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The tribute vice pays to virtue? DAVID KILVINGTON writes a new column for WoS.


I'VE been giving some thought towards appearance. During the summer when I spend my days here on the coast under the high, bright blue sky and I turn from pale grey to brown (giving the illusion of health and well-being) I look as good as it is possible for me to look without losing some weight and maybe toning up a little (okay, a lot) and maybe for my ceaseless hair loss... to cease.

However, the main reason why I look at my best is because at that time of year it is permissible to mooch around in a state of dishabille. I can go into town unshaven, in scruffy T-shirt and shorts.

I can have my caf noisette in my favourite caf and no one will point the finger, regardless of what they might think, because it's summer. Itmaybe I know there are some people who will witter on that middle-aged men in shorts and rubber footwear look a fright, but frankly damn them and at the risk of stooping to the ad hominem damn their womento their breasts public, for natural act breastfeeding, revealing public for natural act urination is opinions, for they just lead one down the primrose path of world weariness.

I know that my unkempt look favours me. If you want to see me looking really disgraceful, catch me on the rare occasions when I am shoe-horned into one of my suits; and it's not the fault of the suits... some of them are beautiful suits. But in a suit, with shirt tails tucked in, cuffs buttoned and tie knotted up tight beneath my chin, I look unnatural.

Maybe it's because I am uncomfortable, but I look like the kind of swivel-eyed politician that one sees, well, everywhere I suppose.

Some of the "old schoolers" (in my neck of the woods often seen fruitlessly traipsing the streets until well after curfew because of an oversight of the modern barber reluctant to draw attention to his shop with a striped pole) might regard such an apparent lack of grooming, either as a fair indication of my disorganised state of mind, or evidence of a disrespect for convention and the social mores.

My own father would no sooner have gone out without a high shine on his shoes than he would without his trousers, and quite often he expressed the opinion that he would have preferred to go out without me rather than be seen associating with such a gutterpup.

But now that my schooldays are long behind me, and I have no boss to tut tut over my appearance, I can, within reason, please myself. I say within reason because of course my wife has promised to leave me if I ever wear a deerstalker or a thong again.

And although it may be permissible for women to reveal their breasts in public, for the very natural act of breastfeeding, I have it on the very best authority that revealing myself in public for the very natural act of urination is not... no not even if you are first slip and a new batsman has just come in.

I suppose it is entirely possible that the faint-hearted, might well take a step backward at the many wild haired and dishevelled, possibly beer-scented fellows, bearing down on them but, to the great good luck of such libertines, in no way is their appearance permissible for reveal in the of but myself in the very of not against the law.

So amidst this tolerant society, where I can wear what I like, we are enjoying much debate in regard to the niqab by the various politicians, political observers, and polemicists that fill up our newspapers with their blather and whatnot.

It's not Islamophobia, and it's not any kind of intellectual or moral shabbiness. It's entirely possible that any freedom loving individual, especially the faint hearted, might well feel intimidated by the burqa and niqab, and the more plucky types' concerns are based entirely on sexual equality and public safety considerations.

Does one have to fall into line with the country one's in? In Marrakesh a couple of years ago I enjoyed the sight of many western tourists wandering around the souks half-naked, complaining loudly about the unwelcome attention. It's been explained that the Koran doesn't say that women have to wear the niqab, and so it follows that it must be an oppression for Muslim women. Surely it has to be a sign of submission to their husbands, brothers or fathers? There is the suspicion that they may not wear it through personal choice.

So I take it that all women having cosmetic surgery are victims of male oppression? And in truth, when you think on it, how many men do you suppose look up to see Katie Price's face?
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Article Type:Column
Date:Oct 3, 2010
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