IELTS Cue Card Sample 409 - A gift you bought that took a long time

IELTS Speaking Part 2: IELTS Cue Card/ Candidate Task Card.

Talk about a gift you bought that took a long time to find.

You should say:

  • what it was
  • who you bought it for
  • where you bought it from

and explain how he /she felt after receiving it.

Model Answer:
There is a saying when it comes to giving gifts, that it is ‘the thought that counts’. Often when people say this, what they mean is that the gift was really terrible, but the recipient no doubt appreciated the sentiment behind it. The choice of gift was perhaps ill-judged, but very well intended, as such, it should be received with warmth and a show of enthusiasm – even if that enthusiasm is a bit forced! However, I think there is also a more positive interpretation, a really thoughtful gift is much more likely to delight both the giver and the receiver than the most expensive of trophies. I always try really hard to think about what gifts my closest friends and family might really like or want, even if they haven’t perhaps worked it out for themselves. Sometimes it’s really easy to think of something and just go out and buy it, at other times it’s much more of a challenge.

I’m going to tell you about an occasion when I knew exactly what it was I wanted to find as a gift for someone, but it was a real problem to find. I’ll tell you what it was; who I bought it for; where I bought it from and how the gift was received.

There is a bit of a story I’m afraid, so bear with me! I used to live in a little-terraced house in a town called Leamington Spa. By chance, I moved into my house just a couple of weeks after my next-door neighbours had also moved in. Fortunately, we got on really, really well together. We used to chat over the garden wall (though I had to stand on tip toe to do this because I’m quite short); I’d look after their cat when they went on holiday, and we were often in and out of each other’s houses. After a few years, one of them came round to tell me some ‘bad news’ I was terrified about what they might say – was one of them really ill? It turned out that the ‘bad news’ was they had decided to sell up and move away. I was really sad to see them go, but happy they would be moving to a lovely new house which was more suited to their lifestyle. Anyway, it turned out that selling their house was quite traumatic. They found a buyer really quickly, but that person was awkward and petulant and kept insisting on quite unreasonable conditions and threatening to pull out of the sale at the slightest inconvenience. The buyer wouldn’t negotiate on anything, and it all got a bit unpleasant. 

As is often the way, the deal-breaker turned out to be something ridiculously trivial. My neighbours had a really unusual steel soap dish. It had chunky letters spelling out the word ‘soap’ and a similarly chunky tray to put a bar of soap in, and was hung up in their bathroom. It was nice, and it did match the other fixtures and fittings in the room, but it was also most definitely a moveable personal possession that anyone would normally expect to take with them when they moved, and not especially valuable either to be honest. It had been a gift from one of the couple to the other, and had sentimental rather than any great monetary value. However, their house buyer had their eye on it, and threatened to walk away from the purchase if it didn’t come with the house. It was unbelievably stupid of the purchaser to insist on such a trivial thing, but it would have been even more stupid for my neighbours to let their house sale fall through because of a soap dish, however, special it might be to them personally. Sadly, they agreed she could have this with the house, and the sale went through.

In the meantime, I’d been trying really hard to think of a suitable house-warming present for my dear friends to wish them well in their new home but it was tricky. To be blunt, they were a lot wealthier than me and in any case already had most things they needed following a recent wedding and the associated gifts from well-wishers. I couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money, but I wanted to choose something that I knew they would like and would be really thoughtful. I decided I would try and find them an identical soap dish!

It took me a long time, a couple of months. I searched the internet and eBay for second-hand items (the dish wasn’t manufactured anymore and in any case was not a mass-produced product in the first place). I scoured second-hand shops and looked everywhere. I almost gave up hope. However, one day, I couldn’t believe it! There it was, on eBay! An identical product, in near-new condition, just sitting there waiting for me. I snapped it up immediately with a ‘buy now’ price rather than risking losing out in a bidding war. It really wasn’t very much, it was an unlikely item to desperately want after all! I was so delighted when it arrived through the post and it was indeed exactly as advertised! I couldn’t wait to give it to my old neighbours for their new house!

I rushed round one evening to their new home when they would both be there, and presented it to them carefully gift wrapped. I think they were a bit nervous about opening it because I was so obviously confident they would like it, a lot. They were worried about how to disguise their reactions if they didn’t. It might be hard to pretend. I wasn’t worried though, I just knew it was the perfect gift! I asked them to try and guess what it might be, but they had no idea. Eventually, they ripped off the wrapping paper and… were absolutely delighted! It wasn’t just that they had their soap dish back, it was that they were really touched I’d worked so hard to find it for them, and persevered long after they’d given up any hope of replacing their original one for themselves.

It is said that it is better to give than receive, I think sometimes it is! My neighbours absolutely loved the present, but I was bursting with pleasure too. I knew I’d got it right, and that they would treasure this unlikely gift too. It was indeed a gift that took me a long, long time to find, but it was very well worth the effort! Since then, they have moved house again – this time, they took ‘my’ soap dish with them! I still smile at the memory, certainly, on this occasion, it really was the thought that counted most!

[ Written by - Lucy Marris (2016):  Careers Adviser (UK), TEFL teacher (Vietnam)]

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