Saturday 14 May 2016

Choose Your Words Carefully 5

Lindsey Chapman

Today at Hull Journalism Day a student asked if she needed to change her accent to get on. No, no, no, no, no! (

Trainee teachers with northern accents are being pressured to speak "the Queen's English" in southern classrooms. According to a new study, accents most associated with the Home Counties are favoured by the teacher training profession... Experts say teachers with northern accents are discriminated against in a profession that would not tolerate prejudice based on race and religion. They dubbed it the "last form of acceptable prejudice" in our society.
(Sun May 2016)

At Bar school “I felt unwelcome from the get-go because of my accent. I sound northern.... but that was constantly pointed out in conversation, particularly when I was first introduced to someone. Anywhere past Watford Junction is apparently northern... Then people automatically think you are from a working-class background.” (Charlotte Proudman)

Clare Foges reveals in The Times that employers filter applicants on accents. Bring back elocution lessons! If you have a marked regional or Cockney accent it probably makes sense to damp it down a bit, but don’t imagine that the posher, the better. (She warns against copying Brian Sewell.) A strongly marked “posh” accent can also lose you the job. Whatever anyone tells you, it’s best to blend in and be as neutral as possible. “Earlier this year the Social Mobility Commission found that law and accountancy firms were applying a ‘poshness test’ to job applicants, which favoured middle class mannerisms and accents... When recruiters talk about the need for ‘polished’ candidates they mean not just the dry-cleaned M&S suit but the way they speak... It is time to revive the tweedy old concept of elocution.” (2015-10-27. And how can elocution be “tweedy”?)

One employer spoke of the importance of “holidays that you’ve been on, places you’ve visited”. Another employer said: “Accents make a difference, the things people talk about.” “Elite firms define ‘talent’ according to a number of factors, such as drive, resilience, strong communication skills and above all confidence and ‘polish’, which participants in the research acknowledged can be mapped on to middle-class status and socialisation.” Times, June 2015

This is great! All I have to do is affect a slightly plummier accent than my own and people will give me free stuff! (in America) (@AlexPaknadel)

This hotel I'm staying at is too posh for me. I just hope I can maintain my cover long enough before they realise I'm not One Of Them. What are the signs? Everyone is pronouncing their Ts. (Twitter exchange)

Howard Weybridge pens his memoirs, which he hopes a publisher will peruse. It will be quite a weighty tome! Bryan Teale puts up a sign in the foyer warning visitors not to consume beverages on the premises. Samantha Upward shudders at lunch when Jen Teale talks about sides, mains and Yorkshires and asks for a toasted sandwich instead of a sani or toastie. Only Weybridges and Teales say “prior to” for “before”. And Howard still uses a “fount pen” and says things are "well-nigh impossible". Jen aks “Is this an opportune moment?”

Modern genteelisms, according to the Lady magazine: cleaner (daily), posh (smart), nana (granny), expecting (pregnant) and passed (dead). (2016)

The fogeys who hang on to kyeneemar for cinema also use “superpose” for “superimpose”.

Someone on the radio just said "dr-arse-tically" without actually being the Queen.
(Mr Clungetrumpet ‏@StiffPigeon)

A teacher on Radio 4 talked about “skaws, cricklum, ashoom” when she meant “schools, curriculum, assume”. Or, as Samantha would say, “skooooools, kew-rick-you-lum, ass-yewm”.

When they quit work, Stow-Crats call it "retahment"; Upwards: retyerment; Teales and Weybridges: retyement.

Upwards eat samwiches or samwidges; Teales and Weybridges munch sand-witches.

Upwards call the nuts “ahmonds”, Teales and Weybridges call them “allmonds”. Spaniards call them “almendros”. Where did “ahmond” come from?

Weybridges have trouble with words like Tata and Lady Gaga (Tar-tar Steel), though they can probably say “mama” without thinking. (Likewise they have no trouble with Loch Ness, but claim there is a composer called “Bark”.)

Caro Stow Crat calls the upmarket jeweller Asprey “Aspry” (and the bird of prey an ospry); Eileen and Jen call it “Ass-pray’s” and would love to spot an “oss-pray” through binoculars.

Caro’s mother still calls the country OR-stria. Caro calls it a “plahstic” tablecloth (so practical), but Jen and manufacturers call them PVC or vinyl tablecloths. “Plastic” sounds so tacky.

Jen and Sharon prefer short vowels (rhyming sloth with cloth etc), and never quite grasped the rule that only a doubled consonant makes a short vowel – they just put them in everywhere. Sam is trying to train herself to do the same. She doesn’t want to drawl like Caro. But it is terribly Teale/Weybridge to talk about “larther” instead of “lather” with a short A. Upwards avoid the word altogether – and even the thing. They don’t like soap that lathers, it makes washing too easy and enjoyable. (Did people ever “garther” in the church hall in real life?) And it’s Jen and Eileen who bake batches of scones to rhyme with “owns” rather than “dons”.

Sam cringes when Jen says “lenth” for “length”, and Eileen wails when people drop the Gs off gerunds (goin’ and comin’).

Matthew Parris thinks we should say Herford for Hertford and Cuventry for Coventry. He says his lower-middle-class grandparents insisted on it, but these pronunciations would have been old-fashioned in his grandparents’ day. I don’t think anyone calls Lamb’s Conduit street “Lamb’s Cundit Street” any more, either. And De Beauvoir Town is usually said the French way, not as “De Beaver”. (I’ve never heard anyone say Cuventry.)

Very posh people are arch – this does not translate, in fact it probably comes across as camp.

“...with nervous whimsicality... She said, smiling coyly, ‘I’m afraid I am the bearer of ill tidings.” (Graham Greene's Ministry of Fear)

In the 30s, a certain kind of Upward girl used to talk in old-fashioned clichés, with great emphasis. She couldn’t say “I cut my finger and it bled really badly” she had to say “I was simply STEEPED in GORE!” Ngaio Marsh sends up this kind of girl in Colour Scheme (she’s always saying things like “WELCOME to the HUMBLE ABODE” or “I was living in a HOLLOW MOCKERY”, until an admirer tells her off), and there’s one in Patrick Hamilton’s Rope (“Oh, are you a Frinton expert?”). If any Upward women still do this (they wrote like this until quite recently), Weybridges and Teales are baffled. Modern readers are also mystified when they come across this style in old books – think it is “twee” or “bright”. The poor girls had probably been told to be original.

More here, and links to the rest.

Tuesday 3 May 2016

More Decor Crimes

A little too rustic

collecting and displaying objects that no longer have a use (bakelite telephones – it used to be copper warming pans)
fitted carpets printed with fleur-de-lys (in forest green, terracotta or midnight blue – looks like a pub)

nesting tables
motorized drinks cabinet
cork-tiled walls

upcycling (It often means “give distressed paint finish” or just “paint grey”.)
cutting the legs off a kitchen table to turn it into a coffee table
table made by cutting out the sides of an old water tank (a bit too industrial)
cutting a Georgian table in half to use as two console tables
the “table lamp made of an old lobster pot” school (It's nothing new.)

plaster mouldings in a modernist flat
flowery cottage wallpaper in a modernist flat or house
multi-coloured pebble effect lino combined with the above

spotlights above paintings (especially of the banker’s desk-lamp type)
glazing pictures with non-reflective glass

balcony railings all lined with bamboo slat screens
home fragrance reed diffusers – those little jars of sticks that are suddenly everywhere
admiring the patina on an old soil pipe (and turning it into a sun lounger)

pale green sculpted carpet (the beige cardigan of décor)
moulded tiles in imitation of green sculpted carpet
Turning your disused fireplace into a wine cellar (with a wine rack)

putting a plant pot directly on a Georgian marquetry table – for years
lampshades made of brass and glass panels (sometimes pink, brown or etched with a design), sometimes in a vague flower shape. (Available on Amazon of course.)

wrist rest in the shape of a stuffed dachshund (now we don’t need them as draught excluders any more thanks to central heating).

pulling up all the fitted carpets and stripping and sealing the floorboards – and then not putting down any rugs so that the place looks rather stark and everybody’s footsteps are deafening

louvred glass windows in a Victorian terrace
pelmet with Venetian blinds
garden sculpture brought inside, and shoved into a corner
a ye olde brass fireplace with fake coals in an Art Deco fire surround
a Regency fireplace in a Span house
Daggers and rapiers hung on the wall – in a Span house. A long way from the Scottish baronial hall bristling with weapons and suits of armour.
antique pieces used for a different purpose, or put in a different setting (It can work – a hot water can used as a vase or holder for wooden spoons – but sometimes it doesn’t, eg the classical capital on the mantelpiece.)

A High Gothic vault on a Romanesque cathedral.
High Gothic – so twee. And those sculpted leaves and flowers must be hell to dust.
church conversions – especially the kind where they build an entirely new pod-house inside

A restaurant in a modern block with a distressed brick interior finish and other “warehouse” accoutrements.

Those bamboo-slat blinds that everybody had in the 70s – they fell to bits and ceased to work immediately. If you’d ever figured out how they worked in the first place, that is.

Café lighting that is so dark that older patrons can’t read by it (I’m talking to you, Barbican and British Library. We aren’t all medieval manuscripts. And why are exhibitions of metalwork and stone objects as dimly lit as a show of fabric, watercolours and ancient frescos?)

A Modern Victorian terrace with East End charm ( A nice Victorian terrace house has been given a vast glass extension on the back, and the entire interior has been turned into a trendy, hard-edged “living space” with roof lights.)

Tenants move into a gleaming modernist tower block – and put up flowery net curtains. That go grimy.

Every door in your house – including cupboard doors – has long iron hinges like a stable door. (Very Voysey – but would he have put them in the living room?)

Insane “rustic” interiors where everything from the walls to the furniture is made of recycled wood. Designer suggests you “get some oak” to make a headboard and put “weaved rugs” on the floor.

Terrace house in Congleton on Homes under the Hammer done over with a pebble dash exterior, fake leaded lights, fibreglass olde beams everywhere, textured Artex, wooden plank doors and rusticated staircase (like a Tyrolean restaurant!). Interior painted apricot. Sadly the buyers “ripped” everything out.

Per the Daily Mail, avoid mixer taps, leather sofas, coloured loo paper and decanter tags.
Charlie Luxton makes TV programmes on architecture and design, hates big rooms with low ceilings and loads of downlighters and “Breakfast bars with those padded stools on sticks”.

Alex Polizzi hates "half-arsed theming".

From What to avoid when selling your house
Exterior in a wacky colour.
“Updating” the fireplace (especially in a style or period that’s wrong for the house).
Blue walls and green woodwork – or any other clashing colour combo. (Davida Hogan, home stager at Edited Style, suggests painting woodwork the same colour as the walls.)
Cooker with unshiftable grime.
Grubby light switches, grubby anything.
Trend overload (those clashing colours again – keep it neutral).
Hard-to-clean surfaces (wooden worktops).
Small bathroom tiles – they make the space seem cramped.
Dull wooden floors.

Toilet rugs (that fit round the toilet base)
too many photos on every surface
spaghetti junctions of cables
“Decorating too much in the same print is overwhelming and tacky.”
décor styles that don’t match period or area (Don’t go Hawaiian in Runcorn, or Cotswolds in Hackney)
dated kitchen cabinets
sitting room over-full of formal furniture
clutter (build in some storage)
matchy matchy
fads like lava lamps and beanbag chairs (except they’re the antiques of the future)
cramming in oversized furniture
too many patterns (paisley, floral etc)
one tiny rug floating in the centre of the tile or stripped floor
plastic couch covers
furniture pushed back to the walls
too many neutrals
too many knick-knacks (edit, then rotate your display)
too many cushions

too many lawn ornaments (especially concrete toads in hats)
too-short grass
plants that clash with the architecture

Le Corbusier wanted his tower blocks to be surrounded by park-like grounds a la Capability Brown. In practice this became unused stretches of grass, often fenced off so that tenants couldn’t walk there, sit there, play there or do anything but look at it. Even when not fenced off, people are shy about sunbathing or sitting out and prefer to go the park.

A field full of identical McMansions too close together and all facing the same way – even when they’re perfect copies of an 18th century gentleman’s house. Especially when. New estates with buildings that are too big to be so close together, on tiny plots, at odd angles to each other. Especially with fake chimneys, and very tiny rustic details. And an ornate porch on the windowless side of a house, leading only to a tiny iron staircase to the road. 

Scattered houses at odd angles to each other might happen organically if each was on a small-holding and they were built at different times. But here there’s no historical reason for the plan and it just looks wrong, somehow. Terrace houses on a street line a road that’s going somewhere. But we can’t build those because they look so... working class.

In late Victorian times, and the early 20th century, the middle classes were very scathing about “villas”. New, too-small, too close together, but pretentious with it. wants to see the back of these architectural features:
decorative shutters too small to cover the windows
mansard roof on a two-storey house (They’re meant to go on the top of a vast chateau with several storeys.)
purely decorative stick-on quoins in a different colour

New-build houses are like rabbit hutches, have low ceilings, thin walls, small rooms and “zero charm”, says a survey quoted in the Daily Mail June 2015.

Brick veneers – panels of fake bricks. We aren’t fooled.

A door apparently out of a submarine – on a restrained 50s office block.

Brutalist shopping arcades that are so dark they need electric lighting all day. The overhead lights quickly become filthy and full of dead insects. And they’re too dim. (The one in Royal Oak has been disguised as a classical terrace and turned into an extension of Waitrose, sort of.)

Adding “fresh new colours” to a Brutalist building. Cladding same in coloured panels, especially in shades of blue.

Tiny windows imitating tiny Tudor cottage windows: they were that size because there was no plate glass, or in many cases any glass at all and they were “glazed” with horn or parchment. Please, we have plate glass now!

“Victorian” lamp posts in 60s shopping malls. They were put up in the nostalgic 70s and 80s when we really wanted a quaint ye olde market. It was still a 60s shopping mall – but now with inappropriate lighting. Did they think we wouldn’t notice?

Lucy on Homes under the Hammer says a done-up house has a “hotel vibe”. She meant it as a compliment.

Those very dim overhead bulbs are “filament bulbs”: ugly, cold, and too dim to read by. Popular in cafés.

Industrial is so ovah now you can get a desk tidy made of a jamjar glued to a plank. And Why Not – use an old paperback as a business card holder? (You can now get a mass-produced jamjar with a handle to use as a coffee mug, too.)

More here, and links to the rest.

World of Interiors 9

Impossibly Bohemian Rowena Upward wants a house that hasn’t been “modernised” throughout in a hard-edged loft living style (and all knocked through), so she buys an auction property which has been untouched for decades. It’s the only way to get Art Deco fireplaces, 70s Vymura wallpaper, banquette seating or Arts & Crafts panelling. Samantha complains that her cottage is plastered with woodchip wallpaper. She rips it all off and exposes the old inglenook but can never get the fire to burn without smoking.

Pyjama cases in the shape of animals were very Teale. Presumably during the day you were supposed to hide your nightclothes (if you didn’t have a pyjama or nightdress case you folded them and put them under your pillow). You were also supposed to hide your bed under a candlewick bedspread, “smooth as a millpond” and tucked under the pillows. The case went on the pillows, along with a few cushions (optional). Your handkerchiefs went in a handmade and hand-embroidered sachet, in a drawer. Your shoes went in a hand-embroidered bag. And then one day everybody went "What the hell?" and hung their nightie up in the bathroom, or left it over a chair.

In the 70s, Weybridges had spare rooms full of cupboards with long, narrow louvred doors, and pale blue curtains and carpets. They were perfect, and hardly ever used. Cleaned every week, but there was a line of dust between the pale blue carpet and the louvred cupboard where the hoover couldn’t reach. The only signs of life, taste or individuality were a few small, pale, shiny china ornaments on the window sill and dressing table or “vanity unit”. A globose pomander containing dry pot pourri, a Dalton figurine, a flower vase, a pearlised swan.

Everybody wants olde oake beames, but the original builders would have plastered most of them over and probably painted them white. They didn’t want to reveal how their house was built any more than we want to reveal pipework. And the Victorians would be outraged by exposed stone walls in the home.

My mother was always knocking herself out cleaning and polishing. She aspired to the country house style – I tried to convince her that real aristocratic houses are a bit shabby, with dog hair on the sofa. Peter York called Sloane Ranger décor “miniature country house”. Very elaborate curtain arrangements, flowery fabric (or plaid, à la Balmoral), potted palms, huge Chinese vases, dark wood furniture. Caro Stow-Crat doesn’t have to worry about arranging her furniture – it has all been in the same place for a hundred years or so, and it was placed where it could be used. Weybridges aiming for the country house look buy lovely old pieces, but shove them in corners. They can't actually sit at the writing desk, but it's just there for show. If your living-room is “the long gallery” all your furniture can be much bigger – the same goes for huge bedrooms. Our rooms are smaller, but “furniture for a stately home” has become the standard size. (Nobody wants big 30s wardrobes any more but they’re really useful.) And the aspirant Weybridges don’t use table-cloths, coasters or mats, so that their knickknacks and flower vases mark the lovely polished surface.

Jilly Cooper complained that TV set dressers ruined any drama – their taste was too downmarket. Now, per The Hotel Inspector, the décor villains are the retired couple who open a B&B and fill it with gnomes, teddy bears, miniature dragons and Tudor dados. The owners have not sought design advice, or even read a design magazine, and are convinced that they have made the place “beautiful”. (A bit like the retailers in Mary Queen of Shops trying to sell clothes without ever opening a fashion magazine.)

Sometimes young people get hold of a B&B, cover the walls with bright murals and paint the doors turquoise and purple. The Jacobethan curtains, odd assortment of grubby old furniture and 60s stained-glass panels are the archaeological remains of earlier décor and modernisations. Some furniture has been rather randomly upcycled in hideous colours and the wrong kind of paint that’s now peeling off. And in the kitchen someone has started to paint a Tolkeinesque mural all over the cupboards – oh Lord, was it me?

When film makers updated Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister to late 1960s Los Angeles, they got it: “Photographing sleazy late 60s LA in a way that emphasizes the thin veneer of ‘new’ that cosmetically covers the same old decay, it’s just Day-Glo painted now,” says an commenter.

More here, and links to the rest.

World of Interiors 8: Get the Look

The home-owner loved it!

It’s got that country feel but it’s got that contemporary thing we were talking about. (Escape to the Country on the usual hideous lab kitchen with a useless island)

“Why did you go for colour blocks?” (burgundy and brown)
“I wanted to be edgy! I was thinking Mark Rothko!”
(Great Interior Design Challenge Never “It’s an Arts & Crafts house so I studied Voysey and William Morris.”)

Mood boards “help the home-owner visualise the design” – but they don’t actually show how the design will look, which is why the home-owner is sometimes shocked and horrified by the result. (GIDC)

A modern Victorian terrace with East End charm ( A nice Victorian terrace house has been given a vast glass extension on the back, and the entire interior has been turned into a trendy, hard-edged “living space” with roof lights.)

Why is interior design so backward-looking without being properly revivalist? Americans go for “Colonial” or  “Mission” – it's kind of Arts and Crafts. They also have a “craftsman” style. Jacobethan furniture is still being made as Old Charm (brand) and "priory style".

Vintaged Bohemia (Joss & Main): Interiors stylist and author Emily Chalmers’ look was once described as “eclectic floral bohemian”... From the vintage dresses that adorn her walls, to artful arrangements of retro furniture, her space is breathtaking in its originality.

And why does furniture always default to Louis XIV? Why not 1800s Greek revival? Louis XIV may be what designers mean by “French”. If it’s been stripped, repainted and distressed it’s “French farmhouse”. Stripped, painted white and “antiqued”, it’s “French provincial”.

Or is “French provincial” really Provençal? (“You’re something with a French provincial office – or a book of press-cuttings – but you’re not a woman”, as Margo Channing says in All About Eve. I always wondered why an American businesswoman would have a satellite office in rural France.)

Ahoy there. This weekend in @TheSTHome the interiors feature is how to do coastal chic like a grown up. No beach hut cushions, no bunting. (Katrina Burroughs ‏@Kat_Burroughs)

Choose from the following:

beachside chic
seaside modern (tongue and groove, Farrow & Ball “stone”.)

1950s Chalton (Victoria Wood on a tea-planter’s bungalow)
80s lobby chic ( who wants a whole flat in that style)
Call it Dynasty chic! (
bordello chic
alpine surgical (kitchen)
Hollywood Regency
hippie deluxe (What hippie fashion became in the 70s. A downmarket version – hippie deluxe cheap ripoff – quickly hit the high street. It was ghastly.)

"Rustic" is now a catch-all term that has drifted a long way from its roots in clothes and furniture actually made by genuine rustics.

le style shabby (shabby chic in French)
Pacific Northwest cheesy
institutional chic (wired glass panels, two-tone walls – pale green/dark green, beige/brown)
French farmhouse (As somebody said, French farmers wouldn’t recognise it.)
witch kitsch
industrial scrape’n’reveal vibe (Hugh Pearman)

More here and links to the rest.

World of Interiors 7 (in Quotes)

The Times recently ran a whole spread on the “new snobbery”. Here’s a paraphrase.

a Buddha head from Homebase in your garden
scented candles that aren’t Diptyque
mirrored furniture
modular sofas
pot plants
unless they’re orchids
trailing plants indoors
“One of those disturbingly American professional family portraits
“Anything that is over-complicated, over-designed or oversized” – they’re all “intrinsically vulgar”
Overfinch Range Rovers (apparently the company adds luxury customisation to the utility vehicle)

Hilary Rose agrees that wide-screen TVs are “common”. Also scatter cushions, and giving your child crisps in public (has to be rice cakes).

Style guru Peter York says he’s going to get a wide-screen TV “whether it’s couth or uncouth”. But he’s tired of Scandinavian knock-off interiors. He has a good word for Eames chairs “They were meant for the masses”. Don’t be too immaculate, he admonishes, but avoid the opposite “exposed brick walls and bashed floors”.

Designer Sophie Rogerson regrets that surface-mounted sinks and mosaic tiles have gone downmarket “Now it’s about more characterful, artisanal styles” (what can she mean?). And avoid fake shagreen: “It’s one small step from generic to vulgar.” She doesn’t like “high-gloss” kitchens with “subway” tiles. (I think she means the ones that make your kitchen look like a prison or public lavatory.)

Like huge ringroad supermarkets, they often seek to disguise their warehouse proportions by affecting tiled roofs and little vernacular clocktowers, whispering reassuring messages about being 'in keeping' to dense middle-Englanders. (

They had smothered it with trumpery ornament and scrapbook art, with strange excrescences and bunchy draperies, with gimcracks that might have been keepsakes for maid-servants... There was in the elder lady’s [bedroom] a set of comic water-colors, a family joke by a family genius, and in the younger’s a souvenir from some centennial or other Exhibition, that they shudderingly alluded to. The house was perversely full of souvenirs of places even more ugly than itself and of things it would have been a pious duty to forget. The worst horror was the acres of varnish, something advertised and smelly, with which everything was smeared; it was Fleda Vetch’s conviction that the application of it, by their own hands and hilariously shoving each other, was the amusement of the Brigstocks on rainy days. (Henry James, The Spoils of Poynton describes two middle-class ladies visiting a nouveau riche family)

People aren’t buying ornaments as much as they were. (Christina Trevanion)

Rubbishing modern architecture is a default setting for much of the British bourgeoisie. (Jeremy Paxman)

You can immediately spot the newcomers’ houses. They are the ones who have done away with the turquoise striped curtains and hung up the rattan blinds instead. They have removed the fringed lampshades and put up Habitat fixtures. They have ripped out the neon-patterned carpet and polished up the wooden floorboards. They have painted the orange geometric wallpaper white. They have moved out the lime green Dralon armchairs and put in the bent cane. They have replaced the black Naugahyde sofa with a pine framed double convertible bed and the tin bath with a stainless steel sink... They have left enough room to walk round the tables and chairs rather than trip over them. (Hackney in the early 80s, Glenys Roberts, Metropolitan Myths. She goes on to say that the Hackney residents wait for the incomers to bring in the ”furry lilac pouffes, plastic chandeliers, maroon and gilded china knick-knacks” and paint the front door “the regulation savage purple, hot pink or chrome yellow”. Working-class décor has changed more in 25 years than the middle-class variety.)

Very rich people have panic rooms, according to the Times 28 March 2015. “There were vaults as well... with marble floors, sliding walls for paintings, a piano, wine storage and an area to relax in.”

There can be something absurd or even melancholy about the open-plan minipalaces some middle-class Britons consider essential for civilised living.
(Guardian Nov 2015-11-10)
Why do people put their pots [saucepans] on display, especially when they collect dust? (

Hideous solidity was the characteristic of the Podsnap plate. Everything was made to look as heavy as it could, and to take up as much room as possible...
(Our Mutual Friend (The “plate”, is silver-plate – the knives and forks.)

Display domes are a massive trend – the silhouette and paper-cutting look is really on-trend. (House Gift
July 2012)

My sisters used to do that candle-in-a-wine-bottle wax dripping thing in the early 1970s.
(Ugly House Photos blog)

They all went into a room full of antimacassars and lunched off boiled mutton and caper sauce... She remembered suddenly the horsehair sofa and the antimacassars in the furnished rooms at Wiltsbury. (Giant’s Bread,
Agatha Christie, 1930. Antimacassars are embroidered linen cloths placed on the backs of chairs to protect their upholstery from the macassar oil in mens’ hair. They only disappeared from British Rail seating – reduced to strips of orange acrylic – around the 80s. Caper sauce is melted butter mixed with chopped capers.)

A teenager’s bedroom in the 30s: “They saw a looking-glass draped with clouds of pink... the meagre furniture was in white painted wood – plain, cheap stuff, but sound. It had tawdry decorations of drapery. On the walls were pinned a number of newspaper photographs of beauties, male and female – film stars, stars of society.” (
Clue for Mr Fortune by HC Bailey)

Her decorating mantra, “something pink, and something ugly, in every room”—riots of roses and hideous tooled leather covers for the Radio Times.
(Redeeming Features, Nicky Haslam)

I think the tiny windows might be the product of regulation. I hate them!... What's annoying about this sort of thing and the mock-Georgian of the 70s is that it shows such a poor eye. The architect seems to have had no sense of proportion and no real ability to look at the buildings whose style he is copying. But it can work well. "Post Office Georgian" is usually very good.

This sort of thing has got a following in Brighton and London. It’s very much a studenty sort of look.
(Bargain Hunt auctioneer discussing a purple cubist cocktail set)

Artex swirled across the ceilings as if it were a Cypriot taverna, embossed wallpaper peeled away from the dried-up paste hiding dodgy plaster, the nubs of the old gas mantels poked through the walls and the chimney breast still jutted out into the kitchen.
(Linda Grant in The Guardian on a Crouch End maisonette in the 90s. That’s gas “mantles”.)

It had front and back gardens with a swing, rose bushes, a rockery of glittery stone and alpine plants, a garage, and an outside coal-shed. A row of Toby jugs grinned and grimaced from an ornament rail in the hall.
(ditto on the Liverpool house she grew up in)

The room is an embarrassing mash-up of contemporary design clichés, from bare utilities to patches of brickwork exposed by “torn” plaster, folksy wooden dressers and “vintage” lampshades. (Giles Coren Times 2015-01-24)

 I saw what had been a simple bungalow and had been almost entirely rebuilt into something much bigger: a massive through kitchen (all granite surfaces and all the latest gizmos) to dining area (dining table with removable top revealing a working pool table) to TV area (with massive projection screen), small  nursery, small office, small bedroom, marble bathroom, master bedroom with big ensuite marble bathroom and dressing area, etc. – and then upstairs had a big bedroom, two small bedrooms, another bathroom, and a large low-ceilinged area for storage or playing with trains. Also a double-garage which had been turned into a very comfortable workshop, complete with electricity, water, and gas, also with an upstairs suitable for the biggest train set you've ever seen. And throughout, every room had the latest gadgets and gizmos, all carefully thought out. For example, not just the garage door but also the gate in the fence were electrically-operated, so you could drive straight off and close everything up by remote control without stopping.
(A house-hunting friend writes)

More here, and links to the rest.

Monday 2 May 2016

Classy Quotes 22

If people stopped talking about class it would disappear, said a flatmate circa 1984.

Britain remains a firmly class-based society, with the (im)possibility of social mobility mediated through the education system. Having spent decent amounts of time in the US and France, I think they are equally class-bound, and maybe only Scandinavia is really different... However, the exact mechanics of keeping people in their place differs... [Lynsey Hanley, author of Respectable, is] strong on the ideological use of the idea that all an individual child needs to do is to work hard and behave well to get on, as if individual responsibility can by itself overcome embedded social structures. (

Northerners are often lumped into a homogeneous whippet-keeping mass. Wood was actually lower-middle, which is the best vantage point for social commentary: where yearning social pretensions are betrayed by a single common word. (Janice Turner, Times)

Don’t make assumptions about a person’s wealth based on looks or dress: many affluent Londoners have little concern with designer watches and handbags. (Debrett’s)

That thing where folks still use "latte sipping" to mean elitist when Starbucks is as ubiquitous as McDonald's. (@anildash) (They also accuse Jeremy Corbyn of eating "trendy falafel".)

I think the chattering classes want to rescue people, and that’s their drama: “This film’s about me discovering your story.” (Actor Eddie Marsan. He says film makers ignore the 90% of people on council estates living perfectly functional lives.)

"I've never seen it!/Am I only person who doesn't care about Star Wars?" is becoming my generation's "Actually, we don't own a television." (Area Man ‏@Alasdair_CM)

Today there are very much two Brightons: the inland one of vibrant creative industries, modern restaurants and a dynamic population – and the seafront of tacky sideshows, fish and chips, rock and assorted paraphernalia... There have been some attempts to turn the arches by the Pier into an artists’ hub but it hardly makes a dent in what is currently on offer, which is more akin to West Street than anything else. The current Brighton Pier is a beautiful photo opportunity on the outside and a disappointingly poor amusement arcade on the inside, surviving as a result of the endless day trippers coming from all over the country... there seems to be no shortage of people willing to spend their two pence on those machines, via Sports Direct and Primark on their way back to their coaches. I see the parades of them every day from my office in the Old Steine. Brighton needs attractions that are dynamic and more ahead of the curve. The pier is a golden opportunity to create a destination that fits in with the times. Get that right and the rest of the seafront will follow suit: proper restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, a decent performance venue. ... In short, a chance to move into the 21st century. (Julian Caddy, director of Brighton Fringe in a pyrotechnic display of classist euphemisms)

More here, and links to the rest.