The menswear floor of the Cambridge Grafton branch of Next: Leasey and I are practising low-stress tag team male/female shopping, a mode of consumption made possible by mobile phone technology. At last an end to blokes idling morosely in Monsoon while the women they are browsing with compare a succession of near identical burgundy velvet things. (For men “burgundy” is of course a drink, not a colour.)
Leasey arrives in the department from her previous shop just in time to see me emerge from the changing room wearing a new pair of blue trousers. She approves. I disappear to slip into something a little less comfortable: a pair of cream coloured ones that are slightly—but not much—closer fitting. The next time I go back on the shop floor the response is not so positive, though there are worse things than having two attractive women stare at your backside simultaneously.
Leasey: “Those are gayer than your gay trousers.”
Changing room attendant: “It looks like you’re wearing jodhpurs.”
Back inside the changing room I wonder if I can get away with buying the cream ones too. No chance. By the time I’m back at the entrance to the changing rooms some kind of female bonding has taken place. The attendant addresses me as though I am Michael Douglas in Falling Down and she is trying to talk a short-barrelled shotgun out of my hand: “Would you like to give me the ones you aren’t buying?”
I am a balding, middle-aged straight man armed with a pair of dangerously camp pants. I am not to be trifled with. But I know I’d never make it out with them alive; only Chris Eubank could get away with something like that.
“Good choice,” she comments as I surrender the ersatz riding wear. Leasey is waiting at the till to make sure I don’t try anything foolish.