Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The holiday weekend

One advantage of retirement is that every weekend, indeed every day, is a holiday. However, if one wishes to see family and friends who are still toiling away, then national holidays must be observed and that is how I happened to be in London from Friday until yesterday, visiting my daughter and son-in-law. As a visit, it was superb, what could be better than spending time with one's nearest and dearest? But I wouldn't give it a very high rating as a holiday for three reasons: weather, traffic and people.

Bank Holiday weekends are traditionally wet, so, naturally, I packed a raincoat but one does not expect near-freezing temperatures at the end of May so I didn't pack my winter wardrobe. We all know how inconvenient, not to say how miserable it can be to spend time in London with the wrong kind of clothes! The weather also kept Londoners in London, so there were just too many people around, all wanting to visit the same places as us and creating traffic jams everywhere.

Apart from those miseries, we had a good time. London-dwellers know all the hidden gems of restaurants and we were taken to several during our stay; we visited Tate Modern and the Globe Theatre and saw the new Wembley stadium. One of the highlights for me was visiting the bees that my daughter and son-in-law keep. I hadn't been aware that London has so many bees and produces the finest honey in England. The cold weather kept the bees inside the hives but we did meet a group of beekeepers and even got to dress up in the protective hood and veil.

The awful weather did mean that I had more time than usual to read the newspapers, otherwise I might have missed this wonderful article on marriage in Monday's Times:

From The Times
May 28, 2007
Listen for his latchkey and let her drive your car - timeless advice on marriage (or, rather, the art of muddling through)
Ben Hoyle and Patrick Frankel
Two humorous volumes of advice for husbands and wives, written on the eve of the First World War, could become this year’s most unlikely bestseller.
Don’ts for Husbands counsels men not to “scoff” if their wives want to drive the car, while Don’ts for Wives reminds women not to flirt with other men in case they succeed “better than you want to. It is like playing with tigers and edged tools and volcanoes all in one.”
The books were published in 1913 and remained in print for 20 years as a gentle alternative to Marie Stopes’s groundbreaking and sexually explicit Married Love. While Stopes is recognised as one of the most influen-tial Britons of the past century, Blanche Ebbutt soon faded into obscurity.
However, her wit and enduring wisdom are set to find a new audience when the guides are reprinted by A&C Black as part of the publisher’s bicentenary celebrations. The guides evoke a world where domestic servants were taken for granted and men viewed women as second-class citizens, to be patronised or set to work on minor domestic tasks.
In this climate, Ebbutt advises husbands: “Don’t ‘talk down’ to your wife. She has as much intelligence as your colleague at the office; she lacks only opportunity. Talk to her (explaining when necessary) of anything you would talk of to a man, and you will be surprised to find how she expands.”
Other pearls of good sense include: “Don’t say your wife wastes time in reading, even if she only reads fiction.”
Wives receive sisterly instructions designed to make them the best possible partners for the flawed, often ridiculous men they have married. “Don’t let him have to search the house for you after his day’s work,” Ms Ebbutt writes. “Listen for his latchkey and meet him on the threshold.”
Fashion advice includes: “Don’t let your husband wear a violet tie with grass-green socks. If he is unhappily devoid of the colour sense, he must be forcibly restrained.” Women with ugly husbands could take comfort: “Beauty is only skin-deep and the cleverest men are rarely the handsomest.”
Ebbutt offered an insight into her own marriage in the preface t o Don’ts for Wives: “Art is a hard mistress, and there is no art quite so hard as that of being a wife,” she writes. “So many women exhaust their artistic power in getting married, which is, after all, a comparatively easy business. It takes a perfect artist to remain married – married in the perfect sense of the term; but most of us have to be content to muddle through.”
Jill Coleman, the managing director of A&C Black, which also publishes Who’s Who and Whitaker’s Almanack, said that the books offered a remarkable insight into domestic relationships at the start of the 20th century. “It was just before the First World War and things were changing. For a woman to give advice to a man like that, as well as to other women, was pretty new,” she said.

What not to do
Don’ts for Wives
— Don’t be discontented and think your husband not “manly” because he happens to be short and thin, and not very strong. Manliness is not a purely physical quality
— Don’t be afraid of cold meat. A few cookery lessons, or even a good cookery book, with the use of a little intelligence, will make you mistress of delicious ways of serving up leftovers
— Don’t omit to pay your husband a compliment. If he looks nice dressed for the opera, tell him so. If he has been successful with his chickens, or his garden, compliment him
— Don’t say “I told you so” to your husband, however much you feel tempted to. It does no good, and he will be grateful to you for not saying it

And for the men:

Don’ts for Husbands
— Don’t sharpen pencils all over the house. It does not improve either the carpets or the servants’ tempers to find pencil sharpenings all over the floors
— Don’t try to regulate every detail of your wife’s life. Even a wife is an individual, and must be allowed some scope
— Don’t try to “drive” your wife. You will find it much easier to “lead” her
— Don’t sneer at your wife’s cookery or bridge-playing or singing, or, in fact, anything that she does
— Don’t increase the work of the house by leaving all your things lying about in different places. If you are not tidy by nature, at least be thoughtful for others
— Don’t keep all your jokes for your men friends. Let your wife share them


  1. “Don’t let your husband wear a violet tie with grass-green socks. If he is unhappily devoid of the colour sense, he must be forcibly restrained.”

    Where do women obtain this colour sense? Is it genetic, or is this something passed down from mother to daughter in total secret?

    I can name about 6 different colors, which make do for every shade and mix of colors out there. Where do women get their vocabulary of 10,000 different words to describe color?

  2. I expect it is nature's way of compensating for our lack of navigation skills!

  3. Does this mean I can't tease you about being surprised that it was cold and damp in London(!) in late May after you teased me for being surprised that it was sunny and warm in mid-April?

  4. David, I thought of you every day I was there! I was well and truly repaid for my smugness.


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