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A red polka dot handkerchief is as much part of me as the broad Somerset accent that I carry.

 

You will see in many photo’s puppies carrying a red polka dot handkerchief.  I roll them up and use them to see if the pup will retrieve naturally.

 

They are soft and the way I tie them gives the pups an easily managed retrieve that has a couple of floppy ears.  They love them.

 

I have used one for years, before they became the fashionable item for city gents to carry when visiting the countryside.

 

The coloured handkerchief is part of ‘working class’ folklore.

 

Kids would often tie their valuables in one; they were used to tie around the neck when the wind was icy cold, ( I still do this), and often as a bandage to protect a scuffed knee.

 

When I left school at 15 I went to work in the shoe factory with my Father.  One of my first jobs was to take around the “repairs”.

 

It was at this time that I was introduced to Snuff.

 

Snuff, for those of you that are unaware, is powdered tobacco that is inhaled through the nostrils. Every shoe maker had a ‘snuff box’ and it was customary when you approached his bench to accept a pinch of snuff if you were offered.

It was a filthy habit but one that many of the old timers were addicted to.  It soon became apparent why they carried coloured hankies as when they blew their nose a white hanky would soon be badly stained.

 

I hated the stuff.  If you had too much it would send your head spinning and make your eyes stream.  This of course caused great amusement to the hardened snuff takers and I’ve seen many a kid unable to stand after taking snuff.

 

So I, like everyone else working on the bench in the factory, carried a red handkerchief with white spots.

 

Unlike today they were cheap and readily available, now they are a fashion item for the ‘well to do’ as part of their country uniform.

 

I am very proud of my upbringing and my roots, when I use these handkerchiefs I often reminisce and smile.

 

Wonderful warm memories of old characters and a time that was much simpler than life is today.

 

The Red Hanky

 

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