Harriet Walker: If we need Pippa to tell us how to party, we really are in a sorry state


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Fall in love with the wrong type of man? There's a book for that. Desperate to stop smoking? Try the magic tome that has even the most ardent of puffers stabbing out their deathsticks on the nearest garden wall. Planning on hosting a party? You'll need Pippa Middleton's new opus, due to be published next year, and reportedly signed with a £400,000 advance this week.

I'm not going to whinge about Middleton abusing her position as sister to one of the most photographed women in the world, and face of everybody's favourite arse. People publish books with far fewer credentials than those – after all, Katie Price has written four autobiographies and a stable maintenance guide. Pippa has been the face of her parents' company, that bloodcurdlingly déclassé poke in the Royal Family's eye "Party Pieces", for a while now, so one should hope that all those years spent hauling balloons and bunting around the stockroom have paid off with a knowledge of the rites of partying so in-depth it makes the Marchesa Casati look like a wallflower.

No, I baulk slightly at the many cultural assumptions that come with this commission: first, that people are still hosting parties as the financial apocalypse really digs its claws in; second, that those still hosting parties would want them to be anything like Pippa's; and third, that the Great British public are incapable of hosting their own parties.

We invented the party – granted, along with the Visigoths. We know how to party better than anyone else in the world – just look at the gutters of Manchester and Magaluf. What does Pippa have to add? Some parlour games and a squirt of Chantilly cream? Oh, please.

This book speaks of a wider social conservatism that is gradually and insidiously sapping the fun out of everyday life – and I don't speak of battening down the hatches and tightening belts in the calm before the Stock Exchange's next storm. I speak of the sudden frenzy for cupcakes and handicraft and party planning, as if we don't have anything else to think about like so many Mitford heroines. Actually, even they wouldn't have stooped to planning their own parties along the lines Pippa suggests.

It's all so... naff, and so far from heartfelt. It's so nakedly aspirational and pathetic. We've become a nation of Hyacinth Buckets.

We've relinquished all control of our own lives. There's a book that helps us do everything, but with a little less imagination. We can't make choices any more. Unless there's a celebrity endorsement, we don't trust our judgement. Feudal? It's farcical that we can only sing Happy Birthday in the key of the future king's sister-in-law. I for one shall sound a note of dissent.

At least fashion behaves as if there's a tomorrow

The Chancellor's pre-budget report may be gloomy but the fashion industry made some statements of its own yesterday, too, and the forecast is far from funereal. Not only will the new year see a new edition of Vogue in the Netherlands, it also marks the sartorial equinox of shoppers sleeping on pavements again to get hold of yet another designer collaboration from Swedish chain H&M. "Growth!" I trilled.

The release of a capsule by Italian label Marni in March is as comforting a sign as the Chancellor personally handing out free chocolate and gold ingots: it means somewhere, somebody has faith that life can continue as normal and that those discerning enough will come out to buy the high street renderings of Consuelo Castiglione's sweetly barmy designs.

My life almost disintegrated in front of me when I heard Sir Philip Green, king of Topshop, may have to close 260 shops across his empire. When it hits things you care about, you realise the recession's tidal wave isn't something you can get away from by just paddling away to the shallows. But these latest announcements will help me pretend it is.

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