Monday, January 15, 2007

Suitably Clobbered

“Which one do you prefer?” says my wife. It’s the sort of question that any experienced campaigner in the battle for life which is matrimony will know to tackle warily. The government, otherwise so solicitous of our welfare, should give free lessons to those about to marry, on how to handle this sort of situation. Of course, there was always George Bernard Shaw’s invaluable hint to those about to take the plunge – don’t, but once you’re in, you’re in. Anyway, on this occasion, as it was a question of which suit was I proposing to take for my trip to London, I thought the ball was pretty much in my court.

“The grey wool with that faint stripe,” says I, firmly. The mistress of my wardrobe, who is busy sorting out the clobber for my mission, wrinkles her nose as though something has gone seriously wrong with the drains.

“It’s very old.”

“Yes, and so am I. But I like it.”

I must agree, it has seen a few anniversaries, but it is a nice suit. It might not be what the well dressed lout about town is wearing this year, but it’s what I intend to be wearing this week. For a start, it’s made from real cloth, the sort of thing that comes from yaks, llamas or well-bred sheep, and it was put together by a little man sitting cross legged and wielding his needle and thread somewhere in the depths of the East End of London. He must have known what he was up to since it has worn well and it wasn’t constructed of synthetic plastic, welded together by a computer controlled laser.

I must have scored a point since we moved on to the next item, albeit a little tetchily.

“Now, which shoes will you be wearing.”

“The black lace-up Oxfords.”

“They’re very………..,” she started but this time I was ready for it.

“I know, they’re very old. But they’re the most comfortable ones I’ve got.” In fact, they are the best shoes I’ve had in years, made by a real cobbler from real hide, not a glued together compressed cardboard product from a pasta factory in the environs of Naples. And they are not only comfortable but waterproof. I bought them in London many years ago from the same shoemaker who had made my father’s shoes and, in all probability, his father’s shoes before him. They were made to fit and carry a stamped last number so that, if one day I could scrape up enough money for a replacement, all I have to do is to call them up, give them the last number and, voila, a new pair of shoes that fit will be mine. Of course, no doubt it will be the son, or possibly the grandson, of the man who made my pair who will do the job but that’s the passage of time for you.

“Which tie?” she asks.

“Ties are out.”

“Tony Blair wears one.”

“My point, exactly.”

I like to go to town in a decent suit – you never know when you might get a call to tea at Buck House. The fact that I’m wearing an elderly suit would be appreciated there. King Edward the VIII always recycled his father’s wardrobe, a habit that sometimes made him look slightly out of place, and it wasn’t helped much by his habit of getting his trousers pressed with the creases at the side. Unlike the Windsor knot for ties, it was a fashion that never caught on. Probably Wallis Simpson started to do his packing for him.

The rest of the ceremony of the packing of my suitcase proceeded on similarly predictable lines and I do feel that life would be easier if wives could be trained, rather in the way that an officer’s batman is, to lay out the appropriate bits and pieces according to the manual without asking too many questions. Sometimes one can see the advantage of joining a religious order and entering a monastery. Not only is there usually an absence of wives but the inmates also know exactly what they’re going to be wearing the next day and there’s none of this: “Are you wearing the plaid socks or the ones with the stripes?” And even on a trip to London they’re always in style.

So if you happen to be in town next week, I’m sure you’ll spot me in the crowd by my faintly faded sartorial elegance, rearguard of fashion though it may be.

Rather as when the two old friends met up on the street one day: “It must be years, old boy. How did you know me?”

“I recognised the suit.”


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