First memory of a coat

Thinking of a first memory of a coat made me think of a bathrobe I had when I was about 6 or 7. It was a horrible dark orange colour, orange and black I think. The type of paterning and colour that looked right for the 1970s, and it may well have been born then.

Slagging off the 1970s feels terribly prejudiced, as if I am criticising the culture of a different country, but I suppose it is acceptable; as an era, once gone it’s dead, and all that remains is the ghost of the age, a benevolent or malevolent spirit that likes to remind us of its past glories. So take that 1970s, some of your colour schemes were diabolical.

This bathrobe smelt amazing, the smell of comfort and of safety. I have no idea if I looked sweet in it, but I do know that I loved that bathrobe. And the reason I know that is because it was also my security blanket, or as I knew it, my naps (how it came to be named that is another story).

Aged 7, I was sent off to boarding school, and I wanted to take my naps with me. Sensibly, my parents knew that that would be a recipe for bullying and torture within the British private school system (where even the punishment meted out by the teachers was a slipper across the bottom – although I’m not sure I’d mind so much these days). So, my mother’s old nanny, a lovely lady called Nurse Crawford, took the robe, and cut it into pieces, to make it into clothing for a teddy bear.

For some reason, the adults in my life thought that a teddy bear would result in less bullying than a security blanket. I honestly can’t remember if I had a teddy bear, but I do remember that that shredded bathrobe never became any bear’s pyjamas.

As for growing out of having a security blanket, well that never happened. When I went home, I adopted a red towel, one that must have been one of my parent’s wedding presents. It was Northern Irish cloth, a close weave, and no doubt would have been quite rough compared to a modern towel. A towel that toweled and dried, and let you know as it manhandled you.

That naps saw me all the way through boarding school, through my gap year, through military bootcamp. And where I did suffer from bullying, it was never for that. It became more like a ragged item of clothing, a bed scarf that hugged me and allowed me to be easily enveloped in Lethe’s dreamy waters. Built to last, it lasted a long old time. But nothing lasts forever.

The red towel died when I was about 32. As a savvy man, I am not one to be put off by the fact that modern towels wouldn’t have the stamina to survive years of adoration. I went back to the source. Mother was throwing out a load of old towels, made of that tightly woven Northern Irish cloth. And from that pile of rejected cotton, I have enough to last me a lifetime.

My current naps was white and pink, but is now just white. It resides as we speak, under my pillow, awaiting patiently, my return to my bed. “Lamont” is still just visible on the label. Everything has a history.

The 1970s. I may not dig your colour schemes, but you did make some fine towels.


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