Great Grandpa Butler was a farming man. Here he is in his working clothes with my Great Grandma. The little girl in the foreground is my Grandma.
When I was around seventeen I shunned the loons and starry T-shirts (yes, I’m of a certain age) for a more eclectic style. My sister’s Levis were suitably faded and worn and, bless her, she let me borrow them. Topped-off with an old denim shirt, or a collarless cotton pull-on shirt, the whole ensemble was completed by a dark-grey waistcoat of impeccable vintage. It had come from my Grandfather (the little girl’s future husband), a coal miner and member of the colliery rescue team. I wore that waistcoat with a certain pride. I thought I looked the part (cool in that sense had yet to enter the vernacular), and treasured it, even sporting his old watch-chain from time to time. In time his old brogues came my way too.
Looking back I now recognise the true value of that grand old weskit. It wasn’t the simple cut of the cloth, or the somewhat bohemian air it lent me. No, it was the honesty of the thing, the blood connection to a proud line of working men, an unrecognised badge of belonging. Wearing it forged the link, that final link in the chain that binds me to these men. It eventually went the way of much from that time; I dearly wish I had it still.
Such belonging stays with you though; it seeps into your consciousness as sure as your awakening awareness of mortality. The need to re-connect assumes a more urgent necessity, subconsciously though inevitably. And as I trudge the highway from young to old fogey I retain a fond weakness for the honest clothes of the working man.
I placed an order this week, an order for a charcoal-grey waistcoat and a navy drill shirt from Old Town in Holt. Though my ancestors may dispute the fact, I reckon a writer’s some sort of working man.
Deep Harmony was my Grandfather’s favourite tune. I shall hum it when I slip the weskit on.
(First published on 17 January 2014 at Steven Hobbs Blog)