The Patchwork Waxed Cotton Chasseur Jacket

The Patchwork Waxed Cotton Chasseur Jacket

 

Writer Daniel Penny – a recent transplant from the US to the UK – mulls over the importance of a good waxed jacket when living in rainy old England.

 

I have always been an Anglophile, so moving from Brooklyn to Cambridge UK this fall was the fulfillment of a long-nursed, if ill-defined fantasy. That my wife was leaving her job and starting a PhD here and that we were relocating with our border collie in the midst of a global pandemic did little to dim my daydreams of rambles across heaths and rugged coasts. Cambridge, I had read, was quite rural beyond the city bounds, so I assumed once we got settled, I would have the opportunity to explore the area and finally, after years of being cooped up in New York, get into nature. It turns out, however, that by rural, the guidebooks meant pan-flat farmland, not woods. And going farther afield wasn’t an option; in November, lockdown arrived, followed swiftly by another in January. Since arriving in the UK in mid-September, I have not once left the bounds of Cambridge proper. No train rides to London, no drives to the Lake District.

But I have gotten to know my new city quite well, at least from the outside. The winding, cobblestoned streets, the leaning buildings with their ornate stonework and gargoyles—unobstructed by tourists! It helps to have a dog, as I am forced to leave my desk at least three times a day, no matter the weather. Usually we take a stroll through Midsummer Common, an open field along the river Cam that is often filled with cows munching grass. A butcher around the corner from our flat turns them into steaks and burgers. Other times, we brave a mud-squelching trip to Jesus Green, where packs of dogs scamper and their humans malinger, desperate for scraps of conversation. It’s amazing how interesting talking about the weather has become!

To match my vision of English country life, I’ve taken to wearing Drake’s new patchwork waxed Chasseur jacket on our outings. The number of pockets on this thing is outrageous (perfect for treats and poo bags) and the massive collar keeps the rain out. It’s a far cry from the mud-splattered Barbours I’d been coveting while watching the new season of The Crown—but then again, the flat fens of Cambridgeshire are a far cry from the crags of Balmoral. The waxed jacket is a melange – influenced by American duck hunters of old, with some inspiration from British moto racing. Its brightly colored panels make it a bit more eccentric than what the royals wear, but in Cambridge, eccentricity is a quality prized.

Every private house I pass has its own name, every college its own quirky traditions, colours, and crests. In the park I spy a group of student jugglers and another pair of Cantebrigians debating medieval history while walking a slackline. Next to my favorite cheese shop in the city centre, I often spot an old man whizzing by on his electric bike, blasting hard rock from a speaker. Apparently, he circles the city twice daily in an effort, he says, to protect us from aliens. On Trumpington street, there is a busker who plays his guitar from inside a garbage bin, his elbow and the neck of his instrument poking out through holes. He sits across from a massive gold clock with a grotesque grasshopper who appears to eat time—students of Corpus Christi College affectionately call the monster locust “Hopsy.”

Before we actually made the move, I had assumed my English fancy would never materialize. In a way, much of it hasn’t yet—but I’ve tried to do what I can in the meantime. Though a ghastly bit of public art, the Latin motto under that clock isn’t far off. Mundus transit et concupiscentia eius, meaning “the world passes away, and its desires.” There is so much each of us has wanted and been unable to do during this year, and that situation is unlikely to change in the near future. We are left, then, with the question of how to spend our time in these limited circumstances, to find pleasure and meaning in the everyday. We have no choice really—the grasshopper goes on eating.

 

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