Sunday, 29 May 2011

Toilet Training

The Stow-Crats used to call it the “lav”, short for lavatory. Caro, Sam and Eileen still say loo (or, in public places “ladies”); everybody else says toilet. The DD’s want toilet, or go toilet. (They go other destinations too.) Twee euphemisms like “little girl’s room”, “must go and powder my nose” have gone out, but:

Sam says "I'm dying for a wee" and goes to the nearest facility. Jen and Eileen say nothing but discreetly absent themselves while everyone is looking the other way, and don't open the door and come out till the flush has ceased flushing. Then they sneak out opening the door as little as possible. When out with friends, they have to invent excuses (I just want to pop to the shop for a few postcards). Or simply say "I'll be back in a moment."

Howard Weybridge will never let anyone have a comfort stop. (“Can’t you wait till…” No I can’t!) He’s embarrassed if any of his party goes into a pub/café/hotel to use their ladies because he thinks you ought to buy something (and resents paying that sixpence for a box of matches/cup of tea you don’t need). He’s embarrassed because you have to go into common premises, and speak to unnecessarily, and ask a favour of, and then be beholden to, a common person. Samantha Upward waltzes into any hotel and uses the ladies without asking. It’s the near-Teales who cringe.

Maybe it’s because the middle classes think you should be able to overcome anything with willpower. They are also very fond of controlling each other.

Friday, 13 May 2011

How to Decorate

Jay takes me on a tour over four floors of hushed opulence, each several times the size of an ordinary London flat. "It's worth nearly £11m," he says. Under the kitchen is a cosy entertainment complex, complete with pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and a private cinema done out in suede, the pews so thick and warm you could sleep on them … Everything here is white, bright and glistening: white leather sofas, marble floors, silver candlesticks adorning pristine white walls.. Laurie Penny on Saif Islam’s Hampstead Garden Suburb pad in the New Statesman 15 March 2011

Caro lives in London during the week at her townhouse (though she’d never call it that) in West London. She met her friends Samantha, Jen, Sharon and Eileen at the local gym – they bonded the day the floor fell in during the trampoline class. They’ve all come round to her place to have coffee and admire her new curtains and meet her new acquaintance – Jocasta Nouveau Richards.

Caro: I got them at the Curtain Exchange!
Jen: You mean they’ve been pre-loved?
Sam: I don’t like things to look too new!
Eileen: I suppose you could call it Shabby Chic…
Caro: They match the rest of the room – most of the furniture belonged to Harry’s greataunts.
Eileen: I like pinch-pleats, myself – and pulleys are so convenient.
Caro: I prefer things to be appropriate. I don’t want to see an 80s house with a pool and gym filled with reproduction Chippendale, or sporting a Tudor inglenook. And I don’t go for modernistic décor in a Jacobean manor house, or Georgian “fan-light” doors on a council flat, or diamond-paned windows in a Victorian cottage, or a striped awning on an Elizabethan manor…
Eileen: We’ve got one of those! It’s got its own remote control.
Caro: (shudders)
Sam: My pet hates are fake half-timbering – and those Flintstones rock fireplaces that look like something out of an American hunting lodge.
Caro: Which is where they should stay! What made people put them into Victorian terrace houses? And post-and-rail fences round your lawn – they belong in a paddock. Ah, this must be Jocasta – we met at a charity do. She’s an A1 sweetie.
[Enter Jocasta Nouveau Richards)
Hello, Jocasta! We’re talking interior décor.
Jocasta: I’ve just got a new kitchen and it’s the size of a football field – I hardly dare go in there.
Sharon: We’ve turned our whole ground floor into an open-plan living area with a kitchen at one end – black granite worktops and everything!
Jocasta: I’ve got those too – and I want to get a heated marble driveway. Once you’ve got a separate wing for the dogs, where do you go?
Sam: Black granite worktops – they always remind me of those tombstones with gold lettering. And don’t they blunt your knife blades?
Caro: Why don’t we go out through the French windows onto the terrace?
Jen: You could have some nice decking here just outside the French doors.
Eileen: But it’s a lovely patio!
Jocasta: What a lot of plants! We’ve had our whole grounds landscraped.
Sharon: This is the life, eh?

The front yard is a gaudy stab at Versailles, with four-foot obelisks at each corner of the driveway, intricately tiled fountains and a series of steel sculptures that depict dolphins mid-dive, children at play and birds in flight. The 7,000-square-foot home, whose aesthetic is cruise-ship-meets-mob-mansion, has five terraces, a curved-glass elevator and an arcade room outfitted with gumball machines. On the second floor, there is what the residents call their “ice cream room,” furnished with an old-fashioned counter and soda fountain. New York Times March 2011

Read about the most expensive houses in the world here.
More on what your decor says about you here. And here. And here.