when I was home alone last week

February 20, 2012

Image…was the exact same thing four days running. With a few accommodations for hygiene.

Black trackies with a raggedy hem, cashmere bed socks and a grey tee from the White Company. A big wool sweater from Brora of Scotland — a Christmas present my husband discarded on account of holes, shapelessness and the fact the pug likes to nap on it. On my feet were black Dansko clogs, real bruisers.

At night, I exchanged the trackies for my husband’s pyjama bottoms, flannel trousers in a spiritless plaid.

There’s something particularly British about these pyjamas. They’re standard-issue from Marks & Spencer, that most English of emporiums, and you close them with a length of string that’s threaded through the waistband. No buttons, no elastic and no matter how well you tie the bow, there’s always a vast gaping aspect to the crotch.

That gap is less of an issue for a woman. For a man, though, there’s the constant risk of exposure, a furtive glimpse of guy hair and dangly bits. To me, it represents nothing less than the very essence of Britain: the dowdy, unassuming fabric and the inevitability of a coarse reveal.  It’s the homely and the sordid, all in one.

I’m not really a slattern; weather was a factor in all this. It was arctic in Britain — in all of Europe. Rome had its first blanket of snow in 26 years, people were dying of hypothermia in Paris and it was so bitter here in Cambridge that the wheels of my bike froze when I tried to ride into the center of town. Exposing one’s flesh, even indoors, was to be avoided.

Mainly though, with both my husband and daughter away for a few days, I didn’t want to bother with the whole business of fitting myself out. I deliberately chose apparel that was more than anti-sex clothing; it was anti-self clothing. I didn’t want to be thinking about myself and the stuff that usually informs my life: my family, my house, my daughter’s university prospects, clients, parents, bills, the sharp pain down the side of my left arm, the tragic, terrible vacations we take, the dog and her operations, and, most of all, how I looked.  Instead, I just wanted to spend my time thinking about what I was working on, attempting to, well, inhabit the world of the people in the book I’m trying to write.

I’m not sure why I write; the truth is that other than naming and branding things – I do that for clients — there isn’t much else I like doing as much.  Which is not, of course, the same as being any good at it.

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12 Responses to “when I was home alone last week”

  1. Phil Wise Says:

    I’ve always enjoyed reading your column but was shocked to read about ones private estate below the equator. I can’t recall you navigating those regions before. Another splendid piece. I hope the book goes well.

  2. Theary Says:

    Love your latest blog on the PJs; way hilarious. So English too using the term ‘dingly bits’. I thought it only happens on ‘Bridget Jones Diary’. Thanks for the laughter! Cheers!

  3. Jimmy Juice Says:

    Brilliant, as ever, though linking the end to the beginning and the middle would ensure the panting reader isn’t left thinking, “so …. then what?!?!” More story than stream of consciousness. Now I’m gagging for one on the “tragic, terrible vacations” ….

  4. sonia Says:

    I love your stream of consciousness, M, although it is a bleak one. And, re. men’s PJs. Is the gap less of an issue for women? In my experience not.

  5. Eva Pepper Says:

    No artist wants to be compared to another, but I’m still going to say it. Your writing is the only thing that helps me over my Jonathan Franzen withdrawal symptoms. Can’t wait for the novel.


  6. loved this. think the writing is getting better all the time. deffo gotta do the tragic and terrible vacays next please xxx

  7. Lizzie Hart Says:

    Your comments about PJ’s are SO true! They are souchy yet sexy!

  8. Sarah Corcoran Says:

    But NO (in answer to your last sentence) – we love your writing (and the illustrations are perfect). The piece on the nudist had tears rolling down my cheeks – and all from a few hundred words. Yes please, something on tragic and terrible vacations…

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