Thank Goodness We Don’t Have to Do that Anymore: Hire Decorative Hermits

You know how, when you are a British noble in the eighteenth century, and you are redoing your landscaping and you’ve got Capability Brown doing the design and are adding some nice fountains and follies, but somehow it’s still just missing something? What if…you just hired a living human to come and be a hermit on your property? That would be just the ticket, right?

It sounds a bit nuts, but ornamental hermits were a fad among the rich in both England and France for a while in the 1700 and 1800s!

It had to do with a romantic notion of sadness and meditation, and what better to remind you of that than having a person act it out in your presence? Hermit grottos would be built as part of the landscaping design and then men would be hired to come in and be the hermit- often for quite a lot of money. But they would have to agree to grow out their hair and beards and not trim their nails. Sometimes they would be asked to dispense wise words to visitors and sometimes they would be silent in more of a living diorama. Some hermits would stay as long as seven years or more.

I first came across the concept in one of those reality shows where people have to live for months like they are in a historical time period- this one was called Regency House Party and they had an actor playing the garden hermit. At the time I was just like, oh yeah, the hermit, that makes sense in this wacky world where they take baths according to rank, using the same water for each person. But now, I look back on it and I’m like, WHAT? It’s such a strange concept. It really makes garden gnomes and flamingos look very rational and charming!

Unscandalous Bed Manners

I bought a book called Bed Manners: A Very British Guide to Boudoir Etiquette which is a 2014 reprint of a 1936 book and I was dying to find out people could possibly have been printing in the 1930s about bed manners. It turns out that it’s much less salacious than the title implies. Though, thankfully it doesn’t pretend that people don’t share a bed (married people, only, natch): “Your first shock will come from the discovery that even the nicest person…is actually a skeleton most insufficiently padded at the forehead, chine, shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees.”

It offers pretty good advice in dealing with common shared-bed problems such as The Encroacher; The Human Caterpillar (aka Blanket Stealers); Readers-, Talkers-, and Eaters-In-Bed. And the sort of things you will have to decide on in a shared bedroom- what kind of bed, how much light, how much fresh air, noise, what/how many pillows, what time to get up, and how cold or warm.

It also recommends a great deal of consideration for your partner- picking up your clothes as you get undressed and putting them away, not blowing your nose on your sheets or putting your dirty shoes on them, wearing nice looking nightclothes, and brushing your teeth.

Of course there are some fun outdated bits about how unappealing hair curlers and face cream are to a new husband who has never seen such a thing before. Or about how much women love hot water bottles (…this may not be SO far outdated as I have one [heart shaped!] that I love, though I will concede that I am sometimes quirkily outdated).

Some other choice chapters:

  • Berth Control in the Railway Sleeping Car
  • Bed Manners in a Country House
  • How to be a Charming Invalid
  • How to make a Hospital Proud of You
  • Simple Rules for Subtle People


How to Choose a Venue for Your Party

I recently went to a birthday party with about 20 people attending at a bar that was supposed to be so quiet that the bartenders shushed the room when it started to get too loud. It was fine, but I started wondering if we were being rude by inflicting a party like that one a venue that was clearly not that into it (not so against it that they would kick us out, however). So that got my thinking about how to choose a venue for your birthday or get together or whatever that would suit the kind of party you want to have without creating an undue burden on the establishment or the other patrons.

So some thoughts:

  • Make sure the venue is adequately sized for your party, don’t try to squeeze 50 people into a 500 square foot bar. Likewise don’t try to get them into a restaurant with seating for 25.
  • Try to give a heads up- see if you can reserve a room or some tables at a bar, get a reservation at a restaurant. (Be kind to your gets and don’t take a huge group to a restaurant with no reservations and a 3 hour wait to accomodate your size!)
  • Don’t take a rowdy group to a sedate spot where you are going to significantly annoy the other patrons.
  • Try to choose a spot with a wide variety of drinks or food- an all beer bar or an all fish restaurant is going to be rough for some people (me, it will be rough for me).
  • Consider the cost. Maybe you can afford to down $20 cocktails all night (especially since your friends will likely try to buy them for you), but unless you know that’s your crowd’s level, maybe consider bringing it down a couple notches so everyone can participate with ease.
  • Possibly try to hold your event on a less popular night and or time when things are less crowded and your group is more able to fit into the place you want.

Obviously these are super loose guidelines- do what you want! But you are probably going to have a more successful event if you follow them somewhat.