I have broken my iron clad promise again but I have been writing elsewhere meanwhile…
Once I had left the confines of Soho and found another job to wage against poor studentdom, I got an upgrade, to a high class boutique in Knightsbridge. One may have thought that with this alteration would come an absence of strange behaviour, but as it turns out, these customers were in a class of their very own…
I don’t know if it’s a contributing factor to being wealthy, but a lot of the ladies (and some of them actually were, officially Lady’s) I came across were not afraid to barter a price. It was like nothing I had ever come across away from the confines of the market on holiday in the Costa Del Sol.
When asked if I could do a ‘better price’, I would pull the sympathetic taut lipped smile and say it was out of our hands but there was, without fail, a few who would not take no for an answer. Of course this sympathy was completely counterfeit as I reflected on my tube journey shoved up against a man sweating to within an inch of his life that morning, in comparison to the spacious Bentley the customer typically would have just stepped out of, just a Louboutin clad foot away from our front door.
From there on in, the lengthy habitual process of asking the manager would start, who would say the same and then, not happy that this was a complete dead end I would be forced to ring the boss. It was guaranteed the answer would still be no but nevertheless, with the bargain hunter’s beady eyes watching closely I would nod and smile with the receiver shoved tight against my ear for fear that they would hear what a “money grabbing, tight fisted, miser” by boss thought they were.
For all the trouble it may have gotten me in I was often tempted to accidentally-on-purpose slip on the loudspeaker button and watch contentedly as the bartering customer retracted to an embarrassed getaway, never to be seen again.
Sad to say, knowing said customers thought process, this probably would have armed them with ample bargaining verging on bribe power, to get what they really hunted for.
Just about satisfied with the negative answer from the big boss the purse would be brought out, usually Prada or Gucci, and the bank card would be unwillingly thrust into my hand, and I could guarantee that it would always say Coutts.
So I am now sat giving myself the proverbial slap on the wrist that comes with the guilt of not posting for quite some time. Unfortunately, when one is being artistic, one must also make a living, and so I have been chained to my desk, morning, afternoon and evening, doing the day job for the last few weeks.
But fear not my happily little group of friendly followers, after a spot of lunch today I shall be dedicating my afternoon to your entertainment and hopefully provide a little bit of afternoon delight to your day jobs, I certainly need it…. C x
It had become apparent by now that a lot of these strange characters wandered Soho prowling for some sort of thrill. From what I could gather, it was not in their actions that they gained pleasure or entertainment, but in the reaction of those they would play to, in other words, me. This couldn’t have been displayed more so than in my next tale…
On a gloriously sunny London day, such a rarity that I was yearning to be doing anything but sitting inside waiting for custom, another man graced me with his presence.
Looking like a throw back from the eighties, with a Pat Sharpe blonde curly mullet and bright MC Hammer trousers, he drifted in, instantly looking at odds in this girly heaven. To my already alert ears he told the tale of his attending a Rocky Horror Picture Show party. I was then informed that he was in possession of the obligatory stockings and suspender belt, but needed that something extra special to complete his guise.
I pondered on the matter for a second or two, hoping he might realise that our look was the complete opposite to the tranny trash fabulousness of Rocky Horror, but he seemed genuinely enthused. It’s rather a pity I wasn’t then informed of the real reason for this apparent enthusiasm. For after selecting a sheer silk chiffon blouse, he had a bit of a surprise up his sleeve.
I somewhat unwillingly agreed to his trying on of the garment. After all, we never did get so busy to warrant my expectation that a woman to come in and see this strange looking man dressed in the blouse she’d had her eye on. Nevertheless, I do sometimes wish there was another pair of eyes to hand, to witness the subsequent deed that could be viewed as completely unbelievable.
After some time I grew anxious, and through gritted teeth I asked him if everything was ok, for I did not want this question to prompt his exit from behind the curtain. Lo and behold, it did. But instead of the eighties throwback in ladies floral chiffon I was expecting, I was confronted with a middle aged man, his curly blonde hair in pigtails, with a couple of rouged cheeks, dark purple lips, fake eyelashes and absolutely nothing on, except for the very see through blouse. So see through in fact, that my eyes were even violated with the detail of a most intimate piercing. A Prince Albert I believe is its “official” name.
As he stood, proud as punch with his hands on his hips, belly and groin stuck out, I knew this was my very own Horror Show performance.
At this point I was extremely careful not to batter a single eyelid and instead just shrugged my shoulders, as though this were an every day occurrence and said “Not very Rock Horror though is it? Maybe for something else though?”
With that I shut the curtain over a very disappointed face.
The Soho factor was often an influence on many a customer to this decidedly girly boutique. Whether it was the nature of the clothes, or the girls selling them, we seemed to attract a certain amount of unwanted attention of the male variety.
I first came across this when a man approached me, in his fifties, looking to buy a gift for his girlfriend. Upon hearing this request I hoped his girlfriend was more of a trophy girlfriend than an age equivalent to him, as our clothes would have started their journey to mutton parading as lamb on a woman a day past thirty.
As he browsed our merchandise, indiscreetly perusing mine too, I asked him what size his girlfriend was.
“A fourteen” he answered nonchalantly. Then the impolite demand of, “try this on for me” came, whilst he was holding up the shortest skirt we stocked and a barely there bikini top.
I stood, horrified at that prospect of having to parade around half naked, giving this tactless visitor a reason to be staring. I replied in a meek – only having been out of the countryside for a month- voice, “but if she’s a fourteen that won’t help, I’m an eight, it’s really quite different”. He grimaced at me and thrust the clothes into my arms regardless.
“Go on, try them anyway”. It was at this point he gestured towards the changing room and, like a bolt from the heavens, stunned my painstakingly composed manner with a little tap on my bottom.
As the reflex reaction of slapping him across the cheek bounded into my head, I struggled for a moment to restrain my natural response had this not been my workplace. With gritted teeth I focused my eyes very carefully on his and restrainedly uttered, “Maybe you should bring your girlfriend. I’m sure she’d much rather you see them on her.” Then, as I couldn’t resist, “Where is she today?”
He stood awkwardly, his gaze averted to his feet, disappointed at my reaction.
“You’re not going to try them.” It was more a realisation than a question as he sheepishly hung his head, avoiding my gaze.
“No.” I replied. “I definitely am not.”
With that he let out a small, high pitched groan and walked hastily out of the door.
After eagerly settling into my new found city surroundings, I began to become accustomed to the spiced variety London offered in the form of its inhabitants. Among these often peculiar, habitually eccentric individuals, I would get a weekly visit from an array of different fortunetellers. Needless to say I use this term rather loosely as they never seemed to gauge my pending refusal of their services before crossing the threshold of my frosty reception. After several encounters I did advise one particularly persistent woman that perhaps she should put her skills to good use and increase her trade by only selecting the people who sought the telling of their fortunes. At this point she glared at me with her Romany eyes and muttered something under her breath. She then waved her dirt-ridden hand over my head and I knew I had miserably become subject to a deadly curse.
I was somewhat unbothered by the thought of having a curse cast upon me by a woman I deemed ‘un-psychic’, until one day during another unwelcome trip she informed a colleague of mine that her baby would die. It was here that I took great pleasure in telling the old woman she actually had no baby, and so her information was fatally flawed. As she left, singing her mother tongue obscenities under her breath, the girl I was working alongside made a dive for the back room, not quite triumphant in her fight to conceal her tears.
“She’s just a silly old lady,” I shouted after her. “Don’t let her upset you over nothing.”
It was then that she confided in me that she was indeed pregnant, but that she was yet to tell a single soul. This piece of information made my spine tingle somewhat, in what felt like a slow motion reveal in a Hitchcock film whereby the femme fatale realises her time has come, the moment I was lead to believe that my card was well and truly marked.
In spite of this, both mother and baby have since become, and have remained, very healthy and happy, regardless of the eight remaining months following said prophecy that she bore with a nervous disposition.
As far as I am aware, I don’t think my life since could be deemed as cursed. It might have taken a few dips and dives here and there, much akin to everyone else’s no doubt. Even so, a couple of times a year, when things might be looking particularly bad, her callous sounds will pop into my head, and for just a few seconds, I will be left wondering if my judgment day is still looming in the distance…
LOOK magazine is LOOKing for a new fashion blogger, so I thought I would make my own little attempt into the world of the front row…
Confessions of a Shop Assistant is my little world of escapism, albeit far less glamorous than the pages of the glossies that I peruse in my dreams of fashion crazed imaginings. Of a world where Chanel is free and McQueen would have found refuge in my miniature London flat, designing haute couture brilliance for my very own personal catwalk.
It is quite often that I force my almost certainly unwanted opinions of the world we call fashion onto my unfortunate, unassuming boyfriend. This past month has seen me relaying the brilliance of the bondage-clad catwalks of A/W 2011 and the desire to perhaps borrow his suit jacket in my very own androgynous manner. Putting me in the front row at The Look Show would not only be a marriage of the fanciful prose I am guilty to spilling and the fashion it can spill over, but would also, possibly, probably, be very much appreciated by my better half.
I hope I can contribute something a little bit different, in an original voice, which will tell the tales of the catwalk in a brand new light.
Once I had left my countryside existence for a city life in London for university, I knew that my encounters would only get more interesting…
A part time job was required to fund my student lifestyle at a fashion college that saw the floorboards as a catwalk and consequently my wardrobe as a very sad sight indeed. My first job in the big city involved looking after a very unique boutique just on the outskirts of Soho that, as you may already know, is home to many of the more fruitful among us.
Much of my day was often willed away by perusing the pages of Vogue and longingly looking at what Chanel and McQueen had on offer for me to yearn after in the coming month, only to try and replicate utilising my student loan and part-time finance that could barely even afford the Topshop copycat.
When I was graced with the delight of human interaction it was typically with a girl, ranging from her teens to her twenties, due to the girly, fairytale nature of the clothing we had on offer. It was for this reason that somebody acting untoward soon stood out, from the moment their hand touched the door handle.
I was to become home to all sorts of alien requests, most notably from a male celebrity who asked me if I sold balaclavas. It was a rather stupid question looking at our window displays of butterflies, soft pink chiffons and mannequins with blonde 1930’s curls.
Seemingly quite surprised when I informed him that we didn’t, he asked if I could recommend a shop that did. Needless to say the closest I could get to what he wanted consisted of a visit to the PVC and rubber bondage specialists in the heart of Soho. I wondered if I had hit the nail on the head with what he was looking for when he sheepishly laughed and walked out, heading in that very direction.
In a small community such as the one where this particular little boutique was based, it is commonplace to see the same familiar faces. None more familiar than the woman who features in our next story…
A little coffee house was situated next door to the children’s shop. It was frequented by much of the elderly portion of the community, due to its senior specials and over 60’s coffee mornings. It was the first weekday I had worked at this particular place, and as I was going about my morning routine I heard a high-pitched noise come from outside. I ignored it for a second or two until I was forced to take notice when it got particularly loud and it dawned on me that it was someone trying to sing. Regrettably this voice was neither soothing nor relaxing. Nevertheless, once one had gotten over the initial pierce to the ears it was somewhat entertaining.
I wondered over to the window in an attempt to see from whom this jumbled up version of Fly Me To The Moon was coming from. I’m not entirely sure of where my expectations lay, but they certainly weren’t to be found in the image presented to me of an old lady dressed in a long floral dress and comfy shoes. She was quite contently sat with her cup of coffee, oblivious to the stares of the other, might I say, a lot calmer, coffee morning attendees.
After watching her for a while, amusing myself with guessing her song choice each time, – a much meaner feat that it sounds – I noticed that I was seemingly the only one who had been distracted by this ruckus. That, and a few consecutive days of being presented with the same act, informed me that this was no alien presence early on a weekday. She, whether one liked it or not, came hand in hand with the OAP coffee morning.
I also learnt that visiting my shop was a part of her morning routine. She would open the door, I would greet her, she would ignore me, but whisper sounds of a troubled past beneath her breath. These whispers would be the only thing I would ever hear from her mouth, besides her piercing singing of course. It was perhaps her only means of stopping the memories, for when she wasn’t whispering she would sing, and when she wasn’t singing she would whisper, there was never a moment of silence in between.
She would go from item to item, grazing fine velour with greasy fingers and sometimes leaving traces of ketchup behind her. She would walk away whilst leaving audible trails of gas, prompting me to realise why there was a can of air freshener behind the till.
Until one day she stopped. Her clockwork routine was no more inclusive of me or my time or my efforts of cleaning her path. I must say it was a relief. Nonetheless, to this day she still attends every coffee morning, eats her over 60’s special and sings. Some days fairly loudly, sometimes rather quietly, I guess it depends how haunting her whispers are that day.