Advice · Home life · Notes from West London

In praise of duvet covers

In the late 1970s my mother made a household change that affected all five of us (my father and her; my brother and sister and me: the three of us were teenagers at the time). She replaced our traditional bedding of sheets and blankets with duvets and duvet covers. Although this switch was made during the summer, I caught a cold within a week of sleeping under a duvet for the first time. By the winter I knew how they worked, and had learnt that if you wrap yourself up in them you can keep a whole lot warmer than with sheets and blankets.

This lifestyle change, which my mother introduced over 40 years ago, means that we have a wide selection of duvet covers. We have just about enough doubles, and far more singles than we need. Over the years I have taken to travelling with a single duvet cover on the rare occasions when I spend nights away from home and am not staying in a hotel. I brought one with me to my college reunion in 2017, and when I travelled to a funeral in Ireland in 2019. Both times I had a regular, single bed, with clean bedding, but I wrapped myself up in my duvet cover anyway. On the latter occasion I was sleeping at my cousins’ house, in the room that my aunt had died in a few days earlier. I was pleased to be wrapped up in the familiar smell of our brand of laundry capsules for the night.

I mention all this to offer the following piece of advice: if you have to sleep in an unfamiliar environment for a night or two, bring an empty duvet cover with you so you can wrap yourself up in it if necessary. It won’t take up much room in your luggage. Many years ago, I read something similar in a travel supplement, something along the lines of “Things I wish someone had told me … ” For more adventurous travellers on a budget, who might end up staying in very basic accommodation in far-flung parts of the world, invest in a 100% silk sleeping bag liner. No matter where you end up for the night, if you zip yourself into one of these things no bugs will be able to work their way inside. Or if you’re used to sleeping in silk sheets, I guess this will give you the same feeling while you’re on the road. These silk liners fold down to nothing, and cost about 40 quid, apparently.

Last week I worked out another use for an empty duvet cover, which I am keen to share with you. We took another trip to the stretch of the Thames that we swam in earlier this month, as noted here. For almost my entire life, every time I have got changed into a swimming costume in public, I have done that awkward thing of wrapping a towel around my middle and wriggling around to get changed out of my clothes and into my trunks, or vice versa. I have worn a towelling robe at times, at swimming pools and on the beach in Spain. The robe makes the process of getting changed slightly less awkward, but my brother tells me that it makes me look like a Bond villain. This time, by the river, I got changed under a duvet cover. I stood up, pulled the cover over my head and stretched it down to the ground, with the poppers at my feet. You have so much freedom to remove your clothing and get into your swimwear, or to remove your swimwear, dry yourself, get dressed again, and still keep under cover. It’s like you’re wearing a cubicle. Last time we went to the river my children paddled but didn’t swim. This time all three of us swam, and all three of us got changed, one after the other, in privacy, with the aid of a duvet cover. It’s such a simple way of getting dry and back into your clothes. I wish someone had told me about it years ago.

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