Reassured that, yes, they do have The X Factor there too, I visited the country at the weekend. As a London-dweller, in the eyes of those living in green valleys, I am supposed to be bearing the brunt of the credit crunch. "So, what's happening up there?" asks a family friend, expecting tales of rusted-up cash machines and "Everything Must Go" sales at Fortnum and Mason's.
I hate to disappoint, but the truth is, not much, not yet, and certainly little that's discernible to the eye. The new Westfield shopping mall in Shepherd's Bush, west London, had half a million shoppers packing its concourses for the first four days of trading. Meanwhile, that Chelsea temple to tartufi e tagliatelli, The River Café (average price of lunch for two: £250), has re-opened and is booked out.
At my hairdresser, women are still shelling out for expensive highlights, nonwithstanding a zillion articles urging us to "make-under" just like Kate Moss does (that'll be the Moss who is never seen without her hairstylist at her side). The only place Londoners might notice the crunch is up in the sky since, according to figures published yesterday, flights to and from Heathrow are expected to drop by 1.9 per cent this winter, not only because of high fuel costs but also a drop in passenger demand. The indulgence we are cutting back on, then, is the winter break. No wonder. There might be a really good closing-down sale on at any minute...
* All bargains are not equal. Asda, for instance, probably thinks it's very clever for launching the £35 tuxedo. Last week we had H Samuel's £14.99 diamond stud earrings – real ice, but only three millimetres in diameter. Enough already. Faux-luxury or a speck of its substance so small as to be utterly pointless do not, in my view at least, good deals make. If you're a fashion fan after more bang for your buck, wait until 13 November when H&M launches a limited-edition line by Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, one of the greatest designers of the past 20 years, who has re-imagined her trademark polka dots, bias cutting and patchwork for a fraction of the price of her catwalk collection.