COLUMN: June 28, 2012

I RECENTLY found my big coat Big Coat on the floor, with a coat hanger rent in two, one half in each sleeve.

I appreciate Big Coat is a big coat, but it shouldn’t have caused a coat hanger worthy of the name an existential crisis. If you are a manufacturer of coat hangers, and you are manufacturing coat hangers which are not up to the task of hanging coats, then you need to take a long hard look at your life.

This is coincidentally what I am currently doing. Specifically, my sartorial life. I am going through my wardrobe and removing garments purchased before Peter Mandelson’s first resignation.

As I tug the shirts from the wardrobe, I find the coat hangers often break. From which material are these hangers fashioned? Supposedly it is plastic, but one can only surmise that it is moth wings, able to withstand the breath of a dying faerie, but crumbling to dust under the pressure of anything else.

What was wrong with wire coat hangers anyway? Admittedly, they were a bit bendy, but they didn’t break. Also, I dropped a set of keys down the back of the radiator, and worked out that if I unravelled a wire hanger I could fashion a hook. Then I remembered that I hadn’t seen a wire hanger for years.

Incidentally, I did try the magnet on a piece of string trick. It did not work, as it kept attaching itself to the radiator, physics once again thwarting me.

So I found myself with a pile of shirts and trousers, most of which were in a state of good repair, if not taste.

It included one pair of trousers, which I wore only once because they were sadistically and comically uncomfortable about the crotch and made me walk like John Wayne with piles. I have no idea why I kept them – it is not as if my personal circumstances were likely to change – but there they were, placing unnecessary strain on a gossamer hanger.

I don’t like to throw away perfectly good stuff. Who knows? Perhaps there is somebody out there who would like the clothes, maybe a smart casual 1990s clothing enthusiast. I have seen worse on the internet. Maybe even somebody would take on the trousers, somebody with very short thighs and freakishly long calves.

That meant only one thing. A trip to the charity shop. And at that point I quailed.

During a previous clear-out, I was called upon to get rid of a nest of tables. There was a little scratch on one of them, but I decided that gave it character. I have a number of scars myself, without being a candidate for euthanasia.

The nest would not fit in the boot of my car, so I unscrewed the legs.

I entered the charity shop with a bag full of top quality, if not Queen Anne, table tops and legs, and walked confidently to the nearest assistant.

“What’s that?” he asked. “A nest of tables,” I explained. He looked at me as if I were offering a nest of vipers.

“I’m not here to put that together,” he said. “You do it.”

So I sat in the middle of the charity shop, assembling a nest of tables, while people stepped over and around me, and occasionally watched me appraisingly. I am not one of nature’s furniture assemblers. I am not entirely incompetent, but I prefer to do it alone, so I can experiment with swearing. It was a little like being on The Cube.

Eventually, my nerves shot, the sweat trickling down my back, I finished my task, and slid the tables into each other. The assistant inspected my handiwork.

“I’m not taking that, it’s got a scratch on it,” he sniffed.

A little star did a supernova in my head. “What?” I said. “This isn’t John Lewis. You’re a charity shop.”

“Yeah, but I’ve got to sell it though, haven’t I? We don’t sell any old rubbish.”

“You’ve got Pretty Woman on VHS over there!” I said.

He turned away, and I sat on the floor, unscrewing the table legs again, the man who was turned down by the charity shop, my reputation as wrecked as a plastic coat hanger.

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