A Pearly White Christmas

I have a small confession to make: in the last two years I have spent £750 on toothbrushes. Please don’t be alarmed. At the time, it seemed perfectly rational. But now, in the cold light of day, I can see how things got a little out of hand.

My poison pen nemesis Barry Scott already think I’m the most frivolous and vacuous person in blogosphere. And when he reads this latest spell of frivolity, he’s going to have a field day.

My addiction to toothbrushes began innocently enough. In November 2011, my sister texted me to say that she’d like an electric toothbrush for Christmas. This might seem strange in itself but if you knew my family, this is the kind of thing we buy each other (see My Parents… and the Christmas Wishlist).

Unable to simply hop on Amazon and click ‘buy’ at the first brush I saw, I immediately set about researching the best electric toothbrush. It’s quite normal for me to spend up to three weeks reading reviews and researching voraciously. At the end of this research spell, I might be finally ready to commit to the purchase – but then spend the week ahead of its delivery racked with anxiety that I might have Bought The Wrong Thing.

In the case of the toothbrush, it was fairly clear from the onset that there was only one contender to the crown of Best Brush In The Business.

Let me introduce you to… Philips Diamond Clean – aka The Daddy of Dentistry.


Beautiful, isn’t it? I’m not quite sure which of its many merits I should mention first: its supreme sonic cleaning action with five different settings from whitening to polishing; the glass it sits in which automatically charges it; or the fact that you can charge it up through your laptop when on the move.

I was so taken with the reviews that I decided to buy myself one as well as my sister.

And then I bought my dad one.

And then – in a moment of extreme madness and possibly because it sprang up in my inbox as part of a £95 flash Amazon sale – I bought my father-in-law one too!

The Husband came home, took one look at the credit card bill, and had to sit me down for ‘a chat’.

It wasn’t normal behaviour, he said, for me to be spending £100 – £150 on toothbrushes for members of his extended family.

The husband likened me to a deranged milky bar kid, handing out over-priced electric toothbrushes to distant aunts like toffees.

He couldn’t stay cross for long though because awaiting him in the bathroom was his own shiny new Diamond Clean toothbrush: a limited edition black bad boy – matt finish and with a sleek black carry case; basically, the Ferrari of the toothbrush world.


Have you ever seen anything quite like it? I haven’t.

After one use, the husband said he couldn’t believe he had ever attempted to brush his teeth with anything else. And while he didn’t exactly endorse spending half of my monthly salary on top-dollar toothbrushes, he grudgingly admitted that he could certainly see its benefits.

As for the father-in-law, I’m not sure whether he even uses his brush. He did look a bit perplexed when he unwrapped his Christmas present last year. When I asked how things were going in the dental department, he muttered something about the brush being too tickly for his teeth. Too tickly?!

Last time I visited the in-laws, I peeked in their bathroom and it was nowhere to be seen. Sometimes I lie awake at night worrying that it’s lying abandoned in a dusty cupboard somewhere and that his teeth will never know what they’re missing.

I went to the dentist the other week. He took a peek in my mouth and, as usual, declared my teeth the best set of pearlies he’d seen in a long time.

I’m strangely proud of the fact that I have reached the ripe old age of 30-something without a single filling, despite my twice-weekly Haribo gorge in petrol stations across Leeds.

I thought I should let the dentist in on the secret, given he’s in the trade and all that.

‘It’s all thanks to the Philips Diamond Clean brush,’ I said. ‘Currently retailing on Amazon for a bargainous £99, RRP £250.’

He looked completely non-plusssed by this news.

I paid my usual £18 fee and trotted off, relishing the fact that I wouldn’t need a check-up again for another year.

The Barry Scotts of this world might scorn my toothbrush splurge.

But when I think of what my teeth could be costing me, £150 seems almost a bargain.

My Parents… and the Christmas Wish List

My phone beeps. It’s a text from the parents: ‘Please can you text us your xmas present lists.’


Every October, my mother requests a christmas present list from me. If I don’t comply, she will keep texting every week until I give in and text back: ‘I don’t know – just get me a book!’. It’s stressful trying to come up with gifts they can buy for me.

The Christmas Present List works both ways. The parents are not keen on receiving random presents for birthdays and Christmases – for fear of ‘unwanted tat’ taking over their home. So, every year, they present family members with a wish list, that usually contains a series of strangely-practical gifts.

This was my mother’s recent Christmas present list:

  • Prestige 24cm frying pan. Argos catologue no. 861/7134
  • Egg Poachers: Lakeland catalogue no. 12116
  • Nivea face cream
  • Hand cream (Body Shop)
  • Slippers (leather)

The funniest part of this long-held family tradition is that once you’ve sourced the items off the present list, wrapped them up and popped them under the Christmas tree, my mother pretends that she has no idea what she’s getting at all.

As the presents are passed to her, she shakes the box with a convincingly quizzical expression, before feigning mock shock when she finally unwraps her egg poachers: ‘Egg poachers?! My goodness – just what I wanted!’

Despite the parents’ detailed present list, there’s still the occasional surprise come Christmas Day. Uncle Stephen (my mother’s brother) went ‘off list’ last Christmas and splashed out on one of the strangest gifts for my mother yet: a blood pressure monitor (him and my mother are a little obsessed with their cholesteral and blood pressure).

20130811-171041.jpg 20130811-171204.jpg

No sooner was it unwrapped, than the whole family were strapping it onto their arms, in a strangely competitive game of ‘My blood pressure’s lower than yours’.

For my birthday in August, I was forced to provide my own present list. In the end, I asked the parents to get me an ‘Jawbone UP band’ (for more details on this device see Curse of the Cankles – my mother is completely bamboozled by its purpose), and from the sister, I requested a new hairdryer.

Being an obsessive control freak, it didn’t want just any old hairdryer. I wanted a Parlux Ionic 3200, which I had decided on after several hours of reading reviews. I even sent my sister the Amazon link to make things as easy as possible.

I suppose that if was feeling truly helpful, I could just have purchased the presents myself, cutting them out of the equation altogether, and then just getting my sister and the parents to give me the cold hard cash.

But that would mean I wouldn’t be able to slowly unwrap each present with a well-practised look of pseudo-intrigue on my face, and say, ‘Hmm, I wonder what on earth this could be…’

My Cleaner… Won’t Stop Buying Me Presents

No-one likes to admit to having a cleaner.

It’s basically tantamount to announcing, ‘I’m far too important to wash and iron my own knickers. I have MINIONS who do that for me.’

But there’s no better feeling of landing back home from work to a freshly-polished floor, the ironing hanging in the wardrobe, and crisp new sheets on the bed. If I had to choose between getting rid of the cleaner or the husband, it would be a tough call.

I first came across my amazing cleaner Natalia when she advertised in the window of my local hardware store. In fact, the very same window that Dirty Harry has been looking for love. But, unlike Harry, after one visit from Natalia , it was love at first sight.

Natalia isn’t your average cleaner: she sews on buttons, mends the bedding, takes items to the dry cleaners, and runs any errands you need. She’s the most hard-working person I know.

During my Farrow and Ball decorating obsession, her husband offered to come round and help paint with his Polish friend. They only came round to weigh the job up but before you could say ‘Czesc’ (I think that’s hello in Polish) they had whipped off their shirts, grabbed a brush and started furiously painting.

There was none of this messing around with cups of tea every 30 mins, like the Brits. No, they just brought a giant bottle of Coke (Polish equivalent) to swig on the move, and worked for 12 hours flat, without even a break.

There is one small problem with Natalia (and I appreciate this is a horribly middle-class problem, in the face of world poverty and civil war) but the thing is… she keeps buying me presents.

It started last Christmas. I was busy trying to decide whether Natalia would like an actual present or would rather have an extra week’s pay, when she pitched up at the door bearing a selection of random gifts herself.

I was confused. Shouldn’t I be buying her a present – not the other way round?


Her first present was some strange marshmallow/ Turkish delight-style sweets along with a bottle of dessert wine, which claimed to be Polish but on further inspection was actually made in Morocco.


She also bought me an intriguing bottle of oil called ‘Sahar’, which she told me to slather all over my body after a bath. It smells of mouldy hazelnuts and every now and then I tip a bit in the bath, mainly out of guilt. For all I know, it could be the elixir of youth.

At Easter, a giant basket arrived for me, complete with daffodils, big fluffy chicks, creme eggs, and a ‘Happy Easter’ balloon.

It’s all incredibly sweet – but entirely unnecessary.

After her holiday, more bizarre presents arrived:  some chocolates that I think are Poland’s equivalent of minstrels, and a little wooden box with two ramming deer. You can make them lock horns by moving the wooden lever up and down.



I keep the box on my desk at work to put my pens in.  Every now and then, a naughty boy in my class passes by and rams the deer together several times.

I’m already wondering what strange array of gifts Natalia’s planning to bestow upon me next.

But, as she said herself, the magic of christmas never ends!