Sunday, October 30, 2005


One good thing about the clocks going back today was that I got to Greenwich market early. I was only intending to buy some cheese but my little magpie eye spotted a pair of vintage Salvatore Ferragamo black satin evening shoes in exactly the style made famous by Marilyn Monroe. They were cheap as chips, my size and would have been already snapped up by some other beady eyed chick if I'd arrived an hour later.

I am feeling they are somewhat Lanvinesque.
Happy happy joy joy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005


1: An eighteen quid cab fare for the 15 minute journey from Waterloo, taking in the scenic delights of Elephant & Castle and the Old Kent Road.

2: Gnarly driving rain and gale force winds.

3: A good bout of CHRONIC FOOD POISONING from the local curry house.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


We may just need to invent a new word for what Didier Ludot does. To say that he has a vintage shop does not even begin to prepare you for the amazing collection of mint condition Chanel, Hermes, Gucci, Givenchy and every other heavyweight designer you can think of that greets you as you enter his shop. I was also greeted by an enormous funny looking yet adorable bulldog that I later found out is called Kelly. Talking of Kelly, I gawped in disbelief as my mind tried to comprehend that what I was looking at was an entire rail of at least 50 pristine black patent crocodile leather Hermes Kelly bags.

We've become so used to shops that define themselves as 'vintage' but really don't have stock that different to a branch of Oxfam, except the price. Didier Ludot is in another league.

Until this Saturday the shop windows in the arcades of the Jardin du Palais Royal are home to L'Esprit Dior, an exhibition of Didier Ludot's personal collection of Dior. Each little antique shop, gallery space, even a hairdressers has quirkily imaginative displays of Dior, from it's beginnings and the new look silhouette - which I'm rather partial to, through Yves Saint Laurent to John Galliano.

The only word I can use to describe this hommage is magnificent. I don't think I've ever used that word to seriously describe something before. (Only ever in the piss taking context of 'would you look at that guy's toupee, don't you think it's truly magnificent?') A walk round the arcades, (which is a pleasant enough thing to do on any day) is like a history of fashion degree in one sitting. I went round three times and still each time I noticed something new.

There was a pair of turquoise Roger Vivier for Dior shoes, stiletto heel, pointed toe covered completely in what I think were peacock feathers, including the heel. These were displayed in the window of an antique store, in a glass box on a yellow cushion - everything about the display contrasted and juxtaposed perfectly.

I think one of the reasons I loved it so much was that here is one guy who obviously loves what he does, opening up his own private collection in an original interesting way. It felt so different to seeing that kind of thing in a museum exhibit.

All I can say is if you happen to be in Paris anytime between now and Saturday just GO!!!

I know what you're thinking, I've gone all fashiony and 'oh but darling it's magnificent!' I kiss Kaiser Karl's hand, I salute Yves Saint Laurent and his le smokings, I take my hat off to Didier. It's true. But that is because what I have been seeing is the result of originality, hard work, talent, striving for perfection and taking something to the limit of how good it can be.

And that's why I loved fashion in the first place. And I've fallen for it all over again.

The thing I keep thinking here is that whatever people choose to do, they really push it to the limit. They don't just bake a loaf of bread, they become the best at making the best bread, and become artisan bakers. They actually have a guild called something like 'The Federation of French Artisan Bakers League of Bread and Flour'. I kind of made that title up a bit but you get the general idea.

In 3 days I will be cruelly snatched away from this rarefied and refined atmosphere and dragged by Eurostar back to London. I am not sure how I will cope with this. I already find myself planning a strategy to get home from the station with the least possible exposure to ugliness and burger outlets.

Didier Ludot, 20 -24 Galerie Monpensier, 75001 Paris

Monday, October 17, 2005


When I'm trying to pick up a language there are certain words that people use again and again that I don't yet know and eventually have to look up. On a trip to Forte dei Marmi one Easter with some Florentine aristocrats those words were meraviglioso (marvellous) and spaventoso (I can't remember exactly but it means frightful or horrendous, something like that.)

Here in Paris the words I kept seeing and hearing were flanerie and loisir. Flanerie apparently means strolling, and loisir means spare time. If you could ever capture the essence of a city in two words...


I found myself in the Rue Cambon this afternoon and decided to see if I could feel the spirit of Gabrielle Chanel lingering somehow. I entered the enormous Chanel store which stretches along half the street feeling like my boots were too cheap. I don't know why I get this feeling in Paris as I used to actually work in equally intimidating designer shops in both London and Milan. Yes I used to be a snooty shop assistant in snooty snooty posh stores. But I wasn't really snooty I was very nice to people. Including shabbily dressed tourists.

So there were at least 100 members of perfectly 'Chaneled' staff, all wafting around, going in and out of doors that lead who knows where - to the inner sanctum? And each and every one of them says 'Bonjour!' And I reply 'Bonjour!' After about the 25th time I start giggling a bit and try to concentrate on the clothes.

When I was studying fashion the tutors always made this reference to the fact that the actual cost price of a Chanel jacket that sells for a couple of thousand is £45. How they knew this I have no idea. I have wandered round Chanel boutiques before, bought the odd pair of sunglasses but today there was something about the atmosphere, the way the clothes were displayed that made me examine them more closely.

A beautiful loosely woven slub silk tweedy jacket, almost ready to fall apart if you're not careful with it, had an layer of chiffon just peeking out under the hem. And when I turned up the hem it had a metal chain sewn all the way around it to make the jacket hang perfectly. I have only ever seen that before on vintage clothes in museums.

Karl, I kiss your fingerless leather begloved hand.


Today I was walking along on the Quai de la Megisserie and decided, perhaps unwisely to enter a pet shop. It was full of little fluffy kittens, and this persian kitten was all squished up against the glass. He/she looked so funny and not unlike this:

I couldn't help but laugh and then spent about the next half an hour talking to and playing with these funny little creatures through the gaps even thought there were 'do not touch the animals' signs everywhere. The man at the cash desk kept rolling his eyes but I did not care. At first I thought I should not have come in here, as it just made me miss Lola all the more. But then I wiped away the tear that was rolling down my cheek and reminded myself that I will see her again in only 5 days.

I wish I had taken a photo of the squished persian but I probably would have got kicked out. The owner was not amused at all by my being there so long.There were siamese and these funny Norwegian forest cats too. Oh, my heart melted.

There were dogs too but they were boring.

I know I sound like such a saddo cat freak but I honestly don't care.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


I spent most of this evening wrestling with a purple sinewy mass of steak entrecote. It was my own fault. I asked for it medium when as everyone knows in France that means dripping with blood, flash fried for a minute on each side.

All I could think of when attacking it was the skill required for serial killers to cut up their victims.
Having neither the sharpened canines or sufficiently sharpened steak knife to make much of a dent in it I conceded defeat and happily demolished the huge slab of gratin dauphinois that came with it.

When I was waiting to be seated, the waiter emerged from the kitchen with a huge blob of chocolate on the edge of his mouth. He showed me to my table. He kept licking the other side. So I said, 'Vous avez chocolat' in my best pidgeon French and pointed to the spot. From then on we had some kind of bond. He repaid me for saving him from further embarrassment by re filling my glass of wine at least 3 times, then only charging me for one.


Today in the Rue de Bretagne:
A red stuffed toy parrot lies on the pavement outside a cafe. The waitress kicks it to the kerb.
A patron asks, 'Il est mort?'
'Oui, il est mort,' she replies with a sigh.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Today I went to the Marche aux Puces de Vanves. I spent about three hours there, rummaging and haggling. I realIy fell for a blue enamel sign that said 'Atelier' but the price was 80 euros. I ended up buying one thing that cost one euro. And it wasn't even for me. The problem is I kind of like things when they're all clean and merchandised. If I had seen half the things I dismissed as random crap in the flea market displayed in a nice space and arranged artfully I probably would have desperately needed to own them.

Ding! I just understood the entire concept of antique and vintage stores.

Who wants to rummage at a stinky old market stall when you can pay exhorbitant prices for a bit of old tat in the Rue de Poitou from a shop that has no discernable name? What is this thing in Paris of not clearly showing the name of a place? Maybe the next step will be to remove all the merchandise from display so you have to know exactly what you want and go into the empty space and ask for it.
Je voudrais some sequinned headphones and a stuffed antelope.

I do love the Marais and particularly the area just into the 3rd that I'm talking about but I worry how it will be in 2 or 3 years. I really hope it doesn't succumb to the same fate as Brick Lane and Shoreditch.

A breath of fresh air and a welcome respite from the hype in the same area today was the Marche des Enfants Rouges on the corner of Rue Charlot and Rue de Bretagne. Organic veg, sushi, Moroccan, Italian, flowers, cheese and a friendly atmosphere.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Observations about Paris:

People look you up and down. After 3 days of feeling inferior and hating Parisians I realised that's just what they do. They're looking at your shoes, checking you out. It's not done maliciously.

Even when it's really crowded no one does that thing of not knowing which way to pass you and going, 'Oh, er oops, sorry'. I don't know if this says anything about the French but somehow they always know which way to pass.

If you say 'bonjour' when entering a shop and 'au revoir' when you leave, or at least make an effort to speak in French then people will be really nice to you. I learned this the hard way.

On a Sunday in the Marais you may observe thousands of sparkling Converse boots being herded down Rue Vielle du Temple and Rue des Francs Bourgeois by their owners.
They are not battered and beloved like mine, they look brand new and EVERYONE wears them.

Fashion week is considered an important event by the city as a whole. Perhaps because of this you feel you are actually there to appreciate the clothes. It's somehow more friendly and dare I say it, fun.

Boulangeries make you fat. French girls are freakishly thin. I haven't quite worked this one out yet as right now my jeans are straining to contain all the baguettes I've eaten.

French girls are taught how to knot a nonchalant chignon as soon as they have enough hair to work with.

When the sky is blue and I walk accross the Seine, my head spins with just how beautiful it all is. Total cheesiness alert:

I feel as if I can't quite take in any more beauty or perfection. AND I have been writing poetry. A whole notebook full so far.

Go on, take the piss.

Everyone I have met here is a writer, poet, artist or creative type.

French boys are cute and sexy. They actually speak to you in bars and when they say 'enchante' I forget it really just means 'pleased to meet you' and kid myself that they are really enchanted.

Every non French person I have met who lives in Paris has a variation on the story that they came for a holiday and stayed for 1, 10, 20 years.

The wine I always drink from Nicolas in London which costs £4.95 (very reasonable) costs 2 euros 90 here. 'What a bargain' I thought.
Then I saw tramps drinking it in the Place des Vosges. Admittedly they were upmarket tramps, being there in MY neighbourhood, but still..
Perhaps zey are shipping it over to us to snigger at ow stupid we are to love ze tramp plonk.

I love Paris but I miss Lola. Her passport is almost finalised. Soon she will be able to travel. She is fully vaccinnated against 'La Rage'.

C'est tout.