A good friend of mine died recently after nobly battling against multiple sclerosis. Her husband asked that men wear pink ties and socks at the funeral - it was her favourite colour. The funeral was in London and I stayed overnight. With an hour to get to the church, I walked quickly to the tube station dressed in my best suit, pink tie and violently pink socks - borrowed from my son - with shiny military shoes. I had nothing in my pockets, except for a handkerchief, one large bank note for the charity collection, and a travelcard.
The street fundraiser who spotted me was obviously pleased to see a florid, apparently prosperous and clearly flashy gent. He was in his 40s, perhaps recently arrived from the Middle East. He was neat but thin and careworn, shaking a bucket that carried a label about supporting children. I suspect he was not a member of the Institute of Fundraising. He moved directly in front of me. I walked towards him.
He looked expectant and his lined face broke into a smile.
I was about to say that I was sorry, I was going to a funeral and I would have nothing for the collection at the church - but in pink tie and socks? I muttered an apology, but it was not enough to forestall his clear disappointment, then disdain and, last, contempt.
Later that day I went back to give him some money, but he had gone.
He left me with a bad conscience and I suspect I had confirmed a stereotype. Wars start over less.
Charles Kenyon lives near Market Rasen, email@example.com