Going Back To My Roots – In Style.

I’m told that a natural part of our journey in life is looking back. I think we all have a tendency to ‘look back’ as a way of refuelling – to give us ’emotional fuel’ to keep going forward; and I’m no different. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very content where I am in life, but the older I get the more I find myself looking back at a past life and becoming incredibly nostalgic; it feels like a big old hug from the past.

I grew up in Yorkshire – a picturesque county in the north of England. The Yorkshire Dales are often guilty of stealing one’s breath away, so shockingly beautiful are they. Not only do we have the physical beauty of the area, we are surrounded by centuries and centuries of history and tradition. And, in terms of the locals? Well – we’re a stubborn lot. And we know everyone, and their business – and we’ll give them our opinion about their business, whether it’s asked or not. And we’ll tell it straight, we don’t have time or desire to sugar coat anything. It’s a land of wax jackets, flat caps, mucky rubber boots and lashings and lashings of dry humor. And I look back at my Yorkshire roots and marvel at everything it has to offer. EXCEPT – except when I lived there, I couldn’t wait to leave.

It was fine. It would do. But it was small, and nothing seemed to happen; and quite honestly, I could give you a litinary of reasons why a young woman would want to leave. In a nutshell, I simply wanted to see and experience the world. And so, once I realized I could leave, I did. Rather swiftly. But now, the older me, yearns for a reconnection to my humble beginnings; the place where my foundation was laid. So on quiet days I find my mind wandering back t’Yorkshire.

While I’d love to write that I grew up in a 16th century farmhouse in the Yorkshire Dales, and my family were friends with James Herriot of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ fame – that’s not strictly true. I grew up in the gritty industrial city of Bradford, and I was definitely raised more ‘city’ than ‘country’. I much favored business attire, over the wax jackets and flat caps worn by the traditional country folk. I actually did have a wax jacket when I lived in Yorkshire, but because I worked in the city it didn’t get a lot of use; it didn’t fit with the ‘city sleeker’ sophisticated aesthetic I was trying to present. Regardless, I remember bringing it with me when I moved here – a folded up token of home. The irony of it is that I didn’t really wear it here either. What with my strong Yorkshire accent and British mannerisms, I didn’t want to become a caricature of a newly-landed Limey. Wearing English clothing just seemed a little “too much” to a young woman wanting to assimilate into her new country. In retrospect, I’m realizing what an impact society had on my young less-confident self and my choice of apparel – and the desperate need to ‘fit’ in. Quite a sad commentary, really.

And so here I am, having lived in the US for 30+ years (golly!) and have recently moved into a country home, just outside Portland Oregon. In a lot of ways, it feels as though I’ve somehow gone full circle. From wanting to leave the quiet of small town living, I find myself immersing myself in it and loving every moment of it. We live on 2.5 acres surrounded by trees and the occasional sounds of neighborly chickens, but that’s it. It’s a place that soothes the soul.

And it’s also a place that made me want to go and grab the wax jacket – and wear it proudly! Discovering that I’d put the jacket in a donation bag came as a bit of a shock (serious understatement). I’m actually embarrassed to tell you how upsetting it was to lose that jacket which, in itself, is rather ridiculous because I bought it for a few quid from a market stall. It was neither Burberry nor Barbour. It took me a while to realize it wasn’t necessarily the lost of of jacket that irked me, it was the loss of what it symbolized: a garment from home – a piece of belonging.

There are no small English markets to buy cheap wax jacket knock-offs close by, and Barbour certainly isn’t in my price point – so what could I buy to give me the home comfort that I yearned for? And then it dawned on me – what I actually really wanted was a FLAT CAP: small, versatile, inexpensive, and great for bad hair days! At the grand spritely age of 56, I no longer give a hoot what people think of me wearing one. But it couldn’t be any old flat cap, bought off Amazon and made in China. No – it had to be a cap made in Yorkshire, of the finest tweed. And so the search began.

So let me just digress, for a moment, and I’ll pull it all together – trust me. When I was a very young girl I remember reading a poem by Jenny Joseph.

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple

I read it as a child, and really didn’t fully understand the lessons woven within the text. As I’ve grown older I see the merits of the poem. That growing older gives you a certain freedom that you can’t get or feel as a young person. Age gives you the gift of confidence and finally being able to own who you really are. And if that involves wearing purple with a red hat – then embrace it! And that’s how I suddenly feel.

I’m going to get that flat cap

I spent days hours a lot of time searching online. It turns out, there are a lot of places to buy flat caps from. But the more I searched, the more I kept coming back to The Original Yorkshire Clothing Company. I messaged them on Facebook to find out how to measure for a flat cap, and thus began a very lovely exchange between myself and the owner, Howard, via email. In terms of customer service, this little company is AMAZING. I literally love this company; they’re Yorkshire born and bred, only use woollen fabrics produced in Yorkshire and – more importantly – support local farming charities, who are really hurting financially at the moment. What’s not to love? Buy a hat, find a friend.

I received my flat cap just before Christmas. I purchased this cap purely for the name: Bluebell Woods.

Gorgeousness – and notice the thin PURPLE line!!!

As a young girl in order to get to a local playground I had to walk through a lovely pathway of Bluebells. It’s lovely and warm, and when I wear it (and I seriously wear it everywhere), it makes me feel…I don’t know..it’s hard to put into words because it’s just a piece of fabric – and yet it’s so much more. It’s a touch of home, it’s a bit of nostalgia, it’s me saying that I don’t care what people think of what I’m wearing, it’s self-acceptance – all in the shape of a flat cap.

I’m not expecting anyone to rush out and buy a flat cap (although you should definitely think about it because they are incredibly warm), but I’m hoping that this post will do several things: It will remind us that there are wonderful small business throughout the world who offer amazing products, and they’re available to us at a click of a button. New friendships can emerge in the strangest circumstances ‘Eh, excuse me how do I measure my noggin for a flat cap?’ . But I hope that ultimately, we should see age as a gift and feel feel empowered to wear purple with a red hat.

{Insert catchy ending phrase here}

Diane aka The Paint Factory

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9 thoughts on “Going Back To My Roots – In Style.

  • January 19, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    What a beautiful message! So true

  • January 20, 2021 at 1:57 am

    I love the flat hat and your story
    Thank you

  • January 20, 2021 at 2:16 am

    Love the good words. I eat olives from the jar and dress in bright living colors. Scarves, crazy shoes and many hats. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. There is great peace in being exactly who we are.

  • January 20, 2021 at 5:42 am

    Love the poem and your story.. I too so love how the poem captures how I feel at 63! I can feel so terribly guilty spending an entire day reading the “Wideacre” trilogy books! But then I say, hey! I still work as hard as I have All my life, I was married 23 years and raised 2 young folks that I am so proud of today, have grandchildren to help me see the innocence of youth, have a wonderful home I bought all on my own with land and a barn for my furniture hobby….so if I would like to just read all day-and night–ITS OK!! Lol.. Its hard to start taking care of your own needs and wants when you’ve been doing mostly for others ( and loving it!) All your life! I’m with you ! And I love the hat! Keep doing your spectacular art work and sharing your message of happiness and peace. xo Joy

  • January 20, 2021 at 6:31 am

    I love your story! My husband wears these hats all the time, it’s kind of his signature! The irony of it is, we both grew up in the middle of Kansas! Ha, ha. I love the hat on you, it’s perfect!

    • January 20, 2021 at 7:51 am

      I’m worried it may become an addiction! They have a waxed flat cap that I have my eye on 🙂

  • February 9, 2021 at 4:58 pm

    I just watched your video. Thank you so much for your feelings from the heart.

    • February 15, 2021 at 2:31 pm

      Hi Mary Ann – thank you so much for reaching out. I really am very fortunate to have such wonderful followers on my page x


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