Monday, May 3, 2010

When quilts were continental

I was the first person to have one in my family, in my extended family, perhaps on the whole of the Harebreaks Estate. I speak of a duvet. Except in 1971 it wasn't a duvet, it was a continental quilt; a name which evokes how radical the duvet was in bedding terms. Yes, in the early 70s the now ubiquitous duvet was as foreign and sophisticated as Edith Piaf, existentialism, baguettes and spaghetti bolognese.

My continental quilt was much admired with people coming from miles around to see this new, European alternative to Welsh blankets and a candlewick bedspread. Look now easy it is to make the bed, they exclaimed. How do you put the cover on? Or behind their hands, why was my mother engaging with this Frenchie nonsense, wasn't it bad enough that we were in the Common Market without having to take on their strange quilts.

The reason I was the pioneer in duvet terms was my asthma. My mother quite rightly thought it would be better for me than blankets and the aforementioned candlewick bedspread. Of course the fact that my sister, who shared a bedroom and therefore dust mites with me, still used the bedding of the ancien regime was not lost on our parents and soon she too was sleeping like a European.

From there, or so it seemed to me, continental quilt use grew exponentially and they morphed into the duvet. No longer continental but actually quite British now. The duvet had swam La Manche, dragged itself soggily on to the beach and found a place in the heart of we Brits. Even my grandmother gave up her traditional Welsh blankets for one, sad really as today they would be ultra chic.

Today we are so much part of a global culture that those times when continental quilts were outre, Vesta meals the height of daring foreign cuisine, Angel Delight was a treat and we still had the remains of an air raid shelter in our garden seem in many ways as distant as the nineteenth century. Yes, we are all continental now and I like to think my little duvet lead the way, in our family at least. So Vive La Duvet!

No comments: