Thursday, October 01, 2009

On Toast.

The Toast catalogue dropped into our über cool stainless steel mailbox this morning. Kerplunk.

Anybody familiar with Toast? No, no, not the stuff you put under poached eggs or slather with marmalade. It's 'mail order' clothes and stuff; accessories for the home too in a nicely produced little booklet, silky to the touch and promising the benefits of the simple life for a king's ransom. Hard to categorise but Laura Ashley meets Johnny Boden perhaps. Country clothes I think but not for country sports - rather stuff for drifting wistfully and enigmatically in.

Flicking through the pages I fancied me a little dress - perfect with opaque tights and sturdy boots, a 'boyfriend' cardigan and leather bag; the perfect 'look' for rambles through crisp autumn leaves under cold clear skies. Then home, I imagined, to sit in front of a roaring fire snug in my sensible PJs, wrapped in a merino Braemar blanket before hopping into bed where a hot water bottle warms those candy striped sheets. Ah, bliss.....

I go online to buy the dress that will make my autumn perfect. It only takes a few clicks to discover that for some unfathomable reason it is currently available only in size 8. Sigh. I could never diet fast enough to get into that. Size 8 doesn't seem a very 'country' size - apart from elves and will 'o' the wisps us country gals are made of sturdier stuff.

I flick through the catalogue again - perhaps something else will take my eye. Something cosy for the home perhaps.

That candy-striped bed linen needles me slightly. It's the candy striped bed linen of my childhood. (Cosy flannelette from before the days of sparky-slidey-ezee-care Brentford Nylon sheets - another nightmare.) Except Toast's candy striped bed linen is made from organic cotton and has two rows of satin stitch on the pillow cases.

Slowly I begin to understand Toast. Like all the others it sells the dream. Is this one the shabby chic and country cottage dream? I've been here before though in my childhood homes - and don't get me wrong, they were the best of times - but the clothes (with the exception of my velvet party dress) were horrid and houses draughty.

Layers of wool and wellies, sheets, blankets and hot water bottles were necessities and not life-style choices. I'm not sure we did life-style choices back in the day, not in size 8 anyway. We've come a long way and I don't want to go back. Give me warmth and light and choice - lots of it.

But it doesn't stop me wanting part of that dream. A pair of felted wool slippers perhaps. If they have my size.

16 comments:

Frances said...

Mountaineer,

You have expressed this dream/reality knowlege perfectly.

It applies to so many media attempts to bewitch us. Don't we all have unfulfilled wishes, and also a bunch of well-remembered places and times that have no artificial sweeteners attached.

I like them both the true memories and the dreams.

xo

Eliane said...

I love the way their models loaf about with barely anything on on snow capped mountains holding a hot water bottle. Bonkers. But some of their stuff is lovely - I have a fantastic bright orange raincoat (though the rain proof bit of it is moot) and some very nifty pyjama bottoms - lined or something. I recommend those for the winter. Oh and as they are expensive I recommend their sales - sometimes 70 per cent off.

Thing is - I live in the country but am usually in an old holey fleece, dirty jeans and green wellies. Not much floating about going on. And certainly not with bare legs. But you can dream...

muddyboots said...

aha, another toast fan, l love the photos & the clothes too, the style - wistfully nostalgic, clothing not really suitable for walking the dogs alon muddy farm tracks. But yes the sales are prety good, if you can find your size.

Milla said...

sales only for me, too. The reality of any life reduced to a tray artfully propped on a bed has got to be questioned? My tiny chum scoops up loads of size 8 bargains (cow) - I don't know why they persist in stocking so much of the stuff only to have to flog it off cheap at the end of the season. Perhaps they can't bear the truth of a lardy readership!

rachel said...

Just yesterday, Lesley down the road, she of the washboard abdomen and the yoga-toned body (and I still love her! how strange is that!) was showing me the fabulous little numbers she was ordering from the Toast catalogue. But she's a self-employed city businesswoman, and would only venture into the great outdoors clad in modern fleece, stout waterproofs and wellies, not scratchy woollens. These nostalgic 'country' clothes are for meetings and outings only.

You made me laugh with the Brentford Nylons memory - I remember sliding out of bed several times in the night when staying at a friend's house. Chocolate brown, those sheets, with added sparks.

her at home said...

Ah how well you put it mountaineer! I remember those cotton candy strped sheets from childhood too ( and the freezing mornings getting dressed under the blankets in bed in our country retreat as it was too ruddy cold to do it any other way, and the feel of a cold rubber hot water bottel aginst bare skin as yuor toes caught it in the morning!).

Do Toast do the proper garment for goign out to clear up teh litter from teh upturne dustbin that the badger has scattered across the garden do you think? Another country memory from my childhood that!

Elizabethd said...

Toast...have only seen their clothes in magazines, and always on a whip thin model, sigh.
But striped sheets...oh yes, there's nostalgia. I still have an elderly pair somewhere.

HER ON THE HILL said...

Ah yes, Toast. I read in a magazine questionnaire once: 'Are you a Toast or a Boden girl?' Well, technically I'm a Boden girl (in more ways than one - it being my surname!) since I have bought Boden but not Toast. I still flick through the T catalogue and dream the dream but know the harsh reality is that I don't have pale skin, fine cheekbones and auburn hair and would probably just look silly in Morrisons. Oh, and I'm a good size 12. Jeans and fleece for me again then. Sigh.

PS: Rachel - we had those chocolate brown nylon sheets too! Well, my brother had those, and I had purple. Mmm, nice.

patsy said...

Superb writing Mountainear, brings back memeories of cold mornings in my freezing house when I first qualified. No heating, no carpets, no double glazing but real live Springer Spaniel hot water bottle. Clearly no boyfriend either..

Lovely clothes in the catalogue though it hardly seems up to the rigours of country life in the raw. But why not? Why the ubiquitous jeans and a fleece to walk the dog? Why not wellies, an old party dress with sequins and a cardi ? Who cares if it gets ruined if it's past its best anyway. Should we all be more adventurous and break out of our comfort zone?
Or will we be less, eclectic Toast model and more, Helena Bonham-Carter bag lady? Sadly I fear the latter..

snailbeachshepherdess said...

heck I think the last time I was size 8 I was at junior school - brentford nylons -arrgghhhhhhh - and lemon brushed nylon sheets - I've got goose pimples at the memory

Kari Lønning said...

What a lovely read.

We've got a lot of that "selling-the-dream" here ... magazines full of expensive kitchen gadgets and so many people without jobs. At least Twiggy isn't the role model anymore for young women! (I don't think I was EVER a size 8!)

ChrisH said...

Oh, I love, love love, the Toast catalogue - for a bit of escapist browsing - but it's way too expensive for me.

Preseli Mags said...

I love Toast - but it's too expensive for me too. I feel I should buy from Toast as a patriotic effort as they started on a farm not far from here in Carmarthenshire. There is a Toast shop in Llandeilo which I'd love to go to. There's also one in Harrogate...

Twiglet said...

Oh yes lemon brushed nylon - what was so good about them I wonder - I guess they dried so much quicker than the striped flanelette and in the days before tumble driers that was important!!

elizabethm said...

You have it exactly. I love Toast too but somehow it doesn't quite work with my life, or my size or my bank balance.
My grandmother had the lemon yellow sparking sheets too and I remember vividly the getting dressed in bed.

Anonymous said...

Hello

I like Toast clothes too, but often had my reervation about prices of the imple item such as shirt and t-shirts.
A few years ago, on holiday in Paris, I found THE SAME shirt, in Monoprix supermarket. While it was costing £ 69.00 in the UK, it was sold there at 26.00 euros (full price),equivalent of £ 17.00 then.

Sylvia