There comes a day, usually around November, when handkerchiefs become a necessity. The sort of day when, even if you start off with a clean handkerchief in your pocket, it soon becomes evident to anyone watching that you urgently need a fresh one. It's at such times that the question has to be asked - where do handkerchiefs hide?
I had sudden need of handkerchiefs over the weekend. A proper handkerchief, that is, not a flimsy paper one-blow disposable. First I used the handkerchief in my pocket. Then I rifled through the pocket of another pair of trousers, and found a second. Then I extracted the handkerchief from my work trousers, and used that. And then I ran out.
I must have more handkerchiefs than that, I thought. There was that Christmas when someone gave me a really dull, yet surprisingly practical, set of six - they must be somewhere. And the rest, my historical accumulation, where had they gone? Still tucked into old pockets, I assumed, hidden deep in various pairs of trousers I never wear any more. But no, not there either. Nor in some cupboard drawer. Not anywhere. I appeared to have survived until now on only three handkerchiefs, repeatedly re-laundered, and now I'd been caught short.
So I thought I'd go shopping after work for handkerchiefs. There being no shops in my part of Bow which might sell any, I headed instead to Stratford, the major retail centre hereabouts. And I hunted, and I hunted. Most major shopping centres have a department store or BHS or M&S (or the like) where handkerchiefs are definitely sold. Not Stratford. Or perhaps a market, with nasal-friendly cotton goods on a stall. Not Stratford. Erm, surely somewhere here sells proper handkerchiefs.
I would obviously have gone to Woolworths, had this been more than two years ago, but alas that option no longer exists. I tried Wilkinson, purveyors of cheap bulk goods. No, they only had stacks of Kleenex. I tried Poundstretcher, which is like Woolworths but for less affluent people. No, their assistant simply smiled at me when I asked. Surely somewhere in this godforsaken town must sell something as simple as handkerchiefs? My dribbly nose couldn't wait until Westfield arrives.
Eventually I ventured into Peacocks, the "value fashion retailer", and hunted through the racks of gents winterwear. I spotted some eventually at the back of the store, a pack of five, in amongst an unlikely display of shiny hats and pointy shoes. This section purveyed the sort of merchandise that aspiring JLS wannabes would snap up, and had the none-too inspiring brand name of 'Urban Spirit'. But hey, needs must. Four quid.
Two of my new handkerchiefs are plain, and I'm going to use those first. The other three have a jaunty geometric pattern, a bit like someone chopped up a tablecloth into small squares (because presumably that's what hip X Factor rejects sport these days). I'll use those only when I get desperate... which should be around three o'clock this afternoon. Then I bet they go missing too, soon enough, lost in some bottomless pocket or dark corner of the linen basket. Or wherever handkerchiefs hide.