London Fabric Shopping Day Two

by Erin on July 23, 2006

liberty tana lawn first prize

Well, I went to Liberty today, where I drove the salesclerks to distraction by wandering around in circles thumbing the names of fabrics into my Treo (to find them again, in case I wanted to buy them at some later date), and by looking at Every Single Bolt on the sale table and Every Single Cut on the remnant table, before buying three meters of First Prize. (The picture here is to an eBay auction, in case you want some for yourself.) I've often hesitated over the "Buy It Now" button on First Prize auctions before, but it's MUCH nicer in person. I am going to make (surprise!) a Duro dress with it. Dark red banding, I think.

After that I managed, smugly, to find the right bus to the V&A, and (not so smugly) to miss my stop (there's some kind of "How do you get to the Royal Albert Hall/Practice, practice, practice" joke to be made here, but I'm not the one to do it). Thankfully, after I beat my way back against the tide and made it there, my friend S. was still waiting, having not given up on the Hapless Yank, which is my preferred archetype when traveling abroad. We gorged ourselves on the fashion exhibition (there was a little tv documentary from the sixties on "swinging London/Carnaby Street fashion" and the thing that shocked me was that they were smoking! In the stores! How times have changed.) Then we ransacked the postcards and went and had a nice cold drink and a poke round Harvey Nichols to pay a polite call on the Marc by Marc Jacobs line (some VERY cute dresses).

S. kindly got me to the right Tube station and I rushed back for the last part of The Plan of the Day — roller skating. Yes, a city full of theatre and art and every kind of culture imaginable, and I chose … roller skating. It's a sickness. I found my train and managed to be asked for directions which I couldn't give, a favor I returned after I got out of the Kings Cross station and accosted two of what I thought were the most local-looking women around and asked them where York Way was. "We're tourists, dear," they explained patiently. (I didn't find out from where.)

Anyway, I bought directions and a pack of gum (the price of the directions being the pack of gum) at a newsagent's and was soon pointed the right way. I could hear the music pounding from a block away; always a good sign. I was frisked for weapons (I think they did this to everyone, not just people who looked American) and made it in without incident, where I got my rental skates. They were horrible wobbly things with the kind of speed-closures that cheap rollerblades have, so I asked politely if they had any "old fashioned lace-up skates" and lo, they did! I tipped mightily. They were total early-eighties throwback fake-hightop-sneaker skates but they could be laced tightly and their wobble was completely manageable.

The actual skating area was no bigger than what I could probably manage at home if I made my neighbors move their cars out of the garage (which come to think of it might be a pretty good idea if I sweep it out), and the floor was spotted with pieces of black tape which I think masked dents or rough places. I was looking mostly at the tape the first couple of times round until then all of a sudden I saw the boards of the floor. They must have been a cubit wide — I think they probably predated the invention of roller skates by quite a few years. That gave me pause (metaphorical, not literal, although there were plenty of people who felt that the skate floor was a perfectly appropriate place to pause). Sometimes you just don't understand how OLD the rest of the world is, when you come from a place where a house built in 1920 (or even 1950) can be the oldest in the neighborhood.

It was a good night for skating. The music was excellent, although what people responded to was funny — there was an exhilarating Amerie/Beyonce "1 Thing/Crazy In Love" mashup which fell upon a nearly empty floor, but Olivia Newton John's "Xanadu" had all three bachelorette parties rushing to stagger their way around in circles, singing hard. There were quite a few hen parties, which were easy to spot — they were wearing devil horns, or makeshift nurses' hats, or the bride-to-be had a balloon tied to her butt and was being accosted by a male stripper in the middle of the skate floor. No, I didn't believe it either, but since I was the only one who seemed to find it anything out of the ordinary, I sat out that song and got myself something to drink.

There were many more people wearing dresses and skirts to skate in than I see in New York, too, even if you discount the people hired to skate in drag. They (the ones in drag) were dressed in a kind of cocktail waitress/stewardess-of-the-future getup, very shiny, but it looked a little warm for skating. (I took it as more evidence that OF COURSE people who like to wear dresses — who, in fact, go out of their way to wear dresses — like skating.)

I only fell once (trying to avoid someone who stopped stock-still to wave at their mates in a kind of "hey ma, lookit me" moment) and even that was just a skinned knee, so no real harm done, but I figured that even though I was having such a good time that time itself stopped (not really — it was just my watch that stopped, but close enough), I regretfully turned in my skates and left. I walked back to the station and decided to squeeze the last juice from my day pass by getting on a bus, instead of the National Rail. I find that I really prefer the bus to the Tube here in London. I can't really put together the neighborhood jigsaw pieces unless I see where they match up; coming up from the Tube station I might as well be landing on the moon, I'm so disoriented. With a bus (or better yet, by walking) I can stitch them all together so that the disconnected pieces of the city become a whole quilt in my head.

Unfortunately, as with most quilts, I'm going to have to leave the rest of the pieces in a box for a good long time, since I'm headed home tomorrow. Sorry this is so long; I didn't (as the saying goes) have time to make it any shorter!

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