16 December 2009

On presents to lay down...

This season, I have two great-nieces and a great nephew, as well as a step-granddaughter. The latter is no problem or indeed challenge in respect of presents; she is old enough to write a list, and we are close enough to her to respond directly (which is not, for the record, giving her exactly what she asks for).

But being at one remove offers opportunities. To "lay down" gifts for future enjoyment. In times past it might have been the beginning of a wine cellar. A generation ago, I typically gave the current "Whitaker's Almanack" as a record of the year of a child's birth, and perhaps as the foundation of a library.

Things have moved on. In particular, the net has largely marginalised that kind of contemporary/historical record. (What it cannot overtake, of course, are the casual, routine values/prejudices which are embodied in the reporting of the day, but the blogosphere more than makes up for that.

Last year, Gombrich's wonderful "A Little History of the World" had just been published in English, about 80-odd years late. It's too old for the children now, of course, but it will be there for them when they are ready. Any ideas about this year's equivalent?

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