Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Toulon and Toulouse

I'm in Montpellier, which I discovered the other day is France's 8th largest city. We go there about twice a month. It's about 90 minutes away from where we live. It's one of the most sophisticated Mediterranean cities: only Barcelona and maybe Nice outclass it.

We're there because J. has her monthly visit to her acupuncturist, and my business involves pins, too.

We park in one of the many city centre underground car-parks, from which we're borne up into the heart of a shopping mall called Le Polygone by lift. We've time for coffee before going our separate ways, double espresso, strong egg-cupful, twice, for J. ('Intravenous, she says. Straight into the vein.') and I prefer grand crème, a rich, creamy, potent café au lait which has not the slightest resemblance whatever to so-called latte or anything like that to be found in Costa's or Starbuck's.

Caffeined up, she takes the tram to Dr Acula's pin tables, and I take the trousers of my one and only suit to a place prosaically called l'Atelier de Retouches, the alteration workshop. Several genteel middle-aged ladies are sitting at sewing machines. I'm a little uneasy: J. has told me that in order for the alteration ladies to ascertain what work has to be done, I'm bound to have to put these trousers on and show them. H'm. Not only is it a bit of a quart-into-a-pint-pot fit, changing has to be done behind a flimsy folding screen, decorated with birds of paradise, with wide see-through gaps at the angles. How will the birds of paradise compete with furtive glimpses of my knees and calves?

In the event it doesn't matter. The genteel lady who receives me understands the problem straight away. I got this suit in Los Angeles 10 years ago, to wear at a wedding. When I first tried it on all those years ago the trousers were - can't resist this, I'm afraid - Toulon and Toulouse, so they had to be taken up and in. My leg length hasn't changed, but over the intervening 10 years I've put some weight on, nothing gross, just a bit of dignified girth that limits activity while wearing these trousers to holding my breath, walking bolt-upright very stiffly and slowly, like Frankenstein's monster, and trying to prevent my eye-balls from popping out.

Madame examines the original alterations. There's plenty of material. She won't have to let in a gusset. In fact, she'll only have to restore the trousers to their original state, the pristine way they were when they hanging on the rack in Hugo Boss in Century City, LA.

They'll be ready by Monday, she says. Will I have to try them on? I ask. Do I betray some apprehension? If you want, she says, but I think it would be more sensible to take them home and try them there, with the jacket. If they're not right you can bring them back in. That will be €14,40, please.


I really don't know how I've managed to become so sidetracked. Possibly some subconscious notion of freedom, of liberation. What I really wanted to post about was a demonstration in Montpellier in support of two French journalists held hostage in Afghanistan. It's a year since they were captured, and any negotiations for their release don't seem to have got very far.

Next time.


Z said...

Toulon and Toulouse - ooh, I see what you did there, darling. I'm creased up with chortle.

The Sage had two suits made, the year we were married. They still fit. Quite infuriating. He also still, occasionally, wears his Old Reptonian blazer, but not if I see him. It's a dreadful garment, but he loves it.

Sarah said...

I went through my entire time at school thinking that during the Napoleonic wars 'Two long' ships managed to blockade a town....or something like that. Clearly wasn't paying attention to what our very bizarre history teacher was saying. More fascinated by her extraordinarily hairy legs, wrapped up in nylon like a monkey sausage.....sorry, i too digress.

Rog said...

I've never understood how Acupuncture works. A series of small perfectly positioned pricks to provide comfort and relaxation? It must work on the same principle as Strictly Come Dancing.

Geoff said...

"Hugo Boss" is what I say when invited to business seminars.

Dave said...

Amazingly my legs are exactly the same length they were the day I left school.

They remain a solid foundation while all around has changed.

english inukshuk said...

this reminds me of summer dresses that my mother made for me in the early 70s, each year the hem was let out. . . lord knows how she'd managed to fold up so many inches of fabric that neatly. . . and then, when there was no more fabric left, she added in a new panel of a contrasting fabric. . . and so it went on until I had saved up enough babysitting money to buy my own clothes

Hugo Boss eat your heart out

(fingers crossed for the hostages)

letouttoplay said...

Dignified girth - yes I like that.
Also the idea that instead of attempting to reduce the size of the inhabitant, you chose to increase the size of the garment. I might rethink my approach to outgrown clothes!

Spadoman said...

I don't own a suit. I have, in the past, but usually one was bought to attend a funeral or wedding. Now, I do have one pair of black nicely cut trousers. I wear it with a maroon colored long sleeve shirt and a pair of dress suspenders. (braces? Is that what the Brits call them? Or am I mistaken?). In any event, I don't own a sport coat or a suit anymore, just the above mentioned ensemble for those occasions that require more than blue jeans, (and that requirment comes from my mind. I have never had anyone ever tell me that I wasn't dressed properly for any occasion).
As for the coffee, I order an Americano. A dopio, or double, espresso with an equal amount of very hot water. "If the cup deosn't fill, that's okay", I tell the barista, as they usually want to fill the cup to the brim and water down the flaovor of the espresso blend.
I am spoiled as my best friend owns a roastery and keeps Mrs. Spadoman and I supplied with the best, freshest, top quality coffee beans around.
Bur alas, coffee has been bothering my stomach these days, so I am drinking tea these days, at least in the mornings.
I so enjoy having these conversations with you Christopher.


Anonymous said...

Agree. No one would want to be trousered in Afghanistan! For a start their traditional trews (have you seen them?) are the baggiest male bloomers going to make one, if wearing, look like a right pillock like what young Brits look like presently with half-mast gangster-look; albeit; though they are woven in most gorgeous, delightful threads near subtle Prince of Wales’s Savile Row patterning.

Christopher said...

Yes. Thank you for gently reminding me that I haven't completed this post yet.