A pal came back from a nice trip to Holland and presented me with a carrier bag full of stuff. She's too generous and wonderfully good at getting decent presents.
I snatched the bag gratefully. It's been a while since I got a prez.
“Ooooo. What's in here?” I plunged a hand in, feeling quite jolly excited. I hardly ever do cool, except with strangers.
I was hoping for cannabis cake. My fingers felt something round - a bit like a muffin but rather more solid. Maybe it had gone stale. I didn't mind if it was a week old.
It turned out to be cheese. Paprika gouda cheese. Oh well.
“Go on,” she urged. “There's something that'll make you laugh. Just your thing.”
My fingers found two little objects that clanked together.
A tiny pair of china clogs on strings. Kind of cute but not exactly hilarious and so far, no cannabis. I'm an ungrateful cow sometimes.
“It's probably in the bottom of the bag. Keep going” she said.
A tube of something.
“Oooh cannabis chocolate...???”
“It's just white chocolate, you noggin. You like white chocolate.”
Yes I do but sometimes I just crave an illegal substance. Never had one, but that doesn't stop me craving one. Chocolate is ok though. It contains nil calories as long as you don't pay for it personally.
I groped further in the bag. My fingers felt something knitted. A scarf. A scarf with a pom-pom?? Probably not a scarf, then.
Oh. A hat. A hat like the hat in the film “About a Boy.” A hat to engender sympathy from the soft-hearted but much more likely to attract raucous ridicule from those of sound mind.
You could have cut the anticlimax with a knife.
“See. It's funny isnt it? Do you like it?” she smiled.
“All the cyclists were wearing them in Amsterdam. They're really warm apparently.”
Subtext: “You're completely indiscriminate about what you wear so here's something to make grown men weep and small children roll in the gutter with mirth.” Bee-atch.
“Well, it looks warm,” I said. I pulled it on. From nowhere there were at least four phones produced so the owners could eagerly snap amusing pictures.
I did look completely ridiculous. The hat is grey and cream knitted woolly hat with a grey pom pom on top. It has ear flappy bits and woolly extensions like plaits dangling down past both ears.
I simply can't imagine what kind of woman would look good in it. I certainly don't. It makes me look like a Greenham Common woman with special needs or a Swiss weather clock girl who had been kept in a cupboard by her dad for so long that she lost all her fashion sense.
“Oh yes. It is warm. I'm glowing already. Thank you.” I doubt it sounded very convincing but at least I tried.
“You can wear it on your bike under your helmet or something.”
She means well and usually has impeccable taste but has revealed nakedly that she knows nothing about cycling or helmets or hats. Reminded me a bit of my Aunty Gerty who bought me a cap gun for Christmas when I was five. Dad thought she'd got the labels wrong and it was meant for my brother but he was incensed to find she had bought it for me. She worked at the toy factory and was ahead of her time, staunchly resisting sexist stereotypes. Dad gave it to my brother anyway.
I have accepted it in the spirit with which it was given – as a joke hat. I'll wear it on Bonfire Night, to a firework display at least thirty miles from home where no-one knows me. I'll wear a pair of dark glasses to make extra-sure I can't be identified.
Thereafter I will save it for my eccentric old age and wear it, along with a fur coat, while pedalling along on the Oxford bicycle I've promised myself with a big basket on the front carrying two Tibetan spaniels.
It will be clear where the hat originated. People will see the "Amster" knitted in large cream letters across the back of it (the dam is out of view over my right ear).
People might assume I've been at the tea and cannabis cakes. They might even be right.