You’ll believe a man can cry

Not the author in this case.  As this blog has amply documented, I will weep on even the most slender of provocations (though in no way endorse such an unrealistic body image for any young provocations reading this post).  I suspect I shed a manly tear on the majority of days and laugh on virtually all: I like to test my full emotional range on a regular basis (just in case I need to deploy it).

Yesterday, I spent the day at ARGComFest in the less fashionable parts of Shoreditch Town Hall.  The festival is like a super-concentrated version of the Edinburgh Fringe – or at least some of its comedy elements – fitting 48 acts into three overly warm rooms across two days.  I only attended day two but, feeling I should get full value from my £25, did manage to take in seven acts over just under nine hours.  Unlike Edinburgh all the events take place in the same building, so you never have to go outside (and I didn’t) and can pack more into the time – though you do get a lot less exercise.

I was a little worried about my ability to survive quite so much comedy in one sitting (though given the rather uncomfortable chairs, I did allow myself the occasional stand and stretch) and the amount of yawning (mine) that accompanied my morning train journey into London did not bode well.  Pleasingly, when checking the route from Old Street tube station to the venue I realised it passed close to 8 Hoxton Square (the eastern outpost of the 10 Greek Street empire) and so took in some solid (and delicious) brunch there before events started – carb-loading is critical preparation for the serious comedy aficionado.  To avoid losing comedy value by having to leave the venue for subsequent nourishment, I had provided myself with a packed supper – which I thought might be a deeply shameful option but, as it transpired, I was far from the alone in my choice (and some of my fellow munchers seemed much trendier than I).

Each act was a preview of what its creator hopes will be wowing Edinburgh come August.  Each act was followed by a ten minute break for fluid transactions or room transfers and the whole thing was held together by an MC (or two, as they divided the day into two shifts) for each room.  Some people had rather more work to do in the next month than others (I think I now know who did their homework on the bus on the way into school), but all the shows were entertaining and provided plenty of scope for laughter.  Whilst I stayed awake in admirable style, the effect of quite so much comedy in such a short period of time is that I can remember even less of the content than usual (so no spoiler alert will be required).  I can remember that James Acaster was the highlight of my day – and I can remember thinking at the time that he is eminently quotable (but can no longer recall anything to quote) and a surprisingly skilled physical comedian. The title comes from Joel Dommett – a man less in touch with his emotions than I – who at one stage attempted to cry while reading a set of one-liners.  He came very close, he started to tear-up but then lost it.  Watching a man determined, desperate even, to cry and just failing is terribly amusing – the lad may wish to embrace his failure as I suspect it may work better comically than success.

I can also recall, for more traumatic reasons, that the final act was Simon Munnery.  Before he started, I found myself suffused with nostalgia as I recalled listening to him on the radio as Alan Parker, Urban Warrior or The League Against Tedium when I was but a lad.  As a result, it came as a terrible shock when, during his act, it was revealed that he is younger than me: not by much, but enough to take the wind out of a chap’s sails, I can tell you.  At least I could comfort myself with the knowledge that the years have been rather kinder to me than to Mr M (in terms of third-party visual amenity, at least).

However, that is all by-the-by, the primary purpose of this post is for me to introduce another one of my cunning business proposals.  Yes, I am once again treating you, dear readers, as a veritable den of dragons and am seeking investment in my latest wheeze.   Here goes the pitch:

Given the expected (and realised) sauna-like conditions at the festival, I choose to wear shorts for the day.  I will admit that I felt somewhat underdressed walking around London in shorts and also upon returning to Southampton after dark.  When in Edinburgh itself, despite the heat of the venues I am usually forced to wear proper trousers both to cope with the Scottish summer and by the shame engendered by unnecessary display of the fleshy wrapping of my tibia and fibula to the kilt-clad natives.  It really isn’t practical to make the switch between shorts and trousers during the day given the absence of decent audience changing facilities at most comedy festivals.  A similar issue occurs when cycling to the concert hall or theatre on a sticky evening, I feel it inappropriate to wear shorts and so instead inflict my perspiration-soaked body on the rest of the audience.  Surely there must be a solution, thought I.

Well, I am sufficient worldly to know that male strippers have trousers which can be removed at speed and without troubling their shoes.  Something along this line would be ideal for the festival or concert goer – assuming they were as easy to put on (a part of the process rarely vouchsafed to the public) as to seductively remove.  Investigating the existing options this morning, I found that the leg coverings on offer were of a very inferior quality – and I don’t feel would pass muster in either concert hall or city street.  They were obviously aimed at the novelty market, not at the serious homme d’affaires.  There is clearly an opening for a sturdier, more formal trew (or better yet, a pair of them) that can be added or removed from a gentlemen’s ensemble with the minimum of fuss and bother.  These should be relatively generously cut above the knee – to avoid painful bunching of the shorts – but taper to the ankle to avoid conflict with a bicycle chain.  I’m thinking the range should include a chino, a dark formal (perhaps even black-tie friendly) and some denim based options.  Accoutred in such style, a chap can be comfortable in both the hottest of venues and the most formal of occasions without requiring access to a changing room or telephone box.  He would also be ready, at a moment’s notice, to provide any potential admirer of his unexpectedly hench physique with quite the performance – and any resulting tips thrust (demurely, I trust) into his waistband would help defray the day’s other, unavoidable expenses.  Trousers that pay for themselves!  Who could resist?

If this idea generates the level of interest I anticipate, the next stage would be to cost the product and get a Kickstarter (or similar) going and watch the money roll in.  I look forward to the day when an omi’s strides can keep his lallies at a bona temperature throughout the day.  Ooh, ain’t he bold?

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Wintry wardrobe

Despite many Southampton trees clinging on to some of their anthocyanin-dyed leaves, it is hard to deny that winter has laid its wintery cloak upon us.

I have yet to turn on the heating in the flat, but I have stopped flouncing around with my torso clad only in a t-shirt – I have moved to longer sleeves or added a cardigan – so it is definitely growing colder.  Soon, I may have to stop journeying to the gym wearing shorts – though seeing lasses wearing even less in the way of leg-covering at the end of last week has sparked the last gasp of my manhood into continued resistance to the lure of long trousers.  In my (admittedly limited) experience, whilst the fairer sex tend to have colder flesh and a greater desire to run the heating when indoors, when outside they seem much better able to resist the cold than we members of the weaker sex.

I, of course, have a long history of wearing shorts all year round.  As a young lad, I tended to fall over quite a lot (some would say that little has changed) and this tended to destroy the knees of my trousers.  Given that trousers do not grow on trees (surely a project there for the genetic engineers among us), for much of my primary school career I was dispatched in shorts right through the depths of the Kentish winters of the 1970s – and in those days, we had proper winters!  For, as my mother quite rightly said, “Your knees will mend the trousers won’t”.

As I approach middle-age – apparently they’ve moved the goalposts and I have yet to arrive (I assume this is linked to the receding retirement age) – I find myself far less reluctant to wear a vest than I did when younger.  I still hate to wear a jumper – I’d rather be cold – so I use the layers approach and I’ve realised the vest can play a useful role as layer no. 1.  As a result of my recent vest-wearing, I have noticed that I seem to have a rather abrasive navel given its ability to erode the inside my vest and deposit the results within’t.  Should I be moisturising more thoroughly?

However, the biggest joy brought by the return of winter is the ability to wear a scarf without appearing overly affected or victimised by that fickle jade, fashion.  I nurture the illusion that I look rather good, raffish even, wearing a scarf.  Readers should feel free to help me to maintain this illusion despite all the evidence.  I suspect early exposure to Tom Baker’s Doctor might have something to do with this, though my own scarves are very modest in both length and colour-scheme compared to his.  The scarf doesn’t really work on the bike, so I’ve had rather more chance to wear it now that I live within walking distance of the city-centre: which is a definitely plus to my new life on the south-coast.

Not laughing at the young

Well, mostly trying not to, I wouldn’t want to give them a complex but sometimes they do make it very hard to keep a straight face.

When I was younger myself, I could be pretty judgmental about the dress-sense and coiffure of young people – but now I am more relaxed and figure it is only themselves they are hurting.  As I was growing up in the 1970s – the decade good taste forgot – I was lucky enough to be dressed by my mother and so no blame can be attached to me for any fashion choices I may appear to have made (though I do recognise the “only following orders” defence has not always been 100% successful).  Today’s youth do not have this defence and are also subject to vastly more photographic and video recording of all their dodgy choices.  I sense significant growth in net embarrassment in the years to come – hence my plan to short embarrassment now.

Among the young and trendy (well, I may be guessing about the latter), the full beard seems to be terribly fashionable at the moment.  So clichéd has this become that entering a menswear department recently I was overtaken by a fit of the giggles and had to leave hurriedly.  Funny though I find it, in this cold weather it is a rather practical choice – but I’m not sure I’m willing to hazard one myself: the combination of itchiness and the large patches of white/grey that it now includes would be too distressing.  I shall continue to try and rock the scarf or buff.

However, it is in the trousers department that the young are most afflicted by the siren voices of the fashion industry.  Trousers have been growing ever skinnier for some time, to the extent that I presume some young folk are unable to bend their legs at all (and sitting down must be a distantt dream, unless one is looking for a career as a counter-tenor).  This trend is particularly distressing as for most of my time on earth, my legs would not have looked out of place in a nest and been ideal for skinny trews.  Sadly, the last few years of heavy cycling have caused them to beef-up somewhat (though not much) so that my thighs and calves are now too large for any slacks that would fit my relatively svelte waist.

We are now used to the “waist” of the trouser resting on the lower quarter of the buttocks with the crotch somewhere around the knees – I presume that like the nutrimatic cup, they are held aloft by Art (though unlike the people of Brontitor, our society will be destroyed by coffee shops).  As a result, despite my advanced age and singular lack of athletic prowess I am confident in my ability to out-run the young as my progress will be free of trouser-related hindrance.

However, recently I have noticed that the trousers worn by hipsters seem to end well above their shoes – even in the shortest folk of that ilk which can’t be easy to achieve.  Again, as I was growing up this was an issue that frequently afflicted me – but once again, I was before my time.

I sense a conspiracy: trousers are now starting several inches lower than normal, end above the ankle and are made of a much narrow cylinder of cloth, i.e. makers of trousers are managing to manufacture their wares with dramatically less fabric but at no reduction in selling price!  The only man getting value for money from his slacks is Simon Cowell – where they start at his armpits and go all the way to the ground – but he can well afford it; the rest of us need to start a campaign for fair prices for our leg-coverings (or move to Scotland where alternatives are available).

Slack security

I own several pairs of trousers – oh yes, life is going well for me.   For the vast majority of these, a single button is considered adequate to bind the left and tight halves of my trews together above the fly.  I find this arrangements to be very successful, and in my many years wearing trousers no disaster has ensued as a result of this single fastening.

I also own a few suits and all of these possess three separate fastenings – two buttons and a clip, or two clips and a button – to hold the tops of the trousers together.  Why is so much additional security deemed necessary when wearing a suit?  Is the typical suit-wearer paranoid about his (or her) trousers descending at an inopportune moment?  Surely a belt or a pair of braces (or, indeed, both – or should that be all three? – for the really worried) would deal with any such concern?

Or am I missing something?  Should I be looking to add extra security to my less formal leg-wear?

Living in colour

For our North American readers, this post’s title comes with a free cut-out-and-keep letter “U”.  Collect two and make yourself a consonant: unless you share my Welsh ancestry, in which case make a new vowel.  But, enough of my feeble attempts at merchandising this blog, and on with the motley.

I am not very adventurous when it comes to having colour in my life – my walls, floors and ceilings are all beige.  I do have a number of artworks on the walls, but with one honourable exception they are also rather muted tonally.

My wardrobe (or to be strictly accurate, its contents) relies heavily on shades of grey (from white to black), more beige and navy blue.  When I’m feeling particularly mettlesome,  I can choose from a couple of (mostly) red T-shirts – but in the main I stick with black and navy (often together, despite clear advice that it’s a dreadful faux-pas).

I refuse to wear black shoes as I dislike dark shades on my feet (though I have no issue with them adorning the pedal extremities of others) and after I saw a documentary which suggested that the Italians only wear black shoes to a funeral, I decided that I could dispense with this particular convention in normal, formal dress.  So my footwear tends to range from light to mid tan – as measured on the Cherry Blossom scale – for more formal occasions and is generally white for sporting activities.

However, its probably in the trouser department but my colour choices have been most limited.  Black, grey and dark blue denim cover pretty much my whole collection of leg coverings – or they did until yesterday.  Given my antiquity, I have decided to heed the words of Jenny Joseph’s Warning.  Fair enough, her poem was about an old woman, but in these days of equal opportunities, I tend to assume that the female includes the male (and vice versa.  Though not, I hasten to add, in the case of changing rooms or public conveniences).

I type this with my legs looking resplendent, clad as they are in a pair of new plum trousers – no, not trousers made from fruit (genus Prunus, subgenus Prunus), but those of a rather attractive shade of purple.  They make me look really rather dishy, at least so far as that is possible given the rather unpromising raw material that my body provides.  Or so I think, but I am not an entirely disinterested party, so I am allowing you, the long-suffering reader, to judge for yourself.  Yes, this will be the first time that the Fish legs have been seen on GofaDM.  If I could ask you all to please imagine a drum roll as you scroll down (yes, I am now adding stage directions to this blog):

BTW: The white socks were chosen to provide contrast and as a callback to my dislike of dark feet.

The Weight is Over

Upon my return from the land of my fathers (well, fore of them at least), my weight had risen to 13st 1lb – which might suggest the influence of Ms Antoinette was stronger than that of Ms Andrews. However, my body fat was down to 9% and my waist seems diminished (well, my trousers have descended to a position more commonly associated with the young and foolish than the foolish of my advanced years, unless constrained by belt or braces).

I think this means it is going to be tricky to use my weight variation as a proxy for a rain gauge.  I blame my body adapting to walking up (and down) steepish gradients rather than cycling on the (mostly) flat for the confusing results.  Still, it did permit use of a dodgy pun in the title – so I consider the whole project a success!

Fountain

A couple of weeks ago I was in Geneva – I know, get me! It’s not even the first time I’d been to Europe (or indeed, beyond my home continent).

One thing I noticed in Geneva – and have observed across much of northern Europe – is the quite splendid design of the urinals. Whilst not (perhaps) ready-made art, they function well and entirely without splash back from the porcelain to the legs of your trousers. This suggests that designing a pissoir which leaves your trousers dry is entirely within the scope of current human technological achievement. As a result, I found myself wondering why the UK is so utterly bereft of such well-designed aids to masculine micturation.

I am forced to assume that Armitage Shanks is a front for some vast Dry Cleaning industry conspiracy – a conspiracy which has been successfully resisted by our cousins across the North Sea.