Saturday, 31 December 2011


Another of the books Santa Helen gave me from my wishlist is Amanda Vickery's Behind Closed Doors:  At Home with the Georgians.  In fact, Helen managed to find a signed copy, which is very exciting.  Prof Vick's writing style is very textbook, but lovely all the same:

Shelter is an animal need.  Homes promise security, retreat, rest, warmth, food and the basis of both a family life and for full participation in social life.  Home is a toddler's cosmos.  A drawing of a recognisable house with strong walls and curling smoke is a sign for psychologists of a secure childhood, while the emotion freighted to the word 'home' testifies to our continued longing for a place of supreme safety and emotional sustenance.  Home-made, home-grown, home-cooked are all promises of true satisfaction.  The pangs of longing felt by Mole for his 'dulce momum' in Kenneth Graham's Wind in the Willows (1908) resonate with us still.  Historians trained to record oral testimony begin with house and home.  'Walk me through your childhood home' - we say - for opening the creaky front door unlocks the library of memory.
 I love books that make me think, give me new ideas.  (Note:  ask all my living family members about their childhood homes; read Wind in the Willows.)   I remember that I drew just that sort of house with walls and windows and a front door; mine were two-storied, like Grandmother's house. I can't recall any curling smoke, though there may have been. Does that mean I wasn't secure, in spite of the fact of never having lived in a house that emitted smoke? Even here, we live under laws about air pollution and smoke-free fuel.

If going to India and Africa didn't teach me that I am hugely wealthy, travelling back in time certainly would.   Most of us take entirely for granted having privacy, a lock on a front door and the authority to keep the key not to mention having vast spaces in which to store our many belongings.  I've no doubt that had I lived in different times mine would have been the lot of the commoner, not the countess.

We watched Vickery's BBC programme on TV last year and I took copious notes, intending to share it with you.  Said notes are in the stack of notebooks and scraps with ideas for this blog.  Several other interesting programmes are also in that stack, but no longer make sufficient sense to transcribe into a cohesive post, but never mind.  You can read more about the series, or buy the DVDs off Amazon.

On a slightly different subject, I am intending to watch the whole 2-hour special epidsode of Downton Abbey again tomorrow!   Bill sent me this link [warning:  info about developments in Series Two!] that says what I already knew:  the Grantham's are far too kind to their servants to be realistic.   Also, though I'd not thought of it, the servants are much too clean.  In reality, the work schedule of servants left little time for personal hygiene, so the appearance of a drudge will hardly have been pristine like the lovely Anna.  Instead, think of Cinderella's soot-smudged face and add body odour.  Another reason to add back stairs, I imagine.

I might one day read Below Stairs or Climbing the Stairs by Margaret Powell, but I've got to survive Georgian England first! 


Suburban Princess said...

Happy New Year!

BigLittleWolf said...

This sounds delicious. I admit to having a small home that is overrun with books, and while I can live without many things, books are not among them!

Having grown up in New England where there were at least some homes and farmhouses in the area that dated back to the 18th century, I find myself drawn to what is worn and weathered yet still retains its function and elegance.

I have numerous interiors books (both text and photographic) - from years (and lifestyle) gone by - that allow me to see inside extraordinary homes of different sorts: lofts in Paris, cottages in the French countryside, colonial homes in New England and the MidAtlantic of the US, federal homes in Virginia - all delicious - especially seeing and imagining the world that inhabited these homes.

Wishing you a wonderful 2012.

Beryl said...

Thanks for the link with the Vickery DVD's. I have just moved from the West Coast to Oklahoma, and found you blog while looking for insights into Oklahoma women of a certain age. What a nice surprise.

Anonymous said...

I drew solid homes too, with three dimensional roofs! Makes me wonder what my grandson might draw, having made all the changes he has in his 6 years.