I’m writing this as I enjoy a boiled egg with marmite on toast on my second morning in London, and as I gaze out the window the sound of jackhammers cracking concrete penetrates in the distance. The fact that we live in an ever changing and continually developing world- this is a sound we’re all becoming increasingly used to.
The flat opposite me in Paris is sheathed by an enormous piece of cloth pristine and white and cut to perfection – there is no evidence of six stories of limestone wrapped up inside, but at seven o’clock every morning, five days a week, the jackhammers begin along with the banter until the builders take ‘un petit pause,’ before starting up again after lunch. I can only assume they are doing some fairly important work in there, as the building in question is as ancient as it is beautiful.
Yesterday, I had a makeover of sorts too – I removed my old suede brogues and replaced them with a green pair of high heels and headed to Australia House in the Strand for dinner with forty eight other Australians. During the day I had enjoyed a lovely lunch at the Westbourne with my Indian travel companion who is in town visiting friends, before heading across the channel to shake the Australian winter. And, earlier that morning I’d had ‘success’ as always at COS – a store that has contributed to 90% of my wardrobe over the years and is genius for women who are actually built like women- of all shapes and sizes. All I really ‘needed’ was a pair of stretchy trousers to hold me in over dinner and to be worn under a nice blue shirt dress. Très simple.
Arriving home later in the day with sore feet and tired legs from walking the entire length of this city (or so it felt), I ran a bath and sighed with happiness as I realised I had whole hour up my sleeve before my taxi was due to arrive at 6.30. Twenty minutes later, pampered and newly revived, I pulled on my new trousers which reached my knees before refusing to go any further.
Now, I have had just one croissant in two weeks in Paris and have walked more than I’ve ever walked, so to say I felt perplexed is an understatement. Pulling and pulling and pulling, there was no way these stretch miracles were going to go the distance and as I tore them off, I realised I’d been sold a size six, which is very unhelpful when I’m double that and only on a really good day can I wedge myself into a size 12 anything.
Looking at my watch I now had just fifteen minutes until the taxi was set to pick me up, and as I cast my eyes around the room beginning to feel slightly panicked, there was nothing that even looked like a plan B.
I stood bare legged with my green shoes blending with the tone of my skin and my navy shirt reaching (hardly) modestly towards the middle of my thighs. Frazzled, I pulled on a pair of faded blue jeans and ran out the door and into my cab pushing my earrings in as I did (a precious $30 purchase from India that sparkle like a million dollars), madly trying to get the backs on without losing them along the way.
I arrived at Selfridges ten minutes later looking like I was heading to a barn dance rather than a jacket and tie dinner (albeit with bag searches and a dress code). Racing up the elevator I shimmied into COS and explained my predicament (I didn’t really need to, it was quite evident) and within moments a bemused assistant had me in the change rooms in a pair of trousers that slid on, zipped up and voila! I was back in the room, save for my beautiful earrings- one of which was now hanging out of my ear by a faux gold thread.
The back had gone missing and I looked like something from the punk era. Scanning the counter as I paid for my new trousers which were now happily hitched up around my rib cage and hugging my legs, I noticed a little pair of studs and threw them in too- all I needed was that tiny little back for the precious earring hanging precariously out of my ear, and I’d be on my way.
A black cab driven by the kindest man in the world pulled in out the front of Australia House at 7pm, delivering me only half an hour late and with another thirty minutes to spare before we were seated.
Hours later, and as I sipped on my glass of wine feeling relaxed and listening intently to speeches peppered with just enough wit, I played with the earring in my left ear and found two backs jammed on top of each other. All that haste had gone to my head, or my ear in this case, and I now have a pair of cheap studs as a constant reminder.
All in all, it was a lovely night and a reminder as to why I never wear high heels.
Pictured: a beautiful garden bed in Hyde Park shot on my way to buy the ill fated trousers.