Of the 19 buildings and other sites listed by Historic England in 2020, the seaside shelter in South Cliff Gardens, Scarborough, is by no means the most exciting, however lovely its blue and white design (built between 1897 and 1909, it’s the work of a once eminent local architect called Frank Alfred Tugwell).
But when I was given a preview of the organisation’s annual listing review last week (it will be published on Wednesday), this was the one that called out to me. My love for faded seaside resorts, especially those in the north, where the tea is strong and the sea steely, grows ever more unreasonable with every year that passes.
Oh, Scarborough. In the time of Covid-19, even ordinary places seem so far away, a feeling that gives them a strange, dream-like quality. I was last there 18 months ago, on a day so cold that walking was physically painful – which is how we came to explore the Grand Hotel, a wondrous cliff of a building in the face of whose Victorian confidence and assertion even grumpy old Pevsner was apt to sigh. It’s down on its luck now, of course, and wandering its carpeted halls was melancholy.
Here was a microcosm of Britain, past glories melting into shabbiness. But then we found its palm court ballroom. “We should dance,” I said to my husband, and together, unseen and unembarrassed, we shuffled a waltz, two happy, living things in a space inhabited mostly by ghosts.
Bags of confidence
Before the pandemic is over, will any of the big fashion houses have a go at trying to sell us handbags with dedicated pockets for masks and hand sanitiser? I wondered about this at the V&A last week, where among the exhibits in its new exhibition, Bags: Inside Out, is a leather affair by H. Wald and Co from 1939, whose design incorporates a cylindrical compartment for a gas mask. Fashion’s opportunism makes it, I think, quite easy to imagine a Lady Dior “Virus” or a Chanel “Pandémie”. But in truth, my meditation on the connection between capitalism and crisis turned out to be short-lived.
Moving along, I found myself looking at “Elegance”, a clutch by Caponi from the 1960s that resembles a rolled-up magazine – and excitement rose inside me. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m in possession of an improbably high number of bags (the accessories, as I’m sure you know, make the outfit). Nevertheless, finding a style I own in the collection of a great museum did put a certain swing in my stride. What was once just a whimsical receptacle for the safekeeping of my car keys can now be called an “investment piece” (almost) without irony.
Camping with Nigella
I was bemused at the fuss that followed Nigella Lawson’s TV show on Monday. To me, the sound of her new electric masher is a thousand times more camp than her pronunciation of the word microwave.
Not that I’m knocking it. For years, I was unhappy with my potatoes. If I used a traditional masher, they were lumpy. If I used a ricer, they were cold. Finally, I tried the attachment that came with my hand blender – and my mash has been perfect ever since. OK, it does feel naff. It’s the kind of thing Mrs Slocombe might have talked of using in Are You Being Served? (“You should taste my pomme purée, Mr Humphries.”) But I wouldn’t give up my magic wand now for all the unsalted butter in the world.
• Rachel Cooke is an Observer columnist