The curly writing underneath this charming little scene says, 'Returning home at one in the morning.'
It's another of my mother's ornaments, saved from the clearance when my parents' house was sold.
I was never, never going to let this one go anywhere except my house. It always fascinated me.
Originally, it belonged to my mother's step-father. After he died, my grandmother didn't want it and my mother, who'd always liked it, took it home with her.
She called it 'the fairing', which I didn't understand. Mom explained that ornaments like it were given away as prizes at fairs. It's about a hand-span high, and made of some cheap, heavy china.
As a child, I was fascinated by its miniatureness. I used to love peering into the little bed, with its curtains, pillow, sheets and coverlet. I loved the fact that there was a little chair for the husband to be dragged over, and a little po rolling from under the bed.
Since PC didn't exist in my childhood, I hardly noticed that it showed a scene of domestic violence - something unknown in my immediate family. I thought it was funny. The little wife was beating her little husband because he'd come home at one in the morning! And the weaker woman was beating the stronger man - hilarious! (As a child, I'm glad to be able to say, I found newspaper accounts of husbands beating wives (or vice-versa) and parents beating children, flatly unbelievable - as unbelievable as pigs flying. It was simply outside my experience. This little ornament seemed quaint, as one showing a horse riding a man might, or a mouse chasing a cat.)
The husband's kicking foot has been broken off, and whatever the woman was beating him with - a slipper? a rolling pin? frying pan? - has also disappeared. Although it's an antique, I don't need to be told that it isn't worth anything.
|Aren't those natty pyjamas?|
I was intrigued by a display in York Museum, though. They had many, many fairings, of all sizes, some a foot square. Some were coloured like the one pictured here, others were blue, or pink, or yellow all over. Several were plainly from the same series as 'One in the Morning' with similar characters. But they didn't seem to have a single example of 'One in the Morning.'
Perhaps that particular scene wasn't popular? I imagine it was mostly women who chose these fairings, and in a time when wife-beating was common and accepted, perhaps not many woman thought it was funny, even with the roles reversed? (My Grandfather and Great-Grandfather Price were considered unusual in that they didn't hit either their wives or children. Indeed, my Grandfather told his son, my father: 'Only a coward hits somebody weaker than himself.')
I was only told, as a child, that my maternal grandmother 'hadn't wanted' the fairing after her husband died. When I was older I learned that he used to beat her. Maybe that was why she didn't want to give it house-room?
It will continue to be safe in my house, but I have to admit that I find it more sinister now than I used to. It doesn't seem so charming, and not nearly as funny. But it's of its time, and teaches us something about that time.