Dressing Up in Sydney – Nova Scotia Canada

As they say in the Lego Movie – “Honey, where’s my pants?”

One of the few things we can’t quite agree on when we travel is – what clothes to take.  I work on the theory that three shirts, a couple of pairs of shorts and a pair of jeans is a bit extravagant.  Nanette on the other hand, always insists on taking, well, more.  To my great surprise, our travelling companions on this trip appear to have exactly the same dilemma.

Today, we’re in Sydney Nova Scotia.  Like it’s Aussie namesake, the place was settled by the Brits (well, actually by the local tribes, then the French, then the Brits, but for the sake of convenience, we’ll say the Brits.)  Unlike Australia, these people came here willingly because they were loyal to King George.  Apparently, there was some sort of revolution happening down south in places like Boston, so these patriotic King’s-men and women took up an offer to settle on Cape Breton Island, recently snatched from France.

So, what’s this got to do with my clothes story?  Well, hang in there and all will become clear.  Ok, back to the faithful Brits.  Prior to the little disturbance down in Boston, these guys were merchants, bankers and so forth.  I can hear the dinner table conversations now – “Pack up your things Margaret, we’re moving to that new colony at Sydney.”  “But what will I take Horace?  Do you think I’ll need a summer ball gown as well as that new one with the silk sleeves and ermine trims?

What’s actually awaiting the good folks in Sydney is, well, nothing.  Ok, there’s a fort with a bunch of frontier soldiers who ain’t seen womenfolk for a couple of years, but there isn’t anything else.  No shops, no houses, no farms, no carriages, and definitely no fancy dances at the start of the social Season.  When someone here told their teenage son or daughter to “go and make your bed!” they handed them an axe and pointed to a likely tree.

We’re a bit weary of bus tours, so we’ve joined a guided walking through around the old part of town with a retired local named Ken.  Ken looks so right in his oldey worldey costume that we wonder if he really is just a guy who used to “work for the Feds”, and, he’s a rich mine of information about the history of the local area and its settlers. “You see that stone in the walls of the church and the basements of some of the houses?  Well, it came from the fort at Louisville.”  He goes on to tell us how the fort was built by the French, captured by the English, given back to the French as a sort of “Oh my, so sorry old chap” apology, captured again, and finally blown to pieces to ensure the whole cycle didn’t start all over again.

Then, we get to the houses of a couple of the prominent early residents.  Ken passes our little group over to another local he calls “the crazy French lady.”  The lady definitely has the accent of an Acadian French descendent, and yes, she’s delightfully crazy.  She shows us around the house – “now de leddy of this house, she had twenty-one children.  You know, if oye hed det many children oye’d be stret down to dat pier where yer ship’s docked, and oye’d be trowing meself in.

Now, back to the clothes.  The stories that flow from Ken and the crazy French lady paint a vivid picture of how these unskilled and ill-equipped refugees from the south lived.  In particular, we learn two interesting things pertaining to clothes.  One – each person only possessed one set of clothes.  Two – because winter is so cold and wet, you couldn’t dry anything effectively so, you didn’t wash your clothes (or your hair, or most of the rest of your body) at all for about three to six months.  (I do sort of speculate how the town might smell around the end of March, and what happens if you get a surprise hot day, but we’ll just leave it there.)

I look at Nanette.  “So, do you reckon that, if we’re travelling for less than three months, we could just take ….”  Ok, bad idea.


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