I am an occasional collector of supermarket promotional stamps. If it’s pyrex or wine glasses, I’m in there collecting coupons like a nutter. But most of the time I can take them or leave them.
During the summer last year, Tesco had a bit of a funny one on the go. It was a seemingly random collection of bed linen, towels, candles and something else with a bit of bamboo in it. But there was one particular item that caught my eye – a white, Egyptian cotton towelling bathrobe with a hood, the kind that you associate with a really posh spa day and see yourself melting into after a massage and a trip to the sauna.
My own dressing gown was at least five years old and although I loved it, it was a grey manky piece of crap at that stage so it really needed to go. My heart was set on the shiny new one. I pictured myself emerging from the steam of the shower into this hot press-warmed loveliness. All summer long I collected the stamps. I thought we might get his and hers, but himself was not as crazy keen as me so by the end of August I had enough to get the discount.
I was chuffed with myself when I got it home. It was long enough to go right down to my ankles. It was exactly the texture and weight I had anticipated. I lovingly took it out of the packet and stuck it in its own private, unadulterated washing machine cycle and then gave it the chauffeur-driven option in the tumble dryer. It emerged warm and bouffant.
I saved it up for after my shower the next day when there’d be time to flounce around in my new dressing gown for breakfast. I slinked around the house in it and gaily laughed around the place like a stock image mother surrounded in ridiculous amounts of impractical white.
I lost the run of myself then and allowed the toilet training small boy – who was flitting around pantsless – sit on my knee. We giggled and tickled like carefree catalogue models. And there the fantasy ended. Suddenly, a fresh stench of shite rent the air. I didn’t even have to look. I knew in my heart of hearts that my beautiful, fluffy, white dressing gown had been christened in only the way a garment of a mother can be. It was as if it was a reminder of my station.
“This is why you can’t have nice things, mam”.