Perhaps I had ambitions to be an MP - or an undertaker!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

I expect we would all agree with the following, which I read recently.

“If we gathered our impressions from the newspapers alone, it would be easy to believe that there were no happy marriages, no honest bank officers, no incorruptible politicians. The discordant makes itself heard above the harmonious. Ugliness pushes beauty aside and crowds its hateful visage into the foreground.”

That comment was made 100 years ago in one of a series of articles “Cosy Corner Chats,” which were included in an annual called “The Girls’ Empire.”

Well, well. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose - the more things change, the more they stay the same.


Last week I was remembering how class-conscious we were in the 1930s. There were a number of different levels in society and which level you were on depended on your trade or profession, how much money you had, etc.

But there was another quite rigid division in the population - religion.

Protestants and Catholics lived together, but had very little contact with each other. We children were segregated right from the start, for there were Catholic schools and Protestant schools, and where we lived, we weren’t allowed to play with those children who were different!

My parents told me that in the 1920s one of the town’s Church of Scotland ministers used to pack his church on Sunday nights by delivering anti-Catholic sermons. It’s interesting that he allowed his own children to play with Catholics, but of course their father was Headmaster of the Catholic School!

Fortunately, things are very different nowadays. Certainly there is still bad feeling in small sections of the population, but, for the vast majority, Protestants and Catholics get on well together and collaborate on many projects.

When I was a small boy, I was aware that people had a great dislike of Germany and the Germans. I first realised that, when someone gave me a toy marked “Made in Germany.” That was bad, but it was all right if it was “Made in Hong Kong.”

It was natural that this attitude would continue after World War II. I can remember that my parents were unhappy when  I agreed to accompany a German violinist at a one-off concert in Glasgow. He worked as a store man in Copeland and Lye’s, and had been introduced to me by a friend. He had very little English and as I had no German, I didn't find out his background. Did it occur to my parents that he might have been a refugee, perhaps a Jewish refugee?


I don’t find much of interest on television nowadays, and I’m remembering that back in the 1950s/60s there were, for me anyway, a great many excellent programmes.

There was a lot of good drama in Armchair Theatre, the Wednesday Night Plays and series like Z-Cars and Dixon of Dock Green.

One programme that couldn’t be missed was “What’s My Line” presented by Eamonn Andrews with the regular panel of David Nixon, Lady Isobel Barnett, Barbara Kelly and the irascible Gilbert Harding. Part of the enjoyment was waiting for Gilbert to lose his temper. The purpose of the game was for the panel to guess what the contestants’ jobs were - not easy when one was a sagger maker’s bottom-knocker!!!
The What's My Line panel - David Nixon, Lady Isobel Barnett, Barbara Kelly and Gilbert Harding

On a more serious note, there was “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” in which experts had to identify objects supplied by museums and universities.

“Music for You” was a programme of light classical music with Eric Robinson and his Orchestra. This type of TV show is sadly missed.

Comedy on television today doesn’t interest me at all. My top favourites of the past would include Harry Worth, Charlie Drake, Eric Sykes and Hattie Jacques in that situation comedy with Deryck Guyler as the policeman and Richard Wattis as their neighbour, and the best of all - Dad’s Army.

                                                   Harry Worth

There were good magazine-type programmes. Among them was “Late Night Line-up” where Joan Bakewell presented news and discussions on art topics.

And for variety shows, surely “Sunday Night at the Palladium” was the best. Throughout its run, comperes included Dickie Henderson, Bruce Forsythe, Norman Vaughan and Jimmy Tarbuck, and, with the Tiller Girls and a first class orchestra, I don’t think the show’s success has been repeated.

There was one outstanding music show whose popularity on TV and in the theatres spanned 20 years, and that was “The Black and White Minstrels.” Devised by music director George Mitchell, it made its first broadcast in 1958 and on one occasion viewing figures reached 18 million! In 1961 it won the Golden Rose in Montreux for the best light entertainment.

To conclude this brief trip down memory lane, there are two videos. First, a clip from a Black and White Minstrels show in the 1960s, and then - it was a real treat for me to find this one - the brilliant Danish entertainer Victor Borge.


A TOUCH OF CULTURE No.5 is online tomorrow Friday 29th October.

***A Touch of Culture**A Touch of Culture**A Touch of Culture***

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