I saw a man walking along the street the other day with no trousers.
I know this is Cyprus, but even so it was a somewhat bizarre sight. He was wearing a long shirt, and to be fair it’s quite possible that he was wearing some very brief swimming trunks underneath, and he could have been on his way back from the beach. But as he was pushing 60 and it was 11 o’clock at night, that seems an unlikely explanation. To all intents and purposes, it looked like he’d simply forgotten to put his trousers on when he went out.
As usual, it’s a mystery to which we’ll never know the answer. But the fact that he was attempting to sing Sailing very loudly, and was also doing a great impression of a sailor trying to find his legs after six months at sea, may well provide us with a clue! He’d clearly spliced the mainbrace, was three sheets to the wind, and up a creek without any trousers.
But if indeed he had simply forgotten to don his legwear before setting forth to serenade Larnaca with his rendition of that Sutherland Brothers classic, made famous by Rod Stewart, then I have some sympathy for him. Not that I’ve ever left home trouserless myself, I hasten to add, but there was an occasion last week when I came perilously close to it.
I can’t remember the last time I wore any trousers. Probably the beginning of June at a guess. It’s been much too warm to be bothered with them. Shorts have been the order of the day, and night, for several weeks now whenever I go out. And a fly on the wall with no reservations about dropping me in it, would happily tell you that I can often be seen wearing just a pair of boxer shorts or underpants round the apartment.
Such was the circumstance a few mornings ago.
I’m never at my best first thing in the morning, as any girl in Larnaca will tell you. It takes a few cups of strong black coffee to bring what few brain cells I have left up to their optimum operating level. So I tend to do everything on autopilot while the elementary thought processors are still in a shut-down state. It’s easy to do because like most people, I have a basic daily routine upon waking that has to be gone through before I’m ready to face the world. Thinking doesn’t form any part of that routine! But as I mentioned once before, occasionally the autopilot malfunctions.
Part of my routine is to take my dog, Cleopatra, for her early morning exercise. To this end, I slipped on a T-shirt and started to open the front door. Fortunately some primaeval awareness leapt to the forefront of my brain and made me realise that I was only wearing my underpants under the T-shirt. It was a situation which had the propensity to be hugely embarrassing.
My only defence is that more often than not, I put on my swimming shorts as soon as I get up. They have side and rear pockets and look pretty much like any other shorts. So I often go out in them. I can only assume that I thought I was wearing them. But can you imagine if I hadn’t realised? They’d have come for me with a straight-jacket!
As a result of that episode, I’m now terrified of leaving the apartment without any trousers.
I’m also terrified of leaving the apartment without my door keys. I always have been. For years now, I’ve kept my front door keys on a hook beside the front door. Picking them up on the way out is so routine that I’ve never forgotten to do it. As a back-up though, I’ve always made sure that a couple of my friends have spare keys in case the inevitable does happen one day – as it surely will. I just know it!
So I’m now wondering if I should keep a spare pair of trousers hanging up by the front door as well, just to be on the safe side. And maybe distribute a few spare pairs amongst the community while I’m about it.
A man just can’t be too careful where his trousers are concerned…!
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Shortly after I wrote the Letter about trivia, someone sent me an email asking if I knew the origin of the expression ‘a pair of trousers’. Why a pair, when it was just one item? So just for fun, I sent a reply with three possible definitions, along the lines of the TV programme, Call My Bluff.
1. Before trousers were invented, men used to bind their legs with a hessian-like material. The bindings were called trusses, or trousses as they used to say in France, French being the predominant language of the English nobles in those days. So if you had both legs trussed, you were wearing a pair of ‘trousses’. And that’s how the expression ‘pair of trousers’ originated.
2. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, there was a surge in the tailoring industry, as more and more wealthy clients came into being. A lot of the nouveau riche lived on large estates in the countryside, and a trip into town was a lengthy and tiresome procedure. So whenever they were having some new trousers made, rather than just order one, they’d have a pair made, to make the journey worthwhile. Hence a ‘pair of trousers’.
3. The expression did indeed originate in the tailoring trade, but it was more practical than the previous definition. It was quite simply that when the tailor cut the cloth, there was a lot of wastage, and they soon discovered a way of cutting the material in such a way that two trousers could be cut by only using a small amount more of the material. Thus, two trousers were comparatively much cheaper to buy than just one. So of course most people had a pair of trousers cut. And the expression stuck. The same explanation is also true for a pair of knickers, from when they were hand-tailored.
What do you reckon?
I’ll publish the answer on Monday. No cheating by looking up the answer!