Friday, 25 April 2014

Silver Service

We emptied the silver cupboard and the sideboard and spread their contents out on the dining room table. Candlesticks, serving dishes, sugar bowls, milk jugs. Sauce boats, sugar tongs, ashtrays, salvers. Fish slices, a tea caddy, an ivory-handled crumb scoop. And other items, entirely mysterious unseen for decades… Those were knife rests, that was a pair of grape scissors. And this was a bon-bon dish. “A what?” said my daughter. There were the napkin rings… It had come to this. Time was, life could not proceed appropriately for a family such as my grandmother’s without ownership of sauce ladles, knife rests and ivory-handled crumb scoops. Now her descendant did not know what a napkin ring was for. The battered and baffling array of metal in front of us seemed suddenly to be a potent symbol for 80 years of social change… In 1995 there was still a tin of Silvo [silver polish] at the back of the silver cupboard, its contents long since dried up… Starch, grate cleaner, metal polishes: the goods reflect an age and a lifestyle. (She goes on to say that as sales of Brasso fell due to the disappearance of brass doorknobs and fingerplates, Reckitt and Colman marketed its own range of brass fittings. “A neat idea, if something of a last-ditch stand.”)

Penelope Lively, A House Unlocked
More here, and links to the rest.

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