Crossing the Equator in a Roman toga

MY PARENTS WERE born in South Africa. They settled in England in about 1947/48. In 1955, when I was three years old, my parents took me on a visit to their native land, possibly to show me off to relatives who lived there.

We travelled to Cape Town by sea. I remember nothing of the voyage, which must have taken about two weeks. Recently, I came across a photograph, which had remained in storage for several decades in my late father’s garage. The picture shows a little boy in a white outfit resembling a Roman toga. He is standing between two children dressed up to resemble, if your imagination is good enough, Belisha beacons such as are found at pedestrian crossings of the zebra variety.

The photograph reminded me of what my mother had told me many years ago. During our voyage to South Africa, we crossed the Equator. My mother told me that to celebrate this event, there was a fancy-dress party for the children on-board. My mother, unlike some of the other parents, had not been aware that this was going to take place. So, she had not packed a costume for me to wear. Ever resourceful and extremely creative (she was a painter and sculptor), Mom used one of the sheets from a bed in our cabin to wrap me up as if I was wearing a toga. Looking at the photograph, it appears that also she fashioned a pair of what look like Roman sandals, using some string. Thus, during my first crossing of the Equator, I was attired in a Roman toga.

Looking at this image, which includes a rug designed to look like a pedestrian crossing, made me think. There I was standing halfway across a zebra crossing whilst our liner crossed from one side of the Equator to the other.

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