Eva Brown

In the kitchen of our Balham flat in the ‘60s, my mother had eight brown jars containing all manner of exotic foodstuffs: ginger; cloves; nutmeg; cinnamon; marjoram; mint; parsley and thyme. 

Because of my utter loathing of boiled fish in parsley sauce, I’d hide the jar marked “parsley”.  I couldn’t watch any episode of The Herbs without the fear of coming out in a rash.

What puzzled me, as a kid growing up, was why the contents of these jars were never used? 

My diet was very formulaic; I had the same thing most days; most weeks.  But cannot remember my Saturday evening smoked haddock being supplemented with a sprinkling of nutmeg; Sunday’s roasts rarely featured ginger instead of Yorkshires – and whose cloves were actually in that jar?  The Borrowers? (At this point I’d not learned how to spell “clothes” properly).

Brown was a popular colour in our flat:  Brown three-piece suite; brown carpet – with both parents being heavy smokers, it tended to hide the burn marks (and an unruly Flake packet); brown coffee pot; brown cups and saucers; dark brown sideboard and stereo.  The only brown not there was Eva Braun.

My dad had a brown suit.  He could hide his head in his jacket and my mum wouldn’t spot him sitting on the sofa for hours.  

So, when sometimes says to you, “brown is the new black”, send them off for a colour blindness check.

Hot under the collar

We rarely wear things our parents wore.

I’ve never had recourse to wear arm bands to keep my shirt sleeves up; I never wore a flat hat to go football; my mother had a different chest size to me, so I never wore any of her bras – well, not since the psychiatrist visit, anyway.

Fashions change.  You don’t see people wearing togas these days or coats made out of mammoths.

As a kid, I’d be dragged, by my mum, into various clothes shops along Balham High Road.  I remember a milliners.  I wasn’t allowed to touch a single hat and realised, at a very early age, I was never going to sport a fascinator, bonnet or boudoir cap.

I’m also neither posh nor old enough to wear braces; I don’t use string to hold my trousers up and luckily never had a de-mob suit. 

However, I did secretly wear my dad’s old football shirt once – although I did think Roy Bentley was a type of car rather than the centre-forward for Chelsea.  Probably best not mention my mum’s thigh-length boots – if only to say how tricky I found walking in such high heels.

Our children are unlikely to go out wearing loons, anything made of velvet and possibly think Biba is a far-way planet.

Time to starch my collar and attach my cuffs.