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And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

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New Books Available for Christmas

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When you are stuck for a gift to buy a loved one it is worth remembering that you cannot go far wrong with a book.  So it is with this in mind that I present you with two books written by good friends of mine.

First of all may I present Miss Fabia Cerra.  She was last seen turning Simon Cowell scarlett on X Factor with her raunchy Burlesque routine.  Since then she has been busy as an ambassador for and running her own Burlesque class at R&R Frontline Studios in Oxford.  Oh, and she just got snapped up by

She had two books up for grabs:  Her life story, In Two Minds, available in print, and Ciao Bella! her Bible of style and beauty, now available as an e-book.  It will be available in print in 2012, if you can wait that long.

Secondly, I would like you to meet top chef Mike Saxon, culinary Jedi and author of Chef’s Tales.  Now Mike is a chef who has cooked his way around the world.  His culinary journey took him from Yorkshire to Toronto, the Bahamas, the Phillipines and Malaysia.  Whether he was delivering room service to naked people in Toronto, fighting off Phillipine rats or dodging bullets in Houston, work was never dull.

He met weird and wonderful characters such as the mysterious Mr Teppenyaki. Then there was  the psychotic French chef who would chase people around the kitchen with a meat cleaver.  And a whole cast of mentalists who, in spite of, or because of their peculiarities, produced the most amazing food known to man.

Both are well worth a read and now available via


Written by Nick Gilmartin

December 16, 2011 at 3:20 pm

The things ladies DON’T want for Christmas

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My last blog post caused a bit of a stir on Twitter, and prompted a lot of debate on what NOT to get the lady in your life for Christmas.  Surprisingly a lot of them came up with the same answers.  The good news lads and lasses is that they don’t want anything too expensive.  But, apparently we do need to spend a lot more time and thought into what we buy.

So the list as follows includes:

Cheap Gold Jewellery

Although the gypsy girl look may be the thing this season, this does not extend to looking like you take the money on the dodgem cars.  Gaudy, gold plated chunky jewellery is just an absolute no-no.

Any Practical Electrical Appliance

This includes vacuum cleaners, kettles, steamers, trouser presses, microwaves and so on.  A gift is supposed to be a gift. A token of love and affection, not a reminder that your trousers need ironing.  It is something you should want, and not really something you exactly need.

‘Sexy’ gifts

Or at least things we think are sexy.  This includes cheap, tacky underwear, sex toys, or other silly ‘erotic’ gifts.  The underwear thing seems to be the biggest bugbear.  I suppose it is better, then to get them a La Senza gift voucher and let them get on with it themselves.

‘Thoughtless’ gifts

Now this one is wide open.  It depends on how long you have been together I suppose and the gifts we buy are a measure of how much we listen to our better half.  Thoughtless gifts don’t have to be cheap, they can be expensive as hell, but even the things we want them to like just don’t tick the right boxes some days.  So the trick is this:  Pay attention to them, if in doubt, ask them what they want.  Good presents are rarely a surprise.


Written by Nick Gilmartin

November 29, 2011 at 6:56 pm

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What the lads DON’T want for Christmas

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Well we are barely a month away from Christmas, the time when we traditionally buy gifts for our loved ones and they return the favour.  But it is also a time when we show how little we really know each other and what we want.

So, after a lot of research on Twitter, this is the short list of the things men don’t want for Christmas.

Jack Daniels Merchandise

We like Jack Daniels.  A lot, don’t get me wrong.  But we don’t need the wallet, the coasters, the key ring, the mousemat, the playing cards or the poster.  We just want a proper 70cl bottle of the good stuff and a glass.  To get through the week we are going to need it.

Chilli gifts

We love a good Chilli con carne or a curry.  But we don’t need chilli oil (we still have a bottle from last year), chilli plants, chilli chocolate, chilli sodding roulette games, or chilli beer.  Please, for heaven’s sake, just give us the beer.  It goes down well with the Jack Daniels.

Ice Road Truckers/Top Gear DVD

Just because we watch it on TV during the day doesn’t really mean we like it, it just means there is nothing else on.  Channel Dave devotes hours to perhaps one or two episodes of Top Gear that it seemingly shows on loop.  But do we want a DVD about a bloke driving a truck in the snow?  Nay, lass.

Christmas Jumpers

I know it is a tradition, but it is a crap one.  We have a draw full of gaudy knitwear stretching back to the eighties that even Oxfam wouldn’t accept.  Please, no more.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

November 26, 2011 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Shopping

Birmingham Christmas Market

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Being the well traveled sort that I am it takes a lot to impress me these days.  When I heard that Birmingham was having a Christmas Market I was frankly expecting a dozen stalls manned by the Fair Trade set and a few bored students.  How wrong I was!

Now in it’s tenth year the Birmingham Christmas Market has grown to encompass a mile of pavement and incorporates crafted goods, gifts, a small funfair, and some of the most amazing food and drink this side of the Siegfried line.

It stretches from New Street shopping precinct up to the city square, and then through on to Broad street.  To see the place you cannot help but suddenly feel very giddy and christmassy.  It just oozes a certain charm, in contrast to the desperation of the “110% off, buy buy buy!” from the department stores around it.

The sounds, lights and above all, the smells, take you right back to childhood and much, much happier times.  For a few hours, please soak up the atmosphere and forget the recession.

Among the hand crafted gifts you will find Christmas baubles and decorations, toys for the children, ornaments and arts.

For me, the real reason to go is for the food, which is a post in itself.  The German’s specialize in street food, that can be eaten on the move.  Subsequently there are Frankfurters and Hamburgers galore in stall after stall.  Believe me, their burgers are a far cry from the ones you see in McDonalds.  Their confectionery is a wonder of colour and taste.  Not only that, they have huge Steins of wheat beer, warm cider and mulled wine.

Being central to Birmingham, it has excellent car parking, but it will cost you a fair price.  Avoid the Pallisades, aim a little further out and park up near the market where it is cheaper.

Please take extra care of your belongings, and be very aware of pickpockets in such a tightly packed area.  The city centre is well stocked with cash-points.  I did not note any first aid point in the area, but there may be one.  As far as toilets go, you may have to make use of the nearest pub/coffee shop/department store.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

November 23, 2011 at 11:02 am

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Birmingham Vintage Festival

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Last Saturday I took a day out to go visit the BirminghamVintage Festival, which was taking place at the Jewelery Quarter in Birmingham.

Rickie Josen, whom I have mentioned before,  is an organizer of many events in the city, including the Birmingham Writers Club and Jelly, an entrepreneur’s networking morning.

She had gathered together, in one urban space, clothes designers, artists, photographers, baristas and bakers alike.

By the time I got there I was starving so my first call was Chitty’s Cupcake company’s stall.  Rebecca Chitty has been supplying cakes to Birmingham’s hungry residents for quite some time now and her cake decorating classes have been a huge success.  For more details, check out her website.

While I was still licking the icing off my fingers I browsed through the art stall.  Art Angel sells framed sketches of the 1940-1960 period.  Marie Nemeth, originally from Rochdale, has a BA in fine art and made her name with small, simple sketches of film stars and celebrities of yesteryear.

Nearby Keith Bloomfield was snapping away with the biggest camera I have ever seen.  However, he said it only came out on special occasions.  His preferred camera of choice these days was his iphone!  Quite remarkable how mobile technology has become the choice of everybody these days.  To see more of his video art check out his website here.

Further back Bianca Rosa had a stall full of curiosities, jewels and gloves of all kinds.  They also do parties at Asha’s restaurant.

Last on my list were the lovely ladies of Dress Your Soul.  These fashionistas had stalls and rails full of dresses, furs, coats, hats and cushions.  All in ornate and pristine condition.  They liked to pick their items to sell by hand.  Also they had a good eye for future fashions and their astute eye for next season’s ‘must have’ item has served them well.

For the kids there was also face painting, courtesy of Midlands Face Painting.

Finally I caught up with Rickie Josen herself for a coffee and a chat about how it all came about.

I wanted something to happen in the Jewellery Quarter – on my doorstep, that highlighted the creativity and talent we have here. I’m aware of some ever increasing great Vintage events in the city but a lot of traders come from out of town. I want something that is predominantly West Midlands based, an event that promotes local traders and helps them succeed.

With BVF, my hope is that small businesses excel with repeat business and to this end I urge them to have their name displayed, have flyers and cards and generally let people know they have a lot to offer.

In addition to creating revenues for our local fledgling businesses, I want every man, woman and child to have a wonderful afternoon that takes them to a bygone era and the music theme plays a big part in this.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

September 29, 2011 at 1:24 pm

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Men are Useless

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It is a message we hear time and again, men as we know it are a obsolete piece of equipment.  Out of work, out of pocket and inevitably, out of favour with modern women.  At least they still need our sperm,  for now…

But is that really the truth?  Many men out there are  too busy kicking ass and taking number to worry about such trivialities as buying shampoo, shaving foam, new razors, that kind of thing.  In the olden days, and I mean the good old days, either our wives or servants took care of that for us so we could concentrate on keeping the natives of the Empire in check.

Times have changed of course but in many ways our frame of mind hasn’t and it seems that the monthly list of toiletries may just fall down the back of the sink.  Cue endless greasy hair and shaving rash from blunt razors we bought months ago.

Here to save us from disaster are a group of people who, at first glance, seem to have self-esteem issues.  And they are such kind souls that they sent me, a humble blogger, some of their selection of products to try.

First up was a product I would not normally use, a Moose mud face pack.  Surely this was just for Essex boys and wannabee supermodels?  Ah, shut up moaning, man and get it on you.  It was white and looked, frankly, a bit wrong.  But by the time I washed it off my face felt, according to the missus, a lot smoother and touchable.

The Source shower gel I have used before, and they indeed have a quality product.  It is nice and thick and gooey and smells exactly of what it is supposed to.

My razor was unpacked by the time I got to use it, when I yelled the wife to ask why I was dismayed to find she had already used it on her lady-bits.  Honestly is nothing sacred?  But in the name of journalistic integrity I gave it a whirl, and I was impressed by it.

I was not too keen on the shaving gel, and I never have been.  I have always preferred shaving foam, proper thick stuff you could artex your ceiling with.

Lastly the Bionsen deodorant was soon making friends with my arm pits, leaving a nice fresh sensation, not something they are usually associated with.

I mean why call yourselves Men are Useless?

Everyone is useless at something.  Men, or at least a large majority according to our research, are rather useless at remembering to pick up the essentials in their lives.  Many have so much on and simply forget to pick up shower gel, fresh razors etc … So in that respect men are useless. 

Each man has a special skill.  I can, for example, pick out and purchase a pair of black shoes in under a minute.    What is your special skill?

I’m still a brilliant tree climber, can make a top den and, like you, can choose a birthday card, paint and curtains all in one minute!

At what point did you see the gap in the market?

Probably about a year ago.  There were plenty of reports about the booming male grooming market with masses of product hitting the market.  We started looking at who was buying them, then who wasn’t and who was inspiring the market by positioning their product in a non-metro way.  A combination of apathy and cost from a large section of men suggested there was a gap … men who would ‘quite’ like grooming products but didn’t want to spend a fortune nor wanted to spend hours looking for the right stuff in a shop.  Effectively, if we could help with the decision making and automate the service so men got a variety of products delivered without any onus on themselves to shop – we thought we could make the most of the gap.

What are your favourite products to use for facial grooming?

Personally?  I like the process surrounding a leisurely shave … a good face scrub followed by a hot sharp razor finished off with a rich thick moisturiser. 

Isn’t it all a bit, you know, Metrosexual?

On the contrary.  Our standard box simply covers the basics – shampoo/shower gel, razor and shave gel … this is stuff men are (or should) be buying regularly.  It’s about the same price as it would be in the shops – we simply deliver it neatly packaged so they don’t have to remember to purchase.  Our works box covers the essentials PLUS a couple of what many might call metro products – face scrub, face wash, shave balm.  

In all honesty – does the metrosexual really exist?  I really don’t like it as a tag line – women can look after themselves and it’s applauded – when men do it they’re shoe-horned into a demographic as if they’re having a crisis or being vain! 

So it’s all ok as long as you can still build a fire in the woods?

What men do with the time we’ve saved them is up to them!  In essence I think we just take care of the boring but essential parts of men’s lives giving them time to do what they really want to do.  I’d be delighted if I thought someone went out to fight sharks!

 You include sweeties for the Postmen, that’s a nice touch.  Why do you think they don’t seem willing to take sweeties off strange men?

Strange men … where?  We’re at 43% of posties taking the sweets – that’s not good enough, but posties have been trained to feel unloved and are nervous of anyone who treats them nicely.  Nothing makes us more proud when we receive a picture from a customer of the front of their box with the sweets taken and a little note saying ‘thanks!’ from the postie.  We’re going to continue giving them sweets … no one’s trying to catch them out … we just think it’s nice to be nice!  

Written by Nick Gilmartin

October 12, 2010 at 10:06 am

Gifts for Women

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Now this is something we guys seem to do rather badly, for reasons that seem genetic rather than practical.  We are born to be bad gift givers, and we are just in denial about the whole thing.  So for the lady in your life, be it your mum, wife, girlfriend or sister, here are a few tips.

1.  Just ask her what she wants.  It’s that simple, then you know she will be happy with the purchase.

2. If you are buying underwear for your good lady make sure you write down the exact sizes on a piece of paper and take it with you.  And always keep the receipt, as you can guarantee she will take it back and change it.

So what do women like?  Well if you need me to tell you I think you had better get out and learn a little about your spouse.

Firstly perfume is always a safe bet.  If she has a favourite or an aspirational brand you know it will be a sure fire hit.  Just don’t, for heavens sake, try and go for anything cheap, it just won’t work.

Expanding on that there is always the gift packs of toiletries and lotions from the body shop.  Coconut smelling stuff always seems to be popular.  Most of their products are fair trade so if she is into all that you will be a hero.

If you feel the need to take the tricky step of buying underwear for the good lady then Christmas is a better time to buy than Valentines day.  At Christmas you have more money to spend and new lines are usually brought out then.  If you wait till Valentines day you will still be paying off Christmas and the department stores use it as a clearance sale.

If you can, shop as La Senza or a decent boutique.  If your pockets run as deep as mine, then Marks & Spencers are inexpensive and very attractive.

One word of advice:  avoid Ann Summers, it is full of tacky shit that hasn’t been updated since the nineties.  Unless you are getting something for the secret santa at work or you are trying to ditch said girlfriend, avoid, avoid, avoid.

Getting the lady alcohol isn’t a bad option, but again, don’t get anything cheap.  BHS do some nice gift packs that you can give as a stocking filler.

In view of the current weather maybe it would be a good idea to get her some gloves, a hat or a scarf.  Or even a new coat if you need ideas for a main present.

Finally if she has a sweet tooth look around W H Smiths, Thorntons, or Hotel Chocolat.  The last one is the one I recommend, they have some wonderful new lines and gift packs.

Next thing, wrapping and presentation count for everything, and they can make or break a Christmas morning.  If you need hints on how to gift wrap follow this video.

If not then don’t worry, just buy gift bags you can seal.  No worries.

Right guys and girls, get all that done and get down to the serious business of enjoying yourself!

Merry Christmas


Written by Nick Gilmartin

December 20, 2009 at 5:22 pm

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