Puff Piece

A dishonest melange of irrelevant and empty arguments

Friday, May 18, 2007

Fleeing in the face of nature

Over the past couple of years I've come to believe that he who is tired of London is probably in the process of morphing into his parents, (assuming they weren’t native Londoners to begin with). Many of my closest friends have left the city I was born in and love fiercely, badmouthing it to hell and back while heading for rural idylls and one-horse dormitory towns. Maybe it's just part and parcel of becoming middle-aged, the responsibility that comes with having children, (on whom the Evil London Air must not, on any account, be permitted to blow), or simply forgetting how terminally bored they were growing up in Much-Piddling-In-The-Marsh that they couldn't wait to leave. But, whatever the reason, they're decamping in droves and I don't get to see them nearly as often as I'd like.

Am I bitter? You bet, but the fact is I’m tired of having my beloved city dissed. We might have a crumbling infrastructure and sky-high council tax but we have history and culture and beauty, damnit! We have civilised things like street lighting, (call me old fashioned but I like to see where I’m going of an evening. Light pollution, my arse). We’re surrounded by magnificent parks, glorious architecture and more museums, galleries, theatres, music venues, world-class restaurants and art-house cinemas than you can shake a mud-encrusted crook at. Which, of course, brings me back to the countryside again.

I effing hate it; always have.

I’m not speaking from unfounded prejudice, you understand; I have relatives who live there. I’ve endured numerous bracing country walks in my time, chockfull of mud, cowpats and endless clambering over rickety stiles, generally under an ominous, brooding sky. I tell you the only thing I looked forward to was wrenching off my cow-crap-encrusted wellies and murdering a cup of tea when the torture ceased. And don’t even get me started on the locals whose idea of a fun day out is terminating the local wildlife with the aid of 25 beagles and three dozen social-climbing arseholes on horseback. Dead right I don’t understand your noble country traditions, sunshine. And then there’s fields. I’m sorry but what precisely is the allure of a field? Forests I can understand; I like trees and streams and bluebell woods, but great sprawling swathes of green and yellow stuff as far as the eye can see, quite often without even a sheep or a cow to relieve the visual monotony? Oy, pass me the razor blades now. Give me life, for pity's sake! Shops and buskers and cafés and the buzz of urban living, even if I can't always afford to take advantage of everything my city has to offer. Give me the option of being able to order a cab after midnight or simply keeping my own private business to myself.

It’s been far from plain sailing for some of my friends. They’ve been faced with a rich/poor divide the like of which they never encountered in the London ‘burbs; while the only people who were outgoing and hospitable towards them, despite doing their utmost to immerse themselves in village life, were refugees from other big cities – thus putting the lie to the rumour we metropolitan types are cold and aloof. One couple had to move as they were flanked by a spooky woman who regularly threw hair clippings onto their lawn in the wee small hours, and a family that were forever having drunken, expletive-ridden domestics and visits from the local constabulary. My favourite anecdote about this particular shower involved my friend’s husband unearthing some slow worms in the garden after demolishing an old shed. Delighted, he called their two young daughters to come and check them out. Next door, however, were less than impressed when one made its way onto their side of the fence. “’it it wiv a spade, Lewis!” came an impassioned cry, “It’s gotta die!” Again with the killing. What is it with country folk?

When I retire it will be to the seaside, assuming I ever do retire; maybe Brighton – or as I prefer to think of it, London-on-Sea.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Oh, Ann Harvey, how I hate you

Dear Managing Director of Anne Harvey,

As a size 22 fashionista I was pleased to learn you had opened up a branch in my neighbourhood, having bought two fab linen dresses from you last summer. Imagine then my deep dismay when I arrived at your newest shop only to be met with a selection of clothes in dingy colours and styles best suited to a bunch of Saga-cruisin’ septuagenarians than my hip 48-year-old self. Where, pray, were the bold geometric prints; the vibrant colour combinations; the fat-girl-flattering smocks, sack dresses, tie-back Empire and A-line tunics picked up on by every, single, non-plus-sized retailer on the high street? Where was the 80s-retro vibe even Evans managed to get right this season? And in what parallel universe could French navy and congealed-blood red possibly be described as up-to-the-minute?

I realise there are few, if any, plus-sized movers and shakers in the fashion industry and, judging by the profoundly unimaginative frumpfest you’re offering your captive audience right now, I’m guessing Alexon is no exception. So here’s a novel idea: try asking some actual fat women what we want in our wardrobes, since you plainly haven’t a clue. While I can’t claim to speak for every ample consumer out there, I feel reasonably confident in saying most of us want to make the most of our assets in flattering clothes that reflect prevailing trends, just like thinner women do; as opposed to being compelled, through sheer lack of choice, to dress like a separate species.

Take, for instance, that perfectly wretched combo that prevails only in fat-lady shops – the long, sleeveless, shift or bias-cut dress with obligatory matching short-sleeved shirt. Boy, nothing says mother-of-the-bride like that cynical little exercise in greed and laziness. (Actually, I tell a lie; if there’s pattern involved, nothing says woman-masquerading-as-an-overstuffed-three-piece-suite). Given that most fat women – especially the older demographic I’m assuming you’re targeting, having discontinued your more youthful Anya range – detest showing off their upper arms, how’s about you stop charging us an extra forty quid for the privilege of covering the offending area and just put some sleeves on the sodding dresses? If it’s high summer, I don’t want to be wearing an extra layer thanks – and, while we’re on the subject, what genius came up with the notion of lining skirts and/or dresses intended to be cool with naff, sweat-inducing polyester? (Mmm, the feel of static on bare legs. Niiiice). And please don’t fob me off with some old guff about how vastly expensive it is to line plus-sized clothing with anything else. In the first instance, you’re hardly cheap and secondly, if Monsoon can manage to manufacture a cotton-lined voile dress that fits 47” 40” 48” me with room to spare and retails at £45, you haven’t got a leg to stand on.

Since you are one of precisely three dedicated plus-sized chain stores in the entire country I feel you owe it to UK plus-sized women to try considerably harder than you do. If I’m offended by the dowdiness younger plus-sized women must lose the will to live when they come into your shops Right now I’ve never been more grateful Monsoon have upped their size range. If you seriously want some of my hard-earned dosh, you need to drag your designers and marketing people off autopilot; start thinking just a little more Beth Ditto and a lot less Hyacinth Bucket. Above all you need to understand we’re not a breed apart; we’re simply bigger – and, believe it or not, we also read fashion magazines.

Yours sincerely,

B. Puff (Ms)