This kind of thing used to happen all the time in Paris, where I routinely made the rookie error of thinking noone would care what I looked like to take my baby and 2 year old to the park. How wrong could I have been. On one memorable occasion a woman actually physically yanked my jeans up. I got regular comments on how bad I was looking, and was viewed with suspicion and distaste in the whole neighbourhood for daring to wear crappy Gap jeans and trainers. Before I could get my head around the imperative for dressing up, even to do battle with the hags in Monoprix, we moved back to East London, where I could perfectly well wander the streets in a ripped binbag without attracting attention. I have conserved this mindset in Brussels, not because it's similarly laissez-faire, but more because I really don't care. I'll happily dress up for work - over dress, frequently - but if to take a tram two stops to the gulag? I don't think so.
I wonder if I ought to revise my position? Is there some kind of happy medium between 'slept in a dumpster' and 'ambassadorial cocktail party'? I seem unable to find it. Since I'm not, no, absolutely not, shopping, I would have to dredge it up from the contents of my wardrobe. Not that I even have a wardrobe any more. I have three collapsing rails of decreasing fabulousness (Rail 1: all the very best black dresses on wooden hangers, with room to breathe. Rail 2: All the other acceptable dresses. Rail 3: Everything else I can possibly shove onto a rail, wire hangers, probably the world moth population and several soft toys), and a Pile. The Pile is on the mantlepiece, and might, quite probably contain things I could wear and not look like I am on my way to pick pockets on Rue Neuve, but I daren't disturb it, it might fall and crush me and I would be discovered weeks later with my face chewed off. The whole process is not aided by the fact that the lights have gone in the room, so I have no idea what, or where everything is most of the time. I have a ladder - she even has a name, Iris, carved into one of her rungs - but she is terribly rickety and 5 metres tall. Certain death awaits the waffle who tries to tame Iris alone. So I choose my clothes in semi-darkness and it shows.
The builders at the end of the street seem to follow my wardrobe schizophrenia - one day decaying skiing jacket/tracksuit bottoms/wellies/dog on piece of string; the next black shift/MaxMara coat of joy/teetering Prada shoeboots - with interest. I heard them commenting on my shoes last week "Ah! Des nouvelles! Celles-ci sont vertes!" (They were neither new nor green. Get a grip brickies). At least I am amusing someone, I suppose. I think I have one of those 'all or nothing' personalities they tell you about in therapy. Sadly, the percentage of nothing to all is about 90:10. Nothing is definitely the order of the day on a Wednesday: I sit before you in muddy Marks and Spencers patent ballet flats, mens stripy socks, dirty tracksuit bottoms and a child's outsized Boden hoodie. I smell of Mexican chicken, AGAIN. I am far from sure this is grown up behaviour.
Um. I think I have shamed myself into at least having a bath tonight.