This weekend I will be accompanying the lovely Mrs P to the Jane Austen festival in Bath. To be more specific, I will be accompanying her to the Regency Ball at the Jane Austen festival. I’m not entirely sure how I came to agree to this, because it involves two things at which I am pathologically unskilled: dressing-up and dancing. However, on the basis that you should try anything once apart from incest and Morris dancing, I’m more than happy to give it a go, and I will report back in due course, assuming that I don’t break anything in the process.

However, as of the end of last week, Mrs P had a problem with her outfit. To be more specific, she was unable to get hold of any cream-coloured stockings. I tried telling her that some stripy leggings would do just fine, but she wasn’t having any of it.

Anyway, on Saturday afternoon, we found ourselves in our local branch of Ann Summers. For overseas readers, I should perhaps explain that Ann Summers is a chain of – well, there’s no other way of putting it – sex shops. Ann Summers has grown big (oh, watch the double entendres roll in) by the simple expedient of treating sex as something completely normal that both men and women occasionally indulge in. To this end, the shops are staffed by chirpy young ladies who are just slightly over-eager to help. Maybe it’s just me being British, but I find the idea of being given directions in a sex shop by someone round about the same age as my daughter a bit odd – “Can I help you?” “Yes, I was looking for a vibrating cock ring” “Oh, they’re over there by the butt plugs” – no, it doesn’t really work, does it?

I should perhaps point out that we were in Ann Summers to buy something ever-so-slightly risqué for some friends of ours who were celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary. In the event, we decided against the red fluffy handcuffs, and settled for some chocolate body paint. We were just about to pay for this when Mrs P suddenly looked up and said “Stockings!” And she was right. There in Ann Summers were exactly the undergarments that she needed to complete her outfit for the Regency Ball.

I always used to scoff when Andrew Davies used to go on about putting the sex back into television adaptations of Jane Austen. But I’m beginning to think that he may have had a point after all.

(also posted on If Shakespeare…)