Friday, 19 January 2018

Little luxuries

I guess we all have a different idea of what's a luxury and what's just a routine part of daily life. It all depends on your personal circumstances of course and how much spare cash you can afford to throw around.

A survey of people's little luxuries revealed some surprising "luxuries", like someone making you a cup of tea, or a lunch date with a friend, or quilted toilet paper. I wouldn't have thought any of those were very special.

For me, a luxury is something much grander, more unusual, and more pampering. Something that lifts me out of my everyday existence and makes me feel on top of the world, however briefly.

Some of my personal luxuries are:

1) Eating out. Hugely extravagant but a lovely occasional treat.
2) Foreign holidays, especially in places I've never been to before.
3) Extra-delicious food. In particular bread, cake, desserts, chocolate.
4) Wine, prosecco, champagne.
5) A trip to the theatre. Only rarely given such crazy prices!
6) My weekly chat with Jenny in the local coffee shop.
7) Books. I love being totally engrossed in a really good book.
8) A beautiful piece of furniture that cost a lot but I can enjoy it for years.
9) Ditto a beautiful painting.
10) Lazing in the garden on a hot, sunny day. Not that frequent in Belfast!

It's all very relative though. To someone desperately poor, getting a takeaway, having a manicure or buying new bed linen might be the height of luxury, while to someone fabulously rich, to feel any sense of luxury they'd have to buy yet another Rolls-Royce or a £10,000 coat.

It's interesting how yesterday's luxuries often become today's standard items - like washing machines, mobile phones and air travel. And how quickly we take them for granted, as if they were always easily affordable.

"Luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury" - Coco Chanel


  1. The Oxford English Dictionary defines luxury as "comfortable and expensive living or surroundings", and "an item that is expensive and enjoyable but not essential".

    There you have it, and explaining why, and I get this in before WWW and Kylie bring this to your attention - and they will, bar two (coffee with Jenny and sunshine in Belfast) all your luxuries are heavily reliant on money.

    Can't quite think what a monetary luxury for me would be. But I do have a long list of things giving me that special moment. Not least if someone else does something for me. Most people, including you, or maybe it's a woman thing, don't get it: But to actually have someone else do something for me, unasked, as simple as your example, ie making you a cup of tea, is bliss, bliss, bliss. Or one of my boisterous young neighbours bolting down the stairs on their way out, stopping in their tracks as they would for their mother, taking all my food shopping off me, running back upstairs and leaving them at my door - that's luxury or bliss or just downright touching. Or something my mother used to do when, in my early twenties, and only an hour's drive away, I'd visit my parents at the weekend after a hard week's work and with the eye of a trained physiotherapist she'd declare my shoulders knotted to then un-knot them with her own fair hands. That was not only lovely but luxury. I suppose, if you must call it "luxury" for me a luxury is the unexpected gesture, often nothing to do with money. Though, dear Nick, do feel free to indulge me to your wallet's content. I won't say no.


  2. Given the definition of luxury, I suppose my most obvious luxury items are a brand new car and a couple of quite expensive Swiss watches.
    I'd also consider the odd bottle of premium vodka or single malt Scotch to be a luxury.
    It's tempting to say that love and companionship are the greatest luxuries despite costing nothing, but I consider them more or less essential to mental well-being.
    Of course it's all relative as you say.

  3. Well, people have different definitions of luxury, don't they? Your dictionary definition is about right, I think (my dictionary says extravagant rather than expensive). Hard to see how you can be extravagant without spending money. I wouldn't describe someone doing something for you as a luxury. To me that's quite routine. Jenny and I do things for each other all the time. I'd just call that helpfulness or kindness rather than luxury.

  4. Dave: I'd go along with your idea of luxury, i.e. something a bit pricey and probably something you wouldn't normally buy. As you say, love and companionship are just essential to one's well-being. Nothing luxurious about them.

  5. Well, the article did call them 'little' luxuries, so I think that means they are just special things that don't cost a lot of money, but still make you feel good. Like a piece of dark chocolate with a glass of red wine.

  6. Bijoux: A piece of dark chocolate with a glass of wine. Absolutely divine! But even if they're called little luxuries, I would call a lot of them simply everyday "perks" that aren't that special, just enjoyable.

  7. Google defines luxury as ‘A state of great comfort or elegance, especially when involving great expense’. I think we all agree that it’s relative. I can remember chicken being a luxury once a year for Christmas. So going with the Google definition I give you my great expense list:
    Regular weekend getaways in 5* hotels
    First class air travel
    A holiday on Necker Island – every year
    A lifetime supply of my favourite Perfume
    Dining out once a week
    A weekly visit to a spa with full body massage, Indian head massage, lunch and afternoon tea.
    And back to earth. I enjoy little luxuries as often as possible – lunch with a friend, fresh flowers, a spa day, a day out, trips to the local theatre now and again, scented candles and of course chocolates.

  8. Polly: Wow, that's an impressive tally of luxury, I'm most envious! I assume they're the real deal and not just a wish list. I've never flown first class though Jenny's brother always does. How did you discover Necker Island? Did someone recommend it?

  9. My luxury of choice would be to spend the necessary fortune turning half of this finca into a superb garden...
    But as that fortune will not be forthcoming I shall continue to enjoy going to the cafe at the Teatro Nacional to enjoy a coffee in beautiful surroundings.

  10. Helen: That seems like a good substitute for your more expensive aspiration! I guess we all dream of what we might do if a mind-boggling fortune suddenly came our way....

  11. I'm liking your list~type posts so much nick.
    one of my favorites is rain falling with the sound of thunder. we live in continuous drought here so when it finally rains it definitely feels like a luxury.
    and two common treats that are normally forbidden due to health issues which puts them in the realm of luxuries.
    a hot fudge sundae or a coca cola over crushed ice.
    the favorite luxury of all for me is totally intangible.
    it is being retired.
    I love just staying home! if I had to list it I would say time and freedom.

  12. I'm with tammy. Being retired and having the freedom to choose how I spend my time is one of the things I'm most grateful for. If that isn't a luxury, then I don't care about luxuries.

  13. A sunny day is a luxury... as is someone cooking me dinner or walking the dog in the rain for me.
    Crikey... when did I get so down to earth!!?? Where are the diamonds, the luxury shower room and brand new kitchen I crave?? Also, i would quite like central heating.

  14. Tammy: The lists are entirely accidental - they just seemed to arise out of the subjects I chose! Hot fudge sundaes aren't common over here. They sound fabulous. But we have brownies and chocolate cake. Coca Cola I can't stand. Yes, rain must be wonderful if you're drought-ridden.

    I'm retiring at the end of March so then I'll have unlimited freedom as well. Though I hope to do a bit of voluntary work just to engage with the outside world and meet people.

  15. Jean: As I said to Tammy, I shall be enjoying that sense of freedom in a couple of months!

    Scarlet: Wot, you still don't have the diamonds and the luxury shower room? Get your finger out, girl! I can't imagine living without central heating now. My parents had none till I was 13, and once I left home I had no central heating till I was 32. Brrrr!

  16. ooh! here is so much i could say about luxury! I may do a post of my own

    according to your post I fit in the very poor category: I can't afford take aways or linen or manicures but if i had all the money in the world I would regard a manicure as stupid and wasteful

    I have to say I love to have a coffee made or bought for me and i was delighted when i realised that my kids could carry the shopping for me. A massage, either professional or not would be pure bliss and right now air conditioning would be a treat

  17. Kylie: No, no, I wasn't saying you're desperately poor. Of course some might see those things as luxuries even if they're high earners. Or alternatively as fripperies!

    Yes, I guess if you're constantly doing things for others, having something done FOR you feels luxurious.

    I've never had a massage in my life, but I can see how luxurious that might feel. In the temperatures South Australia's having right now, I would think air conditioning is an absolutely essential and not at all a luxury!

  18. Hi Nick, it's a wish list, it's never gonna happen, but I did get upgraded once - on a flight from Perth to Sydney, it was very nice. I can't remember how I heard about Necker island, it's Richard Branson's private retreat but you can stay there - at a price.

  19. no, i have been very poor for a couple of years now

  20. Polly: Ah, I don't need to be green with envy any more! I got upgraded on a flight once, a very long time ago. I remember revelling in it.

    Necker Island, including Richard Branson's house, was badly damaged by Hurricane Irma. So probably not the best place to visit right now.

    Kylie: I didn't realise you were struggling that much. I hope things improve.

  21. Nick, let me be facetious. Considering the image you have built of yourself why not send Kylie, someone you may consider not only a loyal follower but a friend, a fiver or ten so she can have that massage? "I hope that things improve" comes cheap.


  22. I treat many items as luxury since the OAP impacts my wallet. A haircut. A podiatry appointment. It's all perspective, isn't it? I remember a friend telling me, she was in theatre and poor, that a luxury week for her was salmon instead of tuna.

    For me, today, it would be the ability to purchase a comfortable living room recliner.


  23. My little luxuries days are long behind me. The one indulgence I enjoy even now is a full body massage that a blind masseur comes and gives me at home whenever I call him.

    I have simplified and minimised my life and the great luxury for me is to have an ice cream brought to me from a parlour across the road by either my son or my daughter in love.

    The next in line is a re-upholstering of my recliner sofa. While I accept that the recliner is a luxury, I don't think re-upholstering can be classified as one. I think that the latter is more a need.

  24. Ursula: I'll let Kylie reply to the daft idea that sending her a tenner would radically change her financial circumstances.

    www: The idea of luxury is very relative. As you say, for some people a haircut is a luxury. A comfortable recliner would be a luxury even for me - they don't come cheap!

  25. Ramana: A full body massage and an ice cream sound like little luxuries to me. I have no need of a recliner as yet, but maybe that day will come....

  26. Sorry, Nick, I didn't suggest it would "radically" change her financial circumstances. What I implied that a fiver or ten (=£50.00), ie a gift, might buy her one of those little luxury your post was about.

    Never mind; as so often nuance is lost.


  27. I love your drama, Nick and Ursula!

    I have often said that if I won lotto I would want it to be a big sum because a $20 thousand or even a $50 thousand would just leave me with decision fatigue about exactly what I wanted to do with the money! NO, give me five million so I can get ALL the things.

    A gift from Nick would leave me with the same problem but on a smaller scale.

    Thanks for your sentiments Ursula, I very much appreciate it

  28. I think if they are specifying "small" luxuries, you can't really put expensive items on your list. A small luxury would, by definition, not cost a lot, I think. Definitely not a foreign vacation. It's the little things that make you feel pampered or that go a little above run-of-the-mill. For me, high thread count sheets on my bed or my husband bringing me coffee in that bed every morning - those are the sort of small luxuries I think the article refers to.

  29. Ursula: Ah, I see what you mean.

    Kylie: I think $20,000 would do me nicely. There are plenty of things I could with that.

    Agent: I think there are only one or two expensive things there, like foreign holidays, and beautiful furniture and paintings. The others are fairly affordable. But yes, one or two large luxuries have crept in there!