Monday, 1 February 2021

Choose Your Words Carefully: 9 (in Quotes)


People like to say that class is no more, and regional dialects have disappeared.

My husband and I have raised our kids to be pretty precise about grammar, because both of us grew up in poverty, and our studies helped us become much more financially stable as adults than we ever were as children. We especially stress the difference between good and well, number and amount, I and me, etc. (slate.com. Presumably they don’t like: “How’s X?” “Oh, he’s doing good.” These are clearly class markers.)

We weren’t allowed to say “shut up”, “what?” or “yeah” (always “pardon” and “yes”), or to shout to each other from another room. (Via Twitter)

We used to house-sit in the 70s for a classical pianist, and my mother’s voice went up several levels of gentility whenever she answered their phone.
(Via Twitter)

My mum and grandma used to put on a sort of Hyacinth Bucket telephone voice.
(@BardneyBoy)

My first wife's mother – at home, Looe variety Cornish accepted. Speaking to anyone she considered 'posh', she tried to speak posh herself - still Cornish but a bit higher pitch.
(KD)

My wife speaks with great circumspection—'proper pride,' she calls it—to our neighbour the tradesman's lady.
(WM Thackeray, The Book of Snobs)

I watched and listened to Jacob Rees-Mogg yesterday. he may be an arrogant anachronism, but you have to admire his eloquence and command of the English language. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him. It is a pity that more do not talk like him. (Via Facebook)

The expression 'y'all' is among the most revolting, cursed things I've ever heard. Why are Americans so relentlessly, unwaveringly vulgar? (@CapelLofft)

'Y'all' is horrible, but I feel just as irritated when British people say "We were sat..." instead of "We were sitting." (@Lord_Steerforth)

When I lived in England, my mother used to tell me that I needed to put my Tennessee accent back on when I was coming home for a visit... When I left Oak Ridge, I started developing a distinctly Southern accent. My dear mother equated Southern regional accents with lack of class and education. She really was quite the social climber. She was raised in poverty, in rural Texas, and wanted better for her children. (MKI)

I was hoping changing your accent had been dumped. When I was a very young woman I was turned down for a job because I 'didn't speak well enough'. I think it was one of the first times I'd encountered snobbery. Never forgotten it - never lost my accent! (@Kibalchich1)

The requirement for ‘a pleasant speaking voice’ ensured that only higher-class girls with flawless Received Pronunciation would apply. (Sarah Shaw, Short Skirts and Shorthand. It was sometimes called “a good telephone manner”.)

Dear Dr Katie Edwards
Subject: Yorkshire dialect
I’ve just listened to your programme on Radio 4. My feedback is that I was sure the BBC wouldn’t impose their diversity agenda on the listener. You’ve been chosen because of the way you speak and you’ve obviously done well for yourself despite your evidently difficult background. Good for you! While you have my admiration for making something of yourself, I want to hear a presenter who speaks correctly. From time to time we are treated to a broadcaster with a ridiculous sounding regional accent and if the rest of the listeners are anything like me, then it’s an unwelcome addition to the programming. I’m astonished that you continue to speak with such a strong accent and use dialect, after Genesis 11, 1-9. Congratulations on your (I’m sure very many) achievements but you do not belong on Radio 4. (The Biblical reference is to the Tower of Babel.)


Kimberley Chambers appeared on BBC Breakfast in 2019 to plug her new thriller, The Sting. Twitter responded: Who on earth was that Cockney women on BBC Breakfast this morning. Couldn't bear to listen to her, had to turn the TV off! Poor Charlie and Naga. (@darryljb75) This book will be interesting reading if written the same as she speaks. (@mazarati33) Oh look, a plastic Cockney. (@marti6118) Can we please have subtitles from the BBC with regard to this Cockney? It’s like hearing the entire cast of Eastenders on steroids! (@IanBrownuk)

I really like Jess Phillips but I genuinely think (and I say this as a proud West Midlander) that her Brummie accent will put people off. The prejudice against certain accents is horrendous. (Via FB.)


In 2020, The Guardian ran a piece on students having their accents mocked at university:

It sounds ridiculous, but I only realised I had what people regarded as a strong regional accent when I first began my undergraduate studies. Mocking of my accent was immediate.

A constant barrage of abuse from students and staff who were verbally disapproving of my mild but noticeable Black Country accent... Staff on more than one occasion said ‘we don’t normally get your type here’ or ‘perhaps you could try and fit in’... “I am gay and if anyone makes homophobic remarks towards me it is considered illegal, but if someone is classist I can’t say anything because it is not a protected characteristic – yet it is still abuse.”

“‘You’ll never get anywhere talking like that, it makes you sound stupid. You need to try and flatten your Yorkshire accent.’ That was a member of staff in my third year of university.
[She was told:] When you use “like” in sentences, you sound like a teenager. My accent completely changed during my four years at university, flattening back immediately when I was welcomed home.

One girl from Tyneside went to Durham – but was the only student there with a northern accent.

Since moving down south a month ago I can think of at least 10 occasions when my accent, being a relatively strong one from Birmingham, has been brought up and mocked in conversation.”
(She was told she ought speak more “eloquently”.)

I’ve had people make assumptions about my intelligence, family background and financial situation based on nothing but the way I speak.

Horticultural snobs frequently correct other people’s Latin pronunciation as a weird power move.
(James Wong) He says he was turned down by a newspaper for not being “British” enough. They wanted someone “less international”. Someone responded: You have THE most British of accents and talk more posh (sorry that sounds snobby) than most people I know.

I don’t sound the same as the rest of my family and it often makes me feel sad. But also makes me feel like a bit of a fraud. Like, over time I’ve subconsciously lost the ‘heavy’ parts of my Chester accent. (@RebeccaRideal)

I'm Scouse. How do you think I'm treated? 1. We are only 'acceptable' if we are famous. Otherwise, the only way I'm welcome at a table is if I'm holding a tray. 2. People think its OK to do our accent back to us, repeating what we have just said. 3. People think it's OK to do stereotypical jokes. 4. The look of surprise when someone with a Liverpudlian accent and a boxer's nose can talk about Byzantine icons and Constructivism. (@ChrisFarrelly)

My mum was always telling me off for sounding ‘Too Cardiff’. She was Cardiff born and bred. (@villi63)

I had a fairly standard Cheshire accent when I started uni darn sarf, and somehow managed to collect an entire circle of friends who were from the Midlands or North. And we did get mocked for our accents by the posh southerners! (@ThorhallaBjorg)

Several people from Dublin have pointed out that Moriarty does have a Dublin accent but it is an exaggerated middle class south Dublin accent. It is locally known as the “D4 accent” after a postcode in south Dublin... Where I grew up anyone who didn’t have a regional accent was “posh”. After coming to University in the South, I have realised that BBC pronunciation is not considered “posh” but “standard”. Posh was defined as the rather over-exaggerated accent people often use to pantomime the rich. (Blogger welllingtongoose, wellingtongoose.livejournal.com)

I've taught in Essex, Norfolk, Yorkshire and Cornwall. Children are dead proud of their accents and their dialect words. But they also know they have to "posh" themselves up if they want to get on. So sad. (@owen_jermy)

My family always said I spoke posher than them but going to university I realised I really didn’t speak posh. (Via Twitter)

I thought I’d poshed up my accent when I went to Cambridge. But then I joined the FT, and I realised that I really hadn’t. (Beth Rigby, political editor at Sky News)

I grew up poor with a very distinctive working-class accent. In England in the 1980s and 1990s, this would have impeded my professional advancement. (Former National Security Council official Fiona Hill)

I'm lucky enough to have a pretty soft Yorkshire accent and still get some judgement. My wife, whose accent is much stronger, is more readily written off at times and it's annoying. (@DrRichFG)

I was born and raised on benefits and from a housing estate. I was told by my PhD supervisor to "speak properly" just before presenting at my first international conference. Years later I'm so glad I've never lost my thick Derry accent! (@KitanaValentine)

One of those strange 1960s pop English voices that you don’t hear any more, like the guy out of the Monkees, or Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday. (Hugo Rifkind, Times 2020. Davy Jones of the Monkees came from Manchester, but when he moved to the States he was given an American’s idea of Cockney. Judy Carne from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, and Geraldine Chaplin in Nashville also adopted the accent.)

“The industry is still hugely dominated by class,” says actor James McArdle. He said he heard complaints in the industry about difficulty in understanding Scottish accents “all the time”. (Scotsman.com. A reviewer recently talked about “whining Scottish accents”.)

Scots face insidious racism in the West End. (Alan Cumming)

Class is profitably marketed online by creepy coaching companies offering “diction, charm and social grace”. (Libby Purves in the Times)


But is it really such an advantage to talk like Jacob Rees-Mogg?

Radio 4 – I hate that poetry-reading middle-class voice they put on.
(@sufiboy)

People assuming I grew up rich with upper-class parents because I know some long words and occasionally sound close to articulate in videos is a form of classism. That’s my TED talk. (@shaun_vids)

And someone else adds that RP "just simpers".

More here, and links to the rest.


Thursday, 14 January 2021

Beat the Cold 5

 


Caro Stow-Crat here with some more tips on beating the cold now we're all working at home on laptops.

Replace the Tudoresque wood wall-panelling an earlier generation ripped out – good insulation!

Build on a porch. If this isn’t possible, build a glassed-in porch inside your front door. If you can't do this, a folding screen might protect you from draughts.

Hang a thick curtain inside the front door, like the Victorians.

Position a high-backed settle on either side of an open fire or heat source.

Crochet yourself a woollen shawl from a Victorian pattern. (For Civil War style, search for "sontag".)

Or get a plug-in heated cape to wear while working.

Make sure your “core” is warm – why do you think toffs wear body warmers? Don a vest and a waistcoat, or one of those ageing sleeveless jerseys.

Put down some rugs on your painstakingly restored bare boards. Again, like the Victorians.

Protect your feet indoors with sheepskin slippers.

Drink a nice cup of hot tea. For real builders’ tea, use two teabags.

Wrap yourself in a blanket or duvet.

Affectionate dogs, cats and children make great hotwater bottles. Or get some of those wheat bags you heat up in the microwave.

If you have some old-fashioned stone hot-water bottles, fill them with sand or salt and heat them in the oven. Take care you don't burn yourself!

Bring back bedsocks – and nightcaps!

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday, 4 January 2021

Boarding Schools 7: Yet More about the Convent


Jolly hockeysticks
The convent gave us a list of clothes and equipment which every pupil needed, including a trunk to carry it all in. A tin for sweets (I still use if for sewing kit). A hockey stick. Hockey boots. Plimsolls. A tennis skirt. A tennis racket. In the summer term of my first year we had one tennis lesson and I discovered that the tennis racket was almost too heavy to lift. I suffered through a few games before giving up. There were tennis tournaments every summer, and I and Georgina used to be put down as “reserves”, and tacitly allowed not to join in. But the tennis racket came with me to school every summer term.

We were also obliged to buy an expensive camel-hair coat. These were only worn on outings or when arriving or leaving school. With them went a corded silk scarf in royal blue or mustard – the school colours.

Hockey wasn’t so bad: you don’t have to throw or catch anything, or hit a flying object. We had house matches, and I was once put in goal. I was small and frail – always the smallest in my class because I’d been pushed on a year (or was it two?). Strapped into the goalkeeper’s outfit – shin pads, padded body armour and lead boots – I could not move. So I didn’t. The worst moment came when we had to change ends at half time. I struggled to walk to the other goal, passing the other goalie, a large girl called Nicky. I wish I had fallen over and just lain there.

I was even in one of the teams, but then I heard that we were going to play against Worth, a boys’ school. I was terrified. Boys would be big and rough and probably beat us up with their hockey sticks (I’d already experienced being painfully hacked on the ankle). So I deliberately played very badly and got dropped from the team. The boys came – they were two years younger than the girls and rather sweet.

One day up at the hockey pitches a family of gypsies walked past, carrying pillow-cases full of primroses they’d picked in the woods. There were two children – twins with long curly blond hair, about our age. We caught each others’ eyes and they looked at us blankly, while we looked at them blankly. How I wished I could change places.

We were aware of the Cuban missile crisis, and feared that the Russians might drop an atom bomb on us. I lay in bed thinking “I’ll never have a future. I’ll never go to art school.” While walking up to the hockey pitches one day, we heard a loud shot in the woods. I walked towards the nun in charge, thinking “This is it. I am going to die in the next minute”, although nobody else seemed concerned. The young nun read my mind and said, “Don’t worry, the crisis is over.”

I arrived back at school one September and everybody else was going on about the Beatles. We watched them on Top of the Pops and suddenly you were supposed to “bop along” to pop music (that’s why it was dangerously subversive). So I did, and somebody said “Look at Lucy!” and everybody laughed.

In winter, we wore blue serge box-pleated skirts, mustard (“gold”) blouses, a tie, and a navy cardigan. We changed our shirts every week, but wore the same cardigan, skirt and shoes all term. The shoes were lace-ups – pinchy, because you don’t want your feet to “spread” like a barefoot peasant. For games we wore box-pleated divided skirts.

Every summer we had a “retreat”. A priest would come and give us talks several times a day. One year it was a smiley black priest who told us we had to believe in Hell, but we didn’t have to believe there was anybody there. The rest of the time, we built altars in the grounds, decorated with holy pictures and wild flowers. But the real point of the retreat was not talking for three days. If you said anything, you had “broken” the retreat and you might as well go on talking. I kept forgetting.

We thought we didn’t miss our parents - because we forgot about them. Life in the holidays was not like living together as a family any more. Most of our lives happened at school, and at home our education was barely discussed. They didn’t even ask us who our friends were, or what we did at weekends at school. We would walk to the village and buy sweets, or sliced salami. There were no activities or clubs.

When you’re in prison (driven to school, driven home), your jailers can tell you anything about the “outside world” and you’ll believe it. It was made out to be a scary place, and we had very little first-hand knowledge of it. What is the point of this brainwashing? What were they trying to achieve? After all, “the outside world” was where we going to live eventually.

Parental interest can compensate for a lack of financial power to some degree: the children of the most interested and involved parents on a low income may do ‘better’ than wealthy children whose parents are less interested. (London Review of Books, May 2016)

More here, and links to the rest.


Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Boarding Schools 6: More about the Convent

In my first few weeks at the Convent (I was 10), a much older girl told me to tell another girl (Pippa Leonard) that there was a phone call for her. I couldn't speak to older girls. I couldn’t say “No”, or “I don’t know who she is”, so I just didn't do the task. Later the first girl found me and said "I told you to give her the message and you didn't, did you!" She was furious. She said, “Ooh, I could crown you!”

In that first term, one of the younger nuns got us to prepare a piece from a book, and read it into a tape recorder. I chose a little Victorian girl talking about her lovely new outfit and “merino fan”, and read it in a squeaky affected voice. Afterwards, older girls were cruel to me about it, claiming they couldn’t hear a word I’d said. (I was at the back of the room and the nun didn’t think to bring us up to the microphone.) Of course they were trying to test our reading skills without our being aware, or humiliating anybody. The older girls were still at the “thee – cat – sat – on – thee – mat” stage.

When we were about 14, we were made to memorise 25 lines of poetry once a week, and recite them one after another in class. Our teacher, Miss Kirby, endured 20 children reciting in a monotone without any expression or understanding what the poem was about. One week we were given “Friends, Romans, countrymen”. Independently, Antonia and I decided to learn the whole speech, not just the 25 lines ripped from the middle. Separately, we stood up and delivered the oration as if we were Marc Antony, with great emotion (“You blocks, you stones, you worse than useless things!”). No reaction. At the end of the class Miss Kirby said “Thank you everybody, and” (sneering) “a special thanks to Lucy and Antonia”. No smile. Exit. Soon after that, we were told to write out the lines instead of reciting them. After several decades, I put two and two together: we had raised the bar too high.

Our marks for the week were averaged. I couldn’t do maths at all, or physics or chemistry. I was OK with the sciences to start with, they were even interesting, but then one day they became maths. I must have got low, or no, marks for these three subjects every week, so my average looked terrible. I was taken aside one day by an elderly nun who drew me a map on which to record my progress week by week, and told me I must “try harder”. I never filled in the map – I didn’t care what my marks were. And wasn’t it rather dense of the nuns not to see what the problem was?

When I first went to school, we had “tests” at the end of every term. Other girls would “revise” for these. I didn’t know what the word meant. I thought they were testing us on what we remembered. Eventually I began to grasp the concept of revising, so I decided I would do it too, to be like other people and join in the conversation. A friend saw me in the corridor carrying an exercise book. I felt very pleased to be able to show off this badge of normality. But she looked at it and said, “Why are you revising that? We didn’t do that this term.” At the end of one term the art teacher, Miss Walker, told us to “write about a picture”.  I picked Moroni’s The Tailor. She sneered at me and said “But we haven’t studied it this term.” But she’d said “a picture”, not “a picture we’ve studied this term”?

I arrived back at school one September, and we were eating lunch when an older girl (she was supervising our table) asked me: “You must be doing O Levels now?” I replied: “What’s an O Level?” The nuns decided which subjects we’d do. Thankfully I was no longer in the Physics and Chemistry class, but I had to do Maths for two years. The lights came back on when we did geometry, and once a term the maths teacher would set us logic puzzles. Otherwise I just had no idea what was going on. The nuns also had the bright idea of putting us in for exams a year early, so we didn’t do as well as we might have. You'd think my parents might have mentioned O Levels?

Nobody told me that when answering an exam question, you should plan what you're going to say and write a structure. Nobody told me to read over what I’d written. When I’d answered the question, I used to stop, and be terribly bored and play word games because you couldn’t leave the room. Another ex-pupil adds that they barely mentioned exams to anybody. You just did the curriculum, then sat the exam.

The school didn’t, deep down, really care about our academic progress. Very few of us went on to any kind of higher education. We were all supposed to marry young and have lots of Catholic children. Apart from me, of course – I was never going to get married. That was something everybody just knew, my family included.

I dropped out of doing two of my A levels. Did they ever discuss that with my parents? Did they ever discuss it with me? No. You’d think they would. You’d think they’d ask me what subjects I wanted to do instead. I had a year in hand: I could have moved down a year and done history and French.

Aged about 11, I was leaving the refectory after tea and the nun in charge – let’s call her Sister Mary – told me to stand in the corner. Sister Mary was terrifying. She had a pale face and glittering specs, and shouted at us and pinched our arms as we processed into chapel. She stood in the refectory while we ate, oversaw our behaviour and clicked a fearsome castanet to signal “Stop talking. Clear the tables. Stand up. Say the Angelus”. I stood in the corner by the window and the fruit stands sobbing until my handkerchief was soaked – at least I had one. Pippa Leonard came and asked me if I was all right, but I couldn’t speak. Sister Mary didn’t release me, and eventually I just walked out of the room, and the incident was never spoken of again.

“Exemptions” was a ceremony that took up most of Saturday morning. We sat in the hall with our knees and feet together – no crossing legs or even ankles. The three head nuns sat at a desk with a little box of coloured cards. A fairly high-up nun would read out our names in threes, together with a judgement of our behaviour for the week. (How did they compile the reports? Did the prefects report back? Was there some kind of surveillance network?)

The judgements were printed on the coloured cards: Very Good (dark blue), Good (pale blue), Fair (beige) and Unsatisfactory (I don't think these cards existed). We went up in threes, curtsied, then approached the desk individually to get our card. We curtsied again and went back to our places. Getting “Fair” was a bit like being sent to Purgatory. Unsatisfactory or “no note” were the equivalent of Hell. I can’t remember what I got “no note” for.

Why did Sister Mary put me in the corner? Probably for being "uncontrolled". (A frequent judgement during Exemptions was "Good, for being uncontrolled in the cloister".) It meant "running and shouting", or "raising your voice and dancing about". We were supposed to be "controlled" at all times: walk calmly, keep our elbows in and our voices low. There must have been a system of reporting, and a record somewhere.

In the winter, I never went outside, because it was too cold. I dropped out of sport, and hid. They must have known, but they never did or said anything about it. What did my report say? Why weren’t there activities for people who just couldn’t do sport? We could even have done sport with people our own age, instead of a year or two older. Now another ex-pupil tells me that if you didn’t want to do sport you were allowed to go for a walk. Well, for heaven’s sake.

More here, and links to the rest.

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Boarding Schools 5: Why I Was Expelled

A school, organisation or religion has a few completely pointless rules. But they are markers: if the children, flock, workers obey the pointless rules, they will obey all the others. Because “a school must have rules”, and “to break one is to break them all”. And “if you doubt one item of Catholic doctrine you are not a Catholic any more and will go to hell and burn for all eternity”. Some of the flock adore the pointless rules and really enjoy forcing the others to follow them “because it’s the way we do it”. Result: most people follow the rules in public, break them if they can avoid being found out, impose them on others, tell everybody how important they are; while accepting the “hell” element as “metaphorical” – ie “imaginary”. But I didn’t know all that at the time (the mid-60s).

I was told not to think about what other people were thinking about me, so I didn’t – until recently. It’s like suddenly acquiring a sixth sense. I never wondered what the nuns were thinking about me, but they must have added up all my odd, or “bad”, behaviour, and I acquired a reputation. I had to be rigidly controlled. When I was told to get out of the swimming pool, and swam to the opposite ladder instead of taking the nearest, I was banned from swimming for the two hottest weeks of the year.

There were hockey, netball and tennis matches against other schools. I never watched them. Winners were announced at an interminable ceremony, with a lot of cheering, at which the whole school were present. I used to bunk off. During one of these farragos, I went for a walk up to the hockey pitches, and came home through a rainstorm, singing at the top of my voice. I was happy. But then I was hauled in to see the Head Nun again, and underwent more hand-patting as she smilingly explained I couldn’t just “follow my bent” but must fit in with society. That was after she’d told me off for getting my clothes soaking wet and making the laundry room nun dry them. I wasn't aware this had happened – I probably changed into my never-worn games clothes.

We had a rather ineffective drama teacher who never managed to put on a play. We read a historical drama which she wanted us to act. She thought it would be a big joke to cast me as the Archbishop of Canterbury. I thought this would be utterly humiliating and begged not to have to do it but she giggled a lot and insisted. I went alone to our classroom and lay face-down on the rug and sobbed. Eventually the school nurse came in (an elderly nun devoid of bedside manner). She made me get up and go to bed, and gave me a sleeping pill. The incident wasn’t mentioned again, and the play was never put on. I was rather too old for toddler tantrums – but it was the only way I knew of getting out of doing anything I simply couldn’t face.

So, how did I get expelled? Let me explain the layout. The school was housed in a Victorian Gothic stately home, with much oak panelling and carving. There was a large room with a fake Tudor fireplace, a minstrels’ gallery, mullioned windows with seats, a TV and a grand piano. Three doors led off it: one to another Gothic hall with a magnificent staircase (pictured), one to the new-built “cloisters” and one to a classroom. It was 9pm in the summer term, and still light. I was in the large room when the Head Nun appeared like a vision in the minstrels' gallery and told me to go to bed. Instead of going through the door into the cloisters (that led to my bedroom), I went into the classroom, which had no other exit. Some younger girls (who’d been playing in the big room) came in and told me that she'd ordered them to tell me to go to bed immediately. I sent them back to tell her that I wouldn’t. This happened several times.

Eventually I climbed out of the window, and walked round to the building that housed my dormitory. You have to understand that we weren’t allowed outside after a certain time and what I did was simply unthinkable. No more was said about the incident.

Then my mother rang the Head Nun to ask if she could take me out at the weekend. The Head Nun replied: “Take her away and I don’t care if you never bring her back!” My mother, again, was mortified. So I had to leave school, and have my education – academic and social – severely disrupted.

And what had I done? I suppose over the years I’d clocked up a record of “difficult” behaviour. These days wouldn’t somebody send me to a psychologist? Wouldn’t my parents appeal – or ask for reasons? All they knew about our school lives was a report at the end of term. My maths report always read “Must try harder”. I sat in the O Level class with an entirely blank mind for two years, and then was quietly withdrawn from the exam. Nothing was said about it. My ability to do maths (completely absent) was never tested.

And people think I’ve been taught how to do everything – the “proper” way – and don’t need to be told what to do or how to do it. But we had all the advantages and privileges.

From the Head Nun's obituary in the school magazine: Things of which she disapproved were stamped on immediately, but on those which she either thought unimportant or harmless fun, a blind eye was turned, provided of course one was not actually caught – a most valuable lesson for life of the importance of observing the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not be found out.

More here, and links to the rest.


When Sister April O'Leary contacted me for a contribution to the history of the school she was compiling, I wrote back that the most important lesson the school taught was hypocrisy. She used everybody's offerings without editing or much editorialising. It's a brilliant book. Did I learn the lesson? You decide.

On reflection, I'd obeyed her while appearing to disobey her, so she could do nothing about it.


Friday, 2 October 2020

Decor Crimes: Get the Look



country kitchen:
wood units

Shaker kitchen: wood-effect units with fake tongue-and-groove panelling (Genuine Shaker furniture is pictured.)

It’s really, really dated. The kitchen’s from the 80s! (Your House Made Perfect)

I’d like to contemporize this kitchen. Those tiles aren’t really me.
(Escape to the Country)

We want a contemporary country kitchen. (My Dream Derelict Home. It’s the same old island plus bright white units.)

I think what we’re looking for is "period modern", if that makes any sense. (Man on Escape to the Country. Alastair Appleton translated as “period property with open-plan kitchen”.)

Modernish but not too modern, because this 60s bungalow has got a bit of a cottagey feel.
(Homes under the Hammer)

I’m all about colour. (Contestant on The Great Interior Design Challenge. She painted everything grey.)

Martin Roberts: What are your plans for this house?
Buyer: To put back as many original features as possible.
(He probably means “Put in an inappropriate wooden regency-style fire surround and a wood-burning stove”. Does nobody know what the word "original" means? Homes under the Hammer)

Another Homes under the Hammer buyer thinks he’s “restored” his terraced house by stripping all the woodwork. The Girls’ Own Annual 1920 moans that if you buy an olde-worlde cottage the beams will be covered in layers of whitewash. And all the doors, window-sills etc will be painted cream. GOA advises you to strip it all.

“Victorian” restoration with fitted carpet, walls and wood painted navy, and a faux-Tudor fireplace.

So many people buy period homes and ‘love the character’, and then run scared and find it easier to buy everything new from a shop and decide period features are not ‘practical for modern life.’
(Via FB)

Why do so many people make a grand house look like a cottage? (Via FB)

Apparently big renovation projects get you lots of followers on Instagram. And I suppose a "restoration show" would not sell the furniture, fabric, wallpaper and paint colours that are currently on the market.

More here, and links to the rest.


Decor Crimes of 2020


Metro tiles – enough already!
White UPVC windows
– they come in other colours, and you can paint them.
Chair cosies for your high-backed dining chairs.
An inglenook – in a bedroom. In a terraced house.
An inglenook with a faux chimney – for your Aga.

Olde oake beames
that don’t support anything – above the fireplace, above windows, across the ceiling.
Flagstone floor in a Victorian house – on the first floor.
Every single piece of furniture, panelling or fitted cupboard made of “distressed” wood.
Exposed stone wall
as an “original feature” in a Victorian farmhouse.
Sticking a repro Phoenix fire insurance plaque on your wall.

Multicoloured plastic cocktail sticks in the shape of sabres.
Carpet on any vertical surface.
Whole wall stick-on murals of autumnal woods.
"Marriages" combining an old speaker and a spotlight.
Panelled door with fanlight on a 60s council flat.

“Library shelves” wallpaper.
Plug-in heated pot-pourri pot.
UPVC Greek portico on your ex-council house.
"Louis" furniture
in a Cotswold cottage.
Faux hanging box balls.

A house that looks like a hotel.
Unusable fireplace with logs that are never lit.
Sliding doors.
Astroturf.

Painting of a sad clown playing the violin.
Dyed quartz of the type found in beach gift shops.
Colourful postmodern buildings painted dark grey.

An Irish cottage has been “metamorphosized” as follows:

Black Impala Polished Granite counter tops
Limestone finish to boundary walls and sills
Polished stainless steel staircase with Impala polished granite treads
Italian Carrara marble flooring to main area
Italian Creme Marfic Marble Bathroom finish
Timber double glazed Sash Windows
New Spanish Slate Roof
Wood burning stove
Limestone Feature wall
Original Oak Flooring

Shabby non-chic: dog hairs, grimy cushion covers, grimy loose covers that are always out of place and  adorned with biscuit crumbs.

Carol Midgley in the Times June 2018 reacts to a recent list. Crimes include "beaded curtains, living-room bars, TV cupboards, avocado bathrooms, Artex walls, toilet rugs, wicker furniture indoors and water beds. Have these judges stepped from a time machine?” She adds that the only up-to-date crimes were tribal carvings and inspirational quotations.

The Times has a long list, August 2018: Whatever the oldies have in their kitchens will be snubbed and dismissed. Young people like open-plan kitchens and one-room living. Get rid of the wine rack and pan stand. In the bathroom, Opt for metro-style tiling over mosaic to appeal to the Instagram generation.  Mottled terracotta wallpaper, any form of border, rag-rolling and nautical themes don’t impress the under-50s. “Modernised” houses with every original feature ripped out don’t appeal, but don’t try to put back the character with cheap imitations and mock fireplaces. In the garden, get rid of “water features, ponds and garden gnomes. Anything fussy, dangerous or easy to break is a turn-off.” Decks, too, are now terribly “noughties”, and tend to be slippery when wet. Rip them out!

On home makeover shows, there’s nothing more damning than “It reminds me of my nana”. Bone china mugs are a “nan thing”, as is eating dinner at 6pm.

Old house surrounded by a sea of tarmac or gravel with parking for 30 cars, separated from paddocks by Kentucky wooden palings.

Efforts in the 60s to modernise anything classical, with suspended ceilings, or mint/taupe colour schemes.

Helterskelters, minigolf, giant moons, kitsch sculptures, flights of paper birds cluttering up cathedrals – and the jargon-ridden justifications that go with them.

Wallpaper with a large bright pattern makes a room look smaller. (From a Victorian book of household tips)

Carving up a stately home into small flats and creating absurdly tall, narrow rooms with a kitchen stuck in a dark corner, or making a pokey layout even more cramped and dark by lowering the ceiling to hide chopped-up mouldings.

“Playful” buildings – usually plain shapes covered in brightly coloured graffiti-inspired murals. @CheapoCrappy calls them “bizarre and ugly”.

Street art consisting of trompe l’oeil paintings that take up the entire wall.

Building houses without coat cupboards. Hanging coats in a tiny hall. (It took the Brits years to get utility rooms.)

It’s quite dark because of the wraparound conservatory. (Escape to the Country)

All that's missing is an Audrey Hepburn stencil and some union jack cushions. (SC on a house with grey walls and floor, a mural of London, and tiger-print sofas in a knocked-through lounge.)

A custom-made blonde wood unit for your flat-screen TV on the end wall of your sitting room, with slots for ornaments, photos and books. The TV has at last become the wall-mounted “visiscreen” of George Orwell's 1984.

To Americans, the epitome of naff taste is not wall-mounted flying china ducks, but a goose with a ribbon round its neck on a blue background. Known as “Ribbon Geese”, the pattern was all over Walmart in the 80s on oven gloves and toasters, and “popular with people who liked country d├ęcor”, say American correspondents.

A buyer on Homes under the Hammer spends three weeks scraping woodchip wallpaper off the ceiling. The presenters always say “And there’s woodchip on all the walls! Of course you’d have to get rid of that!” Woodchip was standard in refurbishments of the 70s and 80s, and went with dull blue carpeting throughout. It's not so bad, really.

Open plan: turning the interior of a 30s semi into a huge white cave. Solution: Put back the walls seaparating the living/dining room, and between living/dining rooms and hall. Reinstall oak panelling. Paint the smaller rooms pale green with a dado rail under the ceiling, or a shelf for your china plates.

“Knocking through” while leaving parts of supporting walls, so that the ground floor resembles a maze with arches leading to other arches and you can just about work out where the hall/passage/dining room/sitting room once were.

Instagram has had a tremendous influence on interior design, creating a landscape of minimalist nowhere spaces. (Curbed.com. Sometimes these interiors are dressed up with anonymous "touches": a plant in an ethnic pot, a modern oak sideboard, colourful cushions.)

The upmarket beach hut look – all faded navy canvas, white tongue-and-groove, shells and pebbles everywhere – is hugely fashionable on social media as “cottagecore”. You create a still life of seersucker tablecloth, tasteful picnic-ware and food, in a picturesque orchard, snap it and put it on Instagram. Boden-wearers have dropped the style (and the bunting) – of course they have now it has clearly slid down the class ladder.

A common mistake people make with an open concept space is thinking that all the furniture should be against the walls.
(Alyssa Kapito, Alyssa Kapito Interiors)

apartmenttherapy.com suggests turning an entrance hall back into an entrance hall with different lighting and wall colours and a contrasting rug, plus a table as a “barrier”.

Create intimate nooks, like a reading corner or small workspace. (Anjie Cho)

More here, and links to the rest.