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.