Saturday, 5 July 2008

Happy Days

Its not only onions that have a tendency to repeat. Television at this time of the year is also full of repeats. Saturday, the most popular night for viewing and what are we offered? Have I Got News For You, Foyle's War, Dad's Army, Benidorm, Law and Order, all repeats. Plus Big Brother highlights, excruiating even first time round and Glastonbury, The Best Bits. Oh, and two films well past their sell by date.
The television remains off and my wife reads as is her wont. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun; any Dalziel and Pascoe mystery; Morse, Sharp, Holmes, their adventures are constantly devoured ad infinitum, morning, noon and night.
Fretful I ponder how to amuse myself. What would granny have done, between bringing up eight children, cooking, ironing and attending chapel, God willing. (Plus presumably a lie down when possible.) As soon as I thought of granny the answer was there in a flash, look at the stereo cards of course.
I remember many an evening as a child sat in grannies parlour, looking at 'grannies pictures'. The 'need to know' syndrome might be popular today. But did we children of the late 1940's care that we were looking at examples of stereoscopic images viewed through a stereoscopic viewer. Or that it was invented by a Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1840. Or for that matter realise that stereopsis is most commonly referred to as depth perception. The only thing we cared about was that we loved looking at 'grannies pictures'.
I retrieve the battered box still containing those treasured cards. A little faded, some inevitably yellowed with age, several marked by grubby fingerprints from bygone ages. But most are still viewable. (Many years ago the original viewer fell apart from constant use but I found another in a local auction, no doubt placed there by the fates that surround us all.) I carefully place the cards on a table and the memories flood back.
Pictures of places: Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight; West Cliff at Ramsgate, seaside and countryside, literally up hill and down dale. Plus nearer to home Chatsworth, Buxton, Matlock and Haddon Hall. We as children had hardly if ever visited such mysterious places. A trip up local fields with corned beef sandwiches and a bottle of pop was as far as we went from the village but we could but dream.
Another popular subject viewed with interest were those that showed the working man in his glory. Particularly favoured were pictures of coal mines, traditionally relevant to Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire at the turn of the century.
A proliferation of pit props that were ideal subjects for three dimensional viewing. Each and everyone viewed with awe and not a little admiration. I view the pit bottom once again and marvel. Nostalgic memories but a sombre reminder of the hard life led by many, a life of physical toil for doubtful reward.
Yet wonderful though these all were, our favourites were those depicting humorous or dramatic scenes, some obvious, others too subtle for childish minds. Romance was often depicted in a gentle, innocent way. 'Love Laughs at Locksmiths,' 'Love in a Tub', two titles with obvious appeal. 'Waiting for Santa Claus' had charm, whilst'Not a Drop till You Kiss me' had a cheeky appeal. The youngest amongst us were alarmed yet still fascinated by two men confronting each other, entitled 'Friend thee had better move', though we never did truly comprehend 'A Jew and a Quaker at work. Experience of either was way beyond our simple village experiences. The subjects were varied in the extreme, and our delight endless.
Particulary seached out time after time was 'Boys bathing', our first experience of people with no clothes on! Perhaps the Victorians were not as prudish as history would have us believe! For once repeats were acceptable. Big Brother, eat your heart out.

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