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What Hugo Guinness Can’t Live Without

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A version of this story originally appeared on the Strategist US.

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the stain remover pen and the tongue cleaner. We asked writer and illustrator Hugo Guinness about the scented hand wash, linen handkerchiefs, and vintage watch that he can’t live without.

I don’t know what it is I like about this — it’s highly traditional. I suppose it’s highly scented and overpowering to some people, but I still like it. Fragrance is one of those things that if you smell something from a long, long time ago, you have a memory that lingers even after a long time. For me, Cefiro hand wash reminds me of nice bathrooms and fluffy white towels.

I think having a handkerchief is so important. I nearly always have one, and it’s a very useful thing to have. Girls are always impressed when you can produce one that’s clean. It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Linen ones are nice. Sometimes, actually, linen ones are too nice to use, and you end up using a Kleenex, but you have to have a handkerchief at all times anyway.

I know they’re called agendas, but they used to be called diaries. If I didn’t have one, I wouldn’t have any idea what I’m supposed to be doing ever. I have a terrible memory, and I’ve never used an iPhone calendar. To me, if you write it down, then it’s real. I like the Smythson because it’s great-quality leather, and the amount of room it gives you to plan things for each day is nice. I actually have them going back 20 years. If I wanted to, I could find out what I was doing on an exact day 20 years ago, which is why I keep doing it.


So Martin is a neighbor here in Brooklyn, actually, and I think he’s just a fantastic writer. I love any of his early ones: The Rachel Papers, London Fields; I think there’s one called Dead Babies. They’re all so funny, and each has really stood the test of time. How do I like my books? Well, if the book is newly out, then I’ll buy it in hardback, but I do prefer paperbacks for being lighter. I’ve never used a Kindle. It looks great, but I’m not there yet.

I can’t think of any particular album of Bessie’s, so you’ll just have to make that up. I never thought I liked jazz, and in fact, I didn’t particularly like people who liked jazz. I don’t know why that is. I guess I used to think it was too individualistic and show-offy, but now I find that if it’s kind of subtle, it can affect your mood in a really nice way. I find Bessie’s lyrics so extraordinary, and her voice is so shocking and real.

It is so satisfying to watch it grow, but you have to be there all the time. Growing things is just a nice, fulfilling thing. I think I’ve heard that a cauliflower takes as long as a baby, something like nine months, to grow, and there’s something so powerful about growing something from a seedling to serving it up on a table if you’ve done it all yourself.

I don’t really know much about wine, and it’s sort of pretty baffling going into a wine store and being confronted with various different bottles from dozens of different regions. I think with a Pomerol you know what you’re getting — or, at least, I do. It’s just my ignorance really. I wish I knew more, but I really just go by price or a pretty label.

I really don’t like people with expensive watches. It’s male jewelry, and it’s very … I don’t know, hideous with those giant faces. I also think the idea of spending a £200,000 or whatever on a watch is pretty sad. However, I think there are some very pretty vintage watches that might be expensive but don’t look it. They’re more subtle. They’re not the chronographs with the 28 dials with the clear back, so you can’t even tell the time. It’s also an age thing. You rarely see young people with an expensive watch. Anyway, this is the one I have and like.

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What Hugo Guinness Can’t Live Without