An Englishman abroad
I’m no clothes horse. I rarely spend money on clothing and I hate shopping. It’s a living hell. Having said all that, I have a strange tendency to project aspirations onto certain items of clothing. Let me explain…
A few years ago, I bought a corduroy jacket from a Primark shop in Inverness. It wasn’t the kind of thing that I would normally wear but it looked kinda right, it wasn’t expensive and I bought it. At first, I didn’t wear it very often. It seemed like a waste. After a while, I became a bit irritable about the lack of wear it had been given – disproportionately irritable. I decided to spend a bit of time trying to understand what the problem was.
It’s no secret that I harbour aspirations and ambitions to spend more of my time making documentary films. I love making films and I’d rather be doing that than anything else. I realised that my corduroy jacket appealed because it was the kind of thing I would wear more often if I was a filmmaker. The jacket filled the space between formal informal. The frustration I was feeling had nothing to do with the jacket or the money I’d spent on it. It was all about about not living the life I wanted to lead.
From then on, I called the corduroy jacket my filmmaker’s jacket. Even my friends know it as that too. I’m pleased to say, whenever I have been anywhere in my capacity as a filmmaker (screenings etc), the jacket has been perfect. It has absolutely fulfilled its intended role. I’ve worn it on lots of occasions now and there’s no doubt about it, it’s my filmmaker’s jacket.
The other day, as K and I were doing our weekly shopping in Aldi, I came across a new item – a green winter coat. It was warm, waterproof and it seemed to fit okay. What’s more, the Crane Sports 3-in-1 jacket was only £24.99. Bargain!
The first time I went to Berlin (March 2005), the pavements and parks were scattered with piles of old, crunchy snow. It was pretty cold. Last time I was in Berlin (March 2010), the city was full of snow and the pavements had a layer of gritty, dirty old ice. It snowed heavily on our last day and caused problems with the S Bahn down to Schönefeld Airport. I’m no expert but I know it gets cold in Berlin.
The thing is, I don’t really have a winter coat. Until Saturday, I only had an old coat my brother let me borrow…and eventually keep. It was warm enough but it absorbed wet weather and the corroding zip had stained a pink stripe into the fabric. I probably needed a new winter coat but it was far from a priority.
I don’t really know what it was that drew me to the coats in Aldi. I have a feeling I was up to my unconscious aspiration projection tricks again. While I was trying the coat on, the Berlin winter came to mind. I pictured myself standing on chilly platforms for S or U Bahns. I imagined turning up the fleecy collar to cold winds. I thought of the late nights walking back to our apartment in the rain. I’d found my Berlin coat.
I had a Batman costume when I was little. It had a little cape and a mask and a big bat emblem on the chest. I loved it but I didn’t want to be Batman when I grew up. I just wanted to pretend I was Batman. I’d hate to think I was choosing adult costumes in the same way. I don’t want to dress up like a Berliner – Aldi coats might be the uncoolest thing in Berlin right now. It’s about being on the cusp of achieving an ambition. Living in Berlin is definitely one of those.
As we’re planning our move to Berlin, there are still a variety of things that could prevent it. There is absolutely nothing to stop us but nothing will happen unless we make it happen. It might be a little silly to project aspirations onto clothing but if we get to Berlin this winter, and I find myself standing in the middle of that cold city, keeping warm in my Berlin coat, I’ll do my best to acknowledge the moment.