Friday, 15 January 2010
Of chocolate, Horlicks, and furs
So, my son arrived home safely, via Virgin, and term has started again, and the days are getting a little longer, and slowly, slowly, the winter nights will move toward spring.
I am not good at the winter, but have been doing my best to see the bright side, after feeling (literally) under the weather. (Such a true expression, when the skies are low and grey.) A very kind friend brought me a large box of Celebrations and a jar of Horlicks, both of which are good. I've discovered that Horlicks Light is not the same as the real thing (you add water, yuk, instead of mixing a paste with milk, like in the old days), but Horlicks Original still exists, hurrah.
Have also been much cheered by I re-reading I Capture The Castle, and laughing about the episode with the fur coats. Chapter 6: Rose and Cassandra visit London for the day, after the death of their Aunt Millicent, who has left them her furs. This is a surprise, as Cassandra has always believed that Aunt Millicent disapproved of furs. Anyway, they go to pick them up from the storage department of a shop that sounds to me like Harrods as it once was:
'The pale grey carpets were as springy as moss and the air was scented; it smelt a bit like bluebells but richer, deeper.
"What does it smell of, exactly?" I said. And Rose said:
However, Aunt Millicent's furs are revealed to be very unheavenly: 'We shook them out and examined them. There were two very long coats, one of them black and shaggy and the other smoothish and brown; a short, black tight-fitting jacket with leg o'mutton sleeves; and a large hairy rug with a green felt border.
"But whatever animals were they?" I gasped.
The white-haired woman inspected them gingerly. She said the brown coat was beaver and the short jacket, which had a rusty look under its black, was sealskin. She couldn't identify the rug at all -- it looked like collie dog to me...'
All this from the author of The One Hundred and One Dalmations. I'd love to have had the chance to ask Dodie Smith what she really thought about fur... She writes about the desire for it (the fur department of the heavenly shop smells different, 'an exciting smell') and its ugliness, as well as its dark allure. She wrote 'I Capture The Castle' on the West Coast of America, at the end of the second world war, while terribly homesick for England; the Dalmations came later, in the 1950s. But where on earth did Cruella de Vil spring from? Perhaps not earth -- she is too Satanic... but I always thought it intriguing to discover that as a schoolgirl, Cruella drank ink.