With the luxury of a free Friday, I set out for that rare entry in the Dejevsky diary – a day of serious shopping – bearing in mind the Government’s concern to get us all spending and keen, as always, to do the right thing. I regret to report rather limited success, but a list of questions that only grew longer and more urgent as the day wore on:
1. Why can’t we British produce interesting raincoats? The rain was scything down all day, which meant that a sensible woman in possession of a major credit card had to be in want of a decent mac. And, in fact, a good many of us were. But the mood among those combing the rails in John Lewis and elsewhere became rebellious. There were plenty of beige Burberry rip-offs; plenty of Barbour-y jackets in dull shades; and plenty of anorak-type coverings, but nothing at all colourful or stylish or that would actually keep you dry.
2. Hoping to enjoy the water in more propitious circumstances, I was also in the market for a swimsuit. But why were there so few in sizes smaller than 16? (Answer from shop assistant: “They’re sold out.”) And why are today’s swimsuits more like the ones of my childhood – hard-to-dry shirred bodices and unflattering high backs. The labels boasting “tummy control” suggest something of a national complex about body shape, the difficulty being that you can’t have both a low back and “tummy control”. But it would be nice to have the choice.
3. What is it about women’s shoes that so many designers insist on adding an ornament, which is invariably a bow? Not only that, but it is so built into the fabric that it can’t be detached without pulling the shoe apart? I’ve tried.
4. While on the subject of shoes, I’d also like to know why the British choice in heels is between vertiginous and flat, or almost vertiginous and almost flat, while French and Italian shops offer you a host of possibilities in between?
5. And finally, to dresses. Why are practically all summer dresses on the high street at the moment sleeveless? Sleeveless is a problem for us ladies of a certain age, not just because our upper arms are not as streamlined as they once were, but because if the holes are too wide they expose the inelegant under-arm of your bra and if they’re too narrow they look skimpy. As someone who once dabbled in dress-making, I have a theory: sleeves not only require more material, they are horribly fiddly to fit. I quite understand why mass producers might find it easier and cheaper to dispense with them, but dresses without sleeves – like skirts with slits, rather than kick-pleats, that tear irreparably the moment you try to get on a bus – are something I’ve learned to regard as non-negotiable.
But a Chancellor made a million
Guess which MP topped last year’s league of earners from outside activities? Why, Gordon Brown, of course – that dour and thrifty Scot, who now rarely sets foot in the Commons, so busy is he travelling the world giving expensive speeches.
To give him his due, all of the almost £1.4m he earned went either directly to charity or to fund charitable work (and it’s probably a fraction of what his predecessor at No 10 has notched up annually since leaving office). Still, it’s hard not to feel just a tinge of disappointment that this acumen was not more in evidence when he was Chancellor. Think how the national economy might have flourished, had he stewarded the country’s finances as successfully as he now seems to be managing his own.