by Réginald-Jérôme de Mans


It’s the pop psychology self-help trope of our time: stay in the moment (rather than abstracted into smartphone hypnosis); appreciate whatever positive aspects there are in the time of being (however tiny a part they form of the immediate experience); think of what future events we can look forward to (no matter how pessimistic our global prognosis). It’s positive thinking for a gig economy, piecemeal and partial.  It seems to acknowledge that our time is one of constant connection – to the constantly cycling negativity of media in all its forms, to workplaces which as they become ever more virtual make their stressors ever more imminent and real. 

We must reach for the moments because we can no longer seize the day. How can we, when every second is counted and every impression recorded? 

Still, any tool to confront the mental horrors of our terrible age is better than nothing.  I remember using it in a form of survival mode in a past life of never-ending and unrewarding work when, going to bed in the early morning I would think of, for lack of anything else, how much I looked forward to the taste of my first… and second… and maybe third… cups of coffee after I would awake later that morning. More material anticipations, whatever I had on order with makers of shirts, suits and shoes, had lost most of their thrill.  They took long enough to complete that they no longer gave me anything to look forward to from day to day.

Being mindful of the moment – bringing myself back to the moment, asking myself what I was feeling and experiencing, and which of them make me feel good and grateful – actually is a useful tool when one’s usual mental state is otherwise best described in an Alan Moore comic. That being said, it’s easiest for me to remember this tool, and to benefit from the positive sensations of being in the moment, in the spring.

I never really thought of myself as someone whose mood was affected by the seasons until I went to college, in a place with harsh winters and hot summers.  Spring comes in between those, with myriad small changes that, on thinking about them, are pleasant to experience: longer days, mild grey mornings, cool breezes, trees in momentary flower (then carpeting sidewalks in their petals). And, obviously, it brings promise: renewal, calmness, growth.  Even if that promise sometimes felt cruelly empty, when errands would send me out into the lovely afternoon for a few minutes followed by another long evening in the office. 

So at times all I did have were moments: moments of morning promise travelling in, and far more rarely moments snatched in ebbing evening daylight as I left work.  One small additional plus for me was, is, the opportunity to break out my lighter raincoat, for the spring rain.  

In cotton and linen, it feels and wears much cooler than the wool gabardine or rubberized fabric of other raincoats (the latter wears so warm that, according to the magisterial Nothing But the Besta 1960 account of what were already disappearing British craft trades, jockeys used to order sweating suits made out of it).  It’s designed in the classic military-informed raincoat manner, recalling rainy black-and-white Bogart climaxes, although in cut and ivory color closer to the one Diabolik wears in his gloriously gaudy Technicolor filmscape.  Raincoats were one of the early performance garments that became part of a city wardrobe, adopted either from war (various makers claimed their inventions gained popularity in the Crimea or in World War I’s trenches) or equestrian activity, because if it weren’t for blood or horseflesh British gentlemen would not admit to being out in the rain.  Mine was one of the last its maker made in England before going out of business; a licensee bought the name but not the manufacturing facilities.  Tradition and manufacturing terroir are a lost cause, anyway.

So this coat, its coolness and flamboyant imperviousness, is another aspects of the otherwise unpromising that we can appreciate. A silver lining to rainclouds worthy of Chet Baker’s voice  – another positive thing to put you in mind.