So, there I was, having a brief break from it all in the Chilterns, iBook open, all ready to jump back into regular blogging, when something went wrong. Something horrible and technical, which meant that my beloved iBook, which has been half way round the world and back with me, might not work again. After a bit of deep breathing and giving myself a good talking to ('calm down, dear, it's only a laptop . . . '), I decided to use my oldie's bus pass and take the scenic route from where I was staying to, er, Reading. As you do on a Bank Holiday weekend.
Because Reading has an Apple Store and where there's an Apple Store, there's a Genius Bar. And I apologise to those of you who have PCs rather than Macs because this will mean not very much to you. Suffice it to say that the cool young things at the Genius Bar will tell you, among other things, a) what's wrong with your Apple whatever and b) whether Apple can repair it or not. I think you already know what's coming. My iBook must be all of five or six years old so, no, Apple doesn't stock the required part any longer and cannot repair my writing companion.
It's not that we're joined at the hip, or anything like that, but I was a little sad. The sky was the colour of lead and the weather cold, windy and wet as I waited for the return bus to arrive and thought of all the places we'd visited together and the fun we'd had and the thousands of words I had pounded out on the keyboard. That's my iBook up on the right-hand typebar, doing its stuff in sub-tropical Kerala. Sigh . . .
All is not yet lost and there is always the possibility of tracking down a relacement part somewhere and the asking my Apple guru to see if he can fix it. But still, five or six years do not exactly warrant a long-service medal, do they?
The iBook disaster came in the same week as the dishwasher at home ground to a halt and a CD - it was, natch, a library CD and not one of mine - got jammed in the (wrong slot) of the radio/CD player of my trusty old Subaru, the day before it was due back. (It was disc two of Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, as it happens.) The nice man at the Subaru garage said he would sort it out, which he did, and when I went to collect the car, he produced not one but two jammed CDs, one of which bore the grime of years.
'How we laughed,' he chortled.
I looked at the CD.
'Not mine,' I said, feeling affronted. 'Do I look like the sort of woman who would have a cheapo cover version of big band ballads? Must have been the previous owners.'
In which case, it has been stuck where it shouldn't be for oh, about 10 years. The previous owner bore an impressive and historic title and was a Deputy Lieutenant, so über posh, but with surprisingly naff musical tastes.
The dishwasher was fixed too, thanks to a local family firm of electricians who come out at short notice, put things right in a tick, and do not charge an arm and a leg. I know, a vanishing breed.
Thank goodness, however, for our continuing - and growing - love affair with vintage fashion and secondhand pre-loved clothes, which has made increasing sense in these cash-poor and eco-conscious times and which continues to give many a fine garment a new lease of life (unlike my poor old iBook). I've written in the past about my Biba and Bus Stop 1960s clothes bonanza but, despite all those amazing - and affordable - new clothes, my girlfriends and I often added vintage accesories from markets like Portobello Road. It worked especially well with Lee Bender's Bus Stop designs, with their echoes of 1940s styling.
If, like me you still have a passion for fashion but a very tight budget, it's a great way to give a shrinking wardrobe a lift. My Dear Old School Friend, who is tall and slender and always looks a million dollars, never buys new and can work a charity shop dress rail like no-one else I know. As her daughter-in-law remarked, 'Who else could spot an Amanda Wakely number going for a snip in an Ilfracombe charity shop?' Amanda Wakely? Ilfracombe? Who'd have thought?
Anyway, I've been watching the way she works and I think I've picked up a tip or two. This summer, I bought a stylish little black shirt by Nicole Farhi, two Oska linen jackets and two designer-label white linen tops, for the total sum of £22, courtesy of charity shops in Devon and Somerset. And while I was staying in the Chilterns, I trotted along to one of the nearest town's four charity shops - ostensibly in search of a book or three. But this is celebrity land and these shops are positively heaving with brand new designer clothes, bought on a whim and never worn. So, instead of books, I came out with a thing of rare beauty: a Diane Von Furstenberg two-layered skirt in immaculate condition - cotton underskirt with a patterned and hand-beaded silk overskirt. Cost? Embarrassingly cheap at just £5. Now I just need the right party to come along so I can wear it to dance the night away - but the design is timeless, so I'll get years of wear out of it. In the meantime, I'm going to hang it up where I can look at it and admire all the work that went into designing and making something so very lovely.
If only iBooks worked the same way.
(This post is brought to you courtesy of my Big Mac, which is also five years old . . . )