Our junk shop saga is at an end - for now. Our house looks a million dollars, if I say it myself. And I have learned several new skills, including how to dress a bed. I can't think how I went through decades of life in Britain without learning how to dress a bed. Or even knowing that such a thing as dressing a bed existed. But in America, if you want to sell your house, or rent it out, or just anticipate the neighbours having a little snoop around, you have to do it. So I bit the bullet. We obtained a "bedroom set" as a job lot; it was brand new and though the brocade effect and the fringes were not quite to my taste, well, hey, you never know who might absolutely love it. And most people have done, apart from one person, who, like a recurring nightmare, didn't like the fact that the bedside lamps were pink. Tough. Someone else thought the lampshades were too dark to read by. We changed those but stopped there, not wanting to end up like Aesop's miller, trying to please everyone and ending up pleasing no one.
So, after studying copious magazine ads and furniture shop ads, I can with some authority give you the ingredients for a well-dressed bed. And before I start, you can forget about duvets. They are not popular in America. You need colour-co-ordinated, sorry, to be absolutely correct, colOR-co-ordinated sheets and pillowcases and if you're in a cold climate (this doesn't apply in Florida) a sort of naked duvet called a "comforter" on top of the sheet, the top part folded back. . So far so easy. Then you need a skirt. Just like American Christmas trees , American beds need skirts so they don't show their legs. When, after much trial and error, I worked out how the skirt went, (under, not over, the mattress) I moved on to the next stage, the sham. A sham, to my mind, is one of the most revolting of American inventions. It's a sort of cover you put over a pillow so it blends in with the bedspread. But do you put the pillow in a pillowcase first? Do people take it out of the sham to sleep on it, or tuck the sham behind the other pillows, or, slobbishly, just go ahead and sleep on it sham and all, so you don't know whether to wash the sham or not. (or indeed don't know if any sham you may find on your bed in a strange house has been washed or not) or, as I have frequently done, chuck it on the floor? Nobody can tell me. And after your common-or-garden sham, you have a European sham, which is square, rather than rectangular. Then you arrange a few cushions and a sausage-shaped bolster in a fetching display and only then do you realise you've forgotten to put the bedspread on. So you have to undo the whole thing and start again. I can't think why Americans need so many cushions on display on their beds. They are of no use except for pillow fights. Our particular bedroom set had another strip of material with it which I eyed in horror, tried every which way on the bed and still couldn't work out where it went. I think it was meant to be a matching curtain but I'd had enough. I threw it in the wardrobe and shut the door.