Innovations for male order

Although many of the products featured in the Ideal Home Spring 95 catalogue serve no worldly purpose, most can at least claim to be innovative.

SBHD: Although many of the products featured in the Ideal Home Spring 95 catalogue serve no worldly purpose, most can at least claim to be innovative.

Unattached friends of mine have asked me to extend a heart-felt thanks to the inventor of the Mr Cuddles bolster, which takes centre stage in the recently-published Ideal Home Spring 95 shopping catalogue.

Mr Cuddles, the (almost) life-sized and near-naked “hunk” which adorns this latest innovation for the romantically-challenged, provides the lonely and unlovable with someone to call their own.

Mr Cuddles is not a real man, of course, but a soft and pliable love-object with whom to while away the small hours.

Although the sight of Cuddle’s inanely smiling face and rather rakish “take-me” pose might not be to every red- blooded woman’s taste, friends of mine maintain there are clear benefits to having a squishy man rather than the real thing.

Aside from the fact that he doesn’t run up credit card bills, criticise his in-laws or flirt with your best friend, Cuddle’s 100 per cent polyester fibre filling ensures he is a dream to put through the washing machine.

And then there’s the ironing.

Cuddle’s partner-in-crime, Mr Smoothy, is another near-naked hunk, complete with improbably thick chest-hair and come-hither grin. Mr Smoothy lies, somewhat suggestively, on an ironing board cover – with only a tiny towel between him and indecent exposure.

Billed as the only man “who will bring a smile to your face as you slave away with a hot iron across his contours”, Mr Smoothy comes in 100 per cent cotton fabric, with a teflon coating that makes him handy to have around when the frying pan catches fire.

Intriguingly, Mr Smoothy – who is guaranteed never to complain, not even when the steam iron probes his more delicate parts – also boasts an “adjustable drawstring” which may yet come in handy one of these days.

If you prefer your hunks to be fashioned in more traditional material, you need look no further than Ideal Home’s Mr Woody – “the genuinely biddable servant” whose creak-free parts guarantee hours of family fun.

Lovingly constructed in quality seasoned pine, wondrous Woody can, in the best traditions of mail order, be used in a whole host of different ways around the home. Be it a coffee table, telephone stand, pot holder, magazine rack or rather unusual- looking tray, the redoubtably double-jointed Mr Woody will soundlessly bend himself to your exacting requirements at the merest flick of a pliable wooden limb.

In case you think the spring mail order catalogues are aimed exclusively at women, let me assure you that hunks of all ages are catered for by an innovation being marketed as Fellas. Fashioned in what sounds like a scratchy combination of acrylic and nylon, “Fellas thermal legware for the outdoor man” can be worn under normal trousers “for waist to toe protection” from biting winds and stray nipping irritants.

And never fear that the ability to “capture and retain body heat” could impede Outdoor man’s more pressing biological functions – they’ve already thought of that. With its “free opening for convenience”, Fellas is an essential tool for “builders, farmers, milkmen, firemen and policemen”, or, for that matter, anyone whose job requires a regular outdoor outlet. But please state waist and inside leg measurements for convenience.

Amid this season’s offerings of self-watering, hanging baskets that double up as sofabeds for “that unexpected guest” or hair-trimmers that masquerade as musical wooden toilet seats, comes a remarkable innovation in audio entertainment. The Whisper XL weighs less than one ounce and fits discreetly behind your ear “to give you the hearing you thought was a thing of the past”.

Complete with spare batteries and an ear piece, which may or may not double as a thirsty towel bale, the Whisper XL is designed for… Who exactly?

Well, you know, people in need of extra amplification.

Despite the undoubted power of this minnow among the giants of hearing aid technology, the maker of the Whisper XL – which appears in the Kaleidoscope Curiosity Shop catalogue – has yet to decide who actually wants such a contraption.

While the device, with no less than six sound levels, is apparently “unsuitable for those who are hard of hearing”, it doesn’t appear to be aimed at snoopers either. “Warning. Must not be used to eavesdrop on private conversations without permission,” it points out. Which presumably only leaves people who like to pretend they are wearing a personal stereo – only without the music.

But then the magic of mail order is, perhaps, that so much of it is of no earthly use at all. I mean, I suffer from cold feet as often as the next woman, but if Ideal Home challenged me to create a direct marketing campaign for the Cosy Warm Foot Feeter Heaters then I’d be stumped to say anything more enticing than “designed to keep your feet warm and snug in bed”, which is exactly what they say.

But sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Although the copywriters assigned to the Eat Anything Denture Cushions were clearly unable to get their literary teeth into this marvel of oral engineering, the terrifying photograph of two sets of disembodied gnashers waiting to pounce on the next unsuspecting Granny Smith is somehow more significant than mere words.

As a connoisseur of the art of mail order, I have come to the conclusion that virtually all the products on sale fall into three categories, apart, that is, from hair removing.

The versatile “table valet” that offers consumers the opportunity to purchase a piece of furniture that is, at once, a writing table/jigsaw surface/camping cabinet/breakfast in bed tray is a good example of the four-in-one products pioneered by mail order. But its inability to fold itself into a “kwik-end” insect killer goes against it. That was category one.

Category two is the pet flea product, which invariably offers a “scratch-no-more” flea spray hidden within a lamb-bone shaped “play `n’ scratch” furniture saver.

And category three? Well, the invention of a naked man perching on an ironing table might be the product of a diseased mind, but no one can say it’s a me-too.

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