I live 18.3 miles from the nearest branch of John Lewis. I know. But don’t cry for me, because pre 2014, if I needed a fix, I would have had to drive 53.7 miles into Leeds, and that is, you’ll agree, unimaginable hardship.
Back when I lived in Cambridge, John Lewis became one of my Happy Places. They had a glorious haberdashery department, (with Kaffe Fassett textiles), I bought my Wedding Day perfume from the Estée Lauder counter there, (Ltd Edition Honeysuckle Splash) and the store provided the perfect answer to a rainy-day lunch break when I could peruse all the things I hadn’t realised my heart desired, beautifully merchandised, and lovingly tended by staff in smart polyester livery.
These days it requires a major cross-country excursion, and as such is only an occasional guilty indulgence, taking at least three hours out of my day, (I go into a trance, and have to try on lots of things) and often results in extravagant and unnecessary purchases. Bliss.
Closer to home, just 3.8 miles away, is our dear little market town of Pocklington. I love it. We have great cafes, pubs and bars, amazing charity shops, antiques, a greengrocer by appointment to the queen, a weekly market and a whole range of independent retailers providing for all our vital needs, except lingerie, menswear and school uniform.
No John Lewis, but we DO have an ALDI! With its ‘Aisle Of Randomness’ where you can find horse blankets next to american mustard, and ‘limited availability’ on some of the more exotic products in grocery and home wares, ALDI has started to turn my head. My allegiance to the beloved JL dark green and white diagonal stripes has been tested by the brilliant selection on offer here, where you can pile your shopping into an old cardboard box, if you like.
The products are usually extremely well designed, practical, quirky, and excellent VFM. The outdoorsy stuff reminds me to get the camper-van MOTd. The garden stuff reminds me to replace the broken solar lamps. The electronics allow me to keep up with the latest new-fangled tech without re-mortgaging the house. And many of their own brands are emblazoned with the reassuring Which? endorsements.
The additional bonus for me, is that browsing the ‘AOR’ (Aisle Of Randomness), can be combined simultaneously with the weekly procurement of essential groceries, and therefore unlike JL, allows completely guilt-free Retail Therapy. I like it.
So this week I thought you might like to see a haul of ALDI own-brand products that have made me very happy recently.
In the photograph, I am sporting a nifty new lightweight rucksack, complete with mobile mobile/camera pouch, emergency whistle, waterproof cushion, integral rain cover, and even, get this, on the inside of the top pocket lid, a printed table of advice about calling for help, including how to signal to aircraft! This is just the beginning of preparation for a five day walking holiday with my sister along The Kent Coast Path later this summer. (What were we thinking, Maria?) I think that little cushion will come in very handy for all the sit-downs, but I do hope we won’t need to look up the survival advice, or blow the whistle too many times…
I am also sporting (excuse the pun) a sleek black racer-back sports top (try saying that after a Vodka Martini) by Crane, Aldi’s range of activewear. If only I had discovered this gear before subscribing, like a numpty, to Fabletics. (Don’t worry, I have at last extricated myself from that particular money-sapping marketing monster, and if you’ve not encountered them, my advice is to keep it that way. It was like selling my soul to the devil)
Yay! On to beauty; Lacura spray-on moisturiser with aloe. (£1.99) Amazingly light, quickly absorbed, and with a natural delicate fragrance. It’s fun to use, because you can create spyrograph patterns on your skin with the fine jets of lotion as they shoot out of the nozzle. But one word of advice; spray all over first, and then massage in, otherwise the canister becomes impossibly slippery to operate. I can recommend this for travel and post-holiday skin, and it does actually contain decent amounts of actual, bonafide aloe juice, unlike many other budget brands.
I feel surprisingly guilty about the next beauty purchase as it feels like a betrayal of a dearly loved brand: Like my passion for John Lewis, the focus of over a decade-long affection for Liz Earle’s Cleanse And Polish has been diverted by this foreign interloper. Lacura have unveiled their equivalent “Hot Cloth Cleanser”, for a fraction of the price at £3.99. It also comes with a much larger and more substantial muslin face cloth. Being one of Aldi’s ‘limited stock’ products, and it really is so good, I went back and bought two more tubes. (Clever marketing, because I’m sure I’m not the only one who stockpiles). But if you’re reading this Ms. Earle, I will NEVER stop loving your Eyebright Lotion, okay?
Talking of stockpiling, I also bought three of the Scentcerity (see what they did there?) luxury candle in No.50 – Notes of Red Roses. Jo Malone eat your heart out. At £3.99 each, these candles smell unbelievably gorgeous, look sophisticated and call me old fashioned, but having a stash of them in my cupboard means that I need never arrive at someone’s house for dinner without a little present for the hostess (unless it is my friend Mitch, who recently introduced me to the deep joy that is Jo Malone, and settles for nothing less).
And have you noticed my snazzy red watch? ‘Where d’ya get THAT?’ you ask…
They seem to have an OCD pricing issue because this brill, silicon-strapped, waterproof, diver’s watch with Rolex style moving bezel, is their favourite price of…£3.99!
If ALDI could only offer decent lingerie, menswear and school uniform, I might never need to make that epic 18.3 mile journey to John Lewis ever again.
Who am I kidding? Just try and stop me.