Sunday, 17 June 2012

Reading matter.

Oh gosh, it might be time to become a two-kindle family. On the recommendation of our son, an avid reader who has been known to leave clothes at home so he could take more books on holiday in the past (rather like his father, as a matter of fact), we bought a kindle some time ago. It’s certainly convenient for going on holiday but at the moment we have to take turns in using it. Hence the need to think about becoming a two-kindle family. 

In the meantime, having checked that our Vigo library cards are still valid, I have made use of mine to borrow some books. And so I am currently reading Isabel Allende’s “Mi PaĆ­s Inventado", her autobiographical ramblings about being brought up in and out of Chile and her feelings of not truly belonging anywhere: hence the invented country. 

I was amused by her memories of the cautious, penny-pinching ways of some of her often quite rich relatives witnessed during her childhood. She claims that “Chilenos”, mostly of Basque/Castilian extraction, are less exuberant and more conservative than many other South Americans. Thus careful, moneysaving ways are seen, or were seen in the past, as a virtue. Consequently some of her aunts and her grandmothers and other ladies would “virar” their husbands’ suits as the fabric became worn. This involved unstitching the suit, ironing the pieces and then stitching it back together with the shiny side to the inside, giving the garments a new lease of life. It was not totally successful however as you could always recognise the victims (Isabel Allende’s term) by the fact that the top pocket on the jacket was always on the wrong side. 

It reminded me of my grandmother “turning” (virar) sheets. When a sheet got worn in the middle she would cut it in two, stitch the outer edges together to make a central seam and hem the new outer edges. And so the sheet lasted a little longer. This is why girls learned how to make a “flat seam” in needlework lessons, just so they could turn a sheet without making a lumpy and uncomfortable seam in the middle. 

So I am sure than my Lancastrian grandmother would have appreciated the careful ways of the “Chilenas”. Mind you, I doubt that present day Lancastrians and Chilenas turn anything. 

Just as this practical side was seen as a virtue, so it was to be hardworking. And so the respectable Chilenas of Isabel Allende’s youth did not paint their nails, not even the wealthy ladies. Painting your nails was a sign that you did not use your hands which in turn meant that you were lazy. Even worse than not being handy at turning things, if you were labelled lazy you were a social disgrace. 

Somehow I have a feeling that the Chilenas of today do paint their nails and probably have those horrible false ones that you see everywhere else. Such is the modern world!

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