Tailored in the British Crown Colony of Hong Kong …..

…. is written on the label in Grandpa Flea’s shirt that I’ve just ironed. I’ve never noticed it before, but as the shirt is “on its last legs”, the little stiffening thing in the collar having worn the point away and popped out for all to see, I was wondering how old it was. Not that I expected the label to tell me – perhaps it was more a way of postponing the next shirt – I hate ironing – surprise! surprise! This is a particularly nice shirt – when I remember to hang it as soon as it comes off the line, it requires minimal ironing if any; it is only 55% cotton but a cool shirt to wear, unlike the wicking no-iron “cool” shirt that GP Flea can’t bear to have on his body as it’s so hot (so much for travel clothes!); and what’s more, it suits the handsome old dog.

The Hong Kong shirt was bought to replace a similar shirt which was the King of shirts. GP Flea already owned the King when we met, nearly 50 years ago – 100% Egyptian cotton – as fine and as soft as silk, it was drip dry – and it, too, suited him. In fact it looked very similar to its Chinese brother – perhaps we should call it the Prince. The King lasted for many years – when it eventually succumbed to old age, its fabric becoming as thin as the skin of a old man, it was very hard to say goodbye. I don’t feel as attached to the Prince, but wonder at the ability of some items of clothing to “keep on keeping on”. Wikipedia tells me that Hong Kong reverted to China on 1 July, 1997, so the Prince is at least 13 years old, but I suspect probably more like 25. It must have been worn and washed four or five or more times as much as any of its peers along the way. It is the old man of the wardrobe, its playmates having come and gone over the years in various states of disrepair. The only shirt that will outlast it is the “cool” wicking travel shirt – it hangs in splendid isolation, ignored by its owner but protected from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune – the baby spew, rose thorns, grease and spaghetti sauce, irons that are too hot, the black blackberry and privet berry stains that visiting birds thoughtfully drop from on high. Would the Prince change places with it? I doubt it – it has been loved and worn close to its owner’s heart for many years – getting old and tattered goes with the territory – I should know 🙂


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