Years ago, in the halcyon days when 'sans enfants' was a fact of life rather than an occasional something that needed to be planned (meticulously) and paid for (exorbitantly), The Bearded One and I shouldered our rucksacks and 'went travelling': a journey home to Sydney for Christmas became a RTW trip that took in Nepal, India, Malaysia and South America. From trekking through the Himalayas to climbing Bolivia's highest mountain, we really did nothing that thousands of middle-class kids hadn't done before us, but boy did we feel adventurous.
With hindsight, however, probably the most adventurous thing I did on that trip was to not only buy an alpaca fur hat from a vendor hawking by the rails of the high-altitude railway from Cuzco to Lake Titicaca, but to wear it, without a scrap of irony, when I got back to London. I thought it gave me a certain Bond Girl quality: kind of Anna Karenina, kind of Russian spy.
Kind of stupid, my friend the Coal-Eating Geordie told me bluntly, between polishing off pints of lager and sucking back on Marlboro Lights with evident relish. I ignored her: she wore skater-girl jeans and had an odd running style. But as more and more people came out of the woodwork to express their doubts about my sartorial wisdom, and the weather started to brighten up, the hat was put away; the next winter was spent in Australia in cold-weather avoidance and the hat was forgotten.
Until moving house and the inevitable wardrobe cull unearthed it: no way was I getting rid of it. I donned it for the amusement of the children, a riotous game of "What's the Time, Mr Wolf?" ensued, and my alpaca hat found a new home in the dressing-up basket.
A recent obsession with The Wizard of Oz has seen it take on a new incarnation: The Princess, aka Dorothy, has sparkly crimson pumps that pass muster as ruby slippers while Master C is the Lion, with a mane so fabulous that any imagined lack of courage must surely be amply compensated by sheer fluffy glamour. And, just like his mother (aka The Good Witch, The Wicked Witch or Aunty Em, as necessity dictates) back in the days before warm weather and mockery took over, he wears it in public without a trace of self-consciousness. It's such a regular part of his dress now that I barely even register it any more - so I was a bit bemused to notice people hanging out of car windows and smiling widely as we stood at the traffic lights to cross to the Natural History Museum last week. Only when I laid my hand on his head to keep him back from the road did I get the mild shock of fur and the realisation that no, I hadn't forgotten to pull my top back down after The Bub's last feed.
Despite the soaring temperatures, the hat stayed on as Master C faced the T-Rex with a roar and the declaration that he'd "got his courage back now". The smiles from strangers followed us all day; my own grew broader and broader, never more so than when my boy went running up to the glass-cased lion saying, in a friendly manner, "Hello Lion! You got mane, me got mane too!!" I've always imagined The Princess wearing my fashion mistakes and triumphs in years to come; I don't think I ever imagined that my heart would swell quite so much at the sight of a child of mine in a piece of dead alpaca.