Teenage fan club 🦚💨☀️
We're your biggest fan.
We’re relying heavily on tried-and-tested traditional coolers during this heatwave. Plunging our feet into bowls of ice and running water over our wrists; googling LACY PARASOLS NEXT DAY DELIVERY and readying our freezer drawers for damp flannels. And though we stop short of falling for all that hot drink nonsense (try Sian’s iced tea instead), we are fully on board when it comes to the folding fan – useful not only for creating a breeze, but for sharing our innermost feelings, too.
Hand fans date back millennia. Tutankhamun’s tomb contained eight of them – one simply can’t risk being uncomfortably warm in the afterlife – and most hot weather cultures developed their own fan styles and customs. We have Japan to thank for the portable, foldable fans that have helped refresh our sweaty commutes and beach holidays.
They’re thought to have been invented some time in the 7th century, and these beautiful, breezy accessories eventually caught on around the world, where they became a part of courtship as well as cooling.
It’s said that someone called Fenella wrote the first “fan language” in Spanish in the 18th century, though there are suspicions that this was all made up decades later by a Parisian fan manufacturer as a marketing ploy.
On this side of the Channel, however, Georgian women were already firm fans of proper fan etiquette, and the Victorians – no strangers to elaborately silly clandestine communication methods such as the language of flowers, postage stamp flirtation, and conveying messages through cutlery – added the official gestures to their repertoire.
Whether or not any of this flapping and snapping actually worked is another matter entirely – imagine holding your fan the wrong way and then realising you’d accidentally invited the boring nose-picking man across the room to kiss you?
Nevertheless, it’s fun to learn some of the sassier signals as we weather this heat. Drawing your fan through your hand means you hate someone, touching your left ear with it is silently telling them to poke off, and resting it on your left cheek means “no”. They might not understand, but there’s a certain pleasure in secretly telling that damp, annoying person on the bus what you really think as you nonchalantly fan yourself.
All of a flutter
Into the fold
Framer’s Law: the closer a museum or gallery is to your house, the less likely you are to have visited.
We might have the best of intentions when it comes to visiting the cultural destinations on our doorstep, but the reality is very different. “They’re right there! I can go any time!” you think to yourself as you merrily get on three buses and a train to visit an entirely different gallery. This is how – despite living in Greenwich for a decade – it took Sian almost seven years to visit the Fan Museum.
Student Sian was really missing out. The Fan Museum is such a delightful space. It looks like something straight out of the pages of World of Interiors – somehow modern and still timeless. Rather than feeling like you’re in a museum, it’s like snooping around an elegant home that just happens to have an incredible fan collection – it’s the only one of its kind in the world. There’s a small permanent collection, but the exhibitions change regularly and feel like they could be housed in the V&A. The current show – A Bouquet of Fans – has a floral theme and features pieces that date back to the 16th century. You’ll find us trying to cool down with one of the upcoming fan making workshops and promising never to sleep on our local galleries again. They’re full of treasure.