on the street the pair continue with the hat doffing and invite
me to join them in wishing a hearty 'good day' to anyone
we pass. This being Oxford Street we pass about two hundred people
every minute and nearly all of them just stare back in bemusement
or pretend that our warm greetings never happened. Even men in similar
headwear to the Chaps simply look away grumpily. It seems that only
American tourists welcome our gesture of civility, though they may
just assume that we have been hired by the Tourist Board to make
their stay more redolent of the London that they know from Mary
we are crossing the street toward trainer-junkie heaven Foot Locker
Temple spies a woman in her seventies and attempts to accompany
her across the road, only to be rebuked with the line: "I'm
a Londoner, I don't need any help." Far from downhearted
by the response he traverses the pedestrian crossing several times
before a woman finally allows him to take her arm.
the same thing myself, believing that any lady in her right mind
would enjoy being escorted through traffic by such a well-attired
gent, but sadly the tight waistcoat seems to be cutting off the
air supply to my brain and I only get rabbit -in-the-headlights
stares back from women as I try to explain why I am trying to grab
inside Foot Locker Temple catches the eye of a shop assistant, who
I can't help but feel sorry for as he wanders over.
day," chirps Temple extending his hand. "I should like
to purchase some plimsolls for a specific training regime."
we don't actually have that many plimsolls as such,"
says the employee. "What are they for?"
am being trained for the life of a boulevardier," says Temple.
"Each morning I must walk along Jermyn Street at a brisk pace,
turn left into St James Street, pausing to select the evening's
cigar at Davidoff's before ambling to my club, where I shall
spend the rest of the day ensconced in an armchair reading The Times."
something soft would probably be best," says the shop assistant,
seemingly unfazed. "Do you have a style in mind? What about
yes, that sounds ideal," interjects Darkwood. "Which
schools would that be? Do you have them in Eton colours?"
sparks a lengthy explanation of the term 'old school'
from the shop assistant but no sale. He does score highly for civility,
though, as well as the ability to keep a straight face when faced
with a trio of thirty-something men who seem to not understand what
an Air Jordan is.
Gap, Temple befuddles another member of staff with questions about
the combat trousers before asking to see the head cutter but we
are dealt with politely and efficiently; again learning new information.
Our shop assistant tells us that the Queen wore jeans when she was
working as a mechanic during World War II, though he can't
vouch for the fact that she buys her denims from Gap nowadays, despite
the endorsement of Missy and Madonna.
is a similar story at Phones4u, where a request for a car phone
for Temple's (imaginary) vintage Daimler in either Bakelite
or solid Walnut leads to a lot of head-scratching and scurrying
about in the basement from Karim, our enthusiastic salesman.
he is calling Mr Nokia's head carpenter," muses Darkwood.
Though Temple suspects he may actually be hiding, watching on CCTV
until we leave.
fifteen minutes later Karim emerges looking flushed, having obviously
been calling around. Though he fails to mention if he has spoken
with Nokia's head carpenter.
don't do anything like that here, but if you try Selfridges
they can customise any phone to your requirements," he says.
"Even diamond-encrusted, if you like."
firmly grasps Karim's hand, Darkwood raises his hat and we
leave, once again surprised at the willingness of a harried member
of staff to try to provide satisfaction. Perhaps civility is there
beneath the surface in every city centre if you scratch hard enough.
is not the case at McDonalds, however, where our requests for a
dry martini are met with looks of confusion and a general 'please
leave now' approach.
it because you are out of vermouth?" asks Temple. But the
question goes unanswered. Similarly, Starbucks staff are unwilling
to enter into discourse as to why they are unable to serve a pot
of Lady Grey or provide china cups and saucers.
we head away from Oxford Street, up Regent's Street towards
a Chap-approved eatery, the pair seem optimistic that their day
of protest could be the spark that we need to move away from the
necessity to throw fried foods at David Blaine, fight in rows over
bus stop queues or run noisy neighbours out of town.
even moot the possibility of a Chappist Prime Minister; a role that
they feel could be carried out admirably by either Boris Johnson
or Tony Benn. Chap political debate generally revolves around such
issues as 'single- or double-breasted?' rather than
questions of right or left. 'Right or left?' being the
kind of question that a Chap is only ever asked by his tailor when
being measured for a new suit.
this bubble of sanguinity is soon burst by the sound that most Londoners,
never mind most Chaps, dread the most.
you spare a minute for Cancer Research?" says a diminutive
young woman swathed in jeans, body-warmer and charity tabard as
she steps into our path.
quick as a flash, Darkwood counters the query as only a Chap can.
you see I am undertaking my own research?" he says, raising
the bowl of his pipe aloft as he steps past the unfortunate chugger
– another small victory on the road to the charmed uprising.
the World in Eighty Martinis by Gustav Temple and Vic Darkwood is
published by 4th Estate .