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Category Archives: Hallmarks of Sophistication

Coming from a relatively poor part of town a lot of the women I knew when I was a kid ‘did cleaning’ in the bigger houses on the hill. Observing Ma Kartoshka’s daily rituals I couldn’t figure out how they had the time to do this. Ma made the maintenance of our own modest 5 room house into a 50 hour a week occupation. The old lady who looked after me when I was little sometimes took me with her on her cleaning jobs. She was a widow and seemed delicately old (she would, I reckon, have been about 65 at the time). I would sit in the dauntingly large rooms, chilly and high ceilinged as she sped around with an antique vacuum (itself a novelty)- the bag blown voluptuously full. She looked the part, in a pink checked tabard with a scarf knotted around her head. Auntie- why can’t Mr and Mrs so and so do their own cleaning?… the question seemed ridiculous to her. But I imagined that only people who were very old or very ill would need this sort of help. It was only as I got older and girls I knew began to take up such jobs that I realised. The rich were buying leisure time- in fact they were buying the leisure time of the poor…
So I’m quite ashamed to say that I regard having a cleaning lady as a hallmark of sophistication. I wonder if the Kartoshka pad would actually benefit? What good could she do, moving carefully amid the piles of clutter?

On reflection what I probably want is a housekeeper– forget the present pad- some other spacious eccentric apartment, with a matronly Mrs Hudson type installed downstairs to appear with tea and cakes at regular intervals. Elementary!

Rina Zelenaya: There’s a young lady to see you, Mr Kartoshka
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My uncle was a lover of new technology, particularly in the field of home entertainment. He was the first person I knew to own a colour television. Not all the programmes were broadcast in colour, of course. But the first time I saw the colour TV I was mesmerised. It seems hard to believe in these high definition days that the majority of ordinary people settled for monochrome sets well into the 1970’s.

When was Colour TV introduced in your country? Check the list…
1950 United States
1958 Cuba (suspended until 1975 following the 1959 revolution)
1960 Japan
1963 Mexico
1966 Philippines, Canada ( Colour broadcasts from the United States were available from 1953)
1967 United Kingdom, France, West Germany
1968 Soviet Union, Netherlands
1969 Denmark, Ireland (Colour broadcasts from United Kingdom available from 1967)
1970 Sweden
1971 Yugoslavia, Belgium, Poland
1972 Brazil
1973 New Zealand
1975 Australia, Spain
1977 Italy colour broadcasts were available from abroad since 1967.
1980 Portugal, Argentina
1981 South Korea
1982 Pakistan, India
1984 Turkey

Helena Antonaccio (born March 21, 1949 in Morristown, New Jersey) was Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Month for the June 1969 issue.
Here she demonstrates conservation of momentum and energy…
In 1967 English actor Simon Prebble coined the name ‘Newton’s Cradle’ (now used generically) for a version of the device that demonstrates conservation of momentum and energy, manufactured by his company, Scientific Demonstrations Ltd . Harrods of London stocked the model, effectively creating the executive toy market.

Back in the late 1960s I had some relations whose home was far more like the homes that you saw on TV or in the movies than our house was.
They had a colour TV, a ‘studio couch’ (without arms- coarse brown plaid fabric), dynamic looking lightshades, a ‘hi-fi’ with seperate loudspeakers (we had a radiogram), an aquarium, a shaggy rug, ice cubes…
I took all of these things to be the hallmarks of sophistication, signs that these people had somehow escaped from the austerity in which my branch of the family seemed terminally stuck.
But of these trappings the one that I have the strongest memory is the soda siphon.

Theirs was dark green (the model above dates from 1965). Funnily though, I don’t think that anybody in the household drank. My cousin and I would play with it, shooting fizzing jets of disapointingly bland and dusty water into sturdy green pimpled tumblers. Other than that I don’t think it ever got used.


We collected the empty gas capsules though, and employed them in our Airfix armageddons as weapons of mass destruction, which we ominously called Doom Bombs or Blockbusters.