The Monday Muse. Choux your buns.

This time four days ago I was being kissed by the sunshine and caressed by silence. Today I am nuzzled by rain drops, sirens, children screaming and adults complaining. Goodbye Spanish campo, hello my old friend London.

Having just returned to the city from a holiday, it has taken me a moment to become accustomed to the sheer amount of souls I am once again surrounded by. It has also taken me a moment to become reacquainted with the types of souls this city is filled with…

While strolling down the aisle of a supermarket yesterday I decided, what with it being Sunday and the last official day of my holiday, I would see off two weeks of indulgent face-stuffing with a gooey cream cake.

As I perused the pastries I saw a pair of podgy fingers reaching for a chocolate lacquered choux bun; someone else had plumped for the same snack selection, although it appeared her decision needed a much more rapid wish fulfilment than mine. The bun was not her pick for the trolley, it was a mere little something to amuse her loose lips whilst she chose what she really wanted: a chunky Victoria sponge oozing with fresh cream and strawberry jam.

Now I am sure that her honest nature had her taking the empty cake box to the till with her to pay for her in store treat, but time and time again when I see these supermarket munchers, grazing on the stock as they shop, I wonder why. Perhaps they are safeguarding against that impending apocalypse that might just stop them from enjoying that box of Coco Pops the following morning. Or perhaps they can only prevail over the weekly food shop if there are tummy loving perks on the way round. It’s the ones that don’t close their mouths that are the worst. Munching on buns whilst in the middle of the supermarket, the congealed butter and cream swirling around their tongue and slapping against their cheeks.

I wonder if they’ll ID me after I’ve drunk the whole bottle of Vodka in my basket on my next grocery shop…

Advertisements

Suspended.

Whilst you’ve all got that Friday feeling, I have a little tale from my Confessions of a Shop Assistant series…

Suspender

Suspended.

One thing I wasn’t quite prepared to encounter during my days as a servant to the fashion whims of Knightsbridge was how rapidly a customer would transform from absolute stranger, to someone whose deep and dark secrets were comfortably and very willingly divulged…

The first time I was to experience this was just moments after an endearing and elegant elderly lady ambled through our door. The kind of woman one would expect to be hiding a stash of Werther’s Originals in her handbag, she was looking for something special for her grandson’s graduation. Her everyday shopping attire consisted of pearl strings and finely tailored Chanel, so I set about finding something worthy for her to try.

After leading her to the changing room, I loitered outside the curtain, waiting to be beckoned by her for some assistance. After several minutes of silence I enquired as to her progress, and after a few further moments of quiet, I heard her whisper that she was about to step into the first of my choices. Referring to me as ‘dear’, she definitely reminded me of my late grandmother.

Just moments after assuring me of her wellbeing, a high pitched squeal prompted me to turn around, just as she grabbed the changing room curtain, pulling it down with her body as it hit the wooden floorboards with a resonant thump.

My jaw was not the only one to follow her journey to the floor, as my fellow workers stood as statues, trying to comprehend the sight of this snowy haired lady, sat amidst our curtains, in a black boned basque, gold clasped suspenders and lace topped stockings, her fragility drowning amidst a sea of velvet and lace.

Whether my hasty dive towards her stemmed from the worry of injury or in an attempt to rescue her dignity I don’t know, but I hauled the curtains from the floor and cloaked them around her.

With a shake of the head and brush of the hair from her face, she turned to the gaping mouths and howled in her little voice.

“Well there’s something you don’t see every day.”

More in a lifetime I’d say.

 

 

Thank you to the Daily Post for the photo prompt.

Under the bridge.

Day2Street

 

Day Two of Photography101… the street.

Under the Bridge.

In the middle of the city, amidst the murky river and the singing train tracks, the air smells of the dusty pages that render the space silent.

Can’t Buy Me Love.

square

Over the coming years I was to become privy to the eccentricities of a few notable ladies, some with a surprise or two up their sartorially splendid sleeves…

In a fashion house commended for its attentive, one-on-one service, it was somewhat overwhelming when we were faced with numerous customers vying for our attention. My most challenging to date came courtesy of a woman who strutted through the door with an air of majesty, and was very much the mother hen to a clucking dozen of beautiful twenty-somethings that trailed in behind her.

Possessing a presence that overwhelmed, this lady’s polished exterior was considerably rehearsed; her morning’s dressing was done with a well informed consciousness… From her status-bearing Cartier watch and her Chanel initialled earrings, to her Prada pencil dress and the gold Bvlgari band on her ring finger, she was every inch the epitome of an elegant woman of wealth.

Instantly she sashayed towards me, and in a demanding-but-politely-so tone she told me she needed several outfits for her girls; outfits that exuded sexiness but with elegance, that made one appear youthful but accomplished, and that were classy but dangerously so.

The gaggle stood, now silent and hanging on her every word, each one a living version of the girls that graced the pages of the Vogue magazine I was about to thumb through during my lunch break.

As she sifted through outfits and passed them to each appropriate protégé, our upper floor transformed into a scene akin to the backstage dressing area at London Fashion Week; a sea of semi-naked bodies, clad in agent provocateur, hips-a-jutting and making every outfit look a million times what it was worth.

Just an hour and a hefty five figure sum later, having danced circularly within my own head, I had failed to deduce exactly why these girls were being decked out in lavish clothing and I certainly couldn’t fathom what the woman’s relationship with them actually was.

For all the inventive, off the wall scenarios I had fleetingly entertained, the most realistic reasoning I could dream up was that these girls were in fact soon to have their own place on the coveted pages of my fashion magazines, and the matriarch was indeed their agent.

Nevertheless, when I joked to her that surely models were the one envied breed that were excessively showered in complimentary attire, she replied in her plummy, husky voice “darling, I think you and I both know that these ladies are no models, and I am no booker.”

As she and her tribe departed, I couldn’t decide whether to be insulted or flattered when she handed me her business card whispering provocatively in my ear “if any of you ever fancy a change in direction…”.

The card read “Leading London Escort Agency”. Madam she was.

A Cut Above.

IMG_8445.JPG

The fashion houses of Knightsbridge came hand in hand with Royal Ascot, Henley and summer wedding territory, and so I became accustomed to the prim and proper of London’s social elite: the ladies who vied for matching two pieces to be topped off with flamboyant fascinators or a theatrical hat.

I couldn’t help but find fondness for one particularly affluent woman who would visit us each season to ready her wardrobe for the social obligations of the coming months. Like many others, she would plump for traditional cocktail dresses and matching suits and jackets, but each time she dented her bank balance, she would ask to see the in house tailor.

I soon ascertained that this wasn’t the usual alterations request where the customary motions of nipping a hem in here or tucking a dart in there were followed. This lady required something I imagine many of these socialites yearned for amidst their restrictive pencil skirts and their wiggle room only seams. She wanted each and every hem hacked at within an inch of her derriere.

As was deemed appropriate by the vast majority of our customers, the length of our dresses was accustomed to falling just below the knee. Nevertheless, this particular shopper, whom, might I add was some 70 years old, was not satisfied with anything that didn’t brazenly skim her knicker-line.

During their first encounter, the seamstress was understandably weary of cutting into several hundreds of pounds worth of fabric to create something she wouldn’t let her own teenage daughter wear past her front door, but nevertheless, after just one season we knew the drill: if all and sundry was not being flaunted, then this eccentric pensioner would not be satisfied.

In the decade where Ascot’s rules of dress were being published in every newspaper to avoid the faux par of a heaving bosom or an unashamed pair of bare shoulders, I only wish I could have witnessed one of her entrances into her world of cocktail parties and canapés.

Bare Faced Cheek.

Confessions9

Just a couple of months of working in SW3 and I had almost settled into the rich comforting cradle of this borough. That said, it was as though the powers that be were aware of my contentment when they decided to prescribe me with a dose of reality, giving me a ruthless reminder of the antics I thought I had left behind in Soho.

In this designer boutique for ladies, once again I was mainly in the company of women, so I was surprised to greet a tall middle-aged man on this particular day.

Hurrying through the door he hastily ventured to our lower floor, one that was softly lit with skylights and favoured amongst the more private customers who wanted the very best in sales attention.

Following the man downstairs I asked if he would like a hand; a turn of phrase I would unquestionably regret just minutes later. At his request to find a dress, I ventured deeper into the basement into our luminously lit stock room, which sat beneath the pavement and the footsteps of the well heeled.

Triumphant in my search I rushed up the stairs, dress in hand, to be greeted by the customer, lingering in the centre of the room, his outfit having seemingly disappeared from sight. The stoic response I had so carefully perfected in Soho scrambled out of the window, as I stood, jaw ajar, staring at the man I’d assumed was lovingly hunting for a gift for his betrothed.

An unfamiliar wail whipped through the room, startling the visitor with its decibels and astounding me when I realised it was emanating from my own throat. As I continued to shriek, I wandered robotically to the changing room, retrieved his clothing, walked upstairs with the pile and hurled it onto the pavement outside. Leaping up the stairs behind me, the visitor hurried outside, bent at the waist, tiptoe prancing and covering himself as though he’d been caught skinny dipping in the Thames during the coldest of Januaries.

As my screaming subsided and I witnessed him cowering on the pavement, I wished for a passer by with an oversized palm to make contact with the cheeks of his bottom, but then again, that probably wouldn’t have been deemed punishment for someone who obviously got his thrills from the most bizarre of acts. He thrust on his socks and scurried along the street, worriedly glancing back as though I could add insult to his injury at any moment. I saw his hand flailing in the air as he drifted… I wonder if he did ever manage to flag down that taxi.

A Class of Their Own

20140626-185520-68120733.jpg

Once I had left the limits of the salacious Soho I found another job to wage against the destitute reality of studentdom. I got an upgrade, to a designer boutique that shimmered amidst the golden glow of Knightsbridge.

One may have thought that with this geographical change I would welcome an absence of the strange behaviour I was used to, but as it turns out, these customers were in a class of their very own…

Whether it just came with the territory, or it was a contributing aspect of their extreme wealth, a lot of the ladies I was to come across (many of them officially Lady’s) were not bashful when it came to a spot of bartering. My past negotiations over pennies in the souks of Marrakesh were to seem trivial when compared to the haggling hands of this new calibre of customer.

Consistently I was asked if a ‘better price’ dangled within my grasp, a question to which my taut lipped smile would plead futility but there was, without fail, those who wouldn’t accept ‘no’ as a satisfactory response. Admittedly my smiles were consistently counterfeit, especially when my mind compared my morning’s tube journey spent thrust between a greasy window and a clammy chap, to the spacious back seat of a Bentley, which would typically unload said customer just a Louboutin clad foot from our front door.

With the bargain hunter’s beady eyes closely watching I would repeat the laborious process of telephoning every tier of the management ladder that towered above me, nodding and smiling with the receiver shoved tight against my ear for fear that they would hear what a “money grabbing, tight fisted, miser” the powers that be actually thought they were.

For all the trouble it may have gotten me in I was often tempted to accidentally-on-purpose nudge the loudspeaker button and watch contentedly as the bartering customer made an embarrassed getaway, never to be seen again.

That said, knowing the thought process of this particular breed, this would only have armed them with ample bargaining power to get what they really hunted for.

A conclusion would only be achieved after an explicit no from the company MD, at which point the Louis Vuitton purse would be presented from the Chanel handbag, and the bank card would grudgingly be thrust into my hand… and I could guarantee that it would always say Coutts.

Dragging the Queen.

Confessions7

Saturday mornings were always the most interesting when it came to wandering to work. The daybreak sunshine would cast quite a different light on Soho than the previous evening’s starlight and neon blend, and as I wandered to work I would witness the remnants of debaucherous nights spent getting up to no good.

Besides the usual nocturnal mammals queuing up for coffee and retracing their steps in a bid to find the nearest escape, more often than not I would unearth something a little more eye catching.

My most memorable morning moment came courtesy of a gentleman I shall call Sue, for no male name would be worthy of the feminine spirit and the ladylike attire he was emblazoned with when we first met.

When I approached the doorway of my little girly boutique workplace I noticed something awry. Just like the side bobbing head one witnesses when a film character overtly double-takes, I glanced back and forth several times before I noticed a slender heel sticking out from within the recessed doorway. As I got closer I noticed that one of the previous night’s revellers had decided to give in to his impending coma and slump between the pink framed entrance of my shop, buried in baby like sleep and dressed in an outfit that was definitely deemed x rated.

The Pakistani man from the paper shop opposite smiled at me from his doorway, muttered something about the cesspit of today’s society and its interpretation of fun, and then retreated back inside, helpfully leaving me and the drag queen to settle our differences alone.

After a lifetime of prodding, poking and shoving, this night time reveller definitely wasn’t waking up. Grabbing his stiletto, I pulled. His head slid down the door and curled onto the floor, and across the cobbles we went, an image of sweet and sour, his blonde wig trailing behind him, my pastel chiffon dress getting more creased by the second.

Just as we reached the square of concrete that I had appointed his home for the next few hours, his faux lash adorned eyelids flapped open and his eyeballs danced full circle before focusing on my face.

“Are we in heaven?”

To this day I cannot decide if he was referring to the pearly gates or the nightclub a few doors down.

A Piercing Sight.

Confessions6

By now it had become apparent that many of the bizarre wanderers of Soho were prowling for some sort of thrill. From what I could gather, it was not in their actions that they gained rapture, but in the reaction of those they would play to, which more often than not, was me.

This couldn’t have been demonstrated more so than in my next tale…

It was a glorious sunny day in London, which is such a rarity that I longed to be doing anything other than being slumped inside waiting for customers. Through the sun drenched doorway another eccentric ‘Soho-ian’ graced me with his presence.

Looking like a throw back from the eighties, with a Pat Sharpe mullet and dazzling MC Hammer trousers, he drifted in, instantly looking at odds with this girly dreamland.

To my already pricked ears he told the tale of a looming Rocky Horror Picture Show party; that he was in possession of the obligatory stockings and suspender belt, but that he needed something extra special to ice the cake of his guise.

I pondered on the matter for a second or two, hoping he would realise that our image was the polar opposite to the tranny trash fabulousness of Rocky Horror, but he seemed genuinely enthused. It is a pity I was all too unaware of the real reason for this apparent enthusiasm, for after selecting a sheer chiffon blouse, he had a slight surprise up his sleeve…

Disregarding my initial reluctance I agreed to his trying on of the garment. After all, at our current rate of trade I couldn’t expect a visit from a girl who’d be surprised to see this strange looking man dressed in the blouse she’d had her eye on.

After some time I grew anxious, and it was through gritted teeth that I asked him if he was ok; for I did not want this question to prompt his exit from behind the dressing room curtain. Lo and behold, it did. But instead of the eighties darling in floral chiffon I was expecting, I was confronted with a middle aged man, his curly blonde hair in pigtails, his cheeks rouged, his lips painted, his eyes adorned with fake lashes and his lower half absolutely unclad, the see-through blouse grazing the top of his thighs. The blouse was so see through in fact, that my eyes were consequently violated by the detail of a terribly personal piercing. I believe a Prince Albert is its official name.

As he stood, punch proud with his hands on his hips, belly protruded and groin thrust outwards, I knew this was my very own Horror Show performance.

Extremely careful not to bat a single eyelid, I instead shrugged my shoulders, as though this were an every day occurrence and said “Not very Rock Horror though is it? Maybe for something else though?”

With that I shut the curtain over a very disheartened face.

Monday Muse. Metal Hunks.

20140526-155756-57476536.jpg

Is it a pre requisite when having the bar of a trolley in your grasp that your mind resort to thoughts of propelling it into the river?

I wonder if this pile of discarded metal carts are the remorseful remains of some guilty jaunt or low budget joy ride.

Be that as it may, these trolley pushers are limiting their worlds to the powerful potential that ownership of a trolley could bring.