Sans-culottes in Sevenoaks

jeffrey bernard

This is an old story I got from Jeffrey Bernard. It appeared in his Low Life column in The Spectator a few years before he finally croaked. I understand he told different versions of it over the years. The setup is that there is a young man who is the son of an affluent bookie in Piccadilly, near Simpson’s. The father has an office party and the son drinks too much…

He was green and inexperienced, ignorant of drink and its attendant dangers. For an hour he mixed champagne with whisky — disastrous. He lost control and inadvertently how can I put it politely? — evacuated his bowels. With a mixture of panic and embarrassment he staggered into Simpson’s and asked an assistant for a pair of trousers. ‘What sort of trousers?’ he was asked. ‘Any,’ he said, ‘Any at all. The first pair that comes to hand.’ He left the shop with his purchase and hailed a taxi to take him to Charing Cross to get the train home. Once the train was moving, he went to the lavatory to clean himself up as best he could. Having done that, and as the train was speeding through the suburbs, he threw his dirty pants and trousers out of the window. And then, with what one can only imagine to have been a long sigh of relief, he put his hand in the Simpson’s carrier bag to pull out his new trousers. The only thing in the bag was a V-neck pullover. He had been given the wrong bag.

This is tight and quite sufficient by itself, but Jeff added a few more lines to fill out the column and to give it a touch of believability:

I presume he put his legs through the sleeves of the jersey, but what I want to know is where did he put the exposed V of the jersey. To the front or his rear? I wonder, too, what the ticket collector thought, let alone the other passengers alighting at Sevenoaks. He is probably a broken man now and gets out of the train either at the stop before Sevenoaks or the stop after in order to go home by taxi. He is now almost certainly a teetotaller.