The January Meeting 2017
Our Lost World – Antony Wood
Antony introduced his talk by describing it as an unashamed exercise in nostalgia which defined Britain in the nineteen forties, fifties and sixties.
He showed a picture of the house where he was born in Datchet where his father was a member of the clergy. To get our members into the spirit of the talk he then went on to explain why he decided to write a memoir “Never The Same River” which is based on his experiences. One of his major concerns was whether he could actually write a memoir and whether anybody would be interested in reading the finished book.
He went on to outline his family circumstances which included his mother suffering from chronic depression so that the late forties he was sent off for Sunday lunch either to a local grocer where his living conditions were cramped in a tiny house with a back yard and an outside toilet. Alternatively he ate at a neighbour’s quite grand house which had maids and a gong which was rung for meals. So his book contains a lot of social history and he reminded us that after the war the country was not very prosperous.
He joined the Army in the 1960’s and became an officer in a cavalry regiment. He enjoyed serving the Queen and being on active duty in Borneo and Aden and his memoir sets out to describe the professional but relaxed atmosphere of his regiment.
This brief introduction served to remind us that we would be looking at what Britain was like in the forties and fifties when we were growing up. A further reminder was provided by a display of everyday objects of the period which Antony had bought with him such as a copy of the Daily Telegraph, the magazine Punch, maps printed on cloth, tobacco pouches and Pears Cyclopaedia as well as some old coins and a railway ticket for thirty four shillings and sixpence
He wondered what memories his readings and these objects prompted in members of the Club who were conveniently seated at four lunch tables. Giving each ‘team’ a clipboard he asked them to discuss among themselves what they remembered of the times when they were growing up and then a spokesman from each group read the list for all to hear.
The earliest travel memories of David Field’s group were of the 1930’s when travelling from Bournemouth to Waterloo by train when two small sisters were in the charge of the guard. The early 1940’s found David Richardson going from Paddington to Cardiff on a steam train as an evacuee and another member travelling on a horse and cart. The 1950’s found trams still operating and steam train travelling the length of the country. .
The group memories of Home Life were given by Derek West and which included paraffin heaters, the meat safe and the rationing of food. Many, during the war, could hear bombs falling, even when taking refuge in their Anderson shelters and following the course of doodlebug terror weapons. One member had been bombed out and all had carried gas masks. Some had experienced fun when out collecting shrapnel after the raids. Particularly well remembered was ice forming on the inside of windows during the freezing winter of 1947.
With regard to food the popular products of the period were given by Rodney Murray-Jones who mentioned Camp Coffee, gob stopper sweets, Radio Malt, Bloaters and Kia Ora. The liquorice stick was also a popular sweet and Pimm’s No1 was a refreshing summer drink.
The highlights of the discussion on Entertainment were given by Barry Buttenshaw who mentioned the BBC World Service and the popular comedy programmes ITMA and Much Binding in the Marsh. The mid forties remembered for the hit jazz piano solo 'Misirlou' by Jan August (**see web address below). The 1953 Coronation was watched on a 9 inch television screen, memorably with Queen Salote of Tonga, the only one of the carriage riding dignitaries in the Procession to travel with the top down, so that she could be seen and wave to the crowds. The 1960’s were remembered for matinee films costing 6 old pence to watch and The Gang Show with Flanagan and Allen at the Chiswick Empire. There was also The Navy Lark, The Archers and Dick Barton Special Agent on the radio.
When answering questions Antony replied to David Richardson that one of the advantages of National Service was that men were doing something different for a couple of years although it was very necessary to set up stringent conditions for those seeking commissions. To Keith Nicol who was concerned about the present day size of the armed forces he replied that in the past the military budget had been three times that of education but that was now reversed with Education being four times higher.
When giving the Vote of Thanks Barry Buttenshaw commented that speaking as a Magistrate he thought the ending of National Service was the worse thing to happen given the actions and attitudes of some of the present day youngsters. He went on to thank Antony for his interesting talk and for the enjoyable interaction he had set up between himself and the members of the Club.
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