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A World Before Duvets

There was a world before duvets…

(Disclaimer: if you’re a millennial or a gen-zeer, it's highly likely you may find this article a bit dull, simply as it’s just littered with ancient references!)

Strange though it may seem, it’s true. There was indeed a world before duvets. Long before the era of dial-up modems, mobile phones came with suitcases, and long before flat-packed furniture and the struggle between VHS and BETA. There was a time when your bedding was a sheet and a couple of blankies (ok, I mean blankets, but remember, I was a child back then and so I still think of them as ‘blankies’!).

As time marched on, our blankets grew thicker, morphed into quilts and from there it was only a short hop to the eiderdown (the eiderdown was exactly that: a quilted covering filled with the down of the eider duck). This was the first, traditional ‘quilt’ or duvet to provide insulation, along with extreme lightness. After years of heavy coverings, this was the ultimate in bed coverings… that is, if you could afford one (let alone a VHS recorder).

Anyway, today’s tale is set in such a world. A world where grifters lived in garages, posh kids were driven to school in Vauxhall ‘Vivas’ and learning to waltz was an essential part of the school curriculum. Ah, I can smell the soot in the air, hear the air-horn heralding the mobile shop and see the ranks of vandalised scarlet phone boxes at the foot of the estate.

Thinking back to those heady pre-digital days of wonder it’s hard to remember how we coped without a constant LCD tether to the world’s events. It was ‘news’ if a town twenty minutes away was getting a new sports centre. I can’t think what I’d have said back then, if you’d told me that in twenty years’ time - I could find the answer to virtually any question I could think of - by tapping on a piece of glass that I’d carry around in my pocket. 

Anyway, I digress… the point of this story is my dad’s great Donkey jacket.

Sorry, but there’s just no clean way to get that link in. I was a poor boy, from a poor family and my life was no Bohemian Rhapsody. Even if duvets did exist (and frankly, I’m too lazy to Google it) they may as well not have existed, because we could barely afford blankets! So, when it got cold of an evening my brother and I would fight over the few blankets we did have. And after we’d exhausted the supply, there was only one option left… the coats. 

It’s hard to imagine how grateful we were for the simple extra layer our parent’s coats would offer. But I remember all too well how comfy my dad’s great donkey jacket was. He was a tall man my father, indeed he still is. The coat was actually a hand-me-down from my grandfather (who was taller still). So it was half an arm too long for Dad and looked more like a trench coat than a donkey jacket. 

Hey, it may have been a donkey of a coat, but to me it was the most eiderley of all the eiderdowns. I remember how the soft lining felt like satin and how I was able to get almost both legs into just one of the sleeves. My brother and I would fight over the coats as we fought over everything else. Thing is, I’d learned to feign a preference for my mum’s fake fur and this was all the incentive my brother needed to mark his preference. Most nights, I’d make a beeline for the fur coat, only to end up settling for the real prize of that great Donkey jacket.

I remember how it smelled faintly of old beer and cigars. How I’d sometimes find a toffee, or a mint, hidden in one of the pockets. And I’ll never forget the time I discovered a soggy fiver close to death in another creased pocket. I told my dad of course. He was so pleased he took us all for fish and chips as a reward for my honesty and he let me keep the change from the fiver. Change from a fiver, yeah, let that sink in. 

So, yes, there was a time when duvets were coats. Now coats are definitely no match for the super-soft, extra-fluffy duvets we produce today… and you know how we hate waste, so we recover the super fluffed-up filling for our duvets from otherwise wasted plastic bottles! But that said, I still have fond memories of my dad’s great Donkey jacket ‘duvet’. So, as Father’s Day swings round again for another year, it’s just another awesome memory that reminds me… like everyone else, I guess, that my dad will always be the best Dad to me.

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