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.
As with many things in life, I came across this somewhat bizarre little newsreel clip while I was looking for something else entirely (I was actually searching YouTube for videos of football being played in extreme weather – you can find my playlist of that here). When I saw this frankly odd snippet of film, I couldn’t resist posting it here for your enjoyment too!
Since we are in the midst of the Rugby Union Autumn Internationals and the Rugby League World Cup (England have reached the final!), it seemed like the perfect time to share this quirky look at what has to be one of the most unpleasantly cold and uncomfortably violent crossover sports imaginable (and I’ve played actual rugby. In the actual mud).
Filmed at the Streatham Ice Rink in south London (I honestly can’t see this type of game being played on the beautiful green reaches of the Twickenham pitch!), and, according to the narrator “a mixture of rugby and American footer”, this 8-a-side match between the Senators and the Royals doesn’t actually seem to have much in the way of tactics going on – unless you count falling over in a heap and shoving the opposition off the ice at 25mph as tactical play!
The world is a thoroughly horrible place at the moment. Every day it seems to get worse and worse. I don’t know about you, but I’m spending a lot of time looking at pictures of cute animals in an attempt to bleach my brain of the terrible things that appear on the news daily. It works – for a while, anyway. So here’s a newsreel snippet of some very trendy 1950s doggos in their designer outfits for you. I hope it makes you smile!
A little bit of bonus Halloween spookiness for you. This overdramatically-posed image of an elderly gentleman being terrified by a ‘White Lady’ is the cover of a late Victorian mystery novel, written by Arthur William A’Beckett (1844-1909). He was a journalist, humourist and writer who contributed to Punch and edited the Sunday Times over the course of his career.
He’s not well-known as a writer today, although a number of his books are available online (many of them are now in the public domain) – including The Ghost of Greystone Grange, which you can even buy for your Kindle! However, it seems that this book’s cover is more exciting and spooky than its contents; I found an Amazon review that described it as “hard going”. Shame really…
Today is Yorkshire Day, an annual celebration of all things connected to God’s Own County, as it is affectionately known. Although I am a Londoner born and bred, I know that a great number of my ancestors came from the West Riding of Yorkshire, and I still have links to that part of the world. So, to celebrate Yorkshire Day, I went on a hunt for something interesting to share with you all – and I found this intriguing photograph.
Taken somewhere between 1898 and 1902, this image shows Park Row in Leeds city centre (now part of the city’s financial district). It is a moment in time on a fairly busy street, showing many Leeds residents going about their everyday lives. They all seem to be ignoring the photographer… except for the group of boys in the foreground, who have stopped with their handcart by an ornate lamp-post to watch in fascination as the picture is taken.
Even as late as the turn of the 20th century, the sight of a photographer and all his kit can’t have been a common one for such working-class lads, and it’s obvious that they’re highly curious and seem to want to get in on the action! Perhaps it is my imagination, but are one or two of them posing for the camera? One also wonders if they ever got to see the finished article – or even knew that they played a small part in the history of Leeds and of Yorkshire.
Today’s vintage film clip is from British Pathé, and is a fascinating glimpse into the world of football fifty years ago. With England playing Iceland in the Euro ’16 round of sixteen tonight, I thought it might be fun to have a look at some real English footballing success from the past. So we’re heading back five decades to the year England won their one and only World Cup.
We start with a brief look at how the World Cup footballs were skilfully made (mostly by hand, in Yorkshire) and continue with some great colour footage of the final itself, then some newsreel footage of the players being feted afterwards. And, of course, we get a glimpse of the legendary Pickles the dog, who found the World Cup in a hedge after it had been stolen a few months before the competition started.
I grew up on stories of ’66 from football-mad relatives who were actually there – they were at every single England game of that World Cup, including the final. They saw it all from the first match to Bobby Moore lifting the Jules Rimet trophy (and that Geoff Hurst goal? Didn’t go in). In this lifetime, I’d love to see England lift another trophy and match the achievement of that legendary team under Sir Alf Ramsay. I’d love for the magic of ’66 to live again, just a little bit…
Today is the opening day of the football European Championships in France and I’m quite excited. Indeed, I’ve got my fixtures wallchart ready and am planning my match predictions as we speak. One reason I’m quite excited by all this is that my team, the mighty Spurs, have sent a whole eleven (count ’em!) players to Euro ’16 – including five who are in the England squad – which, after the highly dramatic season we just had, is absolutely as it should be!
While I was looking for something football-related to mark the occasion, I came across this fantastic silent newsreel footage of the 1924 Spurs team in training and I just had to post it here (for obvious reasons…). Even from this brief clip, it’s fascinating to see how much is familiar to the 21st century football fan, as well as how much the game has changed since the 1920s – just look at those shorts and that heavy ball in comparison to the hi-tech kit worn and used by modern players, for a start. I honestly can’t see the likes of Wayne Rooney in get up like that…
Watch out for more vintage football-related posts coming soon.
Here’s something short and sweet to begin this new series of vintage film treats from the BFI National Archive. Regular readers will be aware that I have a fondness for river creatures (you can see my most recent encounter with such wildlife here), so when I came across this hundred year old snippet of film I just couldn’t resist.
The antics of this very cheeky little otter were filmed around about a century ago by Charles Urban, an American-born film-maker and producer. Despite being born on the other side of the Atlantic, Urban had an important influence on early British cinema generally – including producing some early examples of wildlife films, a genre which remains highly popular on British TV. We are still fascinated by otters too, although it is not often that we see one in the kind of environment that Urban found here!
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.