Because you can't have depths without surfaces.
Linda Grant, thinking about clothes, books and other matters.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


Shares in my bank fell by 40 per cent on the markets yesterday, so I could lose everything - my whole overdraft. God only knows what the hell is going on with the economy, someone sent me an easy-to-understand summary of short selling: I gave up after the second sentence. However, something seems to be up with capitalism and where's it all going to end?

Yesterday I was on the way to Rigby and Peller to be fitted for the bra to go with my my Booker dress and walking through Mayfair, down Conduit Street and past Vivienne Westwood, Donna Karan could not help but wonder if this was it, the end of the life we've known, and in a year's time would I walk that same street and see boarded up shops, beggars, soup kitchens?

By disposition I prefer pleasure to self-sacrifice, hope to pessimism and despair. I took comfort in the fact that I have a wardrobe full of beautiful clothes to see me through the Great Slump. I had a bit of time to kill before my bra fitting appointment and I stepped into the Mille Harris shop and tearoom. As every fule no, in a recession lipstick sales increase, as women buy a low cost item to cheer themselves up. I spent a delicious half hour in Miller Harris drinking a fragrant cup of her own handblended tea, eating a lemon shortbread biscuit and browsing through the magazines before inhaling a divine sniff of expensive scent. It cost me a fiver and if I'd had time I would have stayed there for an hour.

And this is how to get through the times that lie ahead. Find small pleasures, anything to cheer ourselves up. We are going to need all the pleasure we can get.

And not long after it was explained to me that alhough I am 57 years old, I do not know how to put on a bra.


Mopsa said...

I so love hearing about those Rigby and Peller/Bravissimo fitting experiences - all good stuff for trying in the comfort of ones own home. Do share!

Mopsa said...

Ooh, forgot to ask what you think of those clear plastic bra strap wotsits. My thoughts? No, they are NOT invisible - they lie like a snail trail over the shoulder, glinting under the lights, a major distraction from a dress that can't be worn without a bra (unless you are a AA and 18).

Linda Grant said...

I am opposed to them, awful. Better to show a pretty bra strap.

I have learned that it takes about ten minutes to put a bra on properly.

Toby Wollin said...

Small pleasures will be all we will have very soon. When my daughter was finishing up cosmetology school at Aveda before she went to London, she asked me about whether or not I thought she'd have any problems. I explained to her that even during the height of the Depression here in the states, women were getting their hair done, buying cosmetics, etc. They might have been turning their dresses, making over clothes and putting cardboard into the soles of their shoes, but they were still getting their hair done.

greying pixie said...

I feel that I have lived most of my life on small pleasures. Personally I feel more creative and more alive in this condition, probably due to living as an art student and freelance designer for so many years. When I do have a splurge it is usually after much pondering and consideration. On the rare occasion when I'm feeling more flush I usually end up making stupid mistakes with my purchases.

No, unfortunately, I was definitely born to live on the bread line!

greying pixie said...

P.S. Thanks for the info on Miller Harris. I've wondered what the shop was every time I pass on the bus! I will definitely investigate for my next small pleasure!

Deja Pseu said...

Did she make you do the "bend over and shake 'em" routine? The last time I was fitted for a bra, that's what the saleswoman instructed me to do.

Short selling is like borrowing a pound of tea while the price is say, $5 per pound and selling it at that price. Then when the price drops to $3, you pay the current price to the person you "borrowed" it from, netting $2. But yes, I think we're in for some monumental changes, and frugality may become fashionable again.

Ellen West said...

Hurrah for small pleasures! Especially of an edible kind. I'm not sure if they have newspapers in Mille Harris, but I often subtract the price of a newspaper from my coffee and cake if they provide them in situ. It makes me feel as if I'm economising.

I enjoyed your interview on Today this morning. Did you post about it and then think the better of it? I happened upon a phantom post "i-was-on-news-this-morning".

Marian D said...

Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one with just an overdraft to lose.

And on the subject of small pleasures of an edible kind, here's an excerpt from the last "Chocolate Newsletter" we sent out from our shop.

"Chocolate and the feel-good factor.
We’ve just discovered a new branch of economics: Choconomics. It goes like this. When we’re feeling the pinch, we put off big purchases like a house or car (or that new designer handbag/shoes). So we cheer ourselves up with wee treats like, you’ve guessed it, chocolate. Which means that chocolate producers do well even in difficult economic times. You can see the BBC’s Choconomics news item (featuring a brand that we don’t stock!) at"

PS On the subject of bras, I hate that whole "bend over and shoogle" routine - but I suppose it works. And I agree that a pretty strap looks much nicer than plastic - as long as it's still got its original colour.

Linda Grant said...

What's this? You own a chocolate shop? More information, please.

madame suggia said...

I L-O-V-E Miller Harris! Citron Citron for day and Noix De Tuberose for PM...gorgeous! Since I discovered them I wear nothing else, which is runiously expensive, but I simply cannpt bear what I call 'airport perfumes' know, the perfumes that you or your SO grab at the duty free...they *might* smell ok in the bottle or even on the skin for a while, but sooner or later you get that head-ache inducing syntheitc twang. I guess my Miller Harris fix will be my 'little indulgence' for now.

Marian D said...

In response to Linda's request for more info on our choclate shop. It's called Cacao and it's just outside Glasgow, in a place called Milngavie but pronounced Mill-Guy, just to confuse people.

We don't make our own chocolate (if only we were that clever!), but we do stock some pretty good brands - Amedei, for example, La Molina, and a great British make called James Chocolates (based in Somerset). We also sell toiletries made with cocoa butter, and books - anything that's related to chocolate in some way.

We do mail order over the phone – and will be selling over our web site, once it's developed. But I have to write the copy first, and do the product photos, so goodness knows when that'll be.

We send out a newsletter every 6 weeks or so; if anyone would like a copy, let me know. You can find our holding page, with contact details, at

I love chocolate - I think it's one of the most wonderful products there is. I must go and eat some now, and then it's off to bed.

Goodnight, and sweet dreams to all.

Toby Wollin said...

and, as a public service for those of us who find grasping this whole 'financial meltdown' business overwhelming and depressing, I bring you this: Everything you wanted to know about the financial crisis -- through the eyes of a dog.

Geraldine said...

Chocolate has the opposite effect on me it's meant to have. It sits on my middle so then I feel depressed. In times of gloom I always turn to wine.

Anonymous said...

geraldine, my reaction to chocolate and wine is even more depressing - they both make my boobs really tender and the older I get the worse it is. So both those pleasures were abandoned years ago. Life is practically not worth living!

Marian D said...

Geraldine -
Try the "less is more" approach - just like the fashion editors are recommending. A small amount of good quality goes a long way, and in the case of chocolate needn't involve too many calories.

All you need are a couple of squares of good, dark chocolate (for example Amedei, Domori, Valrhona, Michel Cluizel. Or if you live in North America, Theo or Scharffen Berger). 60-70% cocoa content is ideal.

Savour the chocolate just like you would a wine - colour, aroma, appearance. Even the sound (it should break with a nice clean "snap").

And then the taste. Break off a piece and let it melt slowly in your mouth. A good chocolate will fill your mouth with delicious, lasting flavours, with all sorts of notes (fruit, spices, nuts - again, like wine).

A single bar can last you a week. So it's a great investment buy!

PS Try it after dinner, instead of dessert.