Somerset was lovely yesterday, a little too hot if anything. Sitting out in our south-facing garden was pretty much impossible until about 4pm.
I had errands to run in Taunton. As I mentioned on Twitter, I put on my floaty dress and donned the sunglasses ready to pretend our county town was St Tropez. There would be certain elements missing of course – like the sea, people with money to spend and shops that aren’t part of national chains. But with dark lenses I could blinker myself to some of that. After all – we have had a month of gloom down here. I was desperate.
So were others it seems. A group of girls stood outside British Home Stores in tight shorts and bikini tops. Could this be another protest at the lengths Sir Philip Green might go to avoid tax? Was it an ironic feminist comment on the state of the fashion industry in Britain? Sadly not. They had been across to Greggs and were having some sort of sausage roll fest. Anyone who has ventured into Taunton on a Saturday night will know that there is a collective longing to ‘let it all hang out’, quite literally, and it seemed that not even the cover of darkness was required yesterday. And they were loud, and swore as if it were Wetherspoons at chucking out time. Outside BHS too – known more for large knickers and lampshades than hotpants and a happy hour.
Similarly, it seems that one or two men felt, with no regard to sensitive stomachs, that theirs should be allowed to fall freely out of t-shirts, over their belts and dangle palidly, navels like the Cyclops’ eye winking in the bright sunlight.
Now, I am sure Somerset is not alone in feeling such release from the terrible, wet weather we have experienced over the past month. I am sure beaches everywhere were heaving at lunchtime with all manner of sights and sounds as people cast off their clothing in a frenzy to fry themselves in the hottest sunshine of 2012.
But in town centres? If I walked into W.H. Smiths in my bra people might, quite rightly in my view, think I had overstepped the mark. So why is it appropriate to wander around buying books in your bikini? Or flaunting a hairy chest? My friends and I have identified something peculiar to local towns – we call it ‘Taunton Tummy’. I would uphold anybody’s right to wear the clothes he or she feels comfortable in without judgement and to have the figure they want rather than the one the media thinks everyone should have. But I don’t necessarily think that gives anyone the right to walk about semi-naked with flab hanging out in the high street.
So, rant over, errands run and long floaty dress stored safely in the wardrobe once again I can sit here quietly at my computer looking out of the window. The sun hasn’t come out today in Somerset.
Frankly, I am not surprised…