Context

I sometimes think I need to move to London or New York (or at least have some sort of office address there) to sell my services more effectively. It just has more credibility if you say you are based in a big city. The suggestion is, you are playing with the big boys. The wrapper is the context.

I remember an incident from my youth which demonstrates the point. I was growing up in a declining textile town in Yorkshire and, possibly as a result of its utilitarianism, I became fascinated by an exotic Los Angeles based band called the The Doors, led by the charismatic Jim Morrison. Jim had a pair of leather trousers. With that strange logic that most adolescents possess I divined that owning similar clothes to your current hero conferred other attributes into the bargain – have trousers, charisma would follow. So naturally, I had to get my own pair of leather trousers.

Not having the money to travel to London and buy a pair in the West End I went to a newly opened local shop that made leather bags. I asked if they could turn their hand to clothes and as they had just set up in business they said ‘yeah, sure, we can have a go.’ Their prices were surprisingly cheap too (they would soon learn the lessons of selling too cheaply) and so in a fit of exuberance I ordered a matching jacket as well. I sketched out the design for the trousers and jacket that I wanted and handed them the drawings. They measured me up and told me to come back in a weeks time. I returned in exactly seven days and tried on my new, shiny, chestnut brown, leather suit. It didn’t fit.

So another day arrived, I tried it on and this time it fitted.

Resplendent in my personally designed sexy leather outfit I got ready to hit the town on a Saturday night and strutted purposefully to the bus stop to wait for a bus. Now the outfitters were more used to making leather bags that were made to last, so after I had boarded the bus and tried to sit down, the cardboard suit I was wearing only let me bend so far before it seized up and I had to complete my journey half stood up and half sat down, looking rather like a skier frozen in the ‘just about to jump off the chair lift’ position.

The following Sunday I decided I had to break the leather in and the fact that it was a grey, drizzly day meant I had the perfect conditions to do just that (the rain would help to make the leather supple I surmised in that confused adolescent thinking).

So I went for a stroll, in the rain, in Huddersfield on a Sunday afternoon amongst the country lanes close to my parents’ house in my leather suit. Now had I been waiting for a limo outside LA airport which would then take me to a meeting in Hollywood, I would have looked remarkably cool. But wandering the back roads of Huddersfield on a wet Sunday afternoon.. I looked decidedly odd. No wonder then that a police car pulled up alongside me with a screech of tyres and a burly police man jumped out of the car and ordered me to stand still. He then opened a back door and invited me to get in. What was I doing wandering the streets, in the rain? he asked. Just going for a walk I replied. Lads like you don’t just go for a walk in the rain, he assured me. There was then an exchange of crackly conversation over the radio where the police officer informed his unseen colleague that he had a suspect dressed in brown leather jacket and trousers – did I match the description? A brief interlude occurred where he had to wait for a response. I took this opportunity to ask the officer what was I supposed to have done.

‘It involves a Jaguar’ he answered.

‘Ah well then.’ I said, much relieved, ‘I can’t even drive.’

‘It’s been turned over,’ the officer came back.

Now I didn’t mix with the criminal fraternity nor was I familiar with any British cop series on television and so it was on the tip of my tongue to blurt out ‘Crikey! He must have been a big bloke to turn a car over,’ when something advised me to say as little as possible. Probably a good move as, had I said that, the officer would have thought I was ‘being funny’ and made things a lot harder for me (I later discovered ‘turned over’ meant ‘broken into and robbed’. As it happened a response shortly came over the radio that declared the suspect was wearing jeans and a black bomber jacket – not even close then. To his credit, the policeman suddenly reverted to a civilised member of society and politely sent me on my way, apologising for the inconvenience he had caused.

So the moral of the story is; people are usually looking for what they expect to see. If something doesn’t fit their expectation it either gets ignored or attracts the wrong sort of attention. If you are in a gold mine, you tend to be looking for gold – so much so in fact, you could miss finding the diamonds under your feet.

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