Friday, February 6, 2009

Style a late scratching at Trentham

(First published in the Curmudgeon column, The Dominion Post, February 3.)

STYLE is hard to define but you know it when you see it. A person with an innate sense of style can look good in clothes from The Warehouse. Conversely, those who haven’t got it are never going to have it, no matter how much they spend on designer labels. You can dress a turnip in Working Style or Starfish but it’s still going to be a turnip.

The recent male fashion contest at Trentham demonstrates the point. Judging by the published photos, style was a late scratching – with the possible exception, that is, of 83-year-old Norm Rodley, who managed to make even the clich├ęd safari jacket look acceptable. He carried it off because he has natural flair and panache.

As for the other contestants, oh dear. The cravated fellow who was initially adjudged the runner-up, and ended up sharing the main prize with Norm after the winner was disqualified, looked like a 1950s spiv from London’s East End.

The 50s look is obviously in. Another Wellington male stylemeister who posed proudly in the fashion pages of this paper a couple of weeks ago was a throwback to the same decade, except that in his case it was more the Neapolitan handbag-snatcher look. I could have pictured him on the pillion seat of a Vespa, cruising the narrow streets looking for unsuspecting female tourists.

And what of the women fashion hopefuls at Trentham? Tragically, not much better. It seems a tradition that women racegoers must dress in a fussy frou-frou style that is the fashion equivalent of gaudy chocolate boxes.

Raceday fashion is a peculiarly sexless branch of couture, one that seems to have forgotten that the fundamental purpose of dressing up is to make oneself look attractive to potential partners. At Trentham, there are better-looking fillies in the birdcage than on the catwalk.

* * *

THERE’S a new class of have-nots. On Newstalk ZB last week, a Wellington woman complained that her son’s high school seemed to assume that all pupils’ homes had Internet access, when his didn’t.

She couldn’t find out when the school re-opened for 2009 – apparently the information was availably only on the school’s website – and even more astonishingly, she said many of her son’s homework assignments last year were delivered online. She had been fighting a running battle with the school administration and getting nowhere.

I suspect this is the tip of a very large iceberg of disaffected and disconnected citizens. People without computers find themselves excluded from a steadily widening range of activities, from taking advantage of cut-price deals to participation in public affairs.

It can be argued this is simply the market at work. Technology changes and people eventually have to adapt if they want to stay “in the loop”. But have we reached the point yet where vital public institutions such as schools are entitled to assume that everyone is plugged into the Net? I wouldn’t have thought so.

* * *

WHEN I was a boy I would save my paper-round money and send a postal note to a mail-order firm for an item I coveted, such as a sheath knife or watch. Invariably the product would be delivered within 10 days or so.

Fast-forward several decades, and we are able to use the miracle of technology to buy things online. Sometimes this works – stuff I’ve ordered from US-based Amazon has arrived only days later – and sometimes it doesn’t.

In a previous column I mentioned my experience with online retailer Fishpond. I ordered a DVD from Fishpond last November 3 and was told it would be dispatched within days. To cut a long story short, it turned out they didn’t have my requested DVD in stock, though it was advertised on their website, and eventually they advised me I wouldn’t have it till early January at best, and possibly several weeks after that. I cancelled the order.

I can now report that my relationship with Fishpond has gone from bad to worse.

On December 31 I ordered a book via their website. A confirmation email advised that it would “ship” (sic) within 6-11 days.

On January 20, I got another email saying there had been a “temporary delay” in sourcing my item. “At the time of your order, the supplier was showing stock on hand but they must have mis-counted so it has been ordered from another source.”

Oddly enough this was precisely the same wording as in the email I had received advising of the delay in the arrival of my DVD the previous month. There seems to be a lot of miscounting going on. Or perhaps Fishpond is misleading its customers into thinking it has certain items in stock when in fact it doesn’t.

You might well wonder why I would risk doing business with Fishpond again after my earlier experience, but I was given a Fishpond voucher as a present and am determined to use it, no matter how hard this outfit tries to frustrate me.

Incidentally, I’m still waiting for my book.

1 comment:

Steve Withers said...

Anyone who dislikes wasting time and money may begin to see people who refuse to have Internet access as inconsiserate. If one is organising anything these days, it is far easier, faster and cheaper to do it via email. For a small group to insist you or I or other members of the group produce letters and pay for postage seems somehow wrong and selfish. I used to spend literally hours printing things, collating them, stuffing envelopes and then paying hundeds of dollars for postage from hard-earned donations and membership funds. What a waste of time, energy and money now that there a better, faster, cheaper way to it.