Famous Moments in a Deckchair
When John Thomas Moore took out his patent for the wooden deck chair in 1886, he couldn’t possibly have imagined that his suspended canvas seat would play host to so may historic contemplations. Poets contemplating life’s rich tapestry, prime ministers contemplating war. No doubt he’d have tried to extend the patent if he had!
The most startling deck chair moment was in 1912 when the Titanic hit an iceberg. Despite the panic that ensued, stoical staff were seen rearranging the deckchairs as the sinking boat was beginning to tilt. Can you imagine? Sub zero temperatures, a gaping hole in the hull and you decide to straighten a row of deckchairs! Its one of those iconic images of the pre-war years. I don't think any photos exist of deckchairs on the Titanic, but they must have looked something like the deck chairs on the Queen Mary35 years later. Occasionally deckchairs from the Titanic appear at auction, but they are not cheap!
Another iconic image from the same period is of young twenty somethings enjoying a bohemian lifestyle of largess and lounging. Virginia Woolf, EM Forster, Bertrand Russell and others were often to be found slumped in a garden deck chair in rural Cambridgeshire, resting after bathing in the River Cam. This image was beautifully captured by one of the group, the poet Rupert Brooke , in his poem The Old Vicarage, Grantchester. It ends with the words, ‘Stands the church clock at ten to three, And is there still honey for tea?’. Sadly Brooke was killed in 1917 so wasn’t able to return to his deck chair after the war.
Contemplating a war of a very different kind took place in a deck chair half a century later, this time in the garden of 10 Downing Street. Harold Macmillan would retire to a Downing Street deck chair to reflect on the steady stream of threats and ultimatums coming from Khrushchev. He would entertain visitors in the garden too and liked the fact that his relaxed pose in a deck chair conveyed the impression of a man unflustered by the tempestuous Russian leader.
Wind the clock forward another 50 years and thedeck chairis as popular as ever. They satisfy the new passion for eco friendly furniture (sustainable wood, 100% cotton) and they encourage a slower pace of life which many of us seek.