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The Eroticism of Hildegarde Hempel

An incident borne out of an innocent remark can inflame old resentments among a confined people. ‘Folk will have their ways’, goes the old saying. Such was the occasion of the spread of the accusation in the little parish of Saint Paul’s in our little Mallee town of Sandleton a long while ago and it became for a time the mainstay of undertone gossip did the eroticism of Hildegarde Hempel.

I have to say that the suspicion of Hildegarde Hempel’s eroticism did not become talked about until after her passing … indeed, it was a slip of the tongue of Pastor Noske at Hilda’s funeral that started the chatter … the slip came at the mention of a collection of Spanish veils, mantillas and combs, that Hilda had proudly collected over the years and would put out on display at times of community shows or church fundraising events.

Having survived her husband by more than a decade, Hildegarde Hempel devoted her time to church events and fundraising. Being childless, she was capable of devoting many hours of volunteering to that end … and her tireless activities were held in high esteem by the Pastor of that church … even if she did have a certain wearing effect upon those more taken up with family life and farm than she herself .. some even found her requests upon their valued spare time a little tiresome and wished she had found another husband to occupy herself with … But it was also with a certain sadness and shock that her death by heart attack was announced one day around the gossip pools of the small town.

It was in the eulogy that Pastor Noske was waxing lyrical about Hilda’s achievements and works for the church community that the mention of her being proud of her collection of Spanish veils and the combs that went with the veils that the slip of the tongue was made …

“Hilda can also be remembered by us all with her generosity at fund raising, where she would proudly put on display her collection of seven Spanish veils and combs … Hilda was very proud of her veils … and it has to be said the she had a taste for the erotic … pardon … the exotic … ” and the Pastor went on to further deliver his panegyric … but it was too late … the voicing of the word “erotic” just after the mention of the seven veils conjured up in more than one mind of those whose bible was closely studied in prayer and Bible classes as a testament of blind faith, the story of John the Baptist, King Herod and Salome’s dance of the seven veils … a most lustful evocation mistakenly, but believed to derive from their most holy book … and no matter the trying, the image of Hildegarde Hempel doing the dance of the seven veils could not be removed from the thoughts of many of the congregation.

So the idle chatter began among the hatted and gloved men and ladies of the congregation outside St. Pauls church on that Sunday morning .. their heads all leaning in to hear while the ladies taffeta skirts and soft silken scarves floated on the rising air of the spring day, their corsages of new blooms dancing with each excited opinion …

“A slip of the tongue is no fault of the mind” … Silvie Tempke judiciously remarked .. ”none the less, you have to be wondering just where pastor’s mind was wandering to.” Other members of that little gathering pinched their lips and nodded their heads in cautious agreement.

And it wasn’t long before the memory of certain moments concerning Hilda were recalled with a leaning toward the possibility of salacious intent. And one has to keep in mind that those veils of Hilda’s were not just any old veils, but rather exquisite pieces of the finest silken Spanish lace … seven mantillas of the finest quality with their accompanying combs … peinetas of finely carved ivory … a world of conjured images of dark-haired Spanish ladies dancing a lustful flamenco with swirling abandon … Whenever they were on display, many visitors to her stall couldn’t help but touch those finely carved combs or run the soft flowing silken veils over their hands … the electric sensation of the finely laced craftmanship sending a thrill through the skin …

There was that time at one of those shows where Hilda, in a moment of delightful abandon ala Isadora Duncan, upon a request did throw one of the veils across her body and do a pirouette with a snap of her fingers held high so that she made to be a Flamenco dancer in an exotic pose … a picture of just this moment was taken by the enthusiastic Norman Ziedel with his “Kodak Brownie” camera that was brought out of his archives and passed around, now that there was an interest in more than just the everyday display of veils … and as is sometimes the unfortunate situation with such candid snaps, they can capture one in a most undignifying pose or facial expression … and in this photo too, was Hilda caught expressing a most vampish look in her eyes coupled with an alluring twist of her body … while suitable for that particular moment as wanting to demonstrate the voluptuousness of the pose, the ramifications of that picture spread even more the luridness of the rumours.

Another, a drinking mate of Hilda’s long deceased husband; Herbert Hempel, recalled being told by Herbert, with accompanying wink of confederacy, that Hilda was an excellent dancer in her day … but that “day” being so long ago, none could recall. And that left Hildegarde Hempel out on a limb with none to defend her honour or reputation … such is the form of small town gossip that relies on a healthy diet of rumour, envy and schadenfreude to thrive.

Layered on top of the salacious rumours now circulating among the congregation, was the curious fact that Hilda only had those seven veils … and a niggling reference to the Bible story of John the Baptist, King Herod and Salome dancing the “dance of the seven veils” was resurrected time and again and washed the whole episode with fantastic colours and intense gossip … THEN, when it was heard that Hilda had bequeathed her collection of Spanish veils and combs to the church fete committee under the care of Pastor Noske … well … didn’t the tongues really start to wag!

Of course, Pastor Noske never heard any of the gossip or rumours surrounding Hildegarde Hempel and her collection of veils … indeed, he wasn’t even aware that he had started the whole thing off with his miss-reading of the word “exotic” for “erotic” in his eulogy, so was delighted to announce to the congregation one Sunday later that month of the fortunate and generous benevolence of Ms Hempel’s bequeath and those veils would be, as per usual, on display for public gaze the next month’s Strawberry Fete … a not too small rumbling of disquiet erupted from the pews of the church gathering … Pastor Noske took this as a murmur of approval and beamed a satisfied smile from the pulpit.

“I will ask Mrs. Appelt if she could arrange and attend to the display of those most exotic items on the day … ” the pastor continued innocently … There was again a frantic rumbling of turned bodies and all faces now fixed upon Mrs. Appelt in wide-eyed inquiry … Mrs. Appelt blushed and twisted her hands together in anxiety and blurted out ..

”Oh … oh really, Pastor, I don’t know … I don’t think … ” the congregation again turned as one to look to the Pastor …

“No, no … I can assure you, Mrs. Appelt, we have the greatest confidence in your capability to “man” the stall … after all, I believe YOU were one of the greatest admirers of Hildegarde’s collection.” The congregation instantly as one spun to gaze upon the hapless and now shocked Mrs. Appelt.

“Oh but Pastor … only in admiration of the craftmanship … I can assure you!” … she protested loudly and she gazed appealingly to all around her.

But in the end, it all turned out for the best, as the hint of eroticism now attached to those exquisite veils drew more visitors to the stall and by consequence, the sale of raffle-tickets from that one stall outsold more than several other stalls combined … and such an inquisitive crowd as gathered at Mrs. Appelt’s stall brought a cheerful smile to the cheeks of Pastor Noske as he did his rounds.

“Quite the interest in the veils today, Mrs. Appelt?” the Pastor enquired.

“Yes … it seems there has been an upshot of interest in them this year … and several strangers have commented on how they certainly DO have an erotic appeal.”

Pastor Noske blinked and squinted at the mention of “erotic” … and he looked deeply at Mrs. Appelt.

“I’m sorry … did you say ‘erotic’? … I … I don’t understand … ,” and he stood there, hands clasped behind his back bending toward Mrs. Appelt with his right ear listening ..

“Yes … erotic, Pastor” … and Mrs Appelt pointed to a small hand written sign that said: “Erotic Spanish silk veils and peinetas, worn by Spanish women when dancing to attract their menfolk” …

Pastor Noske immediately stiffened in shock and surprise, his hands raised up in front of him …

“Oh good heavens, NO! … Mrs. Appelt … not erotic … but exotic! .. EXOTIC, Mrs. Appelt! … good heavens … no!” … and he snatched the sign away … and it has to be noted that on replacing the sign with more subdued though accurate wording, the attendance at the stall soon dropped away … but that did not stop any future reference to those veils among the small congregation as being of the collection of the eroticism of Hildegarde Hempel.

Folk will have their ways …

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7 comments

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  1. Joseph Carli

    I am convinced at this my 70th year, that civilisation as we know it is not a carefully constructed edifice, evolved from a conscious intellectual desire, but rather the result of a period of benevolent calm after military conquest and secure by the political and military power of an ethnicly superior force…and then that ethnicity impresses its cultural bias via a perverted education system upon those peoples under its control…sure, it will tolerate to a certain level other cultural incursions into its dominant governance, but only until such exterior philosophy begins to gain an upper hand…for the ruling order knows through historical precedence that its survival as the cultural leader depends upon its capacity to justify applied laws that while appearing fair-for-all, really only satisfy in the main those citizens who fully support the cultural superiority of the governing body…and in the end, it is as Mao correctly stated..: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun”….If we look to the LNP, we see example in the way Tudge, Dutton and so many others can and do snub the decisions and opinions of the judiciary, knowing full well that the bluff of the judiciary can be called because even THAT esteemed authority only exists (in truth) at the pleasure of the ruling military power…be that power overt or covert..benign or malignant..it is there..at the ready.

  2. Uta Hannemann

    Joseph Carli, I wonder where ‘multiculturalism’ comes into it?

  3. Joseph Carli

    I do too, Uta….I do too!
    But the dominant cultural influence at the moment is an Anglo-centric one…and the European ethnicities, while not necessarily totally “onside” with the Anglo power group, will in preference back that power over..say..an Asian or Middle-eastern or in a wider possibility one day ; an African influence.

  4. Joseph Carli

    We have to de-industrialise..As a nation of people NOT machines, we have to de-industralise and return to some forms of labour intensive works…perhaps replacing some machines with actual working people..it’s useless having “artificial intelligence” when real intelligence goes wasted…

  5. Ed

    Joseph, you are on to something. How to facilitate intelligence today? Firstly, the current situation of man vs machine is not by accident, it’s part of a plan with no good choices dumbed on western nations: De-industrialize or Die. The captains of business were encouraged (some might not have needed much encouragement) by tariff changes to chase cheap labor in Asia. The working class got thrown under a bus. Aust has little secondary industry, is now a service economy, and is sovereign only in name.

    But to your point, meaningful work in an era when most repetitive or dangerous jobs can be done by AI makes a lot of sense. There seems to be a concerted effort to stifle creativity through the education system and a trend to devolve community by devolving the arts, devolving personal autonomy & authorship (including the power to choose who to trade with or donate to, and yes INDUE card, I’m looking at your sly manipulative inventors) etc. Who is it making the decisions in regard to this trend?

    Expecting democracy to save the situation is not going to work as those we elect have no interest in the average person.
    At this point in time I don’t know what will save the day. Is this true – msm IS the enemy of the people, their antics have not changed since the muppets acted as paid shills giving voice to the elite and their agenda in Town Squares centuries ago, announcing the next beheading or witch burning, or whatever psy-op they were running to spook the chattels? ‘Town criers’, what an apt name. Maybe, is that what we should start calling journalists and newsreaders?

  6. Anne Byam

    A delightful read again Joseph, with great visual imagery which sent me to a place I believe I might have been many decades ago – but certainly to the people and their actions, speech and body language etc.

    An excellent portrayal of people and not so much of a by-gone day, either. Just as relevant today, as far as whispers and rumours, as it was in the yesteryear.

    Cheers ~~

  7. Joseph Carli

    Thank you Anne…again…I have heard of certain ..excitable..pastors of that sect of religion being called ; “ball-swingers”….upon inquiry, I was told that because they get all excited up there in the raised pulpit, it is said that their testicles (to use the proper title) would be swinging this way and that as they pointed the guilty finger at imaginary offenders and sinners.

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