When the weather is hot, use your dishwasher in the late evening, and turn off the heated drying feature. The glasses and dishes will dry naturally overnight. Your place will not heat up as much, and because heat has a bad effect on polymers, rubber and plastics, the items made with those components will last much longer without it.
©M-J de Mesterton 2010
End-Papers as Effective, Inexpensive Facial Blotters
- Pack these papers in a purse or pocket for instant summer facial blotting–regular old end-papers from a beauty supply store cost only a dollar for one thousand, whereas the facial blotting papers we bought at Shiseido several years ago cost over ten dollars for a packet of one hundred. Now they are up to fifteen dollars per hundred. End-papers work just as well to remove oils and give your face a matte finish.
©M-J de Mesterton
- The Elegant Lady’s Boudoir Suggests End-Papers or End-Wraps as Facial Blotters at a Fraction of the Usual Price: 99 Cents Versus Ten Dollars
The Christmas Present, by Freddy Bloom
Singapore, Christmas, 1943, I woke up and watched them drawing back the last of the blackout curtains from the outside. This meant that soon the glaring lights that had been on all night would soon go out. I tried to stretch my legs and kicked Reddy. He did not stir, and vaguely I wondered whether he was unconscious or just sleeping the deep sleep of exhaustion. It did not really matter; in either case it would do him good.
I turned my head and looked at the Sikh who was lying next to me. Poor Mahinder Singh. When they had brought him in he was tall and strong and magnificent. Now he was tall and skinny and just very young. His beard and long, coiled hair were no longer sleek and shiny. His smooth brown skin had a greenish hue. Perhaps dark skins always turned green when fair skins turned pale.
I looked at my own hands. They were quite beautiful. Slender, smooth, and white, with nails that I had carefully bitten into a good shape.
Just as well that I could not see the rest of me–except my feet. I had seen so much of them recently. They had made us all take off our shoes as we entered the cell. None of us had stockings or socks. Who would think of wearing such things after 22 months of internment? Anyway, most of the women in Singapore had gone about bare-legged even before the Japanese came.
I thought of the silly line of shoes outside the cell. Sixteen pairs, all shapes and sizes, but mostly trompahs, native wooden-soled, one-strapped sandals. My own were real shoes, white leather with crêpe soles and they would have to last me until the war was over. I certainly was not wearing them out at the moment. Perhaps they would not fit the next time I was called out for questioning. The last time there had been difficulty putting them on. I looked at my feet again. They were white and fat and dimpled, like a baby’s. That was beri-beri. The shoes would have to fit. Everybody always made a proper business of putting on shoes when called out. It gave you a chance to do something outside the daily routine, and a chance to collect your wits and fight the blue funk that filled every inch as you thought of the questioning to come.
“We Would Show Them–but What?”
This was Christmas Day. Perhaps nobody would be taken out for questioning. What a hope! The Nips would pile it on thick just to show us. This was Christmas day and we would show them. This was the Kempetai, the Japanese Gestapo, and we were their prisoners. Oh well, it was Christmas Day and I was going to wash my hair.
I looked across to the w.c. in the corner. Dr. Choo was washing. He was always washing. Washing had become an obsession with him. Other things had become an obsession with him, but it was hard to know what they were for he talked so little. Of course, the Nips did not allow us to talk, but he was the only one who did not disobey them. He was scared. So were we all, but it affected each in a different way. He seemed to sink more and more into himself. The other day, when Mac had accidentally bumped into him, he had almost shrieked, “Don’t touch me. Don’t touch me. I’m superstitious.” Mac had barked back, “I’m no devil, fool.”
Mac was a dour Scotsman. Imprisonment had made him more dour, more Scottish, and somehow, more of a man. Mac was hard. Dr. Choo was not hard. He was just a hard-working Chinese doctor who had suddenly been torn from his work, his wife, and his children. He swore he did not know why. I looked at the w.c. again. Dr. Choo was using it. I looked away.
Mahinder Singh woke up. He rolled his head on his stiff neck and started to massage his body. He turned to me and smiled. “May Christmas, Memsahib.” “Merry Christmas, Mahinder.”
“Today Kismas. Today good day. Today all go home. Catch big eating.” After 75 days of the Kempetai, Mahinder was still the complete optimist. He was my friend. We had played a great joke on the Japanese. This joke was our bond; it was our strength.
Mahinder and the Mouse
They had brought the young Sikh policeman in a few days after me and they had insisted that he sit next to me during the day and sleep next to me at night. This, they reckoned, would be most degrading to the proud Sikh and to me, a white woman, the only woman in a cell with fifteen men of different races. Degradation meant nothing to me, but at the start I was a bit frightened. I tried to stay as far away from him as possible, but that was not easy, with sixteen people in a cell 10 feet by 18.
The first night we lay next to each other I awoke because a mouse had slid up between the warped floorboards and slipped up my shirt. My femininity had never included a horror of mice, but to have one scuttling round my ribs under my shirt was another thing and I sat up with a start. We had to lie so close, that this woke Mahinder, who sat up too. Just then the mouse leaped out of my bosom and scurried away. The young Sikh put his hand on my shoulder, smiled a lovely paternal smile and whispered, “Thik hai, Memsahib. It is only a little mice.”
At that point the Nip sentry on night duty screeched at us and we both lay down quickly. From that moment we were friends. We never let the Japs know. When they were near, Mahinder and I would play at being enemies, and this was the best game we had. When they beat him up, I nursed him. When I was ill, he took off his shirt at night and put it over me.
Mahinder’s greatest gesture was when he lent me his comb. The Sikh religion forbids men cutting their hair, so they all have beards and silky tresses, which often reach below their waists. The hair is then combed up, twisted, and coiled into a knot on the crown of the head and held in place with an adroitly inserted small wooden comb. Ordinarily a turban is worn. They had taken away Mahinder’s turban in case he tried to hang himself with it (they had removed the elastic from my knickers for the same reason), but had left him his comb. After we had been together for some days, he watched me trying to comb my hair with my fingers, and then, to my utter astonishment, he handed me his comb. His gesture meant a great deal.
Thereafter he lent it to me every day, but he would never lend it to anyone else. Mahinder had proved himself, as mentioned, my friend and we were wishing each other a merry Christmas. Then we both looked towards the w.c. That w.c.! How our life revolved about it. It was no ordinary toilet. It had no wooden seat, and instead of the ordinary flush arrangement, it had a tap that could be turned on fast or slow. When the bowl was full, it automatically drained itself. This was a very practical arrangement, and for a time I thought of having a similar fixture in our home in London, until it occurred to me that in England we do not use toilets for such varied purposes. In the Smith Street lockup in Singapore the w.c. was used for washing, for drinking, as well as for our basic needs.
When they first flung me into the cell with all these strange men, I had sat for some hours until it had become imperative to catch the attention of the sentry who marched up and down outside the bars that formed one wall of the cell. Since he spoke no English, I pointed to the w.c. and then to myself. He obviously understood, for he went out and spoke to the corporal on duty, and within a few minutes a Japanese voice bellowed, “If the woman wishes to wash, drink, or pass water, there is a toilet in the corner of the cell.”
The embarrassment of the men about me was so strong that it broke through my own. When I eventually got up, each man seemed to try to disappear within himself. Now, after so many weeks, we all took each other very much for granted.
Across the cell Walter was reading his Bible. Walter was, in some respects, a privileged prisoner. He was an Englishman who had lived for years in Nagasaki, spoke fluent Japanese, and understood Japanese customs and manners. He had been our camp interpreter and done a wonderful job until he had been arrested for running a strictly forbidden radio. Now he still acted as interpreter in our urgent demands for medicines, foods, and the barest essentials of life. Most of the time his efforts were in vain, but any vaguely human touches that were ever shown us by the Nips were almost always due to his efforts. He was a deeply religious man and had somehow obtained permission to bring his Bible into the cell. As I watched Walter, he looked up and smiled.
Though there seemed to be a rule that a sentry should be on constant guard, marching up and down, passing each cell about once a minute, this had slackened considerably during the past few weeks and was only in force when higher officers were expected at our lockup. Ironically enough, the headquarters of the Singapore Kempetai were housed in what had been the Y.M.C.A. This morning the guards were all busy with their own affairs and paid no attention to us.
The First Present
Walter got up and came to me. “Merry Christmas, and here is something the postman left for you.” With care he took a little picture out of the Bible and gave it to me. It was the type of highly coloured little holy card that is often given to children in Sunday schools. Perhaps one of Walter’s children had put that particular one in that particular Bible. Now he was giving it to me as a Christmas token. I held it carefully; it was very beautiful.
And then our first meal of the day arrived. Choy, the young Chinese conscript, clanked down the corridor with a high stack of tin dishes, the size of small cake tins, and a bucket of rice. He stopped outside our cell, counted the number of inmates, slung a dollop of rice into that many tins, unlocked the small door in the barred wall, and slid all the dishes on the floor. The men sat down in the places they had occupied all day. I got up and handed each man a tin. This had been my duty ever since the beginning, when there had been squabbles. There never was very much rice.
We all ate meals with our fingers; there were no utensils. When we had finished, we waited for Choy to come back with the tea bucket. Then we lined up at the door while he poured tea (no milk or sugar, of course) into the tins. This led to difficulties and contortions, for many of them were rusted and full of little holes, and we had to try to hold the tins so that the fingers plugged all the offending holes. Since the tea was often boiling hot, my fingers used to blister, and often one of the men would hold the tin for me while I drank.
Greetings to Cicely
One of my cell-mates was a Chinese Communist called Tang, who was the head of one of the up-country resistance movements. He was short and squat and, unlike most Chinese, grew a thick stubbly beard. He was the toughest man I ever knew. No matter what the Nips did to him, he never changed his expression and never made a sound. When anybody tried to nurse him, he just shook his head and said, “Tidapa,” Malay for “Never mind.” He spoke no English. Sometimes I thought that I would rather be a white woman in Japanese hands than a Japanese woman in Tang’s hands. He was tough…and he was always the first one up to hold my tin when the tea was hot and he would tilt it carefully like a mother feeding a child.
Remembering Christmas, 1943, there is a great deal of sentiment but no sentimentality. We were a group of extremely mixed people sharing a most unpleasant experience. Some showed up better than others. As I personally was concerned, there was not a man, European, Indian, Chinese, Eurasian, or Malay, who was not thoughtful and kind and they had a great deal more than my presence to think about.
That particular breakfast differed from the others in one respect. Three or four cells down was Cicely, another woman and a good friend. They had brought her in the day after me. We had seen each other on one or two occasions since then. As far as we knew, we were the only women who had been taken from Changi Camp. While Choy poured out my tea, I whispered, “Christmas greetings to the other lady.” He did not bat an eyelid. Later, when he collected the empty tins, he growled, “She say you too.”
I was just going to the w.c. to wash my hair when there were heavy footsteps in the outer office. Quickly, we all sat down in a straight row facing the bars, knees bent, feet tucked in, and waited. We spent at least 14 hours a day in that position. To straighten your legs was considered very bad form. And so we sat on Christmas Day as we had sat for weeks before silently, all in a neat row, looking through the bars into the corridor, and then through another set of bars into the cell opposite, where a similar row of miserable beings faced us. The thing to do was to wiggle into a position where the gap between one’s bars coincided with the gap of the person opposite and one had a clear, if not large, view for signalling.
Opposite me sat Perry. We had known each other before the war in Penang, where we had played games at the same club, danced at the same hotels, and been invited to the same cocktail parties. The next time we saw each other was through the gap in the bars. It did not take us long to work out an inconspicuous sign language and we spent the tedious hours having long conversations. We also passed on information about what had happened in various interrogations.
Christmas morning we wished each other all the best and while the sentries marched up and down we made rude remarks about them. Suddenly the noise in the outer office increased. Three of the Nip big-shots stamped down the corridor, followed by a drip of slouching, arrogant interpreters. They looked at us the way a person looks at a harmless beetle before stepping on it. They called out a few names in front of cells farther down, then turned round and stopped at our cell. We looked into space, our hearts pounded, there did not seem to be enough air to go round. They called Dr. Choo’s name and turned to the cell opposite, where they called for Perry and two Chinese. The rest of us relaxed.
Cell doors were opened and those who were due for questioning got out and put on their shoes. Perry held onto the bar in front of me while he put someone else’s trompahs on his swollen feet. He wiggled his fingers at me and before he left he winked.
We continued to sit, looking straight ahead. Only those who had been badly beaten and tortured were allowed the luxury of lying down. When the Japs were working on a man, he never got much rest.
I wondered about Perry, about Dr. Choo. We had heard some cars leave. That meant some of the prisoners were being taken to the Y.M. for questioning. That was bad for they were very thorough. Others were being questioned here. The noises that went with questioning were too familiar by now. It is almost impossible to identify voices under such conditions, and yet one cannot stop trying.
We sat until the second meal, just like the first, was brought round. We put a tin of rice aside for Dr. Choo, and it was eyed greedily, for when a man has been questioned he has either been given food or he is in no condition to eat. In either case the cell may share his ration.
Perry Comes Back
After “lunch,” we sat down again. I wanted to wash my hair, but thought it better to do nothing until the big-shots had left. After all, it had not been washed for ten weeks; Boxing Day would really do as well as Christmas. We sat. A couple of people from cells farther down were brought back. They did not look too bad. We sat some more. A scuffle outside and two interpreters dragged an unconscious figure down the corridor. We could not be sure, but he seemed to be Chinese. We sat some more.
Hard to say what time it was when Perry came back. He seemed a bit stiff and his face was bruised, but not too bad. He did not look at me, but as he bent to take off his shoes, he held the bar nearest me. As he bent, his hand slowly came down the bar. When he eventually let go and turned to enter his cell, there was a tiny parcel on the floor in front of me.
It was not until a good deal later, when most of the prisoners, including Dr. Choo, had returned and the Japanese officers from headquarters had left, that I could examine the parcel. It was a single sheet of toilet paper, and inside was a sliver of real soap. They had allowed Perry to wash up after his interview, and he had stolen a Christmas present for me. Before the third and last rice meal of the day, I took my precious gift and, with great ceremony, washed my hair, with soap in the the w.c., and a Eurasian lad lent me his shirt to dry it. And then, of course, there was Mahinder’s comb….
Many years have passed since then. Most of the people who were in that prison died. I was lucky. We are back in London and since then have had two wonderful babies. Looking back to Christmas, 1943, I remember that was the day I washed my hair and Walter gave me a holy picture.
By Freddy Bloom,
Originally published in Leader Magazine of Great Britain, this story was discovered in the 31 December, 1949 issue given to us by our friends Peter and Michele King of England, and diligently transcribed here, visible for the first time anywhere on the internet, by M-J de Mesterton for readers of Elegant Survival. Read Freddy Bloom’s obituary in Elegant Survivors, at http://www.elegantsurvival.net/elegantsurvivors.htm
This moving story contains pejorative language directed at the Japanese, who are today respected allies–please remember that it was wartime, and that the persons involved endured unimaginable suffering at the hands of their captors.
- Leader Magazine, December 1949: Sixty Years Later, this Story Is Still Relevant
Cinnamon aids in the regulation of weight and blood sugar. It is delicious on apples, oatmeal, rice pudding, and in coffee or tea.
Cinnamon is rich in antioxidants, and is sometimes added to a foot-soak or a facial treatment to soften skin.
Tea made with cinnamon sticks can soothe a sore throat.
Cinnamon may help to preserve one’s power of memory.
The only advice given is to “wash your hands”. And then, they tell people to cover up when coughing or sneezing. That only works for carriers of the disease.
Hand-washing is always a good idea, and some of us live every day as if there were a rampant infection on the land. It will do you no good if you touch something with live germs on it, and the virus enters your skin. Or, if you just accidentally touch your face before washing or sterilizing hands with antibacterial gel. Nearly everyone has a torn cuticle or papercut, through which the virus will immediately invade the body.
The only way to protect your hands from germs in everyday contact with the public is to wear gloves. This includes while grocery shopping and visiting other public establishments. And, since this flu virus is airborne, run like Hell when someone coughs or sneezes, and do not let a cashier with a runny nose ring up your purchases. Once you bring your supplies home,unpack them wearing latex or rubber gloves, throw them into the sink and wash them before storage.
Taking Vitamin-D3 and C in large doses daily is said to help boost your immune system and reduce the chances of contracting the current flu viruses. Please see Elegant Survival Health for more tips.
~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton 2009
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Clothes dryers are energy-wasters, and will ruin your clothes as well, through fibre-loss and shrinkage. Some electric dryers even tear holes in clothes. Hand-washing and line-drying your shirts and other washable garments will extend their lives. I use Zote soap and a microfibre cloth to rub dirt out of cuffs and collars. Underarms need special attention, too. I use a microfibre cloth instead of a brush because it is more gentle on the fabric, while strong enough to grab what I like to call “café crud” from cuffs.
You don’t need a fancy contraption for natural clothes-drying; a five-dollar investment in a clothesline from a supermarket, and a packet of wooden clothespins for about three dollars will do, and you can be line-drying in a jiffy. Having a couple of trees to hold your clothesline at each end is lucky indeed, but in their absence, posts can be installed.
When travelling, pack a small piece of Zote or Octagon soap for hand-washing dainties and shirts in your quarters. The shower is a nice place to hang them; they will likely dry overnight, and probably not need ironing. You might pack a couple of clothes-pins as well.
The sun and Zote soap both act as brighteners, and your clothes will have a clean, fresh scent if treated to a sun-bath.
~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton, 2009
Researchers have determined that laboratory mice given a diet supplemented with curcumin experience a reduction in the formation of fat tissue, and a lowered number of blood-vessels that feed fat. Curcumin is the active ingredient and major polyphenol in the bright yellow spice from India known as turmeric.
The growth and expansion of fat tissues requires new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. In fat tissue, this process is mediated by the secretion of adipokines, such as leptin, adiponectin, resistin, interleukin-6 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The researchers first investigated the effect of curcumin in cultured human cells to which adipokines had been added to stimulate angiogenesis. They found that the ability of curcumin to inhibit angiogenesis was partly due to the reduced expression of VEGF.
Subsequently, the mice were fed a high-fat diet supplemented with 500 milligrams curcumin per kilogram of food, for three months. Weight-gain was reduced in the mice who were given curcumin. The curcumin-supplemented mice had lower weight and reduced total-body fat. They also had lower liver-weights, and experienced a reduction in VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), indicating reduced risk for angiogenesis.
Also called curcumin, turmeric is a mustard-yellow spice from India. Indians use it more for its healing properties than for taste. Turmeric has an innocuous flavor, and adds color to foods.
In India, turmeric has been revered for its healing properties, and thus is used as a daily dietary supplement. In the Ayurvedic system of health, turmeric has medicinal properties and is an anti-inflammatory agent to treat a wide variety of conditions, including flatulence, jaundice, menstrual difficulties, bloody urine, hemorrhage, toothache, bruises, chest pain, and colic. Because of its effects on enzyme related to inflammation, turmeric may have the same mode of action as anti-inflammatory drugs, without the side-effects. Curcumin is used for cuts and burns and is known as an antiseptic/antibacterial. It is also used to remedy stomach-ulcers.
The U.S. National Institues of Health has four clinical trials in progress, involving curcumin as a treatment for pancreatic cancer, multiple myeloma, Alzheimer’s, and colorectal cancer. According to a 2005 article in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Common Indian Spice Stirs Hope,” research activity into curcumin, turmeric’s active ingredient, is burgeoning. Two-hundred and fifty-six curcumin-study papers were published in 2005, according to a search of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
I’ve advocated the wearing of gloves on Elegant Survival since its beginning in 2006 (see “The Merits of Wearing Gloves”, my old article). My husband and I have worn gloves for decades, whether or not they were in fashion. Now, there are even more reasons to wear them, with the proliferation of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus and H1N1 viruses, both of which may cause death, and are transmitted by surface-contact. Traditionally, it did not have to be cold outside, as it was on Inauguration Day outdoors in Washington, D.C., for ladies to wear gloves. Gloves will protect your hands from deadly germs and viruses, protect your jewelry from unwanted attention in-transit, and cushion your hands should you trip and fall on the pavement. For reasonable prices and a very extensive selection of glove styles, try
~~M-J de Mesterton, Copyright 2009
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Elegant Survival Hair-Care
Copyright M-J de Mesterton 2008
My husband enjoys cutting my hair. He uses some very good scissors from France. And he doesn’t spend his energy asking about my private life–he is my private life! Train your husband, wife, or trusted friend to cut your hair, and return the favor. Remember, the higher the quality of your scissors or shears, the better the haircut.
There are many brands of hair color on the market. Target and Wal-Mart carry Revlon Colorsilk, usually for three dollars a box. It is just as good as the more expensive brands. If your hair has already started to turn gray or, as in my case, white, choose lighter colors. I remember bumping into Tony Bennett back in 1980s Manhattan. He was dying his hair black then to look younger, but the effect was reminiscent of a wax museum replica. Now that he has let his hair go naturally white, he looks so much more healthy and attractive. The same is true for ladies. If you are fortunate enough to go white instead of gray, it gives a platinum blond look. White hair is usually much more delicate than gray, and thus is easier to color. Hair that hasn’t yet turned, but is mixed in with white hair, will also dye or lighten more easily. If you have naturally black hair, lightening will be difficult. In your case, blending gray and dark hair with a shade just a bit lighter than your original one will be better than going to the lightest shade, because attempting to bleach black hair usually produces an orange result. What you ought not to do is try to dye your hair as black as it was when you were young. Nothing is more difficult to keep up than dark hair with white or gray roots. Black hair that is graying can sometimes be successfully enhanced with a natural dark henna. Slightly lighter colors of hair dye will blend with the new growth of hair and give you an evenly pigmented coiffure. At three dollars a box, it is wise to stock up on your shade, because at times they are sold-out, and you don’t want to be caught dead with the wrong color on your head!
Copyright M-J de Mesterton 2008