Sunday, 6 September 2015

E M Delafield

I have been reading, courtesy of the kindle, E M Delafield's Provincial Lady series. She's very good,   most amusing, and yet - there are flashes of something sad. Where the lady of the title reminisces with an old friend about how she was considered to be industrious if she practised piano for an hour a day, and how her mother's maid did her hair, you get a sense of how little anyone really cared about the education of young women in the early 1900s.

No wonder, really, that she was baffled by household accounts (an amusing but eventually irritating theme through these books) and in the fourth, which is set (and was written) in 1940, that she and her contemporaries are left feeling so frustrated and useless as the war starts, and children are moved out of cities and gasmasks are distributed, and income tax goes mad and hospitals cleared - but nothing actually happens, and you’re conscious that the Provincial Lady’s son is almost of an age to be drafted straight out of school, and there's nothing she can do.

It doesn’t help that everyone keeps telling her to carry on as usual, that sales will be good because people will want to be taken out of themselves and read something light-hearted.  This expectation that someone should be raising morale and bubbling over with literary mirth on the eve of war is almost the most melancholy aspect of the whole thing.

..and then I read her wikipedia entry and all I can say is I'm glad I left it until after the books.

Also - and on a completely unrelated note - I've been investigating the ends of the tube lines with my brother. So far we have done Uxbridge, Edgware and High Barnet.

Uxbridge, our first one which we did weeks ago, is a place I only know from the Uxbridge English Dictionary round on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. The idea of the round is to give alternative and amusing definitions to common words and the name of it is based on the fact that Uxbridge sounds like Oxbridge but is a completely different sort of place and class. Oxbridge being not a real place at all but the portmanteau word used for a certain type of education - that of the Oxford and Cambridge Colleges - and the social class and privilege that implies.
Both Oxford and Cambridge publish dictionaries.

Uxbridge is actually quite nice in a low key way. A fairly typical London conurb-slash-suburb-slash-urban area that was clearly its own place before London grew out towards it and still has some of that individual flavour. There's a largish paved area with cafe tables, and some very old pubs, and a war memorial.

Barnet also has some of those things (and the pub garden in the very old pub was lovely) as well as a church and a few equally old buildings that were well worth a second look.

Edgware I was less struck with. It felt as if it hadn't really been a place at all until the tube got there, or if there were any interesting historical buildings they'd been lost somehow instead of comfortably incorporated. I've googled since to see whether we missed anything and there is a little bit more to the place, but because the wide and spacious high street that looks so serene in old photos is a major artery in and out of London (in fact, it's apparently part of what used to be Watling Street, so you might say THE major artery), cars speed along on their route from the M1 and chop the place up fairly brutally.

Of course mostly all this is an excuse to get out and go for a walk and chat and have coffee or a drink or two instead of frowsting indoors.

Lastly, or almost lastly: look what they're doing to Earls Court. 
I mean, I know Earls Court is a bit of a dump, but that's what keeps it vaguely affordable. It won't be affordable once the 'new quarter' is in. 

Whereas up near Ladbroke Grove we have this quite
imaginative bit of municipal planting. It's not all bad.

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