This, dear reader, is what I am wearing today. Fingerless grey woollen gloves. Brown velvet trousers (old and worn), thick socks (with woollen walking socks over the them), a thermal vest (black, with lace and therefore pretensions of femininity, except it can’t be seen), a colourful t-shirt Marks & Spencer circa God knows when), a blue long-sleeved t-shirt, a Crew green jumper (with a zip at the neck) topped off with the ubiquitous aforementioned Musto puffa in red (and as if that weren't bad enough) quilted with brown faux suede trim. Worse, because some of this colour combination matches this ensemble looks intentional. It is not. It has been chosen solely on the basis of warmth and the ability to go about my daily business, without letting my core temperature drop to a level that would require me to liberate the metallic anti-hypothermia sheet placed in the car boot in case I get trapped overnight by the road side in a snowstorm awaiting rescue.
When I lived in cities — Norwich and London — I seemed to manage the business of dressing for winter rather better. I purchased quite a lot of clothing from Toast, a favourite of mine, especially the sale bargains. Their clothes are sturdily made, fashionable in a cool, retro artisan manner that has proven so popular since the global crash of 2008. They didn't look too bad on me, slightly eccentric, mildly bohemian and with addition of quirky jewellery about right for a writer and artist. So I don’t quite know what has gone wrong. It hasn't helped that my clothes are scattered throughout the cottage in a displaced refugee manner – there is practically no storage here. I always used to pack away my summer clothes and then hang my winter clothes, that way I knew what I owned and when to wear it. Only recently did the linens of summer make it into storage and the winter woollens make it out onto shelves, not hangers, no storage remember, but small cramped shelves and various scattered drawers. If you cannot see your clothes it is infinitely more difficult to end up wearing anything approximating style. Nevertheless, I am left with the disconcerting notion that all this is just an excuse and that I am the problem, that I have lost my way sartorially and that what once looked trendy in the city, now makes me look like a batty old country women who has just come in from feeding the chickens and scratching the sow’s back.
My parents had a friend Rae Morse, who was just such a woman, once when I had undergone disastrous surgery to remove my wisdom teeth – surgery that left me so beaten up that the friendly GP thought I had gone through a car windscreen and he was as perplexed as anyone by the clear imprint in livid bruising of a shoe print on the right of my chest – anyway Rae, who had once, poor soul, endured a frontal lobotomy saw the state of me (I was on liquidised rice pudding through a straw for ten days) and so she brought round a copy of Kipling’s ‘If’ for me to read and take succour from and Rae was dressed in a similar garb to my current offering. Much as I admire that breed of remarkable doughty older woman, (she had maintained a fleet of armoured vehicles during the Second World War) I had never imagined that I might come to be mistaken for one of them.
All this explains why I spend my evenings pouring over paint colour charts; it’s easier to dream decoration makeover than a clothing makeover. I don’t know where to begin. A trendy pair of warm country boots would be a start, but they appear to cost as much as a winter’s supply of logs. There are country shops stuffed full of country–woman clothing, this dear reader is a look to go for at your peril. Country women with cash and dash are apparently clad in checked tweeds with pastel notes. I kid you not, and blouses with a trim of Liberty lawn at the cuff and collar and pastel wellies. I believe you have to be named Georgiana or Cressida to wear them; these garments are for women who are unlikely to come up close and personal to mud.
In the meantime my displacement activity is to take my colour chart to purchase a sample pot of F&B Pavilion grey paint, but will they sell it to me, dressed as I am? Perhaps if I slip on my Toast coat, the one with the quirky button holes in mixed colour threads, I might then be permitted to buy an ‘on trend’ paint colour for my cottage and show that I do, after all, have some style.
Enjoy this delightful tribute (see link below) to the shopkeepers and artisans of Lambs Conduit Street in London: not one of them is sartorially challenged!
February’s Word of Mouth Book was given to me by a dear friend from America.
‘Things I Don’t Want to Know on writing’ by Deborah Levy.
“ Precise, visceral …[A] dreamlike book of ideas and memories.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)