This evening I found myself watching some very grainy black and white footage of an old television programme called ‘The Grove Family’ which was the first of the soaps on UK television. Because I was watching in the interests of research, I made myself view it right to the end, although actually it was so unbelievably boring that I almost fell asleep even during the 9 minutes of the clip. It was more like a rather lengthy government announcement than a drama, with a man from the Crime Prevention team coming round and demonstrating window and door locks to another man who was trapped in his chair because the entire cast had to huddle together to get into camera range at the same time. It made me almost grateful for ‘Downton Abbey’.
Not daunted by that experience I went looking for old ITMA recordings immediately afterwards. Yes, I am really getting into the spirit of the 1950s. [Yes, I know ITMA was a 1940s programme but I also know its effects lingered on well into the next decade]. I may never be the same again. But at least ITMA was weird and surreal enough to be amusing – I can imagine people getting to know the catchphrases and repeating them years later, as indeed my parents used to. I think their favourite was ‘Funf has spoken.’ Oddly enough, the meaning was obvious from the tone of voice, even in such a short phrase.
Earlier today I ordered a special Festival of Britain edition of ‘Punch’ and I am slowly reading a whole book about the event and hoping to extract all relevant information. I hasten to add that I’m not at all a fanatical researcher who likes to get every detail correct. I just want to make sure I don’t make too many horrendous mistakes about a decade which I lived through personally. Not that I remember much about it except for the usual kind of vague childhood memories: dropping my teddy bear under a train at Dundee Station; playing with gas-masks we found in an old chest; going to Christmas parties at my father’s place of work and watching Laurel and Hardy films; trudging to school through the snow and pretending to be climbing Everest. And the Coronation, of course. I think – but I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself – that book 3 in my potential new mystery series may be set at the time of the Coronation.
Of course the important thing in November is to write. And just for that month, all history and research can go right out the window.