The Utterly Inessential Shopping List: 10 things which under no circumstance should you ever, ever purchase

At the end of 2019, we look back on the crème de la crème of Utterly Inessential, mulling over what we thought then and whether our opinions have softened much. Spoiler: They haven't.

Let’s go on a journey.

Every week here at Country Life we receive any number of press releases, from the fairly mundane (a new gin, a nice pair of shoes) to the absolutely ridiculous (who needs a £10,000 Easter egg? That’s not a typo). It seemed a shame that we had nowhere to really put these eccentric items, no outlet to express our astonishment, no forum to discuss their merit (or, more likely, lack-thereof).

And thus, Utterly Inessential was born.

At some point last year, it became my happy task to collect these items together once a week on a Thursday afternoon and, essentially, mock them within an inch of their life. And we have had some fun.

Since then, the list has expanded into seasonal fashion guides, country event essentials and has even branched out into the sustainable world of second-hand decorating more times than one.

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However, we like to keep an eye on our roots here at Country Life, if only to make sure that they don’t go anywhere. That is why, to celebrate over a year of Utterly Inessential, I’ll be looking back on some of the truly bonkers things which you should genuinely, hand on heart, absolutely never ever by.

Please. For the love of consumerism.

From the very first list…


 As you’d expect with Leica, the astounding craftsmanship and quality comes at a price £4,500 from so if you are going adventuring overseas, best be careful you don’t drop this down a canyon. 

The best camera is the one you have with you. That’s all we’ll say.

£4,500 from

From when we were finding our stride…

Island of Goats

Our thoughts then: Because, why not? Eilean Nan Gabhar, the ‘Island of Goats’ has no electricity, no phone signal and no house but it does have 13 acres completely free from all the trappings of the modern world. Including plumbing. The decision is yours.

We stand by it. Eilean Nan Gabhar is a solid purchase, and that’s probably why it’s been sold to one lucky human who hasn’t been heard from for over six months. We assume.

Eilean Nan Gabhar was on sale through Galbraith for offers over £120,000.

From last Christmas…

Caran D’ache pensil sharpener for £210

Our thoughts then: I… I had a speech. I had things to say about this. So many things that the mind boggles at the number of opinions it can hold. But now… Now I just need to lie down.

Buying a lifetime supply of pencils may not be more sustainable than this, but it would surely be better than giving money to the sort of person who would turn a 10p tool into a £210 glorified paper weight. Still ridiculous.

Caran D’ache pensil sharpener for £210,

From what we can only assume is Mars…

Our thoughts then: To tell you the truth, I’m relatively irate that I didn’t patent this idea the day that while in a hostel in Budapest, the home of the Rubik’s Cube, staring at a fairly crude painting of one on the wall, I idly thought to myself: “they should make one of these, but out of 18 carat gold instead of plastic and with 34 carats of rubies, 34 carats of emeralds and 22.5 carats of amethysts instead of stickers.” Hindsight is 20/20.

hOW HAs nOOne BoUGHt tHiS?!

The Masterpiece Rubik’s Cube, still for sale for $2.5 million, from

One for the road…

Royal Trunk

Our thoughts then: The phrase ‘one for the road’ was never so aptly applied. Artemest describes it as an ‘elegant, multifunctional living centre’ which I find perfectly accurate because for this price, one could rent an extremely nice room in London for a month or a not-so-nice one for two.

Honestly, I’m not even mad anymore. Just impressed. Carry on.

Buy the Royal Capri Trunk for £11,565 at

From the mother’s day list…

Fortnum & Mason The Mother of all Teas £165

Our thoughts then: It’s a truth universally acknowledged that all mothers like tea… right? Make sure yours does before you purchase this colossal, incredible jar of royal tea from Fortnum & Mason. Because 1kg is a lot of tea for someone who doesn’t like tea.
This is still a lot of tea. And a lot for a lot of tea. We stand by it.

Fortnum & Mason The Mother of all Teas, £165,

From the depths of hell…

Limited Edition Game-Bird chess set

Our thoughts then: There are five lucky people in this world who are destined to be bound together by nothing more, yet nothing less, than a gold and silver chess set with cock and hen pheasants ruling the board, woodcocks as pawns and partridge knights in shining silver.

Get in the sea.

Sterling Silver & Gilt Game Birds Chess Set, with 4.25″ Board & Travel Cases for pieces, £250,000, probably sold,

From the royal baby list…

Balmoral - £1,800 - Silver Cross - (2)

Our thoughts then: Try though you might, you wont find a more appropriate pram for your royal pain-in-the-sleep pattern. The definition of luxury infant portation devices, the Balmoral comes in a plethora of colours, but I think the classic white-and-blue will do nicely.

I’ve since been told that my SO had a Silver Cross and there’s a very good chance my future children will be pushed around in one, thus I feel quite strange lampooning this fine specimen. HOWEVER. My completely fictional children would be spending their earliest fictional 6 months in a vintage pram, a reused pram, not a new pram, not a £1,800 new pram.

Balmoral Pram from Silver Cross in white and navy for £1,800,

From the start of the season…


Our thoughts then: Practical? No. Risk of potential injury? If your balance is similar to mine, fairly high. Fabulously seasonal? Absolutely.

I can’t even hate these because I truly, deeply, love them.

Quinto boots in red by Keith Scarrott, £299.95 available at

And finally…From two weeks ago

Our thoughts then: When is an advent calendar not an advent calendar? When it’s an advent building Would you call an advent calendar ‘utterly inessential’? Not if you’re seven years old, you wouldn’t, for how else are the young supposed to keep tabs of the days between December 1 and Christmas? Put a £15,000 price tag on that advent calendar, however, and even the most well-heeled child might question whether . Of course, children are (presumably) not the target audience for this genuinely spectacular building, described by the makers as ‘an Advent Calendar to last a lifetime’.

There’s. Not even anything in it.

Wooden advent calendar — £15,000 from

Thank you for staying until the end, and thank you for coming back to read this as often as you have in the last year (I realise that I’m now addressing my mother, my grandmother and my best friend. I love you guys).

If you thought that one was bad, take a look at our ladies Christmas gift guide.

Merry Christmas. I must now weep.

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