|The new leather jacket ...|
A week ago I decided OK, no new leather jacket! I'd been looking to replace one I bought in Florence in 2001, which I've worn to death and is due for retirement. On its first outing back home 10 years ago, a lovely acquaintance greeted me from behind a table bearing those sticky name labels you wear at functions, and enthusiastically slapped one on the left side of my new jacket. When I peeled it off a couple of hours later, the surface of that deliciously soft leather came with it, leaving behind a label-shaped scar that - no matter what I tried - never faded.
So, I thought before I left home last month, time for a new jacket. But everything I'd seen was either not soft enough, or too expensive, or - this is BA, after all - over-designed.
I found one I liked in a store on Florida. This is THE shopping street, and therefore the last place you're meant to buy anything worth more than a few dollars. But it's also where the stylish stuff is, so what can you do?
The jacket I tried on was simply and elegantly designed in reasonably soft black leather but, although the arms were long enough (Plain Jane's knuckles narrowly avoid skimming the floor), the small was too small and the next size up too roomy across the back. I was swamped with assistance, spear-headed by a heavily made-up middle-aged woman with a constant flow of complimentary chat in broken English. I was given a price, then another for the necessary alterations. But the idea of going back to pick up an expensive jacket that had been altered to fit me and still didn't evokes the classic shopper's "thank you, I'll think about it" response.
It was like flicking a switch. The light went out of the woman's eyes; she fell back; barely acknowkedged my goodbye. No sale, no interest.
But the day before yesterday, browsing in a store along the street while Suzanne was scanning handbags, I found virtually the same jacket, but in softer leather. It was still the best we'd seen. When I tried it on, it fitted perfectly and instantly felt like mine.
This time the assistant was humourous, outgoing, fluent in English. And she didn't prevaricate for ages before giving me the inevitable "discount". She brought over a similarly styled jacket in cheaper, more crackly leather, then gave a couple of loud baaas and mooos to explain their origins. As we were waiting for the cashier to log my deposit, she admired Suzanne's dress then followed up the compliment by singing to her. Two things were suprising about this - well, three, if you count the fact that New Zealand shop assistants rarely sing to you - she had a real voice, and no one else in the shop turned a hair. I turned to see how her male colleague was taking it, and he wasn't taking it at all, just getting on with his work.
She told us she was a professional singer and wrote down where was singing that night. We didn't go because we were tired and lazy, and, to be frank, imagined something amateurish. When I went back yesterday to pick up my jacket she gave us her website address and I've only just now clicked on it - to hear this. Her name is Chela, and boy, can she sing. I hope we see her perform before we leave here.
|and the woman who|
sold it to me - Chela Lopez
And if I'm wearing my new jacket, don't even think of getting near me with a sticky label!