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Fixtures And Fittings Post by :John_Ellis Category :Essays Author :A. A. Milne Date :August 2011 Read :959

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Fixtures And Fittings

There was once a young man who decided to be a poodle-clipper. He felt that he had a natural bent for it, and he had been told that a fashionable poodle-clipper could charge his own price for his services. But his father urged him to seek another profession. "It is an uncertain life, poodle-clipping," he said, "To begin with, very few people keep poodles at all. Of these few, only a small proportion wants its poodles clipped. And, of this small proportion, a still smaller proportion is likely to want its poodles clipped by _you_." So the young man decided to be a hair-dresser instead.

I thought of this story the other day when I was bargaining with a house-agent about "fixtures," and I decided that no son of mine should become a curtain-pole manufacturer. I suppose that the price of a curtain-rod (pole or perch) is only a few shillings, and, once made, it remains in a house for ever. Tenants come and go, new landlords buy and sell, but the old brass rod stays firm at the top of the window, supporting curtain after curtain. How many new sets are made in a year? No more, it would seem, than the number of new houses built. Far better, then to manufacture an individual possession like a tooth-brush, which has the additional advantage of wearing out every few months.

But from the consumer's point of view, a curtain-rod is a pleasant thing. He has the satisfaction of feeling that, having once bought it, he has bought it for the rest of his life. He may change his house and with it his Fixtures, but there is no loss on the brass part of the transaction, however much there may be on the bricks and mortar. What he pays out with one hand, he takes in with the other. Nor is his property subject to the ordinary mischances of life. There was an historic character who "lost the big drum," but he would become even more historic who had lost a curtain-rod, and neither parlour-maid nor cat is ever likely to wear a guilty conscience over the breaking of one.

I have not yet discovered, in spite of my recent familiarity with house-agents, the difference between a fixture and a fitting. It is possible that neither word has any virtue without the other, as is the case with "spick" and "span." One has to be both; however dapper, one would never be described as a span gentleman. In the same way it may be that a curtain-rod or an electric light is never just a fixture or a fitting, but always "included in the fixtures and fittings." Then there is a distinction, apparently, between a "landlord's fixture" and a "tenant's fixture," which is rather subtle. A fire-dog is a landlord's fixture; so is a door-plate. If you buy a house you get the fire-dogs and the door-plates thrown in, which seems unnecessarily generous. I can understand the landlord deciding to throw in the walls and the roof, because he couldn't do much with them if you refused to take them, but it is a mystery why he should include a door-plate, which can easily be removed and sold to somebody else. And if a door-plate, why not a curtain-rod? A curtain-rod is a necessity to the incoming tenant; a door-plate is merely a luxury for the grubby-fingered to help them to keep the paint clean. One might be expected to bring one's own door-plate with one, according to the size of one's hand.

For the whole idea of a fixture or fitting can only be that it is something about which there can be no individual taste. We furnish a house according to our own private fancy; the "fixtures" are the furnishings in regard to which we are prepared to accept the general fancy. The other man's curtain-rod, though easily detachable and able to fit a hundred other windows, is a fixture; his carpet-as-planned (to use the delightful language of the house-agent), though securely nailed down and the wrong size for any other room but this, is not a fixture. Upon some such reasoning the first authorized schedule of fixtures and fittings must have been made out.

It seems a pity that it has not been extended. There are other things than curtain-rods and electric-light bulbs which might be left behind in the old house and picked up again in the new. The silver cigarette-box, which we have all had as a birthday or wedding present, might safely be handed over to the incoming tenant, in the certainty that another just like it will be waiting for us in our next house. True, it will have different initials on it, but that will only make it the more interesting, our own having become fatiguing to us by this time. Possibly this sort of thing has already been done in an unofficial way among neighbors. By mutual agreement they leave their aspidistras and their "Maiden's Prayer" behind them. It saves trouble and expense in the moving, which is an important thing in these days, and there would always be the hope that the next aspidistra might be on the eve of flowering or laying eggs, or whatever it is that its owner expects from it.


(The end)
A. A. Milne's essay: Fixtures And Fittings

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