Before the week is out ...

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IF YOUR ambition is to become a 20th-century icon, you've only got 26 days left, so perhaps it would be more sensible to admit defeat now, settle down on the settee and enjoy the stories of those who have managed it. The Icon series from Absolute Press is a collection of six books, titled gay, kitsch, film, design, fashion and rock & pop. The icons have been selected by celebrity editors including Graham Norton, Wayne Hemingway and James Dyson, and the books include photographs and short histories for each choice. The editors have been careful to include unsung heroes such as the JCB digger, Kraftwerk and the guys from CHiPs - aka the California Highway Patrol cops. Here here, we say - give us Jon and Ponch over Starsky and Hutch any day.

'20th Century Icons', boxed set pounds 19.99, individual books pounds 4.99. All royalties go to the Terrence Higgins Trust (tel: 01225 316013).

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THE AUSTIN Mini - the Baby Spice of the car world - is 40 this year. It may no longer be the most practical motoring option but unlike most child stars a Mini will always be cool. So why not celebrate it's birthday with a Mini desk lamp? Made from original Austin components - including an indicator lamp, lens and chrome fixings - it has a weighted round base and unlike the real thing, it starts every time. Only joking - in fact unlike the real thing the on/off switch is automatic - tilt it to the side and it illuminates, lift it back upright and it goes out. And by the way - how many elephants can you get in a Mini?

Available in blue, green and red, pounds 24.95 from Designed to a 't' (tel: 01689 831400).

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JEFFREY ARCHER'S shepherd's pie and champagne party plans might have gone awry this year, but that's all the more reason to make sure that yours stands out. Enter then the Blue Congo potato from Sainsbury's. Originating from the Bolivian Andes, but now grown (bizarrely) in Finland, these spuds are a rich dark purple colour both inside and out and produce a particularly eye catching mash. Great for getting your guests waxing lyrical about the stylish food, but not so likely to make them want to eat anything.

Blue Congo Potatoes, pounds 1.99 for 500g from Sainsbury's.

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