Chris van Schaick on his ever-growing pile of old clothing this spring


- Credit: Archant

After years of hoarding his clothing rejects for decorating and gardening duties, Chris’s pile of denim and chino has reached new heights this spring

Even at this spring cleaning time of year, they say people in the country never throw anything away. They’re usually talking about old scythes and stuff that could be used as firewood. But in my case, it also applies to my personal trouser mountain. Let me explain.

Mrs v. S. has often chastised me for my trouser choice at a weekend. Winter: “You can’t paint in your nice trousers”. Summer: “You’re not going to do the garden in your new jeans are you?”

So it was that I began to hoard discarded jeans and frayed chinos in a corner of my den, waiting for the day when they could be pressed into painting or gardening action. The pile started to grow taller with the addition of out-of-date stripy shirts and retired woolly jumpers.

Over time, my ratio of old trousers put aside to painting actually done became as seriously unbalanced as the British economy. It got worse each time Mrs. v. S. said: “We haven’t got time to do the bedroom ourselves, we’d better get Dishy Dan The Decorator in.” Dan himself doesn’t have my trouser problem. He wears dungarees, which I’m told are fetching.

The only way out I can see now is to start my own decorating or gardening business, just to clock up the hours of painting and hedge cutting necessary to make any kind of dent in the Meon Valley Trouser Mountain.

But another danger lurks. What if you try to tackle the problem by actually doing some painting in painting trousers or – heaven forbid - gardening in gardening trousers? It’s all very well until the painting or the gardening in question requires you to leave home turf. You run out of vinyl matt or bagged compost at the vital moment and head off to Hedge End to replenish wearing beige corduroy and a very washed out Iron Maiden t-shirt.

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A whole new dimension of etiquette kicks in. Can you leave the car for any other reason than essential paint or compost buying tasks?

Slip into the Co-op for a litre of milk? Maybe. But step lightly across the road to the artisan coffee shop for a crafty flat white? Out of the question.

A chum of mine was once dispatched, at the end of a decorating day at home, to pick up the kids from school. But he was specifically forbidden by Mrs. Chum from getting out of the car in case he was seen by fellow members of the parents association in “those trousers”. She would never have been able to face Rachel at Pilates again, had the family been shamed in that way.

Not for the first time, I’m left reflecting on the effortless ease Mrs. v. S. can bring to these matters. For as long as I can remember, she’s had a solitary pair of painting trousers. They’re red velour drainpipes, which must have seemed as good an idea as the Exchange Rate Mechanism back in 1989. In her case there’s no heap of other cast-offs. Just this single pair, picked out for the task with gimlet-eyed ruthlessness and coated – project after project – with more whiter shades of pale than Procul Harum’s You Tube page.