'I go in and out of fashion like a double breasted suit' Alan Ayckbourn

First published in News by

It may surprise you to know that I receive what might be loosely called 'fan mail'. Unlike the uncritical adulation normally associated with such communications mine are of a more robust nature. One came recently signed 'your greatest admirer' and started, 'actually sometimes you can be quite interesting.' It is the 'quite' that most marks out my correspondents. While I should not be surprised by this I confess to some disappointment. I had secretly hoped to be employed as an agony aunt and had prepared myself with some pertinent advice and contemporary phrases. Like 'kick him to the kerb.' Rather, however, the advice flows in the other direction, me being the recipient.

Those seeking sartorial advice need look no further than Air India who have issued a new dress code for employees and their families when travelling even on holiday. There are to be no mini-skirts, sleeveless shirts, no see-through tops or track suits and no sneakers. The list goes on. In a bizarre show of class consciousness first class and business travellers may also not wear denim. But sandals are permitted in all classes. Fortified by these clear instructions I toddled off to Cirencester and found Just Maude, a pretty little shop whose owner, Annie Lott, designs and makes gorgeous frocks and fripperies. All magazines are saying that camel is THE colour of the winter and that you cannot wear too much. I have just bought a cashmere sweater in the non-colour and can report that it has the effect of adding ten years to me. While by any definition I am an old person I have no wish to adopt the regulation beige of garments and skin.

Indeed I go further. I am as unlikely to have anything in common with someone of my own age as any other. Recently I have noted that I am out of step in the matter of who should pay for nursing home care. My view is that if an old person has a house then it should be sold to finance where they live. The idea that I should pay so that they may leave something to their elderly children to spend on triple glazing or a cruise is ridiculous to me. I rather hope I have done better in my parenting than encouraging my children to look forward to my demise so as to purchase some decking. No, Just Maude can make me a red dress with huge roses on it.

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