As everyone who knows me will attest, I’ve always been careful about my clothes. Finding a style that suited me, I’ve stuck with it for at least forty years. Again as anyone who knows me will tell you, I dress appropriately for the conditions. Even when, as at the moment, the conditions verge on the extreme.
For the last few mornings, about 9am I’ve been down on the mosses. The sun isn’t at its hottest; there is a hint of a breeze, but just a hint. But frankly it’s too hot for man or beast.
The bullocks know this. You’ll see them in a huddle, a dozen of them trying to stand in the shade of the same hawthorn, their tails lashing out, seemingly a random.
Sheep find shade more easily. They snuggle into the dike bottom. Note that round here a dike isn’t a ditch, it’s a hedge set on a bank which is the old meaning.
So the only things moving are me and the dog and young Sal isn’t travelling as fast as she sometimes does.
And for this sort of weather, this sort of ground, you’ve got to be dressed appropriately. Trust me, wearing sandals, shorts and flaunting bare chest to a gratifyingly astounded world isn’t ever going to work.
Let’s take the shorts first. Fine if you don’t mind getting your legs shredded by briars, thistles and whatnot. Nettles aren’t a lot of fun either, although they can reach out and get you through denim.
So shorts are out. Sorry and all that.
Oh yes, the bronzed, muscled and lightly oiled bare chest. If you see someone walking in livestock country you’ll notice they often develop a routine. Brush the back of the left arm with the right hand, brush the back of the right arm with the left hand, then grab shirt collar at the back and jiggle your shirt about a bit.
The answer is clegs or horseflies.
Near hedges or rank vegetation they almost swarm. I can remember when mowing rough meadows, the first two passes around a field, you’d be swatting the damn things in twos and threes.
What with clegs, briars, and suchlike, your shirt is protective clothing. As kids we might play out round the yard with no shirt on, but it isn’t something I’ve done since I was a kid.
Finally the sandals; I’ve been told that you’re not supposed to wear socks with them. Well it was a lady who told me this, but frankly, and purely between ourselves; any gender willing to clamber onto a pair of high heels is suspect when it comes to recommending footwear.
I remember seeing a letter written by a Roman soldier to his mum. Pathetically he asked for
“Paria udonum ab Sattua solearum duo et subligariorum duo”;
this translates as, “socks, two pairs of sandals and two pairs of underpants”.
Socks have an important function. At the very least they serve to protect your feet from your footwear.
Sandals are a bit like slippers really. OK round the house. Unlike slippers they’re fine for posing round the pool or on the beach where you’re not going to cover serious distances but if you’re actually going to wear them for more than the walk across the pub car park, a wise man would invest in socks.
And strangely enough I don’t wear them when working, even with socks. What with thistles, clegs, sharp stones and nettles, just slip Wellingtons or a pair of decent boots on.
Someone did comment about the possibility of getting sheep muck between the toes. No problem. Round here we wash whether we need it or not.