The Utterly Inessential Shopping List: Cute cups, posh pants, and a secret snooker table

After a few weeks of sipping cocktails beside a hotel bar in Cap d'Antibes, albeit sadly only in their dreams, Victoria Marston and Toby Keel get our Utterly Inessential shopping guide back up and running.

The world’s going to hell in a handbasket. The economy is teetering on the brink. Unspeakable acts are being committed by amoral governments across the world. The weather has gone cold and damp. And just to add further insult, Gina G’s Oooh Aah Just a Little Bit has just popped up on Spotify.

Solving the problems of the world will take time and work, that much we know. But there’s no reason that you shouldn’t have a few lovely things around you to make everything seem a little less taxing. Here is this week’s selection.

I have an addiction, sir

When you visit the doctor because you’ve developed tremors in your hands and he extracts the information that you’re on about 10 strong coffees a day — ‘if you gave that much caffeine to a rhino it would shake’, I believe were his exact words — you know it’s time to stop.

Yet I can’t stop, I have an addiction, which is why I allow myself three a day and, once these dinky little espresso cups are all dirty, I cut myself off. They come in even more yummy colours, but no, three is my limit. (NB: I don’t really dirty three cups rather than rinsing the first one out, I’m not a complete savage.) VM

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Priced at £32 each from ibbi — see more details 


Pants… made of bamboo? And they’re… how much? I feel like I’ve must have missed the memo explaining why cotton with a bit of stretchy stuff was no longer good enough for underwear. But here we are, it seems that the world has moved on, and a company called Bamigo has created underpants that are apparently ‘handmade using bamboo fibres’, offer ‘unrivalled comfort’, as well as, ahem, ‘excellent ventilation and sweat resistance for extended freshness’.

Running a double-blind control experiment to determine the veracity of these claims was beyond the scope of Utterly Inessential, but I did wear them during that really disgustingly hot spell a few weeks back, and… well, don’t expect them to be literally magical or feel air-conditioned. But they did as well as you could hope for, are comfy and snug, and came in a great box. TK

Priced at £34.99 for two pairs — see more details

Watch the birdie!

So, here’s an intriguing one for you: I am terrified of birds in real life (chickens, geese, emus, budgies, you name it. There’s a particularly amusing video of me attempting to feed a parakeet in Hyde Park floating around the internet somewhere), but am, perversely, a huge fan of them as an element of interior design.

I have canvases of birds on my walls, pink flamingos with fluffy rears adorning my shelves, a birdcage full of sweet little fake ones hanging in my bedroom and an enamelled birdie trinket box on my dressing table. I think mine was actually from Accessorize, but this one is far fancier and I lust after it. VM

Priced at £380 from Sweetpea & Willow — see more details

Good for the soul

I am not always the best sleeper (see above regarding caffeine addiction), but have somehow tricked myself into falling asleep, most nights, by following a complex routine that ends in spritzing my pillow with something stinky. Good stinky, not bad stinky.

This little beauty is billed as a three-in-one ‘soul mist, pillow mist and room spray’, ideal for meditation, getting to sleep and keeping by the front door in order to fool guests into thinking you’re up to date on your housekeeping. VM

Priced at £33 from The Universal Soul Company — see more details

A snooker table that your better half need never know anything about

A few years ago, a friend of mine moved up north. Or ‘back oop north’ as he put it, having grown up in Leeds. So delighted was he with the price difference between a three-bed semi in Hampshire and the same in Lancashire that he persuaded his wife to let him buy a mid-life-crisis sports car with back seats far too small even for his young children, and a pool table.

I had a pang of jealousy — not for the car, but for the pool table (proper snooker is better, of course, but far too difficult to be fun for normal people). Now, I have an answer: Sir William Bentley makes beautiful billiard tables that convert almost seamlessly into smart dining tables. The only down-side is that Sir William’s hand-made tables, all built to order, can cost almost as much as a car. I might be able to hide the baize, but not the bill. We’ll have to move up north. TK

The Continental Billiard Table by Sir William Bentley, prince on application — see more details