This lady was seriously talented in shopping with her heart. Recently we’ve had a wrapping marathon – cakes and puds and biscotti and so on. Parcelling up cakes gives you plenty of time to think and it made me think of my lovely friend. Diminutive, in a way that was reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn, beautiful but she told the most filthy jokes.

She was one of those people who recycled before it was a thing and who upcycled before it became fashionable.  A Chanel bag or Ralph Lauren would be pressed in your hand on birthdays with an “oh it’s not Chanel you know but that bag was so pretty”. The gift would be nestled at the bottom wrapped in beautiful tissue paper tied with a piece of twine, or a shiny piece of string or a beautiful ribbon (found or gifted or saved).

When you received your parcel, it was a nugget of something that she had found in the local charity shops. I was gifted beautiful pillow cases years ago when suddenly I found myself without such luxuries. Many years later, I took the stall to the Houses of Parliament and later that year she’d found a souvenir key fob which came my way. 

This time of year, she would go to ‘festive do’s’ and she would collect the hats that had fallen from heads, crackers that hadn’t been pulled, serviettes unused. She would collect ribbons and bows, and make sure she kept them for ‘repurposing’ or for passing on to anyone who needed them. She’d recycle bits and pieces; presents with labels she had made with her pinking shears. Gifts tied with ribbons that she had from presents she received. In all the years that I was proud to call her my friend, I never had a present wrapped in the paper I gave her, or ribbons I previously put on a gift for this lady. She either had a genius memory or a book in which she wrote these things.

She would collect mints, if we went out for lunch, and pop them in her bag, or more likely, sneak them in my pockets, ‘just in case we should need them’. Many a time I came back from lunch or a meeting, put my hands in my jacket, to find it full of mint imperials. I miss finding them in my pockets …

I think we could learn a few lessons from my lovely friend. But I have one thing from her that I will treasure always – a l’Occitane gift box – it was the last present she gave me – and when I opened the tissue inside I found PROPER L’Occitane goodies ….

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