Monday, 1 June 2009


“There”, I said, brushing my hands together and proudly stepping back to display a delicious, lemon sandwich cake in my brand new, retro, glass-domed cake stand.
“Nice one Alice” said Hubby lifting the lid immediately without even pausing to share the moment before brandishing the cake slice and cutting himself an enormous wedge.
“When did you get the chance to bake? I thought you were in the cafe this morning?” he added, stuffing the cake into his mouth. I’d like to say that I had the grace to look a little coy but I was so happy with my IKEA cake stand that I’d wanted something to put in it asap, and, like he’d said, where was I going to have the time?
“Well I didn’t exactly bake it myself. Jenny did”.
“From the WI”. Hubby choked.
“You’ve got to be kidding me”, he said, “You went all the way to Bristol to buy, amongst other crucial merchandise, a glass cake stand without even planning for one moment of baking your own cake to put in it”. He seemed incredulous.
“Look Mr Hoity-Toity. I frequently buy Jenny’s cakes ok. Her sponges are legendary. Mine are too but not for their lightness of being. More in fact for their usage in drowning kittens”.
“That is a most unsavoury analogy Alice to describe a lead weight, although I see your point. Bloody nice cake mind”. And off he went to contemplate not only another paragraph of his dissertation.
Left in peace I analysed my cake stand and all it, albeit falsely, represented. This meagre glass item and the cake it displayed spoke volumes. It suggested, as these homely retro items do in lifestyle magazines, that I loved my family more than most. By creating a home filled with objects from yesteryear it apparently made my family feel more nurtured and safe, as our own mothers and grandmothers made us feel. This is why in a world where our economy and politics is awash in uncertainty and scandal, donning a flowery pinny and having a rice pudding in the oven is known as foetal fashion i.e. it takes it us to a place where we were free from harm and the stresses of the adult world; the metaphoric foetal ball. Something like that anyway. Personally I find it hard enough to get a meal on the table seven nights a week for seven people, let alone worry if I’m creating an atmosphere of stability and nurturing. My rice pudding has oft been met with a bleurgh from the children, and when I made them bubble and squeak they were convinced I was trying to poison them.
Undoubtedly when they look back on their childhoods, the things that will make them nostalgic will be sending emails, hand held mobile phones and food that you had to bother cooking. Whereas we forty-somethings still get a sense of wistfulness for afternoon tea, a woman in a tabard, vinyl records and digitally un-enhanced movies.
One by one the children filed past me as I stood there, lost in thought. Nick Cotton lifted the lid without any reverence, cut a huge piece of cake, didn’t bother with a napkin let alone a plate, kissed my head with a “Cheers Ma” and retreated back to his bedroom. The youngest ones squealed, begged for a slice, then promptly sucked off the icing, leaving an affronted bit of sponge behind. It was only the thirteen year old, who in fairness, made the right noises.
“Oh wow mum, what a lovely cake stand. Is it an antique? Was it one of your mother’s?” she asked, helping herself to a slice.
“Actually no. I bought it from IKEA”. My daughter rolled her eyes.
“So, is this what will be passed down to me? It doesn’t have quite the same resonance does it? I mean a mass produced product manufactured entirely to feed the neurosis of middle class women with the ideal of creating an ‘idyllic home’ can hardly compare with the passing down through the generations of a lovingly crafted and carefully tended item of beauty such as a genuine Wedgewood can it? Can’t you see mummy, that ‘vintage’ is as carefully marketed a word as this glass stand? The modern meaning of ‘vintage’ is the antithesis of authentic”.
“Oh shut up”. She shrugged her shoulder s and walked away not for the hundredth time, verbally victorious.
I looked at my purchase with new eyes. What had once epitomised ‘close, cared for, family’, now mocked me with its Made in China moniker.
“Sod you”, I said out loud and instead of putting it back in its box, decided that it should do the job intended and what it needed was to be filled with an abundance of cakes and biscuits that friends of my generation would fall on like a pack of hungry slummy mummies. Battenburg, Jaffa Cakes, Swiss Roll and Wagon Wheels, they could all fight for space on my centrepiece. So, picking up my handbag I tottered off to the local shop. Filling my basket, I saw a man behaving most furtively. Initially I afforded him the benefit of doubt, until, plain as day I watched him shove a Sarah Lee frozen pavlova under his football shirt; he was nothing if not an aspirational shoplifter.
Turning on my heel, I ran and grabbed the shirt of the manager who was in deep discussion with a colleague. Tugging repeatedly, l told him what I’d seen and pointed at the thief. Once again nostalgia came flooding back to the days, years ago, when the manager would have been man enough to apprehend the culprit and have him punished and not as the case is today be told, with a shrug, “It’ll be on camera”.I fear it’ll take a lot more than a fake antique in this modern world to provide a sense of security, safety and being nurtured.


Mary Alice said...

Ahh, he was stealing a wee bit of comforting nostalgia….thinking, no doubt, of his mother’s pavlovas from yesteryear!

Anonymous said...

yeah, but ... did you get the Wagon Wheels and were they smaller than you remembered? That's what I want to know!

Sally said...

Wagon Wheels are definitely smaller than they were, but I have to be honest, I have never really liked them. They have always tasted stale to me... Call the cake stand a "reproduction" then it does two things. Firstly, it will give your ED something else to think about, and secondly it will be another piece of nostalgia.... Reproduction - It was all the rage in the 70's. In fact, some of the reproduction furniture is now so old it is nearly antique.......

Jen Ballantyne said...

I'm afraid I am guilty of trying to create a sense of nurturing by sometimes resorting to making an old fashioned pudding or cupcakes etc but I do realize that it is mostly for my own benefit, obviously something in me needs that old fashioned nurturing feeling. The kids? They probably couldn't care less about all that stuff as long as they get the benefit of eating the results of my insecurities...

Lovely post by the way - take care.