Magazine article The Spectator

Dressing Up

Magazine article The Spectator

Dressing Up

Article excerpt

The boys wanted to go to a Chinese restaurant on Saturday and so we went. It wasn't easy. We usually go to a place in a local village, but this Saturday it was closed. Even the lights in the fish-tank were switched off. If we weren't to starve, we had to find somewhere in the nearest small town. We drove and we drove until finally we arrived outside the only Chinese restaurant we know there. A large banner informed us that we could eat as much as we liked - tomorrow. Today it was closed as well.

Fortunately (or not) we discovered a new Chinese restaurant had opened. The tablecloths were clean and white. A couple were seated near the door eating what looked like school food. Did they serve Chinese meals, I asked the waiter? They did, and in a disturbingly short time we were presented with the imperial selection of chicken kebabs covered in tinned gravy, partially defrosted prawn toasts, seaweed candy floss and a pile of crisps streaked with sweet and sour won ton-ato sauce.

By the end of the meal all I wanted to do was go home to bed. However, just as we got into the car, my eldest son and his friend announced that their class was about to host a party at school. They wanted to dress up as the computer-game characters Mario and Luigi, and it was essential that I should immediately find them some false moustaches, a red hat, a green hat and blue dungarees with yellow buttons. Clearly they hadn't noticed that the clothes on sale in most of our small towns are as limited in range, as vile in appearance and as poor in quality as the food in our local restaurants.

We have chain stores selling McSeparates, privately owned market stalls selling rags rejected by Russian lunatic asylums and that's about it. Picturing all the old dresses I have at home, I was tempted to suggest that the boys go to their party in drag. But instead I simply asked my son whether they would consider dressing up as anything other than Mario and Luigi. …

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