I recently read the most interesting little article in Victoria, which is absolutely my most favorite magazine of all time. My original subscription was a gift from my beloved late mother-in-law many, many years ago, and I've been renewing it, year after year. When it comes in the mail, I'm always anxious to sit down and flip through its lovely pages. Every issue is a feast for the eyes. I mean look at the cover of the most current (September 2014) issue:
I knew I would devour this issue when it came, because any magazine cover that looks this pretty and says things like "Our Beloved England" or "Special British Issue" is sure to be a home run hit with me. I suppose it's time to admit that I'm a closet Anglophile, and I blame my father and his almost 100% British blood for this. (The only country whose culture intrigues and inspires me more is England's western neighbor, Ireland.)
Victoria is always fun to thumb through: it takes you on trips inside the most beautifully-appointed homes (sometimes the castles of the British Isles), where you can drool over Victorian-inspired décor, and on strolls through the quaintest little villages; it features fashion spreads quite different than the ones in Vogue, filled with fresh-faced models sporting feminine laces and the woolen tweeds and plaids of a country gentlewoman (boots are often involved); it features uncommon recipes (where else are you going to get directions for making English delicacies like, say, Welsh Rarebit or beef pasties?); vintage-y artwork and knickknacks are often on display; and there is always a short and insightful musing by the magazine's current "Writer-in-Residence." This issue's offering was extremely interesting, because it explained the whole story behind this iconic image that you will find literally EVERYWHERE these days:
It turns out that this was a motivational poster designed by the British Ministry of Information during WWII. Two other posters--one that said, "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory" and another that said, "Freedom is in Peril, Defend It with All Your Might"--had already been distributed and posted in shop windows and railway stations all over England. Two million copies were printed of the third in the series, the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster, but they were held in reserve to be distributed if there was a German invasion of England--which was, of course, a very real threat at the time. But as that scenario never came to pass, the poster was never officially issued by the crown.
In 2000, a British seller of antiquarian books bought a box of old books at auction; and although the books proved to be rather worthless, he found an original copy of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster at the bottom of the box. His wife took a fancy to it and framed it for their secondhand book shop (which is located inside an old railway station and has been called one of the twenty most beautiful bookstores in the world), and people liked it so much that the bookshop owners started selling re-prints to their customers. In 2005, the poster was mentioned in a newspaper article by a journalist who'd seen it in the shop, and by 2010, you could hardly go anywhere in the world without seeing some version of it.
So, in case you were wondering where in the world this crazy "Keep Calm" trend started, it's actually a little-known piece of England's WWII history. But spoofs abound these days:
Truly, parodies are everywhere, and some of them are rather humorous. But like the bookseller who unearthed the poster that started this whole craze, I like the original version best. It really illustrates that admirable British trait of endeavoring to keep a stiff upper lip and carry on, even in the face of something as terrifying as having their country invaded by the Nazis.
However, I must admit, I'd be willing to take the advice of this one any day of the week:
So I'll just keep calm and blog on...while eating chocolate.