Q is for Quality

‘An inherent or distinguishing characteristic or an essential character.’ 

Reference Shakespeare “The quality of mercy is not strain’d” This quality is definitely strain’d  in certain parts of the world today, witness the slaughter in the Middle East. Having lived there for 17 years I found the people had the same aspirations as me. A peaceful life, quality education for their children, and quality jobs and income for all. I never met anyone who approved of “terrorism” or even the disruption of other people’s lives: live and let live was the mantra.

Quality as a personality or character trait can be portrayed by a person’s generosity or otherwise. A mean personality being portrayed as a person of “poor quality” and the opposite as being “top quality,” or from the top drawer. Shakespeare’s Shylock springs to mind. Quality goods were always kept in the top drawer whereas poorer quality was hidden away in a bottom drawer, apart from a girl hoping to wed and stocking a ‘bottom drawer’ for her future. For example in Sue Grafton’s ‘Private Eye’ in her ‘Alphabet’ series, Kinsey Millhone has a bottom drawer that she feels will never be opened again after two failed marriages. She would like to marry her landlord, whose quality of life she envies, but feels the 50 year age gap is a bit extreme.

As a degree or standard of excellence, goods and clothes can be judged by their quality.  A person can also be judged by the quality of their apparel, Beau Brummell for example was thought to be the epitome of fashion impressing the future George IV no less.

Woolworths were initially popular due to their low prices but as incomes rose, needs changed and fashion labels became de rigueur, “Woolies” was seen as a poor quality outlet and ultimately went out of business, victims of their own initial success so to speak price having become less important. My daughters would have died rather than go to school with a ‘Woolies’ item, even Marks and Spencer labels had to be removed.  Things are changing though where price doesn’t seem to be an indication of quality, witness the success of Primark and other low-cost stores against the decline in sales at other perceived quality retailers.

Quality of life is difficult to define. In the distant past for some it was as simple as having a roof over their heads and enough food to support their invariably large family. For others it was having a huge country mansion, a large staff to see to their every need, and a smaller town house preferably in London to spend the winter in. I’ve seen people living in the interior of Oman with no electricity; running water was a stream flowing through the village. Houses were made of wicker work walls with roofing of banana tree fronds. To them their quality of life was good, and I must admit they seemed happy with their lot. I’ve also met people who lived in unbelievable splendour and were as miserable as sin; their quality of life was poorer than the villagers with nothing.

I read that the quality of writing has deteriorated in the past 50 years or so, I disagree. I find Dickens ponderous, Thomas Hardy and George Elliot dull. I prefer Jane Austen for her humour. But her writing wasn’t as popular as Dickens and George Elliot. Dickens and Elliot were supposedly quality writers and Austen superficial, I’m not sure that that applies today. I like a lot of modern writers, C.J. Sanson’s Shardlake series for example and Louise Penny’s Gamache, as well as Sue Grafton’s Alphabet murders as mentioned earlier. To me they are quality writers as they deliver pleasure. I don’t have to think what the language is trying to impart, maybe I’m a superficial reader.

I am at present trying to write a novel and am finding it very difficult to get on paper what I think, in a meaningful way.  I have nothing but admiration for authors who succeed.  Some modern authors of course don’t deserve to succeed, issuing reams of formulaic writing in which the plots are the same, only the names and venues are changed. To me that isn’t quality writing but it sells, so obviously someone likes it and thinks its quality.

So Q for quality what does it mean? Different things to different people, quality really is in the eye of the beholder.

Sandy McIntosh


  1. Nice post, Sandy. You are totally correct in that for some people the issue of quality may be much more important to them, and they can, as a result, be harder to please. The opposite, as you also say, is true. I know someone who would only wear designer everythings a decade ago- now it is cheaper items that are bought but with great thought as to where they have been produced- the aim being finding good quality but not at the expense or exploitation of others.

  2. Yes, It's a difficult one that. I hate the thought of exploitation but I've seen the poverty these people live with and I want to give them some quality of life as well by buying their product, Bangladesh I mean.

  3. I think sometimes we believe that classic literature is top quality by default, rather than making up our own minds.


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