I had two choices today. Number one: I could head up to Alexandra Palace and go to the autumn scrapbooking fair. Which in itself was very tempting since it is very, very big. On the other hand, as I reasoned at home, two fairs in two days? Do I really need more scrapbooking stuff at this point, when I have so much, it is overflowing my bedroom? Well, perhaps that is over-exaggerating, but let’s say, I have a lot, and I am not using up my stock since I am too tired to scrapbook, come evening. Thanks to handicapped children and having Hashimoto’s myself. How can I then justify buying more scrapbooking supplies? And how much does it not weigh? More over, if you have 4 1/2 days in London, is it justifiable to spend two entire days away from central London, at fairs? It was just a co-incidence that I noticed that the scrapbooking fair was on the same weekend as Miniatura!
My other option was to head to V&A and look at beautiful wedding dresses in their temporary exhibition. I realized that if I headed there, I would have time to go chasing after gifts for people afterwards and also start running some of my own errands. It broke my heart, but I had to rule out church. I really wanted to go to church since it was Sunday, but having no dress with me, no dress shoes either, it was just out of the question. That is how dress oriented we are in church, I’m afraid and as I type, I realize how silly it sounds. Not going to church because one does not have the appropriate attire. How wrong is that? But that is the way our culture is, and I would not have felt the least spiritual in jeans. Besides, I would have drawn too much attention to myself, which I hate.
No, I headed to look at beautiful works of art instead. Arriving early in case it would be the same sort of madhouse about the tickets, as it was two years ago when we tried to get tickets to the Hollywood Costume exhibition, and had to go there twice, in order to get tickets! There was no need. You could buy tickets right by the entrance to the little exhibition, which was in the same place as the ball gowns exhibition was, two years ago. I was first in the queue as a matter of fact and there I remained, since they could not get their card machine to work. While I had been waiting for them to open, I had bought two postcards around the corner, in a tourist shop. Cash. And now when I could not pay with card, those £0.80 were missing in order for me to pay cash, like everyone else resorted to doing. Finally the man felt sorry for me. The man from the technical crew was taking his time in arriving and there I had been the first in the queue and one by one, people got to go in and I just stood there. Instead of taking what I had in cash, he just told me “Just go in!”. I asked “Are you sure?”. He nodded, so I saved myself £11 there! And he was of course very nice!
It was a very beautiful exhibition, as you can imagine. I am not going to say too much about it because I know that a lot of people have blogged about it already. But certain things touched me, which might not have touched others. I wouldn’t know, since I don’t have the time to read the others’ blog posts about the exhibition. What was striking was that even the most simple peasant girl wanted to look nice and pretty at her wedding. Even if the rest of her life would be a struggle with too much work and frequent dangerous child births and the babies not surviving. Perhaps even dying in childbirth. A wedding was hope. And at least that day was filled with happiness. Even though thoughts went deep into the planning of her wedding dress, because it was meant to be worn after the wedding as well. And that continued for a long time, in all the social classes it seemed. Which meant that it wasn’t always white or plain coloured, but had flowers or any kind of pattern really.
My first favourite among the dresses, was the simple “Jane Austen” one. (Right in the picture. Cameras are not allowed in the exhibition, so all pictures are downloads from people who broke the rule!)The muslin, regency dress. They really look so innocent and cute. It really can become too much, when it comes to wedding dresses! While as a teenager, I thought that the most romantic wedding dress to wear, would be a Victorian crinoline, I honestly do not find them pretty anymore. Don’t know why? My best friend at the time, Marie Qvarnström, always said to me that on her wedding day, she would wear a crinoline, and when I walked around looking at the Victorian era dresses, I reflected on that I did not find them pretty, even though the brides probably thought them a dream, and I wondered if my friend ever got to be a bride and wear what she dreamt of? I lost contact entirely with her over 20 years ago and always wonder what became of her?
The dress I really stood and admired extra long, was the Worth dress from 1880. Gone was the crinoline and the bustier had taken its place. Much nicer looking. Worth was the designer that any self-respecting young lady went to for her entire wedding trousseau. From wedding dress to corset basically. Nouveau rich, from the USA, travelled to Paris for their wardrobe. The buccaneers who planned on to capture and marry British Lords, went to Paris first, in order to be able to charm the old names and titles with their exquisite Parisian clothes, which the British pauper aristocratic girls could only dream of. In my head, I have always pictured what a Worth dress would look like. My imagination served me well, because the wedding dress on display, perfectly fits my picture and I guess they were worth the price!
On 8 June 1899, Harriet Joyce, aged 35 married, finally. She made her own dress in a purple-magenta colour, not so much for wearing after the wedding, but because she felt she was too old for white. This really made me sad. When my parents finally married, me being 12 at the time, I was so disappointed that my mum refused to wear white. A bride should wear white, no matter how old she is. Or? In this case, this poor woman probably dreamt of marriage for many years and then when she finally got the chance, she no longer felt entitled to the dream dress. As a matter of fact, she had started out as a lady’s maid, coming from the working class, and in service chances of marriage were slim. She packed away her dress after the wedding, which is why it is in such a good condition, but it is sad to know that she forewent a white dress because she probably thought society would frown their noses. She should have stepped in to a time machine and seen 50-year old Marie Osmond get married in a white Princess dress! Pathetic! First wedding, by all means, marry in white what ever your age, but when you are re-marrying, perhaps you should restrict your fairytale fantasies somewhat?
My favourite dress of all, was actually Margaret Whigham’s. The socialite of 1933, who got as much attention on her wedding day as Royals do today or perhaps Brad Pitt and that Jolie woman. She loved the attention of the press and they loved her because she was young, rich and beautiful. I watched the blurry black and white film from her wedding and wow!
The rich in Britain at that time, were our time’s pop and film stars. They covered the gossip columns and they were filmed for newsreels. Her wedding was as much of a show as a commitment to a man, for the rest of her life. I loved the dress which sadly has gone all peach coloured so it is difficult to think what it must have looked like on the big day. The way it sat on her perfectly shaped body was amazing. And yet, it all made me sad and made me start wondering. I know nothing of the woman really, but I do know that she re-married. When I started to think, my thoughts went to Lord Curzon’s daughters. One was married to Oswald Mosley while he cheated on her, with Diana Mitford. Or Guinness as she was then. His wife basically died from a broken heart assisted by a failed stomach surgery and he moved on to cheat on Diana with another Curzon sister. This time and age was, in the upper classes, one of bed-hopping and divorce. One bed-hopped because of what? Love of danger? Needed a kick? Or was it that one didn’t really marry for love but for money, prestige, title…? It was alright to have a mistress as long as it did not get out. And when I looked at Margaret Whigham’s beautiful dress, I wondered if she even loved her husband, who was cinema handsome, or did she just want a handsome man by her side?
Diana Mitford sprung to my mind again, who married Brian Guinness to get away from her insane family, but while he loved and adored her, she had no problems with abandoning him and her children, to become the official Mosley mistress, taking up residence as close to his house as possible, so she would always be available! Disgusting! I would have died from a broken heart as well or I might even have committed murder?
I finally had to move on from my day-dreaming, to see the war-years wedding dresses which could be made out of everything between furniture upholstery fabric to parachute silk. Or a regular red dress bought with ration coupons if not your WAAF/WREN/ATS uniform! They have their charm since they tell a story and are very much part of a historical fact, that there was no way for an ordinary person, to get hold of a real wedding dress, unless she borrowed or rented one. (Two dresses to the left.) From then on, the dresses went downhill really. Ghastly 1960s wedding dresses followed by sentimental dresses, like the one I wore myself, which I would never have chosen today! And then very modern times, when the rich and beautiful, or not so beautiful but famous ones, try to shock and compete in going overboard. It’s not about love anymore and a special day, but making media pass out. Who can wear the most ugly dress? Of course some wear classical nice dresses today, like Kate Middleton, Lady Helen Windsor, but I must say that for the most part, when looking at today’s brides, I just shake my head. If you don’t have the body for a sleeveless, almost topless dress, don’t wear it! Less is not better! There is nothing more disgusting than seeing flobby fat resting by the arm-pits in those dresses and seeing the bride pulling up her dress the entire time, in order for the breasts not to pop out. Your wedding day is a day to be beautiful, you can be a sex-bomb some other day! Preferably not in public either.
In other words, the second floor of the exhibition, which always seems to show the most modern and over-exaggerated things, did not hold any interest and I left the exhibition soon thereafter. I looked a little at the general clothes permanent exhibition, and took some photos of my favourites. Like the Jane Bennett dress and the funny knitted bathing suit!
Now I had to have something to eat. I had an awful carrot cake slice, because it was Sunday, which had raisins in it. I hate cooked raisins, so it was wasted money. (By the way, I never eat cake at home, except on Birthdays. It’s just in London that I treat myself, since they have funny things to try, plus I can’t go home and fix myself something proper! I am getting more and more anti-sandwich.) Then I headed for the bookshop where I stood dilly dallying about the wedding dress book for the longest of time, sending SMSs to my husband to have him check if one could send for it from Amazon or V&A. He could not give me an answer, so I walked up to them and asked at the cash register and to my surprise, the lady carried out scales and we put the book on them. You can buy what you like there and pay postage. They take care of the rest. So I bought the book and one on tiaras, which was fantastic, and then came my second decision of the day. Should I go in and see the Horst exhibition? There was no queue! In the bookshop I had seen prints, souvenirs related to the time period, books… I was keen but when I looked at my watch, I realized that I had spent too much time on the wedding exhibition, eating and in the book shop, and I still lacked gifts for my two girls, entirely, and I could see “Kitty” being a little bit upset as well, when he compared his pile to “Boo’s” and “Gubby’s”, who were receiving funny “minion” clothing. I sighed deeply and decided against culture and enjoyment and went for duty instead. Not that I mind shopping for my children, but it felt like it took over my trip really. Trying to find reasonably priced things for them turned out to be a real chore, since prices have gone up a lot, and some things are not that different from home, clothing wise.
I headed quickly to Covent Garden. Why? Well, I had planned on going to the Disneystore there and look for a T-shirt for “Cookie”, possibly for myself as well, since they had this cute one in grey with a butterfly outlined in black, filled in with the Union Jack, and saying London in cursive writing, under it. But I forgot! I headed for the Radley shop first, in order to check size and colour of their petrol Bloomsbury bag “Canteen”. Last time I bought a Radley bag, it was from their internet site and while it said that it was cream coloured, it was more of beige when it arrived, and somewhat of a disappointment. Its alright but the colour feels more of an old lady’s bag, than my age! I wanted to SEE, HOLD and check for size, but when I walked in to the shop, they just shook their heads and said, both that one and the oblong one, sold out right away. What a disappointment but WWII style handbags are popular, because of their different, not so common look today, fun styles. I at least got to see that the orange colour is very dark, could classify as red, and the petrol one is a much darker nicer colour than the one they show on the internet. What do do next? Well, my plan was to order it from an outlet shop, which I knew had them for almost half the price and lots of them left. (Only now, since I write this long after returning home, I have discovered that they sell fake bags, which could look any way, shape and form! But Radley, once again, have the bags and in more colours, which the young men did not tell me was something which was going to happen! They can’t be that clueless about what will be introduced shortly!)
Am I the only woman who feel that men has no place in a ladies’ handbag shop? Two young men worked there and I must say that when they described how big the Bloomsbury canteen and the headache pill shaped bags were, they over-estimated the previous and under-estimated the latter. Nor were they particularly helpful, when I started to look at the wonderful watches, I found in a corner of the shop. Yes, I can understand that they have to watch them like hawks. But selecting a watch among several beautiful ones, is no easy thing and takes time, and they had no patience. I fell in love with two in particular and ended up walking out with one, but I was annoyed at the sales people. They know nothing of my life. Nothing of how I dress. Nothing of where I go, my age, my children’s age, if I am “old” in my actions or “childlike”. What they see is a single woman who walks in wearing clothes carefully selected for being a tourist. One young man, saw me wearing the fancier looking watch and the more playful, original looking watch, both at the same time on my arm, and told me that I should take the fancier one because he gave that to his mum and she loves it. She has had many nice comments on it. I am sure that she has, but how old do you think I am, young man? That watch was a mature looking watch, for the woman in the middle/end of her career, hurrying to her office job in the city, where she will be in meetings all day. The watch would have looked lovely with my Sunday dresses but seriously, the week has 7 days and most of the time, I wear “casual” clothes like blouses and jeans/trousers. While that watch was pretty, it was just a twist on a very common looking lady’s watch. Like a bangle in a way, in rose coloured “gold”. But the other one, was more unique and definitely the playful mother kind of watch, that I still am, very much. So, that is the watch I walked up to the counter with, the other salesperson in tow. Only to find out, that they can not make any alterations to watches one buys from them. Right, and it costs a fortune to have it done in Sweden, in a shop where you have not bought the watch.
I will jump to the end of the story, that happened the next day, when I went to H. Samuel’s with my watch. Radley had told me that they sell Radley watches too, so they will shorten them for free. While others will charge £5. My watch is in taupe, cream and steel-blue. (You can’t see the steel-blue above, but it is nice!) At H. Samuel’s, they carried both that one and one where the steel-blue had been traded for dusty pink. Now I was upset, since I might have prefered that latter one, loving pink so much. But that was not all. They charged me £10 to have it shortened! I was most unhappy and could have strangled the young people at Radley, since they should offer to shorten it themselves and they should definitely not tell you to go to another shop, declaring that they do it for free, and then they ask you an arm and a leg for it, just like in Sweden! I could have brought it home with me and had it done here, but I was just fed up then and I don’t get to go in to town more than about once a month, if even that. This way, I could start wearing my watch when I wanted to! But it still upsets me! He had no idea what he was talking about!!!!
I walked out of the shop, having asked for directions to Neal Street, my next stop. Only, it was not where he had told me. I walked around in circles for I don’t know how long and my feet were killing me by now. This is how I forgot the Disney store. I walked in to some shops to see if there was a wallet for E. Since “Boo” took scissors to her beloved wallet, which she has had for years, when he could not figure out the clasp opening. But, nothing was remotely similar to her old wallet and noone knew where Neal Street was. I was giving up. I walked in to the Marks & Spencers, by Covent Garden, to use their loo and had to stand in the longest queue. This family, mum, dad, older homosexual son and younger son, were in front of me. Some older man had gone in to do a number two I think, because we stood there forever and I had to stand there and listen to the crap that came out of the older son’s mouth. I was ready to ask his parents how they could allow him to speak to his mother, the way he did. He stood there and wouldn’t let her be alone. Pulling at her hair, telling her how awful she looked, pinching her, just being rude and plain mean in that lisping “I am homosexual and the only way I can show it to the world, is by talking the way I think women talk”. The younger son, about 16-17, just turned his head and did not agree, when his older brother wanted affirmation from him, that their mother looked awful, her hair being a “disgrace today” and “what have you done to yourself today…”. And the father just stood there silent while his wife was humiliated in front of the entire queue and tried to pull away. I wanted to scream at him “SHUT UP!”. There were only two loos and suddenly they both opened. He went in to one, his mother in to the other. And then she came out, and the brother went in. And he came out and the father went in. Still no sign of the older brother. I have no idea what he was up to, because when the father came out, I went in and they were still waiting for him when I got out.
On my way out, I saw a deep purple wallet, like a plum, without zipper around it, which is what E. hates in everything I have shown her, and SMS:ed T. to find out if she would like that. I stood and sent probably ten messages and no answer. I received an answer two hours later, “perhaps”. Like I would stand in a shop and wait for two hours, to receive an answer. By then I had moved on to many shops. I stepped out of Marks & Spencer sad, because they had no stationary department, where I had planned on looking for “Emily Button” stationary. My penfriend has it, and it is soooooo cute. And then, I discovered that I was on Neal street! Those morons who had sent me hither and dither and it was almost in their place of work! I headed for the Dr. Martens shop. This journalist and mother of three wild boys, probably with ADHD, because she seems to have it, did a program where she wore these funny pink Dr. Martens boots and they looked so comfortable and fun. But since then, I have done a lot of research. Her kind, with lacquer, breaks easily and scuffs. And they are only comfortable when broken in. Still, I had seen two wonderful ones that I wanted to try.
Happily I sat down and took off my shoes, massaged my poor feet while I waited for the Russian girl to go fetch my size. I put first the polka dot ones on, or let’s say I tried to put them on, and once my feet were inside: PAIN! She assured me that “they will stretch one size! If you just persevere! We have special socks now, which will help!”. Sorry, but I will not live long enough to tell, if I keep those shoes on, I told her. The blood supply to my toes was cut off. It hurt so much over the ankle I wanted to scream. The pressure was so immense and her saying that they would stretch, well it’s a lot of bogus because leather will stretch but thread doesn’t! Ladies’ models are sewn with their tongue starting further down on the boot, for what reason I do not understand, because it will prevent a lot of ladies to wear them all together. You can lace a boot tight, which is too big, but you can not wear a boot that presses that hard on your foot, so you soon can’t feel that you have feet anymore.
So, off with the polka dot ones, which made me sooooo sad. And then, I put on the pink with flowers on, but there was absolutely no difference. She talked me in to trying on solid coloured ones in plum, saying they were different, but it was no difference there either. This was very disappointing for me, since I knew that buying a pair of dress shoes/church shoes at Clarks was out of the question at this point. IF I was going to have done so, I would have had to go and buy them first thing when I arrived to London, before pain and water blisters. But a pair of boots should be something I should have been able to buy! Or? I started to think of an Agatha Christie, which I saw some years ago. Set at the end of the war or right afterwards. This mother, works as a Landgirl I think, to make ends meet, with a son to support and no husband anymore. I couldn’t help but noticing her brown boots and the socks folded down over the top of them. WWII like. I LIKE! So, finally I had to go in to the men’s section basically, and buy myself a size UK 4 brown boots. Hooray, how feminine! Well, she did say they were unisex, but why were no other women looking at them? I did try a size 5 first, being so discouraged, but when she asked me “how do they feel?” and I said “Wonderful! Very comfortable! Lots of room everywhere!”, she told me “DR MARTENS ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO FEEL COMFORTABLE!”. You are supposed to wear them comfortable and she told me that if I got a size 5, they would still grow! No, not again. I bought a pair of Clarks boots in 1999 and they became so big that E. was the only one who could wear them. She now wears size UK 7 (40) so noone can wear them anymore, “Cookie” having the same size as me. She is overtaking me actually. I don’t know which size she will land on. But I was size UK 2 till I started gymnasium and then I grew to size UK 3. After my first pregnancy, my feet had grown to UK 4 (37). But back to my brown boots. I had to buy a pair of thick socks from them, in order to try the boots on properly. They don’t provide trying-on-socks like in Sweden. And the size UK 4 definitely need to be stretched over the ankle, but I should be able to do that with wear. To make sure, I did buy one of the breaking-in socks as well.
Now, I started to really panic. I had to find something for the girls! I went in to shop after shop but honestly: I am not willing to pay £30 for a blouse in Sweden, so why should I do it in London? Alright, if it is a WOW blouse or sweater, then I could consider it for myself. Since I don’t grow out of things. Since I wear my clothes for at least a decade. But the girls don’t. And nothing I saw, was a wow garment. I was slowly moving towards Leicester square with the crowds and then I saw a shop which everyone seemed to go in to. So I tagged along. T K Maxx. What a place! At first when I got up to the women’s section, I thought that I might be in a second-hand shop. Because there was only one garment of each kind. And the shop was just a mess. It really looked like a second-hand clothing shop, because you couldn’t really find anything. I walked around and felt panic creeping on me. I want order when I shop. Then I just did what others did. Started to pull out things which had a nice colour or whatever, to see what it was. The thing is, that my oldest daughter is no longer easy to shop for. Her breasts seem to be ever-increasing and I stood there and wondered what size to really look for. How fun is it to come home and it fits super tight over the breasts? Or it hangs too loose and she really resents that. Believe it or not, but I found a funny top with elephants on it, one with a grumpy dinosaur and one romantic blouse. All for the price of one at the regular shops, I had been in to. I also stumbled in to a pink T-shirt saying “Smart Cookie” on it, which had a chocolate chip cookie with glasses on it. Felt it was perfect for “Cookie”, who loves to bake, who has her pet name and well, could study more! And I found a nice purple Adidas shirt for “Kitty”. Armed with five tops for three children, I suddenly heard in the loud speakers, that the shop was closing and one had to go and pay. I moved downstairs and started looking at handbags, and then it dawned on me that I should be looking for a wallet. And there it sat, screaming at me. A purple wallet with screamy pink piping and a gigantic covered button in the same pink, looking like a big nummy Galaxy minstrel. I loved it and counted on E. doing so as well, since she loves purple. This lady angrily told me that the store was closed so I moved to the long queue. Right, like one needed to rush to just stand there and stare? But in the queue I found a red beanie with white polka dots and a big white pompom on top. Typically, I did not decide which girl was going to be the recipient, which was wrong of me, since there has been a wild fight over it, after getting home. I honestly did not think E. would be caught dead in something like that, but it comes from London so… “Great big place!”. (Mrs. Musgrove in Persuasion, speaking about Bath.)
Now I felt depressed. No more shops open. Still more errands to do. And hungry. When I went to London last time, I lived on sandwiches, for lunch and dinner. Why? Well, on the first night I walked in to a pizzeria on Leicester square and stood in queue to be seated and they just ignored me. Like I was invisible. I felt so hurt by it, after standing there for a long while, that I walked out and felt too humiliated to try somewhere else. I hate sitting alone eating in a restaurant and having people stare, wondering why I am there alone. So sandwiches in the hotel room, became my dinners. Bought at Booths. But, now I happened to walk by an Italian restaurant, which I have always loved to walk by. It has a funny narrow shape, or the building has, and looks so cozy inside. I have dreamt of eating there and now, armed with a gigantic Dr. Martens bag, which was in the way everywhere, I just walked resolutely up to the door and inside. This older man came up and asked me at once “table for one?” and I nodded. He took me to my favourite place: At the VERY back of the restaurant in a CORNER beside the windows. So I could look out at everyone walking by. Perfect spot for a person with agoraphobia! To sit and have the “square” in front of you, being in the corner and against the wall. I could relax. And to celebrate my victory over myself, I decided to not get the wonderful sounding Carbonara and go for Quattro Formaggi pizza instead. Mmmmmmm! Mozzarella, Parmesan, Gorgonzola and I think it was smoked Mozzarella (?).
Beside me, came an Indian father, possibly Pakistani, and his ca. 10-12 year old son, and sat down. They had their food too, and soon the father had to go to the loo downstairs. This family was sitting in another corner and suddenly the mother asked the boy if he was in the musical they had just been to. Matinée. He said yes. How embarrassing with star struck people, but the boy had not let his first performance go to his head. Yet. The woman was so impressed and praised him to the skies. Asking him silly questions, like had people recognised him out in the street and he assured her that some had. The father was soon back and was half embarrassed, half proud, when he realized that they were fans, but not really meaning anything bad with their nosey questions. The daughter of the woman was about the same age and the mother kept on repeating everything the boy told her, to the daughter, like did you hear that… The daughter just thought the whole conversation was embarrassing and so did I finally. But of course it must be fun for the boy to receive nice feedback, so soon after his first, nervous performance. Can’t remember which show it was, but I guess it has many children in it. Think what opportunities you have as a child in London, if you have the voice! “Cookie” should be in London, that’s for sure.
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at WHSmith. It had dawned on me, that I had forgot to look for a small box of some kind, where I could put all my little fragile miniatures safely, for travel. Walking around WHSmith I decided to get a tin of some kind, but the perfect size ones, were all full of tea bags and since latter-day saints are not allowed to drink tea, I did not know what to do with them. The majority of the tin price is after all for the tea! I did not have the heart to buy a tin full of tea and throw it away. Then I found, behind other things, a bumped tin in the shape of Big Ben. A piggy bank really, full of toffees. Perfect. Except for the dents. But I bought it since they reduced the price, and then I headed back to start the packing. Armed with chocolate minstrels as well, to egg me on. Besides, I knew that part one of “Downton Abbey, season five, was to be on.
I did my packing, while watching “Downton Abbey” and while I thought it would be fun, I did not understand a thing since I have not seen season four. The only thing I did understand was the fact that Lady Edith must have had an out-of-wedlock child and her parents know nothing of it? How is that possible? E. sent me an SMS saying it served me right for not having watched season four. But I honestly did not know when it was on. Plus I feel the series have become a soap opera. Nor is it fun to watch when Matthew is gone. But I probably will see to, that I watch it after all. Frankly, there is so little worth watching on TV, that one grabs at straws.
And Dame Maggie Smith is so fun, that one should watch the series just to see her in action. I would like someone to just clip together all her lines, because they are the best! Best actress ever and best delivered lines! She has the dowager down to a T!
EXACTLY! TOTALLY AGREE!