Hi-Heel Sneakers

I’m on the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London today at 10.30 am (94.9FM) to talk about The Saturday Girls, mods, Motown and milkshakes. The big question is – when you’re going on the radio, does it matter what you wear? In bed, before I got up, I played Hi Heel Sneakers – one of the best records to put on the juke box in the Orpheus, the mods’ coffee bar in Chelmsford, a song that conjures up the excitement, the breathlessness, the cool of being a mod. I was looking for sartorial tips.

On the basis of Tommy Tucker’s advice I should wear a red dress, a wig hat and the hi-heel sneakers. It is of course a look, but perhaps it had to be 1964, in a cellar bar with very low lighting for it to work.

Is it important to wear the right clothes for any given situation, even if no-one can see you? I think so – I once represented a client in a case where the judge needed to check something as she was drafting the order, and she rang me up at home. I was in my pyjamas! It was not an easy conversation, calling someone ‘Judge’ when you’re glancing down at your slippers. Clothes are vital.

So what shall I wear today (did I mention I’m on the Robert Elms show this morning? 10.30am)? Sometimes I wish my mum hadn’t thrown away my suede (when I was 35 and hadn’t lived at home for over 15 years). A suede coat covered a multitude of sins – the not-quite-Fred Perry, the slightly wrong colour twin-set or simply the wrong blouse.

Yes, the book is out and people are saying good things about it. People have taken snaps of it on the shelves at Sainsbury’s, as far apart as Winchmore Hill and Chelmsford (well, they have to sell it in Chelmsford). My sister was on holiday and two of her friends were reading it! Of course, they may have felt they had to, but it was a nice gesture. My sister herself read it and said it was like being back in our living room in the Sixties (it is, of course, a novel Tess!).

But back to the far more pressing issue of clothes for this morning’s broadcast. I shall wear something dark but cool, straight but well cut, the sort of thing we dreamed of in those days, but never quite knew how to put into words. Or afford.

Let Tommy Tucker say it for me.

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Moving to London

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The action now takes a step to London.  What did we in Chelmsford know of London in the 60s?  We knew Oxford Street – it was in the C&A store there that I bought my suede coat.  At last I was a real mod.  I was so proud of it – it was brown, it was soft, I could swap buttons with Christine and her brown leather.  I didn’t realise till later that it was  wrong, the sleeves were too wide and it had an A-line shape, akin to what was then called a duster coat.  It wasn’t a straight, narrow tube.  But it was suede, real suede.  And it came from London.

What else we knew about London (apart from Trafalgar Square where we fed the pigeons when we were small and gathered at the end of Ban the Bomb marches when we were teenagers) was that there were clubs.  Christine, my best friend, and I didn’t know them personally.  On Saturday evenings in Chelmsford, when the groups had finished playing at the Corn Exchange, the mod boys would mooch up to the railway station to jump on a train, or hop down to the A12 to hitch a ride to the Smoke, to go Up West, to the Flamingo or the Marquee, where they would often see the same group that had just been grooving it up in Chelmsford.

corn exchange

And now the two worlds will collide – in the best possible way – at the London launch of A Sense of Occasion.

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 London launch 2

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Read all about it at http://www.elizabethwoodcraft.com