Sofa so good if you want an illicit affair
Antiques Uncovered BBC2
"ANTIQUES," asks historian Lucy Worsley, "what do we really know about them?"
Not much, Lucy. Although I consider myself an expert on the heyday of the pub ashtray, 1970-74.
Worsley, an effervescently upper crust sort who's threatening to usurp Kirstie Allsopp in my affections, makes the valid point that one man's antique was once another's cutting edge household item.
Fixed fee sales package for any residential property, just £325 +vat. Includes listing on all major portals e.g. Rightmove & Zoopla, floorplans, photos, for sale board, etc. Call for more details.
Terms: All prices subject to VAT. Terms and Conditions apply. E&OE.
Contact: 01782 900100
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
That elephant's foot umbrella stand you've got by the front door was once all the rage at Ye British Home Stores.
Worsley took us back to when the sofa first appeared.
"The sofa gets its name from 'suffah'," she informed us, "an Arabic word that means 'long stuffed seat for reclining'." You can see why retailers went for the shorter version. Long Stuffed Seat For Reclining City just doesn't have the same ring to it.
Originally seen as a 'day bed', the sofa led to the new habit of lolling in one's own home, a practice which reached its peak under the Thatcher government when three million had little choice.
It was felt okay to loll, said Worsley, "but perhaps you shouldn't if you've got guests." It's a message I've been trying to drum into our children – you really shouldn't still be in your underpants watching Ben 10 when the vicar calls.
The arrival of the sofa was a bigger moment in Britain's social history than you might first have thought.
"It led to new forms of flirtatious behaviour," claimed Worsley. "For the first time men and women could sit in close proximity to each other instead of in separate chairs."
Except if they were married, when they had a sofa each.
"Luxurious fabrics and upholstery could be seen as titillating," added Worsley, "even encouraging of adultery."
I have to admit I've yet to be titillated by upholstery. Call me slow, but I don't quite see the connection between Velour and having an affair.
Elsewhere, Worsley joined collectables expert Mark Hill to investigate the origins of tea drinking.
"Everybody became addicted to tea," she said of its 18th century origins. "It was described as a fatal liquor." Some of the supermarket own brands are still like that.
Hill, meanwhile, had decamped to the Gladstone Pottery Museum, where master potter Kevin Millward revealed how the emergence of high-quality heat resistant bone china, available only to a wealthy elite, had led to a debate about tea-making styles that still rages today – milk first or nay.
"Poor people would put the milk in first so the cup wouldn't shatter," he said,
It's still possible for us oiks to look regal, though – add hot tea to a Jubilee mug.