Hilary Fannin: Would I like to whip out my card for €650 silk pyjamas? I lied with such ease it scared me

As I was already on the top floor of the store, with no pressing inducement to ride the escalator down again, so I’d wandered into its Christmas zone

A sound geographical knowledge of excellent public conveniences in Dublin, as has been discussed before in this column, is as essential as a sturdy overcoat in this damp old metropolis. Any speculation here on the topic has the guaranteed effect of releasing a trickle of readers’ favourites into my inbox, with the National Library on Kildare Street generally taking the number-one spot pants down.

Finding myself in the vicinity of one of my top-of-the-pots, I nipped into Dublin’s priciest department store to spend a penny (although the true cost of one’s tinkle is more like a euro a splash, given the evidence of the casually placed tip jar next to the wash-hand basins). It was a satisfying experience, right down to the luxury seaweed-based handwash and moisturising lotion that sprang from the dispensers with gay abandon.

Given that I was already on the top floor of the store and with no pressing inducement to ride the escalator down again, I wandered into the Christmas zone. Not being a wildly enthusiastic lover of the holiday season, the sight of coloured baubles hanging from the ceiling and artistic-looking paper reindeers prancing around the display area didn’t particularly rock my sleigh. Ya seen one festive ball, you seen ‘em all, and there’s only so many ways of rhapsodising over a box of luxury Christmas crackers, even if they do contain a nail clippers. “Wow, a festive nail clippers! Let me just trim my talons before I ignite the plum pudding, darling.”

Anyway, strolling on past the plastic icicles and faux ivies, one comes to a separate area of the store, entered via a LED-lit archway, which is reserved for high-end gifts and trinkets. If you’ve ever had to ask yourself what to gift the person in your life who has everything, then odds-on you’ll find the answer here.


As I’ve never, ever had to ask that question about anyone in my 60 years of breathing actual oxygen, this portal to a preposterously prosperous world, and the paraphernalia therein, did rather hit me as a craw-sticking, nausea-inducing Aladdin’s cave. (I’m being entirely straight when I say that everyone I know really does need socks or a jumper or a paperback or a couple of quid stuck inside a card.) But what do I know? Having yet to encounter that special someone whose desires can only be fulfilled by tearing open the wrapping on a €10,000 pinball machine, I’m truly in no position to judge.

Luckily, there were helpful printed explanations on display, outlining the ethos of the various designers, which, when read carefully, went some way towards clarifying why a pair of slippers cost a week’s wages and why an ordinary-looking green umbrella came with a price tag of €140. Apparently, to give the umbrella designers their due, it’s all to do with “a pioneering format for the future where the age of the imagination is the product of reality”. The design team also disclose that the umbrella was inspired by “Virgil’s vision and approach to his art”. Great man for the umbrellas was our Virgil, a regular little weather vane, wandering the streets of Naples with his brolly under his oxter, didactic poetry raining from his perfectly dry lips.

Unfortunately, I was taking such an intense interest in the gifts that a member of staff cautiously approached to see if I’d like to purchase anything, or maybe to see if I was staggering through the sumptuousness, with my jaw hanging open, just for the hell of it.

Would I like to whip out my credit card for a giant coffee-table book about Ferraris, a floating chess set, a retro Barbie or a pair of silk pyjamas that were a snip at a mere 650 quid? Or would I plump for a PanAm drinks trolley, a near-perfect replica of the original?

I lied with such ease it scared me.

“I’m looking for a client,” I said, using my best telephone voice, slightly supercilious, a little tense and not about to be pushed around.

“Of course,” replied the assistant, her lovely eyes opening just a touch wider, clearly wondering whether I might wish to disclose the name of this deep-pocketed individual. No, I would not! More than my job’s worth.

“These milk jugs are interesting,” I airily pronounced, slouching off in the direction of a shelf of ceramics representing small truncated torsos with ample breasts and a lip where the neck should be. A mere 160 smackers to add some snap, crackle and pop to your cereal? Cheap at half the price.