Voices

It’s important to appreciate the small things right now

Small things like the spider brooch belonging to Lady Hale...
(PA)

Many years ago, my mother had an old fashioned pressure cooker, a monstrous aluminium thing with a complicated valve incorporated into the lid. It used to sit on top of the cooker, boiling down bones, whistling ominously, clouds of steam coming out of its nozzle, permanently on the verge of blowing. I was terrified of it and consequently have never allowed one to cross my own threshold.

These days I live about three miles from the cauldron that is the House of Commons and over the past week, I swear I’ve been able to feel the heat radiating off that building as the levels of fury inside rose to such an extent that they threatened to take the lid off the place. And for the first time in my life I turned the news off because I felt frightened. My heart was literally pounding and I was as scared of the news as I used to be of my mum’s old pressure cooker, because there didn’t seem to be anyone around who could control it.

This is bad, there are many bad things going on at the moment, so let’s focus for a second on some good stuff, starting with brooches. Brooches haven’t been “in” for ages. Women used to wear them on the lapels of their coats and jackets; my grandmother had an multi-coloured enamel cockerel and my mother wore my father’s regimental pin or, in latter years, a marquisate Westie. Back in the Eighties, my boyfriend (now my husband and no longer a boy) bought me a succession of extravagant diamante brooches from a shop on the Fulham Road called Butler and Wilson.

Lizards were particularly big back then, and when I say “big” I mean sometimes I’d have to remove said items of jewellery because they were so heavy I needed a breather from them. I was reminded of these gewgaws last week when Lady Hale delivered the Supreme Court ruling that the decision to suspend parliament was unlawful. There was Baroness Brenda resplendent not in wig and robes, but in a sober black jacket with a massive bog-off glittering spider perched on her right shoulder.

The symbolism of this brooch was not wasted on those with a literary quote to hand and my timeline was soon full of the Walter Scott line:

“O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”, though most people (including myself) attributed it to Shakespeare. By lunchtime, Hale was officially an icon and a series of online Twitter gifs featuring the Baroness’s brooches emerged. They included frogs, centipedes, flowers, foxes, beetles, a gingerbread man and a solid gold butterfly. Thank goodness, a ray of sparkling light to hold onto, something shiny and fun amongst the mire.

What else can we cling to at a time when a private contractor has been allowed to beam pro-Boris and Brexit ads onto the digital noticeboards of primary schools across the country?

We can all relax, Christmas is sorted girls, the statement brooch is going to be big news this season and those of us with a stash of bling in a box under the bed will be digging ours out pronto.

What else can we cling to at a time when a private contractor has been allowed to beam pro-Boris and Brexit ads onto the digital noticeboards of primary schools across the country? I know! When I first saw this, I thought it was a hoax – apparently not! Thank goodness, then, for the adorable photos of Prince Archie, currently on tour with his parents in southern Africa. Sneer all you like, but there is nothing with more delicious potential then a four-month-old who is just emerging from his baby chrysalis and showing the world a glimpse of how he might turn out in the future. Hmm maybe someone should get some Royal rhinestone baby Archie brooches manufactured before the fad wears off?

While I’ve got my Christmas clairvoyant hat on, I can almost guarantee another festive big seller this year will be Mattel’s new gender-inclusive dress up dolls, which can be accessorised with wigs, clothing and accessories to be a girl, boy or neither.

There are six of these pleasant-faced plastic dolls in various skin shades, although slightly eerily, all of them share an identical semi-smiling Stepford wife expression. For those of us brought up on a diet of busty Barbies, Sindies and Tressies (the one whose hair you could make longer by yanking it out of a hole in her head) the closest these “Creatable World” characters resemble is Sindy’s younger sister, Patch. Patch, born in 1967, was a snub-nosed, dungaree-clad, freckly alternative to Barbie’s terrifying younger sister, Skipper. I loved my auburn-haired Patch doll and I think these new fangled flat-chested prepubescent boy/girl/either /neither alternatives are a force for good.

Of course these dolls could just as easily be a cynical Mattel marketing ploy at a time when today’s savvy young kids are turning their backs on Barbie and Ken, but personally, if I had any smalls to buy for, they’d be getting one of these in their stockings or socks. Hmmm – that’s if we’re going to bother with Christmas at all this year.