Saturday, 2 April 2011

Suits me


Sometime in the 80s, when I was working in North-east Scotland, an elderly friend who had once been celebrated as the smallest chaplain in the 8th Army, who had ridden crucifix, as you might say, in 1944/5 with Field Marshal Montgomery's armour into Caen, Paris, Brussels, Cologne, Hamburg and Berlin - this mini-chaplain gave me three suits. They were no use to him, he said. He was long retired, he'd never worn them and never would now and they were much too big for him anyway.

My job required that I should wear a suit and tie every day, so the gift of three unworn suits was not to be sneezed at. I accepted gratefully.

I took them home and tried them on. They were well tailored, although the material wasn't what I would have chosen, being mostly bright blue (which in parts of Scotland is code for being Protestant and a Glasgow Rangers supporter), and the fit was pretty button-bursting, making me walk like Frankenstein's monster after vasectomy.

But maybe a competent tailor could make alterations? Three free suits meant a saving of about £600 at mid-80s prices, also not to be sneezed at. I consulted a Mr Gordon Kelso, a tailor who worked in a Banffshire town called Keith. At the time my work took me to Keith occasionally, so with me and Mr Kelso it was but the work of a moment to fix up an appointment for 5pm on a certain day, after the meeting I was due to attend had finished. I would take the suits, he would measure me up and see what he could do.

With the suits done up in a parcel on the back seat, I drove to Keith on a perfect early summer morning, so sunny and warm that it was the keenest of pleasures in that often harsh climate to drive with the window right down and enjoy the onrush of the balmy Banffshire air, resting my left elbow on the sill and singing the while. In the best of moods I parked, greeted my colleagues cheerily and began the day's work.

About lunchtime a violent thunderstorm burst, with shattering claps of thunder and torrential, stair-rod rain. Street drains overflowed, municipal flower beds were washed away, the river Isla was full to bursting its banks.

Shortly before 5 the rain stopped and the meeting ended, having found solutions to every educational problem then current except the trifling matters of how to fund, staff and implement them, and I returned to my car. You've seen this coming, of course, because you're so much more intelligent and common-sensical than I am...

...I'd left the driver's window open. Fool. Imbecile. Cretin. And as there is no means of driving a conventional car except by sitting in the driver's seat and operating the controls, I had no choice but to plump my backside in the swamp, the morass that was the drivers' seat and work out how to explain convincingly to Mr Kelso, when he took my inside leg measurement, that...

*

...but enough of this. This tale of tailoring was brought on by a certain fascination with the adverts that Mr Raja M. Daswani puts in newspapers and magazines. He's often in Private Eye, for example, advertising Raja Fashions, a bespoke tailoring service in Hong Kong. The copy style is individual, to say the least, and somehow quite endearing. I looked for it on line, but could only find the Canadian version. Substitute British terms for Canadian ones and it's exactly the same as the UK version.

I wondered why there appeared to be, behind the figure of Mr Daswani measuring the shoulders of an elegant lady customer, a portrait bearing some resemblance to Col. Ghaddafi. Scroll up and have a look. Having nothing better to do I contacted Raja Fashions, whose Rita replied very courteously that the Ghaddafi-like figure, far from being the self-styled Colonel, had been included deliberately and was in fact Mr Daswani's spiritual teacher. My respect for Mr Daswani leapt upwards immediately. How many of us keep portraits of our spiritual teachers - not the same as religious ikons - on the wall while we work?

I know I don't. I couldn't answer for Mr Gordon Kelso.

15 comments:

english inukshuk said...

I see that suit chappie in New Scientist from time to time

(and to answer your question, I do not have an image of Vicus next to my desk. . .)

Vicus Scurra said...

That's Sai Baba. Quite popular over there, but not as much as Mr Tendulkar who is the current incarnation of Vishnu. Doesn't look much like Ghaddafi, but I have, on seeing pictures of old Sai, been known to ask people (only those who know me well, you understand) why they have pictures of Michael Jackson in their house.

Dave said...

As it happens there is some iconography on the walls of my study.

Christopher said...

EI: There's nothing stopping you, is there? I'm sure you've only to ask. He might even sign it with his personal motto 'I hope this helps'. And I'm certain it will.

Dave: I just knew it. Gilbert Jessop? Lord Hawke? Jack Hobbs? The Yorkshireman? Your Hornby and your Barlow, long ago?

Vicus: Absolutely, tho' I couldn't have said two or three days ago, not until I mentioned it to my friend A. (Buddhist professor of comparative religion, with whom I am dining tonight) who, like you, identified him at once and explained the Om Sai Ram mantra at the top of those adverts. I hope no one thought I invoked a (beardless) Ghaddafi in a spirit of mockery, which wasn't the case at all, but once you're saddled with some small reputation for the ironic quip and the sardonic aside it's very difficult to shake it off. Back to Mumbai...

Tim Footman said...

Here's the story of how the ad came to be written.

Z said...

A picture of Dave, a noted spiritual teacher, comes up on my computer desktop for fifteen minutes every few days. So does a photograph of Big Pinkie, a notable cow, and of a good-looking man wearing a blue suit.

I'm slightly puzzled that you rested your left elbow on the driver's side sill. There are a few options - that you had a left-hand drive car, even when you lived in Scotland, that you were (are?) a contortionist, or that Scotland has only recently come round to driving on the left (I visited there for the first time last year, and they certainly did then), for instance. But there is no reason why I should not remain in a mild state of confusion and there is no need to explain.

Christopher said...

Tim: Good to see you. Thanks for dropping in. Thanks for the link, too. A fascinating story, but I still wonder about that portrait of Sai Baba - did/does Mr D. cart it about with him everywhere? And ditto ditto his lady client?

Z: There is none like you, you stand alone. These are indeed ingenious options, but you flatter me in omitting the true explanation: in reconstructing the scene in my mind's eye I'd forgotten that the open window would have been on the right, so used am I to driving on the right. No, left. No, right. Yes, it has to be right. Doesn't it? Or...as I'm nearer 80 than 20 there's bound to be a little confusion.

letouttoplay said...

After reading the ad, I found myself thinking a cashmere suit would be a rather wonderful thing to have. That special offer of two suits and two shirts - not bad.
On reflection I remembered having a blouse copied by an Indian tailor in black silk, at a very reasonable price. The result was somehow completely wrong.

Tim Footman said...

As yet unconfirmed, but just heard mention that Sai Baba has died. Awaiting a response from his tailor.

Spadoman said...

Great tale my friend. So, why IS that character measuring the woman's shoulders for a suit?
Your stories are great, and I am no way trying to trump you, but it seems that our lives have, numerous times, run parallel.
I was in Hong Kong, late in 1969, on R&R from the American war in Vietnam. I went into a tailor shop and had a couple of suits made. They were all straight cut with no contours, like stovepipes, and short. I could have walked through a lake and not gotten my pants leg wet. I traded the suits for... I was in Hong Kong, relaxing from the war... she didn't care, she just wanted something!
Here's a story about that visit to the tailor shop. Thanks for giving me the memory.
Oh, and why was the arm resting on the left? Wrong side of the road and all that? I mean, I have diminished hearing in my left ear, (the one that is closest to the almost always open window), and the forearm is well tanned while the right is white, (Olive, I'm Italian), as dirty snow.

Pax Vobiscum

Christopher said...

Spadoman, if ever you and I found ourselves in some congenial bar, they would finally throw us out round about 4am, and still the tales we would be telling each other wouldn't be finished...

Spadoman said...

I would LOVE a chance at that. In Chicago, the bars close at 4AM and re-open at 7. We coulod hit an all night diner or Bishop's Chili, have a snack and continiue on.
Would be an honor to do so.

Peace

Christopher said...

Spadoman, you're on. One day...

Tim: Not yet out of danger, according to The Times of India.

Anonymous said...

"Yes" But...That bit you left blank...What about the measuring of your inside leg soaked with sitting in a puddle in your left-hand drive car? (Didn't you say "resting my left elbow on the sill"). Did Mr. Kelso ask if you had wet yourself when he poked up into your groin with a probable brass-plate ended tape measure? LOL!

Christopher said...

Anon: This is a figure of rhetoric which I'm sure you'll remember from your schooldays called aposiopesis, in which the conclusion of a thought is suppressed, or left to the imagination: Quos ego...sed motos praestat componere fluctus. (Virgil)

I'm sure this answers your question.