Unknown Pleasures: The Varicose Remix

To Cad & The Dandy in Hanover Square for a second tailored suit: this time for summer wear. Mohair, two button, light navy blue: their recommendation as an alternative to linen. The trouble with linen suits is their tendency to look utterly creased and grubby within minutes. Which I don’t mind so much, but I’m curious about the mohair argument and as a known-suit fancier I think I should own one.

C&D were featured in an article on the summer suit debate in City AM, which a kind colleague on the night shift had put aside for me. The sentiment ‘I saw this and thought of you’ is responsible for about 90% of my wardrobe, and indeed my library.


At the Whittington Hospital’s Imaging Department the other day for an ultrasound on my left leg. A decade after the removal of a large varicose vein, it’s come back to haunt me once more. Dad is apologetic about this, as it’s his family’s hereditary condition. I tell him not to feel bad, that it’s a small price to pay for the privilege of being his son. Being English, I can’t let this statement hover for too long and quickly add, ‘And thanks for the full head of hair.’

So here I am again, back at the Whittington a decade later. I stand on a footstool in my underwear while a lady engineer applies the gel and the plastic thing on a wire and insists I look at the screen. I can’t make out what she’s referring to, and the only comment that springs to mind is ‘Isn’t there a Joy Division sleeve that looks like this?’

She says it’s good news: the new vein is operable after all.

‘You’ll be able to wear shorts again!’ she beams.

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A Choice of Kissing Buttons

‘Anger is the most corrosive of the emotions in its ability to increase heart strain. Avoid contact with irritating people; instead, write them a letter, then tear it up before sending it.’ – Dr Graham Jackson, cardiologist, 1998. As quoted in Matthew Engel’s ‘Extracts from the Red Notebooks.’

Sound advice, but it does need updating. I’d add: ‘And don’t put your words in an email or online…’ All that’s then achieved is adding to the amount of petty irritation in the world. I’ve been all too guilty of it myself.

So I’ve imposed a new rule on my day – 1 hour online maximum – usually the first hour after waking up. That’s plenty to clear emails, answer the ones that need answering, skim-read the online words of selected others, then switch off and do the things I actually want to do.

In my case, my internet connection is dependent on a USB stick, as the built-in wireless on my main laptop is broken. I could get the machine fixed, but I rather like being able to say (aloud) ‘Enough! Basta! Get OFF the internet!’, rip the USB wireless stick out of its socket and hurl it into a far corner. There – internet off. The computer becomes a typewriter, and not an entertainment centre. A tool of creation and contribution, rather than a thief of whole days in the cause of passive spectating and giving permanent life to petty vexations. How dismal to think you might be outlived by some casual moan you made on a message board, one bored and unguarded hour in 2002, and that it might haunt you to the grave and beyond. ‘Trivia longa, vita brevis’.


Monday last week – to Cad & The Dandy in Hanover Square, Mayfair, to be measured for a new suit. I also order a new waistcoat and white shirt – both tailored. A specially made shirt does seem an indulgence beyond indulgences, but it was always on my list of ‘One Day…’ things.

I love the thought of Dickon-shaped bits of material. And how wonderful to be able to choose things like types of lapel, numbers of jacket vents, ‘kissing buttons’, colour of the lining, colour of the piping of the lining – the bit that goes around the lining edge, number of buttons and pockets, types of buttons and pockets, angles of pockets, and more. And then do the same again for the waistcoat. It’ll be ready in a few weeks’ time. Can’t wait.

Sunday last – to The Shady Dolls Cabaret at a venue called The Last Days Of Decadence, on Shoreditch High Street. Beautiful Beardsley-esque stained glass windows, plush sofas inside, performance area in the basement. The Shady Dolls themselves are a couple of young ladies performing little comedy skits and musical turns – one of whom is Vicki Churchill’s sister Laura. There’s a few other acts including a burlesque dancer, plus a particularly good male duo called Moonfish Rhumba.

The venue is absolutely packed, and though the show is a seated affair, many have to spend the evening standing at the back, or sitting on the floor in the front. Cabaret – even ragged-edged, Fringe Revue-type cabaret like this – seems very much a popular draw at the moment.

Again, I do think this current scene would been unthinkable in the 90s. Back then, young people who were keen to get on a stage and artistically express themselves – and feel part of the world too – pretty much had to form a Britpop band or else. They had to fit in with or react against Blur, or Oasis, or Pulp. There was a ‘loungecore’ scene, granted, but it was very much on the margins. Today, role models are just as likely to be The Mighty Boosh (surreal, idiosyncratic comedy), or Flight of The Conchords (ditties, character interaction), or Dita Von Teese (burlesque dancing) as the latest guitar band.

I meet Jo Roberts – there with Charley S – in her offstage persona. Am more used to seeing her onstage persona fronting the Rude Mechanicals, in a beehive blonde wig and whiteface make-up, all deadpan glowering. Meeting her brunette, charming and friendly ‘normal’ self is a little thrilling – like meeting Lady Jekyll after witnessing Ms Hyde.  I’m always in awe of performers and actors who go in for transformation. I find it hard work enough just being myself.

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