Sunday 20 October 2019

No peeking at my patellas

By David Medcalf

'I've never really noticed your knees. You've a cute bum though.' Hermione is as frank as ever.

The recent Indian summer, with fine weather extending deep into October, has underlined an unsettling trend - men wearing shorts in public. Not young chaps on their way to football. Not athletes showing off their rippling quads. Not old fashioned German tourists in lederhosen. Just blokes casually going about their everyday business with legs on public view.

Men making mobile phone calls. Men emptying litter bins. Men pushing baby buggies. Men reading newspapers. Men doing the shopping. Men doing what men do to pass the time, but in shorts.

There is no obvious explanation for the phenomenon, which manifests itself in fellas across the age spectrum. It surely cannot be a fashion statement, for these are shorts of no particular style or cut. They have been casually added to the wardrobes of men all over Our Town, to be considered for selection whenever the temperature is more than 15 degrees centigrade.

Some of these garments are designed as loose fitting variations on sporting themes, often carrying the logo of some well-known soccer club. Some are re-workings of jeans, usually fitted with extra pockets on the thigh capable of holding spanners, packed lunches and other workaday paraphernalia suggesting that the wearer means business. Some are neatly tailored garments that cry out for an accompanying jacket to complete the suit.

Perhaps this shorts circuit is a result of having let the Irish male loose on the Costa Brava and other foreign vacation destinations. He cut a dash on the Bois de Boulogne or around the Keys of Florida in his sawn off denims, so now he feels that a home audience should be offered a leisurely peek at his patellas. Don't all swoon at once please, ladies.

This raising of the trouser hem is not a movement which I will be joining any time soon. A little part of me envies the uninhibited nature of those among my neighbours who can cast aside their jeans and slacks in favour of abbreviated leg wear. Just a little part.

That made clear, it may be noted that Hermione and I took a short break recently in France during which I lived in shorts - a particularly natty beige linen pair held in position with a belt of finest supple calf leather. They went exceptionally well with grey sandals and allowed an opportunity to display to full effect my store of identical black ankle socks.

The shorts went to the vineyard and to the museum. The shorts went on the hill walk and on the visit to the truffle woods. Naturally, the shorts went to the beach where they were not removed though my spouse, looking especially alluring in her Speedo one-piece, assured me that the water was warm and inviting.,

The shorts would have gone to the restaurant too but Hermione rugby tackled me as I attempted to leave the Hotel Grenouille Jolie for dinner. She nailed me with all the power and panache of the great Serge Blanco in his prime and would not let me go to dinner until I promised to don the chinos which had lain rolled up neglected at the bottom of our suitcase.

Back home, it occurs to me that most people here have probably never seen my knees, at least not after 1997 or so. They have seldom been exposed to the light of Irish day since I retired from playing team sports. They are normally girthed in baggy jogging bottoms whenever there is running or walking to be done. I detest sun-bathing and consider swimming a form of torture, so they make no appearance at strand or public baths.

The reluctance to put them on view may be traced back to my days with the 33rd Liffeyside boy scout troop. There was no keener boy scout. No one ever tied more knots or bobbed more jobs. But enthusiasm wavered each Friday night on the walk in full uniform to the weekly boy scout meeting. The uniform shirt was fine. The uniform beret was okay. But the uniform shorts were horrid.

I asked young Persephone the other day if she had any thoughts about my knees. Our daughter promptly replied: 'I've never really noticed your knees. You've a cute bum though.'

I don't know where she gets it from.

Wexford People

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