Yesterday I decided to clean out Aunt Dee’s ancient, gargantuan wardrobe, a task I’ve been putting off since I moved in.
I started with her jumpers: twenty-seven lamb’s-wool turtle necks, in varying shades of green, grey and plum. I packed them neatly into black sacks, keeping one in moss green and another in deep plum to remember her by. (Okay – and they’re warm – has there ever been a May this cold?)
Next were the skirts. Aunt Dee wore just two types, both made of Connemara tweed, one A-line, the other straight to the knee, with a series of kick-pleats at the hem. The kick-pleat skirts were strictly for special occasions. Heather themed colour schemes were donned for christenings or weddings, dark green and wine for anything else.
Squirreled away on a back shelf was a yellowed corset with an impossibly small waist and a couple of suspender belts that looked more like tools of torture than underwear. I cast them into the rubbish sack, my eyes straying to a small leather suitcase shoved to the back of the wardrobe.
The soft dove grey leather hissed gently across the base of the wardrobe as I slid it towards me. It was exquisite: discreet, beautiful and compact. The dull silver clasp gave a tasteful click as I pressed it and the lid whispered open.
After the muted shades of the jumpers and skirts the blast of colour was shocking - emerald green silk and peacock blue velvet, rich rich scarlet dripping with glittering gold beads. Then there was the scent: a heady blend of orange blossom and violet that whispered of hot summers and broad streets, of cocktails drunk by pools and high crisp summer skies.
The dresses sighed against my fingers as I slid them from the suitcase. We know things you don’t know, they whispered, we could tell you things you would not believe about your Aunt Dee.