So, the absence of the usual expensive boxers from the older offspring's pile of presents was immediately noticed, and rectified by his mother, who had forgotten to parcel then up although they had been purchased, as per.

The hosiery – warm, woollen and fancy, for lounging in front of the telly or keeping the chill from penetrating the expensive, but not necessarily substantial, new winter boots – was greeted with glee by the female of the species, young and old.

I sense scepticism about the handkerchiefs, but a crisp mouchoir is the accessory de nos jours. Like a terry nappy rather than disposables, they are environmentally friendly. For the lady, a clean one to drop daintily in the path of prospective beau is a Downton-style requirement.

Like a newspaper's hatches, matches and dispatches, socks, pants and hankies belong in your Christmas wrapping paper. You'll be rewarded with a smile, and maybe even a note.

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