Farthing & Fielding16.05.2017 / 00:17
Key characters* (in alphabetical order):
Mr Betts, working in St and F, goes to TF
Mr Brown works in TF as a store manager
Miss Hardy - fiancé of the owner of TF, goes to S&F
Secondary characters (in alphabetical order):
Mr Devieshall, Aidan
Mr Devieshall, Ryan
a Goose with a bowtie
Mr Keelan, Samuel
Mrs Large, Helen
Mr Large, Mark
Vincy, the Vincent
In places like Portobello Rd and Museum St, swarming with vivid, story-telling shop-windows, rushing to a destination casting fleeting glances around, we sometimes bump into something striking, yet so familiar. We just can’t help calling in, might as well be to say hi! Brothers-in-tweed, Stumper & Fielding and Thomas Farthing, are the case indeed. Here are two stories, true and all that, of two gentlemen. Mr Betts and Mr Brown. Unexpurgated.
10 o’clock. Morning. Both feeling rather determined to do something decisive. The sun is shining a bit.
WC1. 12.01 pm.
Mr Betts, a Stumper & Fielding frequenter, looking down at his shoes, entered Thomas Farthing, a friendly grumpy smile on his face.
- Good afternoon! - said he.
- Awrite, fella! - heard he from Mr. Brown, a Man From Essex.
Puzzled. Something is missing. “What’s your soul thirsty for today? A titfer?” Well, maybe yes, why not? - he thought. At this point Mr Betts looked around: classy Springfield jackets that would perfectly go along with Oxford graduates, ‘Leonard’ pinstripe jackets which design is based on Miss J Hardy’s grandfather’s vintage suit and, logically, named after him; suits, knitted jumpers, coats; a long row of baker boys, fedoras, dakotas, homburgs and gloves, scarves, ties of all sorts; but the most fascinating thing in Mr Betts’ opinion was a range of most desirable trifles of things thatched in the corner chest, including hunting boots, experimental design fedora with a bigger top and a double rep ribbon, which, being a signature piece that owners are highly fond of, would doubtfully ever leave the shop, and a bird which immediately captured Mr Betts’ attention.
The store manager interrupted Mr Betts’ observation of a goose in a bowtie with his highly voluntary comment:
- Your tie is rubbish, - remarked Mr. Brown.
- Would you mind to excuse my incredulity but I must underline that you are wearing the same silk tie in a different colour.
- Exactly. The colour’s rubbish. Put game on fleek man!
Whilst tying a knot around Mr Betts’s neck, Mr Brown manages to distract his opponent to a sufficient extent in order to put a hat of his choice on his head.
- No man is a gent without a beaver hat, lad.
Mr Betts, stunned. Feeling his own head:
- God, the Queen and Saint George! Bareheaded in public. How could...
- Yeap, in tube too.
- Tube? A real gentleman, true servant to my Queen, I always take a cab. My best guess, that’s where I must have left my top hat…
Mr. Brown succeeds in his business, Mr. Betts - in his, id est doing something decisive. He is decisively outraged. Mr. Betts, sober as a judge, trying to be as polite as he can:
- Whose idea is it? A peasant’s? Not a top hat? Not a chance in a hell I would ever wear anything but a top hat!
Jibbing around they finally approach a mirror. On seeing his reflection, Mr Betts sighs, amused:
- Not that bad, at all, actually. Every blue-blooded girl of the field would take my generous proposal into account tonight.
- Everyone is looking for a woman of independent means these days, fella.
Mr. Betts freezes for a second, gravely thinking about ‘these days’.
W1. Around the same time.
Ms J Hardy, still missing an R, determined to make her hubby-to-be happy tonight, is rushing to grocery stalls on Portobello. She, a poor thing, has absolutely forgotten that market closes down early on weekdays. She is so flighty that she, absolutely by chance, finds herself in Stumper & Fielding, camouflaged to match the surrounding stalls.
- G’d afternoon, Ma’m! Looking for something in particular?
- G’d afternoon, Sir! How nice, my fiancé just adores everything like this. Your mannequins are dressed just like him. I feel positively obliged to buy a small present for him, my hubby-to-be. Oh, you’ve got sooo many things in here. It is like a department store in miniature.
- Well. Why don’t you have a look at our cufflinks. Cufflinks made of keys of antique typewriters. Very nice, aren’t they?
- Absolutely adorable! I’ll take them, he’ll love them, my fiancé.
- Aal-right, Madam.
- Thank you, thank you, Sir! Incredible buy for my fiancé, my hubby-to-be. And what a service… You’re embellishing the store with the shine of smile. Adorable.
Miss J Hardy leaves the store, looking a bit lost, but indescribably happy. Clinging to a casket of green leather with elegant golden impression, she walks away towards the tube station with an almost tangible sense of purpose.
WC1. Back to Thomas Farthing.
To get Mr Betts back from the past, Mr Brown boldly and highly expressly shoves another round to him - cognac this time.
- Cognac? At this hour? After single malt? What in heaven are you thinking of me?
- Pfffew, what a miserable gnome, - mumbled Mr Brown to himself - tossing a set of tweed baker boys on top. It’s autumn at last. What a Brit season. Autumn, you hear?
Mr Brown loves tweed. He is apparently the epitome of tweed. All his moods, all his deeds, all dribs and drabs of words over a glass of… Never he forgets to fill it up, and then, having downed a glass for breakfast, completing a phrase doesn’t matter that much. Ah, Mr Brown embodies the hurly-burly, and does it beautifully.
Mr Betts transcended to a new higher level of sobriety. Oh, his long-forgotten, yet beloved state of instability. Slightly rocking, he was blissing out. His euphoric calamity was brusquely interrupted by a gang of Asian tourists, looking at him from the outside through their cameras. Mr Betts got confused. Utterly unacceptable. Jazz, cognac and then you just get these, these, you know!
- Merdes! Maudit Chinois! Les Français, les Chinois… Ce qui va arriver?
One of the ladies from the gang, her nose puckered in a nervous frown:
- Que crétin! Il a fou! Ne sait toujour pas que nous excluons le monde!..
Mr Betts was so surprised that he stumbled and literally fell out of the shop. Ah, don’t worry, I’m completely fine. Some two steps, not a big deal. Having recovered, he picked up his hat and artfully shook the dust off it. Thomas Farthing’s shop-windows caught his eye. He let himself a sigh of delight. A graceful chaos of gloves, Cambridge Satchels, silk neck scarves, tie pins, and hats, hats, hats, as far as you can see - hats. Every tiny thing was the evidence of the owner’s subtle artistic sense of taste. The manner in which the lower edge of the jacket was fastened, showing perfectly fitted trousers and exquisite cufflinks on snow-white cuffs of classic Oxford shirts; mysteriously lit Asian paper umbrellas, inadvertently touching hard starched collars of formal shirts, dozens of magical boxes with wallets, business card holders, pocket watch chains that women are so fond of grabbing as they leave the shop - for their righteous and faithful, and those women who are seeking to adopt a fraction of that power, that, as they think, men possess when they put on their three piece suits. But most of all, Mr Betts favoured the lamblike. They confusedly stared at the shop through an absurd diversity of shop-windows, being enchanted, they entered scratching the floor with their kitten heels. They would wander around the maze of shelves, almost breaking under the pressure of magnificent goods, stopping every now and then to examine perfect seams on the collars of coats and jackets, unintentionally caressing the lining. According to Mr Betts, such women just had to be of the highest moral qualities. Knowing his trade, he was smitten with Thomas Farthing store as much as he would if one of these women paid attention to him. Modest, accidentally charming, almost in religious awe in the face of high craftsmanship. A lady like that knows a pair of great trousers indeed, - he thought with a sigh.
02:07 pm. WC1. Miss J Hardy returns to Thomas Farthing.
A girl has a talent to interrupt an action. Miss J Hardy flittered into TF, pretty birdie, telling with inspiration about a small shop she had visited earlier that day on Portobello Rd. Interrupting herself, she, truly delighted, was cooing about how incredible her feeling of a discovered treasure was. How much it was to her liking and how she found it on the other end of the city.
- Oh and the music, gosh, that MUSIC! - said she.
- Elegance at its purest. - suddenly comments Mr Betts.
Miss J Hardy and Mr Brown stared at him, amused.
Mr Betts, laughing in his beard (despite the fact he failed to grow one just yet):
- Innit fabulous?
- Who the hell are you? - Mr Brown was outraged.
- Careful, my friend, you look greener than your scarf, - said Mr Betts
- Care to introduce yourself! - said Mr Brown.
- Look at you! An hour in a company of a gentleman and your linguistic skills are improving!
Mr Brown, just about to punch Mr Betts on his face, restrained by Miss J Hardy, totters in his own feet and falls upon a pile of hats. He shouts:
- Bloody hell, wait a moment! I’ll steam you like a veggie pot!
Mr Betts, deeply astonished, out of breath, begging pardons, is trying to give Mr Brown a hand. Mr Brown’s cheeks go up and down, just like his pug’s, lazily and noisily. Most probably, he didn’t fully realise the reason for his indignation. Was it the second coming of his sobriety, or bitterness caused by being fooled.
Nah, still it was for sobriety.
He artfully grabs a glass, downs it, fills it up anew.
For a while Mr Betts and Mr Brown are staring at each other, the former - rolling his eyes, driven by fear, making attempts to foretell the outcome of the possible tossing, the latter - breathing nervously, stunned by the obvious necessity to take some action, he tucked his sleeves up with Rhodium plated armbands. Moreover, that gal frozen in anticipation behind his back, devil take her.
Women are hard to deal with. Their meaningful silence screams for actions. They tend to start panicking when nothing happens. Everything static frightens them, hence a display of weird cartoons starts.
Miss J Hardy seizes a glass off a table and splashes its contents on Mr Betts’ face.
- Hey! (in Essex voice) - she cheeped with a meaning of ‘what have I done?’. The thing is, it’s a particularly rare phenomenon to come across - a woman that formulates a reason for her deeds.
Mr Betts, in righteous anger, shook his head and licked his lips.
A hell of a woman, he thought.
- Keep your woman on a leash! - said he to Mr Brown.
The moment of the battle was creeping closer when the door swung open with a loud laugh of a bunch of peculiar characters.
The Devieshall twins, Ryan and Aidan, settled on the corner beside the pennylane bicycle. Young, attractive, blossoming with health, in this episode their only role is to smoke French cigarettes and maintain absolute concentration on the process.
Reu James, everyone’s favourite, was writhing in dance around covered with ink Miss Logan, who was doing her tap dancing. They raised the dust into the air and it made Miss J Hardy sneeze once or twice before she threw herself into the arms of Vincy, the oldest and highly respected parishioner of Thomas Farthing’s. He had a distinct taste and dignified posture, and was ever accompanied by the aroma of cabaret’s cigar rooms. The was one thing about him - nobody knew what he did. He seemed to deliberately wander night and day around the city, paying visits to the friends he had met over his life; and Thomas Farthing was apparently just a stop on his beaten track. He, first thing, shakes Ramsey’s hand, a smiling Cherokee-cowboy actor, every now and then featuring in Thomas Farthing. Ramsy is delightfully graceful, somehow, by some incredible means, he knows how to visually stop time, once you first glance at him. You just can’t help feasting your eye on him, his mighty mane of around a half of him (6,6ft), his slender wrists and dexterous tricks. He is an indispensable part of Thomas Farthing, but, telling the truth, hardly he cares about something else more than about cinema.
When Mr Brown started towards the door to see the Larges in, Mark and Helen, Mr Betts felt the necessity to stay there for quite a while. Mr Brown nodded in his direction, noting that they are always in search of new staff members. They, both happy about this mutually beneficial deal, shook hands and downed another round of cognac.
- Boy, I’ll teach you how to drink! said Mr Brown.
- Alrighty! said Mr Betts.
Breaking into a smile, Mr Betts noticed a new character at the far end of the store. Leaning against the shelves with hats, which previously served as church seats in a local parish, he realised that he beholds a human of disconcerting beauty and his heart started to pump faster. In a luxurious green leather chair there sat Samuel Keelan, Samuel the Excellent, simply The Sam. He was resignedly combing his moustache. Once Mr Betts approached him with grace of a leopard, he quietly pronounced: I’m not just a bit of a slag, I am a total slag. It didn’t seem to stop Mr Betts.
But it’s about high time we returned to the Larges, Mark and Helen. Mark, a great collector of Ralf Lauren, a particularly tall good-natured fellow, stroking his moustache affectedly after each sip of single malt, adoring his wife. О, Mrs Mark Large, this brilliantly stylish modern woman with an unobtrusive feel of vintage flare in the way she holds herself and is dressed up. Dear Helen, giddy with excitement at most things, has a penchant for pink champagne and red lipstick, and more importantly, has a beautiful, quiet laugh.
Following all this traveling circus came Mr Skyner, strong as an ox, sly as a cobra. It should be noted, that Mr Skyner was especially neat. He mutely looked around his demesne, made sure the mess, skilfully directed by himself, was perfect, and smiled.
His smile served as an approval of everyone involved in the operetta. Music seemed to be louder, tap dancing - clearer, and all the alcohol smells mingled in one particular odour. The shop was a-rocking and every passing late-nighter would stare at the shop in admiration. They were greeted, invited and treated.
Heels were scratching the floor, dust was flying in the air. Mr Skyner goes outside for a minute, to blow away the cobwebs - a highly complicated phrase for one’s comprehension, but the British seem to know what this mysterious occupation means. Many an occasion history knows when a gentleman would go out at leisure for a second to blow away his cobwebs and never returned to his wife, mother or children. Those would accept a situation like this with understanding - a true gentleman is driven by a thirst for adventures. Miss J Hardy’s concern was whether Mr Skyner belonged to that kind. Once she followed him to London with no questions, no odd calculations and no doubts about his success. Accompanying him around the world, she became his loyal lifelong companion. Aery, subtle, pure and sweet. Is there anything else to dream about? - thought Mr Skyner and firmly clenched her hand in his. Holding hands, they were admiring Thomas Farthing’s shop-windows: they took pride in beautiful noises outside, her friends are drunk and happy, Elvis is singing, streams of liquor are flowing, fiery dancing and tweed and silk all around; he was looking at her imagining how beautiful she would look wearing a new silk dress in Ecuador. He was smitten.
- Oi! Look at the mess you are! - said she suddenly, noticing that Mr Skyner had rolled up his sleeves, - he was probably working downstairs, sorting out the newly arrived stock - here, immediately!
Miss J Hardy took a magical box from the depth of her skirts and deftly fastened the cufflinks on the snow-white cuffs of her husband-to-be. By the way, have you ever noticed, that fastening cufflinks or tying a silk scarf is, at times, much more sexy than undo them? She then examined him from toes to forehead with her trained eye, making sure all details emphasised his splendour well and was satisfied.
1.17 am. WC1. Mr Betts in delusion, Mr Brown in confusion
The longest day has an end.
Doesn’t seem the case for Thomas Farthing, - thought Mr Betts, - Every telling has a tailing and that is it.
Anticipating new life, he could literally feel excitement and trembling in his fingers. He promised to himself to always be ready to undertake every adventure, which, he believed, was waiting for him on the corners of the male and female departments of Thomas Farthing, tables strewn with scarves, berets and throw pillows branded with Union Jack, at the till and tables with bakerboy caps, in the backroom downstairs, a treasury that also served as a small studio. Mr Betts felt warm breeze filling his sails. A great many a verse will be written here, a great number of glasses will be drunk, pretty girls will be dancing around in their new tweed skirts, in white sweaters tightly fitting young breasts, and neat silk squares, intricately tied around their necks. That’s life!
Mr Brown seemed to be taken away with his contemplations of Asia and a simpler life. He’d taken a guitar and sat outside of the store on a bench mumbling some country tunes to himself. The centre of everyone’s attention, he never really noticed all those glances cast at him, thus, never realised how opposite to lonely he actually was. Boiling in despair, with which he struck himself, he instinctively followed the routine, driven by the stability of self-perception inside the class system. The same place, day in day out, same foregone set of circumstances, and trapped inside a young body - one old soul, ever undiscovered.
Text by Dariia Mingaraieva and Artem Semko
*All the characters mentioned in the story are real.
You may find some of them on photos in this blog post. Have a fun hunt!
Photography Alexander Bather
Styling Adam & Jenna Skyner, Daniel James Brown
All designs belong to Thomas Farthing
Thomas Farthing, 40 Museum St, London, WC1A 1LU
+44 207 831 1600
Mon – Sun : 10.oo am – 19.00 pm
107 Portobello road, London, United Kingdom
+44 (0)207 229 5577
Monday - Friday : 10 - 6
Saturday : 9 - 7
Sunday : 10 - 6