Give a wedding gift that keeps on giving

HERE we are, wedding season in full swing and the guests are revolting.Weddings get more lavish by the year - �20,000-plus for one big day - and couples become more greedy and grabbing.

HERE we are, wedding season in full swing and the guests are revolting.

Weddings get more lavish by the year - �20,000-plus for one big day - and couples become more greedy and grabbing.

Guests are not happy.

A recession might be on but the credit crunch isn't stopping the scourge of guests - the dreaded wedding present list.

A wedding invitation used to mean a happy couple wanted you to join them for their celebrations. Now guests feel they just want their wallets - the present. And they've had enough.

Once upon a time, elegant simple embossed invitations containing no more than an RSVP dropped on to doormats. Then weddings were all about marriage.

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Today envelopes as thick as newspapers are wedged in letterboxes packed with details, booklets and websites down to the last teaspoon of what guests are expected to give for the pleasure of witnessing the nuptials.

Now it's less about the vows and more about what they'll get in the gift-fest later.

Before you can say congratulations, you're being ticked off against a rice cooker or Kitchenaid mixer. 'If it's good enough for Nigella, it's good enough for me,' says the bride, poring over a glossy catalogue.

'I wouldn't mind,' said one friend faced with what looked like an inventory for a top-notch restaurant kitchen before the wedding of an acquaintance. 'But both bride and groom have been married before, have been living together for two years and have got a houseful of stuff. This is just greedy.'

And it's mostly stuff no one really needs - gadgets, appliances and steak knives that will never see the light of day but look good in the catalogue.

'I want to share in their happy day,' said another friend. 'But I feel resentful that they've spent an evening looking through a directory of a department store ticking off anything that looks good and insist we all buy from it. It feels so grasping - and soulless.'

Plain rude, really. 'Come to our wedding - as long as you spend a packet on something useless from this long, long list.'

They want a lifestyle in the catalogue - but no-one should get someone else to buy it for them. Or a honeymoon, so de rigeur today , expecting guests to cough up travel vouchers to send them on holiday.

Lists do have their place - no one needs 15 kettles and six toasters and taste is an individual issue.

No one begrudges buying a gift.

But unless a couple is starting out in life these on-line lists - guests rarely get to even see what they've bought because it's bought, wrapped and sent out by the store - have become obscene.

They could at least be sent out on request with a decent delay- not with the invitation.

I like the idea of charity lists. For couples with enough to get by, how lovely to request no presents but charity donations instead. Or to sponsor a child in the Third World, plant some trees, do good in parts of the world where there's barely enough rice to eat let alone a �52 fancy cooker to steam it in.

Friends who celebrated their silver wedding recently insisted on no gifts. People were invited to give to a cancer charity close to their hearts.

A friend's parents did the same for their recent golden wedding. And a young couple asked for anything from Oxfam Unwrapped - For Those Who Need it Most. Quite.

How lovely to think that a marriage in Britain's land of plenty could provide essentials we take for granted for those most in need - food, water, shelter, education. Those really are the gifts that keep on giving.

When a three-tier designer stainless steel steamer is sitting at the back of a cupboard still in its box, a well drilled from donations will give water to a community for generations.

Good not greed. Marriages might be happier for it.

THE pub in our village is up for sale.

A landmark character pub, run by the same big personality landlord since 1972, it sits at the heart of our Broadland community, drawing visitors by road and river.

If it's not sold and has to close our village will be as dead as a do-do. Quieter, maybe, but who wants quiet when it means dead?

We lost our post office and village shop last summer, axed in the Post Office closure plan. There's no school or other shop, just the pub to give life to what is largely a dormitory village.

Our village is not alone. This week it was warned that 1,000 village pubs and shops could be forced out of business in the coming year to 'rip the heart out' of local communities.

The pub brings live music to the village, young people, cyclists, walkers and Broads holidaymakers mooring at the village staithe and wandering up our road to the pub. It puts our village on the map.

I've said it before, the smoking ban is killing off the pub trade. The Government is guilty of killing our pub heritage and the livelihoods of landlords and their families.

In turn, Westminster is killing our villages.

Without the pub, our village and most other villages will be ghosts of places, soulless communities which, eventually, people will leave and elderly people, who rely on post offices and pubs for social interaction, will be depressed, lonely and neglected.

THE break-up saga of split personality Katie Price, her alter-ego Jordan and the has-been pop singer husband she met on a reality TV show might be far off the interest radar of most of us.

But the under 25s who have watched every row and make-up in their excrutiating TV show, their break-up is fascinating and significant.

How Katie/Jordan and Peter act is how they act. Or how they want to act. And that's a worry.

When most people hide away after a break-up, Jordan has killed Katie, left her three kids with her ex and flown off to Ibiza with her mates where she's taken leave of her senses, flashing her numerously-enhanced bust and pants in clubs on 12-hour benders and behaving like a factory worker from Slough after 16 Bacardi Breezers on a works night out.

Dressed in little more than a strip of lame, she's acting like a cheap slapper. Nice one, Mum. Thankfully, her children are too young to understand.

While I might be horror struck, considering the implications for her as a mother behaving like this in the eys of the law, young women think she's 'well up for it.' Good on her, they say. That'll show him. It's also showing the rest of us, and the judge that decides custody of her children.

And where these stars lead, others follow. But others don't have the might of millions behind them to help them keep their children.

CEREAL boxes are to be phased out and replaced with plastic bags.

Bad news for nurseries and infant schools whose lifeline is a healthy stock of cereal boxes for arts and crafts. What will they use for robots, nativity scenes, houses and every other modelling project that doesn't involve papier mache?

I can almost hear the teachers' desperation now.

But parents are jumping for joy. Never again will they have to find the right spot in the sitting room for the lovely steam engine made out of a Sugapuffs box, two loo rolls and some bits of cotton wool, an elephant from a porridge box and an old sock or a farmyard from a cornflakes box, tufts of straw and a margarine tub.

The end of an era for generations.

DON'T you just love Stephen Fry?

As guest speaker at the Norwich School's speech day, he delivered what he does best - the unexpected.

For an audience of privileged high achievers, he might have been expected to speak of fabulous prospects, endeavour, excellence, achievement and ambition and for everyone to be pleased with themselves.

Instead he encouraged them to use a simple commodity in short supply - kindness.

"The point is there is only one thing you truly remember about people, from Gordon Brown to Gordon Ramsay. It's not how talented they are, how clever they are; how knowledgeable, how attractive, or how famous; how rich or how powerful. There's only one thing in the end that matters - a small thing, the only thing that actually counts - and it's how kind they are. Kind people are the kings and queens of the world, whoever, whatever, wherever they are.'

And he's right. In life, the people you remember most are those who show kindness, who take time to listen, to empathise, to help and just be nice.

And it's something we can all do, however bright, rich or able. It's a universal ability - but one sadly under-used and under-valued.

More kindness, I say.

GRADUATES are spilling out of universities with the worst job prospects for years.

So much for Tony Blair's aim of getting 50pc of school leavers into higher education. Fat lot of good that is with no jobs at the end.

Highly qualified twentysomethings with debts bigger than the price of a semi in Bolton have to take any jobs they can find.

But is that so bad?

Rather than swanning off on gap years to discover themselves and the world courtesy of the bank of Mum and Dad, wouldn't it be better to spend time doing everyday jobs?

Working on building sites, doing odd jobs, finding how real people live.

And those jobs will put them head and shoulders above other applicants when the graduate job market does pick up because of their life experience.

Having a degree doesn't make them too good for these jobs, it should just gives them more choice.

HOW dare Strictly Come Dancing get rid of the fabulously acerbic, sharp and witty Arlene who knows her pasa doble from her cha cha cha like no other and replace her with Alesha Dixon.

Again, it's all about looks not substance.

When will TV bosses understand that women over 30 don't want the likes of Fearne Cotton, Holy Willoughby and Alesha Dixon, ditzy airheads who look good but blather a load of squit and wouldn't know wit if it jumped up and nipped them in their buffed cleavage?

We want age, experience and more importantly humour. Keep Arlene, Fern Britton, Fiona Phillips et al on our screens. Women with it all up top -between the ears and not the bosom.