Not so heavenly scent

Under the counter with Lindsay Calder
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The Independent Online
Where do "gifts" come from? I have got so many "fancy goods" that they have become a fancy mountain. They are stuffed at the back of kitchen drawers, or taking up valuable garment space, and making my guest bedroom smell like a close encounter with a giant peach. But, then again, my guests deserve to asphyxiate in there - they are, after all, the consummate providers of the useless giftette.

The peddlers of this merchandise congregate twice a year at Earls Court 2, for the Top Drawer trade fair. There are hundreds of exhibitors, and if you manage to get to aisle two without passing out from pot-pourri poisoning, you're doing well. I used to go to spot up-and-coming jewellers, but the true craftsmen have been replaced by tartan kitchen pinboards and fake Delft thingies. They're all here: candles, tea tins with clocks in, scented candles, home stencilling kits, musical candles, oil burners, notebooks shaped like cats' heads, chocolate-shaped candles, golf ball cufflinks - the lot.

All visitors have a badge brandishing their name, stamped "UK Buyer" (even me). The serious buyers have come up to London to stock up their country gift shops - stout women in their fifties with Alice bands and Mondi blazers, who mean business, and just by grinding their fleshy knuckles in a bowl of Christmas pot-pourri, can tell if it's quality, my dear. They favour suppliers such as Happy Flannelies (animal head face flannels), The Romantic Englishwoman (lavender bags) and Woodies Ltd (scented wooden fruits - so scented, that if you had a bowl of them in your living room, and the whole England rugby team farted in there, you would never know).

After seeing enough beeswax to depilate the legs of every woman in Britain - and probably their bikini lines too - I decided enough was enough. Then, just when I was gagging from over exposure to fruity whiffs, Top Drawer revealed a secret bottom drawer containing the refreshing Ho-Ha! Clubwear. Now we're talking. Ho-Ha Clubwear had a display of over twenty T-shirts, and I wanted them all. A navy Donna Karan T-shirt, in top quality cotton, was just what the Donna ordered for parties, and do you know what? On closer inspection the Donna Karan logo cleverly read "Donna Kebab". Excellent! Then there was the Calvin Klein one with the distinctive CK logo, but actually "CB", subtitled "Crazy Bitch". Can't see Kate Moss looking chestless in that one.

Particularly appropriate for me, after two hours on the fancy goods trail, was a Dolce & Gabbana T-shirt, but what does D&G stand for here? You've guessed it: "desperate and gagging". I have also ordered "I'm naturally blonde, please speak slowly", but as I recently had my hair highlighted at great expense, everyone will naturally realise this is a joke.

Ho-Ha! left me with a spring in my step, but then, as I made to leave, passing another orchard of scented wooden fruits, I came upon some interesting forbidden fruits - mirrors by Fluff. You can choose between electric pink, lime green, baby blue and lemon coloured fluff, amongst others, to go round the edge of your mirror, and there is a choice of platitudes. There are 135 to select from in three categories of "not rude at all", "nearly rude" and "sort of rude". They range from "beautiful" (in various languages), "You have a beautiful smile and a great ass", "You're a kinky sexy horny babe" and "Your face needs sitting on" to the unmentionable best seller.

To any would-be guests - forget the lavender bags and the stinking wooden bananas - make your hostess's day and give her an electric-pink fluffy mirror which says: "You are a divine goddess who deserves a heavenly shag!" Personally, I think they're the dog's bollocks, ("You're the dog's bollocks" mirrors also available.)

Ho-Ha! Clubwear T-shirts (from pounds 15.50), Castor and Pollux, 47 Pembridge Road, London W1 (0171-727 8358). Fluff mirrors (from pounds 15): telephone 0181- 672 0662 for stockists.

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