Last Saturday, my favourite coat reached the grand old age of 22. Coat and I first came together on my 18th birthday. It was a gift from my Dad and Stepmum. At the time I was working on an animal rescue farm, spending lots of time outside in the cold, wet and mud, upto my eyeballs in muck. Therefore, Coat was an appropriate choice of present.
Coat is what is technically known as a waxed jacket. It's not a Barbour. You know the sort of thing - green or brown, waxy looking heavy coats. The sort of thing that city workers put over their suits for the daily commute to the office. They keep them in the back of their pristine Land Rovers for the hike to the station from the car park. That is why their coats are all nice and shiny. I think they probably get them serviced at the same time as the 4x4.
Anyway, Coat is brown. It is dull. It is patchy. It even has a couple of small holes. The tartan lining is faded. It has lived has coat. Coat smells of weather, of pubs, of tobacco, of me. The pockets contain weird and wonderful bits and pieces. A plastic survival whistle, a bottle opener / corkscrew, the lid from a bottle of Old Speckled Hen, dog biscuits slowly decaying, various empty plastic bags, ciggarette papers so old and damp they are beyond use, scraps of paper with notes and directions. All these things must have been needed at some point in time. I keep these pockets as they are, like preserving some historical tale.
I got to thinking about how old Coat was as I approached my latest birthday. I realised that Coat had journeyed with me for over half my life. And it has been the interesting half. The half when I stepped into the big bad world. The half when I discovered that I needed to change careers every five minutes. The half when I loved, lost and finally loved again.
Coat has been with me through the birth of my niece and nephew, now teenagers in New Zealand. Coat was with me when I met my wife 14 years ago. Coat has shared my happiness and at times my despair. Coat comforted me during my recovery from a motorbike accident - accompanying me as I walked the fields and lanes trying to make sense of stuff. Coat has hidden me as I wondered the dark woods on wet, wild nights crying out for answers. Coat carried my supplies, the hip flask snug in the inner pocket, the roll ups protected from the rain. Coat is like a grown up comfort blanket. When I put it on, I feel more me, if that makes sense.
Coat has seen it all - been there got the T-shirt if you like. Coat knows me like no other.
Last week, I realised with guilt that I had failed to mark Coat's 21st birthday last year. Therefore I decided to make up for it this year. Coat and I had a day out to Twickenham to watch England play New Zealand at Rugby Union. We went on the train, Coat carrying all our essentials - tickets, money, drink, food. Coat was amazed to see so many younger, shinier looking versions of itself. Coat felt old. Coat felt scruffy.
But Coat, my dear friend, you have lived so much more than these shiny upstarts. You have worked hard, you've played hard, you've comforted. Be proud, you truly are a special Coat.