Some more pics from 1930s housekeeping manual The Home of To-Day. This time, me and my Hoover.
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Our new favourite shopping destination is the flea market which takes place on the last Saturday of each month at the Out of the Blue Drill Hall in Edinburgh. So far, we’ve got some good deals by going along towards the end of the day (out of laziness more than drive to get a bargain, mind you).
On my first trip, I picked up The Home of To-Day: Its Choice, Planning, Equipment and Organisation. This housewives’ manual was published by the Daily Express in what looks to be the 1930s. Here’s what it presents as the desirable kitchen:
I certainly wouldn’t mind the dresser or anthracite stove.
We love our flat (to be fair, we would have loved almost anywhere after spending five years above a strip-club, but it really is a nice flat), but it needed some upgrading when we bought it in 2009 and we’re still nowhere near completing it. Something that clearly needed to be done was the kitchen, but now is not exactly the time to be taking out credit for home improvements and it seemed like it would take an age to get the lump sum together for a new fitted kitchen. In the end, me and an awkwardly positioned kitchen island came to blows and I won, triggering a piece-meal renovation to work with our gradual accumulation of funds.
A very inoffensive, surprisingly sturdy workbench from IKEA’s Varde range was the first thing I bought. Thanks to the wonders of Gumtree, we got it half-price from a guy who even delivered it for just a few quid. This is now our main pan and cutlery store. The best part of it was that no installation is required; I just sanded and varnished the floor where the old island had been, put new lining paper on the wall and then plonked it in place. Here you can see the scar of the old island on the floor:
Clearly, we wouldn’t be able to make a statement through a high-spec finish, so we were going to have to bring some character to the kitchen instead. I love all the 1950s metal larder units selling on Ebay, but the majority are collection-only and relatively few come up in Scotland. Just before Christmas, though, I spotted a sideboard whose seller lived near my family and which hadn’t attracted much interest. My Christmas present was decided:
Made by W. Lusty & Sons, it just needed a scrub and lining with paper before it was fine for storing canned and dried food. The atomic-style pink breadbin and lime green kitchen roll holder are both by Typhoon, bought from the Shelter charity shop chain and Ebay respectively.
The third key piece we needed was something to give us a sink and extra worktop. I toyed with freestanding again, but the state of the wall behind the existing units and the need for a good-sized food prep area meant that fitted would be more practical. After repeatedly dismissing the possibility that we could afford something by the guy who built the on-show kitchen for Freemans cafe in Edinburgh, I bit the bullet and called him. (Until recently, his contact details were on a brass plaque by the till – good marketing.) It turned out he was up for a small, no-frills job, so by tomorrow night, our sink unit will be ready to go! Here’s a picture of the reclaimed scaffolding planks we’re having:
Next, paint and lighting. My inspirations are the aforementioned Freemans and the enviable interior of another new Edinburgh cafe, Brew Lab. Watch this space.
I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (http://CMP.LY/0/jXFZkQ).
Just over a year ago, I wrote about the cottage where my grandmother grew up. The photos in that post were taken by my dad. After a failed attempt earlier this year when we nearly ended up on Ministry of Defence land, today the elder of my two nieces and I found the right path to the cottage so that we could see it for ourselves.
It wasn’t the best weather for exploring: constant rain and very muddy. Also, I had to backtrack in a big way when, after assuring my niece that no one would be about at this time of year in such bad weather (‘No, I can’t see a man behind the tree…’), we stumbled across a shoot. Fortunately, as intimidating as it is to come across several men with guns in the middle of a wood, everything of interest to them was in the opposite direction to that in which we were heading.
The front door of The Thrift was wide open, so I was able to take photos of its interior rooms. N.B. My niece stayed safely outside the building and had a working phone with her, and her mum (who’s less keen on mud) was parked less than a ten-minute walk away.
The cottage was much smaller than I remembered, but then I’m at least twenty years older than the last time I was there. I was pleased that so much of it was still standing for my niece to see. She was impressed that her great-grandmother got her own water from a stream and hiked across fields to work.
Correction (29/12/2012): I got the end date of Previously….Scotland’s History Festival wrong. It was actually still ongoing when I wrote this post.
This weekend is the West Port Book Festival in Edinburgh, so an update on two books I bought in the West Port is appropriate. The area has some excellent book and vintage shops but also, at one end, three strip clubs within about ten metres of one another. As these clubs are where the road forks into two, it’s known locally as ‘the pubic triangle’. I lived for five years behind the biggest club, the Burke & Hare – there aren’t many people who can say they’ve lived on a pubic mound – and can readily recall the mixed odour of disinfectant and hairspray you’d smell the morning after the night before. The seediness of the strip clubs is jarring but it does, for me, act as a bridge to imagining the even darker parts of the area’s history.
Anyway, to the books. I saw this cookery book in the window of Cabaret Antiques when waiting for my dad to try, and fail, to find a pill box to buy:
To be honest, I prefer old cookery books which have more information about general housekeeping (cleaning, child-rearing). We had, though, put the shopkeeper to so much trouble that I had to buy something.
This is a copy of the 26th edition of the Tried Favourites Cookery Book; this edition was published in 1963, the first in 1900. As the title suggests, it’s written as a quick reference book – no food photography or page-long instructions. In it, I’ve found a scone recipe that actually works for me: 1 lb flour, 2 oz butter, 2 oz sugar, 1/2 oz cream of tartar, 1/4 oz bicarbonate of soda, 1/2 pint milk or buttermilk.* I omitted the cream of tartar, switched bicarb for baking powder and added raisins and still produced something that looked more like scones and less like rock cakes. I think the modern recipes I’ve used have too much sugar.
From my perspective, the book’s recipes are secondary to the appeal of its adverts. One of the book’s publishers was in Edinburgh, so most of the ads are for local businesses.
Creamola Foam is a source of nostalgia in Scotland; this is the first time I’ve heard of the company making a custard.
I have Marshall’s Macaroni in my cupboard right now!
My second book purchase in the last few weeks was from Edinburgh Books, formerly West Port Books. The shop looks a bit dilapidated – something I was concerned they’d lose when it changed hands – and the range both of what they sell and the prices they sell it at is hard to beat. When it was West Port Books, it also acted as a publisher of some fascinating facsimile editions, including West Port Murders: Or, An Authentic Account of the Atrocious Murders Committed by Burke and His Associates and historic statistical accounts and maps of Edinburgh. Edinburgh Books still sells some copies of these.
The book I bought on this occasion was the Edinburgh and Leith Post-Office Directory 1963-1964. Not one to read cover-to-cover, but very interesting to flip through if you get excited by knowing who used to live at addresses you’re familiar with – I do. If you do too, there are a couple of online resources that I’d strongly encourage you to visit:
A few other finds I’ve taken an interest in recently are:
- The BBC Radio Scotland series Women with a Past: Juicy-sounding stories about women in Scottish history. (Declaration of conflict of interest: I came across it because I met the presenter, Susan Morrison, through my work.) I’m looking forward to giving it a go once I can find a computer that BBC Listen Again doesn’t think is in the USA. The presenter is also a driving force behind Scotland’s History Festival which has recently finished and which, somehow, I managed not to make it to any of. Next year…
- The Sunshine on Leith Facebook group: This is often entertaining for all the wrong reasons (read some of the comments to see what I mean). If you can look beyond that, there’re excellent pictures and local knowledge.
- The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook: I’m trying to decide whether I want this for Christmas. The title makes it sound like a disposable half-hour flip-through, but some of the reviews indicate there is more to get stuck into.
- University of Edinburgh Natural History Collections: This is open by appointment to the public and looks to have an extensive collection of parasites, among other things.
Also, it’s not new, but if you clicked on the link through to the West Port’s gruesome history and you now fancy seeing William Burke’s skeleton, pay a trip to the once-monthly opening of the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum.
* Apologies for the mixing of metric and imperial systems in this post! It’s what you get for going to a British school in the 1980s.
I spend not an inconsiderable amount of time (and a reasonable amount of money) buying old stuff and if you’re reading this, I guess you might too. Boasting about your possessions isn’t attractive, so consider post this more of a shopping audit.
I’ve gone a bit cool on vintage fairs since my trip in the spring to Judy’s Vintage Kilo Sale. I might have had a different experience if I’d arrived early in the morning, but arriving just after lunch, I felt faced with quite a lot of stuff that I personally think wouldn’t make it into my local charity shop – I couldn’t find a kilo on which to spend my £15. (I also didn’t like that business buyers got first pick before the general public were allowed in.) One vintage fair that is worth a look, though, is the Funk Fair.
It was just chance that I came across the Funk Fair – there was a sign outside one of my local churches as I walked back from Tesco on a Saturday morning. It looks like the Fair alternates across two Edinburgh locations and also does sessions in Dundee. Its traders are local and cover clothing, accessories, furniture and bric-a-brac. There was really high-end stuff when I went, but you could also go with a fiver and still come out happy. I spent more than that, but not that much more, and came out with some experimentally-dyed underwear, a 1959 women’s magazine, a tea towel and colourful adverts from old magazines.
Yes, I’ve worn the – PREVIOUSLY UNWORN – red pants.* They are perfect Edinburgh pants: warm (what with being massive and thick) and they hold your stomach in (for the winter comfort-eating, which goes on 11 months a year in Auld Reekie). The now-blue open girdle – style 762R from Berlei’s Gay Slant range – reduces me by nearly a dress size, but combine it with heels and you may as well just wear manacles on your ankles. The magazine pages and tea towel are now in IKEA frames and brightening up our kitchen – thank you to Rhian Wright (AKA Rhian Wright Illustration) for the idea. Finally, the magazine provided a couple of evenings of interesting bedtime reading, but my favourite part is where someone has scribbled reminders on the front about the recipes (cod with banana stuffing, anyone?) and food adverts inside.
I really get a kick out of things which document household history, so one of my best finds this year was a copy of Better Home Making from a stall at the Meadows Festival at the start of June. The Meadows Festival is probably the closest thing my bit of South Edinburgh has to a village fête and it’s a good place to pick up old household items, books and clothes as well as a burger and some face painting. Better Home Making is an encyclopaedia of almost everything you might wish to know about running a house or raising a family if you were doing so around 1960. I paid around £3 for the book, which is slightly over the current going rate, but it provided me with some great pictures and insights for my earlier post “Single-Room Living”.
In preparation for my summer holiday in Greece, I did a bit of Ebay-ing. I’ve got an original 1950s sun dress that I wear to death in the heat – its full cotton skirt is cool and it’s not so skimpy as to make me self-conscious – so I tried to find another one like it. In the end, I opted for this white dress, which is made out of heavy linen and embroidered in blue – the embroidery was what attracted me. It was too big for me, and had quite a high neck and short sleeves that I didn’t like, so I took the sewing machine to it. I did think twice, but the dress is fairly crudely home-made anyway, so I guessed it would probably be quite forgiving of my efforts. I made a scoop neck out of the high V (I used a dinner plate as a guide), removed the sleeves and took in the bodice, adding a popper fastening on one side (previously, the dress just pulled on over the head). It’s not a fantastic piece of tailoring – if I was more skilled and patient, I would have added bust darts and tweaked the yoke – but it did the trick and the dress fulfilled its purpose.
A few weeks ago, at the start of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I picked up yet more postcards, this time at a stall in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket. I really can’t help myself when it comes to old postcards with messages on, but at 3 for £1, I guess there are more harmful compulsions. I’ve already written about one of them in my post “Father and Mr Thom”, so here are the other two:
13th June, 1923
just arrived in auld Reekie this morning weather sunny [?] and awfully windy. expect to see Mull Tomorrow. so will have my sky and kindest regards to all xxx
As always, help deciphering the writing I’ve transcribed as ‘XXX’ is very welcome.
13th August, 1910 [?]
The picture and colour on the second postcard are just great. Who were (or was?) the Huntly Johnnies?
Finally, last week, I saw something I would like to own in order to display all my shopping finds – a cabinet of curiosity. This seems to be a kind of lavish, portable museum that has been around for hundreds of years, one of which has recently been recreated by the University of Aberdeen. The Aberdeen reproduction has been inspired by the Augsburg Art Cabinet, shown here:
The University of Aberdeen is now loaning their cabinet out to Scottish schools so that pupils can curate their own collections of objects. What a brilliant opportunity is that?
* Gussets, like toothbrushes, should never be shared.
I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (http://CMP.LY/0/jXFZkQ).
Other projects have taken priority over the blog the last few weeks. I finally bit the bullet and ripped out about half of our kitchen, including an inconveniently placed island. Obviously, I don’t generally like to get rid of old stuff, but early-80s kitchen units just don’t do it for me (plus the doors were hanging off in places). It’s also been my ‘little’ sister’s thirtieth birthday, a board game convention (where my role was solely babysitter – I have no patience when it comes to learning rules), prep for a new intern at work, and a very good course on writing research proposals that was held in the lovely English village of Great Missenden. Oh, and I’ve been trying to get to grips (not totally successfully, but it’s all alright now) with self-hosted WordPress for our work blog.
So thank you to Her Royal Highness for giving us an extra bank holiday. I am choosing to honour our head of state by still being in pyjamas at eleven in the morning and writing to you about late-1950s single-room living.
My now-husband and I spent our first few years of living together in an Edinburgh flat that was under 300 square feet in size. As Miss Minimalist shows, this can have definite advantages, but given that many of our friends lived in the traditional high-ceilinged, bay-windowed tenements found in parts of Edinburgh, we did often attract questions along the lines of ‘How do you do/bear it?’. After a while, we were fairly ruthless with de-cluttering, and my dad and I did spend some time planning the kitchen area and bathroom to fit in what we needed, but otherwise it was just a case of cramming regular furniture into a small space.
From reading Beryl Conway Cross’ Better Home Making (George Newnes Limited, London, c. 1960), it looks like modest living spaces were common in post-war Britain: there’s a whole section on single-room living (plus another on making a caravan your permanent home). Low housing stocks seem to have bred a pragmatic, imaginative approach, and I love this two-page spread on the Bachelor (“girl or man!”) Flat:
I particularly like the desk-stroke-dressing table, and the linen shelf that slides under the bed (not shown but described).
I also like this use of a room divider:
I have no idea whether anyone actually put plans like this into practice or whether, like IKEA’s storage innovations, it was a nice idea that required a little too much commitment to realise. Still, it’s a living situation many young married couples would have managed. (I remember someone once telling me that her parents thought themselves very lucky to have two rooms to live in when they started their married life in the UK in the 1950s.)
I suspect I wasn’t the only kid who had a bit of a thing for concealed beds, day beds and bed settees, so I’ve enjoyed these pictures of space-saving sleeping areas too:
I started this post talking about ripping out part of our kitchen. In terms of a replacement, we’ve gone for some freestanding IKEA units which are sturdy, easy to install (no installation) and which blend with the rest of the existing units until we’ve time and money to finish the job. However, I did explore how realistic and affordable it would be to install something like the English Rose fitted kitchen. I decided that we’ve neither the time nor the money right now for the metal restoration that would be required, but it still seems like a good reason for a picture of what looks decidedly like an English Rose kitchen:
Enjoy the rest of your Jubilee Tuesday! I’ll try and return to the postcard series soon.