Designer Grunge

A picture in Saturday’s Herald Magazine has just made me guffaw with laughter.  It’s in the fashion section, and it is of a beautiful woman modelling a white cotton voile tunic, a pair of jeans, and a pair of grey leather ballet pumps.  The jeans look like a remnant of clothing worn by someone who has spent a weekend at home doing slapdash DIY painting, or who has just survived the detonation of a bomb in a confined space.

“Painted and frayed denims – £175.”

I rather admire the style of young women who wear trousers lacerated across the knees.  It’s a young person’s statement.  Somebody of my age, on the other hand, adopting such a fashion, would not look like a chic waif, but rather a homeless vagrant.  Not a pretend tramp; a real one.  Mind you, I still think such a look might be preferable to that of some chaps I know, contemporaries of mine who, for reasons best known to themselves, think it a good idea to swan around the countryside wearing bright orange corduroys.  Then there’s the rural aristocracy.  They actually do allow their corduroys to degenerate into something not unlike the fragment on the girl from Colours Agency.  But they would never dream of expending money to acquire such a look.

The three biggest rip-offs in the modern world are to be found in the worlds of food and wine, fashion, and real estate.  You can usually tell if something is being marketed at a fantastically inflated price because the language of the pitch becomes hyperbolic.  Prosciutto of lamb sweetbreads pitchblended in an emblazoned béarnaise swamp showered in a crouton farce…. £75 supplement…  A rare acquisition opportunity: a truly delightful one bedroom mews garden flat (ie basement) with many period features, in need of some renovation, in the Georgian heart of Edinburgh’s New Town… offers over £1.5m…     Mind your wallet.

It was a very long time ago, in Primary School, that I first became aware of the truth, that, with the right pitch, it is possible to get somebody to swallow, literally, anything.  Sam, in the class ahead of me, was big, placid and gentle.  He was a hypnotist.  In the playground sheds, before a small audience, he hypnotised Wally, using a watch on a gold chain.  The watch swung to and fro and Sam addressed Wally in an undertone.  An occasional snigger from the crowd would quickly be silenced.  After a time Sam asked Wally to raise his hand in the air.  He appeared satisfied that he had achieved in Wally a state of trance.  He took a large safety pin from his blazer lapel, unclipped it, and took Wally’s hand.  He told Wally what he was going to do, and that he would feel no pain.  He pushed the pin into the fold of skin between Wally’s thumb and forefinger, right up to the hilt.  Wally never flinched.  Sam went on with his monotonous dirge.  He took the pin out and stuck it back in his lapel.  There was no bleeding.  Then he told Wally he was going to wake him up, by counting backwards.

Five four three two one

Wally blinked once and looked uncertainly around him.

Someone asked, “Won’t he get lockjaw?”

Sam said, “No,” with absolute confidence.  The crowd dispersed.  I lingered.  What happened next, the show’s aftermath, was much more interesting than the show itself.  Sam took a crumpled white paper bag out of his pocket and tore it open to reveal a slab of very dark brown stuff, stuck down on the paper.  He broke a piece off, prized it off the paper, and put it in his mouth.  He gestured the bag towards me.


I shook my head.


“What is it?”

“It’s s****.”



He crunched with relish.  “It’s okay.  It’s been specially treated.  It tastes good.”  He snapped off another piece and proffered it.  Wally took it and put it in his mouth.  That was when I realised that, with the right pitch, you could persuade anybody of anything, sell anybody anything, get anybody to swallow anything.

And why should I be surprised?  Were we not the first generation rediffusion kids?


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