Gym Tonic

20th December 1996 at 00:00
Pamela Coleman gets the measure of some Christmas wish lists

JENNI MURRAY Presenter of BBC Woman's Hour, which recently celebrated its 50th anniversary

"I'd love a ticket to Barbados - just one, as I'm feeling a little antisocial at the moment, having had three particularly frantic months juggling job and home. It would be wonderful to get on a plane and lie on a beach for a week leaving behind everybody at work, my partner, David, sons Edward, 13, and Charlie, nine, four dogs, four cats, a parrot, a cockatiel, a snake, a chinchilla and two mice.

"I've been to Barbados before. We had a wonderful family holiday there about five years ago, staying in a villa right on the beach. All I did was walk out of the house to swim, lie on the beach, eat, lie on the beach again, swim and then go out to jolly places.

"After my solo trip my family would be very pleased to see me because I'd come back sweet-tempered, very relaxed and a much nicer person.

"I'd also love the keys to a new MG sports car. I'd like a green one and a pure silk headscarf in racing green to match - and some Lypsyl.

"But I'll probably get a new food mixer or a chopping board, things I've been saying need replacing all year, and, from the boys, sparkling jewellery, which I shall wear all over the festive season."

LORD WINSTON Pioneer of IVF treatment at Hammersmith Hospital, London, and Labour peer

"I would like to be given the design of an experiment which, if I got positive data, was publishable in Nature, and, if I got negative data, was also publishable in Nature. The experiment could be anything biological. I'd just like somebody to give me an idea which would be a surefire winner for publication in the best journal going. All scientists want to get as high a profile as possible for their experimental work.

"My second choice would be a handbook for my 1930 Riley, which would give me an explanation as to why it won't start."

JOAN BAKEWELL Presenter, The Heart of the Matter

"I'd like a new paperback called The Social History of London by Roy Porter because, although I originate from Stockport, south Manchester, I love London and want to know about where I now live.

"I also want some lacy black stockings and a pair of luxurious black gloves because, on the whole, I'm rather practical and buy sensible stockings and plain gloves.

"I am enthusiastic about the work of young British jewellers so I'd like a piece of modern jewellery, perhaps a throat choker - as a broadcaster I can't wear long beads because they would rattle in the microphone. I don't want anything too grand or particulary valuable - just stylish.

"There's an absolutely marvellous map shop called Stanfords in Covent Garden, and I'd like something from there, pehaps a replica of a map of London in 1740.

"And I'd like a new lipstick. I'm a bit stuck in a rut, I tend to wear dark orange-brown all the time and I could do with a bit of a shake-up. I'd like somebody to choose me a different colour."


"What I'd really love is a magnificent shore-front building with thousands of square feet of space and marbled halls which could accommodate 1,000 people. This is not because I have suddenly acquired an elevated sense of my own status - it wouldn't be a new home for me, it would be a new home for the Welsh National Opera in Cardiff.

"It is a superb company, world-renowned and currently performing in the New Theatre, Cardiff, which is lovely but totally unsuitable as a venue for operas of any size. When they put on big productions, the orchestra pit is so far out into the stalls the audience has to sit upstairs and the stars have to change in portable buildings and rush through the rain to the stage. The Welsh National Opera is an enormous cultural force in Wales and it is arguable whether it can survive without a proper home."


"I'd like a personal trainer because I'm becoming ever more conscious of how unfit I am. I find it very difficult to get to a gym and although I promise myself I will do sit-ups to improve my tummy muscles, I find it difficult at home, so the discipline of having somebody who would turn up and make mework-out would be great. I wouldn't mind if the trainer was male or female - but of course if the person was young and male it might add to the intent and purpose with which I applied myself.

"What I'm more likely to find in my stocking is a piece of jewellery or some music from my husband, Ian, and, from the children, smelly things for the bath. I'd be perfectly happy with a new Magimix. I've recently hinted that ours needs replacing but my husband hates giving that kind of present, unless it comes with something else he considers a bit more inventive."

DAVID BLUNKETT Labour's Education and Employment spokesman

"What I'd like to find in my stocking is a really excellent bottle of red Burgundy - and if it was a big stocking, a goodly supply. I can justify my choice on the grounds that it is good for my health and good for my nerves. It helps me to relax, and to drink it I would have to sit down, which would make a very pleasant change. I'd have the Burgundy with my turkey on Christmas Day, and as an accompaniment to my favourite braised steak and dumplings between Christmas and New Year.

"What I'm likely to get is one or two classical CDs, perhaps a bottle of Irish whiskey and some novels on tape. The Christmas break is about the only opportunity I'll get between now and the general election to read anything but political tracts."


"I always get a tangerine and a walnut in my Christmas stocking. This year I'd also like to find a copy of the ChildLine book, Once Upon a Christmas, which I would re-read over the holiday. It would be a really great Christmas present to find that the book had reached the top 10 and made lots of money.

"I'd also like the Koh-i-noor diamond, though I suppose I'd have to keep it in the bank, which would mean that to admire it I would have to go to live in the vault. I adore beautiful jewellery that I can't afford. Sometimes when I have time to spare I drop into a jeweller's and ask to try on things. Then I give them back and walk out knowing that even if I owned them they would have to live in the bank.

"But what I would really love for Christmas - more than anything else, even than the diamond, the book, the tangerine and the walnut - is the health of my eldest daughter, Emily, who has ME."

DALTON GRANT Champion high jumper

"Although I have travelled a great deal through sport I never get to see places properly, so I'd love a leisurely round-the-world trip, probably by sea. More than seeing the sights, I'd like to meet the people of other countries and get to know them. I would particularly like to go to Tokyo. I was there for two weeks for the world championships but all the athletes were in a training camp and security was so tight we only got out a couple of times.

"I would also like a few CDs or tapes to take with me - Lionel Richie and Marvin Gaye are among my favourite artists. And I'd like a year out so I could take my time on this trip. I'm 29 and I didn't have my first holiday until last year. It's tough being among the world's top ten high jumpers. You have to work very, very hard to stay there."


"I'd like to find Rowan Atkinson in my Christmas stocking. I love Blackadder and Mr Bean and watch whenever the shows are shown on television in California, where I live. We get them on the comedy channel from time to time and I am absolutely hooked and consistently convulsed with laughter. The shows we see in the US are old, but I don't care. I really miss British humour."

CHRIS WOODHEAD Chief Inspector of Schools

"I'd like : 1. A copy of The TES with no snide references to Ofsted.

2. A signed copy of Colin Richards' forthcoming autobiography, The Buggers on the Fifth Floor.

3. Peter Mortimore's neglected masterpiece, A Longitudinal Look at Life.

4. A return (sorry, Ted Wragg) ticket to New Zealand so I can explore Mount Aspiring National Park.

"If I can give a present: a season ticket to Arsenal for Michael Barber, with grateful thanks for his many new initiatives."

LISA JARDINE Professor of English and Dean of the Faculty of Arts at Queen Mary and Westfield College, London

"I'd like a luxury package holiday for two in Granada in Southern Spain. I'd take my husband (architect John Hare) because we barely seem to have seen each other lately. I need to be taken off to a remote location so I can actually exchange sensible words with him in a relaxed atmosphere.

"I've never been to Granada, but I have longed to visit. It is where East meets West in my new history of the Renaissance, Worldy Goods, so I'm afraid that although my husband doesn't realise it, I'll be doing some research while I am there. I particularly want to see the Alhambra, which Queen Isabella so fell in love with when she and Ferdinand took Granada in 1492, that she turned it into her own palace."

MICHAEL BARBER Author of The Learning Game and professor of education at the Institute of Education, London University

"In my Christmas stocking I'd be really glad to find: 1. A packet of Lavazza Italian espresso coffee. I'm a coffee fanatic and this makes really good strong black coffee.

2. A first edition of Mac-aulay's History of England - a wonderful book.

3. Two tickets to see Liverpool play in the Cup Final. I come from Aughton on the outskirts of the city and am a passionate supporter. I'm predicting they'll reach the final. I'd take Chris Wood-head with me and show him some real quality teamwork."

MAUREEN LIPMAN Actress and writer

"This Christmas I'm going to ask for courses in using a computer and doing the tango. I write everything with a ballpoint pen, and they always run out. I never learned to type and am beginning to feel I am on my way out and must get with it. I'm dysfunctional as a human being because I can't count, mend a blender or do anything practical. My daughter, Amy, writes on a computer and my son, Adam, even uses e-mail. I'm the only one who still works Fred Flintstone fashion.

"I'd like tango lessons because I can only lead in ballroom dancing, and panic when I'm not dancing with a girl. I feel that being unable to ballroom dance is somehow a reflection of me as a woman. Being able to tango would, I think, be the nearest thing to being a rag doll in the arms of a macho man. I once learned flamenco and it gave me enormous happiness.

"This year I am determined to do things that make me happy rather than continually do things that have to be done.

"I'd also like a fairy to come and remove the bags under my eyes without surgery, a small Suffolk hideaway (one with two bedroms would be enough) and some solvent with which I can dissolve all those sleeping policemen and leave the roads pristine as they were before."

The Rt Rev STEPHEN VENNOR Bishop of Middleton and Member of the General Synod Board of Education

"I'd like: 1. A watch with 25 hours in every day.

2. A book with an inexhaustible supply of stories for children, but with a print run of one.

3. A spell to send all education politicians, inspectors and officers to sleep for a year.

4. A new tongue, capable of persuading other adults of simple truths.

5. 10,000 new teachers, all of them committed Christians and capable of teaching RE as well as their specialised subject.

6. A photographic memory which improves as I grow older.

"I'll probably get a tea towel or a pair of socks".

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today