By JOE BENNETT
I forget what it was exactly - matching tartan luggage perhaps, or designer sunglasses, or aromatherapy stuff, something along those lines anyway, you know the sort of thing - but it was advertised as "100 per cent lifestyle".
I ordered a dozen. Any day now they'll land on the doorstep and everything will be hunky-dory.
I need a lifestyle, you see, especially on a wet and mournful morning with a hangover like a rough and sullen beast and a kowhai tree that's turning yellow.
Nothing unusual about either of those of course, especially the kowhai. All my vegetation turns yellow. I buy it, I plant it, I water it, I mulch it, it turns yellow. Then its leaves fall off and it becomes a stick, forever, all of which is fine by me. Sticks are low maintenance.
The kowhai's low maintenance, too, unlike the hangover, which requires incessant groaning. But the kowhai breaks the rules. It does the turning-yellow trick every year.
There it stands at the end of winter all wet and skeletal with last year's seedpods dangling from it like black rags and I'm just reaching joyously for my favourite gardening tool which has an agreeably throaty motor and a bicycle chain with teeth, when the kowhai sucks deep into its unimaginable roots and launches its annual routine of self-preservation.
Out of nowhere and nothing it extrudes a cornucopia of flowery trumpets the colour of happiness and 1960s eggcups. I issue a reprieve and the bees go bonkers. All of which proves once again that the essence of good gardening is neglect and threatening behaviour. Neither works on a hangover.
But a hangover's not an objet de lifestyle, nor is it a kowhai tree. If it were, it would be advertised in the nicer magazines and we'd all have a miniature kowhai squatting between the balsamic-vinegar dispenser and the dehumidifier.
But lifestyle stuff doesn't grow lovely from neglect. It emerges fully formed from sweatshops in South-east Asia at the behest of American companies with Italian names and no capital letters. Lifestyle stuff comes with arty photography of androgynous men with jaws and cheekbones and women who look like sticks but are the opposite of low maintenance.
Nevertheless I'm looking forward to getting my lifestyle. I'm going to live in it. The demands will be many but I shall be equal to them.
I shall lounge all day on ergonomic furniture, looking jawed and cheekboned in a pair of fawn slacks with a crease down the front you can cut your finger on and I shall cut all my fingers on it and bleed attractively round the chrome-finish cappuccino machine till it looks like one of those tiny desserts surrounded by sauce rings, as served at the sort of restaurants where men wear lilac-coloured shirts with the collar flattened out a la 70s - but without the medallion and the chest hair, shaved chests being so much more 90s.
Only now the 90s have withered like vegetation and no one has the least idea where we're going. One moment's pause for observation, however, and it's perfectly evident that we're going the same place as always: up Pretension Avenue until we hit Realisation Road.
Realisation Road is lined with photographs of us trying to have a lifestyle and imagining that other people are imagining we're having a good time. The realisation is stark and sudden as mortality that (a) we weren't having a good time and (b) anyone who thought well of us wasn't the sort of person it's good to be thought well of by.
Fired by this uprush of self-awareness, we abjure the urban jungle and head for the country - so, how can I put it, so, well, so utterly authentic, my dear, and belittling and, you know, focusing - and we buy ourselves a secluded little chunk of it.
There we build a GM-free gingerbread house with a wetback and a wood-fired range - "Honestly, it's the absolute heart of the house, I don't know why one ever bothered with electricity" - and surround the place with a few of the more placid and picturesque members of the animal kingdom.
But then with horror we discover that our little slice of paradise is no longer a sanctuary cradled in the endless swing of the seasons, honest as the sunshine and dismal as the rain, nor is it a constant and healthy reminder of the trivial nature of our self-regarding former lives. Oh no, not that any more. It's now a lifestyle block. Ha. Lifestyle's everywhere.
So even in what used to be called the country you don't dare to relax because at any moment a photographer called Shelley with the build of a sparrow and a Minolta SLR 3000 with genuine imitation leather straplet may pop round to take angular black and white snaps of you, the lifestyler, lounging enviably and ergonomically amid sticks. With hangover.
By JOE BENNETT