Monday, 30 November -0001

Why I shan’t be ‘Going Commando’

More and more people are foregoing undergarments – but aren’t we better off keeping our Trossachs fully insulated, asks VG Lee

Written by VG Lee
Since my neighbour Ted has been hobnobbing, canoodling and generally getting close up and personal with Allotment Alma, he has become more… erm… earthy. I’m inclined to blame Alma for this change but fear that Ted is revealing a side to his character that he previously concealed.

I’d invited him in for a filter coffee – job lot from Lidl – but in an impressive cardboard box with a crest on the front. ‘Waitrose!’ I lie, waving the box at him.

‘They’ve got stacks of that in Lidl.’ Ted takes his usual chair at my kitchen table: ‘What, no cake?’

‘I’m on a low-calorie diet.’

‘I’m not. Alma says she likes a man with some meat on him.’

I wrinkle my nose. ‘Then she’d better supply the cake.’ Reluctantly I tip two digestive biscuits onto a saucer.


Ted ignores these. Instead he drops several cubes of sugar into his coffee, pops two in his mouth before saying, ‘Alma and I are thinking about going commando.’

I have an immediate image of Ted and Alma dressed in military uniform. They are lying flat on their stomachs, trying to wriggle under an electrified barbed-wire fence; the theme from The Great Escape is playing in the background.

‘Aren’t you both a little old for war games?’

‘It’s healthy.’ Ted crunches two more sugar cubes.

‘You’ll ruin your teeth, Ted.’

A smirk. ‘They’re not mine to ruin.’ ‘Re: war games, I’d imagine they’re rather dangerous – out in all weathers, wading through mud, hand-to-hand combat.’

Ted’s smirk widens. ‘Not that – going without underwear.’

‘I strongly advise against commando training without underwear!’

‘No, “going commando” means not wearing any underwear.’

To give myself time to consider a response I help myself to a biscuit and try to masticate it thoroughly as advised by my late Uncle Belford who would have lived to a great age given his healthful lifestyle, had he not been knocked over by a coal lorry at the age of 40.

‘To tell the truth,’ Ted says, reaching for further cubes, ‘I’ve gone commando on many occasions when I’ve run through my stock of clean underpants.’

I choke on my final biscuit crumbs. I’ve spent our 10-year friendship under the wilful misapprehension that Ted came perfectly formed – his outer clothes being as much a physical part of him as his beard and the hairs on his head. A Ted wearing underpants or worse… not wearing underpants at all, isn’t to be contemplated. I retrieve Ted’s half-full mug and pour the remains down the sink.

‘I hadn’t finished that coffee,’ Ted remonstrates.

‘You have now.’

‘Don’t go getting your knickers in a twist.’

‘Ted, I particularly dislike that phrase.’ I hold open the patio door and Ted exits cheerfully whistling something I hadn’t heard in decades, The Marrow Song, otherwise known as ‘Oh, what a beauty!’

I hurry off to visit the fount of all knowledge, my friend Deirdre, settling myself in her conservatory where there is only Earl Grey tea on offer.


‘Guess what? Ted and Alma have decided to forsake underwear.’

Deirdre doesn’t bat an eyelid. ‘Actually, that’s not a bad idea.’

‘Not a bad idea? ! ?’

Firmly Deirdre says, ‘There are areas of our bodies that rarely see the light of day.’

‘Surely that’s because the light of day wouldn’t want to see those areas? Deirdre, you love your lingerie.’ (Deirdre’s undergarments are always referred to as ‘lingerie’.)

‘I certainly do, although sometimes at weekends I think it might be rather fun to let it all hang loose.’

‘All hang loose? ! ?’ I am turning into her echo. ‘Anything I’ve got would hang far too loosely for the experience to be fun. Deirdre, fun is eating six marshmallows!’

Feeling at odds with the world I set off home by way of the allotment. It is freezing and I congratulate myself on sensibly wearing a full complement of underwear, plus all things thermal. I survey my raised beds. Not a sign of a potato or broad bean above ground yet, although Ted’s pak choi seems to be thriving. Watched by several sparrows and a robin I sit on an upturned plant pot and daydream.

I have been rushed into hospital – underwear-less! There are no beds or curtained cubicles available and I am forced to lie beneath a cotton sheet on a trolley in a busy corridor. Up comes a nurse, followed more leisurely by the doctor. I recognise them as that nice married couple I met at my book group. At that moment a party of hospital trainees arrives, thrilled to witness a full examination of their first-ever patient. Also several acquaintances from the allotment accompanying Ted who had a nasty accident with a pair of secateurs. Everyone gathers round.

‘Now then,’ doctor looks at notes. ‘It says here you’ve got a groin injury. Let’s see what the problem is.’ He attempts to lift the sheet.

I grip sheet and hold it tightly up to my chin.

‘Come on; let the dog see the rabbit!’ No way am I letting the dog see the rabbit!

My daydream is interrupted by the sound of a key turning in the allotment padlock. It is Ted carrying a flask.

‘Deirdre said you’d be up here. I must say it’s a bit nippy around the Trossachs!’

Vindicated, I toss my greying curls. ‘My Trossachs are fully insulated, Ted, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future!’

Always You, Edina, by VG Lee (Ward Wood Publishing, £9.99).

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