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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Sunday, 27 January 2013

Security where none is required

Two decades ago, perhaps three, VR urged me to adopt a more adult approach to acquiring underpants.

Buying in batches of six isn't a good idea since all tend to self-destruct in the same week, twelve years later. Crises however long postponed, always arrive inconveniently.

The sensation when (typically) the elastic withers is out of all proportion to the mere loss of underpant function. Deep inadequacy descends when you realise half the garment is hanging like a limp bunch of grapes down the interior of one trouser leg, and the other the other. You are uncertain. You can't be sure the effect isn't noticeable to male passers-by and they aren't whispering "Poor child." behind your back.

These thoughts passed through my mind last week when I paid for yet another half-dozen pants at - Where else? - Marks & Spencer. A minute later I found myself reflecting on the bill - £36. Enough for two suits when I was in the market for suits. I continued to remain philosophical.

My tranquillity didn't last. Donning the first pair I noticed a horrible innovation. The flyhole was secured with a totally unnecessary button. To what end? Of no benefit at all to M&S's elderly customers cursed with waterworks that operate intermittently.

What else have youthful designers got in store? Trousers with zip-up legholes? Hankies with velcro-assisted folding? Lockable bath taps? Don't they realise that life is short and they may have to answer to a vengeful and inevitably ancient God?

6 comments:

Sir Hugh said...

I can’t resist my favourite underpant story despite the length in terms of a blog comment.
The extract is from Nicholas Crane’s Two Degrees West, an account of his walking that line of longitude in England permitting himself only one kilometre either side of the line. You are, in my estimation, in exalted company.

“It seems to be in the nature of journeys that there comes a point (usually after a fortnight or so) when flaws begin to appear in the plan. On this walk it happened on the ninth day when the entire project began to be threatened by under-performing underpants.

What I had initially dismissed as a quirk of mis-dressing had, over kilometres, revealed itself to be a manufacture's fault in the underwear that I’d bought in Berwick to replace my own Marks and Spencer boxer shorts after cotton fatigue caused them to rip from top to bottom. Oddly, the M and S boxers self-destructed on the same day as The Sun reported - under the headline, “Sparks Flew Out of My Marks Knickers” - that the Marks and Spencer underwear of a Co-op check out operator had spontaneously combusted “It was terrible”, said Melanie Thompson. “I pulled my uniform down and my knickers were burning.” For a happy moment I thought I had stumbled upon another promising example of two-degree connectivity, for Melanie’s Co-op was in Greater Manchester, through which the meridian passed, and we wore the same brand of underwear and both of us had suffered comparable misfortunes on the same day. Sadly, scrutiny of my map revealed that Melanie’s supermarket lay more than 1,000 metres from two degrees. Equally sadly - I had no replacement underwear. I always walk in Marks and Spencer cotton boxer shorts, which are quick-drying and cut for unconstrained exertion. In Berwick all I could find was a garment patterned on an Edwardian bathing costume, made from striped tent fabric, with an absurd button fly that took ten minutes and several broken fingernails to open. More grievously, the replacements had the irritating habit of “slotting”, which - in the manner of seemingly minor irritations - was beginning to undermine my morale. In a further twist of meridional complicity, the next town centre on my line was Skipton, the birthplace of Mr. Thomas Spencer, co-founder of Marks and Spencer. Unfortunately Skipton was a month’s walk away, and even when I reached it, I would only have access to one half of the town, since the grid line 99 ran down the centre of the High Street. Which side of the line Skipton’s underwear specialist lay became a subject of increasingly emotional speculation”.

Rouchswalwe said...

I'm laughing so hard I've got tears in my eyes. All we need is a Chopin soundtrack in the background ... preferably the Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48 No. 1.

Julia said...

I can just imagine God holding up an offending pair and asking just what the designer had in mind. Though of course, women's underwear designers have a great deal more to answer for!

The Crow said...

I've recently lost a good deal of weight, not by choice but not complaining, and have not bought new underpants in the proper size yet - the old ones, now two sizes too large in the seat, still had pretty good elastic around the waist. Until, that is, the situation you so aptly describe here became my situation, as well. Fortunately for me, I was at home when the elastic gave way and the underpants slid toward the floor.

A safety pin held things together until I could visit the lingerie counter at the local Penney's department store that afternoon.

I think in future I'll stagger my purchase so they don't all fall apart at the same time.

Roderick Robinson said...

All: There are those who seize hold of a tiny fragment of someone's post and turn it into an entirely unrelated, self-serving comment. It's called showing off. And you can take my word for it because I do it more than most. Every so often the reverse happens and the commenters enhance the central subject (however insubstantial) with what they write.

It's so pleasing for all concerned when this happens. As today. So far, of course.

Sir Hugh: I worry about Nicholas Crane, mainly because he appears to wear false teeth, possibly bought cheap in Guatemala, and which don't fit. But today he transcends his dental problems. Just recently underpants have started splitting on me too because I'm putting on weight; space restrictions prevented any reference to this and I'm grateful to him for making the point.

But he also makes a wider point which you and I have discussed at length. This is a passage from a travel book. Verbum sapienti.

RW (zs): I have all the nocturnes, once on two LPs, now transferred to CDs. The pianist is Guiomar Novaes, the mono quality abysmal. I trawled YouTube and came up with Valentina Lisitsa. Worth a pop. Pleased to have made you laugh; it's my main aim in life.

Julia: Oh please tell. About unsatisfactory womens' undies, I mean. I'm quite prepared to allocate space to a sub-section: Tone Deaf For Fetishists.

Crow: Staggering purchases is the answer. But I don't belong to the category of human being capable of that kind of order. Nor I believe do you (You understand I mean that as a compliment). More nostalgia in the name Penney, christened JC to draw in the religious crowd. If only I didn't have to pass through US immigration I might well consider a visit. Perhaps the answer to that one would be to arrive after dusk in a private plane making a delivery of Colombian foo-foo dust. You get a better class of passenger that way.

Ellena said...

I am so pleased that Rouchswalwe does not mention the fat-burning Japanese undies. The lady knows how to save your blog from being censored.