What I like best is the anticipation: the sound of the catalogues being scrunched through the letterbox, the two-second delay then the thwack as the catalogues hit the mat. Meanwhile you're already padding down the stairs in the sheepskin bootees that arrived last week from Home Free, smug in the knowledge that your doormat is not just a dumping ground for bills and leaflets for takeaway pizza.
Perhaps more exciting than the thwack is the sound of the doorbell. Because that means the postman is bearing booty. On these occasions you descend more slowly, sign for the goods, then rush upstairs, goods in hand. Every day is Christmas in mail-order land. You tear open the packaging. You may discover the red silk bodice just isn't you, that the doggie car harness you ordered for your pet pug doesn't fit, that the aerator sandals for walking your way to a healthier lawn won't work on your roof terrace. But sometimes, just sometimes, the goods are perfect, and it is this that sends you straight back to the sofa, pen in hand, envelope and stamps at the ready.
This week I've decided to get the goods in for a fantasy trip to a desert island. I did some travelling in my BMO (Before-Mail-Order) days and I listen to Desert Island Discs , so I know what I'm looking for.
First stop, The Survival Shop catalogue. This is the Boy's Own of mail- order catalogues. I won't be ordering the roll-up Panama which, at pounds 59.95, is pounds 10 more than the same quality sold at London's Peter Jones. But I will go for their impregnated double polyester mosquito net, a "must" at pounds 34.95. The beautiful, minimalist black Mag-lite AA flashlight is another CBW (Can't Be Without), which, at pounds 14.95, is 99p cheaper than the same available from Captain O M Watts' yachtsmen's catalogue and pounds 2.04 cheaper than the same in the Youth Hostel Association's catalogue. Now for some clothes: durable but chic. I think I'll go for the natty navy Breton Cap, pounds 22.95, and matching stripy Breton T-shirt, at pounds 29.95 from Captain O M Watts. Easy. And something to finish the ensemble. I leaf through the no-frills Burlington catalogue and oh! ecstasy, I chance upon a pair of Katharine Hamnett peach-skin finished jeans. I fill in the form for pounds 59.50, knowing that I can send them back if they don't fit and so relieved not to have to brave the Sloane Street shop I can hardly write straight.
Mail-order shopping is no longer naff. Indeed, it is the only way to secure that perfect desert island luxury item. Such as: a pounds 62 lapis blue Limoge egg from the GTC gift catalogue; or from Halycon Days, an enamel pug-shaped bonbonniere. I've never seen anything like it. Never in a thousand shopping days could I have chanced upon this. Such a moment is the jewel in the crown of the mail-order experience. And at less than pounds 500 I simply Can't Be Without it.
Survival Shop: 0171- 388 8353. YHA : 0171-836 8541.Home Free: 01793 542685. GTC : 0171-730 0411 . Halcyon Days: 0171-629 8811. Purves & Purves: 0171-436 886. Burlington: 0181-919 9123Reuse content