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An English Arcadia
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things 11
winter 1999-2000
Jane Stevenson
An English Arcadia

I live in an old house in the country, which was was photographed a couple of months ago for one of the many Country Style magazines: it would be invidious to say which one. The stylist's treatment of the raw material provided by the actual house itself revealed some important truths about a collective fantasy of country life in beautiful old houses to which her readership evidently subscribes. Based on her energetic editing and rearrangement of our miscellaneous possessions, I am in a position to report that the following objects (among others) do not exist in the English Arcadia:

1. Dental floss
2. S-bends
3. Telephones
4. Washing up liquid
5. Vitamin pills
6. Crucifixes
7. Cat litter
8. Radiators
9. Tesco's
10. Computers
11. Electric sockets
12. Children's toys less than thirty years old.

So, what way of life is assumed for the inhabitants of the beautiful house reflected in the resulting set of images, and the other such houses which you can find in any style magazine? The inhabitants of Arcadia light their houses with candles, and heat them by means of wood fires. They grow their own vegetables in box-edged parterres, fetch water from the well, pick the remains of their organic repasts off their handmade wooden platters with thorn twigs, and end the day by cleaning their teeth with sea-salt and soot. Their offspring play only with artiginal toys made of natural materials, and their cats are trained to continence. They usually have baths, but hardly ever have lavatories, and perhaps most crucially, there is no means of communication with the outside world. 

In short, while it might a great place to visit, no one in their right mind want to live there.



things 11, winter 1999-2000

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