Sue Ryder on the storm

God damn it, another hole in my shoe. Remember that bit where Withnail complains that he's nearly 30 and the sole's flapping off his shoe? Well, imagine being nearly 50 and having to face a hole in the very upper leather of the Chelsea boot - the kind of shoe trauma that cannot be mended by the cobbler.

So it has come to this. I have reached that point in my life when I look at the reader offer in the newspaper for two pairs of mail-order shoes for £60 and go, "Hmm, not bad, if only I had £60," instead of saying, "What kind of pitiable wretch would buy items of clothing, and such intimate ones as shoes, from a newspaper advert, even if that newspaper is one he writes for and has been reading devotedly since the age of five?"

But I think I am going to have to bite the bullet. We are approaching the time of year when a whole lot of bills are due, and clothing wears out, so economies have to be made. And let's face it, it's not as if I'm the world's pickiest dresser. The jacket you see in the picture might be Aquascutum, but I got it for £15 in the local Sue Ryder shop. (I could tell a funny story about that, but it does not reflect well on the first Mrs Lezard, and following Alison White from Perth's letter in last week's NS, I have resolved not to be mean to her any more, not even in this column. Oh, and by the way, I have known the Next (In Effect) Mrs Lezard since 1982, so she knows all too well what she's letting herself in for.) And the only suit I have that fits me - the only one I've bought in the past ten years - came from John Lewis, and was paid for, humiliatingly, by my mother. (When I told her how much it cost, she replied: "Too cheap.")

This, I realise, is becoming part of a pattern. In the past, I could rely on women to clothe me. The Finn gave me a gorgeous and very well-made woollen jumper a couple of years ago, which I suppose I had better get round to washing. Last year, when the previous Chelsea boots gave up the ghost, the Yank bought me another pair. It was a kindness that almost made me weep, for winter was coming on, I had even less money than I do now and the only other shoes I had were a pair of mouldy, flimsy, desert boots that had been bought from a shop on the Uxbridge Road the previous decade for £14.95.

The Lacanian bought me my first pair of Converse since childhood last year, even though that has prompted some people to murmur "mutton dressed as lamb". The Lacanian was, in fact, particularly keen on grooming me, and her fashion tips have on the whole been good. Or at least they were last year, with the exception of her advice that I wear my hair long, which, after a point, made me look like Martin Amis's (imaginary, I stress) evil, elder brother.

So I wonder if there are any other couture hints I can pass on to the middle-aged man on a budget that do not actually involve theft.

Every good act is charity

Well, the first is, obviously, the generosity of women. They do tend to be good at this kind of thing. I know that this has its own circular, self-Defeating logic: if you are in such a fix that you need the woman in your life to buy you clothes, there will be no woman in your life to buy you clothes. (I have been extremely fortunate to dodge this conundrum in the past, I know.) Failing that, there is the charity shop, where one can choose from a wide range of beige, fur-trimmed, velour jackets with lapels the size of Herefordshire, flared pinstripe trousers that smell of wee, jumpers festooned with pompoms like basketballs and dress shirts that Roger Moore in his pomp would have rejected for being too ornamental.

If you are lucky, you will find a decent white shirt for a tenner, but I snapped up the last of those from the Cancer Research shop on Marylebone High Street last month. And then spilled red wine on it. You can also, if you're lucky, pick up an overcoat from the same shop that has journeyed a few doors down the road from Agnès B, depreciating a hell of a lot on the way. This is fine if you don't mind that it turns into a different colour when you step into the daylight and is, in fact, a woman's coat.

Readers, if you have anything that will fit a 5ft 9ins tall gentleman of slim build, you will find this magazine's address on page five. Nothing too gaudy, please, and natural fabrics only.

Next Article