Fobbing Off Pt.II

Interesting and totally practical alternatives to the pocket watch – Part II

So, you’re back? You’ve perhaps tried out some of my previous suggestions and now you’ve returned because, most likely, what you want is something really useful. Sure the conversations sparked off by a useless old rusty key have been entertaining, but you’re a man (or woman) of action and you need actions to speak louder than words. Well then, just picture the scene…

You’re at a wedding. It’s June, and the happy couple have been blessed with beaufitul sunshine. You’ve enjoyed a reception on the lawn of a beautiful country house, perhaps you had some canapés while you were out there, but now you are sitting indoors ploughing through a huge meal and listening to endless speeches, guffawing on cue to anecdotes about the groom’s minor sexual indiscretions. But something’s wrong! The slowly setting sun is beating down with all its force and some people on your table are beginning to feel hot an uncomfortable. An elderly relative looks ready to faint. You realise there’s only one sensible course of action: to open a window and let in a little air.

Luckily, there is a sizeable sash window very near to your table, you can easily edge over to it and open it just enough to provide your fellow guests with the comfort afforded by a soft breeze without distracting any attention from the ongoing festivities. Sometimes, these old sash windows have been painted closed, but you’re lucky enough that this one slides open with ease. Satisfied, you go to return to your seat but – CALAMITY! The window slides closed again! Tentatively, you open the window a second time, this time trying to balance it in place but, no sooner have you released your grip on it than it has slammed closed. People are starting to notice, you panic, break down in tears in before the gaze of the assembled throng, and the bride never forgives you as long as she lives.

Is this you? If so, what you really need is a…

Patent Metal Window Wedge

This design is patented, to please don't think you can make anything even resembling this yourself, despite its obvious retail desirability.


That’s right, you’re probably wondering why you never thought of it yourself. This design was registered by a gentleman named Watt, who was a prolific inventor not just of window wedges, no, but of doorstops too. This is among his simplest and most elegant designs. You just wedge it in the runner of a sash window and voila! Instant and secure comfort and air. The secret is that it’s not just any old material, it’s metal. Yes, reader, metal. This particular example came, I believe, from a carriage of the Columbus and Greenville Railway. Sometimes I wonder how I would ever breathe without it.

I know what you’re thinking. If I’m going to have something completely pointless attached to my clothing by a chain, it might as well be beautiful, rather than purely functional, regardless of indispensable practicality. Well then, perhaps it is time to take a peek into the dazzling world of enamel!

Empire Theatre 1912 Medal

"Here's my enamel thing, please show me to my box."

It might have occurred to you by now that I’m just using photos of stuff I like and building some kind of edifying and instructive narrative around them in order to fill blog space. Luckily, even if you’ve just rumbled me, you can’t fail to fall for the charms of this rather attractive piece of early C20th champlevé enamel. I’m not entirely sure what it was for, possibly to identify members of the theatre who had bought seats by subscription; unfortunately I don’t think it will get me free access to what is now the Empire Cinema on Leicester Sq. In any case, it’s pretty interesting and very pleasing to the eye and, well, I’ll be writing a lot more on early C20th enamel accessories in another post.

And finally – yes I’m scraping the barrel somewhat – something that wouldn’t under normal circumstances have been worn on a watch chain at all, but still most probably in a waistcoat pocket, so it qualifies:

Negretti & Zambra Folding Pince-nez

'Pince-nez' is actually not French at all, but Latin for 'ridiculous'

Pince-nez are without a doubt among the most impractical and campest eye-wear in the history of optometric innovation. However, if they were good enough for George Grossmith, they’re good enough for me (to keep in a my pocket and never put anywhere near my face.) A certain amount of pleasure can be found in the ritual of removing them from a pocket, unfolding them with care and clipping them carefully onto one’s nose before scrutinising some proffered item of interest. This is especially effective if anybody you are with is in some kind of hurry. Incidentally, Negretti & Zambra were one of the premiere makers of scientific and optical instruments in the late C19th. COOL BEANS!

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2 Comments

Filed under Accessories, Morning Dress

2 responses to “Fobbing Off Pt.II

  1. Tony Bell

    I wrote before.. Your comments re” pince-nez are in error. Pince-nez. especially the rimless type were the most popular + stylish eyewear from 1880 t0 1920 era especially for young people. Fitting a pince-nez to the individuals nose bridge was a skill… pince-nez eyeglasses came in a huge variety of sizes…properly fitted a pince-nez remained securely, yet comfortably attached to the bridge of the nose at all times… many wore a pince-nez without cords, chains or other “safety” devices. Pleasecheck out PINCE-NEZ RENAISSANE blog/site for the only detailed + accurate info anywhere re: pince-nez…there are many photos there also under flickr.com

  2. Hi Tony,

    Thanks for your comment. You certainly have some interesting ideas about Pince-Nez. Nevertheless, I fail to see exactly how I was “in error” with any of my remarks, as nothing that you’ve said seems to relate to, or contradict, anything that I’ve written. I suppose that you’re taking offence to my calling them impractical – to which I would venture that secure attachement to the bridge of one’s nose isn’t to my mind the only criterion on which practicality ought to be judged.

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