Back in my London life, a hundred and something years ago, I jettisoned an unpromising career in advertising and started an interior design business specialising in stencilling and paint finishes. That sounds like some kind of period piece now, akin to embroidering antimacassars or wearing liberty bodices. (If none of this rings the slightest bell with you, think yourself young and lucky and scroll down to the picture…)
Anyway, I ended up working for an interiors magazine. At the time I was in thrall to architecture, design, colours, fabrics and furnishing my first home …. so it seemed like a dream job. Unfortunately the potential pleasure of the experience was completely marred by the bitchy atmosphere that reigned in the (almost) all woman staff, permeating down from an Editrix so rebarbative she regularly made grown women cry. And took sadistic pleasure in doing so, I’m sure.
Cut to a lifetime later, deep in the French countryside and a different career, mostly behind me, restoring old stone houses. Not really the cutting edge of design. But I make no apologies for a recidivist tendency to browse through home decorating and restoration magazines from time to time, looking for ideas to pinch and recreate on a shoestring.
Imagine how it felt to come across this image:
This “unicorn” has been made from a real horse’s head with the tusk of a narwhal stuck onto it’s brow, so that the owners of this property can have a whimsical talking point in their country home full of “delightful” pieces of kitsch.
I’m afraid this made me feel quite sickened. And I no longer buy this magazine.
For me, this “style statement” gives rise to the question of where, on a scale from strict vegan up to having a stuffed animal head on your wall most animal lovers would put themselves.
You may be a vegan who considers all riding to be servitude for the horse. Or a vegetarian who rides. Or a rider who eats meat. Or a lover of the countryside who would eat any kind of meat, even roadkill. Or a countryman/woman who hunts, shoots and fishes and would happily keep a trophy stag’s head on a wall or stuffed champion pike in a glass case. You may be a French omnivore to whom horsemeat is a low-cholesterol version of steak, who bets on the races and sees no irony in eating the losers. Or you may, as the owners of the above room, be a couple of Parisian cake makers, who want to re-create a sort of “Grand Meaulnes” fantasy of a rural idyll as a weekend retreat. (No jokes about, “Let them eat cake,” please!)
I can remember being fascinated by the stuffed horse that pulled the hansom cab in the painstaking re-construction of a Victorian street which I saw in the York museum when I was a little girl. I wonder if it’s still there? How long does a stuffed animal last? But modern tastes have moved on; taxidermy has largely fallen out of fashion and it’s easy to see why, as few people these days want to keep a memento mori in their living room or even, as Roy Rogers did with Trigger, to stuff a famous old pardner to keep him around a while longer.
But to turn a real dead horse into a “unicorn” as a statement piece ….. this made me deeply uncomfortable, how about you?