Have you ever stopped to think about the clothes you most remember from childhood?
When I was young I do recall having a little red raincoat with a Peter Pan collar, a smocked yoke and red heart shaped buttons with white contrast trim. It swang as I walked and was an obvious throw back to the 50s, and I loved it. A few years later I was the proud owner of an in your face multicoloured anorak with a zip fastener that must have been in the sale because the first day it was worn was the hottest July day on record and I couldn’t wait to wear it round to my best friend’s half a mile away; needless to say I arrived two stones lighter and glistening to put it mildly. The next coat I remember was a navy, white and red ski jacket which was fitted and very flattering; having never been near the ski slopes I could say I felt a fraud, but I didn’t, just comfortably sporty and a willing standby if the Winter Olympic Committee needed an outrageously optimistic volunteer. These outer garments were all colourful, flattering in some way, and in some small way memorable.
Not so yesterday when I was wearing a Weetabix coloured Michelin man duvet coat making me blend in with the bleached winter landscape and resemble a well lagged hot water tank. I didn’t mind since we were immersed in the Worcestershire countryside on the Three Choirs Way near Madresfield. Well camouflaged with the landscape and looking rather like one of the hills, a fresh cold breeze kissed my chops as I plodded through the red earth taking most of it with me and my walking boots began to resemble clay goloshers. As the stream we were following meandered we decided to extend our walk by going off the beaten track. Our only mistake was not to have a map with us and as the late afernoon light started to fail and we’d covered another couple of miles the yellow footpath arrows fizzled out leaving us lost and on the wrong side of the water. I wasn’t so much worried about traversing the brook, feet and boots can always dry out after all, but irritated I’d a) forgotten my waders, and b) might have my eye poked out as we scrambled through dense undergrowth flanking the stream.
Following our noses and with beating hearts we were lost for a while; indeed I was just starting to wonder if a search party needed to be called, when we came across a bridge further upstream. Phew! Our adventure was over and I suddenly realised I’d quite enjoyed the sensation. Perhaps we”ll leave the map behind more often. Maybe it’s good to get lost once in a while. In any case the generous padding of my coat had kept me cosy as the temperature dropped and protected me from the brambles as we brushed through undergrowth. As with all our walks the steady rhythmic traipsing of our steps took on a meditative quality as oak leaves rustled beneath our feet and winter twigs cracked underfoot, ideas distilling. The January darkness descended fast as we came full circle to our starting point, I not only felt relieved but exhilerated.
My faithful beige duvet coat is a little more beaten up now, mud splashed torn and worn, like an old family member in fact. But it can be washed and mended and in years to come will be remembered by the walk we had on that day we very nearly got lost.