The diary of Cecily Graham is the result of many little conversations, happenings and moments of inspiration. For me, 2016 was a year of all things thirties – lots of novels, knitting and days out. It suddenly occurred to me how much I would love to have lived then. I know that it was – for all sorts of people – far from idyllic. Yet there is something about the juxtaposition of modernity and community, of glamour and fair isle pullovers, of hard-nosed reality and the irrepressible optimism of sunburst garden gates.
We hanker after the era in so many little ways. We buy brogues in autumn, and knit woollen cloches to keep us snug through winter. We echo the feminine practicality of those neat day dresses which swished discreetly around the calves. Even the technology of the thirties is exciting and familiar: bakelite telephones, whose ring we still imitate; freewheeling bicycles with wicker baskets; cream agas and butter yellow electric lighting. Everything was organic, and the average family spent a significant proportion of their income on food. Nobody was drowning in plastic; there was very little waste.
For the lucky ones, including Cecily, life was good. The horror of the Great War was beginning to recede, and many people believed that nothing of the sort could ever happen again. They settled into their armchairs at the day’s end with their knitting and the wireless, and dreamed of murder mysteries and country walks.
This is the thirties I want to focus on. I am not an historian, and make no claims about the accuracy of this blog. I want to tell you a story of the way I imagine my life might have been, had I been born eighty-five years earlier – a story which reflects my real one in small but important ways. Because I think I would have been very much at home in the thirties.