Archive | August 5, 2014

Manky hankies

Remember these?


Hankies. Handkerchiefs. Back in the day….

I couldn’t leave the house without Mum making us take a hankie.

You blew your nose. Folded the hankie up, or scrunched, if you were a scruncher. And popped the hankie up your sleeve or in your bag. (Or if you were a woman, tucked it in your bra strap. Well, maybe that was my just my mother?)

If a kid had a runny noses (and it seems kids always had runny noses – why don’t you see that so much anymore?) a mother would reach into her bag and pull out a hankie. Not a tissue. And certainly not one of those little purse packs of tissues.

My mother had a zillion in her handbag. I was always worried they were previously used ones, inspecting them for dried, crusty bits. Even if they were not previously used, I was squeamish about how long they had been in her handbag, absorbing odours.

Likewise if a child had sticky hands, mothers reached for a hankie. No wet-wipes. They didn’t exist.

Novels had the hero have a clean handkerchief (man-sized, of course) to rescue a woman – from tears, from a splash of water, all manner of worrying things. (And here’s a thought: why were women’s handkerchief small and dainty? Did we have less snot?)


And was everyone’s first foray into the ritual of ironing, ironing hankies?

And now?

No one has hankies handy when the situation calls for them. And as for blowing noses? Who wants to capture and keep mucus? And then wash it with all your other things? With your tea towels? God, no.

OK, no one has hankies except me.

I have a collection from when I was a child. Gifts from grandmothers. Mementoes from travel.


Problem is, if you haven’t worked it out, I am too squeamish to use hankies. I’m well and truly of the disposable, non-environmentally-sound persuasion, when it comes to wiping bodily emissions.

And God, washing, pegging out each individual one, ironing all the little squares!

So what to do with them?

I feel they are too good, and too wrapped up in memories, to throw away. Or to use as rags.

Maybe I’m hanging onto them for when I turn into my mother and have hankies to clutter my handbag? Or my grandmother, and have them in my hand to twitch and fiddle with?

So what do I do with them?

Pop them back in the back of my sock drawer again? S that every time I grope around for a sock I ask why I am hanging onto them and what on earth am I going to do with them?

Or do I just put them in my rag bag, and feel sad about a lost time?

Or keep them for when the world goes to ruin and we have no trees left for disposable tissues?

Who would have thought the humble hankie would be so wrapped up in emotions and dilemmas?

So what should I do?