Thursday, 19 November 2009

Good morning, Croatia

When I was about 15 someone gave me a cravat, a thing of great loveliness, rich in swirled Paisley arabesques in custard yellow and strawberry jam red. I adored it and wore it on every possible occasion, at one time getting into trouble for attempting to subvert the school uniform. School uniform - it pains me to type this ghastly admission - included a straw boater and a dashing green waistcoat with brass buttons, if you were a member of a select society called the Zetountes, which is Greek for 'seekers'. To my mind all that it needed to proclaim the ultra-fashionable Zetounte*-about-town was a brilliant yellow cravat. Others thought differently.

In any case not long afterwards the cravat became associated with those of a certain sexual orientation and my cravat never left its drawer. "Why don't you wear your cravat any more?" my mother asked once. "It suits you so well. I rely on you to wear it on Sunday, please. Denby Williamson is coming. He is just the man to appreciate it."

Denby Williamson, a man of perfumed middle age, was gay. His father had been curator or keeper of the last Tsar's Fabergé collection. Denby Williamson had inherited several Fabergé pieces, on which my mother had cast envious eyes. But my cravat stayed in its drawer.

Living in France many years later I rediscovered it. Other significances, never current in France, had long since died out, I imagined. I dared it once more, and found my earlier fashion fire rekindled. Passing a tailors and outfitters in Essex during a recent visit to the UK I went in, on the offchance that they might have some dusty tissue-wrapped relics in some distant stock-room. I was surprised to find several in prominent display. Could it be that they're now back in fashion? Could they still have those old connotations?

Well, who would care in France? I came out the richer by three gorgeous silken beauties, and the poorer by - but I'm ashamed to tell you. I'm now obsessed with wearing cravats, especially in winter, tucked confortably into open-necked polo shirts.

Denby Williamson died twenty years and more ago. No Fabergé came our way.

* I KNOW the singular of 'Zetountes' should be 'Zetous'. And the word 'cravat' comes from Hrvatska, which is what the Croats call their country.


Dave said...

I had a cravat, at about the same age as you. I always felt I should wear it with a smoking jacket.

ps you need to run your spellchecker over the penultimate paragraph (excluding the footnote).

Christopher said...

Ah, thank you. Fr. confort = Eng. comfort. Can't think of another excuse. And of course I can't correct it now, not without making these two comments incomprehensible and causing vast wastage of time among the other reader's search for non-existent spelling mistakes. What a dilemma you've set up, Dave.

Dave said...

Never mind. It turns out I can't spell Libya, and you kindly didn't point it out.

Vicus Scurra said...

Soft Lybian airs?
I am so confused.

Christopher said...

Confusion of 'b' and 'd' is a dyslexic classic. Here I think it may indicate a subconscious desire to live in someone else's blog.

Christopher said... fact, the more I think about it the more I'm convinced that this blog is just the place for Dave to take his promised holiday in. How about it, Dave? Of course, you may prefer to take it at your convenience.

Dave said...

Not sure things are quite hot enough here for this to be the place in which I would chose to holiday.

Rog said...

My mum comes from Paisley. I can't imagine they invented the cravat there.
Cravats were also associated with bounders and cads - you absolute SHOWER.

Christopher said...

By Jove, you've got it, Rog! I seem to remember Rex Harrison sporting a cravat in My Fair Lady: then, maybe following this, there was a deeply unsatisfactory character called Terry Thomas who affected it, together with a cigarette holder, for the various cads and bounders he played. He seemed to distill himself into Dick Dastardly in a cartoon series called Wacky Races. Maybe all this was before your time.

I wore one because I thought it conferred an air of deep but distinguished artistic sensibility.

bathmate said...

very good posting. i liked it. :-)