Sharp Dressed Man

 Right! We’re off to town!”
I can’t stand the sight of Nick’s manky sweaters any longer. Everything is ripped and stained, with holes in odd places. And as for his socks…

The beautiful soft cashmere mix jumper he got for Christmas is unrecognisable after many dinners spilled down the front, elbows worn thin with scuffing, its rich chestnut colour strangely tie-dyed after the carers had thrown it into the washing machine with his blue socks, towels and sheets.
Classic”, I think, “the one time they actually did the washing” because when the laundry basket is getting full they are supposed to stick a load in the machine in the morning, then take it out at lunchtime. But they don’t.

I have darned the elbows of some of the jumpers – one that belonged to our dad, for instance, that we both felt sentimental about – and sewn up the seams that were coming apart, because Huntington’s turns even the mildest mannered man into the Incredible Hulk, arms bursting out of sleeves with the flick of a muscle.

So Nick needs new clothes. I wouldn’t presume to go and buy them for him on my own. He still has some say in what he wants to look like, though this is sometimes random – he can be very clear that he wants to wear his leather jacket, but with old baggy chinos and a grey prison-issue style sweatshirt underneath. And red and white striped fluffy Christmas socks. And his alarm pendant round his neck.

I thought I would take him to M&S. I used to go shopping there with one of my Alzheimer’s clients and they were unfailingly courteous and kind to her, but Nick has other ideas.
I want to go to Boyes” – which was his default shop back in the northeast for practically everything that isn’t food. It’s one of those slightly old fashioned stores that seem to stock anything from shampoo to bras, from licorice comfits to weedkiller, fishing tackle to crayons and cool stationery, all under the one roof. We used to take the kids there for colouring books and sweets when they were little and we all loved it. And I always made a beeline to Boyes when I visited Nick, for their amazing supply of coloured lacy tights.  I’m not sure about the men’s clothes though.
I don’t even think there is one in Sheffield (oh, just did a search and what do you know, there is! Way on the other side of town though)

Anywhere else you’d like to try, Nick?
Peacock’s” he says.
There was a branch of Peacock’s in Consett that was just stumbling distance from his house there and increasingly as far as he could walk. I know there’s one in town, on a pedestrian precinct with easy wheelchair access, so we’ll go there. Great. Though suddenly the film Rain Man pops into my mind with the Dustin Hoffman character insisting that he gets his pants from K-Mart.

Nick used to wear handmade suits with peacock lining and had a silk tie and matching socks for every day of the week and two for Sunday. Handkerchiefs too, peeping out of his breast pocket, sometimes in a contrasting colour. He liked cuff links and those elasticy things that hold up your shirt sleeves. Off duty, he still looked sharp and always had smart shoes that he kept in shape with a shoe tree. (I’ve never had a shoe tree in my life) 
He always wore aftershave balm and cologne and smelled good.

He still wears cologne but it’s what the carers help him spray on after his strip wash in the morning, and he can’t do up a button any more, let alone a cufflink.
I still iron his shirts though, and press his trousers. Increasingly, I think he just chooses the first thing on the pile when the carers ask him in the morning what he wants to wear (he says they do and I hope this is true) so I try to make sure that at least it is reputable. The carers don’t seem to notice his holey socks though, but maybe because they seem to wear out almost on contact – that Hulk thing again.

Anyway, we’re going shopping.