Sunday, 31 January 2010

Do you know what you are wearing?

Escaping the cold of the UK for a little warmth (relatively speaking) in off-season Spain, we came across several examples of a rather puzzling Spanish phenomenon which you don’t normally see in busy resorts: clothing with bizarrely inappropriate English phrases on them.

In a rather cosmopolitan bar, the owner had a T-shirt proudly suggesting, “Kill the yuppie bastards”; in a busy shopping street, a rather conservative-looking middle-aged man proudly sports a pullover emblazoned, “Doggy Style”; and, most bizarrely of all, a handsome father, young son in hand, who walked towards us on the beach wearing a sweat-shirt boldly proclaiming, “I take it up the bum”.

Now, said father may or may not indulge in this particular practice, but it strikes me as bizarre that it wouldn’t cross his mind to check the meaning of the words proclaimed across his torso to the world. Perplexed, we asked a Spanish friend to explain what we had observed, and he confirmed what we suspected: that English of any kind on clothing is regarded by some as fashionable; that they trust the manufacturers not to play games at their expense; and that they don't have a clue what the words on the garment actually mean.

Which prompts us to consider the motives of those who design such products? Do they really intend to humiliate their customers, or do they regard it as some sort of huge sartorial joke? Is it the revenge of a slighted designer upon a monolingual wholesaler, or a bored youth in the Far East wondering what he can get away with? Whatever the answer, some of the said customers are going to get a nasty shock one day but, until then, are hopefully walking around in contented, ignorant bliss.

Which reminds me: some years back, I brought my other half a gift from Japan in the form of a light cotton day-kimono, or yakuta. It is emblazoned with Japanese characters, the meaning of which, of course, I am ignorant. Perhaps I should check them out…

Monday, 4 January 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow...

One thing I did not expect in moving to the sunny South Coast was to find myself housebound by snow. But the week-end before Christmas, that is exactly what happened. We had around 5 inches of snow on Thursday night, which then thawed slightly, and re-froze.

I managed to get out happily enough on the Friday, thanks to a good pair of boots, as I had to go to London. For once the railways had got their preparations right, and the trains ran almost on time, albeit with a slightly reduced service frequency. But over the weekend, the lack of preparation in Brighton itself showed with a lamentable lack of snow-clearing from the roads and pavements except for those in the centre. As a result, our street was a veritable ice rink, and remained so until Monday afternoon.

Still, for a while, it made the town look very festive in the run-up to Christmas...