Sunday, 20 September 2020

Winter Wanderings Series: Elizabeth Bay

Edmund Dulac, 1911
nota bene: The Snow Queen has never visited Sydney in Winter

The Winter season has come and gone and the capriciousness of Spring is upon us. Our central heating was switched off several days ago, a little earlier than previous years, so the ups and downs of the temperatures may see us shivering for a couple of nights before things settle down. Fear not, Dear Reader, we aren't likely to be caught in a snowdrift around the Pipistrello roost. The winter doona is still on the bed, as is the wooly coat on the Oaken Armchair, and the temperatures we contemplate are positively laughable to anyone in, say, Canada. A Warm Temperature Climate makes for complete softies!

Gustaf Fjæstad, 1947
Neither would have GF find inspiration in our Winters

There was a time, seemingly long, long ago, when we may have decamped from the frozen steppes of Sydney for a week or two chasing something warmer, but this year was different, insofar as it being mostly mild, my not feeling the cold so much as I, ahem, age, and anyways it being the Year of the Plague.

Early Colonial allotment map of the
Three Bays flanking our 'Hood 

Today I thought to show you around my neighbourhood, where all of the winter wanderings of 2020 have taken place. So settle in for some armchair travelling of a distinctly local kind: Elizabeth Bay.

Elizabeth Bay House
Presently closed but the seats afford good views
 and some shade from the winter sun

View of Elizabeth Bay from the porch
Magnolias still putting on a show in this pic

Iris now in bloom around the pond

The closest park for taking some air, a book and a blanket is the last remnant of the original land surrounding the 1839 estate house for which our suburb is named, Elizabeth Bay House, built in the Colonial Regency style and now a museum. We call it the Fish Park, owing to the many healthy koi  carp in the pond, a.k.a. Arthur McElhone Reserve. No feeding allowed!*

A small and popular park
With park benches and lawn on which to loll

The magnolias are finished
And the frangipane leaves starting to bud ...
... But the azaleas, meanwhile,
Are going Nuts!

Stepping out of this park, we swing past the 1928 Spanish Mission des-res apartments, Del Rio:

The discreet back face of Del Rio,
Conceals lush gardens, swimming pool and harbour jetty

We walk a mere street's length (although there's naught mere about this veritable Millionaire's Row) to our next park, situated right on the water, replete with marina and café. Billyard Avenue is bookended by Del Rio and another 1926 Spanish Mission showcase, Boomerang**, on the harbour side, with red-bricked Art Deco apartment blocks facing the Millionaires on the other.

A tantalising glimpse of the Moorish design
Within the gentleman's residence Boomerang

A peek past the Italianate apartments Alabama,
To a corner of Boomerang
Just need to admire these poinsettias first

And we've arrived in Beare Park,
Giving us another view of Elizabeth Bay

The point between Elizabeth Bay and Rushcutters Bay
Where sits the 1961 Bauhaus apartment block, Oceana

The café at the Marina affords us a view
Of housework of a different kind.
The greenery in the distance is The Zoo

Victorian-era cast-iron Drinking Fountain detail
Exhorts us to Keep the Pavement Dry

Then back up the hill and we're home and hosed. We can do the loop around Elizabeth Bay passing the two parks at a brisk clip in well under half an hour, but there's never any reason to rush. There has been a hatching of puppies in the area and the parks are dog-friendly, and four-legged residents need admiring. There are roses to stop and smell and lots of interesting architecture along the way, grand and modest and everything in between. Art deco features strongly and we're mostly in tiny apartments and the majority of us don't get a view or our own outdoor space, so we count our blessing every day for living within skipping distance to our bay's parks in Sydney Harbour.

* Last year there was a late night robbery of many of the carp by some allegedly Chinese, shady underworld characters. I cannot say if the present residents were recovered from their ordeal or are replacements but there was a lot of tchh-ing about the Incident by the two-legged residents of the 'hood.

** A house that get's its own Wikipedia page!

Image credits: 1,2: Wikimedia Commons; 11: via Pinterest; all else: Flying With Hands

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Queen Bees or Queen BFFs?

It may be an unfashionable admission, Dear Reader, but I have a short list of Glamorous Royal Ladies that will always catch my eye when I see them in the press. Two of them are seen regularly together, Queen Mathilde of The Belgians and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands. Their outfits are always so well-coordinated and complementary in colour, I have a rather strong suspicion they get on the phone to one another to discuss Outfits, Hair & Hats ahead of their catch-ups. Not to mention weather reports.

"Picture hat?", "Velvet today?", "Business neutrals?", "Pink!!", "Bows!!", "Jackie O!!", "Safari!!", &c.


If these Queens aren't Queen BFFs, then I'll eat my hat.

Image credits: 1: Rijksmuseum; 2-12: via Getty Images 

Sunday, 13 September 2020

The Provincial Lady's Diaries

Hold onto your Curls, my lovely!
The sea's about to get Rough!

I met up with my old friends, Scylla & Charybdis, this week. They were, as usual, in disguise. Do you remember, Dear Reader, when we last encountered them, they'd taken a turn around these pages as Dogs, then Aunts, and finally Knees? This time they were masquerading as a couple of Ringlet Hairpieces, to adorn each side of a 1930s bathing cap.

Much merriment to be found within

And, of course, being the sort of Rogues that they are, they did come adrift and became Lost at Sea when their Hostess, the Provincial Lady, was dumped unceremoniously by a wave whilst holidaying in Brittany with the family.* She could have enlisted the aid of the helpful & newly-installed Holiday Tutor (with the soubriquet Casabianca ["The boy stood on the burning deck .... &c."]), but she does have some dignity, and they never get mentioned again during my binge-reading of 4 of the treasured E. M. Delafield quasi-autobiographical Diaries found within one handy volume in the Pipistrello roost.

Edmée Elizabeth Monica Dashwood
a.k.a. E. M. Delafield
In confidence-boosting Hat

"February 11th. .... Lady B. asks if I have seen the new play at the Royalty. I say no. She says Have I been to the Italian Art Exhibition? I have not. She enquires what I think of Her Privates We - which I haven't read yet - and I at once give her a long and spirited account of my reactions to it. Feel after this that I had better go, before I am driven to further excesses."

Gossipy, topical and satirical, and filled with little literary jokes alongside the minutiae of the Provincial Lady's life and Memos to Self. Mostly hair and hats, clothes and books (read or unread), meals and Correspondence. 
Typical conversational threads: "We talk some more about bulbs, the Dutch School of Painting, Our Vicar's Wife, sciatica, and All Quiet on the Western Front"; 
"... I express astonished admiration, and then we go on to Village Halls, Sir Oswald Mosley, and methods of removing ink-stains from linen."; 
"Unknown young man looks incredulous, and at once begins to talk about interior decoration, the Spanish Royal Family, and modern lighting."

It all sounds rather like a Blog. Which it is, in a way. A thinly disguised autobiography, filled with the people of EMD's world - somewhere in the middle of the classes in the middle of the wars, with a leaning toward the bookish - and originally serialised in Time and Tide, the British political and review magazine of which she had close association for many years - and much loved and never been out of print since 1930. And I imagine the subtle and self-deprecating writing is no doubt a familiar old friend.
Kolynos, the family dog's name.
Other notable 1930s Grocery Items mentioned within:
Valentine's Meat Juice; Bemax; Bovril; Horlick's Malted Milk

"June 1st. - Life full of contrasts, as usual, and after recent orgy of Society, spend most of the day in washing white gloves and silk stocking, and drying them in front of electric fire. Effect of this on gloves not good, and remember too late that writer of Woman's Page in illustrated daily paper has always deprecated this practice.


Find extraordinary little envelope waiting for me at flat, containing printed assurance that I shall be certainly interested in recent curiosities of literature acquired by total stranger living in Northern manufacturing town, all or any of which he is prepared to send me under plain sealed cover. Details follow, and range from illustrated History of Flagellation to Unexpurgated Erotica.**

Toy for some time with idea that it is my duty to communicate with Scotland Yard, but officials there probably overworked already, and would be far more grateful for being left in peace, so take no action beyond consigning envelope and contents to the dust-bin."

This Penguin Classic edition throws in three more entertaining sequels published through the 30s: 

Our PL busy "working"

The PL Goes Further, where she takes a lease on a flat and spends a goodly amount of time in London, ostensibly writing another book (her acclaim as a "funny writer" helps keep the wolf from the door [Bank Manager pressing her over the Overdraft]), in reality gadding about and seeking to allay any anxiety about said wolf by shopping for hats and maintaining her permanent wave - Husband (Robert [taciturn]) stays principally at Home; 

Much tramping about of World Fair undertaken by our PL

The PL in America, where she sails to America for a publicity tour and local hospitality ensures much drinking of cocktails (despite Prohibition) and better food (than Home) in between Speaking Engagements before large crowds where she recycles two speeches and continually fields questions on What she thinks of the American Woman and What does she think of Anthony Adverse? [Hervey Allen, 1933, unread] - Yes, Husband stays at Home

Typical Air Raid Precaution (ARP) subterranean canteen
Failing to depict the dense cloud of cigarette smoke and deafening racket.

and The PL in Wartime, when, after installing evacuees at Home, she decamps to London again during the Phoney War trying to be Gainfully Employed, along with thousands others, and spends the next 10 weeks or so Standing By in the vain hunt for a War Job in the Ministry of Information, meanwhile becoming a volunteer canteen-helper at the ARP Station under the Savoy Hotel and fills the remaining time with socialising and practicing wearing her gas-mask - Husband at Home, for a change.

Much tramping about of Red Square undertaken by our PL

The PL also goes to Russia for several months, (children? boarding school, obv.) and I read a trio of essays published in Harpers Magazine in 1937, (courtesy of Project Gutenberg Australia), where she gets to hear a lot about Abortions and unexpectedly sells most of her wardrobe, including the pyjamas under her hotel bed pillow to a persistent Russian woman, and hullo! I meet Scylla and Charybdis again, this time in a more traditional rôle, describing the throngs of comrades walking the streets of Moscow - surprise, surprise, H-a-H.

So, what else do we learn about the PL and life in the 1930s?

Favourite word: Recrudescence

Pets: Dog: Kolynos [toothpaste]; Cat: Helen Wills [tennis player]

Depression-era jobs: Door-to-door sales of electric cleaners, selling Poems or hand-knits, disinfecting telephones (Germs, obv.)

Difficulty in finding decent Cook or House-Parlourmaid: Enormous, ironically.

Popular Reads: Constant discussion within about the latest books - everyone Keeps Up in these times - so I took a survey*** of the adult books mentioned as the majority were unfamiliar (singular failure of a Maths Background). Most leant heavily toward crime and WWI, unsurprisingly. (Strangely, the better known to me books today of the era belong to the same ilk as The Diaries.) The PL admits to her Diary to having not read or enjoyed most of the gloomier works, seemingly to prefer the Lighter Fare, but talks still learnedly in conversation, thanks to Literary Criticisms provided by the regular diet of Time and Tide.

Ditto flavour of Popular Film & Theatre: Nine till Six (women's drama); Journey's End (WWI); Payment Deferred (crime); Three Musketeers (adventure); Cavalcade (epic film)

Finally, and what makes her rather a Kindred Spirit, when you would think there's nothing relatable in a 1930s Provincial Lady's life in these times: Finds herself extraordinarily eloquent and informative on any number of subjects after the judicious application of alcoholic beverages. 

* Always a danger when one decamps from the Provinces and a general warning to all. 

** Sordid little junk emails and spam comments are nothing new, it would appear, as the Olde Post is littered with unsolicited missives as much then as now, in amongst the letters, postcards and telegrams that chased one around the Provinces, at sea and Abroad, and for all the world like the imperative and immediacy of emails, texts and what not. 

*** Listical of books read/unread by our PL & skippable, Dear Reader. Really a Memorandum for myself:

Harriet Hume, Rebecca West, 1929 (psychological fiction - unread);
Orlando, Virginia Woolf, 1928 (gossipy historical fiction - read);
The Good Companions, J. B. Priestley, 1929 (dialect-filled novel - read);
An American Tragedy, Theodore Dreiser, 1925 (crime fiction - abandoned read); 
The Life of Sir Edward Marshall-Hall, Edward Marjoribanks, 1929 (criminal lawyer biog. - unread); 
Her Privates We, Frederic Manning, 1930 (WWI - unread); 
The Life of Lord Beaconsfield, Walter Sichel, 1904 or T. E. Kebbel, 1888? (pretentious read - unread); 
Bulldog Drummond books, "Sapper", 1920s + (gentleman detective - presume read);
A Brass Hat in No Man's Land, Frank Percy Crozier, 1930 (WWI - unread); 
A High Wind in Jamaica, Richard Hughes, 1929 (piracy and child murderers - read); 
Little Dorritt, Charles Dickens, 1857 (Dickensian - read);
The Daisy Chain, Charlotte Yonge, 1856 (Improving book - read);
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë, 1847 (Gothic romance - read);
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Anita Loos, 1925 (comic novella -read);
The Edwardians, Vita Sackville-West, 1930 (black comedy of manners - read);
Hatter's Castle, A. J. Cronin, 1931 (tragedy - read); 
Juan in America, Eric Linklater, 1931 (satire - read)
The Exciting Family, M.D. Hillyard, 1927 (children's - read);  
Rosamond, Maria Edgeworth, 1836 (Improving children's book - read);
Well of Loneliness, Radclyffe Hall, 1928 (lesbian novel - presume read);
1066 and All That, Yeatman & Sellar, 1930 (comic historical parody - read);
Anthony Adverse, Hervey Allen, 1933 (historical fiction - unread);
Lady Chatterley's Lover, D. H. Lawrence, 1928 (erotica - unread); 

Image Credits: 1: via Pinterest; 2: Flying With Hands; 3: National Portrait Gallery; 4, 8: via Pinterest; 5: Project Gutenberg Australia; 6, 7: Wikipedia 

ps: Apologies for the inconsistency of paragraph formats - I can't get a handle on how to fix them with the New Blogger.

Bats In The Belfry