Remember That Coat

 

That coat was the colour of the sea on a sunny day, all green-blue with sand and seaweed tossed together … or was it darker … the colour I saw from the old bridge at Lossiemouth beach.

 

I loved the colour of it. I don’t know who had worn it before me. In our small family, children’s clothes were passed on to cousins. I was surprised when my mother produced it one day and made me put it on. Here was a ‘good’ coat. It was so heavy it flapped when I walked or walloped my legs if I ran. The label inside proclaimed ‘Harris Tweed.’ On the outside were brown, shiny leather buttons, a pocket each side with a silky soft, slippery lining and a staunch belt with a buckle I found hard to handle. The fabric felt the same as my dad’s good jacket, but his was mostly grey, with purple-pink bits when you looked really closely.

Dad explained how the cloth was woven on a loom and then dyed with all sorts of things, but mostly plants. Peering at my sleeve, I fingered the threads looking for a pattern. Sunday School was the perfect place to study the weaving, scratch at the different colours, pull off straggly fine hairs and fluff, all while humming softly. How were those buttons made? I wobbled one so much it had to be sewn back on again, tightly, while I stood watching.

The collar against my neck made me itchy so I had to put one of my Mum’s headscarves between coat and skin. Looking back, I think wearing that coat marked the beginning of my fashion sense, something that I did not share with my mother.

It all came out when we were getting ready to go to a summer wedding in town. Billy McTavish, who used to dandle me on his knee as a toddler, was getting married to a big girl I’d only met once. I adored this tall, young man and had been hoping he’d wait for me to grow up but here, now, he wasn’t.

My summer dress I liked. It was soft, white cotton scattered with little purple roses. It had two pockets. My white, hand-knitted cardigan had been taken out from under the carpet, peeled from its paper wrapping and held up beautifully pressed. This year’s Clark’s sandals had been freshly whitened. My white ankle socks were new.

I baulked as my mother approached bearing that tweed coat. I cried, which was as much of a tantrum I could ever muster then. I got worse when Mum got our straw hats down from the top of the wardrobe. How to explain what I felt? How could I explain why a straw hat does not go with a tweed coat? My younger sister was always more outspoken than I and surprised me some weeks later with retorts like “I’m not wearing that!” even on school days.

 

I cried more … unlucky before a wedding. My mother bargained. If I wore the coat I could carry the white basket (shaped like a flower pot with two life-like cherries on the side) that my aunty gave me when she came back from her big holiday. My sister beamed at this news. She’d get hers if I got mine! These two treasures had been locked in the china cabinet since the day Aunty went home, ages ago.

With my coat on, my precious basket was placed into my hands. My straw hat was straightened again. It looked like a flying saucer after an unsuccessful landing and was held in place by elastic which always left a red mark under my chin. There is a B&W photo somewhere in one of our family albums to prove all this. There we stood before the ceremony, holding the pose on the steps outside the kirk. Despite the basket,  you could tell how I was feeling by the look on my face, under that hat, in that coat.

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That Coat – Text, Drawings and photo from Lossiemouth Bridge by Meg Philp©2019

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Jubilant Days: WPC

Of all the photos I’ve ever seen, my favourite is a b&w image taken by Henri Cartier – Bresson in Paris, on the Rue de Mouffetard in 1954 – a scruffy, small boy carrying a large bottle of wine under each arm, gets the admiration of others in the street as he struts home, head held high, jubilant. For a long time, I had this poster.

At an exhibition of Cartier-Bresson’s work at the Queensland Art Gallery in 2011, I copied down his quote on the back of my ticket stub.

Life isn’t made up of stories that you cut into slices like an apple pie. There’s no standard way of approaching a story. We have to evoke a situation, a truth; this is the poetry of life’s reality. H.C-B.

Perhaps this is a ‘jubilant’  image – this photo of a Scotsman at a wedding. He had just  piped the couple out after the ceremony. Here, he is heading for the Wedding Reception.

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This photo isn’t one of mine: the camera was. Does there need to be more people in the frame to make it jubilant?

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I did ask the piper what was the purpose of those drones in a set of bagpipes – after all, they make such a dismal noise. He replied that without the drones he might as well be playing the piano.

“You just have to live and life will give you pictures.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

All text (except those in italics) by Meg. Photo by G. McQueen

Poster sale http://www.ebay.com/itm/RUE-MOUFFETARD-PARIS-1954-16×20-/321696915618

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Jubilant

Gathering round: Weekly Photo Challenge

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A favourite photo taken at a friend’s son’s wedding in Edinburgh several years ago: all these handsome men gathered around the bride. The groom and his men are all in the same tartan. If you look closely, you can just see him taking the bride’s arm.

They wear the kilt with a sense of honour and tradition, tho’ this style of kilt didn’t evolve till the 1600s, when the earlier length of plaid was gathered into pleats and fastened around the waist. All the other additions like sporran, socks, brogues etc came later and reflect individual taste.

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I think Scots women have a genetic disposition to notice a man in a kilt. There’s an immediate reaction as to whether he’s wearing it too short or too long. Eyes are dawn to his hips, his good legs and that sporran … well … it’s really a purse to keep the car keys in.DSCF0912

 However, that decorative, wee sharp knife, called in the Gaelic “Sgian-dubh” (skee- an- doo), is a remnant from four centuries ago, a gesture to friends to show that the only weapon he carries is not concealed …

Of course, there was a great music and dancing at that wedding. Boy, did they make those kilts swing!

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Reference:

http://www.scottishdance.net/highland/MakingKilt.html.

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Sgian-dubh

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/gathering/

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All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.