Now there's a funny word.
When we arrived in Riga I was suffering from flu and culture shock, a deadly combination that turns one into a shivering, mumbling twit. I was curled up on the hostel bed moaning into my pillow, Why can't we go somewhere normal? Why can't we go somewhere easy? Why not a package holiday to the Costa del Sol?
Then I heard the voice of JFK, going on about the moon and how he had to go there not because it was easy, but because it was hard. Then I thought how my fever must really be out of control if I could dare be so simultaneously wimpy and precious to compare a Latvian jaunt to the lunar frontier.
But these days I've learned to expect that initial 24 Hour Freakout when you land in a strange country, and the only cure for me seems to be to buy a really trashy magazine. Preferably an American one with a lot of advertising and fashion that I could never afford. So this elaborate backstory was just to explain how I came to be reading US Marie Claire and consequently discover that the Poncho is HOT this fall.
Why would you want to wear a poncho? Why not just wear that mat you stick under the Christmas tree? The magazine even dared to say the poncho was suitable for all body shapes, flattering curves and disguising hefty hips. Well, sure it does. Just like a Barbie doll with a crocheted skirt effectively disguises a toilet roll.
I'm amazed how quickly the latest trends filter from the catwalk to the high street to every slapper in town. At the airport last week while Rhi umm-ed and ahh-ed over duty free perfume, I observed at least a dozen different be-ponched ladies swanning past. When we arrived home, the ponchos were waiting, propped up in Princes Street shop windows like scarecrows.
Today I saw the ultimate. When the teenage lassies of Scotland roam in packs, they often choose the standard uniform of two-tone hair (dark bottom layers, bleached blonde slabs on top, aggressively ironed), cigarette, withering kohl-rimmed stare, and the mini-est of mini-skirts (or tartan Slut Kilt if they're feeling patriotic) with no regard for arctic temperatures. But this season they've added the ubiquitous poncho. I watched a quartet standing in a row outside McDonalds, gnashing their chewing gum and checking for text messages. Their ponchos swirled and snapped in the autumn wind; they looked like a flock of polyphonic ravens.
The poncho season has barely started. The poncho population is set to explode. More and more ponchos will wing their way these kiddies. Can you imagine the aerial view of Princes Street on Saturday mornings? Row upon row of flapping flopping crochet, like Edinburgh has been taken over by an evil army of Avril Lavigne/Eastwood clones.