Sunday, 13 December 2009

A Christmas Caro(l)

I decided that it was time to steer my career, also known as RMS Titanic, in a new direction. Thus, I arranged to see Red Shoes (RS) at his offices. He had dated a friend of mine for years and now they are both happily married….to other people. Like other friends and colleagues, he has not enjoyed the best of health in recent years, but in his case seems to have pulled through the worst. Perhaps that made him more receptive to my own belief in taking time off before retirement, to do the kind of things normally postponed until after retirement. Whether motivated by simple jealousy or the Protestant work ethic, some people thoroughly disapprove of those of us who choose to exercise such an option, even when we are freelance and living solely off our modest savings. There are no guarantees that we will be able to afford to retire at the traditional age, let alone possess the health and financial means to enjoy it to the full. Carpe Diem!

Afterwards, I met up with the Film-maker (FM) and his spouse at a local patisserie for coffee and cakes. The FM asked me for a character reference for his civil partner. I am more than happy to oblige as I have known them both personally for a number of years and they certainly act like an old married couple at times! I would not do the same for someone I scarcely knew. Lord Patel of Blackburn has come under fire from the Daily Mail today for giving glowing character references for two men, each subsequently jailed for fraud. It is purely coincidental that Lord Patel is a Labour peer. As recently as last month, the Daily Mail has no qualms about commissioning a piece from a certain infamous Tory Peer, once sentenced to a far longer stretch in jail than even Lord Patel’s acquaintances.

We later took a supposed short-cut down Bond Street to a Spanish restaurant. It turned into a decidedly lengthy detour. Consequently, I cannot with a clear conscience recommend the FM’s navigation skills, should he ever set himself up as an orienteering instructor. Nonetheless, it was fascinating to stroll along a part of London I rarely visit, having little call and even less money to warrant bestowing my patronage on designer boutiques or jewellers by royal appointment.

Although I have never bought anything in Bond Street itself, I realise I do own items from several of its retailers. Emporio Armani used to have had a store in Long Acre, Covent Garden; I once purchased a camel coloured trouser suit from there as an investment piece. Whenever I wear that trouser suit today, I make sure I match it with a long top that skims over the hips. To my embarrassment, I realised that it was not only the colour that bore more than a passing resemblance to a camel. When I first ventured onto their premises during the sales, I was somewhat apprehensive. I had heard horror stories about snooty sales assistants in up-market shops, making certain hapless customers feel they ought to shuffle along in the shadows, ringing a bell and crying out in warning “Unclean, unclean!”. To my relief the sales assistants in Emporio Armani could not have been more charming and delicately negotiated the fine line between magically appearing whenever you needed their advice, whilst not trying to browbeat you into purchasing something you didn’t want. I was rather bemused at the apparent poor finish to the hems, but discovered at the till that it was the practise to have an Armani tailor adjust them to fit the individual customer once they had been purchased. I later bought a black Armani skirt suit in Selfridges and a spring weight suit in New York State. I love buying clothes from America. Thanks to different systems of measurement, I instantly drop two dress sizes whenever I am in the US. I also have a Max Mara pinstriped skirt suit which I am wont to wear with just a silk steel boned corset underneath as a prelude to an afternoon’s dalliance.

I was very taken with the way some of the shops had been decorated for Christmas. We went past one store which made clever use of distorting mirrors in its design. Other than when I had quinsy and lost two stones in a single week, those mirrors were the closest I am ever likely to get to being a size zero. Once, an on-line correspondent insisted it was a prerequisite that any woman he dated must be a UK size 10. I wrote back that the bad news was that I was more Marilyn Monroe than Kate Moss, but the good news was that I did not have to smoke like a chimney or ingest other dubious substances to retain my hour class figure. Moreover, in my opinion, a life without the occasional foray to a patisserie like Maison Bertaux was not worth the candle and therefore I regretfully declined his suit. Being well bred, I refrained from adding that the ancient short-arse was well below my minimum height preferences and greatly exceeded my maximum age range.

The whole white façade of the Cartier shop was decorated with mannequins of young men sporting red and black bell hop uniforms and carrying scarlet boxes emblazoned with the firm’s name in gold lettering. A shop across the street had a vintage Hollywood feel to it. One mannequin, robed in a cream sequin and tulle gown, was standing apparently in her dressing room. Pictures of 1930s film stars were attached to the mirror of her dressing table, whilst all around her were silver backed hand mirrors, boxes, hair brushes, clothes brushes and other such fripperies, all inlaid with semi precious stones. There was also a solid silver half mask, crystal champagne flutes on a silver salver on a white silk shawl, slinky beaded evening gowns hanging from the walls and, somewhat incongruously, a large brass wind instrument, possibly a French horn.

Next to the musician, two female mannequins posed in front of a vintage microphone, partially lit from below to suggest they were in a theatre. In an adjoining window, two male mannequins were seemingly posed as Stage Door Johnnies. We were debating whether or not one prop was a sledge. After reading the label we realised it was in fact a porter’s trolley. If the Cartier’s bell-hops had any sense they would nip across the road and grab it rather than lug all those boxes around by hand.

Back in the more prosaic setting of a newsagent at Waterloo station, a young black guy admired my ivory coloured vintage Silbert of California cashmere coat. “It dates from the 1950s”, I replied and then, when he did a double take, explained that I bought it from off e-bay in the summer. I know we are both in remarkable condition for our respective ages, but I am not quite old enough to have bought my cashmere coat when it was brand new, even if it might feel that way at times.