LET’S BE CIVILIZED…

I love peace and quiet. I admire good taste, old money, and fine art. I watch “Masterpiece Theatre,” read Agatha Christie, and spend lots of time on the First Dibs website. Edith Wharton, Louisa May Alcott, and Katherine Hepburn are all icons. I am striving for a cozy and calm lifestyle. If only I lived in an English village, with views of hedgerows and dovecotes! Or maybe a house by the sea, with moors, gulls, and mist!

Instead, I live in a regular house, in a typical American city, and I have the usual daily routine. But I have discovered ways to enhance my little world, and I am on the road to a highly civilized and genteel existence. This lifestyle has the following requirements:

Purring cats. What goes best with chintz, stained glass, paneled libraries, and Aubusson carpets? At least one fat and lazy cat, lounging on a cushion somewhere. I have five of them (cats, not cushions), and I find them to be soothing beyond belief. Never mind all the hairballs, claw marks, and cat litter. Cats are nature’s tranquilizers!

The fireside. Not just a fire PLACE. Oh, no—the fireside conjures up so many images: warmth, security, old ladies and their tatting, afternoon visitors and gossipy conversations. I light a fire as soon as the temperature outside allows, and it burns all winter long. While sitting and tatting, one must also have things served on trays. Tea is of the essence here. Scones, cucumber sandwiches, and toast with marmite (despite its horrible flavor) are required.

Books. No room is really comfortable without books. Kindles just don’t cut the mustard—only the beautiful spines of REAL BOOKS scattered about. Technology has not been able to replace the comfortable aspect of settling down in a puffy chair, surrounded by books. Magazines are also very nice. Stacks of magazines give a contemporary and cluttered air to a room. But one must pay attention to the KINDS of books and magazines! Paperbacks are a no-no! And for heaven’s sakes! Limit those subscriptions—if you must read “People,” hide it in the nightstand! Put the “Town and Country” on the coffee table.

Afghans. Dogs are nice, but here I am referring to the kind of throw your mother used to crochet. Comfortable and old world as they are, afghans are simply required elements of the cozy lifestyle. If they match the furniture, much the better. However, throws of any kind are preferable to the naked sofa or wing chair. Another necessary accessory, as mentioned before, is the pillow. I have found that the more pillows one stacks on the bed, the sofa, and the floor, the more comfortable and cozy the room. For some reason, husbands HATE pillows, but I digress….

Tatters. Why do Americans need to have everything BRAND SPANKING NEW? As much as I like Ikea, I have learned that the old world lifestyle requires that everything be just a little worn around the edges. New things have no soul. Scuffs and spots enhance your furnishings! Pet hair gives things a certain je ne c’est quois!

Croquet and lemonade in the garden. Once again, a lesson in terminology: if you call it a YARD, the area has no charm whatsoever. A GARDEN, on the other hand, is charming even with weeds, dog poo and uneven topography. To spend time in the garden with friends, a classic drink and balls and wickets is the height of elegant old world living.

Meals at odd times. What is more elegant—lunch or ELEVENSES? Dinner or TEA? I would much rather stuff myself with little cakes and small sandwiches at four than eat fish sticks and tater tots at six thirty! What were Americans thinking? As for drinking, which would YOU rather have—a slug of beer, or a nice glass of sherry?

So take heart—you too can live a vintage lifestyle…

Now I have to return the Proust that I almost finished to the library.

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