Column: June 8, 2011

I VEER wildly between fancying myself as a suave James Bond-type – an image of me which regular readers will no doubt share – and accepting that I am actually the sort of man who produces a detailed drawing of a belt with a cup holder because he keeps letting mugs of tea go cold.

Delusion got the better of me last week when I bought a new suit. It was on special offer. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I bought an item of clothing that was not on special offer. I do not want you to think I am cheap, but you would not be wrong.

This new suit was part of the M&S Italian Collezione. Collezione is Italian for collection, I guess. I think I know this instinctively because I am one-16th Italian, although the only words of Italian I know for sure are “ciao” and “pizza”. In any case, it boasted the best in Italian styling, and that was good enough for me.

But when I got it home, I had to admit to myself that I had no idea what Italian styling was. I put it on the bed, next to my English-styled M&S suit, and, to be honest, I was baffled. It was like doing a spot the difference between two pictures where the puzzle compiler had forgotten to change any details on the picture on the right.

Eventually, I found an extra tiny pocket on the inside. That must be what Italian styling is. They probably use it for the keys to their Lambrettas, or to store parmesan cheese, or something. I don’t know, I am only one- 16th Italian. Nevertheless, it was enough.

And so, I wore it for work for the first time. I combined it with some brown Chelsea boots and an open-necked white shirt. And the sun was blazing, so I was wearing sunglasses. Obviously, I looked like a ponce, but I didn’t care. My latent Italianate nature had asserted itself. I felt Neapolitan, cosmopolitan even, as I strode through the city centre.

So when a group of three Mediterranean- looking tourists stopped me to ask directions, I was entirely unsurprised. They had clearly recognised me as one of them.

“Where is Mathew Street?” asked the lone woman in the group.

I could have told her. But we were about 30 metres away from the Cavern Quarter. And I had to walk through Mathew Street to get to work.

“Follow me,” I said. I will show you visitors to our city how friendly and helpful the people of Liverpool are, I thought, and it will not cost me anything.

I do not know if you have ever led a group of three people who do not speak your language terribly well, and who are determined to drink in the atmosphere of the crowded city centre you are in a hurry to get through in order to get to work, but it is not as easy as you would think.

“If you could just . . . erm, yes, this way . . . erm, no, that’s . . . ” I burbled, as I attempted to round up the tourists. I spoke to the female ringleader. “Where have you come from?”

“Spain,” she said. “My friends are fanatics of The Beatles. They do not speak English.”

Spain! Great. I know more Spanish than Italian. Specifically, I know the words for hello and goodbye.

“Oh, well, he’s come to the right place,” I said. “You’re much better off here for Beatles stuff than, say, Manchester.”

She looked blank.

“Where in Spain?” I asked.

“Murcia. You know it?”

Not really, I thought. I have no idea where Murcia is. But I refuse to feel guilty about it. You were 30 metres from Mathew Street and didn’t know where it was.

“Yes,” I said, determined to stick to the fiction that I was cosmopolitan. “Oh, here we are.” I had deposited them in Mathew Street. It was up to them now.

“Thank you,” said the woman. Her friends copied her. “Thank you.”

I was touched that they had spoken to me in my mother tongue. I decided I would say goodbye to them in theirs.

“Ciao,” I said. I turned away, and walked on to work, repeating the words “adios” and “idiot” in my head all the way.

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