Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

The Casting Game No. 59

robert downey jnr actor

Robert Downey Jnr

AS

sam-mendes director

Sam Mendes

…at least Mendes looked a lot like Iron Man at the Q&A after the screening of 1917 at the Odeon Leicester Square last week.

screening of 1917 at the Odeon Leicester Square 9 january 2020

screening of 1917 at the Odeon Leicester Square 9 january 2020

9th January 2020

Best of luck to Roger Deakins (one of my 4 first bosses, at Solus), Pippa Harris (whose Wikipedia entry I got rolling after she helped me with the research on this old blog post ) and Nina Gold (who I went to a ball with at uni back when she was called Gould – given the competition this year, getting a look-in on the acting/casting front is rather a long shot) in the Oscar nominations this morning.

Update: 2pm 13/1/20

1917 has been nominated at this year’s Oscars for Best Picture (Pippa and her business partner Sam Mendes); Best Cinematography (Roger – could he pull off a back-to-back Oscar victory? I reckon there’s a very good chance); 8 other nominations including Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Original Score, Hair & Make-up, and VFX. We’ll see the outcomes on 9th February.

Quotation: Working at Art

emile zola quotation

It ain’t easy…

Or is it for some people?

10,000 hours…

Or the right gene combo?

A Good and Purple Heart

This is an extract from a really uplifting and heart-felt blog post by a 52-year old mature student at Yale, ex-military, James Hatch.

In my opinion, the real snowflakes are the people who are afraid of that situation. The poor souls who never take the opportunity to discuss ideas in a group of people who will very likely respectfully disagree with them. I challenge any of you hyper-opinionated zealots out there to actually sit down with a group of people who disagree with you and be open to having your mind changed. I’m not talking about submitting your deeply held beliefs to your twitter/facebook/instagram feeds for agreement from those who “follow” you. That unreal “safe space” where the accountability for one’s words is essentially null. I have sure had my mind changed here at Yale. To me there is no dishonor in being wrong and learning. There is dishonor in willful ignorance and there is dishonor in disrespect.

The full text is here

It’s a brilliant springboard to make 2020 a year of bridge-building, connecting, withholding judgement, seeing what’s good about people and ideas.

building-bridge-lorenzo-quinn

Italian artist Lorenzo Quinn’s ‘Building Bridges’ at the 58th Venice Biennale at the entrance of the Arsenale in the Castello district – May 2019

 

Memory and the Internet

I’ve just woken up with the phrase ‘Electrical Discount Warehouse’ in my head. I’m fairly sure that was the name of a shop in the parade of shops in the neighbourhood where I grew up. I was trying to recall it at lunchtime yesterday when talking to my mother about that small group of shops and trying to finish reconstructing it with her. It’s always a surprising reminder of the activities of the Unconscious during sleep when you wake up having remembered something you struggled to recall when awake.

So why was I trying to reconstruct the shopping parade from memory? I was driving past it a few days ago (New Year’s Eve) and when I saw the chemist the name Brian Luckhurst sprang to mind, out of nowhere – haven’t thought about it or him for years. Now I write the name down I can begin to see his bald pate and  his person. From that thought, the sudden emergence of his name, came the question: What else was in this parade when I was a child (c.1969-1975)? It’s the kind of memory game people in prison must play. It reminds me of Terry Waite and John McCarthy.

The neighbourhood was called The Green Man after the local pub. One of my first jobs after university was working in that pub. I went in to get a bar job and the manager took one look at my John Lennon glasses and my lily-white hands and said “Accounts”. I enjoyed doing accounts, because unlike with Literature (Modern & Mediaeval Languages = foreign literature), there was an answer. It was therapeutic. By then the name had changed to The Everglades, shifting from English tradition (Robin Hood, forestry) to American exoticness (the Florida swamps – there was an ingredient I saw in the accounts every week, “jalepenos” that matched this exoticism – I was uncertain what on earth they were). I have no idea what the pub or building is called now – it still stands. The ‘race memory’ of the place is captured in the persistence of Green Man as the local name for the junction. There are no signs anywhere that actually say Green Man.

After the internet and advent of the Worldwide Web parochial memories like this by and large tend to get recorded somewhere or other. Before they were much more likely to die away, existing only in stray photos, perhaps local publications, mainly people’s heads. Some of the early films in my career are really hard to find online – my first was in 1987 (as producer-director-writer). Often there is just one artefact to be found – an image or a reference.

Let’s test that one: (“Adam Gee” “The Best” Melrose) [Melrose = production company]…

It draws a total blank, other than where I have recorded it online (i.e. IMDb). I first remember working online in the mid 90s, a couple of years after making The Best.

Of course the efficiency of the search engine(s) is an issue. Thinking about this I remember coming across the film online. It was on a British Film Institute catalogue but it seems to be too deep or the site too poorly constructed to show up in the early pages of search results.

So the memory of the WWW only gets you so far. And there’s still arguably a merit in capturing certain things from in your head and publishing them online. We all know how trivial things can come to have significant meaning in certain contexts.

So for posterity here is what I have managed to reconstruct of The Green Man – from my own memory, with input from my mother and brother, and prompted by those discussions also from my head:

  • Brian Luckhurst chemist – which started the memory ball rolling…
  • Dr Burke’s surgery – 2 Selvage Lane, what I passed to get to the shops
  • The Railway Tavern pub – not really attached to the parade
  • Pet shop on the corner – I can recall the sawdust on the floor, the smell (not unpleasant), and the owner in his grey lab-style coat (Champions? see below)
  • Eric & Mavis newsagent/sweet shop – the other end of that first row of shops, formerly The Penny Shop (sweet shop)
  • Express Dairy outlet – down an alley beyond E&M
  • window shop? glass?
  • Neptune fish & chips shop – over the road, opposite corner; chips were 5p in 1971 at point of decimalisation
  • Post Office – sold singles (ex-juke box), where I bought my first 45: T-Rex, Solid Gold Easy Action
  • Green Grocer – had a delivery boy who rode a heavy black bike, he turned up later in a rockabilly group called The Polecats (who had a modest hit with a rockabilly-punk cover of David Bowie’s John I’m Only Dancing) – his name was something like Bez (real name Martin)
  • plumbers merchants??
  • launderette??
  • Mautners deli
  • Electrical Discount Warehouse – a slightly later arrival my father was attracted to as a physicist who made electrical instruments
  • bookies???
  • butcher? (Lewis?)
  • Martin’s newsagent
  • Women’s hairdresser (Friends???) – end of the Neptune stretch of shops, so the two sides are: Pet Shop-Eric & Mavis, Neptune-hairdresser
  • The Green Man pub – which gave its name to all this
  • Mobil garage

This represents, I would estimate, over 50% of the shop units at The Green Man junction. If I was banged up in a Beirut cell for a few years, I wonder how much more my mind is capable of retrieving?

To conclude this Sunday morning reflection on memory, individual and group recall, and the internet, let’s see what the Web can find visually of these fragments I have retrieved…

One tiny picture of The Green Man pub from a personal collection of pub pictures in the locality (personal local history site)

Green Man pub Hale Lane Edgware

Green Man – Hale Lane, Edgware

A shot of the pet shop part of the parade froma specialist bus site

221_RM1397_HaleLa_NStreet_r green man mill hill

Alan Le???? was a second hairdresser I think. To its left in the image seems to be some kind of office (solicitor? accountant?) – the pet shop is behind the back of this 221 Routemaster bus. The phone number on the office is 0181 so after the expansion of 01 London numbers to 081 to 0181 making this around 1995 so the photo must be misleading in that the bus was vintage at this juncture.

A good picture of the pub from well before my time (must have been rebuilt in the 30s) from a pub wiki

Green Man mill hill hale lane

T. Gill was the publican

Another early photo of the pub from the local authority archives

Green Man pub mill hill hale lane

There seems to have been a garage attached – the Mobil garage ended up on the other side of the pub

A more recent photo of The Green Man building from Tripadvisor labelled “Greenman, Edgware (As it used to be called)”. This iteration is (ugh) The Jolly Badger.

welcome-to-the-jolly badger Green man, Edgware (As it used to be called)

You can see the clapboard fabric of The Green Man building and the Mobil garage (now a different brand).

the green man pub

the green man pub harvester

So, so far, only one image from the era in question – the very first one, small and black & white.

The Everglades Hale Lane NW7 04 1983

Although this one looks old it is labelled 1983 and Everglades, so just before I worked there with the jalapenos.

I just found by chance this reference to the pet shop on a local blog:

4. The Pet shop at The Green Man. I’m sorry to say I can’t recall the name of this. Please leave a comment if you can. I was never allowed to keep pets, but we loved fishing and this was the place I bought my first floats, fishing line and maggots. I had acquired a fishing rod at a local jumble sale, one of the old bamboo style efforts, with a cork handle and rubber bung on the end. It came with a Hardy reel, which I soon found out was a fly fishing model. I traded this for a more suitable coarse fishing model, having restored it to working order. I recently saw a similar model on sale for nearly £200. I think I didn’t get the best of that deal!

Glyn Burns said…
I think the pet shop at the Green Man was called Champions.

5 August 2019 at 05:44

king neptune fish and chips mill hill green man

survives little changed

Bottom line, just the one tiny contemporary photo; establishments that have survived the decades; personal memories.

Here at King Neptune is an apposite place to conclude as it is the Fisher King at the very end of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land who says:

These fragments I have shored against my ruins

As one commentator puts it: “the king will do his best to put in order what remains of his kingdom”. The gathering of fragments. Of memories. Striving for order. Constructing and reconstructing visions and patterns. Setting the lands in order.

I sat upon the shore
Fishing, with the arid plain behind me
Shall I at least set my lands in order?
London Bridge is falling down falling down falling down
Poi s’ascose nel foco che gli affina
Quando fiam uti chelidon—O swallow swallow
Le Prince d’Aquitaine à la tour abolie
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Why then Ile fit you. Hieronymo’s mad againe.
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.
                  Shantih     shantih     shantih

Self-Listed Londoner

I started this post on 14th March 2014 – I’m finally in the mood to finish it (1st January 2020).

london aerial view river thames

Robert Elms seems to have mislaid my number so I’m having to list myself as a Londoner with the usual questions… (Was listening to ‘Arry Redknapp’s one yesterday – fuckin’ charmin’)

1) What’s your favourite neighbourhood?

I still get an Absolute Beginners kick from Soho, love the surprising London postcode (NW7) tranquility of Mill Hill’s Ridgeway and the adjacent green belt, but I think I’ll go for the long, thin neighbourhood of all along the Regent’s Canal all the way from Golborne Road to Limehouse Basin plus off-shoots.

2) What’s your favourite building?

At first I was contemplating The British Library (especially the Humanities Reading Rooms) – I feel most comfortable among books. But on further reflection it is Senate House (University of London) where I go twice a month on Friday evening for James Joyce seminars (what a wild life). It is beautiful inside, lavished in marble and wood. And outside it is truly monumental. Different lighting at different times of day keeps it endlessly impressive. It sits on perhaps my favourite street in the city – Malet Street with its avenue of delicate trees has a very special vibe. Plus Store Street opposite has a distinctive Bloomsbury feel, especially after dark. My dad went to Birkbeck on Malet St to do his Chemistry degree. And two of my distant forebears set up UCL which is also in the hood so the whole area has taken on an increasing personal significance for me over the years.

3) What’s your most hated building?

Elephant & Castle shopping centre – they really need to just start again from a blank space.

4) What’s the best view in London?

Flying into the city along the Thames estuary.

5) What’s your favourite open space?

St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, N2 – my jogging place,  a tranquil momento mori with wildlife (including woodpeckers and magpies in pairs) and no traffic

6) What’s the most interesting shop?

I’m going to cheat a bit and take two bookshop windows – one local, one central. The local is Black Gull in East Finchley high road – I regularly stop to check out the latest display which is usually determined by a topical theme (an obscure history of Ukraine had shown up when I looked in last night on the way home from work) or a collection recently bought (e.g. a collection of Beat-related books appeared a few weeks ago of which I bought some gems like a 60s paperback of The Horn (John Clellon Jones) and a very pink hardback of Terry Southern’s Candy). The central one is Sotheran’s on Sackville Street, Piccadilly, opposite BAFTA, which is a high-end fine books and prints shop. established in York in 1761 it is ‘the longest established antiquarian booksellers in the world’. The window display is always fascinating with mouth-watering first editions and off-beat treasures. From there I might trot over to the young upstart Hatchard’s, established 1797.

7) What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?

I tend to incline towards the Middle Eastern so Yalla Yalla – Soho branch is high up the list but top is the cafe in Sunny Hill Park, Hendon which pretty much introduced shakshuka to London and is the only place I know to get jachnun.

8) What’s been your most memorable night out in London?

E-fuelled night starting out at James Taylor Quartet in Forum, Kentish Town and ending after dawn dancing in the car park at Hampstead Heath (South End Green) concluded by some cops pulling up and asking something along the lines of ” ‘Allo, ‘allo,’allo, what’s goin’ on ‘ere then?”

9) How would you like to spend your ideal day off in London?

Early morning swim (summer – water temperature around 25 degrees) at Men’s Pond, Hampstead Heath. Breakfast at Banners in Crouch End (with Jon & Stu reminiscing about the Select Latin, Blvd St Michel). Pop up to The Ridgeway, NW7 for an open-air read. Walk along the canal to Trellick. A coffee and nata on Golborne Road. A themed walk of my own making across the city e.g. Profumo Promenade with my sons. Lunch at The Wolseley including chicken soup. Boat trip down the river towards the estuary, at least as far as North Greenwich. G&T at an old pub by the river eg The Angel, Rotherhithe. Walk along the river East of Tower Bridge. Cocktails at Bar Américain with Peter Curran. Dinner outdoors at Sunny Hill Park. Watch the sunset at Waterloo Bridge. Go to a gig at Ronnie’s. Night walk with Adam Zuabi.

This is of course logistically totally impossible.

And I could easily write it again right now with an entirely different itinerary.

10) Where would you take someone visiting from out of town?

The Arab Hall at Leighton House.

The Rose Garden at Regent’s Park.

11) What’s the worst journey you’ve had to make in London?

Any morning rush hour tube – in the words of Ian Dury, who could have been the ticket man at Fulham Broadway Station, wot a waste.

12) What’s your personal London landmark?

Whitestone Pond – my birthplace with one of the best views of the city.

Ford_Madox_Brown_-_An_English_Autumn_Afternoon,_1852-1853

Ford Madox Brown ‘An English Autumn Afternoon’ (1852-1853) painted from up by Whitestone Pond – he is buried in the St Pancras & Islington cemetery by my house as referenced above

The red-brick building beside the Pond was a maternity hospital when I was born but has now become an old-age home – I’m aiming to get back there to complete the circle. The only person I have met who was also born there was David Aaronovitch 9this came out on a coach journey back from Aldeburgh).

13) Who’s your favourite fictional Londoner?

Sherlock Holmes’ street urchins crossed my mind first but it has to be Charlie Chaplin’s tramp. (I know he operated mainly in America but he is essentially a creation of Kennington and Chaplin’s native London).

chaplin-charlie-city-lights

My favourite movie of all time – City Lights

14) What’s your favourite London film, book or documentary?

Blow Up – I must go down visit that park (with the dead body – or not…) sometime, been meaning to for years

15) If you could travel to any time period in London, past or future, where would you go?

Swinging 60s including seeing The Doors at the Roundhouse

Jim Morrison at London's Roundhouse 1968 the doors

back to 1968

***

So that took just 6 years to complete – and I still need to refine most of the answers.

The Casting Game

vita virginia gemma arterton

Gemma Arterton (Vita & Virginia – Vita Sackville-West)

AS

Audrey Tautou (Amélie)

Audrey Tautou (Amélie)

Best of 2019

 

joker joaquin phoenix actor movie stairs

The scene of the year

Film:

Joker

Mid90s

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Rolling Thunder Review

Booksmart

Last year: Vice, Cold War

 

Foreign-Language Film:

Parasite

Last year: The Square 

 

Documentary:

Rolling Thunder Review

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love; Knock Down the House; Apollo 11

 

Male Lead:

Joaquin Phoenix (Joker)

Sunny Suljic (Mid 90s)

Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell)

Taron Egerton as Reggie Dwight/Elton John in Rocketman; Leonardo DiCaprio as Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood; Michael B. Jordan (Just Mercy)

Last year: Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody

 

Female Lead:

Elizabeth Debicki (Virginia, Vita & Virginia)

Beanie Feldstein (Molly, Booksmart)

Gemma Arterton (Vita, Vita & Virginia)

Last year: Joanna Kulig – Cold War

 

Male Support:

Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin in Joker

Al Pacino – The Irishman

Olan Prenatt as Fuckshit in Mid90s; Lucas Hedges as Ian in Mid90s; Stephen Merchant as Deertz in Jojo Rabbit; Brad Pitt as Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood; Na-Kel Smith as Ray in Mid90s

Last year: Terry Notary (The Square)

 

Female Support:

Kaitlyn Dever as Amy in Booksmart

Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Laura Rose in Motherless Brooklyn; Scarlett Johansson as Rosie in Jojo Rabbit

Last year: Amy Adams(Vice)

 

Director:

Todd Phillips (Joker)

Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Last year: Adam McKay (Vice)

 

Writer:

Todd Phillips & Scott Silver – Joker

Jonah Hill (Mid 90s)

Taika Waititi – Jo Jo Rabbit

Last year: Adam McKay (Vice)

 

Editing:

tbc

Last year: Vice

 

Cinematography:

Roger Deakins – 1917

Last year: Lukasz Zal (Cold War)

 

Film Music:

Rolling Thunder Review

Last year: Bohemian Rhapsody / Cold War

 

Single/Song:

Lately – Celeste

Last year: I Want You (Sam Reid & Claudia Jolly – The Girl from the North Country)

 

Album:

Ghosteen – Nick Cave

Kiwanuka – Michael Kiwanuka; Western Stars – Bruce Springsteen

Last year: The Girl from the North Country (London cast)

 

Gig:

Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets (Roundhouse)

Kamasi Washington (Brixton Academy)

Patti Smith (Westminster Central Hall)

The Midnight Special – Abbey Road anniversary (Jazz Cafe)

Abdullah Ibrahim (Cadogan Hall)

Proms: Jonny Greenwood (Albert Hall)

Last year: David Byrne – Hammersmith Odeon

 

Play:

A Taste of Honey (Trafalgar Studios)

Last year: Girl from the North Country [2nd viewing]

 

Art Exhibition:

Van Gogh in Britain (Tate B)

Preraphaelite Sisters (NPG)

Tate St Ives

Last year: Picasso: 1932 (Tate Modern)

 

Book:

A Woman of No Importance – Sonia Purnell

The Order of the Day – Eric Vuillard

The Cut-out Girl – Bart Van Es

The Quiet American, To Have & Have Not, The Catcher in the Rye, The Drowning Pool

Last year: The Leithen Stories – John Buchan

 

TV:

After Life (Netflix)

The Boys (Amazon), The Crown – S3 (Amazon)

Last year: Mrs Wilson

 

Podcast:

13 Minutes to the Moon

The Tip-Off

Sport:

England beating the All-Blacks at the Rugby World Cup, Japan

 

Dance:

The Red Shoes (Sadlers Wells)

 

Event:

150th anniversary of Girton College (including event at Trinity, Dublin)

50th anniversary of Moon Landing/Apollo 11

Mythos: The Gods – Stephen Fry

 

Dearly departed:

  • Emily Hartridge (who I made Oh Shit I’m 30! with)
  • Judith Kerr (with whom I was on Woman’s Hour)
  • Leon Kossoff
  • D.A. Pennebaker
  • Clive James
  • Jonathan Miller (who I walk with in Aldeburgh while he was having a cheeky fag)
  • Albert Finney
  • Gordon Banks (his Esso medal hangs on my wall along with his 1970 World Cup team mates)
  • Peter Fonda
  • Ginger Baker
  • Doris Day
  • Dr John
  • Mark Hollis (who I have a vague memory of meeting briefly at Solus, my first job)
  • Agnès Varda
  • Mary Warnock (Mistress of Girton in my era)
  • Jeremy Hardy (he contributed to my Omagh project at Channel 4)
  • Terry O’Neill
dylan-doc-rolling thunder review scorsese

Performance of the year

 

Best of 2018 and links to earlier Bests Of

Coincidence No.s 309 & 310 – Bernstein

No. 309 Electric Chair

I am reading Sidney Bernstein’s biography (founder of the Granada cinema chain and Manchester-based Granada TV) by Caroline Moorehead. It mentions a trip he took to the USA in the 30s during which he visited an Alabama prison where the governor proudly showed off his electric chair – which, Bernstein noted, was yellow.

The same day I am watching the movie Just Mercy with Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan as part of my BAFTA awards viewing (it’s released on 17th January in the UK – well worth seeing). In one of the scenes we see the electric chair in the Jamie Foxx character’s Alabama jail – (half a century on) it is bright yellow.

just mercy poster jamie foxx michael b jordan film movie

The poster is also yellow

 

No. 310 Duff Cooper

I am reading Sidney Bernstein’s biography by Caroline Moorehead. It talks about his efforts to join the Ministry of Information once WW2 was declared. He finally got into the organisation through Duff Cooper, Minister of Information from May 1940 under Churchill.

With the Bernstein biog on the go, I also started reading today Paris After the Liberation: 1944 – 1949 by Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper. Duff Cooper it turns out was Artemis’s grandfather. She is married to Beevor. The intro mentions that some of Duff Cooper’s personal papers are used as sources for the book.

Paris After the Liberation: 1944 - 1949 by Antony Beevor and Artemis Cooper

 

Update to Dive into The Box

This update to my post of 22nd December concerns the Empire Studio(s).

The Photographers of Great Britain and Ireland 1840 to 1940 website kindly informed me that there were 2 studios called Empire Studio in Cardiff and Edinburgh, plus 5 in London, and about 10 in other parts of the country. The London ones were active 1909 – 1932.

The London ones were:

  1. 60 High Street, Stoke Newington, London N
  2. 491 New Cross Road, New Cross, London SE
  3. Empire Studios – 106 Shoreditch High Street, London E – 1922-27
  4. 133a High Street Deptford, London SE
  5. Empire Studios – 305 Kentish Town (Road?), London NW – 1931-?

My guess was Shoreditch, being closer to Dagenham, but the dates aren’t right for what is evidently a WW1 photograph.

49257399871_f26a48eb72_k

I’ve been to visit the Kentish Town site and the Shoreditch one over the last two days, taking advantage of the quiet time in the city between Christmas and New Year.

Here’s the Kentish Town site:

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

305 Kentish Town Road

The Art deco flourish seems to match the 1931 opening

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

And here’s the Shoreditch site:

site of the Empire Studios photographic studios

106 Shoreditch High Street (right)

Nothing left of the building but you can see from 107 what it may well have looked like. I like the fact it is now More Joy as JOY is a resonant word for me – my daily mantra is “I will enJOY my day”.

Talking of buildings no longer there, yesterday I also went to seek out 8 Praed Street as featured in yesterday’s post. My great-grandfather’s tobacconist is no more – it’s under the Hilton hotel.

49278919311_613efa5454_k

8 Praed Street, Paddington (right)

That’s the name of the game – some stuff survives, other is but a memory.

Dispatch from The Box

The daily thing is not quite working for me, so for this dispatch from The Box I’ve selected the next two documents (a telegram and a hand-written letter) and the next two photographs to make up a bit for the inactivity of the last three days.

49277840557_c24ae9f5d8_o me and dad

This one is 1963 or 1964. That’s me on the right, my dad on the left. It was taken at 2A Selvage Lane, Mill Hill, London NW7 (that was the full extent of the postcode back then), my childhood home. I remember those curtains from later but not the drawers. My dad’s haircut and glasses look pretty 60s to me, the vestiges of 50s quiff styles with regard to the hair, a predictive touch of the Ipcress File in those specs.

49277640021_21bf9e4273_o school assembly

The second photo looks like a school assembly. The Post Card / Correspondence / Address print on the back doesn’t give too many clues as to the vintage. My grandfather Ian would have been this age in the early 20s but this has more the 40s feel about it so it’s possible it is my mum’s school (except she was at an all-girls school for most of her school career) or my uncle John’s. The Chinese lanterns are an odd touch – was the hall decorated specially or was this not a school hall? It looks like they may be watching a performance, with which several are clearly engaging emotionally and almost all are giving their attention. Standing adults punctuate the scene, they have the teacher vibe. The crowd is mixed boys and girls, though with big blocks of boys together. Many seem in school uniform of some kind; lots of hats are being worn indoors, especially by the girls. I can only see one child in glasses (John Lennon-style – extreme right, half-way up). There are no non-white kids in sight.

49277840682_8b762e16be_k telegram ma

This is a telegram from my grandfather Ian (when he was still called Isadore in 1940 – he changed his name by deed poll on 14th October 1949 at a cost of ten shillings. His hit-rate on job applications immediately went up.) The off-the-shelf design of the celebratory telegram form is a bit more holiday than Watford. So this was sent from Watford where my mum was born (not sure why, I think they were still living in Dagenham – maybe the war-time demands on hospitals meant you had to travel further to give birth).

In March 1940 Hitler was planning the invasion of Norway and Denmark. Meat rationing had just started in Britain. A German air raid on Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands resulted in the first British civilian casualties of the war. Within two months Dunkirk will be under way and by September the Blitz will be unleashed.

On 26th March 1940, the day after my mother’s birth, this telegram is sent home to my great-grandmother in Dagenham, 30 miles away to the east. Is 6.54 the time? morning? how did he pull that off?

The concision is almost poetic: GIRL BOTH FINE

Now 79 years on there’s some irony and poignancy in the message. The younger is far from fine. She’s only a couple of days out of another hospital – UCH in London which two of said great-grandmother’s forebears were involved in founding in 1834, one of whom served as its treasurer for 18 years. Both my sons were born at University College Hospital.

49277166588_dca995a50e_k letter rita

This address in Paddington where my grandmother Rita lived was above A & J Falk, a tobacconist owned by her father (Jacob Falk).  This letter is written a month before her marriage – see wedding menu at Murray’s in first Box post. So by 1938 postcodes in London had evolved from London W to the likes to London W.2 but not yet added the next 3 characters of the modern postcode.

Although it is addressed to My Dear Ma I think this is to her prospective mother-in-law, the same as the telegram above. Her mother-in-law-to-be was profoundly deaf and that I believe made her life really difficult, and her children’s – Isadore and Henry referred to in this letter. Rita was born in June 1916 so had just turned 22 when she wrote this.

The fact that she is fantasising about having her own dressing table aligns well with the Rita I knew – she always had pretty objects on her dressing table, plenty of silver on the art deco wooden (walnut?) piece of mirrored furniture. She always used the acronym P.G. Cheerio I don’t recall her saying.

It was thoughtful of her to remember Henry, Ian’s younger brother. He was a lovely bloke and had one of the most splendid deaths I know. He goes to White Hart Lane with his son to watch a Spurs match and they win. He goes home and tinkers a bit in his garden – his profession was as a gardener. He goes in to have a rest in the armchair in front of the fireplace. He falls asleep. Forever. Way to go…

 

 

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