From panties to pies

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Kathleen Harman just had to pay homage when a legendarily saucy British underwear chain opened in Stockholm. The trauma left her young son in need of the home comforts of the city's most traditional konditori.


Tipping Point

I have inherited a fur coat from a person now long dead. The furry animals made to use the coat were dead even longer, one would hope.

Figuring that Sweden will probably be the only place that I could get away with wearing such a politically incorrect item of clothing, I spent quite some time slipping it on and strutting around, imagining that the coat had transformed me into a glamorous film star like Sophia Loren or Elizabeth Taylor in her heyday.

The truth, once I actually looked at myself in the mirror, was that I was more like Henry VIII in drag, but with a bit less of a beard. The problem with the coat was that it had been tailor-made – for someone else. Tailor-made, in fact, for an old girl who liked her pies even more than I do.

So, I think, upon reflection, especially my own stout reflection, that I will donate it to the jolly group of street drinkers who hang around outside my local station. In fact, it's just the thing for a portly homeless person about town because it is a very warm article of clothing, with deep pockets, eminently suitable for the transportation of bottles of gin. Far more Elizabeth Taylor, the later years, some might say.

The subject of fur coats leads me to that of no knickers, a situation that we simply can’t have, given the chilly weather. For some strange reason I have long been the recipient of a regular newsletter called ‘Knickers Forever’ from Agent Provocateur, the upmarket, very saucy lingerie company owned by Joseph Corre. Corre is the son of designer Dame Vivienne Westwood, a lady who famously doesn’t wear knickers, and Malcolm McClaren, ex Sex Pistols’ manager , whose underwear habits I’m afraid I am not privy to.

Anyway, the most recent newsletter heralded the opening of Agent Provocateur's first Swedish branch on Birger Jarlsgatan, Stockholm’s premiere shopping street. The shop was having its finishing touches done in readiness for its grand opening this week and it looked just lovely - all black and pink, a mixture of a boudoir and a jewellery box, with displays of lingerie looking like exquisite works of art, with the price tags to match.

Now, I have to say that as a general rule, I tend to do what most Swedish women do and buy my smalls, or not that smalls, in packs of three from H & M, for an entirely reasonable price. This is what most European women do, with the exception of the French who like to blow their household maintenance budgets on underwear that could double as dental floss.

But sometimes I think that it is nice to look as if one has made a bit of an effort because let’s face it ladies, even the most ordinary of presents is far more exciting when it has been beautifully gift wrapped. But Agent Provocateur does not come cheap, and with a pair of knickers costing more than many households’ weekly grocery bills, it will be a somewhat limited, rarefied market. But I have a feeling that my offspring will be eating quick cook macaroni and hot dogs for the foreseeable future. I may have given up on the fur coat idea but I will most certainly have the knickers, bra, black seam stockings and suspenders.

My poor young son had been forced to come with me on my research jaunt and was more than a little embarrassed by his mother taking photos of underwear while he had to be best lens cap and tripod boy. But in order to focus his mind on other things, I did promise to buy him a cake afterwards (this was obviously just before I had hit upon the ingenious macaroni and hot dog regime). As a promise is a promise, we found ourselves sitting on the antiquated, mismatched sofas that make up the charm of the Sturekatten Konditori on Riddargatan.

Sturekatten, for those of you who have never been, is the complete antithesis of just about every other café you will come across in Stockholm. Wonky stairs, complete with fusty, threadbare carpets take you up to a series of rooms which are decorated with funny little ornaments, needlework doilies and a disparate collection of crockery and furniture. It is just like going to your favourite, slightly batty, great aunt’s house for a cup of tea and a sticky bun.

I had the dagens lunch which consisted of a huge salmon salad, a blueberry muffin which was duly handed over to the best boy, a soft drink and a coffee for 90 SEK. My son had a cheese sandwich and a glass of orange juice which came with a straw that had a shiny whirligig thing attached to it. It was all eaten up, the whirligig thing dismantled and fiddled with, whereupon he pronounced that he thought that Sturekatten was ‘much better than McDonald’s’ which is tantamount to a Michelin star in the world of five year olds.

Just as well, darling, as it’s quick cook macaroni and hot dogs for you from hereon in.

Agent Provocateur, Birger Jarlsgatan 9, 111 45 Stockholm

Tel 08 678 2820

Sture Katten, Riddargatan 4, 114 35 Stockholm

Tel 08 -611 1612

Kathleen Harman


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