Monday, October 31, 2005

The Diary Of A Provincial Lady

As I mentioned the other day, I'm going to be posting a few extracts from my mother's diaries but first I should put them in context.
My mother kept a daily diary all her life. This was not a literary endeavour. She simply liked to record everything that happened and thought that reading them would give her pleasure in her old age.
Towards the end of her life (she died two years' ago), she read through them from the beginning. At that time she allowed me to read the ones that covered my own childhood, from the early 1950s to the early 1960s.

I am not proposing to serialise them nor to publish fragments in any particular order. I won't be posting any of the daily trivia of family life. I may include a few references to my infant self although I've no idea whether other people will find those as funny as I do. For example, when I was three my mother records: "When I was washing Willie's hair today he said 'Wouldn't it be a tragedy if I fell in the sink?"

But the extracts that I think may be of wider interest are those that illuminate that particular period, small nuggets of social history that describe lifestyle, leisure activities, fashions and the price of things.
There are also frequent references to world events although they often follow inconsequentially from a man coming to repair the boiler which gives them an unintentional comic quality. I remember pointing out some of these incongruous mixings of the trivial with world news to my mother and I thought she would never stop laughing.

My own notes and comments are in [square brackets]. I've used my blogging pseudonym and my father is 'J' and my sister 'C'.

These first extracts about television programmes in the 1950s I find particularly fascinating. The first one shows the wariness with which the new invention was regarded.

28th October, 1955

The arrival of television in the Lupin home!
Only rented, though - 13/6d weekly [about 65 pence]. Mother and Dad very kindly gave the £7 which one pays for aerial costs.
After always feeling very much against TV, we have now come to the conclusion that with selected viewing, both on our part and the children's, we shall all benefit considerably from it. We have had it put in the lounge and not in the living room where it might have been inclined to dominate our lives.

30th August, 1956

I am just watching the Soviet Ensemble on television. Marvellous, especially when they sing our songs like "Tipperary" and "Oh No, John".
A Howard Spring play is to follow.

2nd March, 1958

The television was repaired by teatime for me to enjoy Corky and Big Tim Champion (my pin-up!) as much as the children.
[Corky was 'Circus Boy' (pictured), played by Mickey Braddock whose real name was Mickey Dolenz who became the drummer in The Monkees pop group. I adored Corky - maybe it was that uniform - and thought it most unfair that he was in America and I could never be his friend. I had no idea my mother was smitten by Big Tim Champion, the circus owner who adopted Corky].

Tonight we watched a comedy written 2,000 years ago: "Amphitryon 38" starring Googie Withers and Patrick Barr. If they could write that kind of comedy 2,000 years ago it shows how little people have changed. I have just read in Radio Times that plot, characters and situation belong to Plautus but that this is the 1937 version so I guess the original was presented rather differently after all.

10th September 1956

We enjoyed the TV play last night - "You Touched Me" by Tennessee Williams, based on D.H. Lawrence's story. Fay Compton and Wilfred Lawson were very good.

10th August, 1956

I have just seen 'Nom-De-Plume', a weekly TV programme I enjoy because I like guessing who the famous people are. I have guessed most of them so far, including tonight's - Diaghilev.
[This appears to have been the nearest thing to a game show where you could 'play along at home'. My mother refers to it often. They appear to have been small playlets about un-named famous people. Another one she guessed was Charles Lamb. As you can see, 'Family Fortunes' it wasn't!]

To be continued


At 6:04 PM, Blogger Merkin said...

I greatly admire your restraint in not at least hinting at your latest journey towards immortality, Willie, in today's Media Guardian.

In fact, I think her precis of your more-regular blog content is spot-on - "where bad ads get the same hilarious, ruthless roughing-up he gives dodgy government policies and crap telly."

Long live Mr L.

At 6:33 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Thanks, Mr M.
Whilst I warmly welcome the many thousands who have flocked here today (slight exaggeration), those of you who became friends before I was spoken of in London media circles will always have a special place in my heart.
As for restraint, it's too soon to say. I might yet be really brazen and stick that quote on my strapline. So long as people don't say 'that Lupin, he's getting well up himself.'
But they probably say that anyway.

At 8:44 AM, Blogger cello said...

Oh, Willie, what excellent taste you and your mum had. I loved 'Circus Boy' too, though Mr C is still regularly teased by his sister for his inability to pronounce it when he was all of five. The phrase 'Hircuth Boy' brings him out in a sweat, though not in the way Corky did for you.

I have just returned from Portugal where the villa's TV could receive BBC2. I watched The Weakest Link and Egggheads a couple of times and I must say it made me yearn for the days when Diaghilev was the answer to a quiz question. You'd be lucky to get such a question on University challenge these days.

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

cello, I hoped that Circus Boy might bring back memories for readers of a certain age.

Although I couldn't resist that crack about the uniform, I was only 7 at the time so, unless I was very sexually precocious, I think my love for Corky was entirely platonic.
But feel free to start a discussion on Freud's theory of infantile latent sexuality!

At 10:45 AM, Blogger cello said...

Now there's an invitation you don't get every day!

One of my two best friends, who both happen to be gay men in their '50s, says that, from the age of six, he remembers being strongly sexually attracted to the coal-man who delivered to their house with a bare torso. Make of that what you will.

I think it took me a bit longer, but, co-incidentally, one of my first major crushes was for Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz's Monkee colleague, and another ginger-haired actor to boot.

At 1:35 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

cello, I can recall similar instances though I don't wish to detail them here.
I think one remembers them precisely because they had some not-yet-understood sexual element. So I think Freud was on to something.
It's a tricky subject to talk about in today's climate. But I think the irrefutable arguments against sex involving children should not include the assertion that they are completely non-sexual beings. Rather, that something that is latent and embryonic should remain that way until a greater degree of emotional maturity is reached. When that occurs is a matter of debate but the last time I visited that subject all hell broke loose so I think we'll move swiftly on.


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