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Who’s kitsch now?

I was watching QI the other night, the one on kitsch – and after about five minutes my daughter looked at me and said, ‘We have to be the kitschiest family, like, ever.’

Really? Like, Ever?

‘I’m not in the slightest kitschy, ‘I said haughtily.

‘Tiffany lamp shades,’ she said. ‘We have millions of those.’

‘Yeah, but they’re not real.’

‘Exactly,’ she said witheringly.


Kitsch, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way. So I suppose fake is more kitsch. If we had real Tiffany lamps, we wouldn’t have them for very long. I would sell them, so I could afford to loll about on a beach in the Maldives while some hunky bloke was standing ready with a strawbarry daiquiri. And that in itself, I have to admit, is pretty kitsch.

‘Lava lamps,’ she said.

‘Yes, but I’ve put most of them in the back bedroom now. Having them all in the living room made us look as if we were weird religious types with an altar by the telly.’

‘But you haven’t thrown them away,’ she went on inexorably. ‘And what about the nodding cat that gives you wishes?’ And all those blue jugs with place names on them?’

‘They’re collectables,’ I said weakly. ‘And I like having a jug called Stansted Mountfitchet.’

‘Toby jugs?’ she said, quick as a flash, and then starting reeling off lists of stuff I’d never even thought of as kitsch. ‘Your pencil case, that pink clock, your tea cosy, egg cosies, for God’s sake, those biscuit tins…’

I  zoned out. The thing is, the person responsible for all this is my mother. Of course. Aren’t mothers to blame for everything? She was the one, when I was a child, who adorned our living room walls with those portraits of green-faced oriental women. She felt they teamed nicely with the carved cedar wood lamp stand (it looks as if it has a dragon twining around it). It was my dad who bought the G plan furniture, though. I’m not sure who started the collection of Bunnikins rabbits and china Disney models from The Lady and the Tramp. By the time I’d got to withering teenage mode I don’t think either of them would admit to buying any of the by-now chipped cutesy figurines, even though they were permanently on display (and religiously dusted).

Back to reality and my daughter was still droning on about my shameless lack of taste. ‘A caravan,’ she said sudddenly. ‘We had a bloody caravan. And you can’t get much more kitsch than that.’

‘We had some good holidays in that,’ I said.

‘It was lined in green brocade,’ she said. ‘With bobble fringes on the pelmets.’

‘Yes, but you cut those off,’ I argued.

‘Because I have good taste,’ she said.

And you can’t really argue with that, she does have good taste. But kitsch is cool right now. The seventies are in. And she has just bought herself a pair of platform sandals in wet-look leather. Cool? Straight out of the fridge, daddio.

kitsch 2

About elainecanham

I started blogging because I'm a writer, and I thought I ought to. Now I realise that I blog because I like to; even when I can't think of much to say.


19 thoughts on “Who’s kitsch now?

  1. A book from a wee way back “The Joneses, How to Keep up With Them” by an author whose name I’ve long forgotten. From memory it was about war between tastes, the trend-setting Joneses and the plebian Robinsons plodding along astern and envious. Worth a look if you can track one down but be warned, I haven’t seen it in decades …

    As for taste: the ultimate lies in “If it feels good, do it~!” married with “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”

    Or innocence, as in Bridget Joneses’ (oh gods, I didn’t realise … never mind, plunging on) Mum with her mini- gherkins (“the height of sophistication”) at that Christmas party.

    Posted by Argus | July 20, 2014, 11:18 am
    • But mini gherkins are the height of sophistication, aren’t they? Sliced on a cracker, natch.

      Posted by elainecanham | July 20, 2014, 11:35 am
    • Mini nuthin’!
      I’m a real man, I want gherkins or nothing!

      Posted by Argus | July 20, 2014, 10:09 pm
    • Yes, but they’re not sophisticated. You can’t wave them about while discussing next door’s new extension.

      Posted by elainecanham | July 20, 2014, 10:44 pm
    • In Sydney once I had a (from memory) ‘dill pickle’ (think gherkin writ large) that was so big just waving it around cleared a path through the prurient (Kings Cross).

      Aaaaah, those were the days, I tell you! Men were men and pickles were PICKLES~! Boom boom! And no sign of a hangover next day …

      Posted by Argus | July 20, 2014, 10:56 pm
  2. Reminds me of when I owned an antiques store. My children said they never knew where the (kitschy) furniture would be when they woke up in the morning- I might have taken it to the store to sell. Who doesn’t need a cat that gives wishes?

    Posted by foundfootageblog.com | April 25, 2014, 3:26 am
  3. Hey Elaine, I nominated you for the versatile blogger award– would you like some blog fodder? stop by!

    Posted by naptimethoughts | March 15, 2014, 8:37 pm
  4. I will go straight to kitsch as you describe it anytime over what is supposedly fashionable. When I manage to be fashionable, I am surprised.

    p.s. I live in a house built in the ’70s. Mission brown doors, trim, etc. everywhere. Save for some boom-era construction that is a bit lacking (like overspanned floors), I love it.

    Posted by jaklumen | January 15, 2014, 9:07 am
    • You’ll have to get a sunburst clock next. Or two. I used to think they were so awful. And then I saw an entire wall covered in them and it looked..magnificent. There’s really no hope for me.

      Posted by elainecanham | January 15, 2014, 9:15 am
  5. It’s hilarious that you’ve kept your lava lamps. I remember one of my more questionable boyfriends had a few lava lamps in his room. They will always remind me of the naughtier days of my youth 🙂

    Posted by jennifer Windram | January 13, 2014, 10:57 pm
  6. Very enjoyable as always! The worst bit about kitsch is getting it as a gift, and having to put it out on display when the donors visit.

    Posted by Bruce Goodman | January 13, 2014, 8:17 pm
  7. You can depend on children to speak it like it is! And 70s kitch is indeed cool again. If only we’d kept our original, now ‘vintage’ platforms.

    Posted by Jools | January 13, 2014, 8:13 pm
  8. I’m locking the front door if your daughter is ever in this neighbourhood. My daughter is just as bad since she claims to be minimalist but I see things creeping in her place all the time and the fashions are straight from the 70’s too.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    Posted by davidprosser | January 13, 2014, 4:36 pm

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