Hampstead Christmas Crawl leaves dent in long shopping list

As many men know, Christmas shopping is a last-minute dash around a choc-a-block John Lewis.

The opportunity to stretch out the experience into a pleasurable one is often ditched in favour of festive feasting and drinking, with gift-buying a panic-driven afterthought.

In the spirit of skirting the chain megastores I armed myself with a Hampstead Crawl map and, overwhelmed by the 23 destinations, decided I needed coffee and a plan of action. Settling down with a flat white at Ginger and White – ticking off one shop on the map – I plotted my route.

Sticking with what I know best, it was straight to Jeroboams wine shop for a bit of Dutch courage.

As my grandpa doesn’t live in the area and doesn’t know a laptop from a lap dancer, I hope this report won’t ruin the surprise of an expensive �40 single malt Japanese whisky on the day.

More of a beer man, as my new column attests to (cough, small plug), the manager of the wine traders bowled me over with talk of smoky, full-bodied flavours and the almost surgical precision of Japanese distillers.

Sold. One party piece in the bag for the old man.

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Gathering pace and buoyed by early success, a stroll from Heath Street to Flask Walk, where two friendly faces at JM Pennifeather Pens twisted my arm into buying a reasonable �5 pearl bracelet for my goddaughter.

A glance at Judy Green’s Garden Store across the way and the green-fingered in-laws were accounted for – not bad in the space of half-an-hour.

The beauty of the crawl is that it makes you look twice at every shop and, although I count myself a seasoned potterer, you notice things you have not seen before.

Tempted off-piste from the map to other independent traders, I snapped up some bargain jewellery from the Hampstead Antiques Emporium and called it a day with a celebratory drink at the Coffee Cup.

All in all, a good start and a dent in the long Christmas list.

Shame I lacked the stamina to complete the crawl in one go.

But with the chance of recouping my hard-earned cash in the prize draw, I’ll be back.

n Shoppers can get maps from the Coffee Cup, Hampstead High Street or from www.facebook.com/SaveHampsteadShops.