Sharing things

Gift edition: Part 1

December 09, 2021 The University of Edinburgh Season 5 Episode 8
Sharing things
Gift edition: Part 1
Show Notes Transcript

Our gift to you this Christmas is inspired by George and Tammy from episode 3 of our most recent season. We decided to reflect more on the idea of the perfect gift. What makes something memorable? Is it about the giver, the moment, or a perfect cocktail of everything? We asked this question to you our listeners, and you shared your thoughts.

Part one of this special gift edition features Lindsay, Scott, Natalie, Nick, Brigid, Wing, Gaurav, Michael, Chiara and Alan. There will be more gifts and more stories in part 2 next week.   

Join us then or check out the Sharing things back catalogue and explore your community through other important objects.  

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  

Bells from Christmas Story by Alex MakeMusic from Pixabay.

Graphics from Freepix: Guitar - Designed by Freepik, Picture - Designed by pch.vector, Golf - Designed by vectorpouch, Dog - Designed by, Santa hat - Designed by Freepik,  Ipod Nano – Designed by Freepik. Also includes Ticket – Designed by BarelyDevi from Pixabay.

[Christmas bells]

[Theme music]

Kate  0:10 Christmas and the New Year is traditionally a time of celebration, but also of reflection. 2021 might not have been the return to normality that we'd hoped for, but as the year draws to a close, we're thankful for what was possible, and how, as a community we came together to better understand and support one another. Inspired by episode three of our most recent season, we decided to reflect more on the idea of the perfect gift. What makes something memorable? Is it about the giver, the moment or a perfect cocktail of everything? We asked this question to you our listeners, and you shared your thoughts. 

This is Lindsay Jack, Director of Student Experience at Edinburgh Law School.

Lindsay  0:56  I must have been about three or four. It was in the 80s and my sister and I were given a joint present. And it was this huge-- well, huge to me, it was tiny, this black bag full of Barbie and Cindy clothes. And there were also a couple of dolls as well, I think a couple of Barbie’s, a couple of Cindy's, I'm sure there was maybe a Ken in there somewhere. And separately, there was also a Cindy swimming pool, which you could fill with water and had working, functional Jacuzzi and lights. There was also a Barbie stables and a couple of horses. And it turned out my mum had seen an advert in the local paper and someone she knew was selling this huge bag of stuff. And it was just so lovely. It was so lovely that she saw it, bought it, kept it secret from us, it was way more than we could-- could have afforded first-hand and we didn't have loads of money. And it was just a really gorgeous gift. And I think about it when someone mentions Christmas or gifts, it's pretty much the first thing I think of. I think of how excited she would have been to get that for us. And knowing that it was something that we probably couldn't otherwise have had, had it not been second-hand. And you know, I don't think I even realised it was second-hand, I didn't know or care that they weren't in boxes. It was just wow, we suddenly had this stuff and aw, the hours and hours we spent in our lives playing with everything. It was absolutely incredible. We still have some of it now and when I think of it, I just feel so happy and so warm. And it's also a gift that has kind of come back into fashion now. Because it wasn't that fashionable in the 80s to have second-hand stuff. It wasn't that fashionable to, to shop second-hand or wear second-hand. I now it is, now it's eco friendly, and it's reduce, reuse, recycle. And it's kind of come full circle again. So it's really great to know that people can now still benefit from things like that. And my mum's not with us anymore. My mum very sadly passed away incredibly, suddenly three years ago. So it's a gift that kind of keeps on giving and brings back, lovely, lovely memories when I think about it now, but also when I thought about it, even when mum was still around. And we would regularly talk about this incredible bag of magic that we got. So yeah, best ever. Thanks, Mum.

Kate  3:36  This is Scott Willis, Senior Creative at Tesco Bank and former video producer at the University.

Scott  3:42  A present for me that really nailed it as a kid was something that I actually took for granted at the time. In fact, it wasn't presented to me as a gift at all. And that was on Christmas 2002, a trip to South Africa to visit my uncle, auntie and my cousins. A highlight from this trip was when I saw a praying mantis in my uncle's bathroom. I mean, this thing was huge, it was the size of my hand. Out of the trip, I got to experience different cultures, new music, new food and more weird insects, which I loved filming with my camcorder. I could zoom in, they had weird faces. It made me realise a little bit more about the world and how it worked. And how it was huge. And there's more to explore. It was December, yet, it was the height of the South African summer, which made me realise that different seasons happen at different times for different parts of the earth. And no doubt, Santa always manages to find where you are. So for me, that trip itself was the gift. And yeah, I think it really nailed it. It opened my eyes and really kind of made me a curiously minded individual. And that's something I really appreciate. A close second was my Nintendo 64 from Christmas 1998.

Kate  5:06  This is Natalie Hotchkiss, a 2020 Chinese Studies graduate and Programme Coordinator at Pagoda Projects.

Natalie  5:15  When I reflect back on the gifts I've been lucky enough to receive over the years from my loved ones, there have been so many that are really meaningful to me, that I still cherish to this day. However, none of those came to mind immediately, the first present that came to mind was from my dad, which should be some sort of an indication of the kind of present it was. Now, my dad is actually really great at buying presents, he always thinks of things that are really thoughtful that consider, you know, what has happened in the past year, he picks up on little things we've mentioned in conversations that we've forgotten, and then he'll think of that when he's buying gifts. And he's-- he's always been really good at it, but I guess this one particular year, he went a bit rogue, and instead of something that's terribly practical, or anything like that, he decided to buy me remote control sumo wrestlers, which was surprising. I was a bit younger, but I absolutely loved it. I was so shocked by it, it just seemed so random. I'd never seen any of like this online or mentioned this before. And I just laugh because I think, you know, my dad would have seen this, you know, when he was out and about and thought, yes, I'm going to get that for Natalie for Christmas [laughs]. And I don't know what the thought process was, but I know it was just a goofy thing that he thought he'd do. And that just makes me laugh so much. And from that year on, he's always got us a gift you present that-- that isn't particularly in a way thoughtful or super meaningful. It's just something silly for the sake of being silly. And I just really appreciate that. It reminds me, you know how great of a dad my dad is, and of his goofy side as well. So while the remote control Sumo wrestlers aren't necessarily something I use on a daily basis, in fact, we probably only used it that Christmas, and it's in a cupboard somewhere, I still really appreciate my dad's thought process there. And it reminds me of the relationship that I have with my dad.

Kate  7:36  This is Nick Hood, Senior Teaching Fellow in Secondary Education.

Nick  7:42  Well, as I get older, I tend to hang on less tightly to possessions, things. And I have a guitar that I was given when I was 11 years old. And the person that gave me the guitar is no longer with us, but I keep the guitar, as beaten up as it is. And because I value it, and it reminds me of them. It puts me back into the days when Christmases were all about that feeling in the middle of the night, when Mum laid a pillowcase full of boxes, puzzles, books, annuals, gently on the foot of the bed. I was always aware of it, but it's just that feeling of in the night, that-- that laying, that gentle laying of the pillow slip with the presents in it on the end of the bed. It's the memory of that more than the Rupert annuals or the puzzles or the books that were contained within the pillowcase, or whatever toy I wanted at the time. It's that memory of that package of gifts being laid at the end of the bed. I don't remember it, but she told me that it was never very long before there was a rustling of paper and presents being opened as I didn't have the patience to wait. I was too excited to be honestly. Nowadays, of course, small things matter more. The gift of life, of course is an amazing thing and I'm tending to hang on to that more tightly as I get older. But gifts that I like are small things. I love puzzles. I seem to be obsessed with stationery. I cannot pass a Muji store or a stationery store without popping in and looking for gifts. Not things that I need, but things that I treasure. I love a pencil, I love notebooks, I like a little eraser, those little rulers you can get. Those are the amazing things that I love. My wife knows this, so we don't go mad for Christmas. We tend to be moderate in our expenditure. And, but what we do get and what we do exchange are the small things. Piles of dark chocolate we wouldn't buy ourselves, almond sweets, those sugar coated almonds which seem to be only in existence at Christmas. Those are the magical things that I treasure most of all. Those things that I wouldn't spend money on for myself, but gratefully accept as gifts, small things. So, the small things of life and the big thing of life itself. They're the gifts that I treasure.

Kate  10:33  This is Brigid McMorrow, a final year English Literature student.

Brigid  10:39  The best Christmas gift I ever received was actually not originally intended for me. The Christmas that my grandma turned 100, my dad's first cousin, Josephine, bought her a beautiful painting. It was a watercolour painting created by local artists in my grandma's hometown of Clifden, on the west coast of Ireland. The painting was of the exact view that my grandma used to have when she would leave her cottage in the mornings to cycle to school. You can see the Atlantic Ocean in a beautiful bright blue shade, several rowing boats such as those that her farther would row, and the sky is a dusky pink. You can also see a solitary figure in one of the rowing boats. It's quite a romantic and thought provoking image. It meant a lot to her and to all of us, as it was then around 70 years since she had left Ireland for London, and she sometimes missed her hometown. She treasured this painting, and it brought back many memories to her. When my grandma got older, she is now 108 and living with my parents in London, her eyesight began to fail, and she could no longer see the painting. She would tell us that she could see it in her mind's eye, but that it simply wasn't visible to her anymore, as it hung opposite her bed. Instead, when I moved away to Edinburgh for university, she gave it to me and said that I could hang it in my new bedroom. That was almost four years ago now and it's moved with me for all that time. I keep it hanging above my desk, so I can see it now as I'm recording this. Although it doesn't quite mean as much to me as it did to her, it's wonderful to have a little piece of her history with me. And it's a very special connection with my grandma from far away. So even though I was not originally gifted this-- this present, it's definitely meant a lot to me and to my grandma and I like to think that it's something that I'll be able to pass on to future generations.

Kate  12:42  This is Wing Ho, a 2021 linguistics graduate.

Wing  12:48  I was thinking about this for a long time actually and I had a few to choose from, but I thought the first one that came to my mind was quite cliché, but I stuck with it in the end. So my favourite Christmas gift ever is my dog. She's 14 years old right now and she's a West Highland White Terrier. I received her when I was eight, a really gracious gift from my parents, and I decided to name her Sweetie. Bit of backstory, I grew up in London since birth until I was six, but my parents are originally from Macau, a place really close to Hong Kong. So they decided to move the whole family back to Macau when I was six and I definitely did experience a massive culture shock and it was so unfamiliar to me. So many things were changing for me as a child that I was just so stubborn about it. I was very upset. I guess it didn't help that they phrased the moving as a trip to kind of ease my six year old brain. My grandma started taking care of me and I remember her always mentioning how much of a difficult child I was in the beginning. And I think that was just me acting out, but yeah, it was very difficult for me and I think my parents decided to give me this gift as a way to appease me and to get me to settle in a bit better. So how I met her was, I-- there was a new pet store that opened right around the corner and every so often I would go see her. She was so cute, I think she was eight months old then. Even seeing her through the glass, she was always very sassy, very cute, very confident, very cheeky for sure. So I think I fell in love with her immediately and I remember, I don't know when, but I started begging for her and asking my mum so many times and I'm such a stubborn person. So they gave in in the end. And I remember the first photo of us was when we picked her up. It's a very cute photo and I've been trying to find it recently. It's, it's, it's one of my favourite photos as well. Yeah, I think she's just my most treasured because she's helped me adjust to living. We've had many, many a cute moments together. I was just thinking about it this year because, since I've graduated, I've moved back to Macau for the time being to kind of figure out what I want to do. I'm not gonna lie, it was at first difficult to adjust after being in Edinburgh for four years. So I guess it's come an interesting, full circle now that she's helped me adjust again. Once I think about it and calculate it, she's been with me for 14 years, and that's, yeah, I'm 22 right now, so that's more than half my life. I don't condone getting pets on a whim on Christmas. I bet my parents calculated this and decided it was a responsibility we could all take. So just as a tiny disclaimer here, but yeah, she's my favourite Christmas gift ever.

Kate  16:24  This is Gaurav Singh, International Relations graduate and Secretary of the New York Alumni Club.

Gaurav  16:32  To date, the best gift that I've ever received was a golf putter. I know it may not seem like such a great and meaningful gift, but it was given to me by my grandfather many, many years ago. When I was younger, I would take summer trips every two years or so, to India to spend time with my grandparents. While we were there, and at a very young age, he taught me the game of golf along with other valuable life lessons, such as tying my shoes, respecting your elders, importance of a strong work ethic. During our time together, he would lend me his putter and let me practice on my own, while him and his army friends played a real round of golf. I always enjoyed my time with him and his many words of wisdom. During my last trip to India, and before he passed away, my grandfather gave me his putter that I used all those years in the hopes that his legacy and passion for the game will live on through me. Although extremely worn, and old, and practically unusable, the putter reminds me of the times I spent with him and my family in India and the importance of the lessons he taught me. Not only golf lessons, but life lessons. I proudly display this item in my home and will cherish it forever. I wish you all a very happy holiday season.

Kate  17:46  This is Michael Forward, a 2021 Maths and Music graduate.

Michael  17:53  So my favourite gift isn't really something that I've ever thought too much about before being asked to do this. But something that sticks out to me from the start of this year was-- was my best friend asking me to be one of her bridesmaids. And she came to my house at the start of January with this, like big hamper that had sort of like, a card, like a sash, a big like novelty wineglass and a bracelet. You're supposed to wear it and make a wish and then when it snaps that's like your wish come true. So it was like quite cute kind of stuff. It wasn't even so much what was in the hamper itself that was what made it special though. It was more like the timing of it and just how it made me think about that we've been friends for so long. And when I think about, kind of like the moment that we first, like met and really started like getting to know each other, to think that it's been like seven years since then, and now I'm going to be like one of the like, important people at her wedding, it like seems crazy to me. But I think at the time, it was round about the middle of January at the start of this year and I guess I was feeling quite disconnected and stuff because I was back in my hometown and I was just starting on like my last semester at university from my childhood bedroom. And I didn't really know what was going to happen, I was really unsure because like the new lockdown and stuff. I'd also spent like my entire Christmas holiday basically cramming for my dissertation and trying to get like a first chapter draft finished before term started. I was just so like, obsessed with university stuff at the time. And then being back home, which is an environment I don't particularly enjoy that much. Having her come round and like, ask me to be her bridesmaid and just thinking about the wedding in general just made me really take a step back and realise that there's much bigger things in the world going on than University and this dissertation and I should probably stop stressing out as much as I was. So I really appreciated it at the-- in the short term just for like making me realise that you know being back home isn't that bad. It's made me really appreciate just the friendship that we have because I never would have imagined being as close as we are back when we first became friends. I think that is definitely my favourite gift that I can think of. It's definitely one that's meant the most to me recently anyway.

Kate  20:39  This is Chiara Ciucani, Linguistics and Scottish Studies Erasmus graduate, and Training and Development Officer in Development and Alumni.

Chiara  20:50  The best gift I've ever received is a bouquet of roses I received on the morning of my 18th birthday. Today is actually my birthday. So I thought it would be extra special to talk about this gift. I remember feeling very excited, and almost overwhelmed at the thought of formally stepping into adulthood, being able to vote, starting my driving lessons. And I remember I was getting ready to go to school that morning and suddenly the doorbell rang. I opened the door and the florist delivered the most enormous bouquet of red roses I'd ever seen. It was beautiful and it was all for me. It was from Luigi, Barbara and Tommaso, who are a family I'd been very close to when I was little. But then they'd moved away and we'd lost touch, as it sometimes happens when you don't speak to someone all that often. But they'd remembered me. They'd remembered that on that day I was celebrating an important birthday. And they sent me a very beautiful, very unexpected present. Now I turned 18 a little while ago, not that long ago, but long enough that it was before smartphones and Instagram. And I didn't think of preserving any of these flowers. So that gift really only lives in my memory now. There was also a card I think, and I probably still have it somewhere. I'm a total hoarder, so I think it's most likely in a drawer in my dad's house in Italy. The flowers I remember really well. And I conjure the memory of opening that door and finding these flowers when I'm a little short on positivity and wonder and creativity, I guess, because thinking about that moment always makes me feel warm and loved. Like I matter to people and I can be in someone's heart even if I don't see that person every day. So thank you, Luigi, Barbara and Tommaso for your gift, and thank you for listening. Ciao. 

Kate  22:53  This is Alan Addison, English Literature graduate and author.

Alan  22:59  It was a few years ago now and a few days before Christmas, when Mary the Head Teacher came to me and said, Alan, I need a big favour. I said, 'what's that Mary? I'm aw' busy remember?’ She says, 'Alan, I know you're a Community Learning and Development worker, but we've got a real problem. Our janitors taken ill'. I said 'Sorry Mary, I can't be a janitor'. 'No', she says, 'but he's always played Santa. We need a Santa. Could you be our Santa?' I said 'Mary, I'm up to my eyes in it. I've got a workload like would a choke a horse. There's no way I can be Santa. I didn't go to university and do all that studying to be Santa'. 'Please', she said, 'I'm begging you. We've nobody else, please'. I said, 'when is it?'. She says 'tomorrow morning, before the kids go off on holiday'. So that morning I found myself in the gents toilet, pulling on a pair of bright red trousers, a bright red jacket, a bright red hat with a white bobble, a big black belt and black boots with furry lining. Walking along to the main hall where some of the teachers and Mary were standing. She says, 'you're looking a bit flustered Alan, are you alright?' I said, 'Mary, I'm boiling. I can hardly breathe in this suit. She says, 'you'll be fine. Go into the hall, it's cooler in there and take the chair in the centre. Honestly, you'll be fine. We're going to be bringing them along a class at a time. You'll be getting one pupil at a time coming in. You'll be alright'. And in I went, to the big empty hall and I was sitting there in the chair looking around thinking what am I doing here? When I heard the first class piling up outside the doors, and in walked this wee girl. I could see, easily, that she was living in an area of deprivation. She was under clothed for the winter, and obviously underfed. And she came right up to me and looked at me in the face and said, 'Hello Santa', and I give her her present. And that's when she gave me mine. Possibly the best Christmas I've ever had.

Kate  25:25  Thank you for listening. There'll be more tales of gifts in our next special episode. Join us then or check out the Sharing things back catalogue and explore your community through other important objects. Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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