The sleigh got clamped and is languishing in dusty obscurity in a garage somewhere near the North Pole, and poor old Rudolph has been deemed surplus to requirements and has unceremoniously been given his P45. Why? Because Santa has decided to get bang up to date with his transportation this Christmas, and he’s bought a motor car. And just look at him go! Those presents will be delivered extra fast this year, although he better leave all those tempting glasses of sherry alone – Santa getting nicked for drink driving would just ruin Christmas…
Dealing with inclement weather at this time of the year is nothing new. We’ve had some snow in London already this December, but it’s unlikely to be a white Christmas here this year. The early 19th century was a chilly time, though, as illustrated by this witty 1821 etching by Richard Dighton from the Wellcome Library collection. This unfortunate chap has just had his fashionable top hat knocked into his eyes by falling snow being shovelled above – just as he passes a shop selling ice skates (I love the shop’s name: ‘Careless Skate Maker’. Not sure I’d want to be shopping there if I was wanting to get out on the ice!). This was obviously a common annoyance in a wintery 19th century London, and it didn’t matter if you were an elegantly dressed gentleman like this one – the snow would still get you!
It’s almost Christmas Eve. Wherever you are, and whether you have snow or not, keep safe and warm out there…
For links to more festive reading, click here!
It’s the day before Christmas Eve and I hope you’ve done all your shopping. Since it’s a Saturday too, high streets and shopping centres up and down the country will be buzzing with last-minute shoppers all day. Personally, that’s one of my more anxiety-inducing ideas of hell, and makes me glad I’ve done all my Christmas shopping, and all I have to do now is to stay in the warm and wrap the presents up (which, in its way, is a circle of hell in its own right – can someone PLEASE find the end of the Sellotape for me!?). I’m looking forward to Christmas Day when I can put my feet up and not have to think about anything!
This wonderful early example of stop-motion animation was made in Russia just before the First World War. A charming and quirky film, this is the work of the relatively unknown animation pioneer Wladyslaw Starewicz (1882-1965). Starting work in animation at least ten years before Walt Disney (who, as we know, grabbed all the headlines) and almost by accident, Starewicz produced films in Lithuania, Russia and France over a long career that lasted until his death in the mid-1960s.
His interest in insects ran alongside his interest in film, eventually resulting in works like The Insects’ Christmas. In 1910, he became Director of the Museum of Natural History in Kaunas (Lithuania), where he studied various bugs and beetles by filming their activities. This obviously inspired him, and these creepy-crawlies became insect puppets after their short lives were over, transforming into his stars in imaginative works like this.
Way back in 2010, I wrote a Christmas post examining how the festive season was celebrated in the 17th century. This was a period of great upheaval in British culture and society, especially in the aftermath of the Civil Wars and the execution of King Charles I. A Puritan government under Oliver Cromwell had taken over from the monarchy and implemented a new set of policies that weren’t always popular with the ordinary people.
Most notoriously, they banned the celebration of Christmas – as I wrote in the previous post, this really annoyed the people of London (and elsewhere), who simply carried on as usual when it came to enjoying the festivities, and even rioted when they could not! In return, London’s refusal to abide by the law thoroughly irritated the government, as this intriguing report from around 1650 (attributed to Cromwell himself) shows.
Back in early December 2014, I posted a video of Post Haste, a quirky little short film made for distribution to cinemas during World War Two, in order to encourage people to post early for Christmas – so when I found this wonderful image*, I had to revisit the subject. Anyway, you can look at it as a useful reminder if you’re as disorganised about Christmas as I am!
From the same era as Post Haste, this eye-catching illustration of an efficient-looking dog busily taking his festive parcels to the Post Office (in plenty of time, of course) sends a message that still has a resonance today, especially if you have friends and family who live abroad. Such festive reminders were commonplace during World War Two (you can see more examples of similar Christmas post-related home front propaganda here, here and here) when many people were separated from their loved ones for long periods by the effects of the conflict.
Christmas is a time for ghost stories. The long, dark, cold nights at this time of year lend themselves well to spooky tales, and today’s film clip is no exception. We’ve looked at the most famous Christmas ghost story of all on several previous occasions, but this is a very different kind of folktale to that of Scrooge and his phantom visitors.
The gothic tale of The Mistletoe Bough dates back to at least the 18th century and was traditionally told at Christmas time. It tells the story of a young couple, recently married, who decide to play a game of hide and seek during their wedding celebrations. During the fun and games, the bride mysteriously disappears. Years later, the husband encounters her ghost, and finds out exactly what happened to her on their wedding night…
The short version of the film above is a recent restoration by the BFI, and features a score by Pete Wiggs of St Etienne. Orginally directed in 1904 by Percy Stow, it is fascinating to see a film made more than a hundred years ago so clearly, and it shows how creative these early film-makers were – particularly with the ghostly special effects – while using very basic technology.
For more seasonal posts on Another Kind Of Mind, see here.
Another quirky vintage Christmas treat from the BFI National Archive. This little film was shown in British cinemas over the festive season of 1946. Watch out for the striking sequence where the toys under the Christmas tree come alive…
Merry Christmas to all of you, and I hope you’ve had a wonderful day – wherever you’ve been and whoever you’ve been with.
For more seasonal posts on Another Kind Of Mind, see here.
Personally, it has been incredibly tough – but I am glad to say that the depression that nearly knocked me out entirely at the beginning of the year has mostly lifted, and I am almost fully back on my feet again after breaking my ankle and badly damaging the ligaments (although I still need a crutch to get around!).
I’d like to say a huge thank you to all the NHS staff who have treated me so well this year; from the ambulance crew who picked me up from the pavement and got me to Chelsea & Westminster hospital, the amazing A&E team there who got me sorted so quickly, and the physiotherapist at West Middlesex hospital who is currently getting me up and walking properly again, to my fantastic GP, the astute psychotherapist who got me thinking, and the community mental health team who have monitored my progress on these new meds with care and attention.
All these people are incredible, and their kindness and skill make me even more grateful for the NHS.
Also incredible are my family and friends (online and off), who have put up with a lot and have stuck by me nonetheless. Thanks to them for doing my shopping, brewing endless cups of tea, driving me places, making me laugh, reminding me to do my physio exercises, sending me great music and lovely messages, listening to me vent…. They know who they are – and they all rock.
And thanks to you, my dear, patient readers. For the first time ever, I have not posted anything on Another Kind Of Mind for many months, which is most unlike me and shows just how unwell I have been. I hope to get back to blogging regularly again in the new year – I have much I want to talk about. In the meantime, I’m planning to get a couple of Christmassy posts up over the next few days (if I can find the time), because Christmas isn’t Christmas round these parts without them! If you’re missing the usual festive fun, you can find links to all my previous seasonal posts here. Enjoy!
Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas to you all – and here’s to a better 2017 all round…
Hmmm. They don’t look very happy, do they? In fact, the kitten on the right looks distinctly cross (because the one on the left has pinched his seat, by the looks….).
I hope you’re all having a wonderful Christmas Day, wherever you are.
It’s also for you if you can’t or don’t (or even don’t want to) celebrate Christmas – I hope your day is a good one too, whatever you’re doing.
And if you’re alone today, well, fix me a gin and tonic and I’ll join you, if you’d like….
Merry Christmas to you all!
(And may you be as happy as some genuinely very happy kittens…)
Incidentally, if you’re still in a festive mood and fancy some more seasonal reading, you’ll find a list of all my Christmas-related posts right here.