As a child, I have a memory of watching my maternal grandmother, ironing on her wooden board in the kitchen and her telling me that the worst ironing job was my grandfather’s kilt when he was home on leave from the Front. This was a confusing idea for me. I’d seen how a kilt was made.
“The lice in it, “she explained. “I had to use the iron, pressing hard up and down the seams on his kilt . You’d hear the crunching as you ironed. Then, it was out to the wash-house, lots of soap, and some would float out then. But it was after the kilt had dried on the line, I’d poke them out each folded seam with a knitting needle. It took a while. Then I’d press the kilt for him and off he’d go back to the war.”
My aunt knows more family history than I ever will. As a daughter –in-law, she was close to my father’s shy parents, and is a great talker. On the phone this week, I asked about what she knew about my paternal grandfather’s experiences in WW1.
“Oh … “ she said. “It was never talked about at home,” she sighed. “It was all too terrible“ Then she giggled, and quipped “He and a mate chipped in and bought a monkey when they were in France. “
“Why, for goodness sake?” I asked. Still laughing, she replied. “It picked the lice off their kilts!”
That line has haunted me since. I see a little, nervous monkey, among the horrors of war, picking away at tartan seams.
Have you ever had a throw-away line grab you like that?
All text and photos by Meg
Story Twigs …! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.