Taking Stock with Rob Stocks - March 7, 2011

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Here at Gazette Towers, on my desk, to be precise, is a special corner.

Special might not be the right word. Actually it’s known as “tat corner” and contains a collection of unusual and rubbish holiday trinkets.

These are items fellow journalists have brought from their travels around the world – or mostly from Italy, given the evidence in front of me.

There’s a plastic leaning tower of Pisa, a Vatican City photo frame which, for no apparent reason, contains a picture of a cat, and a sparkling porcelain replica of the Trevi Fountain. Other contributions include two wooden heads from Hawaii (far too tasteful if you ask me) and my own contribution – a tiny New York, New York mug, complete with Statue of Liberty handle. It’s the most rubbish item I could find in the souvenir shop at JFK before hopping on a flight back to Blighty. Actually, that’s not true.

It’s the second most rubbish item. The most rubbish item, a snow globe, was deemed too dangerous to take on board the flight home by the sense of humour vacuum manning the security post. It was taken away and, for all I know, destroyed by airport staff – no doubt pleased to have foiled yet another snow globe-based terror plot.

So, it was the mug which made it back to tat corner, where it sits next to a blue glass dolphin from Florida and a less than sprightly Lakeland lamb.

Buying for tat corner is easy. There’s no end of naff souvenirs, no matter where in the world you land.

But buying for loved ones can be a real challenge – particularly if they’re not the sort to find a stuffed donkey or ironic novelty sombrero hilarious. So, when you do find the right gift, it’s important to keep your purchases safe and not, as I once did, leave them to fall off the back of a speed boat half way up the Mekong.

Still, at least souvenirs are better than postcards.

Even if you’ve found a pen that still works after 10 days on the beach or in a backpack, you still have to work out the ins and outs of a foreign postal system – and come up with something to write that isn’t either unbelievably dull or blatant bragging.

If you succeed, it’s highly likely you’ll beat the postcard home.

The last I sent, from Bangkok, still haven’t reached the UK – it’s been four years and counting.

One might argue the postcard has had it’s day

After all, you can now use an internet phone to tell mum about the drizzle in Beijing and upload your beach snaps to social networking sites in an instant.

That can only spell bad news for the traditional “wish you were here” greeting.

But there’ll always be a place in tat corner for holiday trinkets like my New York New York mug.

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