Nothing brings back memories more than old photos.  I came across some the other day and was poring over them when one in particular jumped out at me.  It was  taken at the wedding of a friend.

When I lived in Bourke and - it is probably so today, you made your own fun and when there was a wedding everyone would lend a hand and the mother would probably do the catering with help from all her friends.  My friend, Del who was the mother of the bride, was a pretty good cook in any case but it was my job to do the pavlovas.  I must have been going through my pavlova stage.  

Del told me that she had access to as many duck eggs as she wanted so that was a bonus.  The only thing wrong with that was that duck eggs are mostly yolk with not a lot of white and of course you need the white for the meringues.  Not to worry.  We had plenty and ourselves and half the neighbours lived on egg custard and scrambled egg for a week or so.

The thing with pavlovas is that they don’t keep for any length of time.  if you make a meringue shell it will keep fairly well in an airtight container (and these were borrowed from everywhere) for a few weeks but the ones with the marshmallow inside don’t keep so well and really need to be eaten within a couple of days.  So, for a couple of weeks there was sugar and stickiness everywhere.  You can’t make so many without testing some and breaking some and friends testing some and so on.  Quality control is paramount.

My sister, Kay, made the wedding dress and the veil, and the bridesmaids’ dresses and the flower girls’ dresses.  The two sisters of the bride were the bridesmaids, Kay’s daughter, Chick, was one flower girl and my daughter, Jo, was the other.  Kay was capable of making all those clothes with one hand tied behind her back, she is that clever.  I needed both hands to make the pavlovas!!!  Del and I did, however help sew daisies and ribbons onto the little tulle balls that the attendants all carried.  Fresh flowers were hard to come by in Bourke in those days and the bride, Chris, became a much needed florist in the town sometime later.

The really funny part was what to call these balls when it came time to put a piece in the paper.  We spent one hilarious evening trying to put a name to the pretty little things  and finally came up with stirkel pommes!!!  Try telling the journalist that and keep a straight face.

I have no idea what Del wore or Kay either for that matter.  She probably had to drag an outfit out from the back of the wardrobe or borrow something.  I saw her do that at her own daughter’s wedding when she had made the bride’s dress, the bridesmaids’ dresses and the bride’s going away outfit (that was something else we had in those days!!) and then have to borrow a dress to wear herself.

Anyway, I lived next door to the wife of a local taxi driver who was also a very good jockey and they had quite a bit of money by Bourke standards at the time.   Beth had some beautiful clothes which she was not averse to giving to me periodically.  I particularly remember a little red suit which I loved and wore to death but at the time in question she had given me a brown and black checked outfit made up of a slim fitting dress with a jacket featuring a big collar and fur on the sleeves.  It has been a funny thing through my life that most of the people who gave me clothes over the years were tall and Beth was no exception.   However, at this particular time Beth wore her clothes above her knees which meant they came just below my knees and that was acceptable. 

The only thing was that I was never a fan of brown and brown and black together didn’t do anything for me at all so I looked around for some orange to put with it.  I had a pair of orange gloves (or maybe I even dyed a white pair) you couldn’t just go out and by stuff like that in Bourke then - I don’t know whether you can now!!!  I had looked round for an orange scarf to go with them and was getting desperate when finally my eyes lit on the orange cafe curtains I had at the kitchen window which were the exact colour for my gloves.  I must have been going through an orange stage at the time as well as a pavlova one - I am multiskilled.   

Well, I climbed on a chair and took one of the little top curtains down from the kitchen window.  Being Bourke it was dusty so had to have the dust rinsed out of it. 

(I have to add here that I had actually made the curtains myself.  Probably you couldn’t buy orange cafe curtains in Bourke at the time - and possibly still can’t.  Not everyone is into orange).  I have to say that I really am not completely useless and have been known to sew the odd thing here and there.  It’s just that I had this amazing sister who could sew anything and also was blessed with an amazing mother in law who could  also sew anything.  She designed and made all Jo’s clothes which were beautiful and the envy of a lot of other girls in town.  She also made quite a few clothes for me when I couldn’t find any tall friends to give me theirs.

By the way, I have the photo but can't get the scanner working.

There was one statuesque friend who also lived next door for a while.  She had a mass of red/gold curls and was an absolute stunner.  She came to Bourke as a dental assistant to the local dentist and gave me, among other things, a gorgeous green suit (onviously expensive) which was at a time when the hemlines had gone down so I was in fashion with the long, straight skirt.  I felt statuesque when I wore it.  She had a falling out with the dentist and left Bourke not long after giving me these things.  I remember wearing the suit to work one day and on going into the Bank of New South Wales that afternoon, passed the dentist just as he was coming out.   He stared at me in a peculiar way.  It was odd so when next I saw Virginia I mentioned it.  She laughed hysterically “That’s because he bought it for me!!!”  She could have told me before, but then I would never have worn it.

On the day of the wedding as it was getting late, I ironed the scarf dry and voila! there I was, decked out fit to kill.  I probably would have been pushed for time as Andrew was only six weeks old at this time and had to be fed and  otherwise attended to.  He was such a good baby and slept through the noise and the dancing of the wedding, just wrapped and tucked up in his basket behind a row of chairs in the hall.  That’s what you did.

Well, we made it to the ceremony and were all standing around, as you do, with the bridal party in front of the church when I caught sight of Jo (all of eight years old) staring at me.  I can still see that horror-stricken little face, and then “Mum, you’re wearing the kitchen curtains!!!”  It still cracks me up. I don’t think it did at the time. I grabbed her hand and pulled her close “Only you and I know my scarf is a kitchen curtain.” “Yes”.  “I’m not going to tell anyone, are you?” “No”.  “Then no one else will ever need know.”  She was such a sweet little thing.  If the truth be known it probably ruined the whole wedding for her.  She always worried about me even at that age like when I would take supper to meetings I used to attend, I could not bring anything home on the plate or she would worry the other ladies wouldn’t think my cooking good enough!!!  I don’t know why she had that idea.

Just as a post script, after the wedding the couple went on their honeymoon to the coast but they were such bush kids and so unused to strange people and so homesick, that they only got as far as Port Macquarie, quickly turning around and making their way back to East Maitland to my sister, Kay, where they spent the remainder of their honeymoon. Can you imagine young people being so shy now?