Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Absolutely no rhyme or reason to this blogging away from home. I feel oddly naked without my desk and my photographs and my thesaurus and the picture of Mrs Woolf above my desk. Still, you all left such kind comments yesterday that I shall bash on.
Day Two; After the Train:
The lovely cousin and I go to John Lewis. In the old days, we used to run around Soho until all hours of the night, picking up men whose last names we did not always catch. (I admit this was more me than her, but still.) Now we trot sedately along to John Lewis. For some reason it makes me think of Uncle Matthew in The Pursuit of Love and his religious trips to the Army and Navy.
'It's not really that dowdy,' we say to each other, 'not any more.'
It's just it's the kind of place where one still remembers great aunts shopping for Lisle stockings. Thing is: I AM now a great aunt, and there were in fact some perfectly marvellous Lisle stockings which quite tempted me.
I need red earrings. The cousin, who has an eagle eye, finds the exact right pair; vintage in style, dangly but not too dangly, with stones the colour of carmine.
'Why don't I get them for you for your birthday?' the cousin says.
I duck my head. I am bit shy about being bought things.
'Well, you know, there's no need,' I mumble.
The sales lady, who turns out to be a no-nonsense Filipina called Angela, says: 'Yes, why not?'
'But,' I say, 'it's my dear cousin. She doesn't have to buy me a present.'
'Yes, yes,' says Angela. 'It's your cousin, she should buy you earrings. It's how things are supposed to be. After all,' she says, looking at me sternly, 'it's not your birthday every year.'
I decide this is the most gnomic, zennish thing I have ever heard. I let the lovely cousin buy the earrings.
'I've been here thirty years,' says Angela. 'I am an ANTIQUE.'
'You are a credit to the John Lewis Partnership,' says my cousin, staunchly.
'Oh do tell my manager that,' says Angela.
So we go and find her manager and tap her on the shoulder and say Angela is a credit to the store, and the manager asks if we can write it down, so my cousin writes a very elegant testimonial about how kind and helpful and funny Angela is and that John Lewis should be proud. And that is how we buy the red earrings.
Next time you are near Oxford Street and you need some jewellery, go to John Lewis and ask for Angela.
Then we went upstairs and bought some red parent wedge heels. I have never worn wedges before. (The cousin made me do it.) They also have peep toes. I am quite beside myself with raciness.
Then we went to Soho and ate bresaola as thin as paper and smoked mozzarella with rocket and squid with white polenta. We talked about life and death and families and marriage and red shoes. Also: the importance of the small things, which you know is my enduring theme.
Now I am going to a party. I am going to wear a flower in my hair. This is not a metaphor.
I am very sorry that I have no strong opinions on the burning issues of the day. This part of the trip seems to be long on frivolity. I shall return soon to strict hair shirts and grave contemplation. In the meantime, there are RED PATENT WEDGES.