When rugs were rugs

Ah – do ye remember when a rug was a rug and not a hair piece? When the back seat of every car in Ireland was covered in a rug or, at the very least, every car boot in Ireland had one tucked away for emergencies. When picnic rugs were part and parcel of a day at the beach or a walk in the fields or an afternoon by the river. Back in the days when simplicity was king, attention spans were longer, and people had interesting things to say. Back before we needed to be plugged in to function. Remember those classic old tartan rugs with the fringes that you could plait and unplait? Or the fancier herringbone ones that lived on the back of couches or over the arm of an easy chair, just begging for a cold winter’s evening? Or the rugs than seemed to come free with every wheelchair and stick like a second skin to very old person you knew?  [Sweet mother of Divine Jesus, when did I get so old?]

And then rugs were cast aside, unceremoniously, in favor of the fancier-sounding ‘throws’ or the ubiquitous duvets. Fashion crept in and things had to coordinate. We started to value things for how they looked rather than for what they accomplished. Tough, sturdy wool was relegated to the back of wardrobes or the attic in favour of softer, synthetic materials. Fashion won out and the only rugs being sold were made of human hair and came with a free pot of Brylcream. But now, as we find ourselves dusting the cobwebs off sensible words like frugal, hard-wearing and solid, rugs are making a comeback. At Bath Farmers Market recently, Amanda Bell from Featherbed Trading was doing great business where tradition and fashion merge using bright colours and contemporary design. Had I not been travelling with RyanAir…

An aunt of mine, God rest her, the proud owner of a selection of tartan squares, was very fond of wrapping me up and proclaiming me ‘snug as a bug in a rug’. Apparently, this originated with Benjamin Franklin in 1769 and he later went onto use the same phrase in a letter to a female friend whose squirrel (which he called Skuggs) had died, suggesting the following epitath (1772):

Here Skugg
Lies snug
As a bug
In a rug.

I think it’s now official. Am losing my mind. If I can get this nostalgic about a squirrell and a rug, think of what a stick of rock would do for me…

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