FATHER'S DAY IS OFTEN overlooked on the holiday calendar and dismally catered for when you consider the brouhaha that surrounds the commemorative day of their better halves. Lord help us if we forget to send a munificent bouquet or a thoughtfully penned missive on Mother's Day.
Perhaps our enthusiasm for Father's Day (June 17) wanes simply because fathers, and men in general, are so difficult to buy for. Traditionally, men are less interested in acquiring 'things'. (When was the last time you heard a man say 'You can never have enough shoes . . .')
Hard-headed feminists may say men lack the communication skills to reveal what they want. While most women can come up with a list of 'wants' the length of an arm, all men usually come up with is 'whatever'.
So you've asked your father the crucial question and he's come back with a 'whatever'. Firstly, resist all temptation to resort to a tie. Unless he has expressly requested a tie (and even then you're wise to ignore it), or all his ties were recently stolen by a well-dressed burglar, a tie shows about as much thought as an airport blockbuster novel.
And avoid sport-related gifts. If your father is even half serious about a pursuit he will have bought all the equipment or accessories he needs. If dad has a head for heights, a memorable gift would be a helicopter ride. Heliservices Hong Kong offers a range of tours around Hong Kong Island, the New Territories and along the Chinese border in a five-seater air-conditioned Aero-spatiale Squirrel. Prices start at $2,500 for a 15-minute trip leaving from the waterfront heliport opposite Citic Tower in Admiralty.
Alternatively, you could incorporate his ride with a meal at The Peninsula. Take off from the hotel's rooftop helipad, have a 30-minute flight-seeing tour of southeast Kowloon, Sai Kung, Lantau and Hong Kong Island, then babble excitedly about the experience over a meal at The Verandah, Spring Moon or Gaddi's. Peninsula packages start at $5,500 for two or $6,000 for four (tel: 2523 6407; www.heliservices.com.hk). If he prefers a more leisurely pastime such as bridge or poker, Tiffany & Co sells two packs of playing cards housed in a swanky velour-backed box for $170 (call 2847 5600 for branches).
Is your father a film buff? As long as he wasn't born before 1927, you could buy him a DVD of the film that won the best film Oscar in the year of his birth (visit www.filmsite.org/bestpics.html for a list of all past Academy Award Best Picture winners).
If he reads a magazine from cover to cover, consider taking out a year's subscription in his name. Bookazine offers subscriptions on more than 1,000 international titles on everything from health (Men's Exercise at $405 for six issues), to sports (Yachting Monthly at $680 for 12 issues), to the environment (National Geographic at $620 for 12 issues). Cheaper six-month subscriptions are also available. Call 2555 0431 for details.
Green-fingered fathers might appreciate a membership to Hong Kong Gard-ening Society, which publishes a monthly newsletter with a checklist of seasonal things to do and organises several outings a month to private landscaped gardens or horticultural places of interest such as Kadoorie Farm. Membership costs $110 (plus a $55 joining fee), so you might want to throw in some fertiliser or a few bedding plants, which it also sells. Contact Lynn Sinclair on 2719 4870 for details.
Avid followers of the arts or frequent theatre-goers might like to become a Friend of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. Annual membership costs $150 ($70 for senior citizens) and includes a monthly newsletter and events calendar; invitations to dress rehearsals and lectures; a guided tour of the Cultural Centre; and discounts on all tickets and at book and music shops and even hotels and restaurants. Call 2734 2819 for inquiries or follow the links at www.lcsd.gov.hk for a full list of membership benefits. Few fathers would turn their noses up at a case of their favourite claret. If he's a fan of New World wines, one of the winners of this year's Winpac (Wines of the Pacific Rim) wine festival would be a safe bet. The best overall red wine, a Dominus 1997 cabernet blend, is rather pricey at $930 a bottle (from Remy Fine Wines on 2523 5904) but the best overall white, a Meridian Santa Barbara 1998 chardonnay, is only $108 a bottle (from Jebsen on 2926 2240). A 10 per cent discount and free delivery is available on orders of a case or more so a case would come to $1,166. Or how about a course at the International Wine Centre that opened late last year. A range of certificate courses are available, from a three-week course on food and wine pairing ($1,500) to a six-week foundation course on wine tasting ($4,000). For information, contact Simon Tam on 2549 0181 or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
For young fathers, mothers could buy a gift on behalf of their newborn child. New fathers are often so smitten they could handle having a mug or mousemat emblazoned with their offspring to put on their desk at work. Image In in Times Square can reproduce a photo on to a white mug ($148) or mousemat ($188) in a few hours (call 2606 9115 or details).
With slightly older children, you could help them sing their favourite song and tape the performance on to a cassette or video tape. Or bring them to Color Me Mine (149 Wong Nai Chung Road, Happy Valley, tel: 2805 7833) to paint a Father's Day message on to an unglazed mug that is then fired in the kiln.
Lastly, where better to declare your appreciation of the man who has given you guidance, love, support and copious monetary handouts than a message in this very publication! A five-line message in Classified Post costs $360, while a bordered ad costs a minimum of $627 (3cm by 3.3cm). Call 2565 8822 for details.