There are few good things about the death of a loved one, but finding things in their possession that you never thought or knew they had is (or can be!) one. So far I have discovered a book of Schumann's children's pieces for the piano that Gran won as a Music Prize, aged 10, and a small tennis trophy that she won in the year of her marriage. Part of the fascination is wondering why some items are kept and others go by the wayside.
It turns out my grandmother had a copy of Mrs Beeton's Family Cookery. It cannot have been an original (that would have been called 'Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management', and would not have mentioned the War!) but is dated Nov 1928 when my gran was only fifteen. I wonder what a fifteen-year-old today would have to say to being given this tome?
Being a somewhat reluctant housewife at present, I decided to have a look at what Mrs B thinks I should be doing. It doesn't start well.
Housekeeping has been aptly described as the 'oldest industry.' It is certainly the most important, the very linch-pin of life's daily round.
I fear I am a failure by the end of the second sentence of the book. I bit further down that page I get a bit closer to the sentiment...
Whether the establishment be large or small, the functions of the housewife resemble those of the general of an army or the manager of a great business concern.
I know I only have two children, but nevertheless I do feel I am commanding an army ... though my regiment may not be the most disciplined or strict. I can also see how I am the manager of a great business concern: managing the finances, dealing with disputes (have you met my children?), negotiating, purchasing, meeting deadlines. Keeping everything functioning on an even keel around here would challenge the wealthiest FTSE 100 CEO.
The next sentence is ...
It is hers to inspire, to mould, direct; vigilance or slackness on her part will alike inevitably be reflected back.
... and I think I must have a poor reflection. I'm not sure I shall ever inspire anyone with my housekeeping!
And one of my favourite bits:
A woman's home should be first and foremost in her life, but if she allow household cares entirely to occupy her thoughts, she will become narrow in her interests and sympathies, a condition not conducive to domestic happiness. In many households, especially those where the exacting needs of a young family constantly clamour for attention, very little leisure can be secured for rest and recreation, but it is generally possible by proper methods of work, punctuality, and early rising to secure some, and this should be jealously preserved.
So - yes - my hour in front of Grand Designs is sacrosanct and - yes - my children will have to be more punctual in their habits for getting ready for school and - yes - I will get up early.... well, maybe not the last one, but two out of three aint bad! Long live domestic happiness!