If you ever look at my Flickr site, you may have spotted this picture of me taken near Cuckmere Haven on 11th December - a very cold day:
And if you examined that shot, you might have wondered, 'Now what is she wearing? That's surely a new sheepskin coat?' And you would have been right.
Actually, not a brand-new coat. It used to belong to another lady. But then she went to this shop in Hurstpierpoint:
She mentioned that she had a nice sheepskin coat that she never wore nowadays because frankly it was too warm, and made her feel hot wearing it. A deal was struck. It would be offered in the window for £40, and if it sold - and surely a coat of this style and quality was bound to go quickly - the shop would keep £20 and she'd get £20 too. Worth the effort of asking and taking it in, then. And it did sell. I passed by on 9th December, admired it in the window, went inside, tried it on, liked it, got positive comments from fellow-customers, tentatively asked the price (because it surely must have cost £300 or so when new), and snapped it up on the spot when I heard I could have it for only £40.
I hadn't owned a sheepskin coat since the 1990s. That last one was pre-worn too, and very obviously not new. It was also that rather ghastly, yellowish, 'second-hand car dealer' colour. It didn't look right. It might have looked right in the proper situation - on a used car forecourt, with one's minder hovering nearby - but it wasn't smart nor impressive, and I wasn't sorry to let it go back to a charity shop.
This new coat was a quite different proposition. It was love at first sight. I couldn't wait to wear it on a bitterly cold day. And that day came on the 11th, two days afterwards. I can report that I remained warm and very comfortable. I didn't wear too much underneath. I'm guessing that the lady who took it to Audrey's and told the owner (Audrey) why she was selling it had either become menopausal (my sympathies to her then) or wore cardigans unnecessarily beneath her coats. Well, I was the proud new and caring owner!
Let's have a closer look at this coat. Here it is hung up in my bedroom at home:
Those strips of brown leather are quite a feature. I don't know why the shoulder parts have a slightly pinkish hue in the picture just above: it might just be colouration projected by the daylight from my curtains. It could however suggest - applying the methods of Sherlock Holmes - that the lady who used to own this coat had long hair, which she coloured red or auburn. That's not inconsistent with middle-age and the reported hot flushes. I also deduce that she had a build similar to mine, and weighed not less than twelve and a half stone. And she had good teeth, for there were no sweet wrappings in the pockets. Nor did she smoke, for there was no horrible stale smell. And we must take it for granted that either she (or her husband) had enough money and style to buy such a coat. And that neither she nor he sold second-hand cars. Nor employed a minder. And to have occasion to wear this coat, she lived in the countryside like I do, and almost certainly had a dog, which may have been - yes, by Jove, was - a curly-haired spaniel! Look for such a woman, Watson, and we will unite the previous owner with her coat! (Except that she has it back over my dead body)
Some people would prefer a bigger collar. Jo said so when she saw it, though otherwise liking my purchase very much. But I was happy to avoid a big, wide collar that would remind me of my previous sheepskin coat, the one I could sell cars with.
The fleece is dark, another thing that might not appeal to some. But again, on my previous rather flashy yellow sheepskin coat, the fleece had been white (well, to be honest, off-white), something that had simply encouraged me to say things like, 'Nice little runner, guv'nor - it's yours for a monkey.'
All is explained by looking at the labels.
There you are: 'Finest Icelandic Mountain Lamb'. 'A quality product from Samband of Iceland'. No doubt Icelandic sheep all have brown fleece. It's the volcanic soil, you know. The grass that grows from it is highly nutritious, but turns the sheeps' fleece brown.
The other label recorded the UK retailer, a local shop in Brighton which I can't remember seeing in recent times - perhaps it has closed. But it proves that the lady who owned it lived in mid-Sussex.
Looking at other detailing, such as the press-studs used instead of buttons or a zip, reveals some Italian influence:
It says 'Fiocchi - Italy' on those studs.
The coat goes beautifully with my Italian orange leather bag and my tan-and-brown Dubarry boots:
I've been wearing this new coat nearly every day, as much of December and January has been keenly chilly. I bought it just in time! How lucky I was to be passing by, and able to snap it up before anybody else made up their mind to.