Branching out ….

Off I went yesterday to John Lewis at Bluewater. It was like being called home to the mothership, as various lovely members of staff encouraged me to run my fingers through piles of cashmere jumpers and admire the burnish on the Mulberry handbags. Bliss!

In fact, the lady in charge of handbags even asked me if I’d like to borrow the Mulberry Daria (my favourite by a mile, TL I hope you are reading this and remember that it’s Christmas in ONE MONTH) and walk around the shop with it. Thank goodness I had enough – just enough – willpower to resist this delicious suggestion. Or I’d still have the handbag with me now, and we’d be looking at an interesting festive season featuring Dairylea sandwiches and second-hand Barbie annuals from the Save the Children shop instead of turkey and presents. Nothing wrong with either of these two options, of course, but maybe not what two acquisitive teens and two deserving tots have put on their lists to Santa ….

Anyway, the Mulberry bags are selling like very surprising hot cakes. ‘We’ve had our best week ever with Mulberry. People are either saving up and going high-end premium, or they’re going for the value end of our range,’ I was told. It was a similar story in shoes, where the Kurt Geigers are still prancing out of the shop, along with own brand shoes, leaving middle ranges kicking their heels. ‘Instead of getting the dress, bag and shoes, people are just buying the shoes to glam up an outfit,’ I was told.

Meanwhile Cashmere Mary, the queen bee of the cashmere department, is presiding over a diminishing domain as shoppers start to rifle her stock of jewel-coloured jumpers at only £69 for the crew and V necklines, £75 for the cardigan, £125 for very tempting stripy waterfall numbers. I ask Mary a couple of questions about cashmere maintenance, which I am afraid underline the fact that I am not very good at it. ‘All cashmere gets bobbles. You just have to watch out for handbag straps rubbing,’ she tells me with a no-nonsense glance at the villain of the piece, my enormous cluttered handbag (it’s not a Mulberry, TL … but it could be ….). ‘You can also get a special debobbling machine from the haberdashery department downstairs. And moths? Well, of course you have to store your jumpers in a sealed bag. Any old plastic bag will do. Just pop them in every night and no moths will get anywhere near them,’ she says reassuringly. Unless there’s a moth already in the bag, I venture. ‘Well, I have cashmere in every colour of the rainbow, all in bags, and I’ve never had a bag with a moth in it,’ she tells me. I don’t think any moth would dare.

Off we go to the toy department, where I am agog to see what will go into the nation’s stockings. It’s actually very useful for me as my two are now sadly into the adult joys of iPods and boots, leaving me a bit adrift for ideas for TL’s smallies. Well, it turns out that this year Santa will be struggling to stuff a whole load of scooters down chimneys, with the ones which can go right up to age 11 being most popular. Otherwise, there’s the usual Lego sets, with Ninjago and speedboats zooming ahead. For girls, there are various ghastly animatronic pets and, cutest of the cute, a new Sylvanian Families shop – and not just any shop, but a John Lewis. At £80, it’s quite pricey, but it’s utterly irresistible too. Maybe I’ll have to elbow the Mulberry bag off my wishlist and go for my very own branch of John Lewis to play with instead ….


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