Mrs Laz Writes…
Our columnist ponders the sudden revival in traditional rural living.
The undisputed breakout trend of lockdown is Cottagecore (or ‘#cottagecore’ to be more specific). You may think you don’t know what this is. But even if you’ve been spared the hashtag itself, you haven’t escaped the vibe. Cottagecore has been seeping into everything during this spell at home. Inspirationally slow, idealised country living pairs perfectly with the desperation daydreaming of lockdown. Days of not being stuck inside four walls with screaming children or existential angsts: instead, heady dreams of lounging outside in a poppy-filled meadow, eating cucumber sandwiches with kittens and Mariah Carey. Alright, not Mariah. But you get the gist. Think being sat around embroidered tablecloths for a rustic tea outside, while eating baked apple pies with home grown produce from your orchard (which FYI mustn’t overlook a road, or any neighbours for that matter); it’s wearing an A-line skirt like Sandy in Grease and only having gentle conversations about knitting, or topiary.
Why are so many women aspiring to ‘downspire’? We’ve spent a hundred years (two hundred if we count La Wollstonecraft as our high priestess) trying to free ourselves from the shackles of servitude to the Patriarchy… What on Earth are we doing thinking it’s a good idea to idealise country living from a bygone age? Call me a twat but I have issues with this ‘building aesthetic movement’ as The New York Times describes it.
The Office of National Statistics tells us that during lockdown 68% of women shouldered the burden of home-schooling, as opposed to 52% of men. Young girls of 14–25 reported they were doing 69% of the cleaning and tidying at home as opposed to 58% of boys the same age. When we know the burden of running the home has fallen largely on women how come we’re dreaming of a life gone by, where women washed clothes with a mangle and cooked on an open fire?
Let’s actually break this down. Doing the washing in my Whirlpool might not look sexy on Insta but I can get a load washed and dried in just over two hours.
Scrubbing smalls in the sink with a pumice stone, washing in the tin tub and then pegging on the line in the orchard is likely to take up most of your day and then you’ve got to strangle the chicken, pluck it and put it in the Rayburn to slow cook for dinner. Are you fucking kidding me? Has anyone actually thought this through? I like a floral print as much as the next woman but let’s consider what upholding the plaudits of baking over a right to equal pay really means.
We may well be feeling a little lacking in identity post-Brexit, post-Trump, post-pandemic. But we seem to be gravitating towards the Tradwives uniform without fully understanding what we’re doing. A past where things were easy and happy and good is just a romanticised notion; ‘traditional’ values leads us quickly down a path to subjugation and white supremacy before we’ve even had time to print out a still from The Sounds of Music and whack it on the fridge.
And another thing. I grew up in the countryside. Having left those rural racists behind, I’m none too excited to get back to the barley and listen to why everyone voted for Brexit.
The Countryside is beautiful, yes. But I’ve never seen the countryside that exists in #cottagecore. The rural countryside that I know is poor, and largely forgotten, with bad education and few employment opportunities. We may laugh at Daisy May-Cooper in This Country (which if you haven’t seen it, do) but that limited world really does exist. When I was a kid, fun was had by killing animals, stealing cars and heavy drinking. No one was making jam in a gingham dress.
I do get it. it’s been lovely ‘crafting’ over lockdown. Not scheming like the Artful Dodger – I mean making a rocket out of toilet roll, or a model of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon with wire coat hangers and BluTack. People are leaving our cities in droves for The Good Life and I fully understand the thirst for a simpler existence. But let’s be wary of those Internet posts of a carefully placed tulip vase fashioned out of a tortoise and glazed on a pottery course. Yes, it does look lovely against the backdrop of floral chintz but let’s not lazily step back in time without really considering what we mean by this. I would like to retain the right to vote and to work. I would also like running water and electricity.
Mrs L Likes
I really like saying the word ‘Knole'. And I want to live in Bridgeton or sit next to John Malkovitch in Dangerous Liaisons. Both are possible if you have a Knole.
Torres Premium Potato Chips
Up front, I have to confess: they cost nearly £5 a bag. They make me hate myself a little bit for buying them but as I crunch my way through the middle-class guilt of a truffle flavoured offering, I seem to forget this.
Revived on Comedy Central. What a theme tune. And why don’t we have more montages in dramas today? And more people running in swimwear. Cinematic genius.
Mrs L Loathes
A certain Mr L loves a bit of this. In bed, whilst watching tv, at the kitchen table, in the bath. Have you seen Anne Wilkes in Misery? Yes people, I will.
People droning on about taking a holiday, not taking a holiday, why they can’t holiday, why they can take a holiday, when they will take a holiday, who they’ll take on the holiday. What a snore. We’re just happy to be alive people, let’s just start with that and move forward one day at a time.
The Great Pottery Throw Down
Season 4 has ended and I am bereft. Waiting to see if a grown man cries over clay is a genius concept for prime time tv. Will season five happen?!