In the centre of Leeds, there's a Next that seems to be holding a permanent clearance sale. There, last Saturday, I saw a range of covert coats that looked just as well-tailored as those sold on Jermyn Street for £300, yet these Leeds ones were only £55 each. But the only sizes available were large and small - no mediums. The smalls were certainly too small, but the large . . . I asked my six-year-old son (unfortunately, the only family member on hand at the time) what he thought, and he said: "It looks really good."
So I bought the coat, and put it on. As we set off to rendezvous with the other half of the family in Leeds market, my six-year-old piped up: "I only said that coat looked good to get you out of the shop."
Leeds market, where I've never seen anything priced at more than about £12.99, always puts my wife in a good mood, and when she saw the coat, she said: "Oh, that looks . . . nice." I detected a slight note of doubt, and for the next two hours anyone trying on a fleece or a pair of trainers in Leeds market would see, muscling in on their mirror space, a man in a good-quality, well-made but just possibly slightly-too-large coat.
After the market, we went on to Leeds Art Gallery, where a security guard very smartly opened the front door for me. Now he knows a good coat when he sees one, I reflected, and as I stood in front of my favourite painting - Boar Lane, Leeds by Atkinson Grimshaw - I was feeling good about myself.
In York that evening my friend Mark, consulted in the Royal Oak, Goodramgate, about my purchase, said: "If I had a coat that fitted that well . . ." and trailed off quite alarmingly, but it had been meant as a compliment, surely? Later, as I modelled the coat for my dad, he said that any slight "roominess" would be cured by wearing a jacket underneath. Unbuttoning the coat, I revealed that I was wearing a jacket underneath.
On the Sunday we went to Scarborough, and, on the funicular railway that takes you from the Grand Hotel down to the front, I noticed a well-dressed couple looking with real interest at my coat. Later, I set off to buy a crab from an attractive woman at a seafood stall. She beamed at me as I made my choice, and then cracked open the crab I had picked to make sure it was full of meat. "Oh, it's a lovely one!" she said. "It's a lovely coat," I thought . . . that was the subtext of her remark.
It had been a terrific weekend but a rather bold line was drawn under it on the Monday morning when, back in London and back down to earth, I put on the coat prior to setting off for the British Library. "It's too big," said the wife.