Aunty Poppys Panic Bag          - 6/11/2006      <--Prev : Next-->


Rummaging through my handbag last night in vain pursuit of my 
lipstick, i was the subject of a lot of derisive remarks from the 
male fraternity ably lead by HEEHOO.

Men hate women's handbags with a passion (except when they are used 
to keep that same mans car keys, spectacles, wallet etc !!) and my 
elegant faux leather reticule was being derisively called "The
Hole of Calcutta"

Now I hope , after that remark, that he will be reincarnated and 
brought back as my dear departed Great Uncle George. The reason
that Great Uncle George has the distinction of being married to an 
amazing lady - my Great Aunty Poppy!!

Aunty Poppy was a legend in Rhodesia as it was then. She was called 
Poppy because she was one of twins and was nearly born in a potty
the back of an ox wagon near Penhalonga.....

Aunty Poppy was well known for many reasons, one being that she and 
Uncle George lived in the very first "Paper House" on the Gaika
near Que Que. (Forgive me for using the old names, but we are going 
back quite a few years here !!)

But that's another story and I will keep it for another time.
one of Aunty Poppy's claims to fame was her amazing "Panic Bag",
portmanteau of gargantuan proportions, which used to accompany her 
everywhere, even to tea with the Queen. !!

In those days one needed a panic bag. Those were the days of the
level bridges in Rhodesia when one could be stuck on the side of a 
road for days, waiting for the rivers to subside. (We had good
in those days)

Those were the days when ones fridge comprised an open cupboard 
covered in small wire gauze, with water dripping past it !!

As kids we delighted in rummaging trough Aunty Poppy's panic bag, 
although this treat was closely linked to good behaviour.

I will always remember her beautiful hat pin, the end featuring a 
magnificent Madagascan pearl, this hat pin was seen in use many 
times, most often firmly pinned in her hat, worn at all times, a
little grey hat with a small brim, to keep her milky white
from being afflicted by the sun, but we did have occasion once to
it  firmly inserted into the bottom of a callous fellow who tried
steal her precious pocket book.

Of course every Grand Dame had an elegant beautifully decorated 
bottle of smelling salts, and if we were very good, Gavin and I
sometimes allowed a tiny whiff of this heady draught.

In that ridiculous reticule Aunty Poppy was known to carry a book
matches, a primus stove, and a pitch cresset which is an olden day 
version of a torch !!

Of course there were dozens of oils, balms, elixirs and
used to treat anything from a centipede sting to a woozy throat. 
There were endless vials and phials that we were not allowed to
under threat of death, quinine tonic for malaria, tea-tree oil for 
cuts and abrasions.

If we were very very good we were sometimes allowed a tiny sip of 
Uncle George's special Mint Julep which was carried always, just in 
case Uncle George was found suffering from any illness, ailment or 
malady .....

Crochet hooks with fine bone handles, knitting needles with mother
pearl tops, a teeny weeny sewing kit with gossamer silk embroidery 
threads, an engraved silver hip flask with cut glass drinking
attached by a fine intricately designed silver chain.

Of course if we caught Aunty Poppy on a very good day she would
us to open, slowly and carefully, the chamois leather and filigris 
sliver case which contained Uncle George's monocle, and sometimes
were even allowed to handle the tiny embossed gold case which
Aunty Poppys pince nez ...

The portmanteau itself was a work of art, rather large to say the 
least but crafted from the finest tapestry with handcrafted
leather elbows. The family crest was of course intricately tooled 
onto a leather tag with a silver padlock designed specially to
my brother and I !!

And so, to all you men who hate your wife's purses, handbags,
bags, valises, call them what you will, just be glad that you were 
not born 100 years ago, when women were forced to carry their
lives around with them.

And of course right at the bottom of that Gladstone Bag, was "the 
shawl" always hauled out when a little persons eyes became sleepy, 
and the thumb began to creep into the mouth.

It must have been woven by a fairy it was so soft and so warm, 
smelling slightly of mothballs mixed with eau de cologne, the smell 
of which, to this day, evokes wonderful childhood memories of an 
amazing Lady.