A DAY IN THE COUNTRY

We love living in the countryside.

Recently some friends who live in Montana USA came to stay. They really do live in the countryside and depending on the time of year have hungry grizzly bears regularly knocking on their back door looking for a human lunch!

We have yet to visit Larry and Barbara but have listened to tales of fishing for steel head trout from the bottom of their garden, hunting trips for all manner of game and thousands of acres to ride out. That would be a bonus and a thrill if I could ride, but I cannot.  Never mind, it all sounds like a very frontiersman existence and I felt I had to find something for them to remember during their short stay with us, in good old England?

After a welcoming bite at the pub I considered tramping around Blenheim but decided that we would save that for another day and as it was a glorious summer sunday, chose instead to call in on a game of cricket being played in our village.

Neither of our guests had ever seen a game of cricket and the moment I mentioned watching a game, both became quite animated at the prospect and on arrival at the ground, we sat down by the pavilion alongside assorted groupies there to support the athletes on show. The game was in full swing and I felt some explanation was required as our guests were a little surprised at the range of girths on display.

I explained that although it was preferable the players should be in peak physical condition, as these protagonists were amateurs their endeavours in this annual inter village confrontation was a semi serious affair.

They got the message and entered into the spirit of the occasion.

Larry quickly absorbed the information that one side batted and the other side fielded. He became quite enthused by the tactics of the game with the changes in bowlers from fast to slow and the positioning of the fielders. So much so that his heavily accented cheers of encouragement such as ‘way to go baby!’ when a batsman struck a four or six, started to draw strange looks from the modest crowd of seated onlookers, certainly from those who had managed to stay awake during the cut and thrust.

Such was Larry’s commitment to the game that I have no doubt if asked, he would have padded up and gone in to bat for America. So it was a considerable disappointment to him when at a seemingly critical stage of the match, the Umpires abruptly removed the bails and both sides walked off the field. The time on the pavilion clock was precisely 4.15pm.

“What happened” he said.

“Nothing Larry, its tea time” I commented as I prised myself out of the folding chair.

“What do you mean? Tea time?” he spluttered.

I seized the moment!

“Larry it is called tradition. Throughout what is left of our Empire, civilised people stop for tea at this time. Tea is taken and whilst standards have slipped a little over the decades I have no doubt that if you were to enter that pavilion right now, you would find tables groaning from the weight of plates of cucumber sandwiches, huge pots of tea, sponge cakes and a genial backslapping atmosphere at odds with most sporting contests in your country.

“You’re kidding me “ he said

“Be my guest” I said gesturing to the steps of the pavilion. He wandered up the steps and I prayed the tea ladies would not let me down.

He returned shaking his head.

“You Brits really take the biscuit George.”

“Yes Larry perhaps we do in this respect. But as Americans you have much to be admired for, your ‘can do mentality’ and your refusal to accept the principle of entitlement in any form. We on the other hand have really only our tradition left. Centuries of knowing about form and bad form. ‘Manners maketh man’ beaten into us from a young age. But our most treasured asset is of course, the gift for pomposity, the envy of the world and which some of us have carefully nurtured into an art form!”

“Come on” I said

“Where are we going?” Barbara asked

“Home of course Barbs” Larry growled. “Its tea time”! 725

A DRESSING DOWN

On Saturdays I pick up a copy of the weekend Financial Times. I find that not only does it summarise the more important aspects of the weeks International news, it does so simply and occasionally adds a concluding view on the subjects covered that I am never bright enough to have worked out for myself. It also takes me a week to read!

An article in a recent edition of the Life and Arts section rather grabbed my attention. In it, the journalist derides mature men who resort to wearing a sports jacket or a blazer over a pair of jeans. His argument from reading the first 500 words, is that men who choose to follow this style of dress were undermining the very fabric (sorry) of our society. Furthermore he adds, it is a desecration of everything that the Englishman stands for etc etc. He implores us to summon all our nerve and reject the soft option that we as mature men, know what is best to wear? Heaven forfend! As if we would?

My eyes drift down the page and I could see that this guardian of style had managed to fill half a page of broadsheet on the unsuitability of the two main standby’s in the Englishman’s wardrobe. I ploughed on but with increased anxiety as it was clear that I and others like me of a certain age, were indeed the main target for his displeasure. I must admit here and now, that when I feel the occasion demands a jacket, I can often be seen propping up a bar somewhere, sporting a generously cut pair of Levi’ s, a plain blue shirt, modestly open at the neck and my trusty old double breasted blazer with a bright silk handkerchief casually popping out from the top pocket.

This look according to the FT, is an inner cry for help! Apparently I need help?

The jaws in the vice of inadequacy tighten as I read on hoping that soon amongst these well crafted words, the answer appears and I might emerge reborn and become someone who will at long last, cause my children to stop in their tracks, gasp and murmur, ‘Dad, you look wonderful!’

Well another of life’s disappointments I am afraid. For nowhere in the article was there a hint of guidance to a better, smarter me.  I absorbed the whole diatribe slowly and carefully, right down to the last word, fully expecting the holy grail to be in the last sentence. But no. Half a blooming page on why I should be ashamed along with numerous highlighted politicians and actors of my age, all targeted for appalling jacket and jean sense.

Presumably, as a sop to those who fought their way to the end of his bizarre piece, he informed us poor sartorial delinquents that he now wears ‘dark suits, english shirts, english shoes and european ties’ everywhere and to all occasions.

Well bully for you pal! On top of a hair shirt as well perhaps?

 

And on the subject of underwear, I notice this champion of all that is de riguer in mens outfitting is noticeably silent? I think we need to know his views? These things, are best out in the open because I may have been compounding my appalling bad taste on the upper layers by wearing the most inappropriate undergarments?

It is entirely possible that the author of this weekend article regularly sashays along the streets of Mayfair resplendent in English suit, shirt and shoes, however his all too precise gait, perhaps the result of a rather ill fitting polka dot thong? Or perhaps his purist inclinations demand that he wear the waist high white Y front? Frankly, we must know and the FT owes us a follow up?

Personally I favour black jockey boxer pants. I have concluded over the decades, that their discreet qualities far outweigh any failings in design and fashion. Such is my attachment to this particular loin covering that in the warm summer months I am often to be found taking an early morning stroll around the garden, tea in hand, in my jockeys.  A vision complimented by cut off wellies and a straw hat. Certainly not a look to be found in the pages of Tailor and Cutter but I like the ensemble and that surely, is the point?