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
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.
crickets in, except perhaps for the extraordinarily