Saturday, May 4, 2013

An Englishman's Trousers


This morning I went to a gentlemen’s clothes shop I patronise- because they have no truck with fashion, they just have good clothes that are always the same, I choose a colour and that’s that- to have the hem of a pair of trousers taken up. Mrs Hickory had given them to me some time ago and they had been forgotten in the wardrobe before I had had a chance to do it. I decided it was time to make them wearable. So I tucked them under my arm and strode forth.

It was a fine day, the sun was shining, children were playing, fresh-faced, full of energy, cats were lying in the shade and lizards in the sun. None of which is especially relevant, but it gives you an idea of how it felt to be preparing for a meeting with the tailor. 

"Morning", I said. "Morning, Mr Hickory", they said. This is a small place and I buy a lot of trousers.
"Trousers", I said. "I have these trousers... I have some trousers... I thought I'd look for some trousers..."
The sentence was less lucid than it might have been because somewhere in the middle of it I realized that the trousers in question were not in the bag in my hand, and neither was the bag. I later discovered they were both still at home on the chair by the door where I had put them so as not to forget them. For the moment, all I knew was that they were not in my hand.
I couldn't admit this, of course. To say, 'Sorry, I've made a mistake. I'll be back later', was, for some reason, beyond me at that moment. So with the word 'trousers' on my mind, and on my lips, repeatedly, I asked to see some. For half an hour I discussed trousers, tried on trousers, approved trousers, criticized trousers both constructively and otherwise, chatted idly of the past and present of trousers and the trends for a gentleman' summer wardrobe, before I finally had the presence of mind to say that I had better consult my wife, and left.
Now I am wondering whether, when I go back tomorrow, whether I shall have to buy the trousers we discussed today, or if I can successfully make a good excuse. I think I can swing it, but it will depend on how the conversation turns. In any case, a good pair of trousers never goes to waste.
Some good has come of it, however. It proves that, despite living the life of a Spaniard, looking and sounding like a Spaniard, in many ways thinking, feeling and remembering like a Spaniard, deep within me there still beats the heart of an Englishman,
for surely, only an Englishman could be that absurd.

2 comments:

Vincent said...

Wonderful! I have sometimes feared that you had gone native in the sense of sacrificing Englishness for the sake of camouflage, and merging seamlessly with your surroundings, as a self-effacing woman might buy dress material exactly matching her wallpaper.

But by this you have demonstrated your credentials as an English gentleman of the deepest dye. Don’t forget, a subtle racism is needed: the inferior culture gives way to the superior. Thus, I came to these English shores as an uncouth Australian (of four years old). I cherish Englishness as no native could.

In the same way an expat should discreetly fly the flag and show that our good manners are in no whit inferior to those of our hosts.

So, you will buy those trousers tomorrow, won’t you? The honour of your country needs You!

CIngram said...

I am fairly sure that, on Monday, I shall buy those trousers. I feel that my Englishness will prevail.

I have never understood the life of the ex-pat. I've seen many who seem to take a perverse pleasure in not understanding what is going on around them, and in deliberately missing out on the things that make it worth living where they have chosen to live. But despite making the most of life in the different parts of SPain I have lived in, and becoming, for practical purposes, one more Spaniard, I have never stopped being English.

Those trousers will inevitably be bought.