Monday, October 29, 2012

History Re-imagined: The Victorian Conservatory

Both structures may be identical, but a greenhouse is for plants, while a conservatory is for human habitation. Originally designed around the 17th century, this structure was composed of stone columns and thin glass panes. It housed all the delicate plants the English brought back from exotic travels.
Closer to Victorian times the English adopted the word 'conservatory' to mean an external sitting room adjacent to the main house. Generally today a greenhouse is extant from the main house, while a conservatory is connected to the main house or building, such as a hotel, via a narrow or short walkway.
Conservatories gained popularity around the mid-19th century as the glass tax was lifted and wrought iron and steel became cheaper to source. The walls traditionally were composed of glass with metal reinforcements, but modern structures can be made of shatter-resistant plastic and cedar.
Shortly after spring cleaning commenced, the glass windows were polished, the floor scrubbed clean, and the tea service would be set up. A conservatory allowed the Victorian a sanctuary to get away from it all, without ever stepping foot in the street. The conservatory was generally closed up in the winter, the sumptous pillows and wicker furniture being cleaned and stored away until the next warm season arrived.
Queen Victoria's favourite conservatory was located at Chatsworth House, London. It took five years to build and covered over three quarters of an acre. It featured a tent-like shape, and was centrally heated and lit with twelve thousand lamps. The Queen declared, "It's the most stupendous and extraordinary creation imaginable". Queen Victoria wasn't around in 1920 to save it from being demolished. Costs were used for the war efforts, with its costly upkeep no longer justified.
If you don't have the space in your backyard to build a conservatory, the best place to see one is right in Victoria, BC. The Empress Hotel is home to one large connected conservatory, and was built with the hotel from 1904 to 1908. Take a lovely stroll in their English garden and forget about modern contrivances.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Smart Things That Cats Say

Any cat lover will tell you how they have seamless communication with their cat. The slightest twitch of the ear, the shape of the tail, a quick glance all tell us what our cats want and what they are thinking.

Here are some quotes about our fabulous felines, because if cats really spoke, this is what they would say.

"It doesn't do to be sentimental about cats; the best ones don't respect you for it." - Susan Howatch

Every dog has his day, but the nights are reserved for cats.

"We have a theory that cats are taking over the world... just try to look them straight in the eye... yup, they're hiding something!" - Dog Fancy

Cat Law: If you're not receiving enough attention, try knocking over several expensive antique lamps.

"Cats pride themselves on their ability to do nothing." - John R.F. Breen

"The trouble with sharing one's bed with cats is that they'd rather sleep on you than beside you." - Pam Brown

"Cats come and go without ever leaving." - Martha Curtis

"I pet her, and she pays me back in purrs." - Star Rich├ęs

Dogs have owners, cats have staff.

Aren't these quotes catastic? It's no wonder that cats have a special way of commicating with their humans.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

HISTORY REIMAGINED: The Victorians Were the First to Invent Hidden Hearing Aids!

The 21st century may have invented a hearing aid the size of a pea, but the concept of an unseen hearing aid is not original to our time.

Hidden hearing aids cleverly disguised as something else, so as not to embarrass the user, were invented during the Victorian age.

Certain objects such as vases, horns, and walking sticks were repurposed as hearing aids. The object would be set in place, while a long flexible hose would be cleverly concealed under a chair or table, leading up to a small horn hidden inside the end of a walking stick or even an item of jewellery. The end of the hearing aid would be casually held up to the ear. The user appeared to be pondering thoughtfully, rather than using a device to hear better.

No more need to be embarrassed by asking over and over again what your cohort has said. You can hear it the first time round! Appear intelligent with great intellect as you engage in fine conversation.

Queen Victorian had her own silver horn version but didn't think to have it concealed, as she was the queen after all.