At the age of 12, when school broke up for the Christmas holidays, a girl in my class who I didn’t know very well came up to me and gave me a present. I was flattered. Excited about having made a new friend, I ripped off the wrapping paper to reveal… a cassette tape of Meredith Brooks’ song ‘Bitch’. Ouch.
But even worse than that is the awful moment that everyone’s experienced, when you are given a well-meaning but totally ill-chosen gift by a friend or relative. You tear off the paper, only to find that at the age of 25, your grandmother has bought you Thomas the Tank Engine underwear. And you have to appear grateful.
The situation is even more dire if there are other people watching you open it, so you have to pretend not only to the person who gave it to you, but also to everyone else in the room, that you are delighted with the gift. “Protective gloves for peeling grapefruit? Wow, what a clever idea! I mean, I don’t actually like grapefruit, but now nobody will be able to stop me from peeling theirs! And I won’t get my hands sticky!”
If you think that situation is awkward, put yourself in the position of Bulgarian prime minister Boyko Borisev, who turned 53 yesterday. To mark the occasion, his closest aide Deputy and Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov (so good they named him twice) presented him with a week-old calf. How awkward is that? What on earth is the Prime Minister supposed to do with a cow?
This would never happen in the UK. Can you imagine Nick Clegg publicly presenting David Cameron with a cow on his birthday?
(Everyone knows that a cow is only suitable as a moo-ving gift)