"Are you SURE that I don't need to wear a suit?"
"You don't need to wear a suit."
""You're definitely SURE I don't need to wear a suit?"
"No, you don't need to wear a suit."
Thus it was that I turned up to the Important Scientific Conference evening gala dinner as one of only three people not wearing a suit. The other two were internationally renowned eccentric scientists.
As I tried to explain to the LTLP, there is nothing that causes more horror and nightmares to an English working class male than the thought of turning up to an event improperly dressed. I am no longer working class (I own a stainless-steel magnetic knife-rack) but I stood there in the foyer ashamed and small, watching people whisper to each other cattily about my suitless appearance.
It could have been so much worse. Being in Italy taught me many things. Firstly that I will never, never agree to give up our own British pound in favour of a currency that features such mediocre graphic design and institutionally generic typography. Secondly, that Italian hotels don't provide an iron in the room and, on top of that, refuse to give you one when you ask.
I headed out into the city in search of an uncreased shirt to wear.
Prada... Gucci... Valentino - and all I wanted was a Signor Byrite. One with shirts hung on hangers and not folded up in boxes. One with the prices clearly on display and where you could browse unmolested by people speaking Italian at you.
There are two types of Englishperson abroad. Those that don't speak the language and couldn't give a fuck about it - getting on by pointing, shouting and relying on the natives to speak English. And there are those that don't speak the language and feel guilty, ashamed and vulnerable about it. On reflection, I think the former have a better time. I know how to order four things in Italian - coffee, ice cream, beer and wine. Shirt-shopping was an ordeal of insecurity and embarrassment.
But I now have an Italian shirt!!! It is snazzy and stripy. I will wear it when I go to the Village Pub next, and they will all be impressed and say 'look at his Italian shirt'.
I walked out of the shop, pleased with myself but longing for the comforting familiarity of Norfolk.