Wet sheep and Brylcream: not everyone’s cup of tea, but it was my lot in life. At that time, it was the fashion for the likes of me to cover hair that was short, greying, and slicked back with grease. My head belonged to George, a shepherd, and when I wasn’t keeping the rain from him, or the sun out of his eyes, or on one occasion wiping down a new-born lamb, I was worn at a jaunty angle to impress the farm girls, or tipped back while he downed a well-earned pint in The Golden Fleece amid laughter and coarse jokes.
Lanolin from handling fleeces rimed my rim: muck, sweat and smoke infiltrated the weave of my cloth, and my silk lining, and gave me an individual aroma. She said I was a filthy, stinking old thing: she bought George a new cap for Christmas.
I hung abjectly on my hook but, come Boxing Day, George adjusted my grubby peak above his eyes, same as usual. Over the years, the angle became less jaunty, the hours spent on a peg in the back hall became longer, the attempts by her to throw me out more inventive and insistent. All the while new cap hung, hopefully pristine, at my side. There came a day when George didn’t come anymore. The house fell silent. A month passed: she took me down occasionally and breathed in the lanolin, and the sweat, smoke, and grime. Each time, I feared the rag man but always she hung me carefully back on my peg.
‘You need a hat on, it’s raining.’ She cautioned.
‘I want Grandpa’s hat.’
She took down new cap and put it on the small boy’s head.
He ripped it off and threw it to the ground. ‘No, I want Grandpa’s hat.’
She smiled. The first smile I’d seen on her face in months. I was lifted down and placed carefully on the child’s head. I tried not to fall over his eyes but it wasn’t easy. I felt very insecure and wobbly. She lifted him to look in the hall mirror. They both wore the hugest grins.
New cap disappeared, taken to the jumble, I heard…