I ate my lunch today in the company of one of those catalogues that remind you why you want to live in a mud hut.
The list of things you can buy from such an emporium of good taste and necessities is inspiring: battery powered tea lights; the name of a star; a bag of luck (shamrock seeds in a brown paper bag - for £9); £96 worth of silver plated bucket (for cooling Champagne, obviously); and a wooden sign consisting of letters to spell out the word "think"... just in case you need a little reminder.
This company is very keen on soaps. A deep pink, heart-shaped offering, hand made in France, is suggested as ideal for a girlfriend or a mother-in-law(??) Even more telling is the rationale proposed for purchasing a boxed set of soaps made to look like birds' eggs: "It's the smallest details which linger in visitors' minds. These ravishing soaps... make a memorable impact." Did you know that the warmth of your hospitality was gauged by the quality of the toiletries you provide? Brown sugar cubes shaped so as to perch on the rim of a coffee cup will afford "your chance to be the hostess with the mostest" and are "perfect for baby showers" - I had a feeling the luxurious lifestyles of our American cousins might have had an impact here somehow.
A thing is never quite what it might be until somebody sells it to you. A tablecloth is jubilantly described as being "from Cabbages and Roses, a brand that is very well established and sought after." So that's all right then. A casserole, which I notice is free from such encumbrances as handles, is of undisclosed materials, but it's OK because we know both who designed it and that it will arrive "exquisitely wrapped".
All this from a firm which proudly declaims William Morris's dictum, "have nothing in your house which you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful".