Saturday, December 12, 2009

CRAVING A CORSET 14th installment

Sarah Maclean, Margaret's mother, Flo's grandmother, from a tintype from 1840's?? altered a bit in Corel Photo by me and rather inexpertly, at that. It was in a round frame,about 12 inches, but quite a lousy tintype.

Poor Sarah, she was born too early to have a pretty picture of her as a youth, and of course, being dirt poor, an immigrant from Coll, in the Hebrides no painting would be done of her. So this was about the best there is. She lived to 1912 and her death caused a commotion as you will see in future chapters of Flo in the City, my novel based on the real life of Flora Nicholson, about a young woman coming of age in the exciting 1908-1912 era using the letters of

In fact, Sarah did finally get a 'nice' studio picture of her, just before she died. I may post it one day, (she is OLD in it,90 plus )but I thought I'd work on this tintype picture and make her beautiful for the ages. All I have to do is learn how to use this extremely complicated program. Sarah does look exactly like Margaret, her daughter, and those features have passed down, one great great great grandaughter pretty well looks like this. Sara spoke only Gaelic, it seems. She was probably illiterate and very religious. One Nicholson letter said she liked to travel around, couldn't stay still. Well, frankly, that is very much a gene that goes through this extended Tribe.

These Hebrideans island hopped, then got pushed, or went on their own, to Australia and North America. They had large families so there are LOTS of people in NA with these people's genes. My own son has the travelling gene. He is 24 and already has travelled across Europe and North America, in gaps years.

Now, I am going to print this picture on photo paper, at the same size as the original tintype and replace it in the old fashioned frame. Gee, I'm supposed to be writing a book, and giving my house, which is full of animal dander, a good clean, as my son is coming for Christmas and is allergic to cats.

I have tonnes to do.. Just like Margaret at Christmas, when the family came home. Why is this?...I know why. Because despite all the astounding advances in technology, microwave ovens (available to cooks in the mid sixties)are Still good for nothing except warming stuff up...or cooking the pre-prepared meals created just for them in the past decade. In the 80's, my father in law bought a 1,000 dollar microwave and used it to warm coffee. I'm sure the food Margaret Nicholson cooked in 1910 was delicious, (even if she was Scotch) because they used a wood stove, radiant heat, with fresh seasonal veggies and lots of cooking TIME to carmelize, etc.

...July 5th. Morning. Another hot day, it looked like. That would make five days in a row of over eighty degree weather! Flora thought, as she looked out her bedroom window, her head still on the pillow.Tighsolas, being encased in brick, could stay relatively cool during heatwaves, if all the blinds on all the windows were kept drawn. And Tighsolas, which means "House of Light" in Gaelic, had a lot of windows. Mother Margaret liked the light. Her window dressings were in the most modern style, Marie Antoinette lace is what she chose for curtains in the living room. Nothing Victorian about her parlour. The furnishings were handmade by local craftsman, in local woods like elm and pine and maple, all except for the beds. Flora thought the contast of lace curtain against brick looked interesting from the garden, in the afternoon light, where the family spent so much time in the summer.
The delicate, buttery lace undulating in the breeze inside, the regular patchwork of solid earth-coloured bricks outside. A small, tasteful castle, Tighsolas was, just asymmetrical enough. Not too ornamental like so many of the surrounding homes. Not ostentatious. Not too proud. But something substantial- and elegant- all the same. The perfect dwelling for a Canadian family like the Nicholsons.

Still. as Flora awoke, with the morning sun sneaking into the room under the blind, she didn't rush to get into her clothes, as she did in winter, or on cold rainy days. This morning, she lingered in her nightgown and wondered how nice it would be if on very hot days you could stride around town in a sunny caftan or glittering silk sari, like native women in Africa or India.

Seemed more sensible sometimes. And too scandalous to contemplate seriously. Flora recalled a sermon she heard at church not too long before: "The corset (may its shadow never be less) is the root of morality, self-respect and health," the Minister had boomed from the pulpit." It braces up the moral energies as much as it does the physical; many a slatternly Blowsabella that we see lurching along the pavement in a slum would take an entirely different view of life and its responsibilities if she were put into a properly built corset." Or words like that. It was only occasionally that a sermon stuck with her like that, but it had been just a day or so after she'd overheard her sisters talking about de Bullion Street.

Flora reached for her wrapper, and headed, with it, to the bathroom to wash up. No, corsets were likely to stay an intimate item of apparel for women in progressive countries for a long long time to come. Of this she was sure. And thank goodness for that! She couldn't wait for her first one. She still wore a waist or training corset. If only she'd put on some weight. Edith had put on her first corset at 15, but, then, Edith was prettier than she was in every possible way. Well, Flora's teeth were much whiter.