Bird brain

The beautiful Tippi Hedren would be the first to forewarn that feathers suit no-one. Despite this season's collections peddling them as bold, bohemian and ferally exotic, any raiment en plumage actually makes you look like the deranged lovechild of Pocahontas and Papagena. Just say no.

Hitch's brilliant film was obviously tapping into some primal and potent fear of our avian antecedents. Apart from the occasional fantasy involving an embroidered bodice, a leather gauntlet and a peregrine falcon, I find birds to be alien dinosaur relics, all beady eye and reptilian claw. The impossible dynamic between man and bird is beautifully, coldly captured by T H White in The Goshawk. Read it, and remember it for the rest of your life. White is a splendid archetype of the over-educated, socially reclusive, sexually constipated Englishman, and also happens to be author of The Once And Future King, the best bit of literature to escape from the fetid Oxfordshire wankfest that was the Tolkein posse.

In contrast, The Conjuror's Bird is proving to be a pleasant, unassuming thing with a touch of the Dan Browns, and only just enough enigmatic femininity and sea-voyaging to redeem it; but both works have that ambience of dust, death and stifled sexuality that birds always seem to bring to books. This is surely epitomised in Bleak House, in the figure of little old Miss Flite compulsively intoning the names of the caged creatures in her shabby attic room: Hope, Joy, Madness, Waste, Despair.

In the escapist fantasy of fashion, maybe decking ourselves in feathers achieves a symbolic transcendence of our species and native element that no mammalian pelt can match. A feathered woman looks ancient and dangerous, untameable and yet caged within her gilded garb. You can imagine her retiring to her dilapidated mews, once young and free and clad in chiffon, now all jagged hems and scaly skin, thumbing through her pandora's jewelbox and mumbling to herself: Hope, Joy, Madness, Waste, Despair.

Quite why you'd want to project that image beats me, but it's certainly more interesting than leggings and a smock, and Bill Oddie's pretty damn hot right now.