Daniel Gray’s Midget Gems No.5

Posted by in August's Magazine

Trying on clothes has long been an ordeal for me. This applies not only when I break into the houses of strangers and rifle through their wardrobes, but also in shop changing rooms. Any sustained period of looking at oneself in the mirror is undesirable, but doing so while in such combinations as t-shirt and smart trousers or tracksuit bottoms and blouse is plain alarming. Further, I have had some pretty embarrassing experiences in these tiny cubicles – very few shop workers are amused or titillated when I announce from behind the curtain: ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome on stage your host, Daniel Gray’ before emerging and performing cabaret hits by the sock aisle.

Recently I found myself in a curtained pod once more. I had in front of me six pairs of jeans. This, you will note, is excessive, not least because at present I do not have twelve legs. However, I was forced into such denim largesse by the bewilderingly large choice of jean-type on offer. Breeds of jean included Skinny, Straight, Boot, Standard, Easy and Loose, with each having a description of key qualities. Skinny ‘Sits low on the waist’, is ‘Slim through the leg’ and has a ‘Slim leg opening’, Easy ‘Sits just below the waist’, is ‘Relaxed through the leg’ and has a ‘Straight leg opening’ and Loose ‘Comes with a free bungalow in Lowestoft’, allows ‘Flying at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet’ and when microwaved ‘Tastes of bacon’.


For the criminally indecisive (of whom I am one. I think.), when confronted with such choice there are two options: choose none or choose all. This, incidentally, is the philosophy by which I ended up trying on six pairs of jeans and buying none, an epically indecisive undertaking. The truth is: there is too much choice in this world. Buying a coffee invites four or five questions, including, in one chain, ‘What’s your name?’ Choosing a new phone involves losing whole days to reading reviews on websites. It is all too much for people like me. I feel permanently overwhelmed, an insect beneath a landslide. I plan to hide from the world in a changing room cubicle.

No ghost streets
I look around Edinburgh and I look around the many towns I visit and write about. The recession has not hit Edinburgh in the obvious ways it has hit other places. There are next to no ghost streets of empty units and pawnbrokers as there are elsewhere. Why is this, I have asked myself, despite my distaste for questions as depicted in the piece above, editorial consistency etc etc? Tourism is one answer, the amount of untouchable bankers that live here another. Those explanations are both wrong.

Edinburgh remains prosperous because of ‘bus change’. Need to split a fiver for a Daysaver? Pop in the newsagent by your stop and buy an Evening News. Two pound coin but require a single? On you go, into Scotmid for some mints. In numbers I am about to make up, £47m a year is generated by bus change purchases. In First Bus and Stagecoach towns elsewhere across Britain, change is given, change that is hoarded and frittered away on heating and groceries and other nonsense.

King Lear in Asda
Tips for authors include ‘write about what you know’, ‘turn off the internet’, ‘stop masturbating’ and ‘keep a pad by the side of the bed on which to write ideas’. I tried the latter recently. The result was a drawing of some jeans and the words ‘King Lear at reduced sticker fridge. Asda or Tesco’. For some time the following day I attempted to develop this concept.

I worked-up an excellent scene where Lear arrived in Asda at 9.55pm because Cordelia had told him at that time satay sticks usually went down to 10p. Goneril, though, had hidden them behind four cheese and onion mini-quiches (24p) and an All-Day Breakfast Sandwich (35p). Lear had then proceeded to the rotisserie and scalded his hands on a small chicken (£1.14), before looming over a supermarket worker ‘stickering-up’ two loaves of seeded batch (47p) in the reduced bread area. I am still waiting to hear back from my agent, and have switched the internet off.

Whistle while you walk
I walk around and I don’t notice something: I don’t notice anyone whistling. No-one whistles anymore. Has there been a ban? I suppose it is good if workmen don’t whistle at women now, but what about old men whistling Danny Boy or one old pal whistling for the attention of another? Whistling used to be poetic, soaring; some whistlers could even quiver their delivery like birds. I am bringing it back. I demand that you re-read this page and whistle as you do so. When they cart us off we can whistle in the police van.

Twitter: @d_gray_writer

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