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

Thursday 20 November 2008

How to be British 101

Here in Britain there is a reality tv programme (note not tv show or program) called Strictly Come Dancing. In it, celebs pair up with real ballroom dancers to learn how to dance and to compete to beat all the other celebs and their partners.

Each week, viewers call in to say who they want evicted from the show. The bottom two are then voted out by a panel of judges.

In this series we have BBC chief political correspondent, John Sergeant, described by Jeremy Paxman (click for clip of Sergeant doing the tango) as having 'a face like a wet weekend.' John cannot dance. John just entered for a bit of fun. But John's utter ineptitude on the dancefloor has endeared him to to the nation, who each week vote to keep him in and themselves entertained. Last week a vexed actress called Cherie Lunghi was voted off, despite working her socks off while John lounged around, according to one of the judges reading the Guardian.

Cherie was upset, the judges were livid. True talent and hard work were going unrewarded because of the British public's love of a loser.

John decide that he was in danger of winning and he better resign from the programme (try saying, 'Oh jeez, I think I might win this sucker, I'd better step down' in an American accent.)

At once there was an outcry. 2000 viewes complained to the BBC. Jeremy Paxman on newsnight complained that democracy itself was in peril, as have many bloggers

Democracy is the right of the public to reward failure.

And that, my dear transatlantic cousins, is how to be British.

ps It has been whispered that John pulled out because he was booked to go on a cruise and had not expected his stint on the programme would go on so long.

he has a bit of a reputation for being accident prone

Some words on how to behave in the current economy

Over at the Bag Snobs, Kelly wonders if she should buy a Banana Republic Bag which looks to be a knockoff of a Balenciaga.

OK, the Banana one does not have the cool stingray medallion but is that really worth $835? I mean, to be perfectly honest, the Banana clutch is nice and cleanly made. But am I so much a snob that I can't "lower myself" to using a Banana Republic bag? I mean, I wear the clothes, I have this orange silk dress that gets more compliments than I ever did for any of my Balenciaga dresses. In the end, I could not get myself to compromise, not even to the extent of getting the actual Balenciaga knowing that the other one is out there. The difference is slight yet it is separated by a vast pretension that I cannot bridge.
Several readers point out that it is more likely to be a knock off of the Anya Hindmarch Lautner (I have one of those) but some who signs herself RC responds:

who do you think you are esp at times like this when people can't afford basic needs anymore? "lower yourself" because you were considering a BR product?? you should be thankful that we even click on your site so that you can get your monthly income to be wasted on your stupid HIGH END bags or do you use your husbands money. i cant tell.

To this, mq cb, whose moniker I recognise from comments over here, adds what I regard as a definitive rejoinder:

OK, this is a bit much. You may not agree with Kelly but she was honest and as it's her site and it's a free country, she's at liberty to give her opinion on a purchase that she was considering making. This decision affects no one other than her and her family. So why be abusive? If you don't like what she says, then click away. No one forces you to come here.

And on the subject of what a client of mine recently called with masterful understatement the "current challenging economic climate", it's up to each of us to decide how we respond. I see no reason why your rationale for making a particular purchase should not be decided by the same criteria that should always have applied: whether you can afford the item and whether you want it at that price. What does anyone else have to do with it?

You may consider that people are having trouble with meeting "basic needs", but there is a vast difference between what constitutes a "basic need" in the US and affluent West and that which might apply elsewhere in the world. Some people have never been able to meet their basic needs. Maybe I am thoroughly selfish, but I have never once considered not buying something because in India, there are children whose parents can't afford to allow them to attend school, or elsewhere people are starving. Why should it make any more of a difference that someone who never considered themselves poor before may now have difficulty buying petrol and instead may have to take the bus or suddenly can't afford a cellphone?

You could look at it the other way and say, buy the bag and take a cab home and at least you make sure that it is more likely that the sales assistant and the cabbie keep their jobs a while longer. Or not, as you please. Once you've paid your taxes, and made whatever donations to charities you consider appropriate (including perhaps those ones that supply food and/or schooling to those who can not afford it), whatever else you do is up to you. To me, a more relevant consideration is whether you get into debt because of how you spend such that you become a burden to others, than whether your spending offends someone who has less disposable income than you do since I don't really see why it's any of their business in the first place.

In the end, however and whatever you spend, a little more generosity of spirit and tolerance for each other's differences can not go amiss, don't you think?

To which I have nothing much to add, except that the last time I looked (and contrary from what you might be led to believe by Fox News), I live in a capitalist society which is based on consumer spending, and if everyone suddenly stops spending, then large numbers are thrown out of work.

The Clothes On Their Backs - US edition released

You can now buy the US edition of The Clothes On Their Backs in trade paperback

or hardback

Just click on the links and it will take you straight there