When I flicked through Pauline E Metcalfe's Syrie Maugham (pub. Acanthus Press 2010) there was something about its glamour that reminded me of my mother's bridge friends in the English provinces when I was growing up in the 50s. I particularly loved Dorothy, Beryl, Gay, Mary and Heather who left their scented fur coats and Jacqmar scarves on the banisters and played cards with manicured hands in deathly silence, save for the the murmur of the bidding. Nobody lived in particularly recherché houses but something about their well-groomed silkiness and face-powder, their nail polish, their patent leather or crocodile shoes chimed with the high-gloss effects of some of Syrie's rooms. I was nostalgic too for my mother's pale blue satin dressing gown on the back of the bathroom door. On the strength of that, I bought the book.
Then I looked again. Oh dear. The curtains above were made for her daughter Lisa Paravicini but not sure if I could have lived with this hemming that puts one in mind of pair of lounging pajamas that have come into contact with the bathroom floor.
Who was Syrie Maugham's upholsterer, I can't help wondering. It's tricky stuff but they made a pig's ear of this valance n'est ce pas?
Just because these rooms [above and below] were created for wondrously camp old Stephen Tennant at the fabled Wilsford Manor, there's no excuse to dress the occasional chairs in bargain rail party frocks.
You'd be forgiven for thinking this was a Nevada chicken ranch.. The taste is not even amusingly execrable and one might spend one's spare time twitching the corners of the bed cover to align the corners. I'm not even an obsessive person.
Now what's going on here? I love the organdie curtains but the pelmet treatment is nothing short of a tragic stab at things. Sort of thing your teenage daughter might do with a staple gun on a night when her boyfriend was playing football.
Another bout of juvenilia. Sorry Syrie, but that stool just won't do.
If anyone needed reminding, this is what Syrie Maugham was capable of and rightly celebrated for. It's all a bit of a puzzle.