I have branched out into a new side-line - retail management.
H.I.'s daughter, being strapped for cash as usual, is looking for ways to keep her effing bank happy, despite working her arse off in a well-known fashion chain shop (as she has been doing for over 10 years now without a pay-rise), and has decided to shed some of the articles of clothing, shoes and accessories that she has accumulated over the years, and thought about eBay.
Her entire family are not what you would call techno-geeks, so it has fallen on me to set up, photograph and manage her new outlet, which is run under the trade-name of 'vogue-train' (if you fancy these shoes or anything else).
She has been working in 'fashion retail' ever since she grew up, and much of that time was spent in the big stores in London, so she knows how to sell clothes. It's just a shame that her present company does not show a bit more appreciation, but I think they will survive and upper management are not traditionally known for their loyalty to staff. The perfect excuse to abuse them these days is to remind them that they are lucky to have a job at all, in todays climate. Bastards.
A few weeks ago, I took a few photos using her as a living model, but could not stop the camera-shake for laughing, so have ended up laying the items down on a background, unfilled. I don't think she would forgive me for showing the best picture of all, where she wears an extremely waisted, collarless, brown leather jacket buttoned to the neck, together with an ill-fitting and voluminous sort of pale skirt below, a Hermes headscarf above, and a pair of shoes that look like Cornish Pasties. The overall impression is that of an Amish woman who has turned her back on her culture, and set off to town in the hopes of finding a modern, submissive husband. Many of these clothes have been given to her to sell, you understand.
What you have to understand about U is that she is a genuine, English eccentric. Not one of those fake, irritating ones that try their best to be contrary for no other reason than to attempt to impress strangers. She is the real thing. When I think about this side to her character (bear in mind that I have known her since she was 3 years old, so I know what I say) then I am reminded of Laurie Lee's mother in 'Cider with Rosie', and this comparison was most apt during the 18 years she spent bringing up her children on a shoe-string.
I will never forget driving to a sea-side resort with her and the very young children in the back of the car once, and hearing her say, "No Darling. You don't put bogies back into your nose once you have pulled them out."
One of the most positive aspects of this eccentricity is that she is immediately at home with total strangers, and this is a good attitude to have if you are in clothing retail. If a rich and titled woman walks out of a changing room wearing a ridiculously inappropriate bit of clothing, then U - more often than not - will burst out laughing, and it is never taken the wrong way by the customer. Most people would feel mocked or insulted, but she is so straightforwardly direct and honest, that she has a loyal band of women from all walks of life who insist on being served by her and her alone. She has been like this since a child. Even her teenage children think she is bonkers - in a good sort of way. Mind you, they think I am too. On my recent birthday, I received a text message from the darling girl (17 years old) who - like the rest of you - cannot understand my obsession with old candlesticks. It read: "Have a lovely day, buying crap."
When she lived in London, she shared a flat with an outrageously camp, hedonistic, gay Frenchman (also in fashion retail) with whom she also shared the only bed in the place - for years. They would make other arrangements when bringing guests back to stay, but neither of them thought that there was anything odd about the situation in general. They went on holiday to France once, and he insisted that they visit the country house of Brigitte Bardot. When they got there, he spent about half an hour leaning over the high wall shouting "Brigitte! Brigitte!" at the poor woman, who was probably cowering indoors, surrounded by cats.
U herself thinks that her personality was formed during her upbringing as an only child, by a father who dressed and behaved like an English, non-musical version of Lou Reed, and a mother who looked and behaved like an Italian film-star. H.I.'s obsession with designer labels is also blamed as an inherited trait. Christmas was not overly celebrated by the family either, but she has made up for it over the years - do you remember the videos of last year?!
Whatever made her, I'm glad it did and I wouldn't trade her for a Stepford Wife any day.
Maybe I will look out that photo after all....