Buy buy recession

Keynesian economics teaches us to spend, spend, spend our way out of a recession. There’s no finer excuse, says Rebecca Newman, for a trip to fashion treasure trove Liberty

The recession has its benefits. For one, I’ve learnt about British economist John Maynard Keynes. He was a colourful chap: a member of London’s Bloomsbury Group and an enthusiastic bisexual, his lovers included the writer Lytton Strachey and the ballerina Lydia Lopokova. As well as supporting fiscal intervention by the government, Keynes articulated the Paradox of Thrift, which states that if everyone saves money during recession then demand will fall and things will only get worse.

So, it was in a spirit of Keynesian economics that I headed to Liberty. On the recommendation of Jemima Khan, I booked an appointment with their Style Service. Since the store was relaunched this spring, I wanted someone to guide me through the revamped layout and hone my summer wardrobe.

Over coffee in the style apartment, which is tucked away on the first floor behind the lingerie department, my charming stylist Jenny asked me about my life and clothing needs, as well as any specifics I’d like her to find. Then we whirled round the shop and Jenny pulled out the leather jacket of my dreams, the world’s best pencil skirt… I could go on. Some of her suggestions will have to remain on my wish list, but with wares ranging from limited-edition Balenciaga to Kate Moss for Topshop, there was plenty for me to take home.

Whenever I’m passing I now drop in for further inspiration, to catch up on the gossip and enjoy a glass of Champagne – and since I started going to The Third Space gym, I’m in the area rather a lot. After years of writing copy in bed, at the bar, in planes and anywhere else I have been getting horrible backache. Most Gorgeous Girlfriend swears by Pilates – she has it on good authority it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s secret weapon – and ordered me to call Tony, one of the teachers in the Pilates studio at The Third Space.

Tony is gorgeous. He is also naughty as hell. Shortly after meeting him, I found myself hanging from my ankles, while he stared down at me with big brown eyes you could get lost in. Sheer bliss. The position stretched out my back and the pain melted away. Several sessions later, I was in a stranger position still, lying back on the chariot of the Pilates reformer, with my feet in the air. I was doing an exercise called the teaser. As I moved my legs through the air, circling and spreading them in ways that protected my back but killed my abs, you could understand the name. Tony christened the movements – legs together: Mayfair whore, legs apart: Soho whore. Laughing was sweet agony, but it sure made the time fly. After six weeks of this, my shoulders have stopped hurting altogether. Better still, by making simple changes to my posture Tony has made me two inches taller and flattened my stomach. The man is a god.

Man of The Moment, by contrast, has been in the doghouse. It began, as these things so often do, at Shoreditch House. We’d been having a drink by the pool, discussing the custom for guys to smoke at the bottom of the first set of steps. Ladies, beware: there’s an updraught as you descend the first few stairs. So, if you’re wearing a dress, unless you’re careful you’ll treat the Shoreditch trendies to a flash of lingerie.

Anyway, we ran into a DJ that we knew and MOTM invited a crowd back to his for a late night barbeque. It all went well until he left an inside tap running – by the time we discovered it, he’d flooded the flat (and my latest Jimmy Choos).

Having heard great things about The Kensington Hotel, which reopened in April, I made an emergency phone call. They were able to give us a bed for the night and we hailed a taxi to Queensgate. The building comprises four grand Victorian townhouses, which have been knocked together, so the first-floor rooms – once the drawing rooms – have wonderfully high ceilings. On top of that we had a giant four-poster bed and an Olympic-size freestanding bath. Every cloud, and all that. We crawled in and enjoyed ourselves so much we booked another night.

By dinner I’d more or less forgiven him. After an excellent meal in the Aubrey restaurant, I had forgotten why we were there. As we lingered over a peach Melba, we vowed to come back. There’s something especially spoiling about staying in a hotel in the city where you live, something romantic about curling up in a place removed from the chaos of everyday life – even if you live only half a mile away. And really it was a selfless act: we were just doing our bit for the economy.

Original article published in The London Magazine, in July, 2009

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