Getting Cozy with Gail Carriger, A Very British Concept

Gentle Reader, something unexpected for you today. A proper article.

As we move along collectively rereading my books, I wanted to muse a bit on the idea of cozy. I think it’s endemic to all my writing, but particularly the Parasolverse.

If I were to be asked for a defining description of all my writing, I would say, comfort read. But put it into one word, and that word is…


The concept of cozy may be the most iconic thing I can think of to represent British culture. Or at least the part that my works tap into. Yes there’s the Queen, and Ascot, and Oxford and so forth, but I’m going purely philosophical here and delving into the nature of culture itself. Small town or city, north or south, there is one thing that they do better in Britain than anywhere else in the world (apart from tea):

Get Cozy

You can picture it in your head…

The small thatched cottage on the edge of the moor, puffing smoke out its little chimney, a tilted sign at the garden path that reads “Duck’s Bottom.” At the door there will be a little shoe brush shaped like a hedgehog upon which to wipe your rubber boots and just inside a pot for your umbrella.

Once the door has closed, you notice that the place smells like baking bread. You can hear the lilting hum of conversation, a querulous rise and fall, so musical when compared to our loud American flatness. And soon enough someone comes toward you with a welcoming smile, flour on their apron, and says, “Oh, it’s you. Come in, come in. Cuppa?”

High Street, Exeter, Devon, England, ca. 1895

Cozy as a national concept takes many forms…

  • Cozy is the way everything is smaller over in the UK: Cars, bath tubs, doorways. Except tissues, they’re huge.
  • Cozy is the fact that odds are, if you enter a used bookstore some cat will sidle over to collect a pet taxation, or, if it’s sunny, coil in the window amongst dusty book jackets in an obliging sunbeam.
  • Cozy is the patchwork quilts on the beds or the fact that you can order your gingerbread with a dollop of warm custard spilled over it.
  • Cozy is inherent in the names of things: Winnie the Pooh (a children’s book character), loo (the bathroom), babblers (a kind of bird).

Even the food is cozy, designed for well padded comfort, nothing to stress about, nothing too hot or too spicy or too good for you: spotted dick, clotted cream, Christmas pud, digestive biscuits, Cornish pasties, crumpets, bubble and squeak, rumbledethumps.

Being truly British, however, means one has to suffer for this concept in order to appreciate it.

In the South of England, where I spent much of my youth, I would often see parades of macintoshed wanderers striding the green landscape enduring a near-constraint drizzle.

“Mighty fine day, isn’t it?”

Some had a scruffy dog or two, others sported binoculars and a keen interest in birds (Birds are called Twitchers over there – how awesome is that?), but most are just out for a stroll.

I don’t know about you, but here in California no one would EVER go for a walk in the rain. The very idea! But I believe this is tied to the fact that these damp adventurers know that upon returning home there will be a cheery little fire, a fat cat on the knee, and perhaps a hot toddy.

I think one the best literary depictions of this side of Britishness is the Hobbit villages in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As Tolkien implies, we would all be better off if we could have more cozy in our lives, that slow lazy pace, that genuine appreciation for comfort. There is simple functional pleasure to be derived from a tea cozy or fuzzy slippers.

There is such joy to be had in curling up in a big soft sweater with a great book and a cup of tea.

Cozy is not just a concept, it is a state of mind.


Practicing being better at cozy,

Miss Gail

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