Thursday, 29 September 2016
The volume contains Septuagesima, Betjeman's love song to the dear old C of E ('The Church of England of my birth, The kindest church to me on Earth') and the ever popular Diary of a Church Mouse. One I hadn't read before was the mildly satirical Friends of the Cathedral, and in this I came across a phrase that gave me pause - 'The hundred little bits of script Each framed in passe-partout'. Framed in passe-partout? Passe-partout? Suddenly it came back to me...
You used to see it everywhere. Passe-partout was a kind of tough adhesive tape, typically black with a slightly grainy texture, that had a variety of uses but was particularly popular as a cheap form of picture-framing - just run the tape carefully around the edges, pressing picture, glass and backing board together, leave to set, and you had the semblance of a framed picture at negligible cost. My father was keen on the stuff, I remember - this before he discovered the thousand and one uses to which Fablon could be put - and there were pictures framed in passe-partout all over the house. It was not pretty, but it did the job, just about.
The stuff is no longer manufactured, but it still has its devotees. You can buy vintage rolls of passe-partout on eBay ('Butterfly Brand', with the stylised Camberwell Beauty trade mark), and there is even - you will not be surprised to learn - a blog devoted to the wonders of passe-partout. Don't you just love the internet?