“What do you think, Ypres?”
Ypres stood as would an unambitious crustacean. Her face was all placid resolve. There was tension in the air, but she did not budge a muscle. She did not even release a disguised squint. The kind one sees at parties to signal a need for rescue from an insurance salesman. I do not know how Ypres does it, but somehow she does. It is one of the qualities I admire in her. When Ypres does not go down the route of French existentialism, a subject she had decided to devote her spare time to studying over the summer, she can be quite astute.
Ypres ventured an opinion. “They appear to be cut quite high.”
I waved Ypres’s concern off. This was London. After all, we are no longer stuck in past centuries’ modest mœurs, as I believe the Belgians say.
“Ypres, we are no longer stuck in past centuries’ modest mœurs, as I believe the Belgians say.”
“Mores, is, I believe, the English word you are looking for.”
“Please do not interrupt, Ypres. I am perfectly capable of using Belgian phrases when the mood strikes me. I will remind you of that time I took the wrong Eurostar and ended up in Brussel by mistake. I survived on wit and waffles and all was well.”
Ypres gave me a look that signalled that she was eager to get the conversation moving along. As she sat on the couch in the living room to the Park Street flat, I caught a glimpse of the cover of her book. It featured a man whose eyes were not quite aligned, rather as if in search of two different planetary orbits. Evidently, one was looking for Mars and the other was seeking Venus. In any case, I had more pressing matters to take care of.
“You see, Ypres, summer is upon us. It is a British summer, but summer nonetheless. To signal its arrival a new pair of shorts is of the essence. It will enable me to showcase my legs after a long period of hibernation. I selected these on one of my shopping expeditions with Lanky Ella Lanesbury. They are being worn high this season. I plan to debut them, as it were, at the water balloon squabble that will take place this afternoon by the Serpentine in Hyde Park.”
“I do not recall ever seeing such a peculiar shade of red.”
“It is inspired by the red worn by Redcoats at the Battle of Lexington, or something to that effect. I forget the specifics. The designer informed me of his inspiration, but I found his haircut quite distracting, which meant the gist of it rather escaped me. One wouldn’t have thought that Lexington Avenue had seen such a display of British military strength. The colour turns a bit into aubergine in the wash, but once dry it returns to its original splendour.”
Although Ypres did not show it, I could feel that she was not impressed by my exposé. She did not approve of my shorts. She sat on my Madame de something furniture like a mussel clinging to a rock. A mussel unaware of marauding Belgians seeking protein for their chips (or fries as the American plebs would put it). I continued my monologue.
“You may not approve, Ypres, but I have made up my mind. The world will see the Vasa legs glamorously crowned by a pair of short shorts. I think I will pair them with a flowing white cotton shirt and yellow sun hat. Once I find the appropriate sunglasses, we may depart full steam ahead for Hyde Park.”
As there were no auxiliary questions, I decamped to my room to properly arrange my attire. I selected the appropriate aestival necklace to complete my ensemble. I checked my full-length mirror which I keep by the window. If I say so myself, I was glamorously fabulous. I am, of course, forever stylish, even in emergency situations, but it is nonetheless pleasing to see it confirmed. I felt immense pride. Not the pride of a sprinter collecting gold at the Commonwealth Games. Rather, it was the quiet pride of the gardener who has finally tamed a feisty lilac bush.
I was about to inform Ypres of my pride when my eyes casually glanced towards the window and met a pair of eyes (different ones) across the street. They were behind a pair of binoculars and appeared to be owned by the man residing in the flat opposite mine. Between glances he was feverishly scribbling in his notebook. This was evidently an armchair birdwatcher. I decamped to the entrance hall and informed Ypres of the situation.
“Ypres, there is a man across the way who appears to be engaging in birdwatching. I caught him, binoculars pressed tightly against his eyes, notebook at the ready. Is it birdwatching season already?”
“It depends on the birds.”
“Quite. So what season are we at now? Ducks?”
“I do not think the birds the gentleman is looking for have wings.”
Ypres has a tendency to speak in riddles. Granted, some things go over my head. In this case, birds. Yet, I believe I possess a healthy amount of intelligence. I believe I am what the law refers to as a reasonable person.
I abandoned our fowl based conversation. I had business to attend to. Shorts needed to be debuted and water balloon squabbles needed to be attended. Like a pilot going through a checklist before take-off, I quizzed Ypres.
“Do we have the water balloons, Ypres?”
“Emergency snack should one be struck by hunger.”
“Yes, we have strawberries.”
“Right ho! We may set off.”
I complemented Ypres on her attire as we were leaving the flat. In the daylight her sundress looked functionally smart. “Your sundress looks functionally smart, Ypres.” A robotic thank you was emitted. We spent the walk to the Serpentine in conversation. As with most British conversations, the lulls were filled by talk about the weather. Ypres was mentioning some fellow she knew called Sartre, who I gather is a French exchange student she sometimes has coffee with, when we arrived.
An orderly crowd was gathering. The sun was blazing and the sky was clear. I scanned the horizon. I established general HQ on the north shore, or bank, or riverbed. The dedicated Vasa fan will remember that I am not very nautical. All was set. The time to strike had come. My legs, crowned by my Lexington Redcoat red summer short shorts, were ready to shine. I adopted the appropriate pose to allow the casual observation of my outfit. I felt it a success, so I embarked on some ladylike stretches to be prepared for the squabble.
I was in the middle of my posh Swedish exercises, thinking of fjords and Midsummer, when a disturbing sight caused me to stop. Over the horizon came a pair of legs crowned with the same model of shorts I was wearing! As to who wore it best, needless to say, it was obviously me. I could not allow my outfit to be overshadowed. Action had to be taken. I imperiously strolled up to the offender, and declared, in a Shakespearian trust: “Sir, I politely insist that you immediately remove your shorts!”
Summer Short Shorts: A Vasa and Ypres Adventure – Part II will be published Monday, 9 May 2016, at 12:00 EST 17:00 GMT. Vasa and Ypres’s first full length adventure, Vasa and Ypres: A Mayfair Conundrum, is available on Amazon. If you enjoy Vasa and Ypres, please share on social media. Vasa and Ypres is on Twitter. You can also join over 790 WordPress followers.