Catalogue of highs and woes as I’m rumbled

“WE don’t need this,” declares Jane, in habitual brook-no-argument tone, and floats a mini-magazine into the bin as if twirling a Frisbee on Walberswick beach. I retrieve it once her back is turned. Can’t let comforts such as Home and Garden Essentials for the Discerning Customer slip away.

I fear, you see, that I’ve lately crossed one of those invisible but significant boundaries, after which life is never the same again. It’s akin to having to tick the 45-64 years box on those market research forms, instead of the 30-44 option. In this case, it’s marked by experiencing a pleasurable shiver of anticipation whenever one of these shopping catalogues glides through the letterbox. Until recently (last Tuesday week, to be precise) I’d considered them full of pointless stuff, aimed at folk with more money than sense. Then I spotted the best-selling and genuine Ecuadorian Panama hat that rolls up when you want to pack it away.

Quelling doubts about the accuracy of an Ecuadorian Panama hat (isn’t Colombia in the way?) I wrote out a cheque for �35. Feel those toquilla fibres – soft, yet amazingly strong... Then I noticed that if I spent �40 I’d qualify for a free coffee-maker. So I added a windproof umbrella with aerodynamic vents. Just the thing for an English summer.

By now I’m turning the pages like a true convert. Onto the order form go other essentials: a wireless intercom doorbell, a radio-controlled watch that’s never inaccurate, and a kind of steaming pad that will allow me to say goodbye to ironing forever. I hum and hah over one of those mobile phones with giant buttons – what with 20/20 vision being a thing of the past these days – but decide to hold back. It would simply be a frivolous impulse buy, and I’m too smart for that. Just a pair of fingerless gloves and I’m done.

It all came on Thursday. Haven’t yet found the right moment to show it all to Jane; we’ve been so busy lately...


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Speaking of whom, she’s just coming back. “We need to hunt out some old stuff for the school’s fund-raising car-boot sale,” she says. “This Panama hat I found in the utility room has seen better days – looks like someone’s borrowed it for origami practice – and we’ve never used this coffee-maker. That can go, too.”

Ah... I breathe quickly in and out, try to ignore the lump developing in my throat, and fight the urge to cry. Thank goodness the music system that will transfer all my 1980s cassettes to a USB flash drive isn’t being delivered until Tuesday. I couldn’t bear it if the chance to hear ABC, Bananarama and Sister Sledge was cruelly snatched from my grasp at the 11th hour. All I need now is someone to explain to me what a USB flash drive is and exactly what I do with it...

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