rarely noticed they were there and then one day they were
gone. With no fanfare or mourning, with barely a wistful word
spoken, the pelmet disappeared from our lives. An entire industry
was silently buried. Men were laid off. Had those pelmet makers
been miners or steelworkers, there would have been protests;
demos, questions in the House. Dick Gaughan would have written
a song and Billy Bragg would have done benefit gigs.
The pelmet, for those too young to recall, was a simple enclosure
built of light wood and designed to conceal the tops of curtains.
Why – no-one knows. Some say it was a throwback: the
final chapter in a story of Victorian reserve. A reminder
of times when shapely table legs were thought to ignite arousal
and the tops of curtains represented the upper part of female
thighs. (Indeed, short skirts are occasionally referred to
as pelmets). But as times changed and morals loosened and
little girls began to dress like prostitutes, there was no
place for pelmets and their semiotics. It was as if the pelmet
understood that it no longer had any function in these new,
permissive times. So it withdrew from public life and now
lives quietly in a retirement home, reminiscing with it’s
old friends the valance, the antimacassar and the toilet roll
doll with the crocheted skirt.
I’d like to see them return. And not just for the statement
they make on our society. Let’s not forget that the
pelmet was once king of the furnishings: it sat higher than
any other thing in your room, it’s lofty position and
demeanour lending some grandeur to even the most modest of
homes. It’s physical location, it’s regal attitude
and it’s arcane functions were rivalled by nothing.
Except cornicing. But that’s a whole other discourse.