Wednesday, August 1, 2012


 ... was in London. A chimpanzee at Chessington Zoo went wild. He saw me, went really, really still, and glared. Next thing, he started chattering, shrieking and throwing things through the bars of his thankfully solid enclosure. Banana skins, apple cores, scrunched up paper, cigarette packets – anything that people had thrown at him, he started throwing at me.  And he was a dead shot. It was definitely me he was after, because when I moved he changed direction, never taking his angry eyes off me for a moment.  It was, I think, my home-made, acid-green sweater that set him off. It was a seriously horrible colour and it probably hurt his eyes.
Painting: Summer

People gathered to watch. And laugh. Some laughed so hard they buckled at the knees. Others, even the friends I was with, provided more ammunition for the chimp by picking up what he'd thrown and tossing it back.  A wide circle of empty space grew around me as people melted away to a safe distance. It was rather mortifying to be the target of a monkey's rage.

That's probably how a certain Mr Sorrentino, apparently a reality show person, felt last year when an upmarket clothing manufacturer offered him a substantial payment to stop wearing their clothes. They were concerned that Mr Sorrentino’s association with their brand could cause significant damage to their image. I don't know what Mr Sorrentino did to deserve that, but I do wonder where it could end. Will there be more manufacturers, and maybe even department stores, being picky about the people who wear their clothes?  

Once upon a time, on good days, I used to scrub up not too badly. The acid-green sweater and other horrors were long gone. Nowadays I dress for comfort, and the current fashion climate – casual, bordering on slack – suits me fine. I try not to sink so far as to attract the kind of slur that Jonathan Swift was moved to utter when he said of someone that she wore her clothes as if they were thrown on her with a pitchfork.

Thank goodness for op-shops, of which I am a loyal customer. They have a huge selection of clothing, from cheap and cheerful to designer seconds. Nobody hovers at your elbow. They don’t fuss about their image. I hold to the illusion that, at least when I bought them, most of the leisure clothes in my wardrobe are good quality op-shop.  Monkeys can please keep their opinions to themselves.

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