Monday, 26 March 2012

Good Housekeeping 1950's style

My Mum who is in her 80's was chatting with a group of women friends the other day. They started talking about if life was really better in their youth like their peers often claim. They discussed the fact that women in the 40's and 50's were still very much an appendage to their husbands and that they have much more freedom in every way these days and are treated as individuals in their own right. No rose coloured glasses here!

This fits in with a blog I wanted to do on the Good Housekeeping Picture Cookery book that is one of my most treasured possessions. Dog eared and splattered with old egg yolk and flour this book was passed down to me - with a loving and proud inscription from my father (just realised how ironic that is in view of this topic...), via my Mother to me.

Just look at the adverts:

woman cooking advert  1950

Actually today's retro fashions mean that the dress would not look out of place - though perhaps not in the kitchen...

What about this happy family. Note Mum's outfit includes a pearl necklace to serve the meal and the boy's suit makes him look like an important miniature Father:

Family and mixer advert 1950

Friday, 16 March 2012

Never the Same Girl Twice

Ladies and gentlemen allow me to introduce to you the one and only Helga Stone – impressionist of the stars.
Never the same girl twice
Billed as “Never the Same Girl Twice” Helga, now 96, spent the wartime years on stage impersonating the stars of the day.

Born into a theatrical family Helga was destined for the stage from a very early age. She became, along with her parents and sister Billie, part of the very first real radio family in "Breakfast with the Murgatroyds" on the BBC Home Service. Helga starred in pantomime as principal boy, had a double act - The Harmony Gems - with her glamorous mother Josie and was part of a family touring musical comedy act before breaking away and going solo with Impressions of the Stars which made her one of the country's leading female impressionists during the 1940’s.
The Harmony Gems
Helga has fascinating anecdotes about life in the music halls and stories of people she met and worked with including Ronnie Corbett, Sid Field, Arthur Askey, Jack Warner, Elsie and Doris Waters, Jessie Matthews, Tessie O'Shea and the Western Brothers.  
Some of her experiences resonate today. She was advised by a theatrical entrepreneur at 17 that if she had a nose job he would make her a star. 105 guineas was a lot of money in the 1930s but she had it done and does not seem to have regretted it.    Working on pantomimes they broke records for first sisters playing principal boy and girl and first mother and daughter playing Prince Charming to Cinderella. Helga got to travel to Europe in the post war Combined Services Entertainment [which replaced ENSA] where they were sent to keep the British and American troops happy. 
Cinderella poster

As an impressionist Helga had one or two men in her impressionist repertoire including Max Miller who saw her act and complimented her on her impersonation of him, and Maurice Chevalier. Other impressionists were rarely on the same bill but she recalls one time when Peter Sellers was on and they checked out that they were not impersonating the same people – they weren’t. Of course a popular impersonation was Gracie Fields and she enjoyed impersonating Joyce Grenfell. In fact Helga was once mistaken for the real Joyce Grenfell which was quite a boost, and she still has the telegram from Tessie O’Shea giving her permission to impersonate her.

Helga had a period in the 1950’s as a Lady Ratling which sounds fun and riven with riotous ritual. The Grand Order of Lady Ratlings is a women’s theatrical charitable body 83 years old this year.  

Helga always wanted to write about her experiences in the theatre but waited until she was 92 before embarking on this. And of course it is full of fascinating music hall memorabilia with a few very precious copies  for Helga, and her family and friends. Take a bow Helga Stone...

Saturday, 10 March 2012

What a performance!

Don't you just love it when the streets are alive with performers?  I get such a kick out of the atmosphere when jugglers, artists and musicians and the like descend on our - usually pedestrianised - shopping spaces - and it is never quite the same with the faceless malls. Always gets me smiling.

hula hoop of fire
Today I have been to the city centre of Leicester for instance and have been entranced by a couple playing with fire...this lady hula hooped with her routine - and they chose a good backdrop to set off the fire well  - sometimes closed down shops have their uses...
street saxophonist
Then a few yards along the road a jazz musician playing his saxophone - had to get him in here. Bankrupt stock clearance behind but never mind - this was uplifting!
pavement artist

What about a different kind of perfomer?? OK street art here we come... such talent in the wielding of a  stick of chalk. Love those cartoonists doing caricatures of paying passers by too.

Even the chuggers were a bit of fun in their silly hats. They are called 'chuggers' which is a humorous shortening of charity muggers!

These have all been taken today but I have stilt walkers, statues, comedy routines, choirs,  the lot -  in my photo folders.  

What about the sounds around me today? Imagine all this and in the background the impassioned words of a gentleman on his soap box telling us about God and his merciful ways...funny old world...

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Fiction or Life?

I had a completely different post in mind this week but the nice thing about blogs is that you can change  - nothing is set in stone.

Last night a friend and I were chatting over a bottle of wine when I was posed a question that I thought might be right up the street of us bloggers. This friend feels that characters in books are more real than real life, the characters often more fully depicted. In real life we only get a glimpse of a person but writers give us thoughts and feelings and we can get to the nub of a character. This is not my topic but background to the question I was asked, though it is a poser - because he went on to ask me which character in a book had influenced the development of my character and how I lived my life.
Gabriel Oak - not an excuse to have Alan Bates here in the screen role..

For him the two most important have been Edwin Clayhanger in Arnold Bennett's Clayhanger trilogy and Gabriel Oak in Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. Aside from the fact that he is probably living in the wrong century they are both men with strong, independent, honest, self sufficient spirits living their lives with sensitivity.

I struggled! As a woman would I only be finding women to relate to, and if so what little choice...In fact 24 hours later I realised that my choice would have to be Robinson Crusoe or Henri Charriere aka Papillon and for some of the same characteristics - indomitable and adaptable spirits.  Of course there have been other influences - in Anne Tyler's Ladder of Years Delia Grinstead,  the female lead,  told me that I could alter the course of my life and I suppose I still had her story etched in my brain when I did just that some years ago. Delia dared to think the unthinkable about how unhappy she was. But I only listened to the part that suited me - in the novel I don't think she really makes a success of a new some ways she repeats her old one which is pretty depressing.

I don't have an almost tangible presence sitting on my shoulder that I ask "I wonder what you would do in this situation" which my friend has - a kind of Jiminy Cricket to Pinnochio this sounds like - a conscience - now you know I have watched too many films..
Jiminy cricket

So do we choose characters because they reflect what we are like anyway or do we really change because we have been alongside them in books?