I read a lot of books. I watch a lot of television. I prefer to enter the world of the past, where people had servants, wore long dresses and changed clothes in order to have lunch. I like period detective stories also. Anything by a Bronte, Austen, Alcott, or Dickens will do.
But here’s the thing. I get very confused about what life must have been like back then, when I compare it to my own reality. There are so many elements that are presented in these plots that I really don’t understand. I will share them with you, because I would rather do that than actual research into the relative truth of these very confusing things. Anything beats research.
First of all, let’s talk wardrobes. I know we are globally warm. So it must have been a lot colder back when Oliver Twist was picking pockets. So how come in the dead of winter, all the women in London just sallied out with a mere shawl thrown over their shoulders? Or, in the case of those women on the moors, a cape? And in most cases that I see, the cape has just one button at the neck, baring the rest of the wearer to the winds? Oliver and the gang just seemed to get by in London’s chill by wearing caps. Good grief.
Summer? Just the opposite. At Downton Abbey, long dresses with extensive undergarments. Hose. No such thing as sandals. And when they got parched? Hot tea was just the ticket. Everybody seemed to go outside all the time, to eat at wicker tables or on blankets, playing croquet and badminton in all of those clothes. Sidebar: were there no big bugs or bees back then? Those teacakes sat on a silver platter for hours. How come none of those aristocrats swatted at flies?
And let’s talk tea. In any crisis, whether it’s murder or mayhem, one is offered a cuppa. How does this help? Or water. Sometimes, when a murder has taken place, the coroner or some other official arrives, takes one look at the bystanders, and orders a round of glasses of water for all. Maybe back then, everybody was on the verge of dehydration all the time?
Beds are extremely confusing. Nobody in these shows sleeps flat. They all prop themselves up with pillows and shams. Then they discuss the murder, the gossip, or the fact that they need to hire a new ladies’ maid. And then, somebody just blows out the candle or turns down the gas. Period. Eyes closed. Sitting up.
One more thing that always confuses me. Here in the present, we have social media. I can find out what you are doing for lunch by checking Facebook. But in all the period pieces, notes were sent. And some guy in a phaeton was always right there at the curb, ready to rush the note over to the recipient and come right back. Ladies making assignations seemed to get their answers from lovers right away! How could things be that efficient in times when it was horses they relied on? And how were all these people always available to read these notes being sent around town fifty times a day?
Life seemed so much more civilised in these books. I love capes. And tea with cream looks so good–in those transparent china cups. People’s lives were so much more interesting and picturesque.
I bet the reality was something very different. It certainly isn’t like that now. Why, just yesterday, I happened to be in the ER, waiting for my flu-ish daughter to be treated. Nobody offered me a glass of water. And there wasn’t a teapot in sight.