Thursday, 3 February 2011

Tales from Argentina – The Dressmaker (Part 4 of 5)

Link to "The Dressmaker" Part 1 - Early Struggles:            Click HERE
Link to "The Dressmaker" Part 2 - Pastures New:             Click HERE
Link to "The Dressmaker" Part 3 - Doña Sol's daughter:  Click HERE

The Struggles Return

For Doña Sol the good times came to an end in early 1949.  Juliette was close to giving birth to her first child when Don Pedro died suddenly on New Year’s Day of an excess of festive spirit.  He had grown in corpulence over the years, and particularly enjoyed the round of socialising over the Christmas and New Year period.  Unfortunately his heart didn’t. 

The doctor who attended at his bedside knew the Quintana family and was aware of the irregular situation in which Don Pedro found himself, and after certifying his death he alerted the Quintanas.  The law in Argentina is strict on the matter of the burial of the dead – it must be carried out within 24 hours.  So when several hours later there was a knock on the door and two men said they had come to collect the body, she let them in presuming them to be from the funeral parlour.  They weren’t.  The men who stood before her were Don Pedro’s sons.  

They removed his body and told her curtly that she was most definitely not invited to the funeral, and neither was her daughter.  She never heard from the family again, or found out where he had been buried, though it was reasonable to suppose that he would join the family pantheon at the Recoleta, the Catholic cemetery for the well-to-do in downtown Buenos Aires. 

Juliette’s little son Tomás was born 10 days later. 

Fortunately, from a practical point of view Doña Sol’s talents were unaffected by these sad events, and with her established clientele it made little difference.  Her workload if anything became heavier, and there were weddings where she made the dresses for the bride, her mother, the bridesmaids and various other female guests - up to seven on one occasion, and without help from assistants, with whose services she had dispensed some years earlier.  She continued in the flat for the next 25 years until it was evident that she could no longer live alone. 

In the meantime Juliette’s life had taken many knocks.  She had a second son, Martín, and tragedy struck when her sons were 2 and 4.  Her husband went out one day to buy cigarettes, and never returned.  She learned later that he was alive and well, but just did not wish to have the responsibility of a family any longer.  Perhaps it was this aspect of his character which old Don Pedro had sensed when he had objected to her marrying him.  Certainly there were parallels with his own history.  The boys did not see their father again until they were teenagers.

At first life was a desperate struggle – there was no social welfare system in the country at that time for someone in her situation.  Her young sons unwittingly gave her the strength to carry on; they stood staunchly by her and when they went out together it was noticed that they unconsciously surrounded her as if they were her bodyguards.   She got by giving English lessons, and scrimped and saved. 

And there was a happy ending.  A few years later she met Fernando, a gentle, wise and deeply caring man with endless patience who truly understood the pain these three generations had suffered. 

When my friend knew them in the 60’s she found them to be a happy and lively family who loved to argue.  They all held passionate opinions about everything, and while the old lady Doña Sol, Juliette and the boys would snipe back and forth and either break into laughter or storm off in a huff, gentle Fernando’s quiet voice would every so often reduce them all to silence with his exquisitely timed common sense summary of the situation.  With a word he could make them all slow down and think about what they were saying; it was a joy to watch. 

She told me that if they were gathered together in some public place – a restaurant, or perhaps an ice-cream parlour, Doña Sol and Juliette would comment to each other about the garments worn by the unknown women around them.  From babyhood Juliette had absorbed the concepts of style, colour, fabric and quality of cut, and their comments were invariably unfavourable on a scale from negative to scathing - 

Doña Sol:  Look at the blouse on that woman!

Friend:  Lovely colour...

Juliette: (impatient click of tongue) That’s the least of it.  Just look at those shoulders, they’ve been cut all WRONG.

Doña S:  (dismissive wave) They’ve tried to cut the material on the cross, clearly didn’t have a CLUE.

Juliette:  And that dress on your left, it’s TERRIBLE.

Friend:  She’s a bit heavy to be wearing that style...

Doña S:  Oh, she’s as fat as a cow.  It needed a fuller cut under the bodice.

Juliette:  And the COLOURS!  She looks like a set of traffic lights.

(The names and some of the places have been changed.  All images in the main post are from Google images)

Part 5 (final):  The summing up


Photo Finish:
from Lonicera's non-digital archives

Exmoor - Lorna Doone Country

Robber's Bridge

The stream looking normal...

Argh! How it looks after fiddling about with filters...
(I refer to the filters on the lens, at the time of shooting the
picture, involving about 5 exposures with a different coloured
filter each time - a laborious process to go through
just for a laugh...)

...whereas this one was achieved on the computer by clicking
a button - and in fact is my favourite of the three.

A freezing cold morning,
with pretty icy pictures to be found by a stream...

...which I had underexposed and they remained in the slide box
for nearly 15 years - until I scanned them onto my computer
and gave them light - and life.

Very grainy film, but I like the subtlety of the colours.

Link to Part 5:  Click HERE
Back to the top:  Click HERE


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