Friday, 30 October 2009

Clothes and the Pursuit of Happiness

I don’t believe that happiness is a state that descends upon us. Nor can we achieve it through getting married, winning the lottery or eating cakes. I sporadically attempt to acquire happiness by buying new boots. Whilst I do love all my boots I have to acknowledge that they do not love me back. It is two years since I last bought boots so I feel that a fresh pair is due. I’ve got my eye on a lovely sheepskin lined pair in the Natural Shoe Store. Now it’s just a matter of drumming up the cash. I have been proud of my recent frugality but yesterday I went and blew my reserves.

Here’s how it happened. May came over for a computer lesson. Being an artist and a Shaman May has not yet felt the need to commune with modern technology. Like many people, she owns a shiny MacBook from which she sends the odd note on hotmail. To my mind that’s somewhat like buying an Aston Martin and then using it only to go to the shops on a Saturday afternoon. But I suppose there are people who do that too. Before long May was creating folders, downloading photographs and attaching them to emails. Feeling satisfied with ourselves and deserving of a reward, we scooted down to Wagamama at Kensington High Street for some yummy Yaki Soba and tasty chicken and mandarin salad.

Since we were there we popped into TK Maxx, next door to Wagamama. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in to TK Maxx but I can tell you it is a scene that Pieter Bruegel the Elder may have found worthy of study. Dazed shoppers wander amongst hundreds of rails stuffed with undifferentiated garments. Judging by the dishevelled hair dos and mad staring eyes some of those poor souls may have been in there for several weeks, maybe months. Each of them is searching for treasure, a diamond in the dross. They have heard a fable about someone who found a drop dead Yves Saint Laurent suit or a gorgeous Marc Jacobs frock in TK Maxx for £15. But that was long ago in another part of the galaxy, I can assure you. A few moments later May’s and my eyes glazed over. Our heads dropped. We started feverishly working our way through the racks of coats. Then we began to try them on. I pulled on a hideous puce number. “Not bad,” I thought to myself, “I could change the buttons.” Next I came across two rather smart grey gabardine coats by Diesel. One was a size 18, the other a size 8. I am a size 12. “The big one would work with a belt,” I told myself. I looked up and spied Meg looking confused in a checked wool coat with a balloon shaped skirt that barely covered her bum. “That coat is too short,” I advised her. “But the fabric is sooo lovely,” she crooned. “We have to get out of here,” I gasped. May nodded. We held hands and bolted for the stairs, scattering uncomprehending zombie women as we ran.

In order to recover from that traumatic episode we paid a visit to Top Shop. Inside the front door was a table displaying their latest range of lingerie by Kate Moss. I wrote recently about how, since my surgery, I am hesitant to wear underwired bras. Some people assert that underwires restrict the flow of lymph from the breast and thus may be implicated in the development of a tumour. It is my understanding that the lymph from one’s breast drains upward, into the nodes under one’s arm, rather than downward. So I’m not concerned about that. But my breast is still quite tender and I feel instinctively that I don’t want any hard, uncomfortable wires sticking into it. Right there on the table was a set of the most gorgeous underwear in delicate, dusty pink lace. And the bra was wire free. I snapped them up. To complement the new undies, I bought a zappy, deep purple mini-skirt, on sale for £20.

May continued her coat quest in Zara. I found a stylish belt made of pewtery looking beads that will make any old cardi look glamorous.

On a roll, we popped into Uniqlo. Now, I don’t know about you but I have always secretly desired a down coat. More than ever, I now hanker for clothes that are cosy and comfortable. In Uniqulo they have knee length down coats in all sorts of colours for £49.99. That has to be a bargain in anyone’s book. I tried on a shiny black one. Sleek. Then a gunmetal blue. Chic. Finally I took the plunge and donned a white one. It was like stepping into a giant cloud. “I’m having this,” I shouted in ecstasy. “Hmm,” said May, “you look like you’ve joined Abba.”

I love Cos. Their clothes are edgy yet wearable, well made in quality fabrics, yet inexpensive. But I find shopping in their Regent street shop something of a gruelling endurance test. Joy of joys, Cos has now come to Kensington High Street. Here I picked up two absolute classics that I know I will wear for years to come: a grey bias-cut t-shirt and a midnight blue Merino wool crew neck jumper.

After all that shopping I was thoroughly wiped out. I fell asleep at 9 p.m. and awoke at 9 this morning. I guess I can count it as part of my stamina increasing exercise programme

Anyway, I started writing this blogspot about happiness. Within a sentence or two it became a dissertation on clothes. I am satisfied - more than satisfied – I am elated with my new clothes. But I know that they will not make me happy. As I said, happiness cannot be bought, nor acquired nor endowed. Rather, happiness is a way of life that can be built. Over the years I have encountered various tools for building happiness. Here are some of them: gratitude lists; meditation; dancing; writing the daily ‘love’ and ‘fear’ notebook and smiling at strangers. Another well-known tool is to do a random act of kindness each day and not tell anyone about it.

The other day my doorbell rang. It was the postman. He delivered a big package of gorgeous Liz Earle beauty products. There was no note or card, no postmark nor any other sign of whom it was from. I have puzzled over it for days. Questioning my friends has drawn nothing. I can only conclude that I have been on the receiving end on one of those happiness-building acts.