Sunday, 4 December 2011
Coco and Capote and Christmas...
I've been baking banana bread and ginger cake today, and thinking about Christmas shopping, but not quite getting around to doing it; though I am hoping to do most of it at the wonderful Daunt Books.
Aside from stocking up on Paul Gallico and Truman Capote, I'm also going to be buying several signed copies of Anne Sebba's absorbing biography of Wallis Simpson, as we're doing a talk together at Keats House next Wednesday (December 7th at 7pm). Keats House is a glorious place -- worth a visit, even without sharing a glass of wine with Anne and I -- so I do hope some of you can come.
Herewith today's Closet Thinker column:
Tis the season to be jolly, but not at the expense of one’s sanity, which means that I am reining in the shopping this Christmas. Well, I say that now – as I do on the first weekend of every December – and then still find myself panic-stricken on Oxford Street a fortnight later, wild-eyed with reckless anxiety. This is absurd, given my hard-won knowledge, through bitter experience of the ghosts of Christmas past, that I hate the crush of last minute shopping, the wanton futility of it all.
But neither do I feel inclined to give up on Christmas – I love the rustle of wrapping paper, the scent of pine needles, the flickering light of candles in the darkest nights of the year. And I like giving presents, too; if only to the people I love – so if any of my nearest and dearest is reading this, please stop. (Actually, the men can read on – today, at least – because I’m better at gifts for girls.) This year, I’ve decided to plan well ahead with books and little bits of luxuries, each reflecting the other; not original, I confess, as a writer, but reading is what connects us (you and me, at this very moment). First, a signed copy of my biography of Coco Chanel or Paul Morand’s recollections of the couturiere, and one of her trademark colours in nail polish or lipstick; either the limited edition Black Pearl or Peridot varnishes – each iridescent as a jewel – or Rouge Coco lip colour in the intense red christened Gabrielle (after the founder’s first name, and the shade that she chose for herself, ‘because it’s the colour of blood and we’ve so much inside us it’s only right to show a little outside’).
Alternatively, ‘Mrs Harris Goes To Paris’, Paul Gallico’s novel about a London charlady who flies to France in search of a Dior dress; and as delightful now as it was upon publication in 1958. Best given with Dior on the side; possibly ‘Merveille’ nail polish, a lustrous special edition that might just be the same colour as Mrs Harris’s heart’s desire.
Finally, Truman Capote’s ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s' (published in the same, vintage year as Gallico’s classic), preferably accompanied by a tiny Tiffany original. Capote’s narrator chooses a St Christopher’s medal for Holly Golightly’s Christmas present, to keep her safe on her wayward journey, an amulet against ‘the mean reds’, for days that are more anxious than a bout of the blues. Come to think of it, we could all do with one of those lucky charms now…