Posted by Christina Brooke Feb 7 2014, 12:07 am in books, Cold Comfort Farm, eccentrics, Faking It, Jeeves and Wooster, Jenny Crusie
Hi everyone! Today I decided I’d talk about some of my favourite characters in fiction–those eccentrics we all love.
Quirky, unexpected, and sometimes downright crazy, eccentrics are essentially people who are completely themselves and do not care what anyone else thinks.
In the classic, COLD COMFORT FARM, Flora Poste the 1920s socialite, visits a farm full of eccentrics, including the old lady who saw “something nasty in the wood shed”. That’s a catch phrase in our household to this day. Flora sets the entire family to rights, making them less eccentric than they were before, which is a bit of a pity, really. I think one of the best qualities of the English is their high tolerance for people who are a bit odd.
Then there’s Jenny Crusie’s wonderful FAKING IT, where the heroine’s sister has a split personality. Eve is the good girl by day. Louise is the bad girl who dresses up and sings at her gay ex-husband’s club by night.
Bertie Wooster might be more an example of a certain sort of gentleman of leisure of that time than a true eccentric, but to us his mad exploits seem distinctly loony. Plus, he’s surrounded by crazy aunts and uncles and cronies with more hair than sense and too much time and money on their hands. Lucky he has good old Jeeves to save the day!
Eccentrics are terrific fun in fiction but what about real life? Some days I think I’m the only sane one in my immediate vicinity. And then I start to wonder if it’s me or them!
Who’s your favourite eccentric in fiction? Do you live with any eccentrics?
Posted by Christina Brooke Jul 19 2012, 1:49 am in Cold Comfort Farm, good manners, rant, Regency England, The Grand Sophy
I’m going to apologize in advance for the rant. 😉
But really, at what point in history was the concept of good manners relegated to the dust heap?
Children these days, or at least the majority of the ones I meet, rarely say please and thank you without being reminded by their parents. I know that my children have had good manners drummed into them from infancy and yet somehow, once school term begins, so begins the backwards slide.
I never let my boys get away with bad manners. Not once. Not ever. Often I wonder whether I’m too strict, but I do believe that good manners are an essential ingredient of a civilized society.
Sad to say, it isn’t only children who don’t display common courtesy these days. How many times have you stood in a queue only to have some Johnny-Come-Lately slip in front of everyone without good reason or apology?
What about the way people put their feet on the seats on public transport? Or throw their trash on the ground? And it’s certainly not confined to any particular sector of society. Every time I go to the opera and line up to collect our drinks order at intermission, people walk straight in front of me as if I’m invisible. I think that might be what we call a false sense of entitlement. Or maybe I’m just so short, to them I really am invisible.
And don’t get me started on the rudeness of drivers. That’s a whole new blog post.
When I was in high school I took a course on deportment (yes, I’m a sad case!) In fact, it was a lot of fun. Also a bit of an eye opener, with much tutelage on makeup and grooming (hot wax was involved) and a priceless piece of advice from our tutor: “Ladies, I don’t care if you come in at three in the morning, rolling drunk, you MUST remove your makeup before you go to bed!”
Food for thought there.
But along with those valuable life lessons, I also learned the correct way to set a table, leave my cutlery and napkin when I was finished, reply to wedding invitations, and so forth–many of which my mother had already passed on. Such things do come in handy at some stage or other. In fact, now that I come to think of it, it was a very useful course.
I’ve always loved those stories like COLD COMFORT FARM and THE GRAND SOPHY, where a bright young Miss Post-type lady sails in and fixes everyone, including their manners. Clearly, I was born in the wrong era.
I think that’s one of the attractions for me of the Regency period. Manners, people!
It’s so much fun when a hero and heroine have a verbal sparring match while being deadly polite. As a writer, I love the way I can use my characters’ inability to throw a tantrum or make a scene so I can ratchet up the tension. If you keep all of that passion simmering beneath the surface when they can’t do a thing about it, once they are finally alone, the result is explosive.
So to speak.
What about you? Have you experienced some truly galling piece of rudeness lately? What about a good story? Anyone been the recipient of unusual courtesy? Do you disagree with me that good manners have gone to the dogs?