by JAMILA RIZVI
It’s the ultimate topic for dinner party conversation: If you could go back and live during any era in time, which would it be?
Now obviously, for those of us who don’t have time machines (or a hot tub, as that’s what the kids are apparently using for time travel these days), this is a hypothetical question. I get that. But it’s kind of the ultimate hypothetical.
Because who hasn’t watched a film or read a book that is set during a different period and been totally transported to that time or place? The fantasy is at its most vivid when you’re a kid, when you can read a fairytale about a princess living in a castle hundreds of years ago and suddenly you’re that princess, yanking a prince into your bedroom window, using only your hair. Rock on sister.
And that imagination doesn’t disappear when you’re an adult. At least it didn’t for me. When I watch a truly wonderful period television show, I become entranced by the scenery, the costumes, the landscapes, the customs of the day and the characters. So much so that I often disturb the lovely people I live with, by becoming a little too swept up in my own imagination. (Note to reader: Don’t treat your housemates as if they’re your live-in servants).
With the Olympics on at the moment, all eyes are on England. So it got me thinking – which era of British history I would have most liked to be alive to see. I asked a few of the Mamamia writers for their views.
Here’s what Site Manager Nat thought:
There’s a reason historians have always referred to the Elizabethan era as the “golden age”. I would have loved to have been alive and part of the upper hierarchy, soaking up the spoils of the era. In my idealistic mind, it’s all very romantic; ruffly gowns made out of the finest velvet, pink cupcakes on fine china, fluffy slippers and decadent banquets. I am just the kind of person who would bask in their own private castle, complete with marble hallways and classic gold-framed portraits.
Senior Writer Lucy picked a very different era:
I’ve got two words for you. The Beatles. For me it’s London in the late ’60s and early ’70s. Give me Abbey Road, a record player and I think I’d be pretty happy. Add in The Rolling Stones (I’m tapping my feet to (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction right now), and maybe some Jimmy Hendrix and Led Zeppelin and, well, does it get any better? And did someone say mini-skirt? Oh yes. Hello fashion revolution. It’s just yet another reason I’m convinced I was born in the wrong decade.
And what about me? Oh I’m SO GLAD that you asked. It’s not like I was going to let this post come to an end without getting my two cents in. And this is it: England in the 1910s through to the 1920s.
Yep, I know – there was a war going on, roger that, couldn’t have been too much fun for anyone. But this is MY hypothetical so I can imagine prosperity, excessive wealth and a family of sisters and a husband who was too young for national service, can’t I?
My reasons? Well, first things first: the hats. Hats have been around since the first cave man walked outside his cave and realised the sun was shining in his eyes and that made it hard to catch fish for dinner. But the hats during the days of Downton Abbey and of Titanic? Well they were something else. Beautifully crafted, wide brimmed, decked out with ostentatious decorations. And I love a good hat.
Fashions were changing. The period I’ve picked is that fantastic point in time as we turn the corner from the traditional long skirts of the past and go hurtling head first into the flapper era. Shoulders were beginning to go on show (oh my!) and skirts were slowly shortening from floor length, towards revealing a little more ankle and even (ladies hold onto your smelling salts) a bit of calf.
Men still had manners, there were rules governing the process of courtship and I like a little structure in my dating life. For the upper classes (to which of course hypothetical me belongs) there were lovely people employed to turn down your bed, to hem your gowns and to cook you marvelous meals.
What was most interesting is that this was when women were truly coming into their own. The suffragette movement was gaining traction and women were doing wild and radical things like setting fire to mailboxes in their fight to win the right to vote. The war years meant that women’s involvement in life outside the home was forced to become more than merely societal and they were increasingly taking on roles as nurses or even in factories.
I don’t deny that life was pretty tough for some, even, I dare say, for the majority. But when you watch a television series like Downton Abbey, a tiny part of you simply can’t help but wonder what life was like in those days, which gentlemanly Lord-type person you might have snared and – most importantly – what style of hat you would have worn.
To celebrate the release of Downton Abbey Season 2 on Blu-ray and DVD from 1 August 2012, Universal Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and Creative Holidays are giving one lucky Mamma Mia / iVillage reader and a friend a holiday of a lifetime!
You’ve got the chance to win two return flights to London, five nights accommodation in the elegant The Montague On The Gardens 4.5 star hotel in London, a tour of Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey is filmed, a tour of the Oxfordshre village of Bampton and to top it off Downton Abbey series box set on DVD or Blu-ray for you and your friend.
To enter, head on over to this post on iVillage.com.au and answer the multiple choice question correctly.
Please click here for the terms and conditions.
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So go on, tell us – which era of British history is your favourite? When would you most liked to have been alive?