Saturday, 28 December 2013

Returning Home At One In The Morning

          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.


Leslie Wilson said...

Yes, indeed. I think there was quite a lot of ribaldry about this kind of spouse abuse. And indeed the couple might well be given rough music (a skimmington, wasn't it?' for transgressing the approved mode of marital violence. I've seen pictures of that kind of thing. Really interesting blog, Sue!

Susan Price said...

Thanks Leslie! - It was one of those where I didn't know what I thought until I read what I'd written! I started off just writing about a fairing that had belonged to my mother and I was fond of. I was quite surprised by the other thoughts on it that came to me!

Katherine Roberts said...

You do realise it's worth about fifty grand at auction...?

Not really - have no idea! But it's the kind of thing that always looks as if it's worth nothing much and then turns out to be the star of Antiques Roadshow, so you never know! Have you checked this website:

Susan Price said...

That's a fascinating site, Kath. All human life is in those fairings. They would be wonderful things to collect, if I had either the space or money. None of them looked remotely like mine, though - in fact, my guess would be that they are all much older.
I did find ones very like mine by searching for 'one in the morning, fairing.' The pictures that came up were pretty obviously the same style and subject - made in Bohemia, Leslie - but every one was slightly different. A slightly different pose, or colouring. The po in a slightly different position.
I was vexed than in none of the photos could I make out what the woman had in her hand.
The value seemed to be something between £20-£30, even when broken like mine. So mine is still safe, Add a couple of noughts to the sun and I might start to be tempted.

=Tamar said...

I looked on Google Images and found several similar ones. The one at rubylane dot com had the best image of an object in her hand, which was fairly blobby but was painted red on one side and beige on the other; her left slipper was also red and her right foot didn't seem to have a slipper on it. One other also showed the painted-vs-unpainted foot. Another image, from ebay dot ie, showed a different mold on the same theme and in that one it was very definitely a blue slipper. The man's hand is always protecting his backside, so I think she is spanking him with a slipper. Of all the images, all but one show the po under her feet, not his; there was only one of a totally different format, in which he clearly was on the floor having tripped over the po, the way all the descriptions describe the scene.

=Tamar said...

P.S. Or, of course, there might have been versions with a hairbrush, a rolling pin, or even just an empty raised fist. But the slipper is more demeaning, as it was used on children.

Susan Price said...

Tamar - thank you! I really enjoyed your comment. It made me look at my own 'One in the Morning' more closely. My woman seems to be completely bare-foot (although part of one of her feet is chipped off. As is the man's hand protecting his backside.) It's good to know that it was a slipper in her hand - and I like your point about a slipper being demeaning because it was used on children. I hadn't thought of that.
I saw several different images online, on different sites, such as ebay and other auction sites. They all seemed to be subtly different. The woman would be in a slightly different position - more side on, or more straight on. The po would be beside one of her feet instead of between them. The bed covers and pyjama stripes would be in different colours.
Perhaps the components were made separately and assembled, and so were never put together in exactly the same way. I'm guessing, though. I don't know if that would be possible.