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Nonfiction 12

By V. V. Ovchinnikov

ISBN-10: 0080236030

ISBN-13: 9780080236032

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Once inside the home their traditional domestic code with its dogma of ritualised behaviour, comes into force. Yet when the Englishman crosses his doorstep he com­ pletely rids himself not only of his daily cares, but of all forms of external constraint. Within his own four walls he is free to behave as he likes, to do anything he chooses, however odd, provided simply that his bouts of eccentricity do not disturb his neighbours. I once talked to a London journalist, who had lived for many years in the States, about the English ability to regard the home as a completely separate world, and yet at the same time to respect the domestic life of others.

And bathrooms only really became a normal part of daily life just before the war. Many people, the young in particular, simply rubbed them­ selves down instead with a cold sponge wrung out in a basin. And who knows, perhaps such rigorous hardening of the body from an early age is a real necessity in the English climate. On damp winter days it is always surprising how many quite elderly Londoners walk around without a coat, or even in their shirtsleeves. Rather than bothering to run a home, many middle-class Americans prefer to live out their days in boarding houses or hotels - such as are particularly common in California and Florida.

It is normally foreigners rather than English people who prefer to live in the well-built luxury apartment blocks of the West End. Every year at London's O l y m p i a ' there is an "Ideal Home" exhibition. The firms that manufacture furniture, carpets, electrical goods, crockery and the like all demonstrate their new products each trying their hardest to find newer and better ways to make the home more comfortable, cosy, and beautiful than ever. As the visitors leave the exhibition, full of impressions and loaded up with glossy brochures, they sometimes find people distributing small leaflets outside the entrance.

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