It began with a knock on the door to the library. The housekeeper stepped in and said she had done something terrible.
Did she throw one of my Drakes in the wash to remove a spot again?
One of the bikes knocked over in a frenzied attempt to clean the garage?
Was a child left at school while I was off somewhere?
“you know that old jacket with holes in it? …..well, I washed it, it looked terrible. Now it looks worse, its peeling”
The green one?
silence on my end.
Like many, I have felt a strange attachment to my Barbour. In this case, a Border model that is pushing 16 years. But my closeness to the waxy goodness goes further still.
When I was a child my Grandfather would show up wearing his dented, faded, and patched Barbour. It smelled like the vestiges of pipe tobacco, a walk through bracken, a visit to the pub, and faintly of paraffin and mints. He would tell us to pick a pocket (as you know the front bellows pockets can hold all sorts- the game pocket on a Beaufort, probably a small child). On some days the pockets would hold a white waxy bag of mint imperials or tubes of Smarties. Others days would bring dracula teeth, stink bombs, itching powder, or hand buzzers. Once the left pocket moved oddly and a guinea pig called Buttons appeared.
In a nod to Pavlov the smell of a Barbour came to represent all that was good in a boys world. It would also be the catalyst for a lifetime of motion sickness caused by the aforementioned smells and a Lancia that always seemed to careen down the roads of Kent. My Grandfather was a terribly fast driver and I believe that his diesel exhaust vented to the right rear seat. To this day, a car load of Barbours, the heat on high, and a diesel on a windy road do not a good mix make.
When my Barbour was shiny and young we found ourselves iced in one New Years in Five Bridges. The only salvation was a slithering down the skating rink of a lane to the local. After much laughter at the newness of my coat we drank ourselves silly and gorged ourselves by the fire. The walk home found the new coat of wax stiffening and cracking with the cold. It smelled of smoke from the poorly vented fireplace, Dunhills, and a spilled Famous Grouse. The patina had begun.
Every year I promise myself that I will send it off in summers mad heat waiting and waiting for the men that know how to mend such things to do so. I always delay and come the first good cold rain I find myself with a can of Barbour’s thornproof dressing bubbling away on the range.
I am terrible at doing this and the results are always haphazard and uneven. Unlike the pleasure in building up a good shine on a pair of brogues, I tend to fall flat about half way through. Just too much damn surface area. However, these are some fine directions if you can prevail.
Do I trade down for a newer model? Barbour snobs would scoff but I do like some of the newer offerings. Still, I feel that it would be the betrayal of an old and tired friend. Besides, there is always next summer to send it off……