THE revelation of Cherie Blair's eBay purchases may be the most enjoyable piece of news since Imelda Marcos's shoe shelves were opened to the public gaze, but we must not mock.
We might all be doing as she does if we had a pile of Berlusconi-gifted watches in our present cupboard and a vast portfolio of houses to fill with paraphernalia such as silver salt and pepper shakers shaped like owls.
Since in every other respect I am Mrs Bargain Hunter, my failure to join this gold rush baffles me. The explanation probably lies no farther afield than my husband's ventures into the cyber market place. The week when he put the roof boxes from our last car up for grabs was one of the hardest in our 22-year marriage.
Sadly, I found it almost impossible to share his incredulity that collectors were not racing to acquire scratched and outdated storage items weighing more than the average people carrier. But braver souls should be applauded. Recycling is in the spirit of our age.
I am sure that if she could find an impenetrable alias, the Queen would be doing it too. Maybe she is already nabbing discontinued dog bowls on eBay, and selling off ribbon-snipping outfits. Thrift has always been a hallmark of the upper classes, who have managed to hang on to their large houses with leaking roofs by dint of wearing granny's legacy of thick jumpers, and eating off plates bought from Oxfam.
Now Cherie owns, among other properties, a Queen Anne pavilion in Wotton, Buckinghamshire, she appears to be acquiring upper-class ways. Out with the middle-class love of department stores and carrier bags, in with a soup ladle showing "light signs of use" for £34.99 (€40).
Cherie was no doubt thrilled to land a £219 Magimix 5200 via eBay, but it would have cost only £10 more from John Lewis, that bastion of the British upper middle-class shopper, and she would have had free discs and blades thrown in.
As for selling things, I fear the humiliation of no offers --as Cherie suffered when she tried to flog a signed Tony Blair bookplate for £25 and was forced to reduce it to a tenner. But I know that if I were ever to dip a toe into the e-water I would soon be drowning, having observed the effects this compulsion had on my friend Polly Samson, whose new book, Perfect Lives, describes the flaws behind enviable facades such as her own and Cherie Blair's.
Like Cherie, she is not short of a bob or two, being married to Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. She, too, started with the desire to buy toys for her children: Lego in Cherie's case; Sasha dolls in hers. But Polly soon became infected by a nasty case of "collectoritis". Having collected umpteen Sashas, she moved to Sindy dolls from the Sixties and then to Gogos. "I turned into a mad person," she confesses. "I'm not prepared to say how much I paid for the No. 8 Angiru in the very rare tomato-red colour in order to ' complete' my collection."
Nor will she admit to the final cost of a small lamp which turned her into a basket-case this summer as her every bid was upped. Driving through France, she scarcely looked up from her iPad updates to admire the view.
She now believes she has the addiction licked. Once she settled down to write again, she was able to rid her mind of hanging cherubs and red dolls.
Let us hope for the sake of Cherie's marriage and sanity that she, too, finds a displacement activity. The woman needs a meaty case to concentrate on -- or for her husband to spend more time at home.
Until then, she may continue to amass what an anonymous "friend" describes as "a lot of tat".