August 24 2011
It is one of the trite truisms of life that the stuff you buy on holiday never looks or tastes that good when you get it home. We have all done it: that retina-searing piece of porcelain, which looked so perfect in 40 degrees of heat under a cloudless sky, becomes a hideous Gorgon that reproaches one every time the cupboard to which it is consigned on the return home is opened.
With me it used to be booze. I would inevitably find something to recommend the local firewater, a distillation of some unsightly local fruit, indigenous resinous wood or animal-feed-grade root crop. And, in the days when airports permitted such things, I would clank aboard the plane home as if I had just gone to the local wine warehouse (which I probably had) and return home with half a dozen bottles of this holiday moonshine, only to find that the plane journey had utterly destroyed the unique bouquet and delicate lingering aftertaste, transforming it into something best suited to cleaning blocked drains or treating wooden garden furniture and decking.
These days it is usually clothes that cry out to be transplanted from their native sartorial tradition, only to wither when they reach the inhospitable clime of our former capital of empire. The list is long and the only success that immediately comes to mind is the loden jacket I had made in Vienna 20 years ago. Since then, rather like some gambler desperate to repeat a famous coup at roulette and forever betting on the same number that refuses to come up, I have added many things to my wardrobe(s), including a suede fringed jacket, a Resistol cowboy hat, bootlace ties – and that is just the western-themed purchases.
Only recently have I discovered that the trick is not bring them back to London and expect to saunter around the boulevards of Shepherd’s Bush, but to leave them in the suitcase and travel with them again. Take the small crocheted skull caps that I believe are worn by fishermen on Capri. A few years ago I had reason to visit Capri to test-drive a linen suit in the company of Mariano Rubinacci and on the journey out to the island aboard the HMS Rubinacci, driven by a man who had clearly been a fighter pilot in a previous life, my hair got more than a little disturbed.
So when I landed on the island that had once been a favourite of the emperor Tiberius, you can imagine the glee with which I fell on a selection of this piscatorial headgear. I bought half a dozen in various shades of pink, Prussian blue and tangerine, and beyond sporting one on the return journey to Naples they have languished unworn just behind my stack of authentic Tucson-bought bandanas. However, by a stroke of good fortune I somehow found a couple of them in my luggage this summer and I have been wearing them to keep my hair from flicking out of my eyes when driving a rather elderly Mini Moke for which the canopy has rotted into non-existence.
I can quite see a future for these handy items as, not only do they stop the wind wreaking havoc upon my hair, but they also stopped the longer bits of hair flicking into my eyes, involuntarily causing me to close my eyes. Given that my command of any motorised vehicle is fragile even without my fringe causing me to close my eyes, this is a major contribution to road safety. Moreover, it shows that the proper way to treat holiday purchases made when abroad is to take them travelling with you and as such it is just as well that I have given up drinking as I would have a problem getting half a case of Croatian plum brandy on to an aircraft these days.