Monday, June 20, 2011


Cover of "Zulu"

Cover of Zulu

My much loved grandmother, Helen Evelyn Vida Lentaigne (nee Haslam) – came from a very wealthy background. Her father, Lewis Haslam, was a textile magnate and politician, and, just to gild the gingerbread, had invented a revolutionary fabric called Aertex in 1888, which was the material of choice for shirts and underwear throughout the British empire. 

Essentially, it was a loose but robust cellular cotton weave with numerous tiny holes in it so it breathed – and cooled. Whether its use originated the expression “Keeping your cool” is a moot point, but it certainly contributed to that physical state. This was just as well because the British ran their empire with remarkably few people, and looking imperturbable in the face of any and all difficulties, played no small role in ensuring this practice’s success. For a supreme example of such behavior, I cite the movie Zulu – based upon the actual Battle of Rorke’s Drift – where 104 British soldiers fought off a Zulu impi of roughly 4,500. I would claim that Aertex was the British secret except that the battle in question took place in 1879 before Aertex was invented.  

You can look it up on Wikipedia or Google it, and there is even a web site dedicated the brand. Unfortunately, we don’t own it any more, but it made no small contribution to the family fortunes. Apparently, great-grandfather Lewis, got the idea for his invention when he observed women wearing lace gloves at a reception. What his motives were for observing the fair sex so closely is a family secret. We deny absolutely that he was Jack The Ripper though it is quite true that he maintained a large house in London and was around at the time. It is a complete coincidence that both the invention of Aertex and the Jack The Ripper killings happened in 1888.

To be continued…














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