'My chainsaw outfit and Mercedes wellies need their own wardrobe'
The different outfits needed for country living deserve a space of their own
I don’t need a mirror – my characters are above vanity – but I do need one last costume.
I think I need a walk in wardrobe in the garage: it would make my life so much easier. I’ve always liked to dress for the occasion but when I moved to the country a dilettante disposition became a routine as I grasped the first principle of rural life: always wear suitable clothes for the job.
With an acre to tend there were now many new, unfamiliar jobs requiring many strange, new clothes. After satisfying specific requirements of practical, fit for purpose design, my eyes were opened to brave new horizons in fashion. I lusted after garments I’d never previously considered. I had to have them because they were necessary ... I needed them. The accumulation of all this extra gear over years gave friends and family exciting new Christmas and birthday gift ideas. They were thrilled.
There were also less material gains. If my acting career languished, I compensated by creating a personal cast of characters. Depending on the chore, I called up my inner gardener, woodsman or farmhand then chose the appropriate costume. And to my delight, I discovered that sartorial curios from my past – things I hadn’t the resolution to throw out but had long since lost the courage to wear – found new purpose. Bizarre youthful choices were gratifyingly vindicated.
The coat now has essence of manure deeply ingrained its fibres and has been banished from the house
When living in London, I liked to sashay around the West End in a calf length, black waxed coat. It had a little shoulder cape which I thought chic and bohemian until I glimpsed my reflection in a Soho shop window and saw a shifty monsignor. I kept it nonetheless till it eventually achieved its destiny protecting me from torrents of cow dung when I helped neighbours move their herd.
The coat now has essence of manure deeply ingrained its fibres and has been banished from the house. Though probably able to stand up by itself it hangs on the back of the garage door next to my chainsaw gear. This costume is a natty two-piece consisting of heavy trousers and a helmet. The padded trousers are designed to snarl up the chain’s teeth to prevent sawing my leg off but their thickness has the further advantage of swelling my profile, thereby disguising my paunch.
The helmet has ear protectors attached and a visor which flips up like that of a medieval knight – it’s very rakish. Set off with steel toe-capped boots the outfit is that of a taciturn, nonchalantly elegant lumberjack.
People think deeply before choosing a car. I’ve a sharp eye for a wellington boot
Then there’s my much-used leather jerkin.Dubiously stained, faded and many pocketed for useful stuff, it imparts an air of rugged, Man for all Seasons self-reliance and is hugely versatile. With straw hat from the house and wicker basket from the garage it’s ideal for the orchard. With knee pads from the garage and Aran sweater from the house it’s the very thing for the vegetable garden. And for an all round rustic ensemble I add tweed cap and wellies.
People think deeply before choosing a car. I’ve a sharp eye for a wellington boot. Wishing to be taken seriously as a countryman I have two pairs: one for everyday and one for best. The former are adequate, unexciting and functional - like a Mazda. I wear them around the acre. The superior ones are built for comfort and distance. Insulated, padded and sleek, they are my Mercedes.
I wear them to impress or when I want to cut a dash at the county show. They hang with all other family wellies on the purpose-built welly tree near the front door. It’s not ideal. Before doing anything outdoors I go to the garage to change into general work clothes, come back to the house for a hat, then back to the garage for full costume, visit the welly tree to pick footwear, and finally return to the garage for tools and other accessories.
I need my own dressing room: with costume rail, shoe rack, hat hooks and props table. The garage is clearly the place. There’s already a spare fridge out there, so a cooling beer after my exertions can be arranged. I don’t need a mirror – my characters are above vanity – but I do need one last costume.
The weather is getting cold so I may look slightly fetishistic or at best bit of a pillock
Lingering temperate weather has delayed the onset of autumn. Grass is still growing, which means the acre will need strimming again before the life force of the countryside withdraws for the winter. It’s hot work, especially in our Amazonian undergrowth.
I once did it in shorts and was spattered with sap and whipped with nettle and thistle fragments. My entire body was covered in red welts for weeks. Since then I grunt and sweat in goggles, bandana and heavy work clothes, vaguely dreaming of something better. Then in July I saw council workers languidly strimming in lightweight plastic visors and white, gossamer-thin, onesies. I need them. The weather is getting cold so I may look slightly fetishistic or at best bit of a pillock but I could get the gear, hide it in the garage and sport it with kinky pleasure next summer.