I've just experienced the madness of London Fashion Week, an event organised by a bunch of people you wouldn't have plan your funeral, or even a domino drive in the village hall. The British rag trade is constantly whingeing that foreign press and overseas buyers don't bother coming to London to see all our hot talent, and that our best designers have defected to Paris, New York or Milan in order to stay in business.
I thought I would fly the flag and support some plucky Brits who, after all, are part of an industry that generates millions of pounds of revenue for the Treasury. I love clothes. I like wearing them and buying them, and decades ago I even used to write about them. But whereas the rest of us seem to have grown up - become efficient, realised that it's a competitive world out there, and that consumers have masses of choices - the people in the hothouse world of frocks seem to have forgotten all that. They are living in the land that time forgot.
If you wanted to attend any of these catwalk shows you had to clear your diary for hours, and be prepared to spend a lot of time queueing. Nothing that I went to started less than an hour late. God forbid you had to get on with real work, real meetings or real business. On Wednesday, I was told the show would start in "roughly" an hour, so I went shopping. The next day, I went to a show that was supposed to start at 10.30. I got there at 10.45, to stand at the back of a long queue. It eventually kicked off at 11.30.
That evening, a friend took me to another show in Victoria. We took the precaution of phoning ahead and discovered it might be two hours late. We waited in a pub around the corner. The event creaked into action about an hour and a half late. No apologies, nothing. And they wonder why Americans, Italians and the French can't be arsed to show up?
The hot news of the week was that Anna Wintour, the ice maiden who edits American Vogue and allegedly the most powerful woman in fashion, had deigned to clear her diary and grace her home town with a flying visit. Ms Wintour has regularly been targeted by anti-fur campaigners (for wearing it and promoting it in her magazine) and I worried that I should have worn a wipe-down bib when I was placed next to her at a catwalk show by a very entertaining designer called Gareth Pugh.
I was just about to strike up a conversation, when she asked me to move. Anna needed to have an employee on either side of her, so that she was bookended, as it were, in order to feel secure. She was wearing something furry, which looked like a hamster that had been stencilled to look like chinchilla, if you know what I mean. She is very gracious and charming, even though she has one of those weird mid-Atlantic accents. The moment the first outfit came on the runway she popped on a pair of giant black glasses and looked like an inscrutable panda wearing a hamster. How much could she actually see?
At the Betty Jackson show, Stuart Rose, the boss of Marks & Sparks, sat and waited along with everyone else. I wondered if he would sack any of his sales operatives if they turned up for work as late as these designers and fashion writers do. Even Anne Robinson sat uncomplaining. I fully expected her to start screaming "You are the weakest link!" at the minions who were waffling about and not getting models out on the catwalk. Jennifer Saunders was interviewed by a reporter for a Middle Eastern television channel, and proved she may be a brilliant comedian but as a fashion commentator she has yet to get to first base. When asked what appealed to her about the clothes, she replied,"They're comfortable", then added as an afterthought, "and classic."
Of course, no designer wants the world to know their clothes are actually comfortable to wear. That is sacrilege. But it's true that Betty Jackson is a brilliant designer who comes up with stuff you can put on and feel completely relaxed in without looking like you're wearing a tracksuit or a Babygro.
Most fashion journalism seems to consist of telling us what "look" we can choose from for the coming season, be it babydoll, prim, seductress, cowgirl or silent movie star. I've always wondered why they think we consistently want to go through all this role-playing. Personally, I want clothes that I wear and that don't wear me. Mind you, Mr Rose did look a little confused when Gareth Pugh sent out a model dressed from head to toe in a black latex suit with a giant rabbit head. Somehow I don't think you'll be getting those in size 18 at the Harrogate branch of M&S.
In Cold Blood, here's my vote for the Oscar
I hope Philip Seymour Hoffman wins an Academy Award for best actor, for his portrayal of Truman Capote (the movie opens on Friday). I've been a huge fan since Boogie Nights. He stole the show in The Talented Mr Ripley and was even more incredible as a transsexual in Flawless, an under-rated film that barely got a release. My favourite PSH character was the pathetic obscene telephone caller in Happiness. In Capote, he achieves the impossible, making us sympathise with a self-centred alcoholic drawn into a relationship with a young murderer. In writing In Cold Blood, Truman Capote produced a timeless classic, but it ruined the rest of his life. Hoffman gives an engrossing performance in a really intelligent film.
Boiling mad: To make big money, become a plumber
Now we are told it's cheaper to call a doctor or a lawyer than a mechanic. When my boiler broke down last week I realised I was in the wrong profession. Plumbing is better than being a mechanic any day. First, the man told me my boiler was broken (I knew that) but he couldn't get the front off it because a phone box was in the way. Cost: more than £100 for just more than an hour. Second trip (after I paid an electrician to move the phone box), the plumber said the boiler needed a new fan, and he connected an immersion heater. So I was freezing, but could wash. Cost: another £100. Third trip (after we bought the boiler part ourselves and got it delivered) cost me another £100-plus for just more than an hour. I could have stayed in a hotel for less.
Going mobile: I've got some 'sonic noise' I'd like to inflict
If they've come up with a sonic noise that teenagers hate, and that keeps shopping malls and areas outside takeaways lout-free, can the same inventors please turn their attention to a device to be used when you get on a train and the carriage is full of irritating men who carry on working at full volume on their mobile phones? I'd like sonic waves beamed at their heads that cause them to start dribbling and making cooing noises, please.
Party-pooper: Is there anything Labour about Kate Hoey?
Kate Hoey is an inner-city Labour MP who voted against the Government on three issues last week: terrorism, ID cards and a smoking ban. No harm in that, but it's her full-blooded defence of fox-hunting I find hard to stomach. She says Labour "doesn't understand" the countryside, which is just as patronising as telling me I am a townie because I find hunting weird. By the way, I've been a member of the National Farmers' Union for years.Reuse content