Masks – how topical and controversial, if medical grade PPE and face coverings are the issue. Is this the first time in recorded history or in living memory that hiding behind something has become such a bone of contention?

Is the mask supply adequate? Is the grade appropriate? Do those who should have them, have them when they need them? If not, why not? Is everything that can be done being done? Such questions have dominated every discussion and news bulletin for several weeks. If we have not been directly affected, or even indirectly because of concern for a relative or friend who faces the very real risk if they don’t have the protection, there is no doubt we have been made aware of the controversy.

Closer to home, all of us Hunkerin’ Doon have been receiving mixed messages about the efficacy of any mask we might be inclined to use because of potential benefits suggested by some, or not, because some say they can cause more trouble then they are worth.

Oh dear! By the time #vulnerable age is reached, a decision making process has been devised, and the learned acceptance that if help is required to reach the best decision, it needs to be sought and is usually willingly given. Or just occasionally it might be best to do what is asked of us, whether we wholeheartedly agree or not, and argue about it after the event if we feel argument is justified. Undoubtedly it is much easier to follow the rules if the directions are clear and interpretation unequivocal. So where does that leave us with the decision to wear what have now lost their identity as masks and have become face coverings?

Given that it was initially recommended, before it became compulsory, to close pubs, theatres and every other place, my guess is that face coverings now recommended for certain situations, will become compulsory before long. I have no difficulty with that, but trying to decide style and form has demanded a great deal of attention. My hoarded material stash was passed on ages ago and was put to very good use, so with high threadcount cotton allegedly a good choice, the obvious source for me was the linen cupboard.

There’s a shelf in there with white folded somethings which have been undisturbed for some time. On top of the pile was a sheet, so worn in the middle that my Granny would have said “it’s that thin ye could read the Bible through it”. But she would not have tucked it away for some forgotten purpose. It would have been cut up its length and the unworn sides turned inwards and joined up. A necessary thrifty hack to get more use, but a less than comfortable sleep with a lumpy French seam down the middle of the bed.

It meant the framed photographs and lace cover were temporarily relocated, the polished wooden top taken off, and a pirn of the appropriate colour dug out of the workbox. I marveled at the mysteries of that treasured Singer and learned the precise feet on treadle rhythm, not with cloth to sew but with a paper bag and no thread to get tangled in the bullet shaped shuttle. Remembering the sound evokes plenty of her making do and mending, as it was then. Hacks were sore bits you got on your knees in the winter. I fell heir to that machine and it went in part-exchange for an equally coveted Singer Electric, portable allegedly, but weighing a ton. That machine had an interesting history of its own, but it had too long and too far a journey to relate here. Suffice to say Granny’s legacy lives on.

Next on the linen pile was a bolster case of excellent quality and in such good nick that I doubt if it has ever been used. I have no recollection of using a bolster. Maybe it was an engagement or wedding present, like the Irish linen so called ‘housewife’s pillowcases’ and ‘embossed’ table cloths at the bottom of the pile. Anyway, decision made to go with the bolster case, all that remains is to decide which YouTube instructions to follow. For now , it looks as if we will all be hunkerin” doon for a while yet, so not in any real rush.

Masks used to mean Hallowe’en. The smell of burning candle inside a hollowed oot neep was one to make you glad it only happened once a year! The masks were homemade too, and it was just luck if the holes we cut actually lined up with our eyes. Those very ornate eye coverings on sticks must have added a bit of a frisson to flirtations at masked balls, but the closest I came to one of those fancy creations was in a tourist shop during a visit to Venice.

Then there is the facemask of a totally different nature which may be familiar to some.  I gave up on those when the stubborn particles of hardened concoction got lodged in the laughter lines and the rubbing to remove them undid the scarcely discernable difference the whole messy performance had made.

Putting a good face on it is something we have all done from time to time. That may be another contentious issue for further discussion at another time. The potential benefit of doing that or whether it creates more trouble than it is worth, may be debatable. The song dictates we should “Smile tho’ your heart is aching” but it might beg the questions “Why should we or why would we?”. No doubt we all have our own opinions on that in the same way we have our own thoughts on face coverings.

So, I will get my modern, – well maybe not so modern at 15 years old – machine threaded up to fashion coverings to meet current demands, hoping the adage that genuine smiles are in the eyes is inarguable. Otherwise, how will we know that our friends are really pleased to see us when we finally meet again.

What a strange world it has become. I understand that there is now a global shortage of elastic. Well I’m okay. Together with her machine, I inherited, but could never bring myself to part with, Granny’s workbox. Within there is a card of what the faded label says is 1yd. knicker elastic. Dare I say it will do at a stretch? An advantage of being #vulnerable age is we are allowed to use terrible puns.

That may be controversial!

5 thoughts on “Masks

  1. I guess using knicker elastic that must be heading for being over 60 years old would be safe enough on a mask, but maybe best not to depend on it to have enough strength left to secure any other garments.
    I too have been making masks but with Indian cotton brought back from Kerala many years ago to make lungis for the males in the family which they opted not to wear . Cant think why! Fortunately the material has lain discarded in the back of a cupboard till now, another long forgotten item only resurrected when boredom of lockdown got the better of me and I had a clear out. Only trouble now is what I do with all the other long forgotten stuff. Maybe it would have been better to have left it all where it was.


    1. Point taken re elastic! I remember the time we spent selecting the best lungi to suit everyone – I think Mike used the cotton to make the African equivalent. In my view, some stuff is better left where it is until the charity shops open again.


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