Thursday, October 05, 2006

DECADENTLY FRUGAL...


Oh, internet how I've missed you. You probably haven't even noticed I was gone, I know. But I haven't been able to read any blogs or anything online, much less compose a post on this one because the ow, ow, ow, agony of scrolling, how it burned my eyes and frazzled my brain. That's the punishment you get for ignoring for two weeks the fact that the entire left side of your body has seized up and your joints click loudly every time you move. You get a mo'fo of a migraine. I mean really, how old/drunk do you have to be to need a craniosacral osteopathy treatment to deal with the effects of going to a party two weeks ago? 30, and very, apparently. Ah, but I slept last night. Do you know how wonderful it is to sleep in a position that does not involve having to lie on your stomach and prop up your left hip?

Here is the post I kept eking out in dribs and drabs this week and to me it reads so very, very strangely. Perhaps because I was dosed up on various painkillers at various times and didn't bash it out in one draft like I usually do. But it's all I got for yous today. I'm off to catch up on Sarto.

I always get the feeling that half the people in my life think I am too frivolous and decadent, and the other half think I am not frivolous or decadent enough. The same conflict goes on inside me - I'm drawn to all things that enhance quality of life, then I feel guilty when I enjoy them. Somehow linked to this inner wrangling is that this week I re employed Granny Dragon's leopard print coat. (That was actually what our entire family called her; non family members addressed her simply as The Dragon.) Granny Dragon's arch manner would have had Anna Wintour cowering in a corner, but she did have a shit hot wardrobe. I've had this fifties A line black and white leopard print raincoat that was hers for years, but always felt a bit "look at me!" wearing it. Now at the ripe old age of 30 I've grown into it. Not literally but in the sense that I now wear the coat, it does not wear me. And frankly if you don't like it I metaphorically raise my middle finger in salute to you. See what the coat does to me? Soon I'll be quaffing G&Ts and referring to the window cleaner as "that dreadful little man". Anyway it's all in the attitude. And this coat does change me. Like a shield it allows me to ignore the frugal voices in my head. And do you know what I discovered, that I'm sure my Granny knew all along? Decadent frugality is the antidote to false economy.
I shall explain.
Wearing The Coat I went to the Post Office in Borough High Street. It was lunchtime and the queue stretched out of the door and along the street. Normally I would have waited, becoming increasingly agitated with each passing minute. So I left the queue and wandered down to the market to grab a bite to eat. I could have gone to Pret a Manger and paid about £7 for a sandwich and a drink. I could even have bought a very posh and delicious take away drink and sandwich to eat sitting on the kerb, costing about £10 from Konditor & Cook. (Who were single-handedly responsible for my gaining 12 pounds in two months when I worked near their bakery) But somehow due to the coat, I ended up seated at The Wright Brothers Oyster House with half a dozen oysters and a glass of white wine in front of me. I felt so guilty until looking around, the place was busy. No one else was simultaneously beating themselves up whilst slurping down oysters. Then I realised that my super fabulous lunch wasn't much more expensive than either of the other options. I must go there on a Saturday when they open at 10am for 'The Breakfast of Champions'. Apparently oysters are a great hangover cure.

Still sporting my coat I headed to Piccadilly and Jermyn Street where I had an appointment. I felt peckish - again, and my knee was about to fall off. Again I had choices - Starbucks, Caffe Nero, all the usuals. But hello one of my favourite places, The Wolseley. So again I chose the decadent option. The Wolseley does look a bit imposing from the outside, but inside it's just lovely. If you're ever visiting London I insist you go there for afternoon tea. You can sit in the main cavernous bit, but I like to sit in the salon to the left of the door as you enter. I ask you, how, just how is it preferable in any way to get a £4 slopped over the rim, gloopy caramel macchiato from Starbucks and drink it at a dirty table, than to be seated by a nice waiter at a corner table in the Viennese style grandeur of The Wolseley, peruse the menu, then order a hot chocolate made to your specifications? Pure melted chocolate in the base of the glass, topped up with milk (soya for me - cows' milk = pus = no thanks) and its own little whisk to blend the two together. You can sit there in the black and gold lacquered salon watching the clientele eat precision cut sandwiches and scones from tiered silver cake stands and the umbrellas bobbing along in the rain outside for hours. The only time the staff will bother you is for a friendly chat and to make sure you're ok. This costs THREE pounds. That's what I call good value, the other option is false economy.

At this point half the people reading this who know me in real life should be thinking “that’s SO the kind of thing you would do/say”. The other half, and the ones much more likely to actually be reading this will be thinking “why didn’t you have afternoon tea, then go for a manicure as well?” I love you all, but I would really prefer to go for a drink with the manicure encouragers.

My new inner mantra is "At the end, nobody will thank you for not living your life." I can adapt this to the situation, for example "nobody will thank you for choosing to drink a £4 caramel macchiato in Starbucks when you could have had a £3 hot chocolate at The Wolseley."

*Post painkiller update: I also remembered that the last time I wore that coat was years ago when I still lived with my parents. To get to the station I had to run the gauntlet of funny stares from the narrow minded inhabitants of our suburban commuter village, so I could hop on a train to London and civilisation. It was when the Eurostar first started running and I'd watch forlornly as it zoomed past wishing I was on it going to Paris. Who knew? I always look out for that station when I'm on the Eurostar and every time we pass it by without my noticing.

9 comments:

lottie said...

Dear girl, you wrote my thoughts on the decadent/not decadent enough issue. Do you ever feel like you're in a zoo? Sometimes I feel like I'm regarded as a rather odd creature, I feel 'you are frivolous' coming from the eyes - usually belonging to people with very serious important jobs when I'm sporting granny's old handbag, a bright bit of artwork or some such treasure I've hoarded. 'But I'm not so unusual', I think inside'...'I just feel a bit creative'.. Anyway, I digress. You have landed upon a very pertinent point and you know what, I'm with you when you say life should be lived to the full and the naysayers, well boo sucks to them. Love your coat.

cosmic said...

I hope I am one of the ones who falls into the manicure camp. I think we're definitely in agreement that decadence rocks anyway. And that coat, I may have to bump you off in an Agatha Christie style mystery murder and steal the coat, its so fab.

blissfulclaudie@gmail.com said...

LiB, you are my absolute heroine.

Julia said...

This is one of the best posts. I'm saving it. I couldn't of put it better myself, as yes, I feel the same way too, about how I'm regarded, and about how I chose to do it all.

I adore the coat. And I love the simple pleasures that are induced from something like wearing a fabulous coat: the oysters and wine I have done many times. It's so nice when it's not planned too. And you know it's moments like these that feel most like when you're travelling - that spontaneous, live for the moment, why-not, spirit.

*sigh*

Lola is Beauty said...

hee hee thank you, I guess you're all manicure encouragers then? Well of course...

Bombay Beauty said...

Manicurists of the world unite!

You've summed up wonderfully a philosophy that I try to follow, though I don't always succeed. My own terminology for it is "indulgence at the margin". Unfortunately it sounds a bit like the lingo of my widget-making profession, but it means much the same. If you've made sensible decisions for the big things in life, then small indulgences should be encouraged. They bring so much pleasure. The odd thing about human nature is that a plate of oysters and a glass of wine at lunch will probably bring you as much of a sense of indulgence as having bought something enormously expensive. Pleasure by its nature is fleeting, and if so then we should cultivate exactly these kind of self-surprises of indulgence.

Where I fall short is in convincing myself to follow through on this. I still buy cheap wine (though the average price of my bottles has been creeping up from the sub-$10 to the 10-15 range). I still eat yogurt for breakfast, salads for lunch, and tofu for dinner. What worries me is self-control. I have none... I'm afraid that one step of marginal indulgence will eventually lead me to an Orsonwellsian Tahitian demise. Hmm… sounds like a good name for a cocktail... Off to find my cocktail shaker.

Cheers,

BB

Serena said...

"I always get the feeling that half the people in my life think I am too frivolous and decadent, and the other half think I am not frivolous or decadent enough. The same conflict goes on inside me - I'm drawn to all things that enhance quality of life, then I feel guilty when I enjoy them."

OMG...this is so me!

Lilac Stripe said...

This is a fabulous post and makes me want to buy a decadent coat and go for oysters...

Coquette said...

Sometimes I think I need to dress/live in a way that is "serious" and you're entirely right to be a pleasurist. No one is going to thank you for not having lived your life. That's brilliant.