I've just 'celebrated' my 41st birthday. That's the phrase you're supposed to use isn't it? In truth, apart from a few daytime beers whilst I watched a World Cup game, and a Chinese takeaway and a bottle of Cava in the evening, it wasn't exactly riotous. It was distinctly lowkey on the gifts front as well but that was at my insistence. Too much money's been wasted by my wife on stuff she thought I'd like. She rarely gets it right. So, this year, I said 'no presents'. Money's tight and we've a fortnight in what a survey has just revealed as the world's most expensive holiday destination coming up-that's France, by the way. Still, cometh the day, there was recognition from other sections of the clan, my parents sent some cash, so did my wife's. The simple thing, the sensible thing, would have been to bank it, throw it into the deep, black hole that is the current account overdraft.
However, somewhere inside, the last flames still flicker. I've got some cash in my wallet. The notes are, effectively, gift vouchers. They are to be spent on me. That's the spirit in which they were given. So, it is that a couple of days later, I head for my own little paradise, York's Designer Outlet. I've got cash in pocket, let's go! I do a full circuit, Timberland, Ralph Lauren, Gieves & Hawkes, Armani, Hugo Boss, Lacoste, Adidas for the trainers, Clarks in case there's any Originals, all in all, a very thorough search.
But there's a problem and a visit to Paul Smith highlights it. There's a rail of coats and jackets, significantly reduced. We're talking £150 down to £60. Paul Smith coats have always looked great.
There's a cotton, hooded jacket, sand coloured, two zips, big pockets, just what I've always liked.I try it on, it looks the business. I fiddle around with the zips, open and close the pockets, half turn as I stare in the long mirror- one of those mirrors that make you look taller and thinner, flattering in other words. I like it, it looks good. But I hesitate. I have other items of this type, cotton with zips and hoods. I had one in this colour, Armani, also from York but it was recently flogged on eBay after spending too long in the wardrobe. My brain works hard to come up with any sort of justification that isn't just because I like it, I mean I like loads of stuff, but I don't need it.
That's the killer. I don't need it. Other than an occasional suit for work, I haven't needed any clothes for a long time. I've got one in every colour. Clothes have always been my one indulgence, well, okay, and music, but I've always loved buying clothes. So the coat goes back on the rail and, heart racing a little, I stumble towards the exit. I go for a methadone-like substitute, buy 3 cd's, some clothes for the
kids and then slip back into Paul Smith. Compromise.. A t-shirt, £15, I need a t-shirt, for that holiday I've got to pay for. Maybe I'll use my remaining £135 for a round of drinks..