A writing weekend in Herefordshire. A long time ago. Most of us had to share a room. I arrived first, unpacked and hung my beautiful kimono behind the bathroom door. This kimono, black with striking embroidered butterflies, always made me feel elegant, tall. I am not tall.
The room allotted to me and my as yet unmet room-mate looked out over a wide valley of polythene "lakes", under which strawberries were nestling. The polythene was dazzling in the sun, and as I turned away to avoid being blinded the door flew open and Geraldine arrived, throwing her case down, running about and exclaiming with delight over the wide view, the bars of chocolate and bottles of wine plus Honesty Box provided, the space. She bounced twice on the bed then raced into the bathroom to inspect that too. A joyful shriek of delight followed her, then out she came, wearing my kimono.
"Look at the robes they provide here!" she squealed "Aren't they fab?!"
It was very hard to tell her it was mine and that the provided robes were those underneath, those white towelling robes that, though comfortable, make everyone look a fat white cocoon... For a moment her face was so crestfallen I found myself almost wanting to give the kimono to her.
Now I wish I had: Geraldine died two years later, quite unexpectedly, of breast cancer. When I was ill myself with ovarian cancer this kimono was the one thing that helped me retain my sense of dignity. It helped me walk tall, even when I was quaking inside.
I so wish I had given poor Geraldine the means of walking tall.