I really should know better.
I should know better than to try to look glamorous, because every time I try, something goes wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong.
I think it’s something I’ve inherited from my mother.
Now, my dear mum is usually rather smartly turned out. This, in its turn, is a trait that we’ve both inherited from my gran: despite the fact that she’s pushing 90, Gran’s innate sense of style would never permit her to leave the house with a mismatched necklace or the ‘wrong’ kind of shoes. She is a truly elegant woman.
Although my mum and I don’t quite have my grandma’s pizazz, we can both brush up quite nicely if the occasion requires. But we share more than merely an eye for a neat lapel or a nicely cut dress: we also have a congenital Aura of Disaster.
This Aura of Disaster usually makes itself felt just when the utmost elegance and aplomb is required. It’s responsible for that trip at the top of the staircase as you try to make a graceful entrance, or the involuntary twitch that causes you to hurl a full glass of red wine down your skirt as you try to impress some handsome man you’ve had your eye on for ages.
I hold the Aura of Disaster solely responsible for the time that I caught my heel in the hem of my oh-so-pretty handkerchief dress at a rather elegant bar in Sicily.
Not wanting to rip the dress further, I hopped crashingly down a couple of steps – watched by pretty much everyone present – only coming to a halt when I battered into the firm and unmoving back of a particularly suave young gentleman who was holding not one, but two cocktails in his unfaltering hands.
Fortunately, the tidal wave of luridly-coloured alcohol was thrust forwards, thus leaving his crisply-ironed shirt splatter free, but the look he gave me was sufficient to freeze the blood in my veins, and leave me in no doubt that my social standing in that bar was slightly lower than that of a flattened earthworm stuck gummily to the bottom of his shoe.
I shan’t bore you with other tales of tragedy (although lord knows there’s no shortage of tales to tell); let’s just say that where there’s elegance, the Aura of Disaster is never far away.
And so it is that on this bright and sunny spring morning, I make the fatal mistake of slinging on a smart frock, a jaunty pair of heels and a snazzy red trenchcoat for work. I must admit that I’m feeling quite polished, for once, and the gentleman who makes a theatre of stepping back to open the coffee shop door for me seems to agree, accompanying the gesture as he does with a low, appreciative whistle.
This sort of thing always throws me, so I fluster a bit and say thank you to the floor as I push past him and get in line for my coffee.
“Hey! Ciao, bella!” says the sexy barista. “Where are you going, dressed so smartly?”
It’s official. I’m looking good.
I get my coffee, and make my way out as the door opener says goodbye with a broad wink. Making my way to the park, I sit and drink my coffee, soaking up the sun and enjoying the smell of spring. It’s so warm, I even take off my coat.
After a while, I decide that it’s time I got back to work, so I start to wander back. A bus driver even stops to let me across the road with a smile. I’m full of the joys of spring, and I smile graciously back at him.
Just as I’m getting close to my destination, I hear a voice behind me.
I turn, and see a lady pushing a pram offering me a sympathetic smile.
“I don’t know if you’re aware,” she begins, “but your bag has pushed your dress up at the back and…”
I put an exploratory hand to where my skirt should be … and meet only leg. And I continue to feel only leg right the way up to, and slightly beyond, the knicker-line.
Yes, ladies and gentleman, I’ve been flashing my behind to the world, and heaven knows for how long. No wonder the bus driver was smiling.
Yanking my skirt down, and thanking the lady, I think that I should feel mortified. But, in fact, all I can do is laugh. And wonder how I failed to feel the breeze, fluttering round my undercarriage.
So much for looking elegant, I think. The Aura of Disaster strikes again.
When you think about it, it’s no wonder I’m still bloody single…