ALL over the world, children will be watching the skies for Father Christmas and wondering what presents he might bring them.

Many of us remember a childhood Christmas Eve, lying awake in anticipation of a longed-for treat and who does not like a thoughtful present?

We have been talking to Swindon and Swindon-connected people to find out their best present ever – and as you can see, their choices are as individual as they are. You certainly could not buy some of their choices from a shop – but all these gifts enriched the lives of the receiver in some special way.

Chief Constable of Wiltshire Mike Veale grew up in Chilcompton and Midsomer Norton, Somerset. He began his policing career as a police cadet aged 16 before joining Avon and Somerset Constabulary as a constable in 1984. He is married, with one son.

“My best present ever was table-top football – Subbuteo,” he said. “It was a present from my mum – I had lost my dad at an early age. My brothers and I used to play Subbuteo. I liked sport and my brothers played it.”

Mike, who has two older brothers and a younger brother, loved sport and played football, cricket, rugby and golf – “every sport going,” he said. They played table top football and cricket and he says they were all very competitive.

“I had the Subbuteo for a long time,” he added. “I bet it’s still in an attic somewhere!”

Bath-born musician Gabby Young had a very romantic best present ever on Christmas Day 2014.

“It all started at 6am on Christmas morning – both of us were wide awake and neither of us could sleep (me because it was Christmas morning and I’m a little kid, Stephen because he was about to ask me a huge question that I had no idea about). Our little dog, Hobbes, was also awake and excitable so we decided to start the day and let him open his stocking but first Stephen took him out to the garden and fed him his breakfast whilst I sneakily grabbed Stephen’s stocking and lay it on his pillow – he was taking a while but I assumed Hobbes was being naughty and not coming back in so I thought no more of it. Hobbes ripped apart the wrapping on his toys and found his treats at the bottom of his stocking… I didn’t have one, but believe me what happened next was a million times better.

“Stephen suggested I checked by our little Christmas tree for something and there was a card, with “Christmas Day” written on the front of the envelope. Inside was a beautifully written poem that I will shorten to “Go to your creative place, which today is an even more magical place” which already nearly had me in tears… so I walked towards the back door and was handed the keys to my summerhouse/sewing room and entered the kitchen. There on the back door was my beautiful Victorian style winter coat hanging up and my snow boots with added silver tinsel around them. I was overcome as I put them on and stepped out into the garden.

“It was dark out still and as I crept down the garden path in anticipation I started to see lights at the end of the path. My summerhouse was lit up with hundreds of twinkly white fairy lights and candles everywhere. I think this is where the whole thing became like a magical dream and I had what can only be described as an ‘out-of-body experience’ as I glided into the room to find a closed miniature picnic-hamper style basket on the cutting table in the far corner of the room surrounded by jars full of fairy lights. I lifted the lid to find this stunning blue metal hot air balloon type egg that opened to reveal a piece of red wool. I looked around for clues and back at Stephen who was standing behind me but he just said ‘look again’ so I turned around and looked again at the wool. Before I had time to think I heard Stephen say ‘Gabby’ and on this I turned around to see the love of my life on one knee holding up the most beautiful ring I have ever seen and all I could say is ‘is this a dream?’ because I can honestly say it felt like one – like the most magical, spellbinding dream I could ever have. Of course I said ‘yes’ .”

David Renard: Leader of Swindon Borough Council - In 2004, David’s then seven-year old daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia. “The best Christmas present ever was three Christmas’ later when she was better and had come off treatment and the whole family could enjoy a proper Christmas again,” he said.

Angela Atkinson: Switch on to Swindon Ambassador - Born-again Swindonian Angela, author of a popular blog celebrating all that is great and good about our town, says her best presents ever were a case of Cava and three flat-pack storage boxes.

“It’s a bit of a joke in my family that I have a thing about storage boxes – plastic or cardboard, you can’t have too many. And I’m quite partial to a tipple,” she explained. The bottles and boxes were given to her about ten years ago, by her ex-partner.

“When I opened them, I said oh wow!” she recalled. “It was better than diamonds.”

She still uses the boxes to store her Christmas decorations – but the Cava is long gone.

Martin Hawes: Big Issue seller - Martin says his best ever Christmas present was the chance to sell the Big Issue magazine.

“It was December 22 last year, which is also my birthday, so it was a present for both,” he explained. “I like doing it. I meet people from all walks of life and I have helped people too.”

His mother Josephine died in August this year, aged 90, and he added that she had been his lifelong special present – and could always be relied upon to give him socks for Christmas.

Cindy Boundy: company director - Diamonds are, famously, a girl’s best friend and such is the case for Cindy, who runs Wiltshire Rod and Gun and Gamebird Clothing, in Victoria Road.

Her favourite Christmas present was a diamond pendant necklace, given to her by partner Tony. The gift was completely unexpected, which made it more special.

“It was from Deacon’s in Old Town, with a diamond in the middle and little ones around the edge. It was a surprise. Big surprises come in little packages,” she said.

Millie Ross: barista - “It was a puppy,” said Millie. “A chocolate poodle called Bella.”

Millie, 18, from north Swindon, was living in foster care in 2015. The puppy was a gift to the whole family by her foster mother, Teresa Leighfield. Although Millie has her own place now, she remembers the arrival of the Christmas puppy with great affection. “I lived with them for eight months, and Bella slept on my bed every night, and I took her for walks. It was really exciting.”

Millie said she still goes back to visit.

Hayley Stone: Chief Executive Officer of The Hop, Skip and Jump Foundation - Hayley’s Best Christmas Present Ever was ‘delivered’ in December 2001. “I’d always wanted to have a family of three and was always keen to have a boy when I was younger,” she said.

“I had my first, James, and was thrilled to have a healthy bouncing baby boy. We decided to add to our family some years later and along came my second boy, Dan. As I had planned to complete our family by the age of 30, I was thrilled to find out I was expecting a third baby just a couple of years later.

“It worked out that he or she would be due early December, but like the rest of my brood, why rush when he was warm, comfy and well fed in my belly? As it happened, Rhys was born very late at night, December 23, and I was over the moon.

“Everybody was rushing around Christmas shopping, last minute panic buying, making plans whilst I was blissfully content enjoying baby cuddles. Christmas Day at my house was hectic as close relatives and friends turned up but we still managed to produce a Christmas dinner for all even though I had only arrived home Christmas Eve. It was completely crazy and the best ever Christmas.”

Anton Barbeau: musician and creator of ‘pre-apocalyptic psychedelic pop’ - Anton was born in Sacramento, now lives in Berlin but sees England as his spiritual home; he is a regular visitor to Swindon and a fan of Wiltshire sites such as Avebury. It was a combination of special gifts that made his Christmas special.

“Maybe I was seven or eight, maybe 1975, but my grandmother gave me a Tonka ambulance for Christmas. I was delighted,” he said. “Her new husband, Duke, must have wanted to make an impression on his step-grandson, so he gave me a hamster. I loved it like any kid would, but my grandmother went quiet. I asked what was wrong and she said she worried the Tonka truck wasn’t as nice a gift as the hamster.

“To assure her I loved the truck as much as I loved the hamster, I put the hamster in the ambulance and spent the morning driving it round the kitchen.”

Alice Offley: Swindon singer-songwriter - “My sister had moved away to Greece, and one Christmas Eve she came back as a surprise. She crept into my bedroom around 2am and woke me up saying ‘Happy Christmas!’

“I remember her sitting on my bed and I kept trying to squeeze her as I couldn’t believe she was really there - it was the middle of the night and I thought it was a dream.

AJ Mayhew: Swindon musician and hip hop artist - “When I was ten, I received a letter from Santa telling me that Christmas was coming early. The letter told us (me and my sister) to get the family to stay over on December 15.

“True to the letter he came early, the full works, lots of presents as well as an envelope with another letter telling us that there was a message on the Christmas tree. We found four Disney character decorations. On the back of the characters there was a message. It said, ‘Pack your bags as you’re all going to Disneyland Florida for Christmas.’

“It was amazing!”

Greg Alcock: guitarist from tribute band Limehouse Lizzy, regular visitors to Swindon - “It was the winter of 1980, and very cold and snowy as I remember. I had seen a clip of 60s band the Shadows playing Apache on the television, and I was hooked. I wanted a guitar.

“That Christmas I was 12, and I got a Spanish guitar with nylon strings from my Mum and Dad. I was absolutely thrilled with it, it felt like the first proper thing I had ever owned. It wasn’t just a toy.

“Then followed a very long musical journey. I have now been a professional guitarist for 25 years. Nowadays I mainly play a Gibson Les Paul, but I’m lucky enough to still have the Spanish guitar (and my mum and dad).”