“You can’t wear hats.” my son said to me the other day. “You just think you can.” This is what I have found out about offspring, they grow up, up, up a bit higher until they can pat you on the head, then, they tell you what you can’t do.
I can wear a hat. Watch me. Admittedly, due to my diminutive stature I cannot in all honesty wear one of the massive cartwheel kind found in such classic films as The Wicked Lady or Gone With the Wind. No. Well not in public at any rate. I do draw the line somewhere and I appreciate that with such a millinery delight on my head I would look like a field mushroom. But I can wear a hat. I pick up the hat and I put it on my head. Simple as.
I love hats. I know that there’s a distinct anti-hat lobby in the fashion and trend fields but since fashion and trends have given us colour block shift dresses and slit knee jeans I don’t really care what they think. Somewhere there is a committee of fashion designers sitting at a table chewing their pencils and saying ‘what idiotic thing can we make them all wear this season?’ See? I have all the jargon. Season. Trend. I also have some hats.
I have recently had to rescue my ‘summer hat’. This is an ancient article woven from some sort of plastic that looks like straw. It is a Kangol make and it has a floppy element of cloche to it in a muddy brown. I bought it one year when we were heading to Brittany so there was a threat of some actual sun. This hat has served me well. After it was duly rescued and refurbed with a darning needle, a bit of brown thread and quite a lot of swearing I tried it on. Pinned up the brim with a kilt pin and hey presto it looks stylish.
“You look like the Wicked Witch of the West” said my son. Ever the fashion critic.
I do not. Well, only when I wear the hat and I’m on my bike and the basket is attached. To the bike. Not the hat. This hat is multi-purpose as its less than natural material means it does the job as a rain hat too, the brim doubles as guttering.
Then there is my Fedora. This is grey felt with a black grosgrain band and it is a man’s size because, did I mention? I’ve got a giant head. Ladies hats don’t fit me. Ever. They teeter on the top of my skull like little doll hats. My Fedora is a lovely fit, except in a high wind. Like that time at Hengistbury Head when Stephen had to chase it down the cliff.
“What a shame he caught it.” was my daughter’s comment.
I also have a top hat. Tall and black and, well, top. This was an eBay purchase and I sometimes put it on to think in. I have to do this when no one is in the house because, as you might surmise, the ruling from the Brats is,
“You are NOT wearing that top hat.”
However, when I did last wear it to the Dunge Cheese Show, I won a dressage competition that I hadn’t even entered. I was just at the sidelines enjoying a handmade spinach and feta sausage roll when I was handed a rosette and asked to do a lap of the arena. I am still working my way through the prize oats.
All this hat nonsense has been brought up by the imminent opening of the Winchester Hat Fair. I received a flyer inviting me to the delights of this event (1-3rd July in Winchester rather fittingly) and naturally I started to consider my current hat collection and which might be appropriate to wear. I considered my little green felt one with the large plume of pheasant feathers. Yes. I just used the word ‘plume’. Then there is also my green velvet medieval style cap with the gold swirly embroidery, a standby for any civic events involving cats and people named Whittington. There is also the longstanding temptation of that twisty crowned witches hat that I have earmarked on Etsy, felted and concertinaed which is the hat of my very wildest dreams. Or what about heading to the British Hatter in Bath for a new purchase? Something sweeping and wide brimmed? Trimmed with a stuffed duck and a dotty veil perhaps?
I was aboard the top deck of the 265 and part way through Bradford on Avon when I realised that the Winchester Hat Fair has nothing to do with hats or millinery of any kind. It’s an arts festival! Fringe and Comedy and Street theatre of all kinds in the glorious city. Winchester has that historic twitch to it, streets that horses have gallopped to battle along. A wrecked bit of castle. King Arthur’s Round Table hanging in the Great Hall.
Ah ha. Change of attire required. I will whip off my wimple and pull on my raven feather cloak, unless it’s raining this weekend of course, in which case I’ll also take my sun hat.
One of my many obsessions is werewolves. I’ve been mulling them over of late because I’ve been writing a book ‘The Ice King’ which involves my riff on the idea of shapeshifting and wolves.
One of the things I’ve discovered in my researches is that there aren’t any werewolves in Iceland. Fact. Well, I know that there are lots of people who would say there aren’t any werewolves anyway but stick with me. There aren’t any werewolves in Iceland because there aren’t any wolves. They are not indigenous to the country as there are no forests. A nation’s were-creatures are born out of the wildlife that lives there, hence were-tigers in India.
There are elves in Iceland and you have to ask them for planning permission should you wish to knock up a cabin. Hm, I see doubt furrowing your brow, trust me and Google it.
Despite not having werewolves, the Icelanders do still have the notion of shapeshifting. In old Icelandic the phrase for being a werewolf or shapeshifter is eigi einhamr, which means ‘not of one skin’ and is used for those of a more feral persuasion shall we say. Shapeshifting, taking on the attributes of a particular animal or having a totem animal is as old as time. I don’t doubt that the first hunters took the skins from bulls and antelope and sabre tooth tigers and dressed themselves in them, at first to keep warm, but then, there would be a moment when they’d feel different in the skin, maybe balance the beast’s head on their head and looking out through the jaws they’d pretend to be that creature. Pretend to roar, or howl. It would feel good. We’ve all done it ( the roaring bit, not the skinning bit, I live in a townie bit of Wiltshire) and we all know how primal that feels. Roaring is good.
The Icelandic term means to adopt the sensibility of another creature, to reach for or replicate qualities that might be attributed to another animal, to be, in essence, not of one skin, not simply human. So, the first hunters find their hunting ground, their home territory under threat from some other tribe and, when they have to fight to defend it and they are all scared they discover it gives them strength to wear an animal skin, to wear animal teeth, to hide themselves within the power of the beast. The Berserkers did this, under the guise of the bear skin they wore they could forget themselves and disappear into bearkind, become a bear, a crazed and powerful fighter.
Nowadays some guru somewhere has cleaned up the language and we call it visualisation of course. I prefer Berserker, but that’s clearly why I’m not a guru. I think I might have liked to be in on a Norse Self-Help course and, frankly, just imagining how that might be; sword wielding, shield shoving, ale drinking; makes me feel much better. Stronger. I won’t be picking up a few bits in Tesco later, I will be pulling on that faux wolf fur throw that’s on the sofa and raiding the store, plundering possibly. The idea is one we can adopt for ourselves and we can find strength in being a badger perhaps. Although after the roadkill I saw this morning I don’t think I’m going to be taking on the mantle of a hedgehog anytime soon.
Of late, I’ve been thinking that what we need, in this mad world, is to remember that we can be werewolves, we need to look away from the computer screen and stop tapping at the phone and remember the moon and the stars. Remember the sky. Listen to the birds; that’s especially good at four o’clock in the morning at the moment, a proper chorus that Gareth Malone would give his eye teeth for. Woodpeckers for percussion anyone?
If I suggest you go skinny dipping however, choose a mountain pool or some brackish bog surrounded by purpled heather and golden gorse. Don’t do what I did and try the local boating lake because it’s no joke having to walk the long way through town because you’ve been banned from The People’s Park.
As a little present, I’d like to send you The Ice King for free – you just need to tell me where to send it…