It’s probably the only thing he has taught me by example – everything else i.e. the importance of a neat filing system, up-to-date insurance, legible handwriting, the causes and course of the First World War, he taught via a series of 40-minute lectures using white boards, diagrams, bright lights, water-boarding etc.
But modernising, that’s just what he did. He never said “You have to modernise OR DIE!”
He did it instinctively. He had a computer before anyone else, he mastered email before anyone else, he wore with flair and enthusiasm a pair of Converse trainers I bought for him about five years ago (I get him a new pair every year for his birthday). He listens to podcasts and has an iPod. Every few years he will change the style of his spectacles and he is sometimes seen with a new tie. His texting is not perfect, but it’s getting there. He keeps up to date on pretty much everything except the most absolutely current popular music, though he will definitely know who (or what) One Direction are (or is. Or, shortly, were.)
My father is 79, ladies and gents. Seventy Nine. Not some Disco Dad who accidentally became a parent at 18. SEVENTY NINE. I was born when he was 44. He remembers the war! But he could also pick Harry Styles out of a crowd. Maybe. I don’t think he likes modernising much, I think he finds it as painful as everyone else does, but he knows that you have to move on.
Whenever I catch myself about to say something awful and Tunbridge Wells about Instagram or SnapChat or, indeed, One Direction, I think of my dad. What would he say? He would know about it all. He would not pooh-pooh a modern thing for pooh-poohing’s sake. Because he knows that has the stench of death about it. And my father is not afraid of the tax man, or drunks and lunatics or answering the door after 9pm or changing lanes in heavy traffic: but he is afraid of death.
I always think of my very nearly Octogenarian father when I consider, with some horror, that I must Update My Wardrobe. It’s the thing I like doing least, because it means buying a pair of jeans that I will consider hideous for six months, of feeling self-conscious when out of the house, having to spend money on things that I’m not sure I like.
But I must Update My Wardrobe because if you don’t, you just look dreadful. If you don’t make incremental changes then you will still, come Spring/Summer 2014, be wearing a pair of grey skinny jeans (I bought mine in 2005) with a Breton top and a leaky pair of Converse. This is fine if you really, really properly don’t care, or really, really properly can’t afford it but for the rest of us, looking out of date suggests a deeper resistance to change, to modernisation. It speaks of a deeper stubbornness, an arrogance, a closed mind.
I once went to a lecture given by the agony aunt Irma Kurtz in which she claimed to stave off old age by trying to “change her opinion about things”. Sticking to your trusty old shapes and colours is as bad as declaring the same old boring allegiances to the thoughts and opinions you had when you were 25.
Not that I like to over-think these things.
So I have been utilising my new paycheques to Update My Wardrobe and it hasn’t gone too badly. Apart from the Boyfriend Jeans, which I am in love with and totally and completely horrified by in equal measure, it has been reasonably painless.
Here are the things I have bought, which I plan to wear when the weather cheers up. It’s not much, because it is all expensive as I have finally paid heed to my own advice of buying a few expensive things, not a lot of old shit from the High Street. Though I must point out here that I never, ever wear any of this gear while attempting childcare.
For childcare I buy a job lot of H&M sweatshirts and black 3/4 length leggings from TopShop, which get totally trashed, sent to charity for rags and then replaced. There’s nothing quite so nice as a lovely fresh pair of leggings.
I bought ALL of this stash with my very own pennies, that’s how much I love it all.
1 McQ Cross-printed sweatshirt, £165 available only online at matchesfashion.com. This is navy, although it looks black here. Goes with everything, excellent for anything smart/casual on the weekend.
2 Green crepe swing top, Michael Kors, £140, from Net A Porter. I love this. Hides the mid-section, great colour.
3 Acne Boyfriend jeans, £190 Matchesfashion.com. I am scared of these but they are, also, SO FACKIN COOL.
6 Hold fast signet ring, £140, LauraLee. I rang the shop and a nice girl had this made for me in a special weeny size to go on the little finger in a kind of witty mock posh/butch way but with the unassailable message printed thereon: HOLD FAST. It’s a nautical term, as Captain Jack Sparrow would say, which roughly translates as “hang on to something and shut your eyes until it’s all over”.
7 Silver Birkenstocks, £39, Natural Footwear Company – or cheaper on Amazon probably but I couldn’t work out the shoe sizes and happened to be passing this shoe shop while on my way to the London Transport Museum with Kitty anyway.
The “ugly” shoe is IN this spring/summer (I may be making this up) and I am absolutely thrilled about it. I plan to wear these with my terrifying boyfriend jeans, a neon sweatshirt and a pedicure
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