Tag Archives: Herning

Art, bog people and sunburn

Silkeborg is a small town halfway between Aarhus and the town I grew up in, Herning. With the motorway now complete between Herning and Aarhus, it is no longer necessary to drive through the town – though the motorway is not without controversy. It was clever politicking by local government politicians that saw significant investment in road infrastructure to Herning, the Capital of the Heath. And though Silkeborg residents probably benefit from the connectivity created by Herning Motorvejen, I heard a fair amount of resentment for the rival town.

What Silkeborg has over Herning is natural beauty. When the ice receded during the last ice age, it created a flat corner, right down the middle of Jutland, from Viborg in the north to the German border in the south. While the heath landscape of this area was largely reclaimed and drained in the 19th century, it is still completely flat and windswept, and not particularly fertile.

The other side of this midline is a different story. The ice created hills (including the infamous Himmelbjerget ‘sky mountain’, all of 147m above sea level and the third highest point in Denmark), lakes and vallies with fertile soil, ripe for human habitation. The countryside around Silkeborg is particularly beautiful with lakes and dense forrest. It is no wonder that 10,000 years ago when the first human immigrants followed the deer north through Europe and into the Scandinavian peninsula they settled in the area we know as the ‘seahighland’. Archeological diggings at Bølling, near Silkeborg, has revealed a very old settlement from 9,600 b.c. Over the years, the Silkeborg area has been subject to many archeological digs, and treasures continue to emerge whenever a developer digs down into the rich soil.

The most famous inhabitant of Silkeborg is Tollundmanden, an extremely well-preserved corpse from the iron age around 200-300 b.c. He was discovered in 1950 and is thought to have been sacrificed at the bog. He can be seen at Silkeborg Museum.

Another famous guy, Grauballemanden, was also found near Silkeborg a couple of years later. His body can now be found in a fantastic shrine at Moesgaard Museum in Aarhus.

A third famous person to come from Silkeborg is the artist Asgar Jorn (1914-1973), one of the founding COBRA artists. It is fair to say that Jorn left his mark, not just in his hometown but on the art world, and still inspires budding artists today. He has his own museum in Silkeborg, which is well worth a visit if you are at all interested in art.

When we came to Silkeborg this time, we visited very live people, thankfully. We had new potatoes and barbequed meats, and walked around Almindsø. We also attended the opening of the newly surfaced town square, inspired by one of Jorn’s automation drawings. It was a sunny day and we enjoyed the jazz music and a couple of cold beers. Unfortunately, some of the people we shared it with ended up with quite a sunburn!


Stuff and memory

Stuff can remind us of things we would not otherwise remember. Photo: Lone 2013.

Stuff can remind us of things we would not otherwise remember. Photo: Lone 2013.

There is only so much you can fit into the luggage limit of airline carriers. When you are packing your bags for a year-long sabbatical in Denmark you have to make harsh choices. Luckily we’ve secured a furnished apartment just outside the lakes in Copenhagen. This does reduce the amount of stuff we need to bring or acquire.

For years we have been trying to get rid of stuff – to declutter our lives. Somehow stuff just seems to accumulate and fill every surface, like dust whirling up in the swoosh of movement or encouraged by south easterly winds – and settling in the corners and on the skirtingboards until it is disturbed again.

I find that I hang on to stuff because it has a meaning for me. It may be a present given to me by someone I love. It may be something someone was made especially for me. Or it may be something useful one of us bought. The best stuff is stuff that is designed well and used often. These are the objects that last and also bring lasting memories.

Farmor in the house in Solbakken. Photo: Lars 2014.

Farmor in the house in Solbakken. Photo: Lars 2014.

Each time I sit in one of the Børge Mogensen Spanish Chairs I am thankful that these beautiful chairs ended up in our house in Brisbane. My parents bought these chairs in the 1970s when we moved to Gjellerup. They sat in the tiled lounge room in the middle of the brand new house, together with the clunky, soft and deep modular couch. Like a casual prop in photos of my grandmother comfortably sitting at a family party. When we moved to the next house in Gjellerup on top of the hill, the chairs were incorporated into the combined kitchen and tv room – much more frequently used, but less elegant because they could not sit side by side in the space. Finally in my father’s last house in Herning they sat in the corner of the swimming pool room together with the buffalo leather couches, inviting one to perch a cup of coffee on the wide arm rests and pick up a book from the overflowing coffee table while listening to music blaring from the Bang&Olufsen sound system installed to fill the large room.

This corner has stuff to remember by. Photo: Lone 2014.

This corner has stuff to remember by. Photo: Lone 2014.

Now, in the early hours of the morning, the chairs let me catch the weak rays of morning sun before they gain power and blaze onto the solar panels on the roof. The chairs sit with the cedar coffee table that Mick created from the beams left-over when we built the house on the hill in Bunya in the early 2000s. Inspired by a large, rustic coffee table from my childhood home, it is a robust table that is both functional and beautiful. On the other side of the table is one of the green Natussi leather couches we bought, one at a time, as a present from my parents when our boys were born. Those couches have been tough enough for babies, toddlers and teenagers, finally giving in to the direct sunlight on the deck, causing the leather to crack.

Over the table hangs a PH lamp – the classic lamp that was a wedding present from my parents’ business partners. It was second hand then, surplus to requirements, when they decorated the ground floor flat of the home that also housed the publishing business and my family. On the table sits a small dish that Mick wove out of tie wire during his first year of the fine arts degree. It accumulates stuff: ear phones, coins, a card. On the wall hangs Mick’s Takemine guitar, so often picked up by our younger son to strum a few chords or pick a few Spanish notes. It hangs next to a painting by artist Joanna Underhill, ‘Cellular Intelligence’. Following a bout of cancer, she studied cancer cells during a residence at the Brain Institute. The result is a series of work that explores the structure of cells which provides inspiration for quite intricate imagery and colour.

I fondly remember the story behind this work when I look at the green and pink scratches on the first board. Photo: Lone 2014.

I fondly remember the story behind this work when I look at the green and pink scratches on the first board. Photo: Lone 2014.

On the other side hangs a piece my older son did in Year 12 Visual Art, ‘Waiting for skating’. Three skate boards form the canvas and three faces in various states of patience adorn them. Clearly, my son is not particularly patient. One day he screwed the wheels back on to one of the boards: he wanted to skate. When I realised, I promptly bought him a fresh board and the piece was restored to the wall. He promised to touch up the scratched board. However, in the intervening period I have grown quite fond of the authenticity of the green and pink paint that shines through and the edges that are worn down to the timber core of the board. Besides, it is a good story.

None of this stuff will fit in my suitcase. And this is part of the point. These objects are integral to the life world I have created in Brisbane with my family. This life is part of me, but only one part. With the chairs and the lamp – and many other objects – I have integrated my Danishness into my Australianness in physical manifestations. I have invented a self that combines my experiences, language and memories. One reason for going back is to refresh and reconnect with the Danish part. Together we will find new inspiration and create new memories for the next period of our lives, which integrates more of my Danish heritage.

My self is indivisible and when we are away, there will no doubt be things that I miss from this sunny part of the world. Stuff that I have grown used to.

Independence and empty nests

We nurture our young until they can get by in the world by themselves. Are we doing our children a disservice by letting them stay in the comfort of the nest? Photo: Mick 2014.

We nurture our young until they can get by in the world by themselves. Are we doing our children a disservice by letting them stay in the comfort of the nest? Photo: Mick 2014.

Young adult children tend to hang around in their parents’ home for longer these days. Perhaps it is just the difference between the 1980s when I became an adult and the 2010s when my kids do. Perhaps it is the difference between a country and social security system that – in the name of equality and social mobility – provides a living wage for young students and a country that does not.

My boys are 18 and 20, and even if they would like to move away from home, it would be very difficult for them to do so financially.

Informally, I moved away from home when I was 16. My room was still in tact with my furniture, clothes, posters, records, stereo and stuff, but my boyfriend had his own flat and it seemed a good idea to hang out at his place, rather than my family’s place. Except when we were really hungry. The fridge at my parents place was regularly stocked with small goods from Gøttsche, the butcher in Herning and there was fresh bread from the baker in Skolegade, where my mum would stop by on the way home. The fridge literally boomed with luxury, ready to raid by ravenous young people. My parents never minded us coming to feed: at least they never let on. My mum would love to offer a beer and sit down for a chat and a smoke while we fed. Food was one way to connect to her growing children and I am finding myself doing much the same with my sons and their crowds. Forever offering up food in return for their company and a snippet of conversation.

Formally, I moved away from home in 1986, when I started university 120 km away from my parents house. There were very few options to study in Herning, unless you wanted to be a textile designer or work in mercantile professions, convincing people to buy stuff they did not necessarily want or need to boost profits for someone else. After three years in commercial college and in spite of my father’s entrepreneurial spirit and growing business, I was not interested in book keeping or sales.

I was much more interested in the world of ideas, in the humanities. A brand new degree had just started at Aalborg Universitetscenter – Humanistic Informatics. It combined humanities with the rising information abundance and explored the interface between humans and information technology systems – a course fit for the late 20th century.

I enrolled in the second intake year of that degree and I had to move. My parents helped me out with accommodation at first. I started university in August the year I turned 19. Until February, when I turned 20, I lived off my savings from the summer job. According to the rules at the time, turning 20 made me independent of my parents’ income and I was entitled to SU, a study allowance courtesy of the Danish tax payer. Each month, a sum of money turned up in my bank account to supplement income from my job. From then on I was able to pay rent, eat well, buy university books and supplies, pay public transport and have a good time as well. In other words, I was truly independent and able to learn how to live within my means by managing a finite amount of money – a precondition for functioning in an adult world.

I understand that things have changed in Denmark and young people face harsher requirements to open the Sesame of government sponsored study. However, young Danes still do not pay for their education and still are paid to study, thus providing the realistic opportnity for everyone to get a qualification, irrespective of their socio-economic status.

How can we help our children fail small and early, so they can succeed later?  Photo: Mick 2014.

How can we help our children fail small and early, so they can succeed sooner? Photo: Mick 2014.

In 2014 in Australia, very little support is available to young people to live independently, even if they study, and by no stretch is the study allowance sufficient. My sons are not entitled to any help, at home or living independently. Their entitlement remains dependent on our household income. We are not a double income family and our household income is not massive. We are fortunate to be able help out our adult children, but I think it quite unfair that all young people – irrespective of their financial background – are not offered the opportunity to study independently. We really are failing to reach Australia’s potential because they are not.

Perhaps I am engaging in pure after-rationalisation: When we leave the kids in our house in December – for a whole year – it is not just to satisfy my self-centred need to go back to where I came from: it is also a step along the way toward my children’s independence. Rather than pushing them out of the nest, we leave the nest to them. And see what happens. We will provide them a study allowance so they can have a go at managing themselves and a household.

I know the boys will rise to the challenge and I know they will develop and grow. I don’t know what kind of hygiene or messiness the place will endure; I don’t know how big the washing piles will grow (will the washing even leave the floordrobe of their bedrooms?) or what kind of food they will eat. Or how the garden will look and whether the chooks will be watered and fed. But that is all part of it: I too have to let go and trust them to do the right thing.

Would you consider running away from home to give your adult children a chance at independence?

Dogs and death

Josie was part of the family - and the furniture. Photo: Lone 2014

Josie was part of the family – and the furniture. Photo: Lone 2014

Josie died this week.

Josie – or Josephine, after Napoleon Bonaparte’s lover – was our sweet yellow labrador who had been with us since 2003. She had become very lumpy, with a melon sized cyst on her neck, and very tired and spaced out most of the time. Half way through the first anaesthetic needle, she took her final, laboured breath.

I am not sentimental about pets – I love them and care about them, but when life has become unenjoyable for them, I see no reason to prolong it.

My first dog was Vaks – after Lady and the Tramp‘s little grey male puppy, Scamp in English. Vaks, a black cocker spaniel, lived with us on Chopinsvej in Herning in the early 70s. I was very young when Vaks and I played in the rumpus room. We found a feather doona with a hole in it – that hole fast grew and suddenly we were pioneers battling a white winter landscape. On a visit to my grandparents, I had to get something from our car. Vaks merrily followed me out, probably expecting we were leaving and not wanting to be left behind. He refused to get out of the car, so I closed the door and left him there. When it was time to leave, Vaks had literally chewed everything soft and bite-able inside the car. In our home he had also gnawed all of the door frames to about 30 centimetres up. So Vaks did not move with us when we moved to our next home on Solbakken in Gjellerup in 1972. I am not entirely sure what happened to that little black dog, but he was no longer part of my universe.

Buster was well loved, even if he terrorised owners of female dogs all over the neighbourhood. Photo: Lars, 1976.

Buster was well loved, even if he terrorised owners of female dogs all over the neighbourhood. Photo: Lars, 1976.

The next dog – Buster, after Buster Keaton – was really my brother’s. He started a campaign to get another puppy. I think my mother, the vet’s daughter, was secretly supporting his campaign – she loved animals. My father, the farmer’s son, had a more utilitarian view of the role of animals. Eventually he gave in. Buster was a small fox terrier, white and beautifully marked with black spots and small brown ones above his eyes. Buster had the run of the yard – and the neighbourhood, with the owner of a female bassett hound particularly complaining about Buster’s promiscuous behaviour. Buster never became fully house trained and usually left small surprises behind the oval Piet Hein Superellipse table with the six orange Arne Jacobsen Series 7 chairs in the upstairs living room that doubled as my father’s office. On Saturday mornings, Dad removed the smelly parcels so he could hold author meetings around that table. In the early 1980s we moved again to Klokkebakken in Gjellerup; Buster did not follow. My cousin, the computer programmer who worked in my father’s company, reluctantly took care of him. I am still not entirely sure what that entailed.

Our new house was massive. Big enough for two apartments – one for our family of six, and one for my parents’ two business partners and their two dogs, a newfoundlander and a chow chow – and the office of my parents’ growing business. The house had been built as a single family house by a wealthy business owner who insisted on living higher than the old Gjellerup church. This time my sister and I started a campaign for another dog. My father would find carefully designed posters on the mirror inside his wardrobe and notes under his doona or in his office drawer, and again my mother secretly supported the campaign. We promised to housetrain the puppy, to walk it daily and to feed it and look after it. Mum bought Donna, a golden retriever, from a breeder in Hammerum and we were ecstatic. Mum took Donna to puppy school and she became a very well-behaved dog. Occasionally, I did walk her, but generally Mum fed her and let her sleep near her feet in winter.

Donna with her son Kasper. Kasper was a most flexible dog, who had several homes - my family never bargained that ours would be one of them. Photo: Lone 1988.

Donna with her son Kasper. Kasper was a most flexible dog, who had several homes – my family never bargained that ours would be one of them. Photo: Lone 1988.

One summer, after I had moved away to go to university in Aalborg, Donna had six beautiful little puppies. Entirely unplanned, a yellow labrador belonging to my brother’s friend had rendezvoused Donna in the small forest behind the house. That summer I looked after the puppies while my parents, sister and brother went to Italy. I taught them how to run down the steep stairs to get to the enclosed garden near the swimming hall every morning, and carried them up to sleep in the bathroom every night. We found good homes to each of the puppies: family, friends and one went to my flatmate. She named him Kasper and loved him to bits. And so did I – he was a beautiful dog, easy to love.

We partied hard in that student house. One night Kasper got out through the door left open. It turned out he was a very clever dog: he took the bus from the main road out to one of the suburbs. On the bus he met a group of Norwegian young men on a drinking spree. They sang Norwegian drinking songs for him and the next morning took him to the pound. They offered to take Kasper home on the ferry to Norway if he remained unclaimed by the end of that Sunday. Meanwhile back in the sharehouse, my flatmate fretted and kept me awake all night. In the morning I called the pound, could describe Kasper accurately and we went out to get him on our bikes. Kasper became my dog, when my flatmate could not have him in her flat when she moved back to Copenhagen. So he came back to Gjellerup when I left for Australia to study. Eventually he was adopted by my brother’s girlfriend’s family. Kasper managed to walk into every heart that he met.

Three years later, in Australia, Mick and I stopped to look at a clutch of new-born staffordshire bull terrier cross puppies. Before long we named the little black staffy Bo – after Boudicca, the East Anglian warrior queen. The name was apt and she ruled us for 14 years – sweet, adoring and completely mad! She loved people, but was so rowdy that most were dead scared of her. She suffered terrible anxieties and needed stable routines and predictability. She was very awkward right up to her death. We had moved to acreage on Samford Range and had bought Josie. Each morning we took Bo and Josie on a five kilometres walk, up and down steep hills through the bush. Half way, Bo had a stroke. Unable to walk, Mick had to carry her all the way back to our house. The next morning we left her in her bed and when we came back from our walk, she had peacefully passed.

Josie had a fine teacher in Bo. They had probably been up to some mischief at this time - butter would not melt in their mouth. But Bo cannot hide her guilty anxiety. Photo: Mick, 2003.

Josie had a fine teacher in Bo. They had probably been up to some mischief at this time – butter would not melt in their mouth. But Bo cannot hide her guilty anxiety. Photo: Mick, 2003.

Pugsy's ambition for labrador-pug puppies was simply ignored by Josie. Perhaps it was just that there was food around? Photo: Mick 2007.

Pugsy’s ambition for labrador-pug puppies was simply ignored by Josie. Perhaps it was just that there was food around? Photo: Mick 2007.

Josie had learnt lots of bad habits from Bo and she had let Bo be the dominant dog – but she had always ruled the roost at dinner time. Food was the one thing Josie cared immensely about. That and being part of the action when the click of the washing machine door sounded. She would rush down the stairs and roll on the grass next to the washing line. Beyond that she was happy with lots of laziness and pats.

RIP sweet Josie, we miss you.

Television and narrow casting

Growing up with favourite shows on screen. Photo: Mick 2002

Growing up with favourite shows on screen. Photo: Mick 2002

These days, we spend a lot of time on screen. iphone, ipad, computer, laptop, tv and from time to time the big screen in a cinema. There are screens in the mall, blaring out council messages, screens on King George Square with free-to-air tv, screens in the lift, screens in the office, screens in the Gallery, screens on the QPAC lawn. We use screen for entertainment, staying in touch, learning, working, creating and finding our way. Children today are born digital natives.

In 1969, when I was only two, I had my first cinema experience. Disney’s first animated full-length movie production of Cinderella from 1950 had finally come to the big screen in my home town. (Or perhaps it returned, but distribution was a differently slow game then.) I don’t remember anything: I curled up in the deep soft seat and fell asleep in the dark. I woke up in a puddle. The next screening would be a wet experience for someone.

My father was an early adopter of technology. In 1960 in Denmark, there were 8 television sets for every 100 people with an average of 3.2 hours of programming broadcast each day. As a 19-year-old man, my father bought the first television set in his rural community in Lundfod, so he could watch the Olympic Games in Rome. He still lived at home on the farm and instead of paying board, he would pay installments on the black and white television he bought on credit. Rather than peering through the window at the electrical store in town or at the pub, he could follow the Olympic Games from the couch. The novelty attracted friends who came to watch the test picture for hours, he reckoned.

In 1974, my father bought a colour television so he could see the World Cup in full colour. While football shirts had adapted to black and white television so you could recognise your favorite team without difficulty, actually seeing the game in colour was almost like being in the stadium. Like a reverse Wizard of Oz experience. From then on, long Saturday afternoons in our living room were blue-green with the Premier league games, the air filled with the rise and fall of the roar of fans in the stadium. I was really not that interested and still am not keen on televised sport. Except when Denmark plays international games. But that is a completely different motivation.

From television as novelty to screens everywhere. Photo: http://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TV_Shows_We_Used_To_Watch_-_1955_Television_advertising_(4934882110).jpg Creative Commons

From television as novelty to screens everywhere. Photo: http://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:TV_Shows_We_Used_To_Watch_-_1955_Television_advertising_(4934882110).jpg Creative Commons

Despite my father’s enthusiasm for new technology, my childhood was not overwhelmed by television. Up until 1988, there was only one broadcaster with one channel. Danmarks Radio. If you lived in Copenhagen, you might be able to watch television from Sweden or if you lived close enough to the German border you might be able to tune in to three German channels. My grandparents in Jelling were close enough, and we sometimes watched dubbed American Westerns. ‘How awful to watch John Wayne speak German,’ my mum would howl. She was an English teacher and had a particular affinity with the English language. Danmarks Radio did not dub and before I could read, and some time after, she would read the subtitles aloud for me and my big brother. We loved this for more reasons than just understanding the plot of the movie.

Where I grew up in Herning, we were limited to just the one channel. Since 1951, special productions were dedicated to children. Children’s television was from 9.30 to 10.00 in the morning and 19.00 to 19.30 in the evening, except on Friday afternoon, when youth programming ran from 16.00 to 18.00. Between the morning children’s show and the afternoon show was the test picture – in colour.

Today we can turn the television on and be rewarded with a multitude of channels that broadcast 24/7. Even more: the very idea of having to wait for a program to come on is now foreign to us. We can access, buy, download or stream almost everything our heart desires for watching right now on our computer, smart tv, ipad or phone. Waiting for the afternoon show on a Friday is not something young people do these days. Hand them the ipad and they will find their favourite show on YouTube. When I visited Copenhagen in 2013, my two-year-old nephews happily sat still to watch Lucky Luke shows on the ipad (in whatever language my brother would find). They will grow up digital natives.

I don’t remember the last time I turned on the television to watch a show when the broadcaster was screening it. We tried Quickflix for a while, but found it too cumbersome, thanks to the draconian restrictions on parallel importing resulting in movies only available on dvd posted to you. I am a fan of ABC iView and SBS On Demand and apple tv is their perfect match. You might call it impatience, instant gratification and inability to anticipate. You might even call it narrow casting. For my money, it just means I don’t have to wait for the sport programs or commercials to end or watch dubbed movies or monocultural, bland programs.

Instead I can watch programming I find stimulating, informative and entertaining, when I am able. I watch a lot of quality Australian content and non-Hollywood international content, in particular Danish movies are regular in my home and particularly relevant to me culturally. The time I spend on the television screen is quality time that I treasure.

How about you? How has the way you have interacted with screen media changed?

Any sense of style?

Dressed for Galla night at the Sydney Opera House, October 2013

Dressed for Galla night at the Sydney Opera House, October 2013

This week my yoga teacher commented on my long lace coat that I bought second hand at Mag Pie Lane in Herning last year when I needed a diversion from all the awfulness of dad’s illness.

‘You always look so elegant’, she said in her beautiful accent.

I know I don’t look elegant when I pose in Warrior One or Downward Dog. And I find it very difficult to think of myself as elegant, but perhaps my self perception is just far from how she – and perhaps others – see me?

As a child I had no interest in attire. For a long time I had one idol – my big brother – and I wanted to be more of a boy than the girl I was born as. Boys were cool and could do more cool things than pretty girls dressed in flowery dresses and shiny patent leather shoes. Not that my parents ever dressed me like that – but even taking into account that uncouth 1970s look, I think I was an extraordinarily messily dressed child; my hair typically sporting a home cut and a well-slept-on look.

A tomboy beginning. Røde Kort Børnehaven 1971. Photo: Unknown

A tomboy beginning. Røde Kors Børnehaven 1971. Photo: Unknown

My kindy photograph shows me in a striped rib-knitted short sleved jumper with combed, yet very messy hair that probably needed washing. My brother’s first school photo sports a very crooked smile. I had decided this was a good look and hence my whole face is strangely lopsided and my lower lip wierdly askewed, making me look quite hysterical and not at all cool – or elegant.

Looking, but not feeling, the part. 1974. Photo: Unknown

Looking, but not feeling, the part. 1974. Photo: Unknown

In 1974 my very cool aunt got married. I was 7 years old and with my similarly aged cousins I was dressed in a pretty white dress to be bridesmaid. I was selected to collect the bride’s bouquet in the church, while the couple knelt in front of the priest. Keen to demonstrate I was not too fond on being this much of a girl, I rudely screwed up my face  and whispered loudly: yuk! when I returned to the front pew, holding the pretty flowers.

In 1976 we went on summer holiday in London. I was 9 years old. At Portobello Road markets, traders were peddling their wares – junk, second-hand clothes, stuff that might have fallen off a truck or otherwise shadily acquired. When mum made my little sister and I try on some beautiful Spanish dresses in a makeshift change room, I was super shamed that she made me and refused to let her buy the dress for me, even though everyone around me told me how lovely I looked. I did not want ‘lovely’; that was too girly. Lovely does not let you run around and climb trees and get grazed knees and dirt in your face and mud between your toes. Lovely is something your brother does not respect and therefore you don’t either. Of course, my beautiful little sister got herself a fabulous blue and red dress with tiny little flowers that she wore till she outgrew it.

Even out of my tweens, as a young person, I was never comfortable with dresses, make-up and girlie talk. I mostly wore jeans, unshapely jumpers and sneakers. In 1990, when I first came to Australia, I was entirely shocked to learn that Queensland’s Parliamentary orders were amended to allow women to wear slacks in Parliament. For the first time in 1990! What was this focus on women looking like dolls – hadn’t they heard about women’s liberation in this country?

When I migrated and started work the following year, I was so busy fitting in and meet expectations that I bought a few dresses and skirts – and uncomfortable shoes to match – but still preferred to wear pants and suits to work. My favourite shoes were a pair of black Doc Martens. In my spare time, I continued to dress for comfort, rather than style, without any sense of the feminine – in the warm Brisbane climate people’s casual dress style (singlet, shorts and thongs) was in such contrast to the suit and tie style of office work.

In fact, I had turned 40 when I realised that I could wear a dress quite well and that my legs were not as ugly as I had imagined for years, especially in a pair of well-fitting heels. The discovery came about when I took three weeks leave to overcome stress, battle a mild depression and reorient myself in the life in which I suddenly found myself. My boss and very good friend took me on a day of shopping therapy to DFO, a brand outlet near the airport. Here I bought a very beautiful red dress, shoes and makeup. This red dress changed my view of accentuating my feminity. I felt beautiful and attractive – and girly! Even though I was fast to drop the makeup, I have since become an ardent dress and shoe shopper. My best pieces are sourced in my home country, where design is embedded in life and fashion in ways hipster Australians could only dream of.

As I child and young person, I never aspired to being seen as elegant. It would have been almost rude in my eyes if someone had said I was elegant. Yet, I felt so very good about the fact that my yoga teacher noticed and commented. It is true that the self I was as a child is not the self I am as a 47-year-old adult. And isn’t that a good thing?