An Old Fashioned Girl

I think I need to create a new category called Opinionated. Because I am a very opinionated person, and the longer I blog, the more my opinions are clamouring to be expressed. I am a grownup, I have learned that not everyone wants to hear my viewpoint on any given subject, and so I tend to keep schtum unless asked. But you seem like such close friends to me now that opinions can’t help but creep in when we are talking.

I must be honest with you though, I’m a very odd person really. You know these personality tests you can do, where they draw out the information that you prefer peas to carrots, your favourite music decade is the 1970s, you would never go to sleep with your makeup on, and your dream date is Heath Ledger, and from that define you as a fun loving girl with a strong sense of loyalty and a hidden desire for a large family? Well, they never work for me (ok, they don’t really work for anyone, but what I mean is, the answer I would choose is never in the list of options). I expect, if truth be told, that few people fit neatly into a pigeon hole, but I have always seemed to be a misfit. Not in a scary way, just in a slightly uncomfortable way.

I attribute this partially to having been born to older parents. My mum was 43 when she had me, which was positively geriatric back in the 70’s. I was brought up around older people, and could never get along with kids my own age. I spent my childhood and teen years stuck firmly into a book. And I rapidly came to the conclusion that I had simply been born into the wrong decade, in fact, possibly into the wrong century.

At 16 I was deeply into L M Montgomery (still am), and decided to makeover myself as an Edwardian lady. I found a book of historical dress patterns, and my dear mother sewed me a couple of authentic skirts, floor length and pintucked, and some high necked lace and broderie anglaise blouses. I wore my hair in a pompadour bun. I read a rather silly article in this week’s Sunday Times style supplement that advised women who didn’t fit the general idea of beauty to play up their qualities in a historical way, dressing as a Fieldingesque doxy with frizzed hair and rouged cheeks, if necessary. Well the world of the early 1990’s was not that inventive or openminded, and this was long before the vintage clothing trend hit the fashion world and made retro dressing the norm. Still, I was happy.

Later on I was to turn this passion for the olden days into a successful business, with a vintage clothing website. That was huge fun, back in the days when vintage was becoming very trendy, but before the general public had caught on, so that you could find divine 1950’s ball gowns in the fancy dress section of charity shops. Happy days. Luckily for me, I’m blessed with such wonderful friends that they thought my vintage clothes were cool long before the High Street made them everyday wear. And with a shops stock to choose from, I had a revolving vintage wardrobe (although at 5’10, very few items properly fitted me).

Nowadays I’m far too lazy to dress up, but when I do, I’m still most comfortable in vintage inspired clothing. And in the other areas of my life, I’m always drawn to the old fashioned. My cd collection consists of Big Band era standards and classical music (the only radio station I can bear is Classic FM). My favourite books, as I mentioned yesterday, are at least 60 years old. I adore old films, Frank Capra’s work, the Nick & Nora series (oh! I bought some wonderful Nick & Nora snowman sheets today off eBay! But I digress…), anything black and white.

It seems to me that the world has lost its sweetness in the last 50 years. You only have to contrast the difference in humour, for one thing. I do not like the sardonic cruelty that characterises so much of today’s comedy, or its vulgarity either (and yes, I know that using the word vulgar makes me very old fashioned). I don’t like the fact that nothing is sacrosanct, that everything in life is open to scrutiny and mockery. I don’t like the cynicism that I see around me, even though I can understand the reasons for it, and I loathe the lack of good manners in today’s society.

And small things too. Why don’t we have afternoon tea any more? Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we all stopped for tea, and bread toasted on a fork in front of a log fire, and buttered crumpets, and macaroons, in the middle of the afternoon? And wouldn’t life be easier if women were allowed to get older, instead of devoting all their time, money, and brain to looking the same age as their grand daughters? And whatever happened to people reading aloud to one another?      

I’m not denying that there have been changes for the better in the last few decades, but there have been far more changes for the worst. In my opinion. But I cannot turn the clock back, or transport myself back through time to a gentler age. All I can do is create my own little personal timewarp. In it, I sit in front of a fire, drinking tea and eating freshly baked scones. Chopin tinkles prettily in the background, and a clock ticks steadily. A good whodunnit lays on my lap, and my knitting is by my side. Whatever changes in the world outside, the things I love remain. And maybe one day, I’ll be able to persuade Tony to read Pickwick Papers to me as I knit….

15 thoughts on “An Old Fashioned Girl

  1. Interesting! As for the reading allowed thing, Anth used to read me books, mainly because I am such a slow reader, but its so lush and very intimate!! That is probably one of my most favourite things to do in the whole world. 🙂

  2. I too was always considered an odd ball. I have never cared for following fashion and refuse to bow down to the pressures of what is considered ‘the norm’. (I now find myself in a very unusual position – I knit, knitting is fashionable, I am therefore fashionabe. A first!)

    I always fancied myself as a hippy! But hated flares.

    Opinionated? Maybe Dee, but I think the word that really defines you is eccentric. And that is something I long to be. Long live the soap box!

  3. Hi Dee

    My sister Victoria and I are twins. We were 32 a few weeks ago and some of our favourite music is the big bands. When our school friends were listening to the latest pop groups we would listen to Vera Lynn and songs that won the war and that sort of music. My taste in music as extended abit but not that much and up until it went off air our favourite radio station was Saga. I agree with you about the lack of good manners and think it is a shame and I agree with alot of what you say.


  4. Today I was told that the majority of people at school who don’t know me very well see me as an out-of-touch eccentric who never goes out, or does things like “normal” people do…namely, go to parties and become inebriated…Since I make my own clothes…and get excited by political rallies…and am passionate about art…Which isn’t “normal”…I personally dislike the stigma of normality – with out eccentricity as such, how boring would society be? – and the only thing I miss hugely about previous generations, which being 16 i haven’t experienced, only read about, is the (as far as I can tell) smaller influence of the media on fashion and dress. You made a post a while ago about British quirkiness, which is fast disappearing in my generation as the giants of Primark and Arcadia take tight rein. This is going no-where.

  5. I find it wonderful to find that I am, how shall we say, not the only one. Isn’t it funny how something so modern as a blog bring together a group, for whom the clock ticks a bit too fast these days? It seems a shame to me, that a country which has prided itself on its eccentrics for centuries is leaving less and less room for not-the-norm behaviour. What makes Friday-night binges better than sewing at home? Strange times!

    Jumping off the soap box, I’d like to say, that I do appreciate the little community we have going here. I follow up your recommendations, just like I would those from a ‘real’ friend, and have found I like many of the same things. (How do you feel about the ‘Thin Man’ films? fantastic? no?) It would be wonderful to get together and have our afternoon tea, chatting and knitting, and….. ahhhhh. I’m getting carried away. For now it is enough that we bring our tea cups to the computer, and chat on-line.

    Thanks, Dee. Thanks for bringing us together.

  6. Though I suspect that we are very much unalike, I still feel very alike in many ways. Not least because we are both knitters, which says something, because we accept the slow craft and enjoy the process of something, that many people can’t understand because “It takes so long to do anything – why don’t you just buy it?”. (Also I suspect the reason for the popularity of thick yarn and biiiiig needles).
    I like the slowness of my craft, though I’m not a slow knitter. I like the progress row by row, while my husband reads to me (something we both like very much – and we are only 24). I put love into every stitch and hope that it can be felt by the receipient.
    I have my oppinions, but cherish the fact that others might not agree, and might have different ones. So speak up, share with us. We might not agree, but that won’t make us any less friendly 😉

  7. I find it interesting how people are “opinionated” if they seek to be independent minded, and true to themselves, yet “agreeable” if they conform to the mass view, whatever their internal views – I’m all for being opinionated and true to myself than outwardly compliant and unhappy. People who are successful in this life (and I mean truly successful – managing to fulfil their dreams, whether or not society describes them as such), tend also to be “opinionated”, or “eccentric” or “not quite one of us” – all used in a horrible, exclusive kind of way.
    And I find it sad that these days I am pleasantly surprised if someone is polite. I am finding that what has distinguished the knitting and blogging communites to me is their acceptance, good manners, gentleness, and sheer willingness to accept people, warts, opinions, eccentricities and all. Long may it all continue!
    Thank you for all your opinions, Dee – they make interesting reading, and invite me to think!

  8. It all sounds perfect. And I thought it was just me….. I am proud to say I would rather watch Myrna Loy and Willam Powell than Will Ferrell (I do not think he is the funniest thing around), listen to Frank Sinatra instead of Britney Spears or any of that ilk. And I would so rather be home, with my husband and dog, knitting.

  9. I read aloud *lots* – we’ve read all the HP books that way (one of the reasons I think I’ve enjoyed them so much), and many others. (Rarely all those oldie books that I, too, love, as not C’s favourites).

    Miss Pettigrew is great, isn’t she? Not sure about a movie version… And I *do* like Nancy M, was telling Brenda all about them when I was in Pembrokeshire. I remember reading Don’t forget your daughters too – but lots there I haven’t read,a nd now very much want to. Thanks!

  10. Dee,

    It doesn’t sound so odd. My mother was 32 when I was born and I was always mortified that she was so much older than my friends’ parents (of course, the joke is that I was 40 when my daughter was born and 42 when my son was born, but I act far younger :)). I, too, spent a lot of time with my grandparents and great aunts as a child (heck, I learned to knit when I was 4) and always related better to adults than children until I was 12 or 13. To this day, I really dislike watching anything in color and am most content knitting and watching movies from the ’30s and ’40s. I also love the big band era. My mother has such fond memories of years gone by that she has passed them on to me.

    Gosh, until I typed all this, I thought I fit into the general populace really well….

  11. I love the book ‘An Old-fashioned Girl’. Partly because it shows that we eccentric throwback – yes, I include myself – have always been around. Reading Dickens and Anthony Trollope etc, I do think I would have been more comfortable in those eras.

    If opinionated means you have a clear sense of your identity and the confidence to live with yourself as you are – go for it!!! After all, you have yourself for company 24/7 for a long time so you might as well enjoy it : )

  12. Am with you on the politness front. I also use the word vulgar and think that often it’s the only appropriate word.
    I have tried to encourage my children to treat others with respect and I wish that there were more ‘opinionated’ people out there (in positions of power and influence) willing to make comments such as yours.

    I do worry that others view me as an old fogey (I’m less than 42) and i used to be called the victorian mother because I limited my children’s intake of sweets and TV.

  13. I like to say I’m in touch with my inner granny. But reading aloud isn’t old fashioned, it’s wonderful! Armin and I read to each other every night – well, who’d want to wash the dishes without a story to listen to? And we also share a loathing of mean humour, and a love of clothing that could reasonably be described as period costume. (My personal look goes straight back to pre-Raphaelite.)

  14. I long for more genteel times and practices, I hate that my generation and the following ones seem to have no manners. I would love for R to read to me but I think it would be highly unlikely, as he’s not a huge lover of reading. I sat this afternoon with a cup of coffee, my knitting and Frank Sinatra playing, it was lovely!