A terrible word has been introduced at the ‘penthouse’ where my husband Charles and I live. That word is budget. We had a wedding, we had a honeymoon, there was a tax bill, and now we’re broke. Charles is being very strict on this. ‘There will be no more burying your head in the sand,’ he said finally, after forcing me to go through every transaction on my account statement. I’m on a daily budget.
I stare wide-eyed out of the window (a mechanism I’ve invented to try and avert a creased brow, ergo, wrinkles) while I wait for the kettle to boil and toast to toast (in-flat dining now required for all meals). I am brought round by the smell of burning and high-pitched wheezing. I remember that the toaster I’ve had since Battersea (my first flat post-Mother, a... while ago) only burns toast and the kettle doesn’t switch itself off and thus empties in a screaming steaming mess unless you stop it early. Which I did not.
Our beloved attic flat, once so shiny and pretty, is now somewhat dog-eared and in need of TLC. I bring up this point, showing Charles the broken appliances, threadbare sheets and piles of tubes casing all the fabulous prints from every exhibition I’ve attended for a decade, none of which have made it into a frame or onto a wall. We revisit the budget. He goes to the spare room and starts pulling out garments and accessories that ‘I have never seen you wear’ (he says). ‘This one still has tags on it! From Net A Porter!’ (he says). He creates a ‘for sale’ pile. My lip trembles, and I say that I have less than nothing to wear and there is a new season of things I want to wear, and now what shall I do? A new word is introduced. That word is compromise. So, here goes…
Picture frames Vs Christopher Kane trainers
We need eight picture frames. The trainers will cost £300. Charles knows what Christopher Kane means (expensive), so lying won’t work once he sees the label.
I could weep over how much I want the neon-pink pair. I work out I can have four (Ikea) frames and a new pair of white Nike Air Force 1s to replace my smelly old ones.
Toaster and kettle Vs wide-leg trousers Technically, I already own a pair of wide-leg trousers. They’re from Whistles, and have been hanging forlornly waiting to have the hem re-sewn. I can make my mother fix them for free and enjoy a charcoal-free breakfast. Tedious, but true.
Bedding Vs a great dress that will work everywhere
Something I learnt in The White Company (while pretending I was a banker’s wife musing over renovating my Holland Park palace) is that waffle comes at a price. I buy a new sheet in the sale at Zara Home and put the pillowcases on next month’s wish list. Now I don’t really want to give away this fashion editor’s secret but... Finery has a brilliant crop of dresses that are cut to accommodate boobs and a bottom. I select a chic obi belted navy one that will be good on its own or over jeans or wide-leg trousers. Ergo v versatile. And only £65.
An actual wardrobe Vs entire Gucci look
My beloved clothing collection resides on two rails and two shelves (accessories/knitwear). I get misty-eyed over built-in cupboards. I also get misty-eyed over Look 36 from the s/s 2016 Gucci show. I call this conundrum an aesthetic impasse.
Pouffe Vs Mansur Gavriel bag
I’m in dire need of a giant tote bag for days when a nifty cross-body is not enough. I had one from Topshop – it was fringed, it was dreamy. But I overloaded it, the strap broke and it now sits pitifully in the corner of my room. The black Mansur Gavriel one is £192 more than the Saint Laurent one I really want. Against this outlay is the fact that every time we sit down to watch TV, Charles and I have a foot fight over the rather horrid wooden block from Ikea which I’ve had since Bristol (University, a... long while ago). He pores over Made.com looking at pouffes with a longing that breaks my heart a little. I feel on this matter, however, we shall both be left unfulfilled.
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