The Phantom’s Greenwich Christmas Gift Guide

Good Lord. I just looked at the diary. There are less than five weeks to go before The Big Day and apart from booking panto tickets I’ve done nothing at all about it. Of course that’s not unusual – but I really want to avoid the stress that goes with Christmas Eve shoppery this year.

Despite the lights not being on yet at Greenwich Market (a good thing, natch – you’ll just have to wait until next Friday for that…) everything’s gone Christmas Mad. And as for the chain stores – you can’t go anywhere without acquiring one of those glossy gift supplements from stores with more money than originality, advertising the same old perfumes and tacky office toys.

But I’m now feeling left out. I too want to jump on the bandwagon and produce something bored people can flick through then immediately chuck away. So, in the absence of Old Phantom’s Greenwich Almanack, which, naturally, would have been the season’s best seller had I actually got around to producing it (like so many things on this site I haven’t actually done yet, blush) here’s my Greenwich gift guide.

I’ve tried to keep it as gifts with a local theme rather than just things you can buy here – for that I recommend just visiting Greenwich town centre (take some Prosac first, though, eh, if you’re going at a weekend…)

I haven’t included anything Greenwich-related for children as in my experience they don’t care about themes or provenance for gifts – quantity will always prevail (though if you’re really stuck, the puppet stall on Greenwich Market does delightful fingerbob sets of famous fairy tales including a particularly gruesome one of The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. For older kids, I recommend, from Compendia’s current stock, Ticket To Ride (a great family game,) Labyrinth (the boardgame, not the puzzle,) Pueto Rico (for older, more mature kids) and as a stocking filler, Guillotine.) But onto the Greenwich Gifts…

1) Cutty Sark cuff links. In black and white, based on her own photos of the rigging. The same artist, Alison Wiffen, also does Observatory versions and a necklace based on a picture of the Cutty Sark’s prow. Red Door Gallery, Turnpin Lane. Check out Alison’s full range here

2) A limited edition Greenwich print from Greenwich Printmakers in the Market. The local ones tend to be grouped together near the desk.There are some great ones of Lovells Wharf just now – good for people who are just buying in the new developments.

3) Membership of Greenwich Picturehouse. A fab thing where it’s virtually impossible to lose money, but you still feel like you ‘belong…’ With your membership you get a number of ‘free’ tickets, plus invites to free screenings and the odd event.

4) Theatre of Wine own brand wine. They’ve been promising this for ages – if they still aren’t doing it yet, pester. In the absence of that, get some Flute Enchantee to drown your disappointment.

5) Blackheath and Environs, Neil Rhind. Available again after a hiatus of some years, this is one of those books that all local historians need. Highly scholarly, it’s not an ‘easy read’ as such – but very satisfying. I got my copy from Sisters and Daughters, Blackheath

6) Warren King’s superb Greenwich Calendar, in CD case form. Remember those pics of Squeeze I posted recently? They were by Warren King, who has created his own fabulous calendar. He told me he’s launching a website, but I can’t find it just now. However, I’ve seen these really rather splendid calendars in various places, including Red Door Gallery and even, believe it or not, Greenwich Post Office.

7) A Greenwich Clockmakers Clock – old fashioned style – some nicer than others. Personally I think they could have slightly higher production values, but they’re still very nice pieces and would make good, topical presents. Greenwich Market.

8) A Season Ticket for Greenwich Theatre. If last season was anything to go by, a bit of a curate’s egg of a gift – some shows were so great I wanted to go again instantly, others were really rather duff (I left one in the interval, another I would have left if it had had an interval – but that sort of doesn’t matter if you’re overall paying so little for a ticket (works out just over a tenner per show, if memory serves.) With its slightly chequered history, it’s important to support the theatre, even if not everything is to one’s personal taste. But as value for money goes, it’s great, and your recipient will have loads of nights out for a comparatively small outlay on your part…

9) An antique map from Warwick Leadlay Gallery. The real thing if you’re ultra-generous, a good quality print if you’re a little more strapped for cash. Several available from knowledgeable and helpful staff.

10) Greenwich Meantime Beer. Buy it from various outlets including The Cheeseboard. The alternative is a festive keg of whatever’s on ‘special’ from Zero Degrees in Montpelier Row, Blackheath.

11) A Fishmonger Ltd Apron – With a cool design by Paul McPherson in funky colours. From our very own local Fishmonger, of course…

12 A good book. If your recipient likes classics, try The Secret Agent. If they’re into more modern stuff, I enjoyed both Birdman and The Dead of Summer. Reviews of all of these can be found in the Books section.

13 A charitable donation. You could do a lot worse than helping out The Cutty Sark after her annus horribilis. Buy a nice Cutty Sark card from the shop and tell your nearest and dearest that they have adopted a plank. Metaphorically speaking, of course. And don’t forget to visit Jerry Bruckheimer’s Pirates of the Caribbean photo exhibition at the Cutty Sark this week. To make a donation visit

14 Classic Paper Calendar with photographs by Fergus Noone. Traditional calendar with beautiful B&W photos in F.N’s inimitable style. Fergus Noone Gallery

15 Rosa Christopher Marlowe, David Austin roses. The gardener’s choice. A rose named for our local Elizabethan-playwright-who-died-in-suspicious-circumstances.

16 Membership of the Flamsteed Astronomy Society If you’re going to belong to any astronomy society anywhere, then surely Greenwich has to be the place. This active scientific society meets regularly at The Greenwich Observatory, has observation nights and talks by eminent astronomers. If you’re thinking of joining the friends of the NMM – remember that by joining the Flamsteed Astronomical Society you automatically become a friend of the Nmm.

17 DLR line Mug, “Cutty Sark for the Royal Observatory” from the new-look London Transport Museum. In turquoise, it’s part of a selection of mugs from famous parts of the LT network. View it herebut use buying one as an excuse for visiting the splendid new museum.

18 Prime Meridian T Shirt, If you can’t make it into Covent Garden, huff and puff your way up Observatory Hill to the Observatory shop for this most apt of Greenwich gifts instead. Or buy it online and save yourself the effort.

19 A Greenwich Fan, designed by Peter Kent. The Fan Museum shop has two different Greenwich designs on their website, but it’s such a terrible (very pretty, but terrible) page that I can’t work out whether they’re for general sale or not. They say they can do mail order – and then don’t actually tell you what they sell. But hey. Why not visit this jewel of a museum and check out their latest exhibition Winds of Change, or, after Dec 2, Celebrations and visit their delightful little shop at the same time. What they lack in web-savvy they more than make up for in charm…

20 Finally. My personal favourite – but you’ll have to get in there quick – A Private Christmas Cruise on a Greenwich Yacht. This is part of the Friends of East Greenwich Pleasaunce’s Blind Auction. Basically the treasurer of the FoEGP just happens to have a 26′ yacht and will skipper a group for a private trip up the Thames for the highest bidder. The auction will be officially held at the FoEGP Christmas Carol meet next Sunday Dec 2, but if you want to bid before that, email the friends(annoyingly I can’t find any details online…)

One last thing. Christmas cards. Good quality charity ones from St Alfeges Church, nice local versions from Warwick Leadlay, The Cutty Sark and Westcombe and Blackheath Societies.

BTW just out of interest, has anyone acquired any of those “mince pound” things yet? Apparently for every pound you spend in various places in Greenwich town centre you get a mince pound which can be exchanged for a pound off various entertainments in Greenwich. None of the places I’ve spent over ten quid at so far seemed to do them though.

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