My friend Anne and I were invited to join a regular walking group this week, on a walk from Blean Church, just outside Canterbury, to Whitstable on the coast, so we went along, taking our Nordic walking poles for a bit of exercise. They were a nice bunch of about eight or nine women, including the organiser’s mother, Nina, whom we were told is 93 years old! If I am as sprightly as her when I reach anything like her age, I will be thrilled. We walked along the Crab and Winkle Track, which used to be the route of the train between Canterbury and Whitstable – one of the first railways in the world. It is now a great cycling and walking route, well away from all traffic. We walked fairly briskly, and Nina was there with the best of us, when we arrived in Whitstable.
Anne and I decided to go into a pub for a quick lunch, having said goodbye to the rest of the group. I noticed she was wearing a lovely cashmere sweater. and wondered aloud if I should think about buying one for extra warmth on Kili. Then it suddenly struck me: I already have a cashmere jumper, which belonged to my mother.
My family lived in Hawick, in the Scottish borders, which is famous for quality knitwear, and the men worked for Braemar Knitwear in the local mill. It produced very fine lambswool and cashmere knitwear which was exported all over the world. I recollect that my paternal grandmother’s claim to fame was that she wore the first ever twinset. For those born in the last half century, a twinset was a short-sleeved woolen round necked jumper, worn underneath a long-sleeved button up cardigan – an outfit rendered obsolete by the advent of central heating!
My mother died in 1959 at the very young age of 34 – when I was 12 – leaving behind a tallboy (a piece of furniture, which we used to have in the olden days!!) full of beautiful knitwear. My sister Leslie and I wore these jumpers and cardigans during our teenage years, and wore most of them out. However, for some reason, I held on to one peach coloured jumper, and it has spent the last 50 years or so, pushed in at the back of my jumper drawer.
So when I got back from the walk I pulled out all my jumpers, sorting out a few for a charity shop while I was about it, and at the back was indeed the vintage Braemar cashmere jumper. It probably dates from the mid 1950s. It has a few small holes in it and has seen its best days, but is an ideal garment to take up Kili, being extremely thin and light, but warm.
I am really thrilled to be able to take something of my mother up the mountain. I have already “bagged up” some of my lovely mother-in-law’s ashes to leave on the top – they are currently stored in a pretty cloth bag with lace round the top, which she would have liked – and now something of my own mother can come too. Great to have something of two much loved women forming a 4th generation along on the trip.