Thursday, March 20, 2008

Consumer overconfidence

Woman On a Mission, it must be said, is not my usual mode; such drivenness as I am capable of usually lies elsewhere. But today I was in quest of the perfect wedding gift.

Because of reasons (as ThirdCat so fetchingly puts it), the prospective bride and groom are particularly difficult to shop for. But they entertain. They entertain a lot, and they do it in style.

After pondering this fact for while and making a few false starts, I suddenly knew exactly what I wanted and was almost sure where I could get it.

So I headed out to Adders' poshest shopping hub, Burnside Village (pronounced "Vee-yarzh", as in "Tar-zhay") and made for a shop I had walked past many times but never actually ventured inside before. I couldn't remember its name, but I'd always seen beautiful high-end table linen and decorative bedding in the window.

As I approached, hoping it hadn't disappeared since I last looked (the Irish Linen shop that used to be across the road certainly had, so this was do or die), I slowly made out the words on the sign outside 'QU*EN B*E LINEN'. This, reader, was more than I had dared to hope for. I felt like a leopard upwind of a lame antelope. I went in and approached the woman behind the counter.

'Can I help you?' she asked.

'I hope so,' I replied. 'I'm looking for a set of twelve good-quality ecru linen table napkins, preferably with a restrained amount of drawn threadwork or damasking or some other kind of traditional self-embroidery.'

The woman looked at me incredulously over her glasses, and didn't reply for a minute. Oh dear I thought, perhaps they don't come in sets of twelve. Perhaps she is insulted that I felt the need to stipulate 'good quality'. Perhaps she doesn't know what ecru means, though surely not. Perhaps I have mispronounced the word 'damasking', or indeed perhaps the word 'damask' doesn't really exist as a verb at all, much less in the gerundive mood. And actually this incredulity I see before me is starting to get a bit oppressive. I wonder what the problem is.

Finally the woman opened her mouth and spoke.

'Linen?' she said. 'You want linen?'

23 comments:

genevieve said...

hahahaa. Just realised I don't really know what ecru is either.
Damask, yes. Linen, all sorted. Ecru is a shade of cream???
Hope you reach that unreachable star, PC.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Ecru is indeed a Deeper Shade of Cream (as in unbleached calico or indeed, I suppose, unbleached linen) which anyone working in a shop called Something Something Linen ought to know, and she did, as it turned out. I ticked every box but the pure linen -- got half and half linen/cotton blend, which must suffice.

fifi said...

But you SAID linen.

Was she just startled at the specificity of your request, or had the shop in fact morphed into a something else shop and not changed the SIGN?

Pavlov's Cat said...

As I understood her, she was saying that she thought a request for pure linen table napkins in 2008 was unrealistic. Which leads me to wonder how often they make pure linen table napkins these days (and who 'they' might be).

But I don't wonder that as much as I wonder why someone whose shop actually has the word 'Linen' in its name should be quite so gobsmacked when someone asks for some.

Stephanie Trigg said...

You do know the great Joyce Grenfell skit — "Two dozen double damask dinner napkins" — don't you?

ThirdCat said...

Yes, but I want to know, were you wearing navy shoes or gold?

Francis Xavier Holden said...

ecru - true - prue - true - blue

JahTeh said...

They'll be happier with the linen/cotton blend. Pure linen is a monster to iron and get stains out of unless they have the kind of guests that don't dribble. I inherited linen table cloths from my mother in law which her mother had embroidered with cutwork. I'll be handing those down the the granddaughters so I hope ironing doesn't go out of fashion.

lucy tartan said...

this is what sewing machines are for.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Stephanie -- now that you mention it, of course I remember it. We got taken to see Joyce Grenfell at Her Majesty's when we were kids.

3C -- battered black Rockport cross-trainers much the worse for wear. EPIC FAIL.

JahTeh -- I knew about the ironing, but I wondered about the stains. I agree that the blend will be slightly easier-care.

Ms Tartan* -- ah, but no machine will do the kind of drawn-thread work that Granny McGuinness used to make.

Mind you, I did haul out the ancient Janome to make eight round white tablecloths for my father's wedding in 2004. And did the flowers.

Now that I think about it, I also made a set of place mats and napkins for my mother for Christmas 1979 -- drawn-thread work and a Jacobean embroidery pattern. I've got them somewhere -- I should dig them out and blog them.

*I look forward to the pleasure of addressing you as Dr Tartan.

TimT said...

Seven heart laughs at this beatifully-worded post! Not a bad way to start a Good Friday. Hope you have a great easter, PC.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pavlov's Cat said...

Thank you for those kind words, TimT. Happy to oblige.

Anonymous, your pointlessly hostile comment has been deleted and any more from you will go the same way. If you don't like the blog, don't read it.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mummy/Crit said...

Burnside Vilage is a funny place - my ex-MIL lives very close to it, so it was the shopping centre of choice, but ti doesn't surprise me that there might be a shop with 'linen' in its name that didn't stock things of linen...

Helen said...

But you SAID linen.

Was she just startled at the specificity of your request, or had the shop in fact morphed into a something else shop and not changed the SIGN?


Cheese shop!!!!1!1

Anonymous said...

Shiva

Grunt

redcap said...

Oh, te he he! I thought we were in for a Prue and Trude experience for a momnent. (I used to work on the paper that covers Burnside and have far too much experience of gold sandals etc.) I'm so glad that you had it over the Prudes of this world.

Ozfemme said...

lol... I'm with thirdcat but I was going to suggest you could just buy the happy couple a nice set of gold sandals....

Anonymous said...

donner nipkins?

Kathleen said...

I must say - although my mother would KILL me for it - that I find unironed linen, including the damask napkins we inherited from my boyfriend's great-aunt, absolutely delightful. The wrinkles make it a bit more insouciant chic, less "together", which is closer to my still studenty style.

Linen is so, so easy to fetishise. I went through a huge stage of collecting it about five years ago - I think it was my way of dealing with the desire to nest. I now have a beautiful collection - but also, alas, friends who are used to paper napkins and insist on using the "good stuff" to mop up wine stains. Argh! And this when I have no lavender bushes in the back yard to bleach them on!

genevieve said...

I have some appliqued table 'linen' I always thought of as linen, but now that I think about it properly, it's obviously cotton. Don't think I could really hack ironing real linen.

And I did want to say, how good is it that this THREAD is still going..... :-)
Have a lovely time at the nuptials, PC.

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