As Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson almost sang in 1992, the best things in life are sometimes free. In a two-part guide, I’ll go through the best and worst free gifts – beginning with the best. (As everyone who knows me well knows, I’m not a blingy person so some of the stuff that’s reputedly in Oscars goody bags doesn’t interest me.) In no particular order, here goes:
POSTER OF DISHIEST MAN EVER: In late spring 1991, I was delighted when the NME gave away a free poster of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin bassist Mat with his cute freckled nose pointing skywards. It was a double-sided poster and I can’t remember what was on the other side of the poster (but it was probably someone less interesting than handsome Mat).
“K-VOX” TAPE: I actually still have this free gift, but I haven’t listened to it for ages because I don’t currently possess a machine that plays cassettes (I very much doubt that cassettes are ever going to make a comeback like vinyl records have, due to the whole “chewing up” issue). The “K-VOX” tape came free with Vox magazine in 1994 and contains tracks by Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Parliament, Therapy? and the Beastie Boys, plus that Magic Carpet Ride song from Reservoir Dogs. (Another free Vox tape – which unfortunately I no longer have – has The Wonder Stuff’s version of Will The Circle Be Unbroken?, which I’ve always said I want played at my funeral when I die, on it.)
LOVELY HEALTHY GREEN TEA: In my experience, green tea is often complimentary. Anyone who’s ever eaten at Wagamama will know that you are always offered complimentary green tea, and a few years ago I won a competition and when my prize arrived there were some green tea bags thrown in.
FOOD: Yesterday I had a free coffee and veggie sausage sandwich. They were both outstanding. A few years ago I was passing through the centre of London and was dismayed to find that the eaterie where I was planning to go for breakfast – the Calabria in Buckingham Palace Road, which did a fabulous veggie breakfast – was no longer there. I was soon given a flyer which entitled me to a free coffee and cinnamon doughnuts (with toffee dipping sauce) if I presented it at a van which was near where the Victoria Street branch of Books Etc. used to be. And once I was in Sainsbury’s where at the deli counter they were giving away free bags of breadcrumbs (which I used as the topping for a pasta bake or a bean & potato pie).