Stockings and suspender belts

Today at the shops, I saw a young woman with a tattoo that brought back a few memories. The tat was of seams up (or down) the back of her legs finishing at her ankles in a pretty scroll.

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In the days when women wore nylon stockings with seams, it was a battle to get the seam to run straight up and down (or down and up) one’s legs. Add to this the likelihood of snagging the sheer nylon fabric – usually on a rough nail thereby starting a ladder. Quickly, out with the colourless nail-varnish to stop the run from ruining the stocking. Do you remember?

One benefit of stockings was, if you did ladder one, you only had to replace one. That was if you happened to have one in the same denier and the same shade. Nylon stockings were expensive so this was seldom the case – hence the use of nail-varnish at both ends of the run. Naturally, the nail-varnish went through the stocking and the stocking then stuck to your leg.

Stockings stayed up, most of the time, because of a suspender belt. I’ve just Googled ‘suspender belts, images’ and I have to say the modern suspender belt looks nothing like the chastity belt style that we used to wear! The fashionable suspender belt now is, possibly, only available from an Adult Store. They still don’t look very comfortable and the feminist in me says they are more for the “male gaze” (as per John Berger, Ways of Seeing.) Nevertheless, I found this image and if you can extrapolate a thick, unattractive cotton instead of the rather fetching lacy garment pictured, you’ll get the idea.

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At the girls-only Anglican Church school that I attended in the 1950s, we were required to wear thick lisle stockings, the colour of toffee, especially on a Sunday. Lisle stockings are not particularly suited to the subtropical climate of Africa. They were decidedly uncomfortable and invariably sagged and bagged around the ankles. Indeed, these were not the ‘sexy’ fashionable nylon stockings beloved by the women during the Second World War. Neither were the suspender belts attractive or even comfortable. They were inconvenient and, for the most part, we loathed and detested having to wear them. Add to this the regulation school bloomers, made from a thick, unforgiving cloth and, if memory serves, dark brown in colour. Tight elastic at the waist and at the top of the legs didn’t help either. If you happened to have your periods, and being an all-girls-school most of us menstruated at the same time, you then had the belt that held your sanitary napkin in place under your suspender belt and your bloomers over the top. There is no way the bloomers would fit under the suspender belt! The strategically placed hooks, front and back, on the sanitary belt were incredibly uncomfortable.

Lisle stockings also had to have the seams straight. Many times, lining up for chapel, a student would be pulled out of line by an officious prefect because the seams of her stockings were crooked. Somewhere between 1957 and 1961 we were allowed to ditch the lisle stockings and wear nylons instead. Of course the seams still had to be straight. Rules were easily breached and punishment often followed – usually out of all proportion to the misdemeanour. Punishment ranged from demerit points, writing lines, learning by heart the most boring chapters in the King James Bible to whatever else the prefect could think of to humiliate you.

Once, I was caught reading Lady Chatterly’s Lover – although carefully covered in brown paper, I was sprung. At that time the book was banned in Rhodesia but I had somehow managed to get a copy. My punishment was to read one of the chapters aloud to a group of prefects. I do believe, in retrospect, that they were more embarrassed than I was. I’m not sure why the book was not confiscated but it wasn’t and I still have it to this day!

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Stockings and suspender belts

Into the city: a memory

Digging around in the box of photos I found this one. It brought back memories of going shopping in town when I was a little girl.

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A trip into the city, or ‘going to town’, was an adventure. Mother would wear a hat, stockings and sometimes she’d wear gloves. ‘Town’ was Salisbury, the capital of Southern Rhodesia. The road from the farm to town was mostly a gravel track and if the  Makabuzi River was up over the drift, well then you turned around and went home.

This photo was taken by a street photographer. I’m not sure what the black streak is – probably ink. This is an old photograph. Mum, Graham and me walking down the street with the Christmas shopping wrapped in brown paper and tied with string.

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Graham is my oldest brother. I think going to town was not a popular occupation for either of my brothers or my older sister (my younger sister was yet to make an appearance). I was taken along willy-nilly being the baby in the family. I see my mother has a tight grip on my hand. I have been told that I would often make a dash for whatever took my interest and I had the road sense of a caterpillar. Of course I did! I lived on a farm.

In the shoe shop we put our feet in a strange looking machine and the shop assistant would peer down a tube to look at the foot bones. This was probably a form of X-Ray machine and may account for some of the foot pain that I suffer as an old woman. I’ve only just thought of that! Shoes were not high on my priority list, most of the time I was barefoot – but not in town. Never in town.

I did disappear on one shopping trip and was found under a rack of dresses. We were in Sanders, one of the original department stores in Salisbury. Mum must’ve been shopping for clothes for herself and, being thoroughly bored, I remember dragging myself around on the floor. I remember because one of the shop assistants said, “Oh, so you’re cleaning the floor for us!” I missed the sarcasm but heard something that made me want to hide. In retrospect, I think I enjoyed the fuss when nobody could find me because I did the disappearing act quite often after that, in town and on the farm.

Going home was the worst part of going to town. Mother would make us gargle with a Dettol mixture in case we had picked up any germs. I can taste that mixture just thinking about it.

 

Into the city: a memory

Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler

Ghost EmpireGhost Empire by Richard Fidler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ghost Empire ranks among the best books I’ve read this year. Richard Fidler brings to life the history of the Byzantium Empire. Many aspects of this history are mind-boggling and give the reader a deeper understanding of the present situation in Syria, Turkey, and the whole Middle East. Richard Fidler shows that, really, there is nothing new in the dreadful war situation there. The cruelty, the massacres, the subjugation of people were, it seems, always happening. Starting with Constantine who renamed Byzantium, Constantinople in his own honour in the year 330, right through to the sacking of Constantinople by the Ottoman Emperor, Mehmed, in 1453, thus bringing about the end of the Roman empire.

I originally heard about this book when Richard Fidler was interviewed (by Gillan O’Shaugnessy) on the local radio station here in Western Australia (ABC720). He explained how he and his son Joe, travelled first to Rome and then to Istanbul to follow the traces of the Byzantine Empire. How Fidler weaves the story of his travels with the history is masterful. Richard Fidler is, himself, an interviewer of note and there are many listeners who seldom miss his daily interview.

I recommend this book to anyone who may have even the slightest interest in the present situation and the conflict that affects nearly all of us one way or another.

View all my reviews

Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler

Feeling the fear

My last blog entry was not very long or interesting. However, in it I flagged a trek I did in Zimbabwe, New Year 1996/97. What is interesting (to me) is that when I had my astrological chart for 1996 drawn up, Gail told me that I would end the year on a physical high.

I was in Zimbabwe to do research for Honours. I stayed with family in Harare until Christmas and then at my brother’s farm.

After Christmas my brother and sister-in-law took me to Aberfoyle in the Honde Valley to spend New Year with a group of friends. The valley is beautiful, there are tea and coffee estates, mountains, cataracts and some pretty scary treks. The plan was to walk up to a waterfall on New Year’s Eve day. I have to say I was not keen. I’m scared of heights, snakes and rickety bridges and ladders. Nevertheless, I said, “Yes!” After all, what did I have to lose?

 

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A recent photo of Aberfoyle in the Honde Valley (thanks Fen)

Mozambique is a stone’s throw away. The countryside was (and probably still is) wild and woolly.

The first part of the path was not difficult but quite soon it became rugged, broken and uneven. The first crossing seemed to be reasonably easy … although, as you can see, I was a tad apprehensive (that’s me hanging back, arms akimbo, thinking about giving it a go). The bridge was wobbly but not as wobbly as some of the others that we crossed.

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Made it!

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This crossing was a question of balance and hanging on for dear life.

Then there were ladders that had to be climbed to get to the next level …

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There were cataracts to be crossed, wet and slippery and so damn exciting!

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The destination was an amazing cataract but I have to admit that by this stage my courage had deserted me so I waited on the other side while braver friends crossed over the final bridge and stood under the waterfall. I was, if I remember, shaking from the exertion and the adrenaline.

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Not forgetting that as we went up, so we had to come down again …

Later that evening we celebrated New Year and I danced until I fell down on the floor, totally exhausted. Someone took this photo of me and I’m grateful because how often do you get such a candid shot of yourself? And for those who thought I was dead and/or drunk – I wasn’t!

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And then most of us jumped into the pool and had a swim.

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Aberfoyle 1996/97

It took me days to come down from the high and I made a vow to myself that I would in future say “Yes” if these frightening adventures were offered. Life is too short (or too long?) to be sitting home and turning into a couch potato.

Unfortunately I have no way of crediting the photographers. My camera decided to stop working and never worked again, ever. I do thank you all for your photos and for my sister-in-law and my friend, Fenella, for passing on the photos to me. Twice. I lost the first lot and only found them again recently.

 

 

 

Feeling the fear

On being a …

Friday and I haven’t fulfilled my commitment to write up my blog this week. I made some notes through the week and had some ideas. Now, most of those ideas seem weak and not worth the effort.

I thought about when I was mugged. I decided that it brought back too many uncomfortable memories so I ditched that idea.

I thought of writing about being a dotty old woman (which I undoubtably am) but my stories of thinking of something new to do everyday – one of which included getting out of bed head first (and nearly knocking myself out) may be true but may not be credible. So, I ditched that idea.

I thought of writing about earning a doctorate. That is plain boring. Ditched.

Then I thought of an amazingly wonderful trek I did in Zimbabwe some 20 years ago. Yes! Bingo! That would work, but I’m not going to do that because I can’t find the photos. It was New Year 1996/1997 and I was in the Honde Valley with my brother and sister-in-law. I will write about this, but not this week.

Watch this space

 

On being a …

Astrology, fortune telling and real life

Blogging is quite difficult. Short blogs seem better than longer ones but sometimes longer blogs are required.

Next week I will have been married to the same man for 53 years. In anyone’s book this is a long time. A life time. I could witter on for quite a long blog but I’m not going to. Here’s a photo of the bride and groom. So young, so callow …

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Years ago, in Australia, I went to a Chinese astrologer. This dear old man told me that, because in Chinese astrology I was a monkey and Roland was a tiger, there was no hope for our marriage. He then asked for our Western astrological signs – a bull and a scorpion. Even worse! He was flabbergasted when I told him how long we had been married. I think at that stage we had been married about 25 years. Oh well, you can’t be right every time.

In South Africa, a Greek lady once read my fortune in coffee grounds. She was quite accurate about my history – possibly because her daughter was a friend of mine. I can’t really remember what she had to say about my future and, in the event, it would all happen as it happened anyway.

Even further back I had a reading done by a strange man who was more concerned with how I pulled faces when I spoke (I do, I know I do). He was also concerned that I should pay him immediately. I remember nothing that he said but I do remember that he was pretty creepy.

There was one astrologer I visited annually, here in Western Australia. She would draw up my star charts and her readings were usually excellent. She would tape the reading and give me the tape. Her readings for the year ahead were quite specific and accurate. I was sorry when she stopped her work as an astrologer and went to uni to do a psych degree. I imagine she would have excelled as a clinical psychologist.

Many of the times I visited soothsayers, astrologists, fortune tellers and the like was when I was in a state of flux. When I was at the crossroads, so to speak. I can remember sending a friend a cartoon of myself standing at the crossroads with signs pointing north, south, east and west. This last weekend when I was at a mindfulness retreat I drew a picture of myself with many pathways leading who knows where. In my drawing I’m heading off the page following a magpie. You’d know it was me because of my purple top and dark sunnies.

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I’ve learned now that life keeps on whoever I consult. I make decisions which may be right and may be faulty but I do what I do.

Astrology, fortune telling and real life