Are you being served?

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I suppose I should have anticipated how yesterday was going to go, but I didn’t. I walked straight into Dorothy’s little trap like a lamb to the slaughter. The twinkle in her eye on Friday when she suggested she wanted to spend some time with me on Saturday should have been a warning about what was to come, but it didn’t.

No, all the signs were there, written in large letters all over the place, but I missed them all. With her going away for a few weeks, Dorothy had decided that she needed to take me in hand and, in her words, sort out my wardrobe. Would you believe, she actually rubbed her hands together when she said this after breakfast, giving me my first indication that this was not going to be the kind of Saturday I had hoped for.

“What’s wrong with my wardrobe?” I asked her; after all, my clothes are all purchased from one of the finest men’s tailors in London. My father used them, and I have been dressed by them for as long as I can remember. Admittedly, it is hardly the height of modern fashion, but that has always been fine with me. As far as I’m concerned clothes need to be comfortable, hard wearing and, if possible, British made. And that is what I buy.

Dorothy, it seems, has a very different view of the role or function of clothing. I had always thought that this is very much a woman sort of thing, but y experience today was a real eye-opener in this regard.

She stood in front of me, hands on hips and her head tilted slightly to the left, Dorothy fixed me with a look that actually made me squirm a little. The only other person who has given me that look is Aunt Murdock. I knew there and then that this was not going to go too well for me. The women have completely taken over my life and I never saw it coming. One moment I was a single man about town without a care in the world, the next I found myself in the process of “being improved”.

I suppose it is a man’s lot to have his affairs managed and manipulated by the women his life. We can always take comfort from knowing that they have our best interest at heart, and it does indicate a degree of affection that should make us flattered.

Anyway, back to yesterday morning. As a prepared myself for the ordeal to come, believing that it would all be over by lunchtime and I could sneak back to the Club, Angela arrived. It was obvious now that Dorothy meant business and had called in reinforcements to ensure I did as I was told.

What followed was something out of a really bad dream. Within twenty minutes of Angela’s arrival we were on Oxford Street with Dorothy and Angela steering me through the raging sea of shoppers, heading towards our first port of call with a degree of determination and confidence I found quite disconcerting. For the next hour or so – time had become something I no longer seemed able to grasp fully – I found myself in a world totally alien to me, a world in which colours and shape took on a whole new meaning. It is a world so comfortable and familiar to Dorothy and Angela that the best I could do by way of contribution was mutter the occasional yea or nay, and stand still as a variety of shirts, trousers and other garments were hung off me as if I were a tailors dummy.

You can imagine my relief when, eventually, having failed to come to a decision on a new winter coat, Dorothy proposed that we stopped for some lunch. Now normally, at this point, I would have a number of suggestions as this is definitely my area of expertise. I may not know much about shopping, but I do know where best to eat. But no, even this decision was taken out of my hands as the girls led me up yet another set of escalators to some kind of cafe on the top floor or the shop we were in at the time. I was somewhat aghast at the idea of taking my lunch in a shop! I was, as you would expect, somewhat reluctant, but the decision was made and my part in it inevitable.

Despite my initial protestations and misgivings about the choice, I have to admit that the surroundings and food were actually very pleasant. It seems that the girls really do know what they are doing. I was still convinced that we would be going our separate ways after having something to eat. I had already spent much longer choosing clothes than I had ever done before and felt that was quite enough. But, according to Dorothy, we had only just begun! At this point, I think I was beginning to feel that I was on the cusp of descending into one of Dante’s seven levels of hell. The thought of being manhandled through even more stores was almost more than I could take.

I pointed out to Dorothy that despite spending most of the morning as a mannequin, we had yet to actually buy anything more than a few pairs of socks and a rather fetching fedora.

“Oh, you never buy the first thing you see,” she said. “That’s the whole idea. Now we can go back and purchase the items we actually want.”

So, for the next lifetime, we retraced our steps and before long all three of us were laden with bags and packages containing my new wardrobe. Some items we left behind for collection or delivery, but by the time we reached what I discovered was to be our final stop, I was beginning to understand what a pack horse must feel like. I was so distracted by the shifting weight that I hadn’t noticed where we were until Angela presented me with a lime green vest and rather large looking navy blue shorts. It was then I took in my surroundings and realised that we were in some kind of sportswear store. At first, the reason behind this eluded me. I had never partaken in any kind of sport that required specialist clothing, at least not since leaving school, I could not understand why I was being asked to model these particular items.

Dorothy’s answer to my enquiry shocked me to the bone: “They are for when you go to the gym.”

Nine simple words that almost floored me. Then I remembered the conversations I had had recently with Dorothy, Dorchester and the chaps at the Club. I had agreed to go along to Dorchester’s health club, and Dorothy was making sure I didn’t have any excuses. All I could do was acquiesce, purchase the clothes and new footwear, and smile.

By the time we returned home I was exhausted, and not a little depressed by the whole affair. Angela helped with the unpacking of the day’s purchases while Dorothy went down to the kitchen to prepare some food – it was Mrs Kaczka’s day off. By the time we had eaten and the girls had retired to Dorothy’s rooms, I was too tired to go to the Club. Instead, I settled down to watch Strictly Come Dancing with a fine single malt. Dorothy and Angela went out a little after 9 o’clock. They did invite me to go with them, but I declined as politely as I could.

It had been a very busy day.

Am I losing control of my own life?

This morning I had an unexpected, but a very welcome telephone call from Hope Greenwood. She hasn’t returned home yet but is in Edinburgh staying with an old friend. Apparently, she has been having a short break and visiting a few artists in Scotland. She told me that she heard yesterday that I had visited her gallery – it seems that the helpful young lady I spoke to on Wednesday was Hope’s youngest daughter, Charlotte.

It was just a brief call as she had an appointment, but she told me she will be back in London tomorrow. There wasn’t enough time to discuss the invitation to old Cambridge’s soiree but I told her I would call into the gallery again on Wednesday. Maybe this time I can take her out for that lunch I promised myself.

Whilst I was on the phone talking to Hope, Dorothy walked in and did a little eavesdropping. At times she is like an old mother hen, fussing and manoeuvring. I sometimes think she is taking tips from old Mad Duck. She may even be some kind of third columnist, planted by the old dear to spy on me. Nothing would surprise me where Aunt Murdock is concerned.

According to Dorothy, if I’m going to meet Hope for lunch again, I am going to need some new clothes. She told me that my current wardrobe is a little too conservative and old fashioned. I am not sure I agree with her, but she seems to have set her heart on taking me out shopping. Of course, I have said I couldn’t possibly find the time, but I know Dorothy well enough by now to know that she won’t let a simple matter such as being far too busy get in the way of a good plan. I am sure that now she has suggested going clothes shopping, as far she is concerned it is going to happen.

The more I think about it, the more I worry that my life is being controlled by the various women around me. I mean, there is Aunt Murdock trying to get me married off, Dorothy doing her best to “modernise” me, and even Miss Drayton seems to be trying to turn me into a business man. I know they mean well. They all seem to think they are doing what is best for me, and I am sure that in some ways they may even be right, but surely a chap needs to have some control over his own life.