Philip has a lot on his mind. At home, in his unnecessarily large, excessively expensive house in south London, he is attempting to become a Taoist master of love with his wife Alice, but his quest is forever being interrupted by the requests of his twin daughters: Can we have a pony – please? I want to go to boarding school – please? At work, in his shed/office at the bottom of the garden, between countless games of Minesweep and FreeCell, Philip is trying to pay the mortgage by writing instruction manuals for Korean bread-making machines. And, at parties where he is concerned that he is not taken seriously (he has been variously mistaken as a doctor/waiter and sinologist) Philip tells the world he is a scriptwriter, even though all he has managed to pen is a story he calls Wang the Unlucky Scholar.
But, above all, Philip is worrying about his best friends Sean and Barry. The problem is simple: they give great presents. Their gifts are exquisite: a full set of Italian crockery, a handmade corkscrew from Venice. They give them indiscriminately: on birthdays, at parties and quite often for no reason whatsoever. And, most distressingly, these presents break all bounds of generosity: two FA Cup Final tickets beside the royal box, a skiing holiday for Philip's entire family. These are gifts that hurt a man's pride, these are gifts that can never be matched.