Friday, 29 August 2008


I am in London*! I grin like an idiot and breathe in deeply, inhaling the evocative scent of "Eau de Liverpool Street Station", with its base note of burning rubber, and accents of Egg McMuffin and Lynx 'Asbo for Men', as hatchet-faced commuters shove me aside with sharpened copies of Metro. I empty WHSmith of all its aspirational magazine lameness, and several types of novelty chocolate and trudge reluctantly to the mothership of eurotedium for a morning of "training".

The training is notable only for the new biscuits in the meeting rooms, and the sachets of incredibly peculiar "Cajun Mix". Seriously, Cajun folk? Candied pineapple, pistachios, giant raisins and SAVOURY CUMIN COATED CASHEWS?? In what context would you consume this? Nuclear holocaust possibly? I was seriously distracted from the vital importance of 'checking into share draft' (or something. I think those were the words, but I may have the order wrong).

Soon, I make my escape and head off to the bright lights of Regent Street clutching my scraps of torn magazine with 'things I have seen that look nice that I want to buy with my non-existent money'. I always have a lot of these. On my desk at the moment, I can see about 7 of them, each more impractical than the rest, including a melamine side plate with a puffer fish on it; an elephant print stool, a shiny patent red suitcase and some wallpaper from the Queen Mother's house. I never actually act on them. But they serve as a reminder to me why theoretically I should strive not to lose my job.

I am drawn, inexorably, to Liberty. I love Liberty - it's like a second home to me. Even looking at the pretty winter evening picture here makes me terribly homesick. I don't actually buy much there (though the £6 wrapping paper often calls to me with its siren song of impractical gorgeousness), but we used to live 5 minutes away, and it is a tremendously pretty place to spend a lost winter afternoon wandering around with an infant that is driving you to the point of frothing madness. Lashes spent most of the first 6 months of his life there, though mainly asleep. The staff are vague, sweet and peculiar with extreme hair and the kind of outfits you wouldn't wear, even for a bet. They are spectacularly incompetent, but in a rather charming way. You can't imagine them holding down a job anywhere else - I like to think of it as care in the community for fashion casualties. As a result, service is madly chatty and welcoming and window shopping embraced, but if you do have the misfortune to want to buy something, you better bring a book and a ton of patience. It's a great place to sit for hours in a forgotten corner of one of the cafés with a scone as sombre Czech giantesses in romper suits faff around trying to work the coffee machine.

Like a sonambulist, I head determinedly away from the bows and prints of the Marc Jacobs and Cacharel eye candy I usually lust over, towards the Frightening Room. What am I doing in here? The Frightening Room is where all the staff spend their discount. It is filled with black and grey weirdness from the outer reaches of Japan and Belgium. If you are looking for a black dress with a built in prosthetic hunchback, or a top made from five metres of wrinkled crepe paper and bin bags, this is where you come. It is peopled with small fierce women in austere outfits with severe hair and heavy rimmed ... wait! my glasses! Aha. It's the glasses. My new Mean Glasses are drawing me in here to commune with My People. Against my better judgment, I find myself browsing the rails. Mmm, so much black. I like. Interesting pair of trousers. Or is it a top? What are those extra bits? why is it covered in velcro? Could work! Ooh. I like this dress. What's that tube of fabric though? Why does it seem to have four sleeves? maybe two are for legs? I MUST try it. Mmm! This grey top has fins! Or wings? Made of, what, hemp? Or is it plastic? I sleepwalk to the changing rooms with several arms full of challenging pleated stuff.

Thankfully my phone rings, shaking me out of my Mean Glasses induced trance. It is Violet.

"Oh Christ, thank fuck you called. I am stuck in Liberty and my Mean Glasses are trying to make me buy a black dress with four sleeves made out of parachute silk and a sort of large decorative corsage bit made out of zips. Please come and rescue me!"

"Whatever you do DON'T MOVE. I'm on my way. Ask a sales assistant the price of something, that will give me plenty of time to get there."

By the time Violet arrives, the glasses and I have compromised on a (black, naturally) APC blazer. It is horribly severe and looks like school uniform, but at least has the conventional number of limb holes. A tiny Japanese girl with a jagged fringe down to her chin and a mullet is wrestling vainly with the sellotape dispenser whilst her manager, a demented woman of about 50 with shaved go faster stripes on the side of her scalp and incredibly fearsome glasses is fluttering around, seemingly flummoxed by the physical properties of tissue paper. We wander off for scones and incompetence.

"You are very bad Emma"

"I know. I should never have let the glasses come in here. I should have just taken them to Uniqlo. I didn't realise they would be so forceful!"

"Go and get on your train. You can't be trusted. And DON'T go in any shops at St Pancras "

Mean Glasses - not just for seeing with. May require personality and wardrobe transplant. Approach with caution. Grrrr.

* I am not anymore. Literary device, innit. Bear with me.


peevish said...

Hmm. All this makes me wonder who had the glasses before you? Some Psychopathic fashionista? I think maybe some bit of personality disorder may have transferred itself from them, onto you, via the glasses (insert scary and portentous music here).

I shall stay tuned in to see what happens next!

La Belette Rouge said...

Perhaps I need a pair of mean glasses or petulant purse that demands I buy things---hmm.

Your post of possession reminds me of a story idea I had about the pathology of the maker of a garment being infused into the garment when it was being made and then would be taken on be its wearer.

Like Peevish, I look forward to seeing where your glasses take you next.

Red Shoes said...

Candied pineapple, pistachios, giant raisins and SAVOURY CUMIN COATED CASHEWS??

I live in New Orleans and my partner is 100%, certified, pure and natural Cajun. I assure you, that is NOT something a Cajun would eat. Not in a million years. Candied pineapple? Fer @#$! sake!

I do wish we had a Liberty here. I don't know what it is, but it sounds very much up my alley. *sigh*

Jaywalker said...

Peevish - I fear so. Today they made me buy 4in heel bondage boots. Badness.

Belette - Great excuse for buying stuff. 'The glasses made me to it'. Am using to death..

Red Shoes - This reassures me immeasurably. It was really nasty. Liberty is a really eccentric department store for mad people with shrews in their hair and pockets full of money. I recommend.

Mr Farty said...

Are you channelling NWM?

Antonia said...

You were shopping in Liberty! Next time you're in London amd shopping, tell me. I can get to the West End in ten minutes from here. There are so many things we ned to talk about over coffee. Wrong things. Silly things. Things that go FTWEE.

Where did you live when you were near Liberty? I used to live next door to it, on the corner of Carnaby Street and Kingly Street. I was between 7 and 12 at the time, though. Kingly Street was fabulously unsuitable for children in those days.

Jaywalker said...

Mr F - I am not sure, maybe. I would be proud to channel her though..

Antonia - Oh no, now I feel like foolish clothes were wasted opportunity when we could have been doing bad bad things together. I am back in September, will definitely see you for wrongness and coffee..

Wow. Can't believe you lived next to Liberty. What a great place to live. We lived on Newman Street, just the other side of Oxford Street, near the glamourtastic 'Plaza' shopping centre.

anxious said...

How on earth do normal people manage to live 5 minutes from Liberty? Are you actually, secretly, obscenely rich?

Jaywalker said...

Good question Anx. It might have been because of the Lithuanian prostitutes on the first floor?
Obscenely rich would be nice though.

Laura Jane said...

I love the thought of Mean Glasses running a wearer amok in London.

And I hate to think what 4 armed garments would look like on a normal un-Mean person.

Mr Farty said...

4 warned is 4 armed?

Jaywalker said...

Laura Jane - they are definitely intent on trouble. Yikes.

Mr F - Funny man. I only just got that (about 5 minutes late - I blame the 5am bin lorry)

Louise said...

Oh, I loved your description of the staff at Liberty: 'wrestling vainly with the sellotape dispenser' will make me smirk for hours!

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