Thursday, August 28, 2008

Remarks on Russia and Reverie on Retailing; 26th August

Thoughts... as I walk to the Autobank to fund lunch and interwebs...

Russian young women are GORGEOUS - slim, beautiful skin, graceful. They walk along Nevsky owning the city.. one prevaling fashion is a fitted dress with a fullish skirt, worn quite short over long, long tanned legs and high, high heels. Many of them are wearing high-heeled Mary Janes, which is a demure look on the feet making a strong comparison to the luscious legs and body above!

Another look, although even here it is fading out, is the skinny jean with bare midriff. Most of the women who wear this look overdo the trimmings, especially with high-heeled pumps, sparkly tops, major makeup and fussy hair. I have even seen a few Paris wannabes wearing a dog in their handbag!

Many of the more mature women wear tailored pantsuits; as I have remarked before they fit incredibly well, and the fabrics are high quality and as up-to-date in fashion terms as anything I see in a Vogue magazine. The men, by contrast, are mostly blokes. They wear jeans and hoodies and loafers or sneakers. From time to time I see a fella in a gorgeous suit; the favoured look is a slightly shiny grey fabric (sometimes it’s the gloss of silk), a purrfectly-ironed white shirt, and a quiet tie. Woven leather loafers and an honest to god leather briefcase complete this look. The other prevailing look for men is rather handsome - very short (but not clipped) hair, a thin black jumper, very form-fitting (slight drooling by writer), and dark jeans with leather shoes. They look great, a bit dark and dangerous , their strong features are enhanced by the short hair and the trim look they have because of the fitted clothes. I much prefer it to the slouchy jeans and hoodie look, although I reckon that might be THE most comfy gear on the streets.

And I'm happy to report that I haven’t seen so many little girls dressed up as pole-dancers, as one does in Australia. I’m glad to see that fashion seems unpopular, although I did see padded bra tops in a children’s clothes section in the big department store, the other day. Pffft I say.


Later... I’ve had a shopping fix of my own - I asked Olga and Ivan (staff at the hospital) where to go to buy ordinary clothes, not tourist trap shops, and they sent me off to the wonderfully-named “PIG” shopping mall, which is where I bought my watch the other day. First I have to buy M a b/p machine. Easy! I find the 24 hour Apotek (chemist) and the pharmacist demonstrates a wrist-machine - I note that HER blood pressure isn’t so good; the reading is quite high! Anyway, purchase #1 successfully made. Next door is a huge supermarket, so I wander in, looking for bananas (nyet, of all the rather wonderful fruit and veg on show, the bananas were the only poor quality item, bugger). I found the washing powder but. I noticed a security guard watching me closely while I queued for the till - I had my pack with me, and I thought he might challenge me outside to check that I hadn’t nicked anything (has HE been reading the blog and seen the confession about the geraniums? - and no, Miss B, I am NOT returning them to the Astoria. If you could see the obscene displays of wealth in that hotel! - why even in the entryway they have fantastically ornate and expensive porcelain-ware on display, and the boring old windows opening the cafe to the street have gold leaf urns on the ledges, ick). The guard didn’t stop me, I’m glad about that even though I know I didn’t have contraband in me bag...

I go upstairs to all the clothes shops, to see if I can find a cardie for me, a pair of jeans, or a jumper for M. The boutiques are full of tiny clothes, being inspected by tiny people. Hm... even the English clothes store has a limited range of sizes - their idea of a size 16 is my idea of a small 14, unless we 16s are meant to wear our clothes so tight that every teeny bulge and freckle shows. NOT for me. Even the ‘sloppy’ cardies are made to be worn with a waist belt (a disastrous look for me), and not really done up, the buttons are for show. No point to it, in my pragmatic view; what’s the point of a cardie if you can’t wrap it around you like a hug?

Next stop is a jeans shop - one of my worst nightmares for years. However I am delighted to report that in spite of the language barrier, I have purchased a pair of jeans which fit very well, and (gob drops to the floor in disbelief, cos I got loooooooong leggies) they are even too long! I think this might be only the second time in my life that I’ve been able to buy daks that are too long. It will be my pleasure to sew the hems up, one day soon. When I can bear to not wear them! Yes, I have them on now, of course I do! The shop assistant was a very non-standard person for a jeans shop (cf Australia I mean) - she was in her 30s, quite pregnant, and not even wearing jeans herself. She understood me well enough to find different shapes and sizes, and I understood her well enough to be able to make decisions about colour, and all those different leg choices you get in jeans (straight, boot, regular, comfort, etc... huh? I just avoid anything which says ‘skinny’, never wear boots, and hope for ze best..). Ta-da!!! I am delighted. [I think I really put my finger on it earlier when I described jeans as ‘so normal’. Normal is good. It’s a dangerous word in nearly all situations I reckon, but applied to putting yer daks on in the morning it’s ok I think.. hey while I’m writing this, on the teev there’s some sort of history of Russian/Baltic ancient buildings, and the background music is something I recognise with great delight (is this the gods sending me an apologetic early birdy offering???) - it’s Arvo Paert’s ‘Fratres’, oh swooon. I love this spare, elegaic music. Wowee....]

Where was I? Oh yes, in shopping mode. Well, on the strength of the successful jeans purchase (not cheap, in fact it’s the most I’ve ever paid for mere denim .. nyup I’m not gonna think about that. It seems really REALLY bad in roubles, cos to get the cost of roubles from Aussie dollars, you multiply by 20. Puts the numbers into the thousands!), I looked in a few menswear shops and found a good cotton jumper that M and I can share. It’s maroon cotton knit, cables all down ze front, maybe a touch fancy, but cotton is good, long man-shaped jumper is good, and maroon is a lovely colour for both of us. I left M wearing it at the hospital, after I staggered back there with all my stuff. It was fun unpacking all the loot, and he’s delighted with his new little travelling b/p machine. Even Olga the nurse had a play with it.

Yeah, retail therapy. As I stomped home in the rain at 9pm, I was thinking “am I shallow; easily-led; a mere money-laundering machine in human form?” - this being one of the eternal worries that women berate themselves with (I don’t know if men do it, I’m only generalising about women cos I’ve never discussed it with a bloke). But I dunno, if shopping IS a wasteful, indulgent, shallow, mindless and self-deluding pastime, it sure works. And I don’t think we can ALL be these negative things. I came round to thinking (as I passed the rich, useless gleam of the Astoria doorman’s waistcoat button) that shopping functions as a diversion, which can be a very merciful thing. And being good little capitalists, we are programmed to acquire, accumulate, enhance ... and when one has money too, it seems quite a natural process. I’m not going to enter the debate about the moral issue, if it IS a moral issue, of consumerism, I’m sticking to my point which is wondering why *I* felt better after I’d been shopping. And one can read as much into this as one likes, it’s an old, old debate which can have all sorts of irksome lurking guilts and depths of moral turpitude attached to it. Nyet to that. I think I felt better because I’d ACHIEVED something I needed to achieve - the b/p machine and the wash powder -; I was happy to get good service AND to find something I wanted - the jeans -; I was feeling affectionately happy about being able to give M another jumper, and feeling satisfied that it was a good discount for what I could see was a decent quality item (that old Virgo gratification of value for money, the elemental practicality!); and then I found an excellent giftie for my darling dorter. Which of course I can’t describe or it won’t be a sprise for her.. and the thing about THIS purchase was that it was a total impulse buy, and the young woman who tempted me into it had excellent if eccentric English, and was happy to discuss with me various words she needed to describe her wares, and to have a little sisterly sort of chat, and we were best friends in five minutes. AND it was a good price and so pretty.... heh, darling dorter, is all this driving you nuts not knowing? Sowwy...

AND my reward for all this money-for-jam activity was to see an actual cat, the second one in 10 days. This guy was a short-haired torty, quite dark, wearing a most attractive yellow collar. He eschewed any contakt with me, speaking purrfekt Russki kat in his total ignore. I didn’t want to pat him in case I got germs, this is NOT the time for me to get sick. But I went ‘puss puss’ and he went ‘staring in opposite direction because I am too supurrior to notice a mere wet stranger’. And then a woman walking a bloody great bear of a German Shepherd monster went past, and the cat had to give it a really hairy eyeball. I noticed that the dawg looked away first! This evidence of the natural order cheered me, too.

My thoughts on the value of shopping have not exactly coalesced, but I wonder why we put a moral value on it as an activity (as we do eating, ‘fatness’, purrfectly normal variations in body bits, sex, gender relations of certain kinds - eg having doors opened for one, or not; getting paid less as a workforce if you’re not a bloke; drinking ‘too much’, etc etc.). I don’t understand the moral value bit - why is it a good thing to spend money and then feel guilty afterwards? Why bother? Guilt is paralysing and leads to nothing much in the way of a good thing in my view. I prefer to examine what conscience I have and try to take a less emotional approach - if I feel ok, then I think it’s ok to feel ok. If I don’t, cos I’ve broken the Visa or paid more than I know is within my means, or is what the product is worth, then I reckon a bit of self-admonishing is about right. ... I think I’m saying the same thing in different ways, and getting PROFOUND. This is an alarming manifestation which occurs when I am tired, and/or pissed, and/or being allowed to talk too much. So I’m off to me bed, happy, OH so happy, to know that M will be released from room 2, 4th floor, American Medical Clinic, St Petersburg, tomorrow morning some time. We have until 4pm to loll about and get ready for the bus, and we’ll be in Tallinn by 11pm. Yoiks tally ho!

Today brought to you by mild cheese, the aroma of my lunchtime grilled chicken, and a few more buckets of Chanel No. 5. And I’d like it noted that I went PAST a purrfume shop at “PIG” - I dearly wanted to go in and buy a bottle of Chanel No. 5 ‘Huile Sensual’ AND I DIDN’T. I’m sorry now but.

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