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.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Calling Cards

The text messages of their day. Here's more from The Woman's Own Book of the Home, 1932.Much of the formality connected with calling and card-leaving disappeared when the Great War changed many conditions of social life and etiquette, and the younger generation especially has to a great extent gaily dispensed with such conventional customs, but in some circles the acknowledged etiquette of calling and leaving cards is still followed, so it is well to know the rules.

A lady's visiting card should be printed in quite plain lettering from a plate. It is much the same size, or very little larger, than those used by gentlemen.  Ornamental or old English lettering is at present out of date but a high-class stationer will always advise as to the correct vogue of the moment.

A widow should have her visiting card printed the same as during her husband's lifetime, not use her own Christian name before the surname.

Unmarried girls of the present day have their own social circle and use their own visiting cards when, not accompanied by their mother, they call upon friends, leaving one card in the hall at the conclusion of the first visit. Afterwards it is not necessary unless the friend is not at home when they would merely leave a card.

Unmarried daughters calling with their mother do not use their own cards. Their names may be either written or engraved on the mother's card, beneath her name. A married or widowed daughter living with her parents acts independently, following the respective rules for wives and widows.

When a girl visiting away from home calls upon any friend who is unknown to her hostess, she either uses her own card or one of her mother's, which also bears her own name, in the latter case drawing a line through her mother's name.

An unmarried girl staying with a friend and paying calls with her hostess upon the latter's friends has her name written in beneath that of her hostess instead of using her own cards.

Cards left upon friends staying at an hotel or boardinghouse may have the name of the person for whom they are intended pencilled upon them to avoid any mistakes in delivery, but this should never be done when they are left at a private residence.

To be continued....

Friday, 4 April 2014

Living in Style 2

Arty types in the 50s liked "objets trouvés", or "found objects":

"Unusual objets trouvés were displayed everywhere - a Webb toy theatre, a model of an old steam engine, a rocking-horse, a row of marionettes, a ladder painted with stars and diamonds, an American wall clock with an enormous winking eye painted by Ronald on its pendulum." (piece about Ronald Searle’s modernist home)

More conservative homeowners filled their homes with the three "see no evil" monkeys, a set of three elephants in descending size order, a set of three camels chained together, and silhouettes of the pyramids with a background of blue moth wings. They also liked horse brasses, and mats showing Old Cries of London or Venice in the eighteenth century. The monkeys shared the mantelpiece with miniature suits of armour, tiny beer barrels, scaled-down brass cannon, and calendars set in the side of a wooden dog. They ate their dinner off Myott Chinese bird plates or willow pattern china.

Picasso became popular because there was a big exhibition. If he was too modern, you could hang reproductions of Dutch flower paintings with very realistic drops of water, butterflies, slugs etc; Tretchikoff’s green lady; paintings of white horses galloping through the surf; or a much reproduced depiction of a breaking wave with a shaft of light gleaming through it (was it part of Boots' art range?). These shared the walls with hunting scenes and framed golfing jokes.

Teenage girls hung paintings of swans or Degas' ballet girls above their divan beds (with folkweave coverlet).

Working class people bought Beswick china flying ducks modelled on paintings by Peter Scott.
Middle class people despised these, and hung Peter Scott prints, and elephants by David Shepherd.

Also seen about were stripy awnings with scalloped edges combined with modernist architecture and (oddly) fairground lettering, or with curly wrought iron.