It may be an urban myth but it is alleged that there were those who called the area “South Chelsea.” I never met such a person and so I live variously in Wandsworth, South Lambeth or Battersea – this last given the Tracy Ullman treatment. When I moved here, it had some pretensions including a local greengrocery, a French deli and a small smart clothes shop, all of which are now gone. The deli which I loved went first, then the clothes shop and lastly, arguably the most useful, the fruit and veg.
Dora would never have got rich on me but I had at financial nadir fallen in love with a fake fur sleeveless coat in her shop. I couldn’t have it and that was that. Almost a year later I saw that she was closing and went to say goodbye and wish her luck, adding that I had never forgotten the coat. “I’ve still got it” she said “ but I would have to adjust the price because it’s old stock.” Which is how I came to own one of the happiest garments of my life.
It is knee length with pockets, a hood that stays up and sufficiently subtley coloured that there is some question as to whether it might be real. Wal knows it’s fake but then Wal knows his fur. I can’t remember where I took it to have two hooks put on the front so that it did up – I don’t live car to bar, things have to fasten over my baby chest.
The first time I wore it out over an apple green roll neck and jeans, a little girl stopped in front of me and said “You look just like a princess !” which, as I told her, is a wonderful thing to say to a grey-haired woman, never mind whether it is true or not.
Several times much younger than me men walked over with their wives or girlfriends to say how much they liked the coat – where did I get it ? etc which was odd because I only found the French label in one other place and they only carried it for one season. I was not able (at that stage any way) to find it on line.
A young policeman asked if I would please go and have a cup of coffee – there was an anti-fur demonstration at Harrods. I said “But this is cotton !” “They won’t know” he said. ”Please, madam …” Madam disappeared until the shouting was over.
It brought me the image that my friend the Fire Fairy and I still laugh about. “You’re a wolf” she said suddenly half way through lunch, “ the Queen of Wolves – it’s that coat” hence the conversation with the tall Israeli “I like your coat” he said: “Thank you “I said. “It’s French and it’s cotton.” “So you didn’t kill the wolf ? “ he asked. “I am the wolf” I said.
Last week (you have gathered, this coat has history) I went to meet Snowdrop. It was cold, I was early and the train was delayed. I wandered into a possible looking shoe shop at the back of which, leaning again the wall, was what I would call a boy of colour, mid twenties, sharply dressed, elegantly slim who walked over and stood in front of me. “I want your coat” he said. I smiled “You have very good taste. “ I won’t bore you with the repetition. I put down my bag, took off the coat and put it on him. Of course he looked very prepossessing. I asked if he wanted to know the secret of it and showed him the depth of the armholes which means that the coat has movement. We discussed its line and other lines. I showed him the reverse side – coppery green with the fur against the skin – which on his colouring looked wonderful He gave it back , I put it on, he waved when I left and I waved back. There were two or three other people in the shop and by the time I left, we were all talking to each other.
There are all sorts of reasons to keep this coat going as long as possible – it’s comfortable and easy and warm and light – but do you think in a very small way that it might be a magic coat ? Oh, I do hope so …