This week I have been feeling a bit Essex.

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Yes, The Only Way is Essex. I feel I have crossed the border.

I believe I have mentioned before our best friends Jane and Richard (who may consider themselves named and shamed) with whom we exchange joke Christmas gifts.

Among them, the plastic rain hood, rescued from a Christmas cracker; the musical Christmas tree which is like something ghastly from a Hammer horror; the all-singing, all-dancing flower that was given one year and given back the following year; the furry dice; the Irish tribute gift (a potato, Guinness and a CD of Irish folk music); the Scottish tribute pack (with a CD of bagpipe music); the £5 Ann Summers voucher (never used as far as we know); the calendar that delivers a different unfortunate body noise for each month.

Some years we struggle to find something, other years we are spoilt for choice.

This year we were very pleased to present them with a plastic fake blue plaque for their home. “It’s not going on the front of the house.” I directly quote Jane.

I confess that we were trumped, however, as they gave us a TOWIE starter kit. For those unacquainted with the television drama The Only Way is Essex, it revolves around some larger-than-life characters who live the sort of lifestyle you can often see in microcosm in shopping malls.

Wikipedia describes it thus: “... A BAFTA- winning British semi-reality (“dramality”) show based in Essex , England. It shows “real people in modified situations, saying unscripted lines but in a structured way.”

No, I don’t really know what it means either. So I have looked up some TOWIE quotes and they include Mark’s (Mr January on our calendar): “She’s fit, she’s fit, she’s fit. Everywhere you look there’s just a fit bird.”

Amy: “Do you know what, it’s so clever to watch the news” a comment perhaps reinforced by: “The other day I didn’t even know the capital of India. I thought it was Pakistan.”

Sam: “If you get a waxwork done, that’s how you know you’ve made it.”

This isn’t a University Challenge team, is it?

The only time I caught the programme on telly, I tried to adjust the colour control because the women looked orange. Then I was told this is their correct colour. I was also told the strange looming frontal effect was nothing to do with 3D...

Our “gift” was in three parts. First we were delighted to find TOWIE calendar, featuring pictures of the mostly glamorous cast. It makes a change from those glorious views of East Anglian countryside or sweet little kittens.

Second, I unwrapped a tin of spray tan. I am strangely attracted to the idea of fake tan.

Apparently you can get people to come round to your house, erect a plastic tent in your sitting room and blast you all over with it. It must be a bit like standing naked outside the car during an automatic car wash... without the optional polish and the subsequent arrest and charge.

I do worry however, that where I have a few laugh lines on my tummy (you’ve heard of a belly laugh) I might get tan lotion settlement and end up with bright oranges wrinkles. I have read that it helps to exfoliate prior to the application, though why pulling the leaves off trees helps, I have no idea.

But it was the final item in the TOWIE starter pack that really had me scratching my head and, potentially, other areas. It was; indeed it is, a body dazzle kit (it has another name; I’m not using it), possibly purchased by way of a previously unused Ann Summers voucher.

Having had its purpose explained to me, I have no intention of describing it in any detail here. But, rather than leave readers in the dark, I will attempt a delicately-worded account. (That’ll be a first. Ed)

The dazzle adds a decorative dimension to the certain parts of the body by the addition of, for example, diamante sparkles. Speaking as a woman who fainted clean away when she had her ears pierced, I’m not ready to extend beautification to other body parts either through piercings or self-adhering bling.

Not that I don’t appreciate the thought...

I think my husband did too. That is to say, he appreciated the thought but couldn’t contemplate the reality. I was speedily able to reassure him that there was no need to worry, it wasn’t going to happen.

In the meantime, I’m thinking the stick-on gems could be used, for example, to adorn hand-made greetings cards.

If the only way is Essex, I’m going to need evening classes.

lynne.mortimer@eadt.co.uk

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