How is it for you? The lockdown? Yeah, I know. One thing I’ve been enjoying is reading numerous celebrity profiles where they tell us about their quarantine essentials. It’s been quite cheering to see I use the same exfoliant as the hot priest from Fleabag, and finding out just how much people who star in Netflix shows that I don’t watch spend on candles. Amazing.
Sadly, it is very unlikely I will be asked to give such an interview, but then I remembered: hang on, I don’t have to wait to be interviewed, I can just write it myself! So please welcome to my spacious (filled with junk) living room, where I will take you through a few things that I’ve liked during lockdown that weren’t Warburtons bread, swinging my kettle bell, and making spaghetti bolognese every Saturday. Some of these products were sent to me as samples – some quite a while ago, actually – and others I just bought. I’ll make that clear when I wang on about them. Let’s start with DRUGS. Kind of.
Green Stem CBD oral drops
I go to an annual event called Christmas in July, which is where journalists can find out what’s going to be coming out in the shops at Christmas. It is, as you can imagine, heaven for me. I got talking to the guys on the Green Stem stand, as they had a special hand cream with CBD in that was said to work wonders on skin complaints, and I had psoriasis. (If you don’t know what CBD is, avail yourself of Google, because we’ve all got places to be.) They gave me a set of products to try and the hand cream was indeed great – I am still using it on my very over-scrubbed, corona-conscious hands – but lately I have been using the CBD oral drops. CBD has lots of benefits and one is reducing anxiety, so I first gave them a go when I was due to talk on the radio and there was loud building work happening outside my flat, and have used them a few times since – especially when I had suspected coronavirus back in March and my breathing was like a Dyson hand dryer on the wonk. You just pop a wee bit under your tongue and it very slightly takes the edge off whatever you need it to. Mine are black cherry flavour, the 300mg variety, but you can get them in other flavours and stronger doses. They sell them at Boots, so it’s all fine, tell your grandmother not to worry, you’re not going to progress to heroin by August bank holiday. (Sample received.)
I’ve been sober now for nearly five months and one of the main difficulties is finding something to drink that isn’t booze but also isn’t a pint of lime and soda or a seventeenth Coke Zero of the day. I don’t really drink fake alcohol because I think it leaves you wanting the real thing, so I have been looking at other options. I really like Robinson’s Fruit Cordials, and their Fruit Creations, but they’re still quite sweet and I wanted something grown up, so I’ve been giving Jukes Cordialities a go. Invented by wine writer Matthew Jukes, these cordials come in three varieties and while they don’t attempt to mimic alcohol, they take their inspiration from booze favourites. So there’s Jukes 1, a bit like white wine, Jukes 6, a little like red wine, and a limited edition for summer, Jukes 8, an alternative to rosé, which just launched May 20. They give a sense of alcohol without trying to replicate the taste – what I mean is they are flavoursome, with a fruity yet bitter tang, so you don’t just down it all in one go like a savage, as I do with a glass of Robinson’s. They’re also great with tonic, so you’re more inclined to drink slowly and appreciate them. OMG I’m so dull and civilised, when did this happen? Basically you’re aping the social experience of booze but don’t feel like you’re missing out on the real thing – until your drunk friends start talking nonsense, or fighting. They come in cute little bottles and the packaging is very luxe too. They’re not cheap, but would be a good treat for any non-boozer – and lord knows they’ve earned it if they’ve stayed sober during lockdown, amirite? My favourite is Jukes 6. (Sample received.)
Jukes 8, 12x30ml – £35
Diet Coke Sublime Lime
Now, you don’t get David Gandy shouting out to Coca-Cola in his celebrity profile interviews, do you? This is probably why I’m not a celebrity. Shame. Anyway, cola. I’m afraid Pepsi has always left me cold. I remember doing the Pepsi Challenge at a theme park in the ’80s and being able to tell which one was Coke, and being VERY rude about the sample that wasn’t. Thanks to everyone backing away from sugar like it’s just been unmasked as a serial killer, there’s been more focus on the Diet and Zero versions of Coke and endless new flavours to tempt you toward the enamel-eroding carbonated menace. Results have been variable. The ‘feisty’ strawberry Diet Coke tastes like it was invented by mistake in a nuclear reactor, peach-tinged Coke Zero has all the charm of three squirts of Febreze onto a wanking sock and I am not sure whether raspberry Coke Zero is delicious or tastes like the scrapings from an air conditioning unit. Thank God for my childhood fave, my beloved untouchable cherry, now available in Zero and all the better for it. Of the new interlopers, the best is the cringily named Diet Coke Sublime Lime. The tartness of the lime-flavoured chemical extract is the perfect foil to the stomach-rotting aspartame and phenylalanine, and I have even started to sip on one when doing my morning exercise routine, like a guest character in an early episode of Sex and the City. Anyway, I’m a fan. Look, I can’t drink WATER all the time. Come on.
Diet Coke Sublime Lime, 330 ml cans, 500 ml bottles, 2L bottles – cost depends on which shop you buy it, I guess. Enjoy.
My skin, reader, is shafted. I don’t know what’s going on. After years of serums, scrubs, foaming face washes, cleansing milks, glycolic acid pads, hyaluronic snake oil and other various potions, perhaps the skin on my face has simply had enough and wishes to retire from public life. I am even trying medication but… I don’t know. Perhaps all the venom is finally finding its way out of me. It’s very upsetting but I am trying not to let it bother me. Anyway, I have cut right back on the stuff I put on it and have been using Elemis Superfood facial wash. I found a sample in a bag from when I bought something else and left it on the shelf until I ran out of my usual cleanser (Japanfusion by Beauty Pie – good for a while and then the acne proved unstoppable). The Elemis one smells wonderful and clean and very expensive. Going out of my mind and unable to jizz my money away on flat whites, I was so impressed that I bought a full size tube and also splashed out on the Hydra Balance moisturiser, which has neroli in it, so smells fantastic; it’s like being in a spa, and young, and rich and – well, lots of other things I currently am not. It was all going swimmingly for a few weeks but now my skin has gone nuts again so God knows what’s going on. Anyway, I really liked it so thought I would include it as it’s not a brand I would ever have bought before. If anyone has any suggestions on what I can do about my skin – I am going to find a dermatologist once coronavirus has sodded off – please do let me know, unless the advice is “decapitate yourself”.
Elemis Superfood cleansing facial wash, 150ml – £25 (I got mine on offer somewhere else but they dont have it anymore.)
Elemis Hydra Balance Day Cream, 50ml – RRP £42, allbeauty have it for £28.50, which is what I got
Bulldog shower gel
I struggle with shower gel, especially ones meant ‘for men’ – whatever that means. The fragrances always remind me of gym locker rooms or foot powder, and present a version of masculinity that I’ve only ever observed from afar, much happier in my citrusy, floral, or musky cloud of scent. To get anything decent you usually have to go quite pricey, so I like Bulldog as a brand, generally – they use natural ingredients, are staunchly environmentally conscious in approach and feel very practical and modern. Moreover, their products actually smell great, and fresh, don’t beat you over the head with blokey-ness, and don’t have variant names like Armoured Car, Death Sweat, and Acid Rain. My favourite is the lemon and bergamot – big fan of bergamot generally – but have also tried peppermint and eucalyptus and the original fragrance. If it were possible to smell of “charming”, this would be it. Anyway, that’s what I’m using. They’ve got some new roll-on deodorants out too, which I’ve tried – again lemon and bergamot my fave – and have just launched a new sensitive bamboo razor, which I haven’t tried yet. (Sample received.)
Bulldog lemon and bergamot shower gel, 500 ml – usually £4.50 but Bulldog have an offer on, I noticed when compiling this piece.
Okay so it’s more than five things. I don’t think I would have got through May without the Channel 5 reruns of The Golden Girls (2 eps every weekday lunchtime), Meggie Foster’s lip synching on TikTok and the incomparable Sophie Ellis-Bextor and her Kitchen Disco, half an hour of pop amazingness every Friday at 6:30pm on Instagram Live, coming from Sophie’s actual kitchen! Look out for any or all of her five sons in various states of fancy dress, tiredness and camera-shyness. She always sings a fan favourite, a couple of hits, and a cover – always including her first solo hit Take Me Home, and finishes with the classic Murder on the Dancefloor, before signing off. There’s usually an after show with something a little different too. Essential!
Oh, and I guess I should mention my own book, The Magnificent Sons, which is delayed because of lockdown but it available on ebook on 28 May – preorder links here. ❤️ PLEASE preorder if you like my writing – it is the only way I make money.
Note: I wasn’t paid to write this piece, nor to include any products. I only chose things I actually like and reviewed them honestly.