On Facebook, a friend of mine was musing about the cost of certain items in certain high street stores. Knowing him to be a man of sense, I expressed amazement that he bothered with the high street for anything anymore. I bought both of my computers online - the desktop machine I'm typing this on now was two-thirds of the price of an identical unit in PC World, while the laptop came from PC World's website, and was an exclusive online offer. I get through a lot of blank DVDs, and am consistently astonished at the price high street stores expect me to pay. My DVD recorder came from Amazon.co.uk, and was half the price of the same unit anywhere else. A while back, I needed a replacement mini-jack for my headphones. Maplin wanted £2.99, for which price I could get 5 of the buggers from a chap on eBay. Finally, as one of the few people left still using a fountain pen (I think it's just me and my GP), I've been wondering why you can get green and purple Parker cartridges on the continent but not in Britain. Answer - you can get them here, if you go to the Battersea Pen Home. If you have a credit card, a computer and a willingness to wait a couple of days for the stuff to arrive, buying online is the way forward.
Of course, there are some things that money can't buy (mainly because they're crap), and in my journalistic career, I've amassed a fair few of them. Promotional mugs seem to proliferate - a recent purge of the cupboard brought forth a green one for 30 years of Picador books, a black 'Wake up and smell the coffee' one for Bloomsbury's Encarta dictionary, and a rather nice bone china one extolling the virtues of Sutton Publishing's historical titles. Having amassed enough pleasing non-promotional drinking vessels, including a repro White Star Line Titanic-era 3rd class mug and a superb 'Yorkshire Television Colour Production' mug hand made by my good friend Marcus Bernard of TV Ark, the publishing freebies are going to the charity shop, even 'Wake up and smell Nigel Newton's bank balance'. This has, however, set me to wondering what was the best freebie I've ever received? On balance, it's probably the Pure Evoke 1 digital radio in the kitchen, given to selected hacks in the glory days of Oneword, although the Weidenfeld and Nicolson 50th anniversary anthology that I got signed by both Lord Weidenfeld and Nigel Nicolson is a keeper, as is the t-shirt promoting my mate Andy Miller's book Tilting at Windmills (Slogan: "A hollow victory is still a victory"), even though it has never ever fit me. Does anyone else have good free stuff to declare?