I’ve been a fan of magazines ever since, as a young teenager in the early 70’s, I subscribed to a UK magazine called Petticoat. The anticipation of its arrival at our local news agency in Port Elizabeth was sublime and even though it arrived weeks later than issued and the seasons were out of sync, I was enthralled by the world it espoused.
Petticoat was a tabloid-sized young women’s magazine launched at the height of the Swinging Sixties. It fashioned itself as ‘for the young and fancy free’ [and later] its slogan had changed to ‘the new young woman’.
At a time in South Africa when we were oppressed by censorship and sanctions (it was a conservative and claustrophobic society) Petticoat magazine was like a breath of fresh air. It offered a glimpse of the “outside” world (we had no television in those days) and it broadened my outlook, allowing me to dream and dare to be different. I devoured the columns written by Annie Nightingale (later to become Britain’s first female DJ on Radio 1) and Chris Ward (later editor of the Daily Express). And I also gleaned quite a liberated sex education (the things my mother didn’t tell me) from Claire Rayner, the magazine’s brilliant agony aunt. I guess the censors didn’t bother to vet a teen magazine.
[Rayner’s] advice in the teenaged girls’ magazine Petticoat caused controversy. In 1972 she was accused of “encouraging masturbation and promiscuity in prepubescent girls”. Her direct and frank approach led the BBC to ask her to be the first person on British pre-watershed television to demonstrate how to put on a condom.
But what I really consumed with relish were the fashion spreads. This was the time of Mary Quant, Biba, Carnaby Street and Twiggy. I would cut out pictures of clothes and paste them into scrapbooks for inspiration and believe it or not I found a couple of pages from those scrapbooks recently in a file marked personal in my filing cabinet! To have hung onto them for so long is an indication to me of how defining that time in my life was.
Of course none of the clothing that I drooled over was available in South Africa so when my dad went on business trips to England I would give him shopping lists for clothing and Mary Quant makeup and strict instructions on where to shop. The most beautiful item of clothing that he ever bought me was a black velvet jacket from Dorothy Perkins that had been featured in one of my Petticoat magazines. When I was 15 years old, all my fashion dreams came true when I visited England with my parents and made a beeline for Carnaby Street and the King’s Road. I still have a cheesecloth, wrap around “maxi” skirt and a hat that I bought on that trip.
Many years after “the Petticoat era” I discovered another UK magazine that seemed to hit the spot; it was called Woman’s Journal. By this time, as a young married woman in my 20’s, I was no longer infatuated with fashion and more interested in recipes and homemaking. The cookery editor of WJ was Katie Stewart and I still have many of her tried and trusted recipes in my recipe file (okay, I’m not that organised – they are stuffed in a drawer somewhere). WJ also used to feature short stories by authors, the calibre of Fay Weldon, Iris Murdoch and Margret Drabble as well as bloody good interviews with people ranging from politicians to actors.
Towards the end of its remarkable 74 year run, I began to find the middle-class lifestyle promoted by WJ a tad too dull and conventional for my liking. As we moved towards the 21st century I started searching for another kind of lifestyle that I could relate to. Kiera, a schoolgirl at the time, wrote an essay on our family and in it she gently poked fun at my attempts to redefine my life. She described the different phases I went through from “Brady Bunch mom” (wearing pearls and baking muffins), to “Bohemian mom” (wearing Indian print skirts and cooking chickpeas), to “Spiritual mom” (doing yoga and reading daily quotes from Buddha’s’ little book). Eventually though I settled on “Country mom”!
In 2001 I bought a 50% share in 18.5 hectares of land in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands and some inspiration was called for. And that’s where Country Living UK came in. I awaited its arrival as eagerly as I did Petticoat all those years ago. I used CL ideas to help me design the house, the interior and even the garden. It was full of practical advice on all things country, albeit English country. However, recently I became bored with CL’s rather formulaic approach and stale ideas. I found myself buying it out of habit rather than with eager anticipation and I missed that. For me one of life’s simple pleasures is settling down with a cup of tea and cracking open a new magazine, flicking through it and then reading it from back to front, always.
So, I was delighted to discover another magazine that I can actually relate to and it’s called The Simple Things. The articles are well written and informative; the recipes are simple and fresh; and it advocates a lifestyle that I am at last living and not just aspiring to. Perhaps this is the end of the line of lifestyle magazines for me, unless there is a one for geriatrics on how to make the best of things in an old age home (how to decorate one’s bedpan springs to mind).
On the back cover of The Simple Things there is a list of simple pleasures relating to articles in the magazine. It always gets me thinking about the simple things that bring me joy. And on Friday I experienced another two of life’s simple pleasures. One was having a box of goodies ordered online delivered to me care of Linga Lapa restaurant. The other delight was digging all my favourite vinyl records out of mothballs and playing them on my new record player, which was what the box contained.
What more could a girl ask for?