A
 
Web www.artsmart.co.za
A R T S M A R T
arts news from kwazulu-natal

miscellaneous news
www.artsmart.co.za
enquiries@artsmart.co.za
 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
 

NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MUSINGS OF A MEANDERING MIND #14 (article first published : 2006-05-8)

By sheer chance, I caught a wonderfully witty film on television not too long ago titled Bright Young Things, sporting a fine cast including the likes of John Mills, Peter O’Toole, Stockard Channing, and Richard E Grant, among others. Set in the era of the flappers, the main characters formed a set who were never without the makings of a good cocktail, no matter where they found themselves, even beside a friend’s hospital bed after she’s been the victim of a car accident, and has begun to lose her mind. After a quick raid of her beside locker a fine old bash takes place - in the mental ward! - when her pals come to visit.

This was a period in time when men thought nothing of dancing together as records were spun on old-style gramophones whilst the ladies sported long cigarette-holders, and even longer strings of beads, wearing vamp-like hairstyles and make-up, and sniffing cocaine at the drop of a hat. Their world was a mixture of formality and frivolity, where vulgar amounts of cash were spent on booze and gambling, be it of the horse or the horse-power variety! The storyline poked fun at the fashions of the era and the snobbish attitudes to getting the guest-list JUST right for a weekend gathering or a single night of fun.

The highly atmospheric soundtrack includes some Noel Coward and other similar musicians of the period, and there’s a most amusing party scene where an Angel Chorus performs a gospel-type song most enthusiastically, with the Finchley Children’s Music Group energetically singing, Jesus, He’s our Guy! – a very funny scene indeed, poignantly pointing up the contrasts in those hedonistic times.

All through the unfolding of the tale of these young folk, with their risqué behaviour and ridiculously frivolous lives, one observes an almost careless approach to the manner in which money changes hands, in particular towards the end, in the form of bribery, lending an ironic twist to the happy ending.

I could not help but compare their youth to my own upbringing, post the Second World War, where money was hard-earned, and our home revolved around rules, rites and rituals. Whilst our Dad was away doing his patriotic duty (including a four-year stint in a POW camp), Mum worked two jobs in order to pay off the house we lived in, and once he returned home she continued to find ways in which to stretch a Pound (and later a Rand) as far as possible. Her old-fashioned Singer sewing machine would whirr away well into the wee hours, all my clothes and those of my sister being home-made, right down to our school uniforms as well as our white cotton panties!

I still recall with huge embarrassment the time, early into my high school years that Dad was transferred in his job and I had to change schools in the last term of the year. The old school had red PT (Physical Training) uniforms for sport; the new school wore black. With only two and a half months to the end of the year, I was told there’d be no unnecessary expenditure until the December bonus could provide for new uniforms so, while the rest of the girls in my class sported their black tunics on the sports field, there was I, a tad on the plump side (which didn’t help matters in the least), standing out glaringly in my bright red, and with home-made bloomers underneath to boot!

Then there came the time I was permitted to take a vacation-time job and earn some spending money, which allowed me a much more generous allowance for clothing than my pocket-money had done to date, and I splurged it all in one fell swoop by purchasing a dozen pairs of trousers in Helenca, the fabric that was all the rage at the time, and then a dozen knitted tops in colours to match in every beautiful shade of the rainbow. However, since the Helenca clung to every curvaceous part of one’s lower half, I was promptly marched back to the store to exchange them for less revealing trousers, much to my dismay and annoyance.

In my teens I had this thing for wearing white on Sundays, and this was fine with the parents when it came to going to church but I was told in no uncertain terms that sitting on the front porch (our house faced onto a busy highway) in my white slacks pulled over a bright red bathing suit was definitely out of the question!

When it came to clothes for special occasions, I counted myself fortunate that Mom would happily run me up a new frock for a party or for an outing with the others with whom I attended Methodist Guild functions. However, one Saturday afternoon as she was sewing to a deadline and I was doing my maths homework with a school buddy of the male species, she called me into my bedroom for a fitting and, while I was standing there with pins sticking into me every which way I turned, said school-friend came out from a visit to the bathroom to admire the work-in-progress on my fitted form. To my extreme embarrassment, Mom chased him out by flicking a magazine at his bottom, exhorting him vehemently that A gentleman never wandered into a lady’s boudoir! Oh, my poor scorching red cheeks. It took ages to live that one down amongst my peers when my friend related the tale to all and sundry at school on Monday morning!

In 1964 I started my first real job and on my first pay-day I came home with a beautiful black evening coat with a fur-trimmed collar. Mom took once look at me prancing in front of my bedroom mirror and enquired how I could possibly have afforded such a luxury on my meagre salary. When I told her I’d opened a six-month account and would be paying it off I was informed in no uncertain terms that in OUR household we operated on a Cash Only basis, and was promptly frog-marched back to the store where, with me hanging my head in shame, Mother explained to the manageress that she insisted on the garment being returned and that I would come back for it only when I could afford to pay for it in full! (Needless to say, I didn’t show my face in that particular store again for AGES.) To this day I avoid buying on account, Mom’s rules having been well ingrained in me in my formative years.

Well, I’d say there’s a strong possibility that my obsession with colour co-ordinating from a young age might have something to do with the fact that my own daughter turned out to be a fashion designer – albeit only of sportswear to date – and has built up a fine career in that field. She often points to ancient snaps in family photograph albums and comments on how her outfits were so well colour-matched even while attending kindergarten. Of course, these days people find it fashionable to wear labels all over their clothing, as well as on all their accessories, and some of the names in her range are VERY familiar to the young folk of today. Yet personally my own taste is of the old-fashioned variety, and it goes against the grain somewhat for me to wear branding – but then again maybe it’s that strict upbringing coming into play, where one didn’t flash one’s money around, probably because there wasn’t that much to GO around!

Said generous and devoted daughter recently returned from a business trip to London with, among many other superb treats, a marvellous Harrods shopper for me, which is remarked upon wherever I go – yet for me the greatest delight (apart from its sturdy construction, and well-thought-out waterproof lining and zipper for personal items) is that it’s in GREEN, not so much that it bears the enviable golden Harrods lettering!

And I have to say that to this day I still love colour co-ordinating my outfits, in spite of the fact I had to return those twelve pairs of Helenca slacks! - Bev Pulé




 A current news
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
letters to the editor
home page
archives A
crafts - dance - drama - film & tv - literature
music - supper theatre - visual arts
miscellaneous news - festivals
a co-production by caroline smart services and .durbanet. site credits
copyright © subsists in this page. all rights reserved. [ edit ] copyright details  artsmart