Whilst lolling around in our favourite music pub on Saturday night an acquaintance [friend of a friend] bumped into me and introduced me to her new beau. Now this acquaintance is a very attractive, vivacious lady, but is of a similar age to myself-in other words-of mature years. It did occur to me later that we have seen her with a number of new beaux, and that either she suffers from ‘grass is always greener’ syndrome or that her determination is a victory of optimism over experience. In any case she may be kissing more frogs than is necessary or desirable.
But I digress. This particular new man is called Gerry-or Alan-or something but the thing I remember about the introduction was that he is from Brentford. Now there is only one ‘ping’ in my brain at the mention of Brentford and that ‘ping’ is Brentford Nylons, the mainstay of bedding supplies in the 1960s and 1970s.
My parents seemed to be in the grip of an obsession with Brentford Nylons for more than ten years. All of our beds were clothed in items from this mail order company. The sheets were made from an odious material called bri nylon which was a peculiarly nasty material to sleep between, being both cold and slithery on entry and horribly sweaty within minutes. Some of the sheets had a curious fuzzy texture and would snag on toenails or crackle with static electricity. There would also be matching, quilted bedspreads with frilly nylon skirts. My parents favoured pale blue and lemon yellow so these were the colours that dominated the airing cupboard during that period.
Not content with mere bedding in this material my mother took the further step of equipping both herself and me in quilted, lemon dressing gowns, one of the most extremely unpleasant, unflattering and uncomfortable garments it has been my misfortune to wear since the invention of the collapsible, folding, transparent rain hood of earlier years. They were also a fire hazard, meaning that any foray into the proximity of the open coal fire-for instance, en route to switch on the TV for ‘The Billy Cotton Band Show’- was flirting with death.
In time bri nylon was eclipsed by the new miracle in sheeting that was ‘polycotton’. Polycotton was an improvement in that it did not make your hair stand on end or stick to you, but had its own discomforts in the form of unpleasant, scratchy little bobbles which appeared after a few goes in the twin tub. At last piled up sheets and blankets gave way to the miracle that is the duvet-all the way from ‘the continent’. Indeed, this is what we called them at first-continental quilts.
All this change demonstrates the progress that textiles have made, and not only in bedding. These days sheets and duvet covers are cool, smooth, easily laundered items in any design, colour, size or pattern imaginable. I like to get ours in a certain, Scandinavian home furnishing chain that shall be nameless.
I wonder if thingy from Brentford will endure as long as the nylons company? Or will he be making way for a newer product? Thank goodness I didn’t blurt out ‘Brentford Nylons’ when I was introduced!