Leggings - Extravagance!


for direct link:   https://www.debenhams.com/home/soft-furnishings

As I said before, I had an idyllic lifestyle wandering the world, visiting people who said they were my relations – and some of them were.  I was considered spoilt by some, however I managed fairly well given the Bentley, the pink rolls, and Parker or Mr. Payne for company, and protection.  I had not grown since the war and had stayed about the size of a regular six-year-old, which put me at some risk.

At one point I went to see Haile Selassie and his family at their hideaway palace next to the jungle.  I was driven out there by car.  Inside the palace was decorated in a mixture of African and Arabian ways, which inset couches and beds, with cushion’s so rich with colour and fabrics that we do not see them here in the United Kingdom.  I was entranced by the way it was, the separation of the palace into different suites of rooms, and the communal garden space in the centre.  It wasn’t safe to go out into the jungle.  Yet it was possible to treat the palace as a hide and look through the windows which were guarded by trellis’s and metal grills on both sides.  As Grandfather dealt in wool and fabrics and made them in mills across the United Kingdom, I had a great interest in them.  I had been brought up to express myself in wools and fabrics, to try out new techniques, and write patterns for the wool market.  I also loved the family tiger as I mentioned before.   There is an old story about the people of Ethiopia – that they change at a certain age and become what they really are.  It’s as if the tiger had once been human and knew what was expected of himself and us.  As a child I was told I too would change at a certain age.   That is near to me now I think.

Within the last two days of my visit -  Haile Selassie told me that he would take me to visit the cushion maker who lived quite a distance away.  It was a cottage/hut industry.  The cushions were completely hand made and decorated.  The Cushion Maker was expensive yet that was part of the whole experience of the cushion.  It was a lavish luxury item.  I was delighted.  I got ready and was taken out to meet the Cushion Maker.

We went early in the morning, so we’d miss the mid-day sun.  The sun was high ahead of us, the air was still, it was a beautiful African day with no humidity to speak of.  Haile Selassie told me that nearly always his order books were full, and that he wouldn’t sell any to anyone coming by.  When the car stopped, The Cushion Maker was outside the building waiting to greet us.  He wore a long robe and had no shoes on his feet. His feet were white with dust.  He held out his hand, so I shook it, and said I was pleased to meet him.  He showed me his most recent work which he was making.  I used to speak some Swahili, so we managed between us a small conversation.   It was beautiful with a powerful design of a lion on the front.  The colours range was from mahogany brown to brightest orange.  I hadn’t seen the design before and even Haile Selassie said it must have been a new one.  I asked him who it was for?  He laughed, and he said he’d tried it out before and had never sold it to anyone.  He thought perhaps I should have it.  He apologised to us, went back into the house and brought out another few cushions, not quite the same yet stunning in their design and colour.  They were big, as floor type cushions are.   

 He said I should buy them.  Haile Selassie told me I shouldn’t if I didn’t want too.  I mentioned the shop, Debenhams and the way we sold cushions in the United Kingdom, and perhaps we could set it up, once Grandfather approved of them that there could be an order from year to year.  I knew that a cottage industry did not produce very many cushions, and that they would be sold for a great price.  Debenhams have always provided excellent quality with reasonable price, and designer goods at a better price.  We all know the old saying, “You get what you pay for!”

He laughed, and he moved his hands in a depreciative way, “I can’t do too many cushions,” he said sadly, “I’m the only one who makes them.” 

I was sorry for him.  That his family hadn’t followed him in the act of making cushions.   I bought the cushions, at full price, which was quite a lot.  Then when I left I took them back to Debenhams for Grandfather’s approval.  I did intend to keep them for my private use, since I’d paid for them.  A few days after my arrival home the cushions arrived.  Grandfather took delivery at the shop in St. Stephens St.  I went over for breakfast, I’d either been down at Dragon Hall or stopping overnight at the castle, with the friendly ghosts for company. 

To my surprise Grandfather was most annoyed with me, first he left me to have a drink in the café, where I took out my notebook and wrote down the Interesting things that people said – always a hobby of mine.

Then he ushered me to the office to demand an explanation of the expensive cushions!  He was offended that I had bought the cushions with the firm’s monies, and I had to explain I’d paid for them myself.  It made the whole thing a little more human.  I couldn’t deny the expense of it, since he could read and write Sanskrit.   I spread the cushions out before him and explained that they were actual palace cushions, handmade and of superior quality.  That the business was dying out in the country, that he had no one to follow in his footsteps.  That I thought, perhaps, a small order for our better more discerning customers might pay off.

“You acted in pity!” he roared at me, “This is Extravagance!”   Grandfather took all the cushions, and put them in a box, “It’s going in the storeroom with your name on it,” he said grimly, “I will not have Extravagance!”

Shakily, I said, “I paid for them myself, I thought you’d like them!”

“It’s not that I don’t like them, it’s that the Extravagance of your action isn’t good business!”

I never saw the cushions again.  Yet lately on one visit to Debenhams I saw some large cushions which were reminiscent of those I found in Ethiopia, that day.  Not so expensive however as I paid out!
Which is better for our customers of course.

*Styling the Nation!"  My guardians asked me for a slogan for the shop, when I was in Scarborough with them, and this is the one I asked them to send.


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