Yesterday was my daughter’s Victorian Day school trip to Reading Museum. I’d volunteered to go along and help herd some of the other little Victorian urchins (they don’t alllow you to be with your own child for some reason) and rather pushed the boat out regarding costume, as you might expect.
There had been only vague guidance as to dress and so I found myself sitting in an 1893 classroom in the height of 1884 fashion, but nobody, including the museum staff seemed to notice the faux pas and my outfit elicited much admiration and comment throughout the day. Aside from not having had the time to run up any drawers and devoid of a full petticoat, the underpinnings included a corset and boned bustle, so the style was not merely superficial. I actually really enjoyed the elegance of it all and found myself quite reluctant to change once we’d returned home. Indeed, I considered popping up to the supermarket in full Victorian splendour, much to the chagrin of my DS, who was mortified that people would point and comment. Not, in my or DD’s opinion a suffiently valid argument against going, but as it turned out I had to pick up DH later in the car and didn’t want to crush my pouf, so I reluctantly returned to the 21st century.
The trip itself was actually quite good fun, with us all (adults included) being schooled in a thoroughly no-nonsense Victorian style for half the day. Scratching on slates, learning by repetition and practising our Copperplate hand in copybooks using dipping pens. Even most of the adults, unaccustomed to using real ink these days, had impressively ink-stained hands and I observed many a child subsequently devouring blue food for lunch, so bad was the fallout. Neither DD nor myself were inky, but then, she is named for the Empress, so perhaps belongs in that elegant era rather more than her classmates.
Of course, at no time was Her Majesty referred to as the Empress of India and there was a curious absence of that iconic Victorian map of the world, i.e, the British Empire in all its pink and pompous glory. A victory for modern apologists, no doubt, and a sad symptom of the lack of pride (and often faint embarassment) in the achievements of this country in that era. How far from those days we have sunk – that once an entire Empire could be run by a mere handful of people and now an army of civil servants and MPs can’t run this small country competently. Perhaps it was a mistake to abandon sitting up straight, zero tolerance for misbehaviour and the shame of public humiliation for failure to do one’s best or learn. I move that we stand him in a corner in a dunce hat and chant at Gordon, “Dunce. Dunce. Double D. Doesn’t know Economy”. It probably won’t help, but it would feel good!