Oh my goodness, on Saturday I went to the most hideous swish in Brighton. I got there to find that there was a points system in operation: 5 points for 'high street small', 10 for 'high street large', thirty for vintage and SIXTY for designer. I had only brought *three* things, all of which were judged by the narrow-eyed swish-mistress on the desk as 'high street small' (despite my protests: 'but they're vintage!' 'Well if you're not happy you can always take them back.' 'Oh, right, because then I won't be able to take anything.').
I nearly cried. All the best stuff was out of my reach. An invisible barrier had been set up between those who had brought designer (and could therefore leave with designer), who clutched their green raffle tickets as if they bore the winning Euromillions numbers, and those who had brought high street, ashamedly hiding our pink tickets in our Primark-bought pockets. If only they'd told us in advance. I could at least have brought more.
To make matters worse, the whole thing was quite clearly a vehicle for the organisers to promote their businesses. I'm afraid I left for a consoling soya latte during the 'which colour season are you' session. It may have been excellent, but having been told off twice for merely looking at the clothes rails, by this point I had lost the will to carry on breathing.
During the half-hour of looking (after which everything had to be put back), all remaining goodwill in the room ebbed away, to be replaced by downright rebelliousness. Several swishers asked if they could take things that they didn't have enough points for if no one else wanted them at the end. 'No, we're taking everything that's left to the charity shop', came the stern reply. Now hang on one clothes-swapping minute, charity shops are great, but we brought this stuff out of the goodness of our hearts, to be shared with other swishers, not to be claimed and confiscated by the uncompromising swish-mistresses.
Then came the talk from the nutritionist. Tip: never trust an overweight nutritionist. Especially when she tells you that the equinox is the best time to detox and spouts pseudo-scientific nonsense about not eating too much fruit because it makes the body too acidic (huh?). Glances were exchanged, eyes were rolled and a low muttering broke out; the nutritionist, sensing impending mutiny, cut her spiel short.
There followed the kind of frenzy usually seen at feeding time in the piranha tank. Women who had been made to wait two and a half hours for free clothes descended in search of items that six other people also had their eyes on, and predictable chaos ensued.
Before my very eyes, a fascinating phenomenon began to emerge. As clothes were claimed and pink tickets cashed in, I noticed that the designer items, with their green tickets, were being left behind as unaffordable. It seemed such a shame that they should all be left to the swish-mistresses.
So how did Cockatrice manage to leave with a Marc Jacobs skirt, Jaeger top, Nicoli handbag (picture below - more to come, I promise) and numerous other gorgeous bits? I couldn't possibly say, except to point out that if you decide to make green tickets your highest currency denomination, it might be best not to go pinning that currency all over the things you want people to exchange it for...
I submit myself to your judgement, merciful readers: shameless dishonesty, or ingenious lateral thinking? The verdict is on your hands.
p.s. For an alternative view of this event, check out the excellent Words on the Topic, who actually liked the rules! Ah well, horses for courses I suppose...