Ironing is not one of my favourite jobs, but one day it did inspire the following poem which was published on Poetry Scotland’s Open Mouse.
Ironing Nellie’s Hanky
One hanky, edged with tatting
lies on the ironing board.
Tatting, not tat or tatty, but
lace lovingly crafted by Nellie.
The hankies I bought for her,
instructed ‘plain, nothing fancy,’
bought from ‘Hanky Man’- there each
week at Monday market.
In Nellie’s hands, they morphed
into gifts fit for a queen or princess.
She sent them too – to both. And received
letters of thanks, on their behalf.
Tissues couldn’t tell such a tale.
This hanky now ironed, lives on.
Nellie doesn’t. Eighty odd years
behind her, over sixty years of
climbing the lane to her house
that was home for generations –
in her weaver’s cottage she spent
many an evening by the window
as long as the light held – because
daylight was always best.
Hands slower, stiffer then
but still nimble enough for lace
tatting. Not tat or tatty but delicate,
full of memories knotted into each
hanky. This one lies here now
neatly pressed on my ironing board.
The Hanky Man too has gone
from the market stall.
Hankies – soon to be a part of
history, gazed at in museum cases,
mostly cotton checked or coloured
and those edged with lace.
Tatting, not tat or tatty.