The Wisdom of Wodehouse at Times Like These

At the beginning of the spring, and just starting to come up for air.

Is it really mid-July? It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything and that’s because of where I find myself in the world. Not literally, but more meta-physically. Or maybe ontologically. Epistemologically? At any rate, what I mean to say is that for the longest time following the extreme events of last summer, I couldn’t think of anything relating to my subject that seemed at all important, or even relevant, to write about.

“There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, ‘Do trousers matter?’

The mood will pass, sir.”

? P.G. Wodehouse, The Code of the Woosters

Well, I suppose the mood has passed and I’m coming out of whatever it was that possessed me to start taking things too seriously that should be considered lightly and vice versa. Especially since I’ve taken to only skimming the headlines with the GroundNews app and that, for the moment, there have been no mobs rampaging up and down my neighborhood.

I don’t know about the state of things sartorially. Around town, I see little evidence of people “dressing up,” but I’m not in the business district. Perhaps that will change when we go to the theatre. I do think that the pandemic induced quarantines may have accelerated the trend towards a more casual way of dressing, sort of what we saw living in the South of France.

I do know, however, that putting on a coat and tie, shaving and striding into Can Can in leather soled shoes had a tremendous effect on my mood.

… and days later. (Photo credit: The Architect.)

I’m not always in full fig, suited and booted. It is high summer in Central Virginia and hazy, hot and humid is the order of the day. More often than not, I am in a mix of tailored and casual with lots of linen and open weaves thrown into the mix. At times like these a little bit of effort goes a long way.

“What do ties matter, Jeeves, at a time like this?

There is no time, sir, at which ties do not matter.”

– P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves and the Impending Doom

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Bully for Wooly Layers

Source: By Original: User:Fir0002Derivative work: Charles Esson at en.wikipedia – Edit of Image:Sheep eating grass edit02.jpg, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12599612

Those who have followed me forever, and those who might have strolled through the archives, know that I’ve always been one to dress a little better than I have to. Pre-pandemic, I frequently sallied forth in a suit, or sport coat at the least, to do something as mundane as the grocery shopping. You see, I like to wear well-tailored clothing. It’s easy to wear, perks me up and lends a sense of occasion to the quotidienne. Easy and Elegant… .

Then COVID hit, everybody was locked down, restaurants closed, and I discovered that I could get my groceries and wine delivered for free (Whole Foods and Amazon have probably saved lives, and I’m pretty sure I have a personal delivery person at Total Wine.) Needless to say, knocking about The Manse in a three piece POW flannel seemed a bit much, even for me. And so, I found myself in shorts, khakis, moleskins, jeans, flannel shirts, polos, or sweaters depending on the weather — anything that could be worn more than once or machine-washed.

Which is when I discovered the incredible versatility of the original tech fabric: merino wool. I should say “remembered about the incredible versatility” after comfortably wearing SmartWool merino socks during our two summer weeks in Israel in the before-times. (REI’s run a close second. I’ve spent the whole pandemic wearing merino lightweight and midweight hiking socks.)

I think I read an account of someone who is a minimalist traveler who suggested merino shirts as the ultimate go-to since they are naturally antimicrobial, odor resistant, thermo-regulating and moisture wicking (I had my doubts, having encountered sheep during my children’s petting zoo phase.) So off to the interwebs it was.

Soon thereafter, I lucked into a Mountain Hardware sale on some merino t-shirts at the start of summer and decided to buy a few. Well! I wore them on my 5 mile dog walks through the city in our typical hot and humid summer conditions and they performed as well as the climacool/dryfit/techy-poly stuff that I had been wearing almost exclusively to that point. (I gave up on cotton ages ago. It gets soaked, and I stay uncomfortable. The exception being Sunspel’s Riviera Polo Shirts, which are in and of themselves a small miracle.) I quickly scooped up Mountain Hardware’s long sleeved versions for the upcoming cooler months.

Flushed with success, I tried to score some less expensive Wooly brand white t’s from Amazon. They’re pretty good, but left me unsatisfied (a bit more length would help,) That led to some Unbound and Bombas merino wool purchases. You get what you pay for, which I should have known from my years in menswear. With a bit of elastane woven into them, the t’s are machine washable, and with interest rates at all-time lows, almost affordable.

I’m now branching out into a pair of merino-lined, stretch-cotton, tech fabric trousers to wear instead of my sweatpants (with their pandemic stain … the Clorox spray bottle leaked) when hiking the city, or if we ever get back to traveling.

So, if you’re still WFA’ing, commuting via something other than your climate controlled car, traveling (lucky you!), walking for fun and to maintain sanity, or like the idea of sustainable, well-made and very useful garments, give merino wool a try.

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The Great Escape

Those of you who are long-time readers will recognize the Library and World HQ of Easy & Elegant Life. Books have always been a great escape for both me and Mrs. E. Happily, our daughter is proving to be a reader, too.

With all that has changed during the crisis at hand, one thing has helped to keep me grounded, reading. Thanks to Amazon and ABE, Barnes and Noble and Bookshop I’ve been able to feed my habit with great ease. Actually, it’s been too easy and I’m now committed to reading what I’ve bought before I buy more. All the bookshelves here and upstairs are full anyway. Most of the flat surfaces are covered too.

When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes. Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, Letter to Jacob Batt (12 April 1500); Collected Works of Erasmus Vol 1 (1974)

Where I made my mistake was to order and read the modern equivalent of Plague literature: Loner by Wayne, Engleby by Faulks, and waiting on the table beside me is The Road by McCarthy. These will not put me in the sunniest mood. Fortunately I stumbled across a pile of books under a side table and pulled out a copy of Mastering the Art of French Eating: Lessons in Food and Love From A Year in Paris by Ann Mah, which inspired me to make steak-frites a couple of nights ago. Homemade frites aren’t that tough, although a frying/candy thermometer would have helped. We Learn Nothing by Kreider just made me laugh out loud; much needed.

Must get my mask on and answer the door; a case and a half of wine is being delivered. Apologies to Erasmus, but my tailor is waiting on some shirting fabric for the foreseeable future.

What are you reading these days?

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