I have this hoodie. It is navy blue, old and grotty. I bought it for ten pounds back in 2004. That was the Year of Voluntary Poverty, when Rhiannon and I worked seven days a week and ate Tesco Value beans to fund our travels.
I had never worn a hoodie before and at first I marvelled at its mid-season practicality. If I was walking to the bus stop and suddenly attacked by a Spring shower, I could just flip the hood and prevent my hair from exploding into its usual revolting orange cloud.
Later on that year we went to Russia and despite being summer it was bloody chilly so I had to get the hoodie out. While our fellow Contiki tourers were also backpacker types, they’d had the good sense to be accountants or computer programmers in London instead of administrative losers in Edinburgh, so they had posh, stylish jackets. Worse still, Rhiannon had accidentally brought the exact same hoodie as me.
We’d meant to get different jackets before the trip but we’d run out of time and dosh. So we felt like right dickheads sitting on that tour bus for three weeks, all matched up.
“Are youse two twins?” an Aussie girl shouted from the back seat, the first of twenty-five people to ask this question.
“NO WE ARE NOT,” we said in unison. “It was an unfortunate purchasing coincidence!”
“How thick are these people?” Rhiannon hissed, “Twins, just because we have the same stupid jacket.”
I think Rhiannon ceremoniously burned her hoodie after that trip, but since I am lazy and not half as stylish I clung on to mine. And on and on. It makes me look like a bum, about to shuffle off to place a bet on some greyhounds. But my commute involves so much walking and this is Scotland, there’s hair-wrecking downpour lurking round every corner.
What sucks is Gareth has a hoodie too, and seems surgically attached to it. He was wearing one the fateful day we met, and he would have worn it down the aisle had it not been so hot in Vegas. But as previously reported, the good Doctor has nae hair, so a hoodie is handy when there’s a sudden chill in the air.
He recently replaced a hood he’d had for about twenty years, and what do you know, it’s navy fucking blue. If we go for a walk we have to argue over who gets to wear theirs, because I was scarred by Russia and refuse to walk around all Mrs and Mrs Hoodie. What’s next, matching white trainers and bum bags? So it’s a fierce battle between the Baldy Head and the Risk-Of -Frizz Ginger. I fantasise that one day we’ll just wake up and simultaneously declare, “Let’s stop dressing like middle aged students and go out and buy some proper jackets!”. But it never happens.
Recently I was behooded and half-asleep on the train, heading home from work. A young lad got on, juggling an armful of books, a guitar, and a huge bunch of flowers. He was dressed in black and smiling, a sharp contrast to us dour corporate slaves. He reminded me of one of those guys at high school that chicks would obsess over, assuming he was Deep and Mysterious because he had long hair and a faraway expression.
He arranged his goods on the luggage rack then plopped down beside me. As the train pulled away he started scrawling funny squiggles on a piece of paper.
“I’m learning Arabic,” he said after a few minutes, catching me looking.
I sat up straight, shocked. This was the first time a stranger had spoken to me on the train. Normally it’s just grim silence, everyone absorbed in their iPods and Dan Browns.
“Nice!” I croaked.
“I’m really loving it.” His voice was soft and dreamy, “It looks like art, don’t you think?”
“Sure!” I decided to have a stab at conversation, since this was such a rare event. “You know, I remember when I did Japanese, I always liked drawing the squiggles more than I did learning how to say anything.”
“Japanese! That is so cool!”
We started chatting about the two languages and it was such a hoot because he was so earnest and completely uncynical, his lust for life not yet destroyed by working in a call centre.
“I have this big bag of henna at home,” he said suddenly, “Someday I’m going to invite round a whole bunch of naked girls and paint poems all over them in Arabic. Yeah. Love poems!”
“Oh… brilliant! This is my stop.”
“It’s mine too. That’s cool.”
As the doors opened he gestured for me to go first and said the magic words, “So you’re a student too, then?”
A student! A student! Have you ever heard anything sweeter, a decade after you’d last set foot in a place of learning?
We parted company and I walked home in the warm glow of the mildly flattered. It was a good ten minutes before I figured why he’d thought I was a student. It wasn’t my youthful complexion or quality banter. It was because I was dressed like a slob. That bloody hoodie!
“You wouldn’t believe what happened to me and my hoodie today,” I told Gareth later. “It’s going in the bin.”
“No!” Gareth yelped, “You can’t put a hoodie in the bin! Wait til you hear what happened to me and my hoodie today!”
He had spent the day canoeing down the River Spey today with two pals. They got caught in a crazy current and hit a huge log. The canoe capsized. The other two were flung out but Gareth got trapped underneath! He almost died!
Well, he was certainly under there long enough to start thinking of the tragic headline, Fife Lad Drooned In The Spey. Luckily his mate swooped in … and hauled him out by his hoodie.
“You see, hoodies are magic,” he declared, “They keep you looking youthful AND they save your life.”
“I am never taking this off again!”