It is occasionally pointed out that, despite having spent years working in the news media, my personal writing is characterised by the absence of any overtly political or topical comment.
While accepting this is true, I generally retort that this should not be accepted as evidence of a less than serious mind, nor should it be assumed that there are not issues about which I possess strong convictions.
Such as the importance of wearing comfortable trousers.
If I were to ape some of my more distinguished peers and turn my attention to the state of the polity then I would likely find myself advocating laws which make it compulsory to wear trousers with elasticated waistbands at the office.
Which is a roundabout way of bringing me to my subject for this week - the ordeal of buying new clothes.
I understand that this is a workaday ritual for many, that is not unusual for the style-conscious to exist in a permanent cycle of trying on, purchasing and returning garments. For most I imagine that buying clothes is a process as natural and vital to life as the movement of the tides.
It is not that way with me. Any aesthetic concerns I may once have possessed have long since been dismissed, notions of adhering to fashion diluted like ink in water. My aspirations exist no higher than finding a pair of trousers in which I can achieve a state of relaxation. And when I find them I wear them until....and I apologise for not being able to find a more eloquent turn of phrase here....until the backside falls out of them.
Once a year my wife gamely takes me shopping to buy new clothes for my birthday. I’m generally reluctant and obstructive, perhaps scarred by a previous experience during which the fire alarm went off when I was in the changing room of a department store, prompting a panicked assistant to bang on the door urging me to evacuate the building immediately even though, at that exact moment, I was wearing only my underpants. I politely told her to wait.
And so it is that on a Saturday in late November I find myself strolling past rails of denims, moleskins, chinos and cords. An enthusiastic assistant asks me if I know what I was looking for.
‘Something that I can wear at work, at home and, preferably, when I’m asleep too,’ I joke.
She doesn’t laugh.
My wife approaches, carrying a pair of trousers which she wants me to try on. We move towards the dressing room. I look at the garment. According to the size marked on the label it should fit. I pull on the trousers and quickly notice that something doesn’t seem right. They are tight. Uncomfortably tight.
‘These trousers are the wrong size,’ I shout to my wife. ‘No, they’re just slim fitting,’ she calls back.
Except slim fitting doesn’t begin to cover it. The trousers have been absorbed onto my flesh like a new layer of prosthetic skin. I begin to think about the scene in Grease when Olivia Newton-John appears in the leather suit. I had said earlier that I wanted a pair of trousers that I could wear all the time. But by this it was not my intention to indicate that I wanted trousers which I was physically unable to remove.
My wife wants to see how they look so I struggle out, adopting a strange straight-legged waddle reminiscent of a young Forrest Gump.
She takes one look at me and shakes her head. ‘Good God, no.’
Thankfully I’m in a place beyond the reach of vanity. I go back to the dressing room and begin to remove the trousers. It’s as easy as peeling an orange while wearing oven gloves. Eventually I am separated from the cursed garment and I fling the evil trousers into the darkest corner.
Then I lift another pair. They fit pleasingly around my capacious rump. I sigh with pleasure. They are the trousers I arrived in.
I suggest that it is time to go home. As we’re walking out I notice that there’s a hole in my shoe, but I don’t say anything.