Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Finger Waggers

Being a great lover of old books , the older the better ,I have a special love for what I call -‘Finger-Wagging’- books. You know the kind –written way back when - by an expert in his /her particular field , cookery , household management, child-rearing , etc;. Books full of good old fashioned ,no-nonsense advice ,sometimes with amusing outmoded information: sometimes with somewhat worrying healthcare advice, and often so full of timeless wisdom and guidance that vintage is irrelevant.


At this point ,I have collected quite a few of these books  and I’ve no doubt I will continue to do so. Nothing on earth can send a mad frenzy of excitement rushing through my veins as effectively as entering a second –hand bookstore. Now, if this store happens to be a newly discovered one  –on my part-  my physical symptoms become so exaggerated , I almost need a brown paper bag to practise my re-breathing techniques in order to regain a semblance of equilibrium and restore my respirations and pulse-rate to normal.

One word of advice though , for those of you who may be fortunate enough to catch this incurable bug-- well actually two words of advice;


1/ Go alone , there is no room for passengers on such an expedition.

2/ If you must have company, choose your company very very carefully . Lay down the ‘ Ground -Rules ‘ clearly and firmly. Something along the lines of the following should be appropriate:

‘’If you must accompany me into this book- store , please remember.....

a/  Don’t speak to me ,unless I speak first and it is clear that I require an answer. I may have simply asked myself a rhetorical question, in which case you have no business answering.

b/  Do not show me the ‘wonderful’ book you have just found, on some obscure subject, in which I have absolutely no interest.

c/ Do not show me a book which you think ‘I’ should buy.

d/ Do not show me a book ,which ,in my distracted state  - probably because you are there -  I have missed, and now I cannot buy it because you intend doing so. ‘’

Above is a brief guideline ,however, in time you will become more adept at dealing with these situations ,after all you simply must  have learnt  something from your ‘Finger–Wagging ‘ books.



Choosing A Book:

Choosing which book you should buy can be both an exhilarating and a stressful experience . There is no substitute for practise ,in fact you should always remember the three essential P’s of buying old ‘Finger- Wagging’ books....practise ,practise and practise.
Should you –as often happens to newbies - make a total error of judgement in your purchase, all is not lost, after all, it is an old book; just wrap it up in nice birthday/Christmas paper and give it to a less discerning friend/colleague/aunt as the little old charming treasure you ' found.'

The use of the word ‘found’ is essential here , never say 'bought'  in this situation; the word bought reduces the art of choosing and acquiring  a good ol ''Finger-Wagging'  book to a somewhat vulgar status. Remember, buying charming old books must never ever be construed with vulgarity in any form . Often the true pedigree of the book- collector can be instantly spotted by his/her unfamiliarity with that most appropriate of words ‘’found’’.

In fact , I would go so far as to say this applies to all collectors , from books to paintings to ...you name it........

Here are some all- essential guidelines ( where would we be without guidelines?) to choosing that good old ‘Finger –Wagging’ book.

1/ Size is not that important, but it’s hard to beat a big old ‘Tome’ where the wagging finger moves like a metronome to the beat of the endless wisdom and advice liberally dispensed.

2/ Assumptions  on the part of the author ie, The author assumes the reader knows absolutely  nothing about the subject and so goes to great lengths to explain the most basic details. In fact , the only barrier to an average 5 year old making a full five-course meal for six might be the risk of getting burnt ,cut ,or falling off a chair. Otherwise , it would be plain sailing.

3/  Another big assumption on the part of the  emiment 'Finger-Waggers' is  that the reader is female (as indeed it usually was) and anything she learns is primarily to make her husband a very happy man who will be less inclined to moan about how ‘Mother’ used to cook.

4/ Admonishment , now that’s a lovely word . The author admonishes the reader constantly and of course aims to correct carelessness, ignorance, laziness , extravagance , all traits which the proper housewife /housekeeper / mother must not have in order to manage her household to a sufficiently high standard.Finger-Wagging raised to a fine art.


But  often I find some brilliant household hints and recipes .So even if you don't need to 'oil your mackintosh' or learn the exact quantities of turnips you need  to make- 'Soup for benevolent purposes'-Over the next few blogs I'd love to take the opportunity to wag a finger at you. Pay attention please.

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