Catalogues, And Their Clientelle

2 Conversations

There are, it seems, two kinds of catalogue.

In the first instance, there is the chunky brick-like variety.

Statistics no doubt exist for the number of pet-owners who

once-upon-a-time lovingly set out to catalogue-shop for pet accessories

only one day to find poor 'Tiddles' laid out by the front door,

apparently bludgeoned to death by the meaty tome laying alongside. So

nowadays, thereby obviating the potential for any law-suit involving

maimed domestic animals which could be precipitated by blithely and

blindly shoving a 5kg sharp-cornered object through a catalogue-sized slot

in a door, these pet-killers are deposited at one's doorstep.

Receipt of one of these catalogues generally implies that one has

signed up for a free-gift or has erroneously ticked a box whilst making

other purchases and is thenceforth having funds surreptitiously drained

from one's bank-account. While anticipating any free-gift, it is wise to

be aware that it will never be the toaster/kettle/waffle-iron that could

reasonably have been inferred from the advertising fluff, but is more

likely a roll of old gardening magazines, some of which may seem to have

been used as an impromptu cricket-box1.

The catalogue itself however is rarely a disappointment. It is a shiny,

smelly, reassuringly solid affair and, when new, the pages, uniform,

colourful and crisp, are almost bonded together with a combination of

static and the shiny, smelly chemicals that one must suppose are some sort

of anti-thrift pheromone. Indeed, with calculated neglect, this

pastel-bedecked beast will remain forever pristine and new, except, almost

inevitably with teenage boys around, for a few well-thumbed pages of the

lingerie section, which eventually, perhaps more prematurely than

expected, tend to become permanently welded together. Despite the

chemicals, the pages are somewhat embarrassingly not 'eezee-wipe'


Middle-class, middle-aged, middle-of-the-road, these

catalogues are ostensibly for women, women who don't subscribe to raciness

or risk.

The other variety is a much slimmer shabbier effort altogether, often

obtainable by calling 'for your free catalogue, now' on 0878 etc. It is a

grubby brown mackintosh of a catalogue and is thoughtfully posted through

the letter-box in a suitably furtively-grubby brown envelope. Despite all

the blandness in the world, one can rest assured that the postman will

know exactly what's inside. Indeed, just watch him grimace as he attempts

to fish it from his sack, trying oh-so-hard with the tips of his thumb and

fore-finger not to make any more contact than is absolutely necessary to

post the thing. If he had a pair of marigolds, he would be wearing them.

To complete his misery, the sorts of people receiving this kind of mail

have small-but-stiff letter-boxes. Probably.

Be sure that no expense whatsoever has been spared in the compilation

of this catalogue. There are no free gifts to expect, just thrills. And

then some spills. Instead however, any subscriber will have been logged by

the security services on an ever-expanding database of misfits and


Inside, among the glitz and glamour of neons and darkness, in stark

contrast to the wholesome, healthy, pastel-coloured innocence of its

distant glossy cousin, models, girls mostly, parade their open-gusseted,

peep-holed, imitation-fabric wares. This catalogue does not concern itself

with sensible underclothes in hessian and woolsack, but teeters on the

brink of pornography. This catalogue is for men, men who want their women

looking dirty, without going to the trouble of actually getting properly

dirty... big-haired dominatrices, wonder-women and exuberantly randy

youthful dental hygienists, that sort of thing.

But, readers of this kind of catalogue would do well to take heed of

the warnings. Avid and regular readers will already be aware that it would

have been stapled together, rather than glued, which could give rise to

embarrassing body-piercing injury in cases of urgent intimacy therewith.

Moreover, anyone tempted to part with coin of the realm to take delivery

of an 'imitation-satin peep-hole basque' should be aware that the fabric is

likely to be incompatible with naked flames. Near-naked old-flames maybe

OK, but a carelessly tossed cigarette could mean bye bye baby. Perhaps

most poignantly of all, however, these things never look as good as they

do on the girls in the catalogue, when sported at home, where real life is

at least as much Roald Dahl as it is Sophie. Peach.

Troutisms Archive

Dr Montague Trout

12.06.03 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1Which is not a box to keep

crickets in, except perhaps for the extraordinarily


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