Today I had to go and see someone in an office. So no scruffy jeans then. The trouble is, seeing as there's an economy drive on in the Turing household, I haven't done my annual hour or two of frenzy in the summer sales. What to wear? How about work trousers and a work shirt but no tie? Go for casual smart, like an estate agent for example?
By the time I had attended to Fruitcake's byzantine hierarchy of needs (drink outside, meat blob inside x 2, biscuits, poo in tray, milk, pee in tray, fuss and combing) and was showered and attired, I was struck by three things simultaneously. The first was wonder how at how I ever got out of the house, sometimes with a poached egg inside me, neatly dressed, lunch packed, by 7.50.The other two concerned the trousers.
It felt very strange. The last time I had worn those trousers I was a teacher with a job. They felt so familiar, like ballet shoes, maybe, to a retired dancer. Did they sparkle slightly with that old magic? If I put my hands in the pockets, board pens would come out and turn into doves. If I strode in your direction perhaps the fog hanging over sentences with 'if' in them would lift a little for you. If you saw them coming, you might be suddenly motivated to practise irregular past verb forms with your partner by means of an amusing game. And if I went out in them, would they march me to a Further Education college and into a classroom as a lesson plan sprang fully formed into my brain?
Then I stood at the mirror and saw myself. The third thing struck me. Those trousers were Uncle Bill's trousers. From the side they were perhaps passable, for polyester in navy blue, that is. From the front they were baggy in all the wrong places. The belt (a necessity) served only to accentuate their irredeemable uncle-ishness. What must I have looked like to all those multi-coloured, attractive, lively young people that it was my delight to teach? What had I come to in twenty years at the college? Those trousers were wrong. The trouble was, now I was in them, and like the red shoes in the story, I couldn't take them off. There wasn't time.
As luck would have it, when I got to the office, the person I went to see was wearing nealy the same outfit. True his trousers looked better cut and more expensive. The shirt (sleeves rolled up a couple of times like mine) had come out of a box marked £45, but it was essentially the same kit. I probably had 25 years on him, but my magic teaching trousers had a little of their sparkle still. OK, a shiny polyester kind of sparkle, an uncle-ish kind of magic, but he probably didn't even guess that I was out of work