One summer, when I was about 12, I went with my family to a large National Trust house. That was what you did in the holidays before iPads and really good adventure playgrounds. School holiday entertainment in 1992, for me, was a punch-up with my siblings next to a clipped yew hedge, and an ice-cream if I was lucky. The 45-minute car ride there and back with my book of word-searches was indisputably the best bit.
Anyway, we were wandering around this National Trust house one hot August afternoon and I saw
two nuns, which is always pretty thrilling isn’t it? Actual nuns! There they were, small and old but sturdy and determined, walking along at quite a clip.
And the best thing – the thing I found so amusing and brilliant – was that they were wearing khaki habits.
“Look,” I said to my mother in delight. “They are in their summer fatigues.” My mum didn’t think it was remotely amusing. But knowing what I know now about motherhood, I can see that she was probably on auto-pilot, counting the minutes until all four of us grew up and went away.
I still don’t know why I find the idea of nuns in special summer clothes so delightful. It’s just basic good sense – all that black fabric gets very hot in the sun. They had the last laugh – they were nice and cool in their practical gear whereas I never had any appropriate hot-weather attire as a child. My summer holiday clothes were my normal clothes with a cagoule over the top.
When I was old enough to be given money and told to go and buy myself some summer clothes, I became wildly confused by what was in the shops and bought only clothes that were suitable for the
beach, despite not seeing a foreign beach until I was 15.
Advertising campaigns told me my summer months would be spent by water. The reality was that I was either at home or doing temp work in an office. Fake tan did exist but I was terrified of it; when I worked I wore trousers or skirts with opaque tights. When I was not working and needed to go into town, I sometimes wore a sarong. Once, when improperly tied, it collapsed to my mid-thigh exposing my pants to the traffic on Gloucester Road.
Styling: Chloe Forde / Make-up: Karina Constantine / Hair: Ben Cook / Nails: Charly Avenell