I went back to work after materniy leave on Monday… First few days have gone well so far, and Ivy has been having great fun at nursery. I had a spontaneous crying sessions when I got back in the car after dropping her off for the first time; she was characteristically unfussed!
With me working, and by the end of September hopefully attending my MA course (using hopefully until the timetables are out and I can properly panic about how little time I will have for anything), baby going to nursery some of the time, husband working and finishing his accounting course I thought we might need some visual help with working out where everyone is.
Ta-da! The highly sophisticated solution of a whiteboard, tarted up with washi tape.
My masterful design of a column for each of us with a corresponding Monday to Sunday cross referencing system will ensure maximum knowledge of who is doing what and where and when. As long as we remember to update it. It’s going on the wall in front of the stairs so when descending in a stupor in the morning it can’t be avoided. When I inevitably trip over the dog or my foot it may also prove a satisfactory crash pad.
What’s the betting that it stays leant on the floor beneath where it’s meant to be hung for the next couple of months? Pretty high I’d imagine.
‘Tea is the sparkling subject of my song, come, fairer sex, and listen to my tongue: for what you love so dearly, I defend.’
Duncan Campbell, 1735
Introduced to the English court in the seventeenth century by Catherine of Braganza, tea was available only to the aristocracy during the first half of the eighteenth century, but its popularity advanced through the period and influenced numerous developments; especially in connection to the ‘fairer sex.’ The material items that were created as the period progressed suggest that aristocratic women influenced the consumer goods that were developed in connection with tea. This entry will explore some of the items that developed in the eighteenth century in connection to tea-drinking and how they were influenced by women.
Francois de la Rochefoucauld described the aristocracy’s drinking of tea as ‘an opportunity to show off their fine possessions…all made to the most elegant designs,’ detailing how tea drinking was used as a chance to present their wealth through the items they had purchased. These material objects which developed during the Georgian period as utensils and decorations for both the tea-table and room in which it was consumed, reinforce the notion that tea was predominantly a feminine pursuit of the English aristocracy as, in some cases, women themselves were the ones who influenced how these objects were designed. As the drink’s popularity grew, there was a development in new objects such as milk jugs, kettle stands and tea caddies. This demand was the result of aristocratic consumerism as they were able to afford the new items that were being imported into England from China, before England was able to manufacture them themselves, an area which was also later dominated by aristocratic consumers.
While servants prepared the utensils for tea-drinking and the room in which it would be consumed, the rest of the tea-drinking ceremony would have been conducted by the women of the household. This can be seen in the particular pieces of furniture that would have been in the room during tea-drinking; especially the kettle stands, as seen in the picture of the Withdrawing Room at No.1 Royal Crescent, Bath. Jane Pettigrew argues that ‘it was essential that an elegant silver kettle should be available for the tea-brewing ritual’ and the development of these stands would have provided the space required for the kettles so that the hostess could prepare the tea for her visitors, while displaying her wealth through the kettle.
Kettles of the eighteenth century also reflect the notion that women influenced design are the kettles that developed during the Georgian period. Depicted above is a Charles Kandler kettle created between 1730 and 1732, conforming to the traditional design of silver kettles during the reign of George II. Influenced by the Rococo design that was inspiring both architecture and interior design during this period, kettles such as these would have presented a woman’s status and, as suggested by Robin Emerson, ‘provided an opportunity for people to show off their wealth and taste’ while at the tea-table. However, a woman’s interaction with the kettle ultimately influenced the development of these items. An aristocratic woman was expected to serve the tea, fulfilling her traditional role as hostess; but as the period developed these kettles were becoming more extravagant in design and consequently issues arose for the female users. With more elaborate decoration, as they attempted to present the wealth of their user, these items ultimately were becoming both heavier and difficult for the hostess’ use. As a result, in order to allow the woman to continue her role as hostess, kettles were redeveloped into the tea-urns that were coming into fashion in the 1760’s. Depicted below, these tea-urns were static, allowing a woman to serve the hot water without having to risk being perceived as lacking the elegance expected of them in their role as hostess.
It is clear that tea was a predominately a feminine pursuit of the aristocracy, particularly during the first half of the eighteenth century, allowing women the opportunity to present their skills as a hostess but also their wealth. The various accessories that emerged during this period for tea drinking reinforce the connection between women and tea and how the designs of these items were influenced by female interaction.
When I started my undergraduate degree I was nervous, but determined. A few days off turning 25 I wasn’t bothered about Fresher’s Fairs or socialising (not my best skill) and was excited to get started with studying, finally. I was also only a few weeks away from getting married, and so that took away some of the nerves as I was pretty busy hand painting apples gold and trying to work out a dietary needs chart so I didn’t poison or kill any of our guests.
Now three years have flown by and I’ve finished the degree, got married, bought a house, and had a baby. Why do things in a sensible order when you can just do EVERYTHING all at once?
In some ways going into postgrad study feels like the first part of real adult life. Mostly that’s because I now have to factor in child care for Ivy into what I do, and so the biggest worry I have about starting an MA at the moment is how I’m going to organise attending seminars with being able to enjoy studying around my new job. Yes, new job, do everything at once again.
I’m worried that the need to work and pay bills with a little more urgency than the average student – if there is such a thing – is going to mean I can’t participate as much in extra curricular stuff.
But then every time I think that I remind myself that I managed my degree while working a part-time job with similar hours to my new one, as well as two other casual jobs. And then I remind myself that now I have a child and I can’t just fling myself at things and hope that I can cope with them. I think anyone would struggle to balance it all, let alone someone like me with far less than the normal amount of physical and mental energy reserves. And then I go back around in a circle until I stop myself and think fuck it, I’ll make it work the best way I can. If at first you don’t succeed, redefine the meaning of success.
Three years ago we started together as undergraduates in History, meeting for the first time in a five o’clock lecture on Georgian history in what was basically a caravan as the university was building the new lecture rooms. Now we are preparing to start our Masters- Liv at Bristol University studying History and me (Jess, nice to meet you) at Bath Spa University studying Heritage Management!
We’ve both found that the move from undergraduate to postgraduate has been a much more nerve wracking experience than either of us expected, especially in comparison to starting university, and we wanted to share our thoughts on the matter from two very different perspectives; Liv as a mature student with an adorable baby and me the student who went straight from college to uni and then to my Masters and doesn’t quite know what life is without academia!
You would think that after three years of studying for my degree, I would be less apprehensive about starting my MA! I’ve done the nine o’clock lectures, the studying, the late night essay writing and I’ve written a 10,000 word dissertation while room guiding but this time I’m more nervous than when I was left by my mother at my student house three years ago. I’m jumping out of my comfort zone (for once!) to study Heritage Management instead of History like I first planned but amongst all the anxiety about studying a new subject, I’m extremely excited to be doing something new!
Since I started my job, I’ve become more confident that the heritage industry is where I want to work and I’ve spent the last two years building up my experience and knowledge of where I would particularly like to work within the industry. I’ve guided for two years in an eighteenth century town house, worked as a costumed interpreter, with a ridiculous hat, sold tickets and am now a Duty Manager- responsible for the day to day running of the museum as well as the museum’s maintenance, but that’s a whole different story! However, working in the heritage industry and studying Heritage seem like two separate worlds to me at the moment!
I think what I’m most concerned about is the move from studying history to focusing purely on heritage. I’ve spent the last three years focusing on eighteenth century history and I’ve had moments where I’ve doubted whether I’ve made the right choice. I originally was going to continue studying eighteenth and nineteenth century England but the module was cancelled and I moved to Heritage Management after discussing it with the module co-ordinator and my boss as it would be the best course for my career plans. I do find myself asking whether I’ve made the right choice by moving to Heritage Management rather than looking for a history course somewhere else, especially when most of my peers have continued studying history. I have no idea what I want to study, what I want to write my dissertation on and whether to focus on one sole area or whether to study a variety; an area which has led to great debate amongst those I’ve discussed it with. I’m not used to being unsure on what I want to study and it’ll be interesting to see whether studying heritage was the right choice in the end….
Liv’s one is up next! Look out for the cute baby!!!