I had heard stories from people who told me it didn’t used to be like this. The clothes we wore used to be bought in shops, on line or even made by people with skills in that area. Not any longer though.
Since the war began, many things we had taken for granted ceased to exist in the shops. From televisions to toasters, toothbrushes to toilet paper, thumb tacks to telephones had all vanished in the new state we found ourselves living in. Second hand businesses were booming and, funnily enough, people took better care of any possessions they had.
Home burglaries had soared at the start, but had bottomed out when they made it a crime worthy of the Death Penalty. After all, who would consider it worth losing your life over a second hand pair of knickers?
Alice was known to have taken care of her things. No she was not wealthy as some would reckon wealth to be – she did not have loads of money – but then who did these days? But she was seen to hand wash carefully all her underwear. She never hung it outside in the sun where it might fade, or worse still, blow away in the wind. She had an undercover, multi-strand clothesline in what used to be her garage. I know many folks who have converted their garages into bedrooms and living rooms where their relatives now stay with them. After all who could afford an Australian Made Bicycle these days?
We were warned you know – yes we were. The warners were considered conspiracy theorists and naysayers. Loud Mouthed Yobbo’s was what some people called them. ‘What would they know’. ‘What a load of codswallop’. ‘Worry warts’…. and the rude phrases were thrown at them constantly by the media and the rabble that read the so called news back then. It wasn’t really news thought was it? If it had been then we would all have known that life – as we knew it was about to change dramatically. Instead, they printed the same old soothing stories to lull everyone into a false sense of security.
Mingo has checked the online death notices so he was able to let us all know when the gathering would take place. ‘3.00pm at Number 7’ he said. I for one would definitely be attending as I had my eye on something.
The really strange part of all of this, when I think back – was that it never needed to have happened. Australia had at one time been a place with a thriving domestic manufacturing industry – right across the board so I was told. Then some politicians and industry groups got it into their heads to ‘diversify off shore’. Posh words really for finding a cheaper place to make things so that they could earn more profits. Somewhere in all of this I heard the United Nations intervened too – saying it was only fair that wealthier countries share of their bounty with poorer nations.
Bit by bit, industry by industry, things were sent off to be made in foreign countries and imported back into Australia. The home grown industries closed down. Millions of people were put out of work. Factories and offices where the work had once proliferated, now stood as empty sentinels. A sad testament to a world gone mad! And no one raised a voice – other than the unemployed.
When the Mega Eruption occurred in Asia and our borders were closed to all foreigners, little did we realise we were about to be denied just about everything we had taken for granted. No one could have – or at least tried to imagine before then, what it would be like to not have any trade with China for example. If only we had taken time to catalogue the everyday items in our homes and stores that bore the Made in China label! Of course China was not the only place we had outsourced to. Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, India and Bangladesh to name just a few. They even outsourced our Navy to Spain!
No imports of everyday items meant prices in the shops soared while stocks lasted…. and then the crimes began. Theft, burglary, black market, muggings, home invasions….. you name it and it happened. Homeowners in droves were seen to install iron bars and grills on every possible entrance to their homes. Still I bet not many people considered their knickers valuable.
Whenever a delivery of goods was being made from a ‘friendly’ country – the queues of people were long. That must be the understatement of the century, because the local councils had to arrange ‘line-up’ days and times for residents. People with surnames from A to D were able to purchase on Monday Mornings. Then came the E to H on Monday Afternoons – and so it continued right through the alphabet. Pity the X,Y & Zed’s! Funny really when you think about it, because most of the ‘friendlies’ had themselves sent much of their manufacturing offshore too. They were however happy to sell off, at exorbitant prices, anything they had left over. No one it seemed had knickers to spare though.
Alice should be gone by now it is almost 3.00. I looked out of the front window and saw a slow but steady stream of local ladies plodding down towards Number 7. I gulped down my water, and went out to join them.
Alice was not a large lady as sizes go. We had guestimated she was a ladies size 12. Allowing for stretch and wear, her knickers would probably fit me at size 14. Who could have imagined ten years ago that a bunch of ladies would have a cat fight over someone else’s – second-hand knickers? Well if today was to be like any of the other deceased’s underwear distributions I had attended – a cat fight it would surely be.
But we were to be pleasantly surprised. Alice had appointed a Legal Eagle to supervise her distribution. As she has no immediate family she had determined that the friends and neighbours in our street were to be given ‘first pick’ of the crop. I had my eye on a couple of pairs of good cotton knickers and two singlets that seemed to match. When my name was called I was asked how much I was prepared to pay for them.
I knew they were in fine condition so made my bid of $150. It was all I could afford and I knew they were worth every cent of it. To my delight it was accepted by the Legal Eagle and I was awarded Alice’s Second Hand Whites immediately. To say I was thrilled would have been an understatement! The other ladies bickered a bit over what they wanted and the price they were prepared to pay for them. I did not muck about. Having been to too many of these kinds of ‘clearances’ before, I know it was worth bidding high and getting what you wanted.
When I got back home and opened the package I had purchased, I grinned to myself at the ‘bargain’ I had obtained. Not too many ladies I knew could say they had genuine Chinese Bond’s Ladies Knickers in their underwear stash!