Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Bateman Cartoon

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

This morning, I was to meet the co-writer at The Wolseley for breakfast. I was mildly tired after two days of hectic social activity, plus family, plus ecstatic wedding news. I did not feel like dressing up. It's only breakfast, I thought. And really: I actually don't care. So I put on my jeans and a nice but old cardigan in a most tasteful shade of what I think the modish people call taupe, and a pair of Spanish riding boots, which are possibly more useful than beautiful. (One cannot tramp the streets in red patent wedges; one must have sturdy boots for walking.) I threw a bright scarlet embroidered shawl round my neck and thought that would do it. Mostly, I was concerned with comfort. I was going to see Sarah, not parade down a catwalk.

Big big big mistake. Big. It's The Wolseley for God's sake. In FASHION WEEK. The place was comrephensively full at nine thirty in the morning. It probably seats a hundred people in its marble halls. Every single one of them was wearing black. It was a Bateman Cartoon. There was a sharp intake of breath. I was the woman who forgot to wear black to The Wolseley.

The maitre d' took one look at me, peered in astonishment down his long nose, and decided the only approach was to pretend I did not actually exist. The hat check lady looked studiedly at my left ear as she took my coat, averting her eyes from the sartorial disaster. The waitresses appeared confused, as if the departure from head-to-foot ebony simply did not compute in their brains. The other diners gazed and blinked in frank disbelief. The woman on the table next door stared at me for so long that I thought perhaps she was a long-lost relative whose name I had forgotten. (I am almost certain she was not.)

Sarah arrived in high-heeled knee-high boots, a chic black coat, and an elegant dress in such a midnight blue that it might as well have been black. (The Duke of Windsor always wore dark blue dinner jackets because he said they looked more black than actual black, which is an odd bit of trivia that I have never been able to dislodge from my brain.)

'I'm wearing colour in The Wolseley,' I said.

'Yes, you are,' she said, in a forgiving, never mind sort of voice, the kind of voice you use to comfort children when they spill orange juice on the carpet.

Then she kindly changed the subject.

The fashion ladies were showing each other pictures of lipsticks and next season's colours. I ordered a sausage sandwich. Sarah told me about a papier mache (sorry; can't do accents on this computer) globe that she had made for her children's school project.

'I realised there was something missing,' she said. 'And it was glitter. So I covered Antarctica and most of Africa in glitter.'

'I bet it looked MUCH better that way,' I said.

'Do you know, it did,' she said.

Then we talked about the intricacies of the AV referendum.

I ate my sausage sandwich. The woman on the next door table was staring again. I looked down, and noticed that my left boot had a little bit of Scottish mud on it.

I love the south. But I do quite yearn for my dear old Scottish mud.


  1. All that angst - and you only had a sausage sarnie! You can be sure the people dining with you this morning will remember you for being an individual!

  2. Wasn't it Norman Douglas who said sod 'em if they can't take a joke?

  3. Who wants to turn into a monochrome exhistentialist?
    Stay where are - somewhere between a pair of red patent wedges and a pair of smart muddy riding boots. x

  4. Glad to see your writing partner does her kids' projects like I do. Sounds like she puts in more effort than me though!
    Fashion hangers on are notoriously snotty and should generally be ignored. The truly fashionable would surely be somewhere undiscovered in any event.

  5. Wonderful! Not only did you wear colour but you actually ate something. The woman at the next table was FRAUGHT because you were so far ahead of the pack. Colour in real life (not just the shows) and food. Beyond the pale...

  6. I wish you could know how very much better about myself I feel after reading tales of an intelligent, talented woman who...well, quite simply you are my hero. Let's leave it at that.

  7. OK. Here's MY take on the Wolseley "event"...
    Those fashion clones were trying to figure out exactly which member of the nobility you were, having breezed in all flushed and fresh from an early morning ride.
    J E A L O U S they were, in other words!
    (In America "sod" is replaced with a four-letter word)

    Pat (in Belgium...and blue jeans)

  8. This is truly heart warming. I'm glad you wore colour and ate a sausage sandwich and talked about real things.

  9. Oh thank God for the uniquely wonderful woman who wasn't wearing black. And who had life in abundance around her person. And who is Soooooo Real.

    You know, a friend who is a colour consultant (and bleddy good at it too) would take an audible breath and tell them that 75% of them SHOULDN'T have been!

    Remind me next time I am in the smoke, to avoid the Wolseley at all cost. Or no, maybe I should stride confidently in clad in sapphire tartan trimmed with Magenta (my hue du jour) accent. Anyone remember the old Chanel 19 (the unexpected Chanel) advert of perhaps 25 - 30 years ago?

    Go girl!

  10. This made me laugh so hard I had to read it to the husband.
    You're unspeakably cool Tania, and that's all there is to say...

  11. Tania, this trip is becoming legendary. Your posts have been priceless!

    I have to say, London in your company sounds like the best fun. x

  12. this really made me giggle- next time I go I'm going to wear lots and lots of colours in your honour- I do love it there, mostly for the room and the eggs and the sense of occasion- but they do take themselves a teeny bit seriously no?!

  13. Have enjoyed your London trip so much, vicariously, in spite of some serious pangs of envy as you strode round Soho in your red shoes. Though you certainly earned it after the torturous train journey. Loved your account of the Wolsely! Strange isn't it that girls tend to hate wearing uniform all through school, longing to be individual and find their own style, and then when the time comes to let loose they retreat under a safe blanket of black, anxious to blend in with everyone else. Here's to originality, and red shoes! best wishes.

  14. Tania, just think - you may have STARTED a fashion trend for scarlet and HP sauce laden sausage butties! Anyway, your comment about the Duke of York and deep blue suits being somehow more black...well, I read somewhere it was Frank Sinatra who had said that (and indeed wore dark blue suits). Maybe he got that tip from old Yorkie though? When I first heard it, it really made me wonder if it was true! I'd love to know.


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