Brushes with Culture

This is a space where I can reflect on the many fascinating things that I experience. Some of the things I brush with are Culture with a capital C. Others are just intriguing moments. Sometimes I am brushing with these moments in a hurry. This is a chance to relive those moments in tranquility. These are the stories I tell myself in those quieter moments.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Materialism is Relative

Someone gave me a copy of the Sunday Telegraph on the train south yesterday and by the time I got to the tube I saw no reason not to dip into it. After all, you can't use a laptop on the tube.

It has a supplement called Stella which is all about beautiful people in the fashion industry - like Claudia Schiffer choosing her favourite dress. As someone who has occasionally glanced at my sister's Heat magazine, I was a bit shocked that further excesses of trivia existed beyond the heartache of D-cup C-list celebs. This supplement is worse than the Evening Standard for name dropping and the content was so precious (Alexander McQueen at over £2000) and flimsy (it wouldn't be warm enough anyway for London in March), that I turned with some pleasure to the quiz: "Are you Materialistic?"

Before beginning the quiz, my answer would have been: "Fairly, but perhaps 'acquisitive' captures it better." I like things that remind me of places and people. At one point, I'd steal momentoes - kind of deliberately not returning books and hats - but I grew out of that when I thought how annoying it must be. Still, I know how to spend.

So, there are 10 questions and you can score between 1 (never) and 5 (always) for each answer. Maximum 50, minimum 10 (Yep, that great maths thing keeps going...).

Q1: I go shopping to cheer myself up.
A1: Yes, I do. I often go to the supermarket if I'm feeling a bit glum; it has a trancelike effect.

Q2: I feel overwhelmed by the amount of 'stuff' I have.
A2: Already I am getting confused. I often feel overwhelmed by my stuff. But surely that's a reaction against materialism.

It goes down from there. I would never choose friends or partners according to their wealth and I don't find it hard to get on with people who have less money. I score 1 on every single remaining question.

The 10-18 category says: "To you, 'dry clean only' is a designer label.

Now this is insightful. I do look for 'dry clean only' labels and avoid them because they're high maintenance and I'm in favour of nice clean bright clothes that come out of a washing machine looking ready to wear. And I don't mind at all if they don't cost more than guarantees the person who made it a living wage.

That didn't stop me spending £xxxx on a carpet in India. It has 1600 knots per inch, shimmers gold in one direction and cool cream in the other, captures something of the formal garden design that I've been looking for over years, and it's sooo beautiful that I bought it out of passion.

Which is why I mistrust the Sunday Telegraph even more now than I did before. It has revealed to me that there are leagues of materialism I didn't know about and I'm in some junior backwater ranking of people who only think they are contenders. Crumbs, I look positively spiritual on my crusade for meaning in my textiles and trance with my groceries.


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