Given that it hasn't yet got properly cold here, it feels like a very strange hallucination. In a naked effort to make us forget that we are living in an economic meltdown, the stores are full of Christmas trees and fairy lights. Their illusion makes you feel you are in some sort of dream world - everyone is friendly, everything is cheap. Never mind what the news says about the collapsing auto industry, all is just fine and cheery.
The major department stores have begun their holiday sales, with 40 per cent discounts, a month early. The high-end designers, too, have been holding secret friends-and-family sample sales, desperate to find any way to lure consumers into parting with some of the dollars currently held tightly in our fists.
I will admit to sneaking into a few of the above - I mean, who can resist an email that says the following:
1) This is for you and a select few only. Do Not Pass On.
2) Dresses reduced from thousands to as little as $100 ..?
I didn't read points three and four - one and two were enough to get me through the relevant door in the garment district at the appointed hour. After all, I reasoned, what's the harm in just looking?
I'd expected to see the lines of women that are the usual nightmare at high-end sample sales but to my surprise I was the only visitor at one major label: not a good sign. Nor was the fact that as I tried on a couple of things, a tailor was right on hand to help me in case I wanted something to fit better.
When does one ever get service like this, I mulled as I looked from the tailor to my reflection in the mirror?
The answer was right there in the glass: when one is a gullible idiot who believes a dress that doesn't quite fit and you wouldn't ordinarily choose is worth buying if it's one-fifth of the price you'd have paid for it six months ago in a shop.
I took it off, said a polite goodbye to the fitter and retreated to the inner sanctum of harsh reality: home.
That night I watched yet more commercials for holiday gifts and made a mental note. Other than the kids who can have a couple of presents each, no one else gets anything this year. Sorry. Those fairy lights will not make a fool out of me.
This article was originally published by the London Evening Standard