Secret Shops

Well, dearies. Delft and Antwerp were really very entertaining in a variety of ways. Getting there was not: we turned up ever so early, and were searched practically unto the rummaging of orifices, swore to the non presence of handcream etc. in our exiguous personal luggage, and were sitting on the checked in side when there was a message to say that the sodding plane was cancelled. We went back to landside and joned a long, resentful queue of enraged customers for KLM 1444. It was all most anxious, but it became apparent that we could be shuffled onto the BMI flight going out an hour later. Which promptly caused us to wonder of course whether this was a little deal KLM and BMI had cooked up; save a flight and we’ll do you a favour somewhere else, OK? Meanwhile our luggage had to be reclaimed from KLM, reissued with BMI tags, and put back into the system. Come Schiphol, I was not totally astonished to find that half a dozen of us were left luggageless. Which at the moment, is a big fat nuisance, since you can carry so little. By the time we left Schiphol it was about half past three, so we stopped in Leiden, which we know and understand, to buy — among other things — contact lens fluid, toothpaste, moisturiser, underwear, a clean shirt. I blessed the basic cynicism which had caused me to stick both our spectacles in my handbag. Pausing only to dodge the most boring Professor in Europe who was sighted coming up the Rapenburg (we hid behind a tree), we then went on to Delft where we had a hotel, terribly hot and cross, for summer still reigned in the Low Countries, and we were inevitably, wearing our heaviest items of clothing. The next day, I went clothes shopping. It has to be said that generally, Dutch clothes are not very nice. This particular season, the shops were full of skinny models in over-decorated, rather random garments with asymmetric hems, and/or odd outbreaks of lace, leather, or sequins. Delft is well supplied with exquisite toothpick-shaped blondes, who were rushing in and out of these emporia with much enthusiasm. It is also very well supplied with economy-sized vrouwen wearing simple tunics, jackets and trousers. I began to consider mugging one and ripping her clothes off. ‘There must’, I said, after a while, ‘be secret shops. Contraband articles for the unfashionable’. We wended our way back to the hotel by a slightly indirect route, and in a dusty road under the elevated train line, I found a secret shop. It was run by a large economy sized lady, and yielded two pairs of plain trousers and a gypsy skirt, all linen, for not very much at all especially since they were half price left-over summer stock. I had acquired t-shirts from somewhere in town, so that was me pretty well sorted. But I did wonder how this all works. The expansive proprietress was running a little, almost hidden, establishment; yet a cold look at Delft womanhood in general, versus the town-centre cool-kidz-clothes, suggested that she might be clothing a third of the population. Either that, or there are secret shops everywhere.
Returning to the baggage question — I fear that my beautiful tartan bag was not such a beautiful idea after all. Both our bags got put on a subsequent flight having been left on the tarmac at Aberdeen, but while the Professor’s bag was sent on to the hotel, mine was not. It got to Schiphol, but it looked sufficiently expensive that (though nobody is admitting this in so many words) a baggage handler nicked it. They won’t have been that pleased (thank God I didn’t take a computer, though I thought of it), but the Professor has lost five handmade shirts from the Tropical Godfather’s tailoring business, including the beautiful silk one, and I have lost some of my nice Scandinavian linen kit. The important thing, though, is that the Prof’s bag came back, since it had the ADDRESS BOOK, without which life becomes really extraordinarily difficult, and his hairbrush which is a family heirloom. The rest is stuff, though I would rather not have lost it.
The Quiet American did such a wonderful job with the animals they really seem barely to have noticed we’d gone. Miss Kit and Mrs Grey Cat are on infinitely better terms. We’ll tell you about Antwerp on another occasion.

5 Responses to “Secret Shops”

  1. the tropical godfather Says:

    My darlings - from the sound of it I really think it might have been pleasanter just to get into a knife fight in one of the opium dens in which Turriff-les-Bains no doubt abounds. For then you could have had a restful week in hospital.

  2. Andreas minor Says:

    I seem to remember reading something about an almost-lost African (native American?) language in which the concept of ownership doesn’t exist. You never own anything - all objects and buildings are with you, and you share the same space until you don’t. At which point they’ve moved on. If only I could apply such zenlike equivalence to my own life, I wouldn’t have so much stuff on shelves, desks and under my bed. Sorry, so much stuff wouldn’t be with me under my bed. Hope the missing items turn up.

  3. carol Says:

    As a firm believer in the philosophy that scruffy-bags get left alone (although it’s eaasy to see the fun in acq

  4. carol Says:

    - oh- that was weird - threefold weird, in fact

    uiring a cheery tartan one on general principals) I can only commiserate and share the relief that cherished bits survived the ordeal. As I tend to lack portable heirlooms (20 years of Islington burglaries will do that) I have never evolved a do-not-travel-with-them policiy. But I might have, if I’d had the wherewithal to practice with. Dunno. Today I am trying to buy a South African satchel for half the price (airmail included) of ones on Camden Market, and a healty zero less than the West End’s idea of a reasonable price for non-designer cow-based items. Sadly, my old one is now SO scruffy/ lived-in/ time honoured that it has at least three Mobius holes in the stitching, together with various cobbling back together of handle, shoulder strap and buckles, that it honourable retirement beckoneth. Leather good can be put out to pasture, can’t they?

    Will give your secret shop theory some serious consideration- you’re on to something , I’m sure.

  5. canadian professor Says:

    You can now enlist the services of St Anthony on-line. He has had so many other commissions jesuitically appropriated to lost objects that he may be glad to be back on the track, notably of a tartan bag.

    Type Messnger of St. Anthony into the search line.

    Visa too. Much easier than pen, paper, envelope, stamp, remembering to take it to the post.

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