Yes, this coat: a duffle coat, I’d had it a long time. Purchased on the high street of Camden Town in a basement-based, second-hand (sorry – vintage) clothes shop. This, long before you were born and only a short while after the Home Counties’ CB radio craze had died a sudden, faddish death.
Initially, despite access denied to a full length mirror, I liked it. Where the material made contact with the skin of my neck, creating a mild itchy sensation, this failed to dampen my ardour. My deficient colour vision could not identify the shade; was it blue, grey, or simply enigmatic?
Later that afternoon, caught in a horrendous down-splurge of rain, the weight of the coat – once saturated – became most apparent. Too much weight for a wiry-framed, over-sensitive younger me, with my preference on the clothing weight meter registering somewhere between zero, and light.
The day after the next, with the coat thoroughly dried out, I came into possession of a suitably-sized and robust, empty cardboard box easily able to contain the coat, once folded three times. A hefty shove into the darkness of an unlit cupboard under the stairs, founded a new storage space.
There it remained, in that exact same receptacle for nigh-on twenty years. Throughout this time span I had bought, worn, lost and given away many other coats in a variety of styles. As I moved from city to city, I brought along that box, for presence at least, in each new chapter of my life.
Eventually, on one sunny Sunday in September I decided to give it another go. By now, like a fairytale from a sad childhood, the memory of the “drenched coat experience” had become so very faint and faded. This would cause me much awkwardness, when trying to recount the story in entirety during impromptu conversations amongst favoured acquaintances.
Holding up that big ol’ woollen coat and allowing the folds to unfurl, it dawned upon me that I had exactly no spare funds available for a professional dry-clean. Puzzling, I asked myself if I had ever witnessed sheep washing their coats – in much the same way as a cat or dog might. In turn, this question opened the door ajar to a thorough self-brainwash and a false belief that somehow the oil present in the wool endowed remarkable self-cleaning properties in the coat!
Of course, in its life before the box, I’d no idea to the coat’s history. Were I asked, all I could confirm to the enquirer was that the buttons were intact and accounted for. If pressed, I would add that the stitching had held out, the material bore no tears, no ink stains and held no sour stench to flair the nostrils. With this evidence, I reasoned to invest money available to me into other interests.
At this juncture, I ought to explain to the world that in this life, I bear a beard. This information ought foreshadow a foundation of sense pointing towards logic, onwards from here.
The beard bucket sprang from an internet surf and scroll through a website extolling the virtues of up-cycling items deemed broken or beyond use. There, located inside the small screen of a pop-up advert, I saw the image of a happily hirsute man greedily eyeing a hamburger positioned in the centre of a white plate, laid onto a table top by a waiter. The next image showed him devouring the hamburger, followed by a facial close-up showing crumbs of bread and meat and lettuce, spotted throughout his beard. There, the man looked sad and pathetic.
The advert quickly moved on. In the fourth image, a rightly sympathetic and customer-caring waiter had returned to the table. In the fifth, the waiter is shown fixing a beard bucket under the diner’s jaw. In the ultimate image, the waiter is stood back, admiring his beard bucket handiwork, while beard man stuffs the last few bits of burger into his mouth, without so much as a care left in the world.
Twenty-one days later, I took delivery of my very own beard bucket. Despite the structure of the weave being a little different to my own, the colour match was precise. And, did the product work? Did almond croissants come back into my life? Along with all kinds of different pastries, crisps, toasted sandwiches, pink-coloured wafer biscuits… samosa! Yeh-mosa!
After eating and with one pony-like shake of my head, examination of the beard using a small make-up mirror confirmed the all-clear.
Ecstatically happy with the product, I wrote to the manufacturer located in Zhou-Ping suggesting and explaining one small modification. After four weeks intensive use of the beard bucket, my only complaint became apparent with the consequences following a night time incident. Put simply, I’d laid down on my bed having forgot to unfasten the beard bucket from around my neck. The next morning, I awoke to find myself rolling around in considerable discomfort, dawning upon me soon enough that the entire crumb contents of the bucket had fallen out during the my sleep and gotten in amongst the bedsheets.
Alongside my letter, I provided a technical, pencil sketched diagram, to explain the suggested inclusion of a movement sensor, small in size and hidden from view inside the beard bucket. In effect, this would detect when a person’s body moved into the horizontal plane, readying to go to sleep. Once triggered, a piercing, repetitive beeping sound would emit until switched off – which could only be done by the wearer removing the beard bucket.
Following this suggestion, I was offered a place on the company’s committee for improvement. This, naturally, I accepted, on the strict condition that I could fly to China once (sometimes twice) every month to put forward my ideas in person, using a flip-chart and marker pen. They counter-negotiated that I fly over when I liked, but use the latest, modern computer technology at team meetings… to which, I reluctantly agreed.
In conclusion, the coat lost out to the beard bucket and got itself given away unclean, to where, I can’t recall. And the beard bucket, you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of it? Well, it turns out that very few people indeed, worry about crumbs in their beard. Which, if you’re asking me, I believe to be a great shame.