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As a schoolgirl, my idea of rebellion was wearing a white shirt when the school handbook CLEARLY STATED IT SHOULD BE LIGHT BLUE.

It might not sound like much, but where does torching the physics teacher’s pet cat with a Bunsen burner get you? Or spraying ‘Fr Mulroney is a cock’ on the gym wall? I’ll tell you: expelled, and double detention with a wire brush and bucket of soapy water respectively. Whereas I was subversively picking away at the very fabric of authority via my choice of fabric colour. You’ve got to admire the symmetrical anarchy of it.

It gets better. When apprehended by a teacher, I would apologise profusely, except that – get this – I WASN’T REALLY SORRY AT ALL. Oh, how I used to laugh behind the bicycle shed later, unbuttoning that same shirt while the boys lined up to see my jugs in exchange for five quid or a king-sized Mars bar.

Most of that preceding paragraph is pure fabrication (still with the textile analogies). I never worked up the enthusiasm or morals to be much success as a slut.

But I did laugh, a LOT.

Many years later, I realised that wearing a white shirt was not the sartorial spit in the eye of The System it could have been because, while my defiant shirt may have been white in a previous life, it was more often than not an off-white blue. Although there were days my white shirt was shot through with brilliant vermillion streaks like the rising dawn – or more pedestrianly yet accurately, streaky bacon – which was quite the statement.

The statement being that my mother had washed my shirt with a red sock.

For many years – in the region of 25 – I thought a side effect of the washing process was that it turned white clothes grey. Sometimes it took only one wash; sometimes more. Occasionally white garments emerged from the wash still pristine but for a violent pink spackle over one nipple; or a joyous blue Catherine wheel effect radiating from the armpit.

For mum, laundry is an outlet for all the pent up creativity she never had the time to burn off with a spot of watercolouring, or extreme macramé away. I’ve never caught her at it, but I imagine her with a basket of dirty clothes before her front-loader, rubbing her hands, going, “So, three white t-shirts and some cotton knickers . . . in we go . . . lalala . . . what if I casually toss in this green scarf with . . . a blue singlet? – no – let me see – mmm lala lalaa . . . oh! – what have we here? ah, my maroon harem trousers . . . oh yes, I think that would be lovely and festive . . . LalaLAA. I wonder whether the expression ‘evil genius’ has been coined yet? Mwa ha haa. Mwa ha ha ha haaaargh.”

But the pinnacle of her achievements, the jewel in her crown, the Kleenex in the pocket of mum’s laundry career, was my first boyfriend’s Eric Clapton t-shirt.

In the fragile, tender days constituting the birth of our young love, JP brought me to see Eric Clapton play in the RDS in Dublin. It was the best date I’d EVER been on – possibly because it was the ONLY date I’d ever been on, unless you count Gary Hayes trying to excavate my tonsils with his tongue in the back row of The Grand, which I don’t.

JP and I snogged like we had gills for the entire duration of ‘Layla’. God, the romance of it all *sigh!* Afterwards, JP bought himself a limited edition Eric Clapton t-shirt from an Official Merchandising Material vendor. It featured a handsome globe overlaid with a giant guitar: a masterpiece of screen printing.

Evidently, mum still feels guilty about it – as well she should – because even now, fifteen years later, I’ll say, “Hey mum, can you-”, and she’ll splutter, “Look, why the feck was I feckin washing your boyfriend’s feckin Eric Clapton t-shirt in the first place?” and stick her chin out aggressively.

It was because JP sometimes lent me his prized Eric Clapton t-shirt to demonstrate his True, Deep, Abiding Love Which Would Never Die, and at the time I was living at home where mum was the only one who knew how to program the washing machine.

Not only did she dye JP’s Eric Clapton t-shirt grey (alternatively she might have been wiping down the fireplace with it), in a brilliantly devious manoeuvre she managed to shrink it as well.

Our True, Deep, Abiding Love Which Would Never Die did not survive my mother’s washing – or, for that matter, the juxtaposition of JP’s personality with mine.

Mine more than his, admittedly.

At least when we broke up and I compiled a cardboard box of JP’s possessions including the ruined Eric Clapton t-shirt, it was an appropriate metaphor for the demise of our relationship.

I was reminded of all this the other day, when mum put on a load of dad’s and her clothes. It takes a rare degree of skill to mangle clothes in our washing machine, since there is no hot water supply to the tub. Yet somehow, freakily, mum managed to streak dad’s favourite white t-shirt blue.

Bear in mind that, for over 40 years, mum has washed dad’s clothes. So you would expect that, picking his t-shirt out of the wash, a range of emotions might cross his face: futility, bewilderment, dismay, weary resignation, a half-hearted attempt at fury.

You would be wrong.

Bless him, dad actually looked genuinely SURPRISED.

This may be symptomatic of extreme delusion, but I like to think it’s reflective of dad’s abundant hope, optimism, belief in the inherent good of his fellow man, and his love for his wife.

Call me a sucker.


Comments on: "Fabrication" (10)

  1. Ahhhhhhh

    Sated….. and strangely smelling of lavender fabric softener

  2. This post has me in stitches! 🙂

    In a strange, yet heatwarming coincidence, my first boyfriend serenaded me with Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight…. sigh

    In slightly unrelated news, SMART CASUAL arrived in my letterbox today! Am ostensibly saving it for my 9 hour train trip to Perpignan on Saturday (where I hope to sniff out any traces Dan Carter may have left there), but have sneakily read the first chapter and am already titless (from having laughed them both off).

    So Bravo dearie!

  3. Cian said:

    I was reading the third paragraph thinking that is so not true. But of course how would I know the difference? You could have been a super sl*t. Thankfully you set the record straight.

    Obviously I need to keep up with my stalking. I have not been doing so well recently – So if you look in the back row recognise anybody?

    Great story though and nice pic of Mum!

  4. You know that washing machines are supposed to churn stuff around, right? So the colour shouldn’t be streaky, it should be applied all over pretty much everywhere, in greater or lesser concentrations. That’s how I got my collection of fetching pink shirts for work.

    Congratulations on getting your mother to pose for the picture, by the way.

  5. deadlyjelly said:

    MarkJ – I have always suspected lavender is your signature scent.

    Say, how long does this post keep you off my back for? Just askin.



  6. deadlyjelly said:

    Antipo – great to hear from you! I am behind on checking out other blogs, so am looking forward to reading about your terrible revenge on your daughter. As you can tell from this post – not to mention all the others – I was a complete bitch of a teenager. Haven’t changed much. Meh.

    Of course it wasn’t ‘Layla’ we snogged through; it was ‘Wonderful Tonight’. I always get the two songs confused – no idea why, since they’re not exactly similar. ‘Wonderful Tonight’ was Our Song, until mum vandalised JP’s t-shirt. After that, whenever ‘Wonderful Tonight’ came on, JP would sit there in his shrunken, grey Eric Clapton t-shirt picking at the frayed hem and glowering at me.

    Couldn’t last.

    I so hope you enjoy Smart Casual! My dad found it ‘rather racy’ (think he was referring to the language, although he was also taken aback by the shagging on the office desk, which he would describe as kinky if he knew how to apply the word). Do let me know how you get on.


  7. deadlyjelly said:

    Cian – I was more a super tease.

    By the way, the stalking has taken a sinister turn. Digging up that photo is pure evil.


  8. deadlyjelly said:

    Vet – as I say, I have no idea how mum does it. She doesn’t like to limit herself to an even tint effect. I think sometimes she tucks scarves into pockets or ties socks into sleeves, but really you’d have to ask her.

    My mum’s a good sport all right. As evidenced by pretty much the entire post above.


  9. Cian said:

    I feel bad. I know that in the past when I posted a link it required approval (well at least there was a delay before it appeared on the blog so I assumed it was an approval step). I was expecting the same here, so that you could disapprove it and say to yourself “He is a right w^(%er, there is no way I’m letting the world see that.”

    But on the otherhand it is a rather good photo. There are very few who look as well as you do. It also adds to your story of having to wear the Light Blue shirt.

    I’ll be on my best behaviour in future…

  10. deadlyjelly said:

    Cian, empty flattery will get you . . . well, pretty far with me, usually.

    I’m pretty certain I WAS wearing my ‘white’ shirt in that photo. The headmaster must have ordered the photographer to obscure it with Jerry Twomey’s head.


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