The Right Look for a Book Launch
I live deep in the southern hills of Turkey in a house of mud I
crafted from my own hands. It’s an unusual existence. I spend unacceptable durations in the same pair of trousers. My boots, dilapidated clumps of muddy leather, have long passed the turn off to usable. Sometimes (if I’m lucky) I go
days without seeing a soul. Sometimes I forget how to speak.
And then, one night, while sitting in my mountain mudhut watching a warty old toad scuttle into my laundry basket, I received an email that threatened to change everything. I’d been selected for the One Big Book Launch! Obviously, my first reaction was to leap up, yelp and punch the air a few times (the toad went very quiet here). But it was an outburst closely followed by another more serious consideration: Oh
Lord! What am I going to wear?
Now, I know many people face this problem every morning. They have elegant wardrobes packed with . . . well what are
they packed with? You see, I don’t have a wardrobe. It’s more of a heap. I own two types of clothes: building wear and beach wear. I can’t see the sarong and bikini ensemble going down too well in The Free Word Centre, not to mention the
difficulty of talking with chattering teeth and goosebumps. And the state of my jeans doesn’t even brush the casual half of the ‘smart casual’ dress code. There is also the notorious white onesie I use for the plastering – the one where people ask if I’m looking for nuclear waste or have opted for a career change in forensic science. It would make a great publicity stunt à la Sacha Baron Cohen. . . if I were a science fiction author.
‘I think you might have to go shopping,’ said a friend of mine
when I told her the news over a cup of green tea. I bit my lip. Then I banged my head on the table and wailed. The experience of shopping squats in the same area of my brain as a trip to the dentist or a smear test. All those rails of clothes that don’t fit. All those hot changing rooms with the crying kids, the funfair mirrors. All that undressing and dressing and disappointment. And then there’s the barely-masked scorn of the sales assistant the moment you sneak out from behind the curtain in a pair of trousers designed by a sadist with a body constriction fetish. Oh, I’d so rather chainsaw the firewood or mindlessly dig for a few hours.
Of course, clothes are not the only consideration. I have to
stand up and talk to 200 people about my book. But I’m an ex-teacher. Public speaking comes as naturally to me as fraudulent expense claims do to the average cabinet minister. Give me a microphone and a willing audience, and yes . . . you get the picture. This might come as a surprise when you consider a life of conversing with the dog, aubergine plants, and the resident tortoise. Then again, it might not.
No, it’s the clothes that will prey on my mind, probably until the very morning of the launch. I’m a mountain hillbilly with vague hippy tendencies and a deeply lazy streak when it comes to my appearance. I have dirt under my fingernails a good 90% of the time. I drive my motorbike with gardening gloves on, and the woman at the store always eyes them sympathetically. When I turn up to my neighbour’s house in my only pair of clean jeans, lost button replaced by a safety pin, his eyes pop. He pinches my arm. ‘My, look at you! Off to the city eh?’
Yes, I’m off to the city. In wellies and overalls. Or a nice new dress. Or yoga pants. Jeans? Skirt? Perhaps I should don a fez? Or pull some Sultana in gossamer veils effect. Or keep in theme with the book; hiking boots and walking poles. Oh dear. Perhaps I should just go as myself. But even the philosophers are unclear about just who or what that might be.
And then, just as I gave up hope, I remembered my secret weapon, Lalli . As the mission statement goes, 'Clothing for the freethinking individual.' Old friends of mine in the valley have been running this homegrown ethical business for years. 'What are you going to wear? I'm asking as your stylist,' wrote co-owner Feryal on my wall last week. Stylist eh? Now you weren't expecting that, were you? Ha ha! Even hillbillies can pull a trick or two out of their hessian bags when the need arises.
Yep, I’m off to the city folks! And I now have a stylist from wilderness. I’ll let you know what I’m wearing when I arrive.