Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Evil spirits, stilettos and weather forecasters

St John's Wort was hung round houses on St John's eve to ward off spirits. It is Esold in health food shops because of its reputation as a cure for nervous depression. Cultivated versions appear in garden centres under its Latin name Hypericum. It is a perennial and a regular and welcome feature in my herb bed.

In the old fashioned shop that sells lengths of textiles and other material for needlewomen and needlemen, where Heidi buys her wool, I notice among the numerous trinkets on offer, wine cradles in the form of  women's stiletto heeled shoes, reference I suppose to the custom of drinking Champagne from a woman's slipper.

So widely used is the weather forecast on the BBC's web site that people quote it regularly in conversation without acknowledging the source. Because many of them are still new to on-line information, they deliver it with a wise expression as though they are conveying information received directly from the gods.



Roderick Robinson said...

I believe your old-fashioned shop is a haberdasher or a haberdashery ("a dealer in buttons, thread, ribbon and other small articles used in making clothes"). The word would have passed me by if I hadn't been on the look-out for a sticky sheet of netting which is placed on the carpet and thereafter is covered by the rug, ensuring that the latter remains in place. The quest for the netting was tedious in that there was no single word to describe it until I was lucky enough to be directed to John Lewis, a branch of the department store chain in Kingston. And lo, that part of the store is still called haberdashery. Seeing it I was visited by a tiny flash of history. Once upon a time much of Woolworth's range came under this heading until the proprietors realised this wasn't the way to wealth, diversified into tat, and eventually went bankrupt. John Lewis, sustained by sales of higher-margin items such as clothing, white goods, etc, are able to include a sub-department selling these useful articles.

What pleased me about haberdashery in general is that the stuff resists any attempts at glamorous publicity. Useful, slightly esoteric given that it mainly now appeals to people who repair rather than throw away, often available in nigglingly minor variations, it is the very opposite of goods described as impulse buys. You either want it or you don't. It doesn't fit into modern marketing strategies and JL is to be commended for continuing to offer this strangely fusty range. You could almost call it a service. I suppose I'm being horribly sentimental; haberdashery belongs to the environment of my youth.

Unknown said...

This seems rather more than a haberdasher. But the spirit of old time haberdashery remains within the slightly musty premises. Drapers are another disappearing species, pretty close ins some respects to haberdashers. I suspect that most country towns in England still boast one or the other. Do you remember Kipps (book- H G Wells and film of book)of which the hero as I recall is employed in a drapers I think?