We went away for a few days and stayed in a lovely place – a beautiful room, lovely large en-suite, everything you could possibly want – and more – and best of all, a really comfy bed. each of us had two pillows and for some reason which I can’t remember, I decided to use both mine although normally I only have one or none… Why? Why did I think I would have two pillows? They were lovely pillows in very pretty pillowslips, but unfortunately I now have a bit of a stiff neck.

I got to thinking about pillows… have people always slept with something under their heads? I usually actually have my own arm or hand under my head and would people from earliest times have done this, or used a nicely shaped bit of wood, pile of leaves, animal skin? Do people all across the world use pillows? I actually don’t know!

On investigation, – Wikipedia – it seems that the word originates from pulvinas a Latin term for pillow or cushion. Ancient people from Mesopotamia and from Egypt and had pillows – which helped prevent shoulder and neck pain happening while sleeping – well, yes… but why didn’t earlier people also have things beneath their heads for the same reason –  my nicely shaped bit of wood, pile of leaves, animal skin? Also having your head lifted off the ground stops things getting into you mouth, nose, eyes, ears while you’re asleep.

I can imagine that people would have a favourite thing to act as a pillow, and wrapping a piece of animal skin, or soft tree bark, or big leaf round it would keep it altogether so you would wake up with the same nice thing beneath your bonce as when you went to sleep. Once cloth and fabric was being made it’s only a short step from a bag to a pillow slip. When there is something to contain whatever you’re putting your head on, the option increase – grass, hay, leaves, wool, feathers… These days of course we have all sorts of artificial fibres and foams – and many people have a particular filling they prefer, and a particular density of filling.

When I was very little, I remember my grandmothers having bolsters – these are long double pillows which would stretch across a bed for two people, and then extra pillows would go on top. When I had to share a bed with cousins a bolster was put down the middle to stop us kicking each other… which looking back on it seems a bit strange since I don’t remember fighting or kicking any of them!! However, one thing I don’t remember is pillow-fights… maybe we were good little children!

Bonce… bonce means head but where does that come from? No-one seems to know, just another funny English word!




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