I was tempted by a set of six Denby soup cups and saucers which, at thirty squid, were a fair price, judged Alban. However, B.A. and I are saving for our Italian trip next week, so I let them pass me by. I also squashed an impulse to buy a big orange Le Creuset casserole dish for 45 pounds, although I am still of two minds about that. We really do need a big heavy casserole dish, and as my mother has two, I feel I ought to have one.
The easiest way to prevent myself from buying anything in the UK is to multiply the UK price by two. At its very worst exchange rate, the Canadian dollar is worth about 50 pence. It usually isn't that bad, but once you factor in taxes, which in Canada are added at the till,, my "ponder this in Canadian dollars" technique is reasonable. When I consider that a 45 pound dish means 90 dollars in Canada, which means a big chunk of my fee for the last CR column I wrote, the excitement of having found a "bargain" rather ebbs. The U.K. is an expensive country; Edinburgh is an expensive city.
And there are few shops as expensive in Edinburgh as Harvey Nichols, perhaps Britain's most glamorous chain of department stores, which I very rarely enter, for I am afraid some cunning saleslady will grab me and trick me into buying a $1,000 pound (and therefore $2,000) dress. When I do enter, I confine myself to the MAC cosmetics counter by the door.
However, this month they are having a sale at their sushi bar on the top floor, said Alban, so after we browsed the antiques, curios and casseroles, we headed for Harvey Nicks and took the escalator north. We joined the queue for the sushi bar behind two tightly clothed girls with slum hair* and then took our place behind the tin conveyor belts of plates.
Essentially, every plate trundling by on the conveyor belt costs diners two pounds fifty. A plate containing three to four pieces of salmon sashimi costs the same as a plate of edamame beans. Had I been thinking, I would have had just two or three plates of sashimi--a steal at 5-7.50. However, I wasn't thinking, and went for the sushi rolls and edamame beans, too. The little blue plates piled up beside me. In my defense, it is hard to be practical when plates of food are sailing past your nose, and all you have to do to get one is to stretch out your hand and get.
Harvey Nicks has a chocolate bar, too, set up with the same conveyor belt principle. It must be tremendously fun for children, and I recommend it for parents who want to give their children a truly eye-opening treat.
*Despite various half-hearted attempts to create a class-free society, Britons can still reveal their class origins or loyalties through clothing and hairstyles. As a five year veteran of the Rough Bus, I am delighted to report that the girls of the local council housing no longer matt random chunks of hair to their heads with gobs of goo (a style I never understood) and have for some time been creating messy buns on top of their heads or, more recently, going for a straight-with-heavy-hairspray-and-two-kirby-grips look.
Incidentally it is considered very bad form to notice these things at all, and I only get away with it because I am a foreigner, and British readers find my taboo-smashing savagery a bit thrilling. Meanwhile, I was reading about endemic sexual exploitation of little boys in Pakistan today, and if I were Pakistani, I would be a communist. (Okay, yes, I was reading about it in the Daily Mail., which is taking advantage of the fact its readers are all a bit concerned about the sexual habits of Pakistani men recently.) I think if Pakistani bus drivers in Pakistan knew how much any bus driver makes in Britain (let alone Edinburgh), they would RISE UP and OVERTHROW their capitalist oppressors. Forget the Muslim Brotherhood! The people's flag is deepest red, it shrouded oft our martyred dead...