Friday, February 12, 2010
Alexander McQueen hung himself yesterday possibly because he couldn't cope with his Mom dying (please my darlings, don't) and this morning Gok Wan, he of How to look good naked, entertained me on Desert Island Discs as I tucked into a crumpet (pikelet to my family, sorry my darlings, I am giving in to public pressure) with Marmite and a toasted hot cross bun spread with Mick's Marvellous Marmalade (and marvellous it really is Mick). I was in bed, it was 9.00am and this was the height of indulgence and luxury for me especially as I managed to keep aforementioned pikelet and bun well and truly down. Gok made me cry when he said he couldn't bear the thought of being away from his Mom (sorry my darlings, so sorry) and the rest of his family on his desert island even with his lip balm. He also repeated his dictum of dumping self-doubt and being the beautiful person you are.
Now I can think of a few this wouldn't work for but with Gok and Alexander (real name Lee apparently) in mind I revisited my story of yesterday. It was all true, I did sick all over Stewart that first time and I did fall off my seat in his old jalopy and after that there were peas in his lap when I couldn't cut my steak and there was me quaffing the cork dregs in a restaurant in Florence, no less, because I thought they were in my tasting glass, too uncool to know that girls never have a tasting glass, well not in the 1960s they didn't. But hey thank you Gok, let's look again. I came from one of the bought houses round by us, I went to the grammar school, that day I shimmied down the steps with my 37-24-36 stats (about the size of one of my legs now), I had long straight very Cathy McGowan, Jean Shrimpton type 1960s hair that later one of his friends described as falling over my shoulders like bra straps (oh the poetry of young men!). I was 15 going on 25 and yes Gok I was a catch and guess what Alexander (nee Lee) I was dressed in a Chanel Suit.
The story of that suit is a strange one. We were not rich, in fact at the time the suit was bought I was in a one-parent family, my Dad having run off with "the trollop", my Mom was a dinner lady at Stewart's big comp and I was soon to be in receipt of a charity grant to keep me in school after school leaving age. But my Uncle George was an insurance man and he had sold my parents endowment policies for me and my brother when we were born. Neil's had come good a couple of years earlier and he bought his first, but by no means last, reel to reel Grundig tape recorder. I don't remember being asked what I wanted when mine fell due, maybe I said something nice to wear, I was 14 at the time. I think my Mom was making one last attempt to turn me into the girl she wanted, ie ladylike, nice blond curly hair, good at sewing and a help around the house, not the girl I was, ie none of those things.
I don't think my Mom knew the full significance of the Chanel label, we were more C & A in those days; but she knew that shop up New St in town was posh and if that couldn't make a lady of me nothing could. I didn't appreciate the wonder of it either but looking back it was one of those Chanel suits, you know classic round neck, collarless, boxy jacket with two rows of silk covered pockets each side, nice shaped tapering skirt and it was in the palest bobbly most girly pink you could imagine.
I did love it but I know that by the time I went out for that lunch with Stewart the pink was blotched with 14 year old's carelessness and later when I became a Mod and then a sort of studenty scruffy type it got dyed brown in an old zinc bucket and had its skirt turned up to just below knicker level like all my other skirts. I don't know when Mom gave it to the rag and bone man but it wouldn't have raised an eyebrow when she did.
Now Jess rails at me as she is heavily into vintage and knows what a 1960s Chanel suit would fetch. Just as she rails at me for letting my Mom throw away the Woolworth's cups and saucers that keep on popping up in Homes and Antiques showing iconic 60s furniture and I rail at my brother for throwing away a piece of that iconic furniture that my arty farty Dad bought for a king's ransom much to my Mom's ire as it was unsitonable and we hadn't paid the electricity bill.
So my only chance of leaving a legacy lost over 40 years ago, along with my only chance of being "a lady". Thank God for that I say and, sorry my darlings, you will just have to put up with a few wobbly pots and the ready wit and repartee.