I've always loved the power of a good pocket square. That little piece of material is the difference between looking like an accountant or looking like James Bond. I'm referring to classic James Bond of course, not Daniel Craig in Spectre because a movie about an accountant would have been more suave - I'll have my merchandise inventory standardised... not stirred.
My dad also has quite the affinity for handkerchiefs. If you didn't know him well you would have to assume that he was born wearing a double breasted blazer, priding himself on his collection of bespoke suits and silk handkerchiefs carefully curated during the early 80s - a wardrobe that hasn't changed since.
Three years ago I lost one of his cufflinks after a rowdy party. He has never let it go. Last week I was invited to a hotel opening; a black-tie ballroom gala. A pre-revolution Mubarak-era style get together but with more selfies. I decided it was worth hearing my dad recount the tail of the lost cufflinks and berate me for my general irresponsible nature in order to borrow one of his Jermyn Street babies. I even let him do one of his retro casual fold-and-slip techniques into my suit pocket so I look like I'm an extra from Bugsy Malone. He also has a tendency to repeat things and you have no option but to run the repetitive obstacle course of affirmations.
"Don't lose it."
"Timmy, I don't want to give you this."
"Timmy, you lose everything."
"I've had this for 20 years."
"I understand, I won't lose it."
"No I won't give it to you because you will lose it."
"Khalas, don't worry I won't lose it."
"You will lose it."
"It's in my pocket, I won't lose it."
"It will go further and further out of the pocket and you won't notice and you will lose it."
"Aho, I'll push it further down, I will keep it safe."
"Okay, I know you will lose it. Remember when you lost the cufflink?"
"I won't lose it."
"You are my son I can't say no, but I know you and you will lose it."
"I won't lose it, I understand that they are important to you."
"I don't give a fuck shit about them but don't lose it."
"Ok Dad I won't lose it."
"You know in my day, before we start to have fun with the girls, and take a drink and dance, we tuck the handkerchief inside the pocket, so we don't lose it."
"That's valuable advice Dad."
"Don't lose it, haaa?"
I lost it. I lost it neek. I didn't tuck before fun. Always remember to tuck before fun.
I wake up a day later in someone else's bed and do the inebriated ritualistic rounds of possibly missing items. Keys - check. Mobile - check. Wallet - check. I'm good. Wait... no... no... no no no no no.
Oh the shame of it all. I weigh the options. Run away and never return home. Keep drinking. Admit to being a failure of a son who can't even keep a handkerchief in a pocket for a few hours. Replace it. I choose drinking and replace it. The two do not mix. I spend an hour in traffic trying to find a place that sells handkerchiefs, a task that becomes infinitely more problematic when you don't know what the word for handkerchief is in Arabic and trust me I tried accentuated phonetics - "Haandkarsheeef? Handkaarcheeef? HONDKACHOOF?" Nothing. "Ehhh, ehhh, el haga gowa el heta keda fo2 el bedla?" Nothing. "Ahhh tayeb, el manadeel ba2a el manadeel beta3 el bedla?" Bingo! I have officially ascertained a way to describe the elusive hondkachoof, now I just need to find a place that sells a very specific type of very slightly off-white silk one.
I Google *tie, Egypt, shop, embarrassment*. An hour's taxi drive later I arrive at an innocuous tie shop - more germ street that Jermyn but the shop attendant sells me a box with a white bow tie that he says comes with a white handkerchoof. Excellent. I get back in the cab, wipe the sweat off my brow, put some imaginary thuglife shades on and open the box. Inside is a white bow tie. It's not off-white, but it wouldn't look off on a ventriloquist's dummy. There is no handkerchoof. Google is getting way too specific these days.
My pilgrimage arrives to its conclusion at The First Mall. I had called Canali on the way who had admitted to being in possession of a wide selection of white handkerchoofs. I walk into Canali triumphantly with my request. Two men stare back blankly insisting no one has spoken to them and they do not have white handkerchiefs.
The last place you want to be after 24 hours of no sleep, smelling like a brewery, is a khaleeji mall, yet I stumble around for what seems like days powered on guilt. I'm directed to the same Canali store three times, each time forgetting that I have already been there; a mad man frantically waltzing from store to store asking for manadeel beta3 bedla. It's pretty much empty and every shop assistant in there has heard about my woes, taking me from one store to the next in search of the handkerchief. I almost give up, leaving The First Mall doors, never to return again but I had a hunch. I call Canali's number again, they respond - "Paul and Shark." Google, you've outdone yourself. I return to The First Mall. I march up two floors again en route to Paul and Shark, the shop assistants are all stood outside their respective establishments cheering me on, arms raised, the soundtrack to the scene in Cool Runnings where they carry the bob sleigh to the finish line blares in my head, confetti falls from the roof, fireworks go off and the Pyramids are lit up all in off-white. The Paul and Shark salesman greets me with a smile as if he has been waiting for me his whole life - a box with a handkerchoof glows in his hand. I hand over a hefty sum of money and walk out of The First Mall never to return again.
I walk in to my dad's office, head hung - I tell him I lost the handkerchief but not to worry because I have replaced it and as such I have not brought shame to his family or wardrobe. I smugly handover the new purchase. He looks at it, looks back at me slowly.
"What is this shit? I can wipe my bum with this. Go return it immediately. I already ordered another one because I knew you would lose it."