I love a catalogue, me. I think it’s a hangover from childhood, when I would pore over the Green Shield stamps catalogue and marvel at the number of books you would have to fill to lay your hands on a colour television (375, since you ask). Other options were available, though, and you could get a mouth organ for just one book. (Even the process of filling the Green Shield stamp books was enjoyable: sticking in the stamps, and seeing page after page of the book go stiff, with crinkly edges, made me feel as though my life was really progressing.)
Thanks to data sharing/mining/selling, direct mail can target us ever more accurately when it comes to delivering temptation to the doormat. (How I laughed decades ago, as I sat surrounded by dirty nappies and Weetabix encrustations, to read a blandishment from a timeshare company assuring me I liked the finer things in life!) What this means is that catalogues full of products designed to appeal to those of a senior persuasion make their way through my letter box.
But what hours of fun to be had! Sometimes it’s hard to tear myself away from their mysterious and optimistic pages. Here is just a small sample of the delights on offer from the Easylife catalogue.
My eye is instantly drawn to Alligator Adhesive Tape. Little diagrams illustrate how it can be used to seal pipes and repair showers, but with the photo they’ve gone literal: here is an alligator with said tape round its snout. I want to know more: is this cruelty to alligators? Photoshop? Does someone in the design team own a stuffed one? So many questions, but no time to consider them because now I’ve spotted a beauty miracle that seems to have been overlooked by the major cosmetic houses.
Hyaluronic acid serum (£12.99) promises that I can ‘say goodbye to wrinkles in 7 days’. Wow! That’s refreshingly direct after all the mealy-mouthed commitments for unguents that sell for five times the amount. The best that they can offer is that their particular snake oil will ‘help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles’. And in case you were concerned about the rather-fierce sounding name of the serum, the small print in the catalogue offers this reassurance: ‘Don’t worry – it’s not an acid in the sense of burning you …’ But I do worry: if it’s that great, why is it confined to p. 93 of the Easylife catalogue, not starring in double-page spreads in Vogue at an exorbitant price?
The purple prose in these small ads often repays close scrutiny, and I gather that those who are adept at writing it can command high fees for their labour. It’s one thing to describe accurately the properties of a rug gripper that anyone would find useful, but quite another to convince us we need the Black Sheep Toilet-roll Holder: ‘Cute and highly original, this toilet roll holder shows that you don’t have to be po-faced in the loo.’
Most baffling of all is the entry for sheet suspenders, which goes to some lengths to persuade us that these elasticated straps for flat sheets will prevent them from ‘riding up, wrinkling or creasing’ . . . then sabotages the snappy text with a sketch of these suspenders clearly in use on a fitted sheet. What’s that all about?
Finally, beware – too long perusing the catalogue may put you into an uncharacteristically receptive state. Even now I’m itching to order Boswellia Incense Balm, a preparation inspired by Tibetan Buddhist monks.