Here is a little story told to me more than ten years ago....
At the time, along with WHSmith's, there were two other main places to buy books from - two independant book stores. One was called Paperback Parade (now an outdoor persuits store) and the other was called Peter's bookshop (now just an empty building). Once a week, I would end up in one or another of these bookshops; if one didnt have the book i was looking for, I would happily toddle along to the other, possibly to WHSmiths or even the bookstall in the local market. There was lots of choice in - dare I say it? - the good ole days.
Of all these shops, my personal favourite was Peter's. The choice was always pretty good, the people working in the shop actually liked to read and could hold a good conversation about various books and authors. They would also remember their clientele and their reading preferences, keeping books under the counter til they could be collected, without even being asked.
One time - near Christmas, if memory serves, I was indulging my book loving self, spending ages merely browsing, every so often choosing something appealing, until I had an armload of books to take to the counter.
"Christmas presents?" The cashier asked (I'm afraid I dont remember her name, but I have a suspicion it might have been Mary)
"Yes." I said, smiling, "For me"
She laughed a little. "Those are the best kind."
We chatted for a little while and then she told me about a gentleman customer of hers who had been coming into the shop every week all year, and twice a week since the beginging of November. Every visit, he would purchase a £5 book token. (Books back then cost about a fiver each)
He had told Mary that his fiancee was a complete book worm and that he planned on presenting her with all these book tokens just before christmas so that she could come in to the shop and buy exactly what she wanted.
I had thought this the most wonderful and romantic gesture possible. I could think of nothing I would like more than to receive a surprise like that.
A couple of years later, I recounted this little story to my boyfriend, hoping that he would get the huge "hint hint".. but of course, it fell on deaf ears.
"Bit daft of him wasnt it?" he'd said. "why didnt he work out what he was going to spend on her, keep the money in the bank till the end of the year - he'd have the interest that way. He'd have saved himself all the journey's to the shop too."
I remember sighing...so much for romance...
My boyfriend continued, warming to his subject..."And if he'd given her money instead, she wouldnt be limited to just buying books." (he completely missed the point) "plus," he continued, unabated "If she got the tokens, or money after christmas, she could buy stuff in the January sales and get more for her money."
I remember him smiling, totally satisfied with himself.
His advice was practical, it had to be said... but as for as being romantic goes,
Casanova he was/is not.
I do think I may treat myself to that particular gift....