Saturday, April 07, 2012

Box of tricks

At the end of this year I will have lived away from the UK for 10 years. In that time, a new tradition has developed whereby my Mum and my sister send me, for birthdays and Christmas, a magnificent parcel filled with individually wrapped items that can only be bought in the UK or, more specifically, in Scotland. These have in the past consisted of, in no particular order (and without suggesting that I don't want surprises next time):

1. Scottish Blend teabags
"Specially blended for Scottish water", and with an accompanying sarcastic advert alluding to the fact that it never stops raining in Scotland: these possibly fraudulent (will they only work with Scottish water?), but nonetheless excellent teabags have frequently been smuggled through customs in Australia for me. They really do taste better than any other teabag. Even with (previously) inferior Hong Kong and (now) Australian water.

2. Shortbread House of Edinburgh shortbread
I first encountered this peerless brand when I was working in Morningside in a wholefood shop called Cornucopia. Rich, buttery, and absolutely irresistible. The website offers all sorts of perversions of the original idea (cinnamon and demerara? "Christmas"?), but in this I am a puritan: it has to be plain. And it's not just me who says so; Shortbread House's original recipe has won nine of the prestigious Gold Great Taste Awards.

3. Protect and Perfect
Boots the Chemist is probably the best chainstore in the UK, a fact you don't really appreciate until you leave and find yourself searching the dispiriting recesses of inferior pharmacies in vain for the sheer variety of products available in even the meanest, tiniest Boots. Boots' own brand is pretty reliable. When Boots launched Protect and Perfect a BBC science programme (clearly a peer-reviewed reliable source) declared that it actually reduced wrinkles. From my personal experience, this may not be true, and the stuff does smell strongly chemical; but my skin feels quite silky afterwards, and you can't ask for much more than that. P&P gets a kicking from some sources (click here to see all your favourite products mercilessly critiqued, except for, oh, products created by the site's founder).

4. Thorntons Brazil Nut Special Toffee   
No more needs to be said.
5. Soap & Glory: The Scrub of Your Life
Soap & Glory products are packaged in retro pink, with graphic imagery and concepts (rotten puns) which are possibly shamelessly stolen from Benefit, but it's true what it says on the tube: this is a near perfect scrub which smells great and leaves the skin feeling very, very soft.

6. Bio-Oil
This is a relative newcomer which I started using when I was pregnant and have been using ever since, not only on my distorted stomach (before and after) but also on my face. It smells faintly but not powerfully plasticky (repellent though that may sound, it's pleasant; it reminds me of the smell of new dolls) and is as slick as you like. It's supposedly good for scars. Like all similar products I think the benefits of regular massage may have more to do with it, but I've been using it just for the sheer pleasure of application.

Believe it or not I'm regularly approached (via email) by PR people asking if I'll promote something on one of my blogs (a fashion designer, a restaurant, a jewellery range). I always say no: if I'm asked to promote something in some sort of quid pro quo arrangement, I can't be neutral, and unless I genuinely like something without being asked to, I couldn't promote it. This is the closest I'd ever get to promoting anything, and that's only because this is what arrives in my magic box.


nmj said...

Yes, you always appreciate Boots more when you are away from UK - it is simply brilliant!

Am big fan of Protect and Perfect (I get as gifts, is prohibitively exensive) though some of Boots' own range of moisturisers - the cheaper ones - smell of bubblegum.

Also love Bio-Oil, but not Scottish Blend... Am trying to remember what new dolls smell like, I love that image.

I drink poncy organic green tea and white tea (for health too, not just to be poncy). And am totally spoiled by this tea shop, virtually across the road from me. Pekoe Tea.

And Happy Easter to you!

LottieP said...

Happy Easter! Pekoe Tea looks lovely, I looked in the window once (the day Benazir Bhutto died, if I remember correctly - funny how the associations stay with you. I had taken my mum and sister for a facial in Bruntsfield and while I was waiting for them to finish, I read the news on my Blackberry).