Friday, June 20, 2008

Any colour you like, as long as it's black

I was talking with a friend about the creative inspiration that constraints can provide. It started with her asking about my photos of toilets. I explained that I am collecting them, possibly, for a Pecha Kucha night that Oxford Improvisers are organising in November.

I love the idea that nobody can go on for more than 400 seconds, so there is no danger of that awful feeling you get in meetings or at conferences when someone is still on slide four ten minutes in, and you surreptitiously check the handouts to see how many slides there are, and there are 48, and you think maybe it would be preferable just to die now.

But I also love the idea of the freedom that comes with the format -- as the audience knows what's fixed, they are more likely to get involved with what is changing, and enjoy the ride.

Even so, 20 blurry photos of the toilets of Oxford's pubs and restaurants, with plumbing-obsessed commentary, might be a bit much. So I might not go there. But that wouldn't change the fact that I like constraints. They can make the unapproachable approachable.

For example, I choose my library books by deciding, while walking up the stairs, on the letter that the author's surname will begin with. One year I decided to buy all my Christmas presents on Cowley Road. It worked a treat. I looked hard in shops I never normally go into, and I found some really interesting things.

And currently, I have a rule that (apart from underwear) I will only buy clothes that are either second hand or less than two thirds their original price. They also have to broadly align with the best shopping advice I ever heard, which was from that scary American Vogue woman whose name I forget... she said "if it's not perfect for you, it doesn't matter how much of a bargain it is, don't buy it".

"Perfect" is not a concept I have in clothes, as I just don't have that sort of body, but there are things you put on and think, well, I don't really like it, but I need a new X, and it only costs £3, and I'm not going to think about why it only costs £3.

I don't buy those things anymore. I probably do buy things made by children in Chinese sweatshops, as it's practically impossible to avoid them, but I try not to. I read labels. I look for ethical trading statements on websites.

So last week I found myself, as I do several times a year, looking at the Fat Face sale rail. It covers all the bases. I came home with a strange dress (all dresses are strange, but this one is particularly strange as it rather suits me), and a shirt and some cut-off trousers. I know short people aren't supposed to wear cut-off trousers but really, sod it.

I showed my new clothes to M when I got home. I like it, I said, when I buy clothes that look like I've always had them. I find it reassuring.

I feel a bit like that about girlfriends, he said. I wasn't sure how to take that.



Anonymous nuttycow said...

I love your idea about Christmas pressies. Might try that this year.

11:46 am  

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