The Parish Church of St George the Martyr, Waterlooville

St George’s Ladies Group

A Housewife in Iran

Our speaker on 11th March was Sandra Simmons with a talk entitled “A Housewife in Iran”.

Sandra left home at the age of 17. She had decided to join the Wrens. She joined the navy and was on HMS Pembroke. She then came down to Portsmouth to HMS Collingwood. Sandra met her future husband whilst in Portsmouth. He was 15 years her senior. They got on well and decided to marry. The wedding was arranged for 15th October 1977 in Gloucester. Her husband to be went home to Iran to tell his family the news. He was away for 18 months. Sandra was only 20. His mother had married at the age of 13 and she came back with him for the wedding.

Sandra’s parents and two brothers went to Heathrow Airport to meet Sandra’s future mother-in-law. Beforehand Sandra had said to her father you must not make any eye contact or touch the senior lady in any way. But as soon as they met, Sandra’s father just couldn’t resist hugging and shaking hands with the lady.

The future mother-in-law was wearing her long black costume with the head covered and only her eyes could be seen. She said the words “Marks and Spencer” and was taken there. She couldn’t resist buying four bags of clothes including an outfit for the wedding.

Sandra and her husband and his mother went back to Iran. The first thing Sandra had to do was give up her British Passport. She had to get married again the “Iran” way. A white muslin net was held over her head by four married women. Coins or jewellery are thrown in the net for happiness.

She wore the same clothes as her mother-in-law with only her eyes showing. She learnt to cook sometimes 12 different dishes and for up to 25 people. The oldest person in the room always had to be served first. She usually got it wrong. The food she cooked was rice, fish, chicken and lamb.

The women are not allowed to wear high heel shoes, because the noise may be heard above the male speaking. They are not allowed to wear cosmetics.

When men and women are in the same room, they do not mix. Men are one end, women down the other end of the room. Females are not allowed to drive; if travelling to the same place, then the men will be in one bus whilst the women will be in another bus following behind.

Sandra was not allowed outside the house on her own - she had to be accompanied by her husband - she had to walk seven paces behind him. She was not allowed to talk about her family or religion or her interests. Every morning she would have to go to prayers between 3 and 5am, saying “God is Great”. All females in the family had “prayer” beads. They were either 33, 66 or 99. These were supposed to help make decisions. They would pray for 3 to 4 hours at a time. Then Sandra would have to make her husband’s breakfast, which would be between 6 and 9am. This would be black hot tea in a glass. If sometimes she forgot and put milk in by mistake, she would be put in a room and not allowed out for a few days. There would be bread, cheese, eggs and nuts to eat. In the summer there would be fruit and cereals as well. She also always had to make sure the water urn was filled up at all times. This was very important.

The mother-in-law had 13 rugs which Sandra used to enjoy beating them outside, she felt contented doing this. The tv and radio were put on usually in the late evening. No-one ever stays in anyone else’s house after 8pm.

In 1978/1979 the nation under the leadership of Shah of Iran erupted into revolution and the current Islamic Republic of Iran was founded. Acid was thrown at her. She had to stay in her apartment on her own, not allowed to go out or look out the windows. Her husband visited her once a week - there were riots in the streets.

They decided to return to England. She had no passport or ID but eventually arriving back to Heathrow, it had been 10 months since she had spoken to her family. They got back to England on Mothers Day 1981. Sandra and her mother both crying down the phone. They were held in Heathrow for 8 hours.

Iranian men are allowed 4 wives. Sandra’s husband took a second wife and wanted to buy a house in England for the three of them to live in together. Sandra didn’t want this. Sandra weighed 10 stone when she first arrived in Iran but now weighed 7 stone.

The second part of this story will be continued next year when Sandra comes back for her second talk.

Scenery of Southern England

On 22nd April Mr Brian Barrett came to give us a talk entitled “Scenery of Southern England.”

He started showing us various slides of places and we had to guess where they were. There was the Seven Sisters in Sussex; the “pink” chalk in Hastings; Lyme Regis in Dorset; “Old Harry” Rocks which are two chalk stacks located at Handfast Point on the Dorset Coast. The cliff is chalk, with some bands of flint which have been gradually reduced over the centuries, some of the earlier stacks having fallen (Old Harry’s original wife fell in 1896), while new ones have been formed by the breaching of narrow isthmuses.

Blackgang Chine is situated on the cliffs south of Niton. The cliffs are literally slipping into the ocean. The cliff is disappearing at about 3.5 metres per year although the process is not gradual. It tends to come in stages after periods of heavy rain.

The second part mainly was slides of the Isle of Wight, but we were shown Haytor which is the most visited tor on Dartmoor. This is due not only to the fact that it is easily accessible, but to the gigantic masses of rock which crown its summit, and there are some fine views from the top which encompass moor and coast alike.

We saw slides of the Mendips in Somerset which are a range of hills that tower above the Somerset levels, and the Parsons Barn which is a large sea-level cavern below the main cliff and the waves.

Durdle Door is in Dorset. The rock arch in the sea was formed as a result of the softer rocks being eroded away behind the hard limestones, allowing the sea to punch through them. The name Durdle is derived from an old English word “thirl” meaning bore or drill. Eventually the arch will collapse to leave a sea stack such as those that can be seen at Ladram Bay in East Devon.

The Isle of Wight slides were of: - Sandown, Shanklin Chine which is a “V” shape valley; Royal National Hospital in Ventnor; Freshwater Bay and the Needles; Tennyson Monument which is situated on the west of the Island, and Alum Bay.

“Fairlight” village is three miles to the east of Hastings. The slide showed a “road closed” sign and the pretty cottages are disappearing because of the cliffs slipping away into the sea.

Two castles were Pevensey in East Sussex and Corfe Castle in Wareham, Dorset.

Very interesting talk; I cannot wait to visit some of these places in the holidays.

Priscilla Barlow


Festival Edition 2010