Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Oxford on $1,000 a Day

Oh, what a time to be an American in Europe! The dollar is worth about as much as an old chewing gum wrapper--with a soggy piece of masticated gum wadded up inside. It's the reality we live with every day, trying to ignore the headlines that read "Dollar Reaches New All-Time Low." Financial editors can keep that on a save string so they don't have to retype it every day.

Hoping to save a little money, last weekend we went to a collection of outlet stores outside Oxford called Bicester Village. We went to the wrong place. This was Burberry and Aquascutum territory, Jimmy Choo shoes and Ermenegildo Zegna silk suits. Oh, sure, there were some great deals. I saw a handsome men's overcoat--the perfect thing to wear while out shooting with His Lordship--that was marked down 50 percent. Originally 1,500 pounds it was on sale at 795. So instead of being $3,000 it was only about $1,600. I couldn't even afford to take it off the hangar. I just stroked one sleeve for a while then slunk away when a shopgirl saw me.

Economists keep saying it's a good thing that the dollar is so weak. It simply reflects reality: The U.S. owes too much money, both as a nation and as a collection of citizens whose MasterCards are maxed out. And Americans guzzled down subprime mortgages as if they were free shots of Jagermeister. Not me, of course, but I still have to live with the hangover.

How pathetic is the dollar? Yesterday's Independent had a story about how supermodel Gisele Bundchen no longer wants to be paid in dollars, stipulating in her contract that she be paid in euros instead.

Pocketing the Difference: The Shirt Hits the Fan
I've been noticing it for the last few years. Now it's official: According to the Daily Telegraph, fewer men's shirts have breast pockets on them. That flap of fabric supposedly ruins the line of the shirt, but I suspect it's a way to save money: Multiply that 3-by-4-inch square by millions of shirts and you're talking real money. This is a problem for me, since as a writer I must have a place to stick my pen. I hope I don't have to resort to hanging one on a lanyard around my neck.

The Golden Bowls
The Daily Mail is already Britain's favorite newspaper. It's quickly becoming mine. Why? Because of ground-breaking stories like today's article headlined "How a Bowl of Warm Water Can Help You Buy a Bra That Fits Better." Two British "style gurus" say that weighing each breast by seeing how much water it displaces is the most accurate way to determine cup size. Writes the Mail: "With just a bowl of lukewarm water, a baking tray and kitchen scales, housewives across the nation could soon all be using simple physics to work out the precise size of their bosoms." It thoughtfully provides a little chart called "How to Weigh Your Breasts." (One liter of water weighs one kilogram; "to convert to weight of breast, multiply by 0.9.")

They say that high school kids aren't interested in science and math these days. I can imagine a project that might address that.


Sarah Laurence Blog said...

I think I'm going to die laughing. Like you, I'm in Oxford this year blogging and writing. My husband, Henry Laurence ( is at Oxford's Nissan Institute researching a book on public TV, and he stumbled on your blog. "You have to go there. He's here from the USA with his family and dog too." Henry asked when sale season was after drooling over an 80 pound shirt in London. Maybe we can all meet for a dog walk in Port Meadow - that's free. BTW fix your profile industry - it defaults to accounting. Must be a google blogger joke. I'm going to add a link to your blog from mine. Looking forward to reading more!

mark from alexandria said...

Oh thanks for the reminder of the formerly mighty dollar is in the toilet. My annual February Week in London is starting to look like it might be a long weekend in Portsmouth, instead. Well, at least Virgin is helping the cause with some decent airfares, but I do regret that I won't get my full week this winter, not that I'll be able to afford to do much once I get there.

suburbancorrespondent said...

The pen goes behind the ear. We women have never been able to use those silly pockets because, well, there is already something in there.

And, yes, I can't wait to see those science fair projects this year!

cktirumalai said...

I commiserate with you on the dollar's sag. During my 20 years in England, when my income was in dollars, the exchange rate varied from parity between the two currencies and a two-dollar pound. Even so the greenback never sank to quite its present level. The old fixed rate was $2-50 or so: odd to think of that now.
Oxford, including Headington and Summertown, have several charity shops. I bought a respectable winter overcoat in one, at a very good price, which lasted me four years.

robpegoraro said...

The no-pocket thing on shirts bugs me too. It's as if the fashion industry has decreed that men's clothing must become no more functional than women's attire... next thing you know, they'll start to label shirts with arbitrary, meaningless size numbers.

John Kelly said...

Ha! Hi Rob. Purchased your man purse yet? Oh, and should I spring for Leopard?

Anonymous said...

The Gisele Bundchen story turned out not to be true, but the right wing bloggers and pundits didn't miss the chance to invite her out of the US.