The utterly inessential shopping list: An iPad/Alexa hybrid, a wire reindeer and a £145 air freshener

At this time of year more than any other, rampant consumerism is an inescapable fact of life. So don't fight it: plunge in headfirst and enjoy our latest utterly inessential but entirely marvellous shopping list.

For the man who has everything, once you’ve bought him all the other things pitched as being for the man who has everything

Charabanc air freshener

Last week, we brought you news of a £210 pencil sharpener. This week, we have what one might term the automotive equivalent: a car air freshener priced at £145. Yes, we’ve checked that, and no, we haven’t missed a decimal point.

It’s made by a company called Charabanc, and it has to be said that they do things with real style, starting from a website with its promise of taking us ‘on a journey back in time, back to the golden days of automobile travel’. There’s the elegant packaging, the hand-made leather case and the beautiful quality of the air freshener’s metal case (hand spun by specialists in Portsmouth who apparently make ‘nose cones for Spitfires’, according to the website).

There are five different smells – sorry, ‘fragrance journeys’ – to choose from, each one designed to evoke a great drive from somewhere across the world. We did get one in for testing, primarily to ensure that the pitch for a £145 air freshener wasn’t purely some sort of Brass Eye-style hoax (come on – Spitfires?) but also to see if we really would feel transported to the Pennine Fells. Honestly, the answer was no. But we did ‘feel transported’ from home to work in a car that smelled significantly nicer.

Charabanc air freshener, £145 from or in-store at Harrods

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It’ll do everything except stone the avocados

What I love about this product – which is a sort of cross between an iPad and a Sonos wireless speaker and an Amazon Alexa, all tied up with the Google Assistant – is that it’s actually very, very useful.

Say, for example – and this is of course purely hypothetical – you’ve put on your summer foundation on a chilly December morning, and only realise when you check your face in the bathroom mirror as you’re leaving your flat that you are, in fact, orange and need to know how much time you have left to put on a full face of makeup every minute on the minute, enter Lenovo Smart Display. Shout at it for an update, it’ll give you one. No longer will you need to go to the inconvenience of turning your head to look at a pesky watch.

Seriously, this thing is a lifesaver. It can turn your lights on and off, change the temperature in your room and Skype your mother (not yet without you needing to be involved too sadly). And like all the other internet smart gizmos it’s a wealth of information just waiting for the magic words. The kind of product that quickly becomes essential.

Why is it on your inessential shopping list, then? I hear you ask. Well, friend, this virtual encyclopedia of knowledge was first pitched to me as a way to cook without turning a page in a recipe book. If that is your sole reason for purchasing the future of smart speakers, then… fine.

Lenovo Smart Display starting from £159.99 for the 8” and £229.99 for the 10”, buy at

Just please don’t load OneDirection on to it

The Pavarotti music box

Inessential it may be, but this is really quite an astonishing… an astonishing ‘product’ is probably the best word. Named ‘Life in Art’, this is partly an extraordinary collection. At its heart, however, is a state-of-the-art digital music player containing 130 hours of recordings made by iconic opera singer Luciano Pavarotti – that’s every recording he ever made, at a quality which the makers claim ‘lets you savour the twentieth century’s greatest voice as if he’s performing in your home.’ A great music player deserves a great case, of course: this one is housed in a staggeringly beautiful display case by David Linley, the latter having been ‘hand-crafted for 1,000 hours’ and decorated with a wood veneer recreation of a painting of Venice made by the singer.

All lovely, but as you might expect of something with an £84,000 price tag, however, there’s more to it – in the shape of inspiration and experiences. Among the various extras are rare prints of Pavarotti’s oil paintings (together with a promise that they’ll never be reissued), plus a lifetime supply of artist’s tools – paints, brushes, canvas and even manuscript paper – intended ‘to inspire creativity, as Pavarotti would have wished.’

You want more? You can have more. The ten lucky buyers will be flown to Modena to meet the singer’s widow at the house they shared, and enjoy a meal prepared by Pavarotti’s own personal chef. And just to add an element of philanthropy, a healthy chunk of the purchase price will be used to help fund the Luciano Pavarotti Foundation, to help young opera singers at the start of their careers. Quite amazing.

Pre-orders are being taken at – deliveries will start from January, with white-gloved art handlers bringing it to your home and acousticians installing it. 

Whoever said that reindeer wall sconces are the future was… unwell

I don’t know where you’d put it. But you should have it.

Wire Reindeer Head from Grand Illusions for £60,

Everyone needs a winter coat

Hicks and Brown Olive Jacket

I’m including a coat because I’ve recently discovered that my last three colds are an indirect result of one of my nearest and dearest not having a singular, solitary winter coat. Really. The man is a proper grown up, with a clever-sounding job and full use of his faculties, and yet he heads out into the winter dressed only in a shirt, like a Geordie hitting the town on a Friday night.

Geordies have natural immunity; he doesn’t.

You don’t need this coat, of course. It’s very nice if you choose to, but you could go to the local Cancer Research shop and pick one up for under a fiver. And before you try to cleverly claim that it’s too cold to get there without a coat, Oxfam now offer online shopping.

Whatever you do, for the sake of those who have no choice but to spend time with you, get one. 

The Newmarket Dry Wax Quilted Jacket in Olive Green, £199, by Hicks & Brown, available at