Throwback Thursday: Give the angry man a hat

I've always believed it's bad idea to apologise with a gift. 

A gift is a symbolic, shorthand way of publicly expressing a private feeling. If there is one occasion to avoid shortcuts and symbols it is during an apology. 

Plus, who wants to be reminded of the time they were wronged? Plus, an apology gift has never worked...or has it?

One historical figure proves me wrong: Samuel Pepys. 

Samuel Pepys

Generally speaking, the diary of a civil servant is unlikely to arouse or sustain high levels of interest. The diary of Samuel Pepys is different.

Born during the English Civil  War, Pepys lived through the Great Fire of London, survived both the plague and numerous extramarital encounters and wrote all about it in his diary.

One diary entry contains our historical gift. 

Sunday 1st November 1663

(Lord’s day). This morning my brother’s man […]  brought me as a gift from my brother, a velvet hat, very fine to ride in, and the fashion, which pleases me very well, to which end, I believe, he sent it me, for he knows I had lately been angry with him.

It’s not clear what brother Thomas did to make Samuel angry but the velvet hat was able to placate him. 

It seems like a fitting gift given that both sons took an interest in fashion. Thomas followed his father into the tailoring trade and Samuel placed a number of orders for clothing with Thomas. One such order includes a rather opulent 'gowne of purple shagg, trimmed with gold'. 

Sadly, Thomas followed a less fortunate path than his brother, dying young and in debt. 

I tried to find a picture of a velvet hat from around that time but didn't have much luck. I found this picture on Pinterest which gives an overview of hats between 1600 and 1700. 

1660s fashion Laughing Heart

The National Maritime Museum is holding a major exhibition on Samuel Pepys, his life and times. It runs until the 28th March. Find out more

If you're interested in reading the diary of Samuel Pepys, I'll put a link to it below:

Afternoon tea at Biscuiteers

On Saturday, Marianne and I took afternoon tea at Biscuiteers in Notting Hill.

An estate agent would describe the shop as ‘ideally situated’ and it truly is. It is my embassy, my lighthouse, my place of salvation in times of gift-giving need.

Its huge variety of beautifully-iced biscuits make ideal presents. Last month, I ran in there asking for anything squirrel-shaped. Did they come up with the goods? Just ask my squirrel-shaped cookie cutter.

It occurred to me that I’m either dashing into the shop to grab last-minute gifts it or trudging past it en route to the gym. I’d never taken the time to enjoy Biscuiteers so I booked afternoon tea as a pre-Christmas treat.

I love afternoon tea and I’m won over by any establishment that serves it. I love the fluffy scones, clotted cream and jam. I love the thin cucumber sandwiches and tiny cakes. I believe that afternoon tea is the second greatest thing to come out of the UK after the internet. 

The scones at Biscuiteers were warm when they arrived. Heaven. The cake stand was filled with London-themed biscuits, scones, slices of mini Battenberg, tiny cupcakes, brownies and finger sandwiches. All drinks on the extensive menu were included in the price but I just stuck to Earl Grey and sparkling water.

The lady who served us was polite, accommodating and cheerful.

Happy staff members make all the difference. During my stint as a waitress at an Indian restaurant, I found it hard to maintain (or even establish) enthusiasm but I think this was mainly because I had to wear a costume. 

Though seating is limited at Biscuiteers, we didn’t feel rushed. It’s hard to find any eatery in central London on a weekend which doesn’t hurry you along or seat you next to a queue of people waiting to take your table.

It felt like a village tea room, not least because my next door neighbour popped in to purchase a box of Mexican-themed biscuits.

Payment was taken at time of booking, which seems a bit risky but it actually made things much more civilised at the end of the afternoon.

There was more than enough food for two people and the biscuits and cakes that we couldn’t manage were packaged up to take home.

The London Afternoon Tea is £48.00 and serves two. Arrive hungry and book in advance.

Biscuiteers

194 Kensington Park Road

London

W11 2ES

0207 727 8096

notinghill@biscuiteers.com

 

Closest tube stations:

Notting Hill Gate (Central, District, Circle)

Ladbroke Grove (Circle, Hammersmith and City)

 

 

GIFT INSPIRATION FROM BISCUITEERS

Throwback Thursday: The Rose Ring

Rose Ring | Laughing Heart

This gold ring was found by archaeologists during the excavation of site of the Rose Theatre on London’s Bankside in 1989, some 400 years after it was lost.

Shakespeare’s plays were performed at the Rose during his lifetime. The Museum of London estimates that the ring was made in 1592 and might be French in origin. The Rose was torn down in around 1606.

The owner of this ring will never be known, but I think it’s safe to say that it was a gift.

It is engraved with the French inscription  'PENCES POVR MOYE DV'. The letters ‘DV’ stand for the Latin ‘Deo Volente’ and the inscription translates as ‘Think of me God willing’. It’s unlikely you’d give yourself a ring with that inscription.

It also features a heart with two arrows through it, symbolic of lovesickness. I'm beginning to think that the giver was extremely romantic verging on desperate.

I wonder how it came to be lost. Perhaps it was thrown away in a fit of pique by a wronged lover or maybe a nervous audience member fiddled with the ring throughout a performance and it fell off their lap and through the wooden slats. I wonder if it's owner was a woman or a man. 

The engraving seems crudely done, the inscription has been punched with such force that there are holes in the ring. It makes me feel like it’s the kind of thing a young lover would give. 

You can buy a replica of the ring here. 

Throwback Thursday: Wallis Simpson's Cartier bracelet

This bracelet was a gift from Edward VIII to Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom he gave up the throne.

Made by Cartier, it has nine gem-set crosses, each signifying (and engraved with) important moments in their lives between 1933 to 1934.

It was put up for auction in 2010 and sold for £601,250.

Their marriage is commemorated on one of the crosses.

One cross is engraved with the message: "God save the King For Wallis". This refers to an assassination attempt on Edward (known as David to Wallis).

I’m not sure I’d want a permanent reminder of the time someone tried to kill my husband, but as he survived it, I suppose that makes him seem invincible. But apparently his would-be assassin had a tendency to throw the guns at his targets rather than pulling the trigger.

Another cross bears the message "The Kings Cross". This marks the time in 1936 that, after an argument between the couple, Simpson flagged down a taxi and said "King's Cross" to the driver. "I'm sorry lady," he replied. 

I like this bracelet. I mean, it’s not exactly my taste, but I like what it represents: real people with real feelings wanting to remember.

Wallis Simpson gift | Laughing Heart

Throwback Thursday: Anne Boleyn & Henry VIII

In this post,  I will examine the gift-giving of Henry VIII. 

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

Henry VIII was gouty, tyrannical and, I know this doesn't redeem him, but pretty generous while in the love-throes. 

I read through his Privy Purse Expenses between the years 1529-1532 and Anne Boleyn, the second of his six wives, received lots of interesting gifts from Henry.

The first gifts to catch my eye were: ‘bows, arrows and other articles for shooting’, a gift from Henry to Anne. There are several recorded instances in which Anne received bows and arrows from Henry. Perhaps I am trying to force symbolism, but one could interpret this gift as pretty romantic; a bow and arrow being the equipment of Cupid and all.

 

The gift of a bow and arrow also reminded me of my American friend Lanie. Her boyfriend gave her a gun on their anniversary. 

Anne later gave Henry darts of 'Biscayan fashion'. If you buy my earlier argument that weapons as gifts are symbols of love, this is quite a romantic gift. 

There's a lovely extract from a letter written by Henry to Anne in 1527. It includes a metaphorical dart. The letter reads:

It is absolutely necessary for me to obtain this answer, having been for above a whole year stricken with the dart of love, and not yet sure whether I shall fail of finding a place in your heart and affection

In June 1530, the Mayor of London gave Anne some cherries and Henry reimbursed him. 

In September 1529, when Anne's greyhound killed a cow, (who knew that was possible?) she was given ten shillings by the King. At this point it seems like he'd give the woman anything for doing anything. 

In November she was given twenty yards of crimson satin. Interesting symmetry - the cradle of her daughter, Elizabeth I, was lined with crimson satin.

In December she was given furs and £40 to ‘play’. Any ambiguity as to what 'playing' means to a modern mind is cleared up when we discover that Henry also paid off her gambling debts. 

In 1532, Henry bought Anne a farm in Greenwich. She also received a desk ‘garnished with laten and gold’.

After giving Anne eight yards of gold cloth, Henry gave her money for a black gown and nightgown. Both were made of black satin, the lining of the gown was taffeta, the lining of the nightgown was velvet.

Henry was captivated by Anne and the scale of Henry's generosity to Anne is matched by the height from which Anne later fell from grace. He changed the religion of the country to marry her and then had her put to death. 

Gifts for mother-in-laws

My mother and her mother-in-law exchanged some pretty weird gifts over the years.

Once, my grandma gave my mother used (and stained) ex-hospital bedsheets, which she bought from a hospital. 

Another time, she gave her a flesh-coloured 40 EE size bra. If you saw my mother, more specifically the size of her bust, you’d understand how insane a gift it was.

In return, my grandmother was presented with Slimming World dieting books and a plug-in air freshener.

I happen to like my mother-in-law and she also gives good gifts. I can’t imagine how bad it would be if she gave me some perfume from Jo Malone and then I said, with a glint in my eye, ‘I have something for you too, Sally!’ and then handed her soiled bed linen.

It’s her birthday next month. We’ll probably give her a voucher but here are my failsafe gift ideas for my mother-in-law, who loves animals, interior design, warm weather and lives in the countryside.

KATH KIDSTON PLIMSOLLS 

£24.00

KATH KIDSTON CERAMIC JAR 

£15.00

ACQUA DI PARMA

£74.00

GLACIER CRYSTAL GLASS PHOTO FRAME

£45.00

LANCOME HYDRA ZEN DAY CREME SKIN CARE SET

£39.50

VON LILIENFELD MONET UMBRELLA


£35.00
 

Visit my gifts-for-mother-in-laws board by clicking below:

Wedding gifts & British brands

We went to Italy last weekend to celebrate the marriage of my husband’s university friend.

Dolce, Gabbana and Tornatorne made it a long-term ambition of mine to attend an Italian wedding. I had a vision of myself in a full-skirted lace midi-dress twirling down a narrow street. Thanks to a dress on sale from Whistles, I made it happen. 

When we got married, the happy couple gave us some Lisa Corti table linen (similar below) which is awesome. You can’t find it in London, the colours are bright and beautiful. It showed that they put in some thought.

I was informed by my husband that there was ‘no way’ the couple would have a gift list. So I spent hours coming up with ideas for gifts that were made in the UK. The bar was set high.

After a good few hours of brainstorming, I visited their wedding website and discovered that they did have a gift list (contributions to their honeymoon).

So that my ideas aren’t wasted, here are my top five British brands:

SMYTHSON

This 125-year-old luxury brand was favoured by Winston Churchill, Sigmund Freud and the Maharajahs of India. The products are elegantly designed and well-made. Gift options are abundant: from leather-backed notebooks to jewellery boxes, all in beautiful colours, 

WEDGWOOD

I remember learning about Josiah Wedgwood in history class and thinking that this would be as interested in ceramics as I'd ever be. How times have changed. Wedgwood isn't just about blue and white china. The recent collaboration with Jasper Conran is supreme and worth marvelling over. The plates from the Butterfly Bloom collect (pictured below) are also awesome. 

JOHNSONS OF ELGIN

I dare anyone to find a better Cashmere shop. 

CHAPEL DOWN

The UK isn't generally known for it's sparkling wine but it should be. Award-winning Chapel Down is based in Kent and produces sparkling and white wines, beer and cider. The CEO says on their website: 'I passionately believe that there is no point in just trying to be the best. We have to be the only people who can do what we do.'  

LIBERTYS OF LONDON

Liberty prints are unique. I can't find out if they produce table linen, but I'm sure it wouldn't be a big job to buy and hem some of their material to make a statement tablescape. The range is enormous. The range of styles and colours is vast.

What brands would you recommend? Comment below!

Check out my Best of British Pinterest board.