Handkerchiefs and Hankies

As the colourful leaves of Autumn have been falling so too have my tissues been falling into the bin and my memories have turned towards Handkerchiefs and Hankies. 

I’m not sure who invented the ‘common cold’ but am utterly convinced they were having a bad day that day. Is there any beneficial purpose to a ‘common cold’? In my thinking the only people who benefit seem to be those who manufacture soft balm tissues, unctions to help the nasal passage and wonder drugs that clear your nose while revoking aches and pains. If you own shares in items concerning ‘absorbency’ then I can only image you will be smiling and thinking warm thoughts about your shares rising in value. If you are kicking yourself that you don’t own shares in disposable absorbency items it may be worth considering.

Prevention is better than cure? I know exactly who I got my last cold from. It was a young stall holder in Croatia who sneezed ‘full frontal’, with no ‘catching object’ between me and his 80 mph nasal viruses. This one … who knows, but I remain a staunch believer in using a tissue when you sneeze. Something to stem the ‘spraying’ of virus filled particles is surely far more acceptable than a grotty common cold.

Handkerchiefs. Does anyone use handkerchiefs anymore?  Of course they must do they are available in places like M&S so there must be a market.

My memories of hankies as a child are soaking wet cotton bundles that made my nose more sore than ever when I had a cold. I think I must have been a grubby little ‘oik’ at times and far from a gentile pink clad little girl. My hankies appeared from everywhere and in different states. Grey crispy ones, earth or blood stained ones. fluff covered ones in my gym knickers and ones I’d totally forgotten about in my pockets. Very very occasionally I may find a freshly ironed one lurking in the bottom of a bag or in my satchel. I guess that was seem as progress for my mother who always asked us, ‘have you got a clean hanky?’ when we left to go anywhere.

Apart from using hankies for mundane events like, blowing your nose they were excellent for gagging a friend, tying round a knee or a hand when injured and of course brilliant to use if playing cowboys. They were also an excellent blank canvas for drawing secret maps of where buried treasure could be found.

My father would have a clean white hanky every day. A hanky that had been lovingly ironed by my mother and folded so wonderfully. He would take it from his pocket open it up, often with a ‘shake’, and make a tremendous trumpet sound when he blew his nose. He didn’t ‘do’ the hanky in the top pocket look and I know he wasn’t ‘hanky perfect’, I can still hear my mother saying, ‘J… you can’t use that hanky its disgusting get a fresh one’. So he too must have stores of used hankies in pockets, briefcase and other places. It wasn’t just me!

Funny how such endearing memories are brought to mind by a simple square of white ironed cotton.

Of course my very very favourite memory was when my mother would take from her never ending supply of clean, ironed pretty hankies from her bag, gently moisten one corner and remove ‘whatever’ was causing offence around my mouth. Sometimes there would be a trace of lipstick but they always seemed to smell of her. The smell of perfume, Elizabeth Arden ‘Memoire Cherie’,  the wonderful feeling of love and care and sometimes, only sometimes, was I allowed to put ‘that’ hanky into my pocket incase I needed to use it again. memoire cherie

m handkyDo you remember the flat square boxes which was home to new handkerchiefs? They would have Lily of the Valley, Primroses or other pretty flowers embroidered on the corner. Every Christmas my mother would say I need more hankies and I would be so pleased to spend my pocket money on the ‘wanted’ gift. 

The power of the hanky and to be lent a hanky – well that was amazing and you had always to give it back washed and ironed to the lender.

Sometimes I would walk into the kitchen to see my mother stirring a large pan of boiling water and hankies.  The smell is pretty unique but oddly even that smell of boiling water dirty hanky water evokes feelings of great security and home.

Once washed and dried they were renewed and I was allowed to iron a hanky as my first ever attempt at ironing. This proved very useful, not for my future married life, but for when I wanted to make my dolls beds, curtains and all sorts of hanky friendly dolls house items. 

Although the common cold is of no advantage to man nor beast I can smile remembering these wonderful things about a simple cotton hanky. In fact as I get older perhaps I should start using one again so I can tie a knot in one corner and remember the comforting and amusing memories they bring to my mind?



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