Do you remember those funny little glass domed things with an Eiffel tower inside which when you shook them looked as if they were in a snow storm? They were magic for at least five minutes which is about the time any souvenir should last. Well I searched and searched but came to the conclusion that lack of snow in the desert played roughshod over those dear little flakes of snow. But I couldn’t even buy minarets in a dust storm. The next problem was who to give a souvenir to, with 21 grandchildren, 6 children and at least 2 or is it 3 friends. It would be an expensive business even at 1000som each (about 30p).
But I do love most of my family, given a magic wand I’d give them all flowing silk robes in fantastic patterns with glorious linings. Josephs technicolour coat was clearly made in Bukhara. Sophie was outrageously liberated. She bought a wonderful jacket for herself, at least another four jackets, some bread boards and some ceramics. And she fitted them all in her suitcase without a worry. The more she bought the more anal retentive I became. Mind you the Russian blockers I bought for upset insides might have added to my discomfort.
I thought it through carefully while standing in a primitive silk factory. Lilla lives in Oregon, I don’t suppose she’s ever worn silk in her life, she’s borderline hippy and I love her to bits. Then there’s Emily, permanently exhausted and inclined to wear shapeless clothes with a large black cardigan on top. But she has job interviews, could she be seen in an exotic jacket? Of course she could. And Fleur, who dresses for her flowers, well you cant dig in silk. But Fleur too, is also whizzing around and a silk jacket could be just the thing. As for Louise, she has frighteningly firm tastes – not necessarily good taste but quite definitely taste. I wouldn’t dare choose anything for her. Well perhaps a length of silk she can always turn into a table cloth or give away to the church bazaar if it offends. Patterns are out, Fleur would snort, Louise despair and Emily feel obliged to wear. Nice bright stripes, enough to make a jacket.
Fast forward, Bukhara, a silk shop with a sewing machine. Would she be able to make two jackets in 4 days? What if they hate them? What if they don’t fit? What about Lilla? What if Louise doesn’t want naff silk. Oh the insecurities. All my family can share them around, its the idea that counts after all. What size? Panic, not as big as me but bigger than Sophie, who is very tall and skinny. Four days later there they are, really rather lovely and frighteningly silkish.
“Now what about you?” Sophie asks. I jump in alarm.
“Me” I squeak. We have seen such simple factories, it is almost my duty to buy. Sophie has already generously bought me a lovely top in colours I’d never choose for myself. I shuffle, look at my toes and remind her I only buy my clothes at Charity shops. She says “and it looks like it” and I give in.
When no one is looking I buy a pair of gathered trousers, I forget to bargain. Oh no, but the trauma fades, the jackets are packed. Oh lor, what have I done? Not bought a thing for the grandchildren, Lilla or the boys. Should I worry, but there again, I’ve never subscribed to the theory you should treat all your children equally. I believe in families not individuals.