Vintage Flesh

Something magical happens on my high street late on a Saturday afternoon. I caught a whiff of it as I brought Tottie home from her walk, so I did a quick turnaround when I dropped her home and headed back to Woolies, the inspired postmodern reworking of the tired old Woolworths, with its counters of Taiwanese tat. Now it is a indoor market of individual stalls where creativity abounds and the stallholders are young, spirited and openhearted. No sooner had I walked through the door when the girl at the florist stall said she’d plant me a dutch pot I fancied with three hyacinths,  if I’d like to collect them on the way out and what colour would I like? Blue was the answer, as it so often is.

Upstairs at the secondhand bookstall I was astonished to see a pristine first edition of  Margaret Salinger’s biography of  her father  Dream Catcher. Four pounds in the week that he died; the universe is smiling at me. If I think that I had a hard time growing up under the direction of a charismatic Welsh preacher, well, Margaret had JD Salinger to contend with, along with the whole Catcher in the Rye madness that turned him into a cross between an unattainable guru and a devil. Sonny spent his life protesting and defending his right to be detached from the struggles of real life for the sake of his art. His daughter suggests that in fact he was ‘a very, very needy man.’ The definitive unavailable male in fact.

I was thrilled with the book, which vibrated gently against my chest as I went on my way. Nothing, but nothing  in life beats the feeling of a book that vibrates and an evening stretching ahead, so that I can read it to my solitary heart’s content.

But that wasn’t all. Next there was the vintage clothing stall with its racks of jumpers like my mother used to wear and an occasional shot satin opera coat with an astonishing £120 tag. A couple of young girls were trying on dresses and pretty they looked too. As I rummaged and peeked I saw something I’d never quite realised. Vintage has to be worn with the insouciance and finger up of the young. On me it would just look scruffy and worn out, making me look the same. As my own skin develops its vintage status, my clothes require more not less care and attention. And simplicity. The contrast between the freshness of youth and the well worn patina of vintage make a perfect combination; the one giving the other power. But it is in the combination that the power lies, like postmodernism and Rambol cheese. The rule: If you’re vintage, take great care when choosing vintage; scarves and jewellery yes, dresses and jumpers no.

So I left the silks and the crepe de chines and the lovely feel of old fabrics and as I turned away my eye was caught by a blue turban, the colour I’ve just painted my bedroom walls. It was a whispering £4.50 and as I paid I visualised myself by a pool in the sunshine somewhere, wearing my black silk caftan and the blue turban over my wet hair, looking like Sophia Loren in The Millionairess. ‘Do you want a bag or are you wearing it? said the girl a tad cheekily. Tucking it in my pocket I told her that at my age I keep the exotic for the privacy of my home and dreams, in case I am thought to be going a bit strange. She laughed and you can too as you picture me sitting up in my princess bed, drinking my camomile tea, wearing my black caftan and blue turban, reading  Dream Catcher by Margaret Salinger.

On the way out I picked up the sweet bowl of hyacinths tucked tight in moss and costing only £3. Walking home smiling, I remembered Jonathan Cainer’s advice to give a Virgo woman bread but also hyacinths for her soul. It felt like a special gift of love. Being single is the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me. Happy St Valentine’s Day, Allie


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