Valerie and myself were in Hurstpierpoint again, and we just happened to go into a shop called Tina Bucknall, where a sale was going on. It's a boutique with the clothes and accessories coming from Italy.
I've long noticed that small towns (and even villages) in the countryside often have a boutique or two, catering for clothes-conscious people with cars and an extra bob or two to spend, who don't want to traipse into the county town or city. Sussex has a big out-of-town population, and therefore little country towns with smart shops can flourish. They will offer goods that are that little bit more individual than you will see on the big town High Street or in the city Shopping Mall. And there are likely to be allied retailers, such as cookshops. Plus plenty of traditional shops like ironmongers and butchers, the kind that have been forced out elsewhere. And a plethora of places to get coffee and a snack.
I'm not saying that I won't ever visit a city for serious shopping. Of course I will, if that's the right place to go. But I prefer the smaller places.
I least like vast multi-level Retail Centres like Bluewater in Kent, which may have all the big-name shops but are bland and impersonal and completely lacking in character, and anything but relaxing to go to. They seem like machines to make you spend. And indeed, they make you feel that you have no proper business to be there unless you buy something. If you merely browse, and don't quickly acquire a couple of bags with 'Next' or 'Hobbs' emblazoned on them, it's possible to feel like a trespasser. Certainly, the high-profile security people give you a piercing stare, as if you are a vagrant or time-waster, there just to mooch around and get out of the cold. Or (as they hope) a terrorist, looking for likely places to set off a bomb. I'm sure they yearn for an excuse to make an 'arrest' - or even use their tasers. You need to be very careful, and watch how you move - what you look at, and who you look at. You are on camera and being tracked. These places are as friendly as a war zone.
But Hurstpierpoint is serene and civilised. As is Petworth and Midhurst.
Anyway, we were in Tina Bucknall, trying on this and that. And I saw a woollen coat. I liked it at once. Valerie endorsed what I liked about it. It was on the sale rack for £40. It would do nicely for the spring - my West Country Tour - when it would still be cool (though no longer really chilly) and I'd need an eye-catching casual outer garment that would keep me comfortable. So I bought it. Back at Valerie's, she took this picture of me in it:
It's not a thick, heavy garment. It's woven rather than knitted, with more than one kind of wool, so that there are several kinds of texture and pattern, primarily in grey, black, white, blue and brown. Its colour varies according to the light falling onto it. Warm bright afternoon sunlight tends to make it look more brown, as in these shots, taken later that day at home:
Jo drooled over it when we popped in to see her. Fortunately it's not a one-off. There are still several similar coats back at Tina Bucknall's. But once they are sold, that's it. So she had better get down there fast!