Do you like puzzles?
That would be my opening remark in a conversion with a stranger. Perhaps someone behind a sales desk or a cashier. That would lead me to ask why, when it is high summer, do so many young people wear all black?
That’s the thing about summer. It can be summer of bleached out highlights one minute, and inky grey clouds the next. What has made this summer different is the amount of time I have been able to wear linen. If you do too, you know it is not meant for sartorial clean lines.
Linen is louche; it speaks of laughter in a pub garden, and devil-may-care. Cordings, one of my summer clothing suppliers, prefers to assign a linen suit to a garden party, or a regatta perhaps. So it can be a smart, terribly English option. But, I hear you say, can louche and terribly English go together?
Perhaps. Picture a gathering of friends in a summer garden. There may be the cousin of an old friend. His accent is Surrey, or Oxford. He may be divorced, or unmarried at thirty. Clever, with auburn tousled hair. It is he who wears linen trousers to the event. His life is creased, and so are his trousers. But he is also enormously entertaining.
Although I recently had a great evening in an Oxford pub garden, there was no ‘James’ present. That was during a visit to an old friend who is a professor of history at Oxford Brookes. The group in the garden was composed of ‘Prof Dave’, his wife Jo, me and my brother Sean, and eventually, some of the pub regulars who are academics or retired teachers. So the calibre of conversation was pretty high. Mind you, for Oxford it might have been considered low-brow.