Then there were the weird shopping lists — Fisherman’s Friends, Nigroids, senna pods, elderflower water, tartan slippers. “Could you just pick up a darning mushroom?” my mother would say, or a summer-weight yellow cardigan, must be Courtelle not Crimplene or Dacron. She had an encyclopaedic knowledge of man-made fibres but the names she gave me never seemed to appear on the labels.
…Shopping for my parents took me to dingy shops in far-flung suburbs where they still had stock left over from the 1950s. A new eiderdown — not on any account to be confused with a duvet — took me from north London to Southall….
Underwear was always a huge problem. My father demanded a particular sort of knitted cotton vest and longjohns that M&S eventually stopped making. I was in despair till I noticed they had some thermal underwear intended for skiing that looked much the same. “What’s this poofy rubbish?” he shouted as soon as he laid hands on it. Apparently it had a silky texture.
Wot, no Wild Swans by Jung Chang?