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12 December 2009 @ 08:42 am
The travels of Brammers, part 7  
Before I left work last week, one of my dearest colleagues leaned over to me and said, quietly: 'It's not like it was, you know.'

'Que?' I replied, eloquently.

'England, the UK, my friends who live there now were just back, and they said it's bad. Really bad. Frightening. Just take care of yourself, all right?'

I suppressed a smile, and patted her on the arm. 'You're so sweet,' I said, 'but I have five words for you: Miners' Strike, Poll Tax Riots. This is what happens in every economic downturn, things become a bit lala. We're a nation of shopkeepers, we panic when people stop going to the shops. It'll be fine, the GFC is lifting.'

She was unconvinced, but I knew I was right.

Until last night.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have seen the darkness that lurks in the heart of Britain.

Oxford St shops, in the two hours before closing, a fortnight before Christmas.

With a sale on at Debenhams.

Now I know that a sizeable number of you are already laughing at me for shopping at such a time, and a few are saying 'Debenhams, Brammers? Really?' (It was there.), but I needed a coat and some walking boots rather badly. One look at the locust-accosted shelves in Sale Land and I fled to John Lewis (though not before grabbing a tube of Smashbox primer from the lovely Irish lass on the ground floor, very sweet, extremely helpful, name of Clare if you are passing through.)

John Lewis was much as I remembered it: calm, organised, spacious, and well stocked. After flirting with one of their own brand macs, and a gorgeous Planet wool coat, I bout a Barbour oiled cotton hip-length coat, which was suitably country meets inner urban for my lifestyle (and yes, I was saddened to find that I revert to type, but there you have it). If you are over 5'5", though, I heartily recommend running into Oxford St John Lewis and snapping up the Planet coat that I rejected; they had a number in sizes from 8 to 16 and it was luscious blue bouclé wool with a fuchsia lining and divine cut at the shoulders, so that even my swimmer's shoulders looked dainty and elegant, with beautiful sweeping hem. Where I the slightest bit taller, it would have been mine, especially as it was marked down from £435 to about £140. Alas, I looked as though I had been borrowing clothes from a proper grown up. Boots were also acquired, fingers crossed no blisters result!

What sparked the need for a coat, you might ask? A day at Hampton Court Palace, where I kept warm by dint of much walking, but could feel cold seeping into the bones. I was enormously impressed by the Palace, the staff are simply excellent and the costumed re-enactors lovely and appropriate.

Though Henry kept flirting with me. I dropped a curtsey as he appeared, thinking it only mete to get into the spirit of things (and having had curtseying drummed into me at school, it is nice to be able to break it out occasionally, Australia affords few opportunities), and he paused to say 'A pretty bob from a pretty lass' and then continued in like vein. 'Your Grace is too kind,' I replied and sought to sidle away.

At this point the man playing Thomas Seymour intruded. 'It is the fashion at court for ladies to curtsey to the floor, good madam.'

'Indeed, my lord, but in this skirt I could not do so whilst preserving my modesty.'

'Really?' said Henry. 'Is it French?'

The kitchens were my favourite part, as their fabric is little altered since Tudor times. The staff who maintain them have done very fine work, from the crockery to the receipts on hooks around the place. It was fascinating and provoking and I can feel that Tudor novel lurking at he back of my brain: I may need to distract it with fanfic until I have time for it.

One tip if you ever want to go to Hampton Court Palace: the guides say that the R68 bus from Richmond is a good way to get there. Having just missed the train from Waterloo, I decided to give this a try. Waiting for the next train would have been far quicker. However, the bus itself is a lovely route and travels through beautiful Teddington, which made me laugh, as I had forgotten how very nice it is when I named a character after it recently.
prone to mischieftreacle_tartlet on December 12th, 2009 08:53 am (UTC)
Last year I found myself in Big W on Christmas eve, which was frightening enough before the kitchenware department started giving away free promotional paring knives. I abandoned my basket in my haste to escape...
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 12th, 2009 09:00 am (UTC)
And rightly so!
anexianaanexiana on December 12th, 2009 09:02 am (UTC)
Reading about your travels is lots of fun. =)

I have exams right before xmas...so I'm doing my shopping on the weekend before. I'm a little afraid for my soul. >_< But I'm glad you got out alive and with boots! Are they pretty boots?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on December 12th, 2009 09:08 am (UTC)
More sturdy, but they do make my legs look nice: ankle-length Cats in tan leather, cross a pair of jodphur boots with cowboy boots and add a chunkier sole and you will have a good image of them.

Good luck with your shopping! My thoughts will be with you!
Meredythmeredyth_13 on December 12th, 2009 09:29 am (UTC)
Darling, how like you to have two of the gentlemen players flirting with you, AND be able to carry on a very proper conversation about court manners at the same time. *roflmao*

Sometimes you are ridiculously wonderful. The rest of the time you are simply amazingly wonderful.

Yaye for finding a coat and boots! Finally! That Planet coat sounds lovely, although a 16 would not go over my upper arms. *sigh* Ah well, it's not as though I don't have the world's largest coat collection. (they seem to be the only items of clothing I acquire in any fashion at all).

And honestly, if you want to see the dark side of humanity, you should try going to Highpoint for a movie on a Saturday afternoon two weeks before Christmas. *dies of the horror* Fortunately St. Anthony still loves me, and a parking space was obtained with only minor apoplexy on C's part.

*hugs you*
Shivshiv5468 on December 12th, 2009 10:16 am (UTC)
Id it Frecnh?

Gurgles with laughter.
inamacinamac on December 12th, 2009 10:22 am (UTC)
'Really?' said Henry. 'Is it French?'

ROFL. I really must go to Hampton Court again - haven't been since the last rennovation and I, too, have this Tudorbethan story nagging me which could do with another shot of inspiration.

Winter is the best time for the tourist sites (though the boat is the best way to visit HC, pity it doesn't run in winter.)

The coat sounds eminently sensible, if not as classy as the Planet one.
cassie_blackcassie_black12 on December 12th, 2009 10:30 am (UTC)
Debenhams had a sale on? How unusual *G*

Also, I love Hampton Court. When I was younger my dream was to work as one of the guides there so I could spend all day dressed like Anne Boleyn
Jaeenchanted_jae on December 12th, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
OMG, I want to travel with you!
uminohikariuminohikari on December 15th, 2009 03:43 am (UTC)
Is it French?
brb, laughing too hard to type :D