Lockdown diaries #4: things as they are

Posted on April 02, 2020


Amy is up next to talk about the thoughts in her head during the lockdown we currently find ourselves in. There's some absolute gold in this one. 

You know the drill by now. We can't meet physically as a team right now, so our thoughts are confined to a daily 10am video call. To compensate, we've handed control of our blog to everyone with one simple brief - write whatever you want. 

Amy is a Junior Account Executive at Clearbox who works on the Amazon and 3EN teams. She loves books, John Mayer and ridiculously precisely-made coffee. Enjoy! 

* Disclaimer: this is not an original idea. This blog post was inspired by the latest episode (at the time of writing) of my favourite podcast 99% Invisible, ‘Roman Mars Describes Things As They Are’. Roman was inspired by an album by Beauty Pill, called ‘Beauty Pill Describes Things As They Are’, and that’s how we’ve ended up here. On with the show.*

As humans, we spend a lot of time moving from one place to another, interacting with the objects around us in a passive and unthinking way. Inspired by Roman Mars’s journey around his home, I want us to stop, take a minute, and think about how the things we’ve interacted with today have come to be. 

Why don’t you follow me around my afternoon?

I picked up a drinking glass to take a sip of water a minute ago. According to Google, the production of such drinking vessels began in Mesopotamia and Egypt in about the sixth century BCE. Powerful persons were gifted glass drinking vessels, produced under the patronage of the royal family, during Egypt’s 18th Dynasty (that’s 1750 BCE for those of us who can’t recall that time period so easily). Interestingly, these initial ‘glass’ drinking vessels weren’t actually transparent - which is generally what we picture when we think of a glass - but opaque, and often highly decorative. 

Glasses similar to the kind that we know began to be produced in about the eighth century BCE. At this time, glasses were used make offerings to the gods or kings during rituals, as the contents often became symbolic of the vessel’s structure. The Suntory Museum of Art, for instance, uses the example of a lion shaped glass, suggesting that a glass of this kind would be filled with liquid animal power for the ruler. That’s quite a different scene to my glass of regular old tap water. 

Through the window I can see my family’s greenhouse. It’s looking a bit disheveled at the moment, but it’s almost time to get it back in shape for growing strawberries and lettuces and whatever else we fancy this year. The first glass greenhouses in Britain came in the form of orangeries. These orangeries were built to protect citrus fruits that had been imported from warmer climates like Spain. I’m not sure how much I believe this, but I read somewhere that these orangeries became all the more popular in Britain when William of Orange became king of England. Sounds legit…

The first truly practical greenhouse, however, was built by the French biologist Charles Bonaparte. He utilised the balmy environment to store tropical plants that he used in medicinal research. At the same time, greenhouses and other large scale glasshouses came to be seen as a feature of an aristocratic lifestyle, both in Britain, and across Europe. During his musings, Roman Mars talks about the British window tax brought about in 1969, so you had to be really wealthy to afford to keep a greenhouse back in the day. Now every countryman and their dog has a greenhouse in their garden. We’ve come a long way, folks. 

I’m currently wearing slippers, because they’re the only footwear worth considering whilst at home. The word slippers comes from the verb ‘to slip’ (go figure). Slippers have always been a popular footwear choice, and they didn’t always mean a shoe that was solely (pardon the pun) worn indoors. Any shoe that slipped onto the foot was deemed a slipper. I particularly enjoy this snippet about slippers from an article on their history published in Ernest Magazine:

the discerning Victorian gentleman was in need of a pair of ‘house shoes’ in order to keep the dust and gravel outside – much better than ruining his expensive rug and beautifully polished floor. Embroidered slippers presented Victorian ladies (on both sides of the Atlantic) with an opportunity to show off their needlepoint skills. Magazines such as Godey’s Lady’s Book and Peterson’s Magazine contained patterns so that the latest fashions could be recreated in the home; a perfect gift for a loved one, and an ideal way to entice a man with an eye for embroidery.

I feel like I need to brush up on my embroidery skills.