Arrived back home after the last of 3 long day shifts on the hospital ward. Very anxious and worriesome shifts recently. But essential to get up and bite the bullet and drive to work alongside my wife Angie, who owns a Wholefood shop. Our local Machynlleth community are avid supporters. Her shop is busier than ever, and with rules of stay outside the shop and distancing whilst her staff shop for the customers? Ordering supplies and taking orders over the telephone, email or social media? Result is her working an 80 hour week. Buying food in this situation becomes an emotional roller coaster of both inherent community spirit alongside anxieties that are quite profound.
But! From the photograph above. My joy filled moment of ‘IT’S ARRIVED’. Not the repair kit. But an actual Solway Barbour. So. Story. Back in the 1970s when myself and Angie were invited to the Brecon Beacons in Wales to stay in a tiny caravan with our two very good friends, I began the first yearnings for the Solway Barbour coat. We grew up as Coventry city teenagers. The countryside was very much in our blood. Realised in a fair few jaunts around Berkswell, Knowle, other Warwick beautiful hot spots, the Cotswolds. Either walking by following a walker’s map and realising the circuits of 5 to 15 miles. Or jumping on our bikes and cycling to Warwick or Kenilworth for a picnic or a coffee and cake in the countryside or beautiful cafes or garden centres. Of course. Now we’ve lived in Wales, near the sea, for the past 26 years.
Back to the stay in the tiny caravan. It belonged to our two friends’ parents. Firstly, we went horse riding for a week. Ouch! Pain I never dreamed of. So….The second week involved walking around the beautiful Welsh countryside. The others recovered quickly. Me? A bit bandy legged and in pain for days after a week on the slowest, ‘refuse to gallop’ and ‘plod off into the distance on his lonesome’ horse that ever lived. The instructor said they choose the horse to suit the rider’s personality and temperament. Cheers for that. Scarred me for life that character description of my personality.
Anyways. I bought the above repair kit in the 1980’s from a shop in Kington. ‘Yeh! But you don’t own a Barbour’, said a few. ‘I can dream can’t I?’ I said. I wanted to be that bloke on the metal tin. And live in that tiny cottage in the picture. The price of a Barbour though. On a wage of £10 to eventual £25 a week in the 1970’s and then my musician stint living on porridge and bread and milk. Never could afford one. Cheap wax jackets arrived, but….no comparison. I wanted the Solway. Obsessed with the Solway. And here it is. After nearly 50 years of waiting. second hand for £10 off eBay. Bargain. They’re upwards of £80 to £150 second hand. A hood for them? £100 on eBay. So. My coat. I know! I’ve bought someone else’s history, but will now give it my future history. Firstly disappointed because the zip was stuck, thought broken, and wouldn’t undo, meaning my initial experience of putting on a Barbour was to climb into it and pull it up. But glorious YouTube. A bloke showed me how to fix the temperamental stuck fast Solway double zip by taking off the top brass zip stoppers, take the zip pullers right up to the top, realign the actual zip, left sided zip on top as you look at it, reintroduce the pullers, always get the 2 pullers to interlock and Hey Presto, the zipper worked. Technical isn’t it?
So the Solway alongside my baggy Holt Renfrew pleated cord trousers, my Timberland dark brown oiled walking boots, an Abercrombie and Fitch army shirt and my lovely 45 year old, badly repaired by myself with old wool, bought for approximately £1.00 from Oxfam in the early 1970s, Arran knitted jumper below? The dream that we will all once again tramp outside in a free manner. Oh! Forgot to say. Angie has adopted the Arran jumper as her go to ‘Gumph’ (comfort) jumper. In reality I have to borrow my own jumper back for a few days at a time!
For myself. My mind today has separated from anxieties and anguish and adopted past thoughts/memories of good times. Happy times. Well…. for a few short hours. Happy thoughts……..well……until next weeks staff nurse role in work arrives again. Shift pattern? 5 long days in 7. 13 hour days of constant monitoring and checking and not putting a finger tip wrong. And all this with insufficient Personal Protective Equipment. Very dangerous times.
Difficult times for all of us. Whether in isolation, work considerations, family dynamics of separation and worrying about long term illnesses and vulnerability regarding the virus.
Now? Look at the photos below. I’m now able to put on that Barbour. And smile for, hopefully, a very long time in it’s presence.