I salute you my darling Daddy B.J. O’Connell for your service in The RAF and your daily unflinching flights in your Spitfire over Germany, France, Italy, Malta, Algeria, Palestine and Egypt during World War II and though you were awarded The Distinguished Flying Cross and St Georges Cross and the Malta St George Cross it is the selfless honourable man I was privileged to have as my father whom I think of and honour today and every day.
Your wit & charm & gentle kindness bely the enormous heroism of your life. I never walk past The Ritz without sinking a stiff-one for you. X Tyne
RIP B. J. O’Connell
People matter & the houses & places & animals that matter to us live within us forever – they run through our blood & our souls.
Our ancestral homes are more than bricks & mortar & gardens & stables & woods; they are the atavistic thread that binds us to our history & in an instant tug us back to what has always mattered, even in those dark moments of the souls when we attempt to push what really matters away; the longing to return to our past stubbornly tugs at our heart.
The hedgerows & cupboards we hid in as children, the smells of a new litter of puppies, the feel of warm, freshly laid hen’s eggs and the bluebell pathways we skipped along as youth. The scones freshly-baked & illicitly eaten; greedily while still hot in the tray & the subsequent scalded palms & scoldings are no deterrent to joy.
The midnight dormroom feasts of vodka and sweets, hiding under covers with torches reading postcards & letters from home, the ballrooms we spun around; tipsy with love & champagne & dreams.
The places & people pulse through us still; more vivid with each passing year and each passing generation.
But they throb most poignantly when we return to these houses & hedgerows & places that matter; to these significant places rendered ever more magical over time.
We run our hand along the familiar brickwork, spot the rug with the corner nibbled & threaded by a retinue of cats and spaniels and our eyes gaze into the forevers of the familiar landscapes of lifetimes until later our bodies snuggle into the familiar comfy chairs by the fire and all time merges, all our memories confluence – not just our own memories – but those of all who have felt what it is to feel at home in this place.
There is something far more splendid, far more sacred when these atavistic ties we feel for cherished places are enriched by others to whom these places matter. ©Tyne O’Connell
THE GREATEST ECCENTRIC OF THE YEAR 2015
CLUB PATRON: HRH THE PRINCE PHILIP, DUKE OF EDINBURGH
TYNE O’CONNELL – WINNER OF ECCENTRIC THINKER OF THE YEAR 2015
“An accomplished writer, thinker, philosopher and dreamer, worshiping, just like the rest of us, the Eccentricity of Mayfair! Romantic, witty, funny and thorough when it comes to philosophy or nostalgic reminiscences of the glorious days and glamorous attires, good manners and classic flirt! The style of her narration and the logic of her reasoning are somewhat unique and representative of the great Mayfair eccentric thinker.” THE ECCENTRICS CLUB
Nomineees for 2015 Eccentric of the Year
Henry Blofeld O.B.E. Just Too Eccentric!
Brian Clivaz – The Most Eccentric Venue of the Year
Adrian Brown – The Most Eccentric Poet of the Year
Stephen Barry – The Most Eccentric Entertainer of the Year
Beast & Burden –The Most Eccentric Artist(s) of the Year
Sophie-Anne Mobbs – The Most Eccentric Traveller of the Year
Tyne O’Connell – The Most Eccentric Thinker of the Year
Pandora Harrison – The Eccentric Fashion Icon of the Year
“I am both honoured & humbled to be considered in the same company as my beloved Brian Clivaz & the redoubtable Henry Blofeld et al for Eccentric of the Year 2015” Tyne O’Connell
The Birth of the Dandizette
Women outnumbered men in London in the 1660’s and with the new laws permitting them to act on stage, and take up a professions such as literature philosophy, architecture and spying it was declared The Age Of Women.
Those most keen to take up their new opportunities flocked to the area of Mayfair and St James’s where King Charles II’s court was situated. The area of Mayfair and St James’s itself was designed and built by the first woman architect Lady Elizabeth Wilbraham and it is no coincidence that most of the streets and buildings of Mayfair and St James’s are named after women – famous Dandizettes of the Restoration.
King Charles II returning from his exile on the continent after Cromwell’s reign of terror was ousted, was determined that the area of Tyburn – which had been known as The Killing Fields For Catholics since Henry VIII first set about his pogrom on Roman Catholics – should be reinvented as residential and retail utopia of glass-fronted shopping arcades and beautiful garden squares. In turning the Catholic Killing Fields of Tyburn into a retail and artistic decadent paradise, he was cocking-a-snook at the tight-lipped prudish Protestants who had oppressed fashion, fun and the arts for centuries.
King Charles II’s wife, Catherine, his mother the Dowager Queen Henrietta, sister Elizabeth and brother James II were all Catholic and he was a secret Catholic.
Having witnessed his father’s beheading for his devotion to his faith, and as a lover of the arts, beauty and decadence, King Charles II determined to put an end to the centuries of religious killings and persecutions.
His vision to transform the site of Catholic bloodshed into an area of unparalleled elegance and luxury, was his first step in ushering in an age of tolerance and culture which celebrated beauty, ideas, literature, fashion, wit, eccentrics and women.
Queen Catherine, the Catholic wife of King Charles II gave women still more opportunities when she arrived with a huge dowry and introduced the new fashionable drink of tea. Catholics were hated by protestants for their liberal views, love of the arts, love of beauty and fashion. Protestants who had banned theatres and art and alcohol believed beauty and art were sinful and an incitement to sin.
When the Catholic Court arrived in 1660 the fountains flowed with French Champagne and Queen Catherine appalled the prudish Protestants by holding masked balls on Sundays.
Savile Row is named after a fabulous woman, in this case the beautiful and bountiful Lady Dorothy Savile, later the Countess of Burlington. The wealth and fame of Savile Row’s tailors came as a direct result of King Charles II and his court of Flamboyant Cavaliers.
But it was the drink of tea which truly handed the power to women. Coffee Houses had been closed to women and frequented by men who gathered to discuss politics and religion.
With the arrival of this new drink of tea, British Society was irrevocably transformed as women across Mayfair and St James’s took to hosting tea salons where the topics of religion and politics were banned.
Mayfair – home to the Dandizette
From the 1660’s onwards – over champagne and tea – women, eccentrics and forward thinking gentlemen gathered in these Mayfair Salons to discuss art, literature, philosophy, feminism and fashion. In this new mobile society tailors could find themselves sipping tea with a Lord and many prospered during the Restoration.
After the rigid rules of uniformed dress laid down by the Protestants, preventing any decoration or embellishment on women’s clothing, fashion quickly become a matter of national importance & tailors and seamstresses became very wealthy on the back of Britain’s new passion for fashion and with this new sartorial freedom woman took the opportunity to use clothing to express their opinions.
This uniquely English fad created The Dandizette – a new breed of women who attended the new tea & champagne Salons of Mayfair of the 1660s where feminism began.
Later these Dandizette Salons would become know as The Bluestockings In reference to the egalitarian nature of the salons – blue stockings being worn by tailors & artisans while Gentlemen wore black silk stockings.
It was over 100 years later before men caught up with the Dandizettes & Beau Brummell created the new male silhouette the Bespoke Tailors of Jermyn Street & Savile Row continue to craft for discerning gentlemen.
Brummell was a Gentleman educated at Eton & Oxford but with his dreams of becoming a Poet like Byron dashed, he devoted himself to boxing & defining the masculine silhouette in defiance of the bewigged, frilly, frothy attire of gentleman which had remain unchanged since the Catholic Stuart Monarchs of the 17thC.
Beau’s statue stands on Jermyn Street rightfully celebrating him for creating the three piece suit gentlemen wear to this day. However where is the statue for the Dandizettes of Mayfair and St James’s?
Where is the statue of the Duchess Of Newcastle – Mad Madge – as Lady Cavendish was known. The first women to witness a scientific experiment at the newly created Royal Institution. Famed for her proto-feminist, eccentric ideas, such as demanding the education for women. Her salons were famous for the flamboyant dress of the attendants as for her eccentric discussions in philosophy and literature. As one of the first Dandizettes of the 1660s many of her poems were devoted to Aphra Behn who was celebrated throughout the kingdom as the ultimate Restoration woman.
Where is the statue for Aphra Behn, spy, actress, author and poet. For England’s fleet was saved from the Dutch due work as a spy for King Charles II. Penning him poem she came up with the idea of using Lemon Juice as invisible writing thus warning him of the plot.
But Aphra Behn was more than a spy – Agent 26 as she was known. Aphra Behn also known as Astrea was the first woman ever to act on stage and had more plays produced than her great fan Dryden and coined the phrase “she stoops to conquer” a reference to how women often need to bend and appear servile to men in order to reign over them, It was later coined by Oliver Goldsmith as the title of a play in the next century.
It seems churlish and more than a little unjust that the women who built, paid for and created this magnificent haven for Eccentrics are not as yet honoured by statues?
When the Dark-Nights-Of-The-Soul close in & possibilities & hope evaporate & the pain takes over, I grapple for memories like this to sustain me. If only the Great Men of Science could feed me this soul-nourishment through my IV-Drip along with the morphine. For while there are books to read, hens to delight in, tea to sip & family & friends to cherish, despair has no dominion.
THE EXTRAORDINARY LIFE OF THE ENCHANTRESS OF NUMBERS – THE POETICAL SCIENTIST COUNTESS AUGUSTA LOVELACE
by Tyne O’Connell
Countess Augusta “Ada” Lovelace, nee Byron was the only child of the marriage between the poet Lord Byron and Annabella Milbanke, a lady of great mathematical ability whom Byron called his Princess of Parallelograms.
Ada was Lord Byron’s the only legitimate child, is one of the most celebrated Dandizette’s of the Victorian period. Describing herself as a “Poetical Scientist” in deference to her father she is credited with being the first computer programmer and the Prophet of the Computer Age. Her algorithm for Babbage’s Analytical Engine is recognised as the world’s first computer program. Babbage called her “The Enchantress of Numbers.”
She died in 1852 at the age of 36 – the same age her father Lord Byron was upon his death. She asked to be buried beside her father at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene Hucknall, Nottingham.
Lovelace’s extraordinary personal life as the only legitimate daughter of the poet Lord Byron confirms her place in history. But her exceptional achievements as the Prophet of the Computer Age has historically eclipsed her role as Dandizette, devoted mother, gambling fiend and all round St James’s party girl. Her life as the daughter of a mathematician and a poet was an apotheosis of emotion and reason yet such was her achievements as the Enchantress of Numbers that little has been written about the keen horsewoman, devoted dancer and gambler, mother and wife.
Born on the 10th December 1815, Ada’s father the famous Dandy and Poet Lord Byron was disappointed she wasn’t “the glorious boy” he longed for and following legal separation from her mother at Lady Byron’s bequest, he left England never to return four months after Ada’s birth. However he named Augusta after his beloved half sister with whom he had an incestuous relationship and Byron himself gave her the nick name “Ada” by which she was known.
Ada’s mother, Annabella Isabella Byron was a highly educated woman in her own right and known in society as Princess Parallelogram. Lady Byron was committed to the abolition of slavery and one of the few women to attend the 1840 World Anti-Slavery Convention. She was also active in prison reform and a devout Anglican. Her high minded politics and religious fervour made her an odd match for the morally fractured and dramatically dark poet and Dandy Lord Byron. In fact, Annabella turned down Byron’s first proposal but he was determined to have her as his wife and pursued her energetically for another year until she finally relented to marry him.
Lord & Lady Byron lived on Piccadilly Terrace but were legally separated a short time after Ada’s birth. However in separation as in marriage their relationship was passionate and fraught with Lady Byron driven by her bitterness against her husband and convinced Byron was insane. After leaving England, Lord Byron never saw his daughter again although he sent for both Ada and her mother before he died of disease in Greece where he had gone to fight in the Greek War of Independence. Ada was eight years old when her father Lord Byron died. She was twenty-one before she ever saw so much as an image of her father.
Lady Byron was convinced that her husband’s insanity was a result of literature and insisted that Ada’s education be limited to the study of science and mathematics to limit her daughter’s chances of developing the moody temperament of her poetic father. She also insisted she lie still for extended periods of time in the hope this would help her acquire self control. Although Lord Byron had no contact with his daughter after she was four months old, he asked his sister to keep him informed of Ada’s welfare. Due to the controversy over her parents separation and Byron’s infamy, Ada was famous in Victorian society.
Ada Lovelace, pioneer of computing and early Dandizette
Like her father, Ada was a sickly child and her mother busy with her causes left Ada’s grandparents to care for her. Fortunately Annabella’s mother Judith doted on Ada. Everyone was aware of Ada’s remarkable intellect from a young age and Mary Sommerville the noted Scottish Science writer and polymath was employed as her tutor. Mary Sommerville was the second scientist in the UK to receive recognition after Caroline Herschel. Ada and her tutor were very close and continued to correspond for many years. It was Mary Sommerville in fact who introduced Ada to Babbage. Ada was closely linked to many leading scientists of the time and also to the author Charles Dickens.
By 1834 she was a regular at court and described as charming and dainty. she enjoyed attending balls and was a keen gambler. In 1835 she married William King, 8th Baron King. The pair shared a passionate love for horses and her husband supported his wife’s academic pursuits. In 1838 her husband was created the Earl of Lovelace.
After her marriage Ada lived on St James’s Square. She contracted cholera two years after marriage which took a grave toll on her health. Doctors gave her painkillers, such as laudanum and opium which caused mood swings and hallucinations. They had three children including a son whom she named Byron in honour of her father.
In 1841 Ada and Medora Leigh (daughter of Lord Byron’s half sister Augusta Liegh) were told Lord Byron was both Medora and Ada’s father ,making them half sisters. Ada took the news of her father’s incestuous relationship with his half sister in her stride, writing to her mother the same year, “I am not in the least astonished. In fact you merely confirm what I have for years and years felt scarcely a doubt about, but should have considered it most improper in me to hint to you that I in any way suspected”
Ada did not blame her father for the incestuous relationship but blamed his half sister. “I fearshe is more inherently wicked than he ever was” This drove her mother to attack her father even more bitterly. She couldn’t bear her daughter’s refusal to hate Byron.
Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage
Ada Lovelace first met Charles Babbage when she was seventeen through their mutual friend and her tutor the famous scientist Mary Somerville. Babbage and Lovelace were fascinated and attracted to one another’s intellects instantly. Their relationship was intense and there were fallings out and arguments but their friendship was not only social but historic in its importance. They had a deep and abiding respect for one another that lasted their entire lives.
Babbage was impressed by Lovelace’s analytic skills. In 1843 he wrote of her:
“Forget this world and all its troubles and if
possible its multitudinous Charlatans – every thing
in short, but the Enchantress of Numbers.”
Lovelace and Babbage spent a great deal of time discussing mathematical and scientific principles as they wandered through the grounds of the Lovelace family lodge, Worthy Manor in Ashley Combe Somerset. Built as a hunting lodge in 1799, the house was built on a small plateau in woodland overlooking the Bristol Channel and surrounded by terraced gardens in the Italianate style.
It was the perfect place for two great minds to unravel the philosophical implications of the world’s first computer. Ada was unique in her ability to grasp and communicate the true significance and possibilities of Babbage’s Difference Engines as the worlds first computer. In honour of Lovelace and Babbage’s long philosophical walks, part of the terrace became known as “Philosopher’s Walk”.
Between 1842–43, Ada translated from the French an article from the Italian mathematician, Luigi Menabrea’s memoir on Babbage’s newest proposed machine, the Analytical Engine which is now considered the first computer. Lovelace not only translated the article of Menabrea but wrote extensive notes in which she managed to explain the purpose of the machine to the scientific community who until then had been unable to grasp the concept and having dismissed both Babbage and his machine as unimportant.
Lovelace immediately saw the difference between the Analytical Engine and previous calculating machines, noting the device had the potential to extended far beyond mere number crunching, specifically its ability to be programmed to solve problems of any complexity.
“The Analytical Engine might act upon other things besides numbers, were objects found whose mutual fundamental relations could be expressed by those of the abstract science of operations, and which should be also susceptible of adaptations to the action of the operating notation and mechanism of the engine…
Supposing, for instance, that the fundamental relations of pitched sounds in the science of harmony and of musical composition were susceptible of such expression and adaptations, the engine might compose elaborate and scientific pieces of music of any degree of complexity or extent.”
Her ideas represented a conceptual leap regarding the possibilities of computing devices, and foreshadowed the modern computer.
Ada’s notes which were longer and more detailed than the memoir itself explaining how the Engine differed from the original Difference Engine. She explained in complete detail, a method for calculating a sequence of Bernoulli numbers with the Engine, which we now know would have run correctly had the Analytical Engine been built. In fact, only the Difference Engine has ever been built and even that was not completed until 2002 in London.
Lovelace and Babbage had a minor falling out when the papers were published because Babbage wanted to add a sulky statement about the government’s disrespectful treatment of his Engine as an unsigned preface to Lovelace’s paper. But he refused to sign it. In refusing to sign his sulky note, Lovelace pointed out that it would imply that she was also the author not just of the paper but of his petty preface. In the end the publisher, “Taylor’s Scientific Memoirs” ruled that Babbage must sign his note.
Babbage again wrote to Ada asking her to withdraw her paper entirely as he didn’t want his name attached to his own scathing attack on the government and to preserve his reputation she should refuse to have her paper published. Understandably she wrote back refusing to withdraw the paper which represented three years of her work. He continued to sulk and subsequent historians have suggested that he only sought her out for her the fame of her name in order to make his pompous point about how ignorant the scientific community were in ignoring his genius.
Lovelace and Babbage soon made up but it reflected badly on Babbage though Lovelace forgave him and even wrote to him from her death bed asking that he be the executer of her will.
Ada Lovelace’s Legacy
In 1953, over one hundred years after her death, Ada’s notes on Babbage’s Analytical Engine were republished. The engine has now been recognised as an early model for a computer and Ada’s notes as a description of a computer program and software.
Even after her famous work with Babbage, Ada continued to work on other projects. Her desire to create a “a calculus of the nervous system” explaining how the brain gives rise to thoughts and nerves give rise to feelings came to nothing largely due to her obsession with her own ‘potential’ madness which her mother had imbedded in her from a small child. She visited electrical engineer Andrew Crosse in 1844 to learn how to carry out electrical experiments. In 1851, the year before her cancer struck, she wrote to her mother mentioning “certain productions” she was working on regarding the relationship between music and mathematics.
In true Dandizette fashion Countess Lovelace enjoyed to flirt. Because of her fame as Byron’s daughter scandals followed her from birth. She had a very relaxed relationship with men which led to rumours of affairs but her real passion other than horses and numbers was her love of gambling.
Lovelace formed a syndicate with her male friends and, as any Enchantress of Numbers would, attempted to create a mathematical model for placing successful large bets.
It ended rather badly and the Countess Lovelace was soon thousands of pounds in debt. Worse though one of her erstwhile male friends a member of the syndicate blackmailed her into forcing her to admit the mess to her husband.
There were other scandals including rumours of affairs but there is no written proof. She was certainly fond of Andrew Crosse’s son John as she bequeathed him the only heirlooms her father had personally left to her, bypassing her own children.
Ada Lovelace died at thirty-six – the same age her father was on his death. Her death was diagnosed as uterine cancer and she spent several months in abject agony. Under her mother’s influence, she was denied any opiates that might relieve her pain in order that she would repent her sins. Her mother Annabella took over her death watch and excluded all of her friends and confidants. She had a religious transformation and was coaxed into making Annabella her executor. Her husband left her bedside a few months before her death after she confessed something to him which may or may not have been an affair.
Countess Ada Lovelace, Poetical Scientist, Enchantress of Numbers and Prophet of The Computer Age, was buried at her own request, against her mothers wishes, beside her father the Poet, Lord Byron at the Church of St Mary Magdelene in Nottingham.
by Tyne O’Connell
Suffragettes – Dandizette Heroines
The suffragette heroines epitomised the qualities of the feminism of Dandizettes by retaining their elegance and humour even in battle. Their movement was not just about votes for women. The suffragette’s defined what it meant to be a modern woman – elegant, intelligent and pure of heart but most decidedly not submissive!
Surprisingly women were not prohibited from voting in the UK until the Reform Bill of 1832. The suffragette movement began with the suffragists in 1872 who were determined to shake off the limits placed on women in public life by the reform act of 1832 which had them – along with lunatics and children – barred from voting and holding public office. Before 1832 there were many men and women who supported votes for women. In 1825 two Irish writers and Philosophers, Anne Wheeler and William Thomson published a book. The title says it all.
“An Appeal of One Half the Human Race, Women, Against the Pretensions of the Other Half, Men, to Retain Them in Political, and Thence in Civil and Domestic Slavery: In Reply to Mr. Mill’s Celebrated Article on Government”
James Mills was a Scottish political theorist who had published a pamphlet stating the rights of “women may be disregarded, the interests of almost all of whom are involved in that of their father or in that of their husbands.”
Despite opposition from both men and women, the Reform Act went through under a Liberal government using the word “male” rather than “person” thereby prohibiting voting for women. Yet even after the act was passed many politicians argued in parliament that women of property should be able to vote. In fact Lily Maxwell a property owner even managed to register on the electoral role and voted in the elections of 1867 – becoming the first British woman to vote. However the philosophy that women’s thinking must submit to male thinking was ultimately enshrined in law in 1883 to prohibit any further cheeky women venturing to think for themselves.
“By marriage, the personal identity of the woman is lost. Her person is completely sunk in that of her husband, and he acquires an absolute mastery over her person and effects. Hence her complete disability to contract legal obligations; and except in the event of separation by divorce, or other causes, a married woman in the United Kingdom cannot engage in trade.” Leone Levi International Law 1883
Effectively the 19th Century saw women’s rights sliding backwards. Despite peaceful protests and tireless campaigning by suffragists, women were now the slaves of men. Like lunatics and children they had no say in the running of their own lives and after the Levi law of 1883 they weren’t even allowed to earn a living. Women were the property of their fathers or husbands. By the time the 20th Century dawned women en masse were fed up with their status as chattels and determined to reject submissiveness as a “feminine trait”.
It was a groundbreaking concept – eliminating submissiveness from the list of feminine virtues and remains one of the only common ground between the multitudinous branches of the modern feminist movements.
The battle colours of the Suffragettes symbolised the feminine ideals they did embrace: Green for Hope, Purple for Dignity and White for Purity – not as has erroneously been suggested, Green for Give, White for Women and Violet for Votes. The Suffragettes were proud of their feminine virtues and united in eschewing submissiveness as a virtue let alone a quality inherently female in nature.
Their thrust of their push for votes was in their assertion that women are not the property of their husbands and therefore they wanted the freedom to express their views. Perhaps the most long ranging effect of the Suffragettes on modern feminism was their dismissal once and for all of the notion that women are inherently “submissive”.
Lord Fredrick Lawrence, whom upon marriage combined his name with his wife’s becoming Lord Fredrick Pethick-Lawrence stood shoulder to shoulder with his suffragette wife, wrote:
“Nothing has done more to retard the progress of the human race than the exaltation of submission into a high and noble virtue. It may often be expedient to submit; it may even sometimes be morally right to do so in order to avoid a greater evil; but submission is not inherently beautiful – it is generally cowardly and frequently morally wrong.”
In true dandizette fashion, the ladies of the suffragette movement took up their parasols and wide-brimmed hats to defend themselves against their detractors who counted notable men such as Arthur Conan Doyle in their number. He described them as “female hooligans” which seems a bit rich given it was standard practice for men to let rats loose into suffrage meetings while pelting the ladies who hailed from all ages and social classes with missiles. Never-the-less the ladies – and ladies they were – maintained their elegant cool along with their sense of humour as rotten eggs and fish rained down upon them, hurled by men outraged that were daring to object to submissiveness. The ladies only managed to keep their eyesight as a result of the huge hats that were then fashionable, the wide brims saving them “from hard missiles and the cayenne pepper blown at us from bellows”.
After a meeting of 30,000 suffragettes in 1906, Lady Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence who also created Maison Espérance, a radical dressmaking cooperative with a minimum wage, an eight-hour day and a holiday scheme, said, “I never saw a suffragette, under menace of violence, otherwise than cool and collected.”
Listening to anti-suffrage diatribes from men, women were beginning to realise – many for the first time – what many men really thought of them. What they heard wasn’t very nice nor was it gentlemanly. Raping of suffregettes was standard practice and widely applauded. Yet rather than bowing to the violent feelings and attacks against them, the suffragettes took their strength from their detractors and most importantly, maintained their sense of humour and style.
Images of the inhumane practice of the forced feeding of suffragettes, the death of Emily Wilding Davidson and the sexual assault they were regularly subjected to by police and outraged men, one can forget just how popular these elegant feminists were. The nation was utterly transfixed by their bold deeds. It cannot be overstated how thrilling it must have been to witness the sisters of the suffragette movement marching in their thousands in their broad-brimmed hats, behind their white, green and purple banners.
They were mistresses of audacious publicity campaigns – like innovative flash mobs. Combining humour with their zeal, sealed their place in the popular imagination. An estimated half a million people attended their Hyde Park demonstration in 1908 – a far greater number than any line up of rock rebels of today can hope to attract to a Hyde Park concert.
One of their more hilarious stunts was to boycott the census in 1911. In a mass protest against a government they had no say in, the women of Britain decided to play hooky and stayed out all night partying, declaring: “If women don’t count, neither shall they be counted.”
Suffragette flash mobs took to Wimbledon Common in horse-drawn caravans, others spent the night roller skating around the Aldwich Rinkeries dressed in white green and purple. In support of their protest the venue was kept open especially. Emily Davison hid herself in a broom cupboard in the House of Commons. On another occasion two suffragettes posted themselves as human letters to Downing Street.
The Suffragettes dandizette style was soon influencing fashion. In 1908 London Jewellers, Mappin & Webb honoured the popularity of the suffragette movement by issuing a catalogue of suffragette jewellery for Christmas 1908. The idea was to tempt devoted husbands to honour their bold wives with jewellery tributes to their daring deeds. Combining Peridot to symbolise hope, amethyst to symbolise their dignity and pearls to represent the purity of the suffrage cause – the collection was an enormous hit.
Despite the fact that women kept Britain going during the first world war while the men were fighting, they did not win their battle to be legally viewed as human beings rather than chattels of husbands and fathers until 1928. It was then that The Representation of the People Act was eventually passed, granting all women over the age of 21 the right to think for themselves along with the freedom to work or run a business. A side effect of the Representation of The People Act was that women had the right to vote on the same terms as men but the real victory was that women ceased – in law at least – to be viewed only as the property of men. Finally the appeal of One Half of the Human Race (women) Against the Pretensions of the Other Half (men), to retain them in political, civil and domestic slavery had been heard and heeded.
It is important not to minimise the goals or achievements of the Suffragettes in thinking that it was only a matter of the right to cast a vote that they won. The suffragette’s achieved for women is equivalent to the anti-slavery act. Every woman owes a debt to these bold ladies of the Suffragette Movement.
The jewellery they wore to represent their virtues remains highly collectable today. In wearing a piece of jewellery once worn by a suffragette, it is hard not to feel the esprit de corps of the ladies of suffrage. Their movement was not just about votes for women, it defined what it means to be a modern woman – elegant, intelligent and pure of heart, but most decidedly not submissive! Whether its poor health, an interview, a hot date or a public appearance, – fastening a suffragette brooch to your breast – will undoubtably boost your zeal.
Find Suffragette Jewellery at Gillian Anderson Price
Vintage Home Wares, Jewellery & Curiosities
Resolution: My dedication to Salon Life shall remain as unshakable as a Papal Bull when it comes to my writing. My body may ail, but the Inky Scribe within is as lively as a Spaniel on the grouse moors of August.
Confined to an invalid’s bed – Living the life vicarious of the Ailing Inky Scribe, requires the discipline of Sis. Concilio, the patience of Our Lady, the humour of that jewel of the Restoration; Aphra Behn, the mind of Mde De Staël, the imagination of Cristine De Pizan, the memory of Proust & the bed of George Sand or perhaps CoCo Chanel?
In 2015, the ink shall flow across the pages of my Enid Blyton-esque stories of the Winter Crocquet fields of St Augustines & the ivy clad medieval walls of Eton College – capturing the Aristos, Toffs & Royals on their trysts in Pullers Woods. Furthermore, Pulling Princes Oxford hits the shelves, as shall MAYFAIR ECCENTRICS.
For I am putting the last scrawls of ink on my history of the eccentrics of Mayfair, this unique urban village from the 1660’s – when London was really swinging – to the 21st Century. For I’ve resolved that the secrets & scandals of St James’s & Mayfair’s Spies, Catholics, Royals & writers will hit my agents desk in 2015.
Life, even in illness is theatre & eyebrows must be drawn, lipstick slashed across pale lips & rouge daubed over pallid cheeks to shield one from the pity of others.
I further resolve in 2015 – my vintage crocodile Kelly & Gucci handbags – those sturdy talismans against even the bitterest pain – shall always match my crocodile shoes on hospital visits.
Even Medieval Monday’s & leachings – shall be made glorious; draped in vintage Dior & sable, swathed in ancient Rosaries, Scapulae & Reliquary. For in 2015 I pledge myself to more than one decade of the rosary a day, to refurbish Mummy’s 1940’s Reuge St Croix musical compact & to make more hen friends.
I pledge to live the Splendid Life Vicarious
But most resolutely I pledge to live the Splendid Life Vicarious; in devotion to my children, my grandson, the SantOconnell Clan & my unfaltering worship of the the grandeur of the arts & beauty.
Travelling in my imagination from the salonnières of my boudoir, through the majesty of memories more vivid now that I defend them from pain; my constant, rather Gothic companion – like a beastly aunt that pinches me when I fall asleep in the sermons, looks at me sternly should I become giddy over a perfectly fitting pair of kid-gloves or hat crafted by Angels, & bestows beastly beardy kisses on me.
In 2015 when I occasionally venturing out for my leachings & MRIs, I shall be transported in my Papal-Purple-Brocade-Curtained Litter by exquisitely, tall, slender, liveried footman.
Life is precious & the Georgian jewels twinkling from my hands & wrapped around my neck & wrists, remind me that time is immutable & fleeting & like my Granny; a terrible cheat. Our imaginations are the fortifications of our mortal battlements.
Christine de Pizan A Dandizette Doyenne
by Tyne O’Connell
The first Dandizette to take up charms by using her pen to counteract misogyny was Christine de Pizan who was born in 1364 in Venice. Her greatest work, The City of Ladies is a true dandizette call to charms.
Christine de Pizan was not only a rhetorical genius who brought great women in history back into prominence, but she exposed crude and vulgar language as another weapon used to slander women while simultaneously denigrating the sexual act itself.
For the modern dandizette, Pizan deserves to be praised as the first woman in history to reinterpret the word Lady, to mean not a woman of noble birth, but a woman of noble spirit, wit, courage and charm.
Self educated, she immersed herself in languages and classics and when left widowed with three children she turned to writing to support her young family, composing love ballads and poems to survive.
She was already a renowned and successful professional author when she took up charms to wage her bold crusade to clear the good name of women after reading the best selling book of her time, Romance of the Rose.
Written by a man, Jean de Meuns, as a satire on “courtly love”, the book was in essence an all out attack on women who were portrayed by Jean de Meuns as vile seductresses and cold hearted manipulators; “unchaste, inconstant, unfaithful, and mean by nature.”
When Germaine Greer said, “Women don’t realise just how much men really hate us” I suspect her inspiration came from reading Christine de Pizan’s, City of Ladies, a book in which Christine addresses the sheer volume of literary hate and slander against women through the ages. The Book Of The City Of The Ladies was a revolutionary book over six hundred and ten years ago. Even now this book remains a salutary reminder of men’s unerring low opinion of women.
However rather than launching a counter attack on the failings of men, Christine De Pizan lay a clever and witty literary trap by writing a lament explaining that she, “could scarcely find a moral work by any author which didn’t devote some chapter or paragraph to attacking the female sex.” Disheartened by the works of male authors, Christine writes that she agrees, that “indeed women must be a lost cause, since it was unlikely that so many learned men, who seemed to be endowed with such great intelligence and insight into all things, could possibly have lied on so many different occasions.”
Gloriously, men fell into her clever trap, falling over themselves to argue against their own case and extolling the virtues of women.
In Christine’s literary riposte to Jean de Meun’s Romance of the Rose she praised her opponent as an “expert in rhetoric” as compared to herself “a woman ignorant of subtle understanding and agile sentiment.” Her unique rhetorical strategy – belittling her style and writing against the grain of her meaning – became her trademark literary weapon.
After her text was published, Jean de Meun wrote a treatise defending his misogynist sentiments. Her literary riposte to this treatise soon turned into a full blown literary war known as the Querelle du Roman de la Rose. In the end, the principal issue was no longer the literary capabilities of Jean de Meun but the unjust slander of women within literary texts generally.
De Pizan’s reputation as a formidable female intellectual was firmly established and she continued to defend women in literature settling the issue that women are not the cruel cold hearted seductresses men would have them believe and actually have a significant place within society.
Her greatest literary work is the City of Ladies in which she describes a female utopia, an allegorical society built by ladies for ladies.
I read it first while a teenager at a time when women were burning their bras for equal rights and the word Lady had become a word of hate. Reading City of Ladies ignited in me a burning determination to reclaim the word lady as a definition of a woman of spirit, wit, courage and charm.
I felt I owed it to the ladies of history and my own matriarchal lineage to preserve and honour the word Lady. My female ancestors, beleaguered Irish Catholic women who faced oppression not just by virtue of their gender but for their race and religion, managed to maintain their noble spirit despite oppression violence and starvation. These ladies – for they were ladies and proudly classified themselves as such despite their poverty – educated, protected, fed and fought for their families armed solely with the dandizette weapons of dignity, razor sharp wit, humour, charm and impeccable manners. I owe it to their bravery and sacrifices to reclaim the word lady as a description of all women of courage, wit, good manners and charm.
Christine de Pizan showed true dandizette spirit in that while taking umbrage at the calumnies and slanders against her sex by male writers, her umbrage did not manifest itself as hatred toward men, even those who attacked her personally. Eventually she won them round with her elegant rhetoric and superior debate, earning their respect and praise.
Her greatest work, The City of Ladies begins with Christine responding to Matheolus’s Lamentations a misogynist text in which Matheolus insists women make men’s lives miserable. She says quite simply that, “This thought inspired such a great sense of disgust and sadness in me that I began to despise myself and the whole of my sex as an aberration in nature.”
The three Virtues then appear to Christine; Lady Reason, Lady Rectitude & Lady Justice and one by one they dispel the myths and slanders against women by men and aid the allegorical Christine to create a utopian city built for and by valiant ladies of great renown.
Lady Reason is the first of the Virtues to come to women’s defense listing all the great deeds women have accomplished in history. By creating the character Lady Reason, Christine not only teaches her own allegorical self, but also her readers. Giving all women reason to believe that women are not bad eggs and actually have a significant place within society. Lady Reason instructs Christine to lay the foundation for The City of Ladies by “taking the spade of her intelligence” to dig up the lies and slanders of men against women thereby uncovering the merits and great accomplishments of women in history that lie beneath these lies.
Lady Rectitude appears next to assist Christine in creating the walls and houses of the City of Ladies which will be filled with the ladies of great renown regaling Christine with “stories of pagan, Hebrew, and Christian ladies” who were loyal, compassionate and learned and devoted to their family and others.
HAVE YOU GOT IT? Elinor Glyn the Quintessential Edwardian Dandizette
By Tyne O’Connell, “A modern day Elinor Glyn” The Daily Telegraph, UK
“What is IT – this subtle magnetic quality that makes you want to look at someone even when you wish you could stop. Do you have IT? Or if not, can you acquire IT?”
Elinor Glyn was born on 17th October in 1864 in Jersey in the Channel Islands. It is difficult to describe the enormous scale of her success as best-selling author, scriptwriter film director, columnist and international personalty and public speaker. In the words of Mark Twain: “She has come to us upon the storm wind of a vast and sudden notoriety.
Her career spanned almost seventy years while fascinated her public with her concept of IT. The Hollywood Magazine Photoplay remarked that, Elinor Glyn had managed to “transform this unobtrusive pronoun into a world- discussed noun.” She offered varied definitions of the meaning of IT in hundreds of interviews and lectures from the podium atop her giant tiger skin. However she was firm on one point, objecting fiercely to IT being defined as a wink-wink euphemism for “sex appeal.”
One thing is certain: Elinor Glyn had IT, Audrey Hepburn had IT, Margaret Thatcher had IT, Michael Gambon has IT, Judy Dench has IT, Cleopatra, Alexander the Great & Marilyn Monroe had IT. Great leaders in history, successful Actors and Politicians all need IT. But what is IT and more importantly have you got IT and can one acquire it? For while IT is not essential in the make up of the dandizette, all the great ones had and have IT.
Elinor Glyn, aristocratic authority on the ‘IT’ factor
According to Elinor Glyn in her foreword to IT, and Other Stories (1927) “To have “IT”, the fortunate possessor must have that strange magnetism which attracts both sexes. He or she must be entirely unselfconscious and full of self-confidence, indifferent to the effect he or she is producing, and uninfluenced by others. There must be physical attraction, but beauty is unnecessary.”
We have all met someone – man or woman – be they attractive or not – who have that magnetic quality that compels you to look and think of them. Part of our fascination in them is wrapped up in their own indifference to whether you like them or not. For in being unbiddable they arouse in us a respect albeit grudging and a need albeit unmet to have them do our bidding.
I think of IT as allure compared to the artifice of mere wiles. One is born with allure. However, if you have allure you will be unaware of at at least while young and it is unlikely anyone else will tell you that you have allure and even if someone does allude your allure to you, you probably won’t believe them. If you, like most people don’t have allure you may employ wiles. Wiles unlike Allure can be acquired. The problem with wiles is that should others recognise you working your wiles the temple veil will be torn.
By 1927 Elinor had written more than 25 novels about courtship and numerous interviews in magazines and newspapers including a monthly series of articles. Elinor Glyn developed wrote and held forth on her own “Philosophy of Love” building herself into The Sexual Brand of the early 20th century. She described her self as “The High Priestess of the God of Love”
Her philosophy of love, superimposed Victorian prudery over sex, celebrating aristocratic manners and deploring the cheapening of sexualrelations through the commodification of capitalism. Elinor believed that sexual tensions between men and women were heightened through restraint and the codified rituals and restricted contact of old fashioned manners. She said in one interview that the younger generation were “dulling their senses with the promiscuous familiarity of pawing each other”
She celebrated women’s physical and emotional satisfaction along with fantasy and sensuality. She asserted that one can be a slave to love without losing one’s emancipation. She believed profoundly that “no union can be perfect without equal capacity for physical satis- faction in both man and woman.”
She went to far as to hint that intelligent good looking children were the result of a fabulous orgasm. Her philosophy of love sought to transform love-making between men and women from “the mere animal instinct for species-preservation, with all the beauties of the imagination.”
Vitally she promoted the idea of the sexual wisdom and authority of the middle aged lady, in other words, herself. When she was forty-three (and therefore a sexually wise authority on such things) she described the key methods for achieving this spiritual physical transcendency in her massive best selling book, Three Weeks which was published in 1907. By 1933 it had sold more than 5 millions copies and it was just one of her 25 bestselling novels – all promoting and branding her sexual philosophy of love.
Elinor Glyn in Hollywood
Her popularity as an authority on sexuality, led to Hollywood recruiting her into its massive production machine where she participated in the production of eleven blockbuster films promoting her sexual agenda with stars such as Clara Bow, Gary Cooper and Valentino in starring roles.
She used her international popularity as an author and her branding genius to lever unprecedented profit sharing and artistic control from studios. She promoted herself as a sexual brand to a degree that modern stars and celebrities such as the Kardashians can only dream of – all without cheapening her brand with sex tapes or loss of privacy.
In promoting herself as a sexual brand she was ahead of the times and yet she had the cache of Simone De Beauvoir and the panache of Diana Vreeland. She continued to promote herself as an icon of sexual authority well into her fifties and sixties giving interviews throned from a tiger skin rug which featured in her book Three Weeks. She even dyed her hair Titian red and used makeup to accentuate the feline character of her brilliant greeneyes. Mark Twain described her as “a woman with milk-white skin, tawny red hair & green eyes; her gown a sea-green soft silk & she wore a strange oriental chain, as her only ornament.”
Elinor maintained her authority by maintaining her personae as middle-aged, upper-class, British woman. She was fifty-six years old and a widow when she first arrived in Hollywood. Even while atop her tiger skin throne during interviews, she emphasised her British propriety by serving tea at all her interviews.
Journalists observed she was more sybarite than vamp. “There is much of the conventional Englishwoman about her,” they told their readers – In this way reassuring them that “any grandchildren she may have will find her a remarkable, distinguished, entirely charming grand-mamma of the utmost propriety.”
For while her aristocratic knowledge reassured her fans that romance was derived from courtly high culture not dirty minds she also had another secret weapon which I believe was key to her genius and that was her ability to get inside the male mind. I believe this was her true secret weapon. Her characters lay bare male fantasies.
Mark Twain and Elinor Glyn
Mark Twain said to her in an interview with Elinor Glyn in 1908 “I think you have written a very fine book, and there are a very few women who have the brain, or the logic, or the grasp of human nature, or the scientific deduction, to have enabled them to do it.”
Mark Twain defended Elinor Glyn against charges by the American public that she had written an immoral book in Three Weeks. f the characters in Elinor Glyn’s book Three Weeks “They recognize that they were highly and holily created for each other and that their passion is a sacred thing, that it is the master by divine right and that its commands must be obeyed. They get to obeying them at once and they keep on obeying them and obeying them, to the reader’s intense delight and disapproval, and the process of obeying them is described, several times, almost exhaustively, but not quite – some little rag of it being left to the reader’s imagination, just at the end of each infraction, the place where his imagination is to take up and do the finish being indicated by stars [****]”
Twain recalls: “Some days afterward I met her again for a moment and she gave me the startling information that she had written down every word I had said, just as I had said it, without any softening and purifying modifications, and that it was “just splendid, just wonderful,” She said she had sent it to her husband in England. Privately I didn’t think that that was a very good idea, and yet I believed it would interest him. “
The Elinor Glyn midas touch remains arguably unparalleled. All her films were massive hits, all her books best sellers. And yet Elinor Glyn utterly deplored the cheapening of sexual relations through the commodification of capitalism.
In a 1921 Los Angeles Times interview, she protested that “man is dominated today by the gluttonous science of making money. Love and the soul of woman lies crushed and bleeding in ‘no man’s land.’
Elinor Glyn was a splendid Dandizette urging women to take up charms against an age of materialism and seek transcendence in love. In her Autobiography of 1936 she explained, “I wanted to stir up in the cold hearts of the thousands of little fluffy, gold-digging American girls a desire for greater joys in love than are to be found in candy-boxes and car rides and fur coats.” It is a classic Dandizette call to charms! Urging the gold digging girls to turn their backs on materialism and embrace the philosophy of love – The Quintessential Elegant Feminist, magnificently throned on a tiger skin rug.
Elinor Glyn, 1864 – 1943, Dandizette.
By Tyne O’Connell ©
If one is feeling poorly or in the doldrums there is no greater pick-me-up than bedecking oneself with jewels: bracelets, chokers, necklaces, rings and earrings – on they go and an aura of light creates a bright armour against all doubt and depression.
When diagnosed with a brain tumour in January this year, I swathed myself in diamonds and packed the LVT luggage with period dramas and rosebud nighties before turning myself over to the medieval horrors of the 21st Century hospital experience.
The world looks and feels better when one is swathed in diamonds. My Georgian tiara of tiny rubies, diamonds and seed pearls set in silver transports me to a gentler time, when women bedazzled menfolk with their sparkling wit, twinkling jewels in the flattering soft lighting of candle powered chandeliers.
While having children – I had all three before turning twenty-five, such fun – I did a two year diploma in Gemmology. From my first peep through the microscopic lens into the frozen galaxies of the crystal systems of gemstones, began a lifelong fascination with jewels.
I spent the next several years traveling the world buying gems and learning about the diamond trade. The beauty of the diamond is in its fire. As a light beam passes through the stone it is bent or “refracted” before it exits the crystal in a light beam dispersed into its component parts, causing the effect known as “fire” or “brilliance”.
Diamonds are the paradox of all paradoxes
Behind all the smoke, mirrors, myths, legends and marketing campaigns, diamonds are the paradox of all paradoxes. Even the word for diamond derived from the Greek, Adamas which means unbreakable is a paradox as diamonds are in fact the most brittle of all gems.
Diamonds are an allotrope of carbon. A single molecule of carbon. So while diamonds are the hardest natural substance, carbon is the softest. Paradox everywhere you look. Even the beauty of the diamond, their desirability and symbolic connection to love and commitment is rife with paradox, linked as they so often are to conflict, the displacement of indigenous people, and slavery.
The beauty and fire of a diamond is extinguished when faced with the possibility that it may be connected to the suffering of another.
Most of the diamonds I own are historic. I have diamonds dating back to antiquity, diamonds owned by princes and more humble imperfect diamonds owned by my own Irish ancestors who even while fleeing religious persecution and lack of mashed potato, knew to keep hold of their diamonds. Every diamond has its story: wars, famines, marriages, anniversaries, love, mourning, exile. The past enriches every jewel I own. But I have always hesitated to buy new diamonds, fearful of buying into a current act of human or environmental misery.
Previous to 2000, De Beers were buying diamonds from Guerilla movements, thereby directly financing civil war. Through the establishment of the Kimberly Process Certification scheme and The De Beers’ own “Diamond Best Practice Scheme”, the diamond industry has attempted to restore its good name. But has it?
Knowing how the diamond trade works, I am aware that with the best will in the world it is inevitable that conflict diamonds can easily be washed with Kimberly Process Certified diamonds in the market place or even in the cutting rooms of Bombay and Tel Aviv. It really is unavoidable. A diamond mined in a conflict zone can easily be transported across borders and sold as a diamond mined in a conflict free zone thereby securing Kimberly Process Certification. Then there is the issue of diamonds associated with the displacement of indigenous people which isn’t legislated against.
How Can Consumers Avoid Conflict Diamonds?
If you don’t want your jewel purchases tainted with human suffering sign up to the Global witness newsletter at www.GlobalWitness.org
The world’s jewellery trade is a long way from eliminating the trade in conflict diamonds. A recent atrocity in the quest for diamonds has been the displacement of the Kalahari bushmen. The global recession gave them a short reprieve but the mining is back on track now as the demand for diamonds grows. The UN states that mining should not happen on indigenous peoples land without their prior knowledge and consent. This consent has not been given by the indigenous people, putting De Beers at odds with diamond consumers who support Indigenous people’s rights to their traditional land. So where does a man or girl of good fortune in want of a diamond go in search of their perfect diamonds?www.survivalinternational.org
The Pink Diamond Solution
Think Pink. Over 84% of the world’s gem quality pink diamonds come from the Argyle in N.E. Western Australia from one mine, the Argyle Mine of Kununurra. It is also the major producer of natural yellow, champagne and cognac diamonds. The mine is owned by Rio Tinto who lease the land from the traditional landowners the Gidja and Mirriuwung people.
Negotiations started between Rio TInto and the indigenous landowners and in 2005 they signed the landmark Indigenous Agreement to deliver long-term economic benefits to Aboriginal communities in the East Kimberley, while protecting Aboriginal cultural and environmental interests throughout the life of the mine.
I love the Daiwul Ngarranggarni Barramundi dreaming story in which some elderly ladies trap a fish (a Barramundi) only for the fish to jump over the elderly ladies, shedding its scales in the shallow water. These scales became the colourful diamonds of the Kimberly. That story both signifies and dignifies all that diamonds represent to me – elderly ladies as the source of wealth. The diamonds handed down to a girl through the matriarchal line are her most beloved. Perhaps this is why I have always loved fishing. Certainly catching a burrumundi wearing diamonds ranks in my top 100 life moments.
I am approaching a landmark birthday and my ex-husband asked me what I wanted. “I want a large pink diamond. A diamond free of conflict and misery, a diamond mined with sensitivity and reverence to the environment,” I beseached.
To my surprise, he enthusiastically agreed. I salute his astute sensitivity and intelligence. All ex-husbands should present the mother’s of their children with diamonds at regular intervals.
Two weeks later Lawrence Graff made headlines when he paid $46,000,000 – the highest price ever paid for a jewel – for a pink diamond at Sotheby’s. At that point I suggested I’d be happy with a pearl bracelet.
But my ex-husband was adamant – a geologist himself, his appetite was wetted for the pink diamond – though doubtless not quite as magnificent as Lawrence Graff’s.
As a result of his generous offer I travelled to the N.E. of West Australia to the Argyle mine in Kununurra. I met with the traditional landowners and explored the region by air and road, gaining unprecedented access to the mine site where security is so high the miner’s clothes and work boots are incinerated at the end of every shift. I was warned, that should I drop anything, I must alert security rather than bend over to pick it up myself thereby raising a code-red security alert.
Only 0.1% of the 600,000,000 carats mined at the Argyle mine each year are pink and they are usually less than half a carat. In fact, less than a dessertspoon full of pink diamonds over half a carat are found each year.
While I doubt my pink diamond will make the headlines of Lawrence Graff’s pink, it will light up my heart more. Of that I am sure. I salute my ex-husband’s astute sensitivity and intelligence. I would encourage all ex-husbands to present the mother’s of their children with diamonds at regular intervals.
by ©Tyne O’Connell
There’s a Girl In Pearls inside every woman. She is the part of us that loves cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off. She adores cup cakes and anything with a rosebud print involved. She loves the feel of cashmere against her skin and if you get close enough to her, she smells of fresh linen.
You may not have discovered the GIP in you yet, but one day, perhaps as you hold your first daughter or grandson or in the middle of scaling Everest you will suddenly feel her comforting presence. In a moment of déjà vu you will realise, but of course she was there all the time.
The GIP lives within every quintessential bad girl who loves to drink cocktails and dance on tables. The GIP lives within the career girl who is prepared to do what it takes to smash through that glass ceiling.
The girl in pearls is in all of us, from the Queen to her lowliest subject. Pearls are the great leveller; representing as they do the virtue and beauty of femininity in all its forms – the femininity of quiet, indomitable strength.
Beauty of the pearl
The perfection and beauty of the pearl has been linked in all holy texts to the virtue and beauty of women. The Quran promises the lucky girls who reach paradise they will be bedecked with pearls.
The entrance to the Roman Catholic heaven is referred to as the “Pearly Gates”. I want to pass through those pearly gates and I want to do it swathed in pearls; preferably carried in on a litter but I am still negotiating that with St Peter.
My fascination with pearls started like most of my fascinations, in mass. Listening to some dull old priest waffling on in Latin while I sat in Mummy’s lap and played with her pearlescent rosary.
My mother held the view that inside every little old lady there resides an antique little girl. I am convinced that inside every woman there resides a little old lady. I know this because I have always longed for the day when I could be that little old lady with a crocodile handbag, clicking along the cobbles of South Molton Street in my crocodile shoes and tweed suit.
All things Little Old Lady
I have always loved all things Little Old Lady; the pearls, the jewels, the quiet strength, the impeccable manners, the imperious ability to make snooty waiters fumble and fawn should they attempt to dismiss the old lady as an old fool. I adored the faint smell of lavender bags that accompanied my granny and the instantly produced perfectly ironed hand lace edged hanky at the merest suggestion of upset.
On The Trail Of The Perfect Pearl
Pearls just say everything there is to say about femininity. So on my Gap Year For Grown Ups I went on the Trail Of The Perfect Pearl. Even the most cursory research into pearls reveals that Paspaley is at the top of the heap. They sell only 2% of the creme de la creme of their own pearls selling the rest on to Harry Winston, Tiffany’s et al.
Part of the fascination of pearls is the enormous amount of hard work and good luck it takes to produce even one fine pearl.
Paspaley Pearl Farm
The finest pearls come from the cleanest seas. The cleaner the oyster the more perfect the pearl. The Paspaley family have really taken this to heart farming in Vansittart Bay in The Timor Sea, one of the most pristine marine environment in the world. Due to their uniquely environmentally customised method of farming which avoids scraping the delicate eco system of the ocean bed, it will stay that way.
By invitation I flew out to the Paspaley pearl farms in a Mallard sea plane which was once owned by Christian Dior. He had apparently used it to flit around the Riviera in the 1950‘s. Now it has been put into service by Paspaley to ferry their workers in and out of the pearl farms from Darwin.
I stayed aboard the Rosalyne along with the pearl farmers who work long hours but eat like little kings. It must be the most spectacularly beautiful work environment anywhere in the world; with clear azure water and numerous uninhabited lush tropical islands.
Opening a Pearl Oyster
The next day I was taken on an excursion to see the pearl farmers cleaning the oyster shells. The pearls are seeded elsewhere and then floated on the ocean fields, supported on racks which are regularly pulled onto the rafts and cleaned of barnacles. It takes 2-5 years of careful care and attention to obtain a perfect pearl. When we arrived back at the boat I was allowed to open a couple of oysters myself and pop out the pearls from the pearl meat which is considered a delicacy.
The cook prepared the oyster meat for us for our supper, preparing both a sashimi dish of pearl meat with ponzu sauce and a tempura dish. It tasted like no other sea food I have ever had. Certainly not like oyster.
If I had not already discovered my inner GIP the trip to the Timor Sea in Christian Dior’s Mallard would have sold me; the experience speaking as it did to the intrepid girl I had been in my youth.
The Most Expensive Drink In History
There was a time when a single pearl was worth more than several kingdoms. When Marc Antony summoned Cleopatra to a Roman outpost to answer charges regarding the murder of Caesar, she arrived on her splendid golden barge. MA was an infamous sybarite, quite the party boy; known for his love of luxury and extravagance. Cleopatra offered him a wager that if she could throw the most extravagant party in history, he’d drop the whole silliness of the dreary charges and everyone would be friends.
After seven nights of Elton John-esque extravaganzas he was more than a little smitten.
He conceded teasingly that while her parties had been extravagant, she could hardly argue that they outstripped the extravagance of any other party in history.
With that, Cleopatra dropped a pearl earring said to be worth several kingdoms into a glass of wine vinegar which dissolved the pearl. She then knocked back the most expensive drink in history.
It was only the pleading cries of the crowd that stopped her disposing of the other pearl in the pair in a similar fashion. And the rest is the history of another good man destroyed by a wicked woman. Or as girls see it, a cautionary tale of choosing swine over pearls.