Friday, May 8, 2009

Country Life: For members of the custard pie appreciation consortium

This librarian's knowledge of the English countryside is more or less based on 60's Kinks records (kudos if you caught the reference in the post title) and, of course, Hot Fuzz (2007). This means that I have an incomplete and probably very inaccurate sense of the culture associated with folks living in rural England. You can imagine, then, my surprise and delight at discovering a magazine that pretty much confirms every assumption I've ever had about life in the English countryside.

If tweed jackets, game birds, retriever dogs, and ivy are your things, I recommend taking a look at the Magazines and Newspapers Center's collection of Country Life. An English lifestyle magazine (Southern Living is a rough American equivalent), Country Life immerses readers in an old-fashioned world of genteel manners, plenty of fresh air, and slate roofs.

Readers can discover tips for gardening and entertaining, news and trends in the world of land-owning English people, features about hunting and equestrian sports, and gossip. From my perspective here in the New World, this countryside is the stuff of fairy tales.

Based on my reading of the magazine, I should warn you that you may not understand exactly what the writers in Country Life are talking about. Take, as an example, the captions to an illustration explaining four things one should not say when visiting friends in the country, taken from the February 4, 2009 issue:

  1. "Oh, it's raining!"
  2. "I do hope it's pheasant."
  3. "It must cost a fortune to heat."
  4. "I so long for an aga." (ed. note -- I don't know what an "aga" is either.)
In each cartoon, the person being told the above statement goes into a rage. I think I get number 3, but I can't imagine why I shouldn't say the others. (If you have any insight, feel free to share it in the comments section.) Until I get the hang of this, I'll have to make sure I keep my mouth shut next time I visit Gosford Park to go hunting.

That said, the mystery (Why tweed? What is bird ringing?) adds to the experience of peeking in to the English countryside life. If you're curious, stop by the Magazines and Newspapers Center and take a look.


1 comment:

Marianaria Sra. bibliotecaria said...

An Aga is a name for a stove/oven that, I think, uses convection heat. It's what the Brits call up-market, hence the envy in the comment.

Novels such as most of Joanna Trollope's are sometimes referred to in Britain as Aga sagas, meaning novels featuring upper-middle class women.

The "oh it's raining" comment is annoying because a) it's raining most of the time even where the people came from; b) it implies the visitor came more for the activities than for the people.