of her adventures in Australia. Her bikini purchasing adventure hit a very familiar note for me, not that I have ever bought many bikinis, but well, I'm sure you'll understand. I wrote this piece not long after my return from New Zealand as I was beginning to put my book together, but it describes a couple of aspects of my preparations prior to departure.
On my previous holidays in New Zealand I had not needed to make more detailed preparations than remembering to take my sunglasses, hereafter to be referred to as ‘sunnies’. I had not bothered with things like shorts and sandals, mainly because I had not been in the habit of wearing them at home for many many years and I had no desire to inflict my white, pasty looking legs and feet on an unprepared, unsuspecting world. However, to be spending four summer months in the country suggested a need for comfort, so I had to sort something out. I’m not a great one for weights and measures, but I do know my waist size; at least, I know it in terms of imperial numbers. I also know that it is not a small waist but my own personal body image doesn’t accept that it is anything other than, maybe at a push, large. With this very much in mind I bought myself a pair of shorts which had a small tab stitched to the waistband with a capital ‘L’ on it. I’m very self-conscious about things like using changing booths in shops so just made my purchase and took the item (or should that be items?) home. When I got round to trying them on a few days later, there having been a great degree of courage to be plucked up, the button and the hole it was supposed to marry up with were hardly even in the same hemisphere. This was a bit of a personal blow and forced a slight re-think on my own body image. It also forced me to go back and get another pair of shorts, this time with a daunting ‘XL’ sewn into the waistband.
I wore those shorts around the house for a couple of days and there was no point during that time that I wasn’t in pain around the area my waist had once occupied in long gone days. The sad reality was that these too were not quite large enough, even though I could actually do them up. It was with a very heavy heart and an ego that was black and blue that I returned to my short supplier for an unbelievable additional ‘X’. It occurred to me that as these shorts were cheap, it may well have been because they had been sized incorrectly and I preferred to hold on to that thought as I sheepishly put this voluminous third pair onto the counter trying to avoid catching the assistant’s eye as I did so. She had, obviously, not derived much amusement from her job up to that point so took great delight in asking me whether the size I had chosen was the size I actually wanted. I confidently told her that it was and that I was making the purchase on behalf of someone else, quite possibly someone who was too fat to fit through the gaps between the racks of clothing in the store and could, therefore, not reach the counter themselves. I don’t think she believed me for a second and, rather unkindly I thought, put my purchase into the largest bag she could find.
Back home I reluctantly tried on my XXLs and was embarrassed to find that they were not too large to require a belt. In fact they were comfortable. They were also enormous in the leg width department, more so than any flares I wore in the nineteen-seventies; they extended to a little below my knees and I could fit a gallon whisky bottle up each leg while I was wearing them. But they were comfortable, even more so without the Bell’s bottles of course. I decided that I would take my XLs to accompany my XXLs on the journey as there was always the, admittedly, remote possibility that I might actually manage to lose some weight given the outdoor nature of the activities I was hoping to participate in whilst travelling around New Zealand. Therefore, with shorts finally selected and acquired, I moved, this time painlessly, on to sandals. This exercise held fewer demons for me and it was not long before I had what I was looking for in the field of serviceable, sturdy open-toed footwear.
The shorts went on to become a lead character in my book, and even to take on a life of their own in many respects. They are the real stars of Southern Crossroads.