Make-up: A Glamorous History (final episode) – BBC 2

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I do love a good American Dream story!  Max Factor, born Maksymilian Faktorowicz in a small town outside Lodz, started work at the age of 8 because his family were so poor, sailed steerage to Ellis Island to escape the pogroms, moved to LA because he was so taken by “the movies”, and pretty much created the modern make-up industry.  Amazing.  Meanwhile, his half-brother became a Chicago gangster who worked closely with Al Capone!  The programme didn’t actually mention the gangster brother, but I thought I would!

I do not love 1920s fashion.  It seems to have been designed for women who were no more than a size 6, and had no tummy, backside, waist, hips or bust.  On top of that, it involved miniscule handbags.  What a larger-sized female who couldn’t leave the house without carrying everything but the kitchen sink with her, i.e. someone like me, was supposed to do, I have no idea.  Just look uncool, I suppose 😢!  But, hey, at least women of any size could choose what sort of make-up they wore, and the 1920s/1930s was the era in which it became affordable for everyone.

It’s important for everyone to be able to choose a look which works for them.  The current Coronation Street storyline, in which Nina was badly beaten up because of her choice of clothes, make-up and hairstyle, based on the horrific murder of Sophie Lancaster in Bacup in 2007, is reminding us how prejudiced people can be just based on someone else’s look.  We’ve still got a long way to go, but the inter-war years were the period in which we at least really started to move towards each person choosing what worked for them.

But to get back to the point …

…. this was another fascinating episode, as we saw the make-up/cosmetics industry roll on into the days of mass marketing, getting people in white coats to convince you that it was all good for you, and setting up all those counters which still tend to be the first thing you see when you walk into a department store. On the one hand, women were rebelling, choosing their own looks, and having their hair cut short – despite schools suspending girls who turned up with short hair, employers sacking women with short hair, and clergymen preaching against the evils of having your crowning glory cut off.  On the other hand, there was all this advertising making you feel that you didn’t look right.

And, of course, there was the obsession with the cinema!  A lot of this was about film star looks.  And a lot of it was about the actual science of make-up, and how people were influenced by the idea that this was all good for you.  But I think the main theme was that, after the Great War, women were increasingly rebelling against the control of society and the patriarchy, and how changing hairstyles, styles of clothing and trends in make-up all showed that.

Like the previous two episodes, it said so much about the society of the day, and how trends involving hair and clothes and make-up were a part of that.  This really has been a great series, and I’m only sorry that there’ve only been three episodes of it.  Well done, Lisa Eldridge and BBC 2!   Good stuff 🙂 .

Great British Railway Journeys (series 12) – BBC 2

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 I wasn’t sure how this was going to pan out, but Michael Portillo and BBC 2 have done an excellent job of adapting to Covid restrictions; and they managed to make Slough, Pinner, Hatch End and various other places which, with all due respect, don’t scream “glamour”, sound very interesting!   Windsor, Winchester and Oxford added some rather more traditional interest, along with Downton Abbey (OK, Highclere Castle), and we even got to see Michael riding on Thomas the Tank Engine along the “Watercress Line” heritage railway in Hampshire.

The theme was the 1930s, and we heard about a wide range of subjects relating to that decade, although we did also cross into the 1920s and 1940s.  We got the Abdication, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb, the establishment of the spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville, the opening of a Mars factory 🙂 in Slough, Heath Robinson’s cartoons and the model village at Bekonscot, to name but a few.  And, of course, we got Thomas the Tank Engine!  The second week’s going to cover the Kindertransport, Sutton Hoo, the (in)famous Summerhill School and 1930s art in the first episode alone, so they really are packing a lot into each half hour slot.

The pandemic wasn’t really mentioned, but we did see Michael wearing his (garishly-coloured) mask on the trains, and he only spoke to one person at a time – no big groups, no joining in with dancing or other activities.  And he’s unlikely to be filming abroad any time soon.  But it didn’t spoil any of the programmes.  This is what we’re all having to do at the moment – adapt as best we can, and try to find interesting things to see and do within the restrictions.  It’s lovely to see another series of this, and it’s wonderful that they’ve been able to film it despite everything that’s been going on.

Make-up: A Glamorous History (second episode) – BBC 2

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  I am so impressed with this series!   I thought it was just going to be, well, lipstick, powder and paint, but the episode on the Georgians was great and so too was this episode on the Victorians.  I couldn’t help thinking how some of the Victorian ideas on appearance were still influencing children’s books written in the mid-20th century, which I was reading as a kid in the early 1980s.  As Lisa Eldridge pointed out, Victorian ideas on being able to judge someone’s personality based on how they looked verged on the bonkers – but, in Enid Blyton adventure and mystery books, you always know that anyone with a thick neck or “eyes set too closely together” will turn out to be a baddie!   And, at the Chalet School, wearing more than the slightest hint of make-up is a sign that you are a Very Bad Girl, and yet you’re supposed to look attractive at all times.  As Lisa said, that works OK if you’re naturally stunning, but it really doesn’t for the rest of us!  I do not have the nerve to go anywhere without make-up on.

All sorts of other things also made their way into this – from the Contagious Diseases Act, to people having issues with red hair because of Scottish and Irish nationalism, to soldiers being expected to have huge moustaches because it was thought that Indian men with lots of facial hair looked uber-virile and that British men should try to get the same look.

It started with fairly standard stuff about Victorians not being keen on the idea of make-up because it was associated with being on the stage, and also because the later Victorians were obsessed with the idea that cleanliness was next to godliness and thought that a clean face meant a bare face.  But it went beyond that, to talk about how it was felt that, if you covered your face with make-up, you might be trying to hide something … like the fact that your face was ravaged by syphilis, and from there it got on to the Contagious Diseases Act, and how women were so frightened of being dragged in for those horrific speculum examinations that they were afraid to wear make-up in case it led to their being mistaken for prostitutes.   Very interesting point.  And it also talked about the general attitudes towards women, and how a lot of make-up looked as if you were putting yourself out there rather than fading into the background.

There was also some talk about phrenology, which always makes me think of Mr Rochester doing his “feeling your bumps” thing, and the general idea of being able to judge people by their appearance.  It didn’t go into eugenics in too much detail, but it did touch on the idea.  And it also mentioned the idea of TB being seen as making people look attractive – bright eyes, rosy cheeks, etc – and compared it to the heroin chic idea of the 1990s.  It was just fascinating how the programme developed.

There was also some talk about hair.  There are still some rules about facial hair in the Armed Services, aren’t there?  Anyway, we heard about how, after the Crimean War, soldiers were banned from shaving above their top lips, and this was in force until 1916 … and how this was because Indian men with luxuriant beards and moustaches were thought to look very manly.  I have to say that I am not a fan of men having either beards or moustaches, although I know that some people wear them for religious reasons, but each to their own!

And then the issue of red hair.  I thought that prejudice against people with red hair was to do with religion, because Judas was supposed to have had red hair, and the Spanish Inquisition associated red hair with being Jewish, but the programme made the point that it was also associated with Scotland and Ireland – and presumably, by extension, with ideas of Irish and Scottish nationalism.  If Nicola Sturgeon was watching, she was probably quite chuffed to hear that!   Interesting idea.  I don’t really know why, but everyone has this image of Jacobites as having bright red hair.  You can even buy Jacobite tam o’shanters with a load of false red hair attached, which is utterly ridiculous: the Old Pretender and Bonnie Prince Charlie both wore white powdered wigs, and had brownish hair!    Scotland and Ireland do both have far higher percentages of people with red hair than England does, though.

All this from talking about make-up!   This series really is good.  It’s a shame that there’s only one episode left.

 

Make-up: A Glamorous History – BBC 2

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  I wasn’t sure what to expect from this programme, presented by make-up artist Lisa Eldridge, but it turned out to be pretty interesting, as she discussed how upper-class High Georgian ladies piled their hair so high that they had to sit on the floor of their carriages rather than their seats, and were so obsessed with painting their faces with white lead that at least one woman died of lead poisoning as a result.  The men got in on the act too, with the craze for “macaroni” dress – tall, powdered wigs, diamante buckles on shoes, et al.

Meanwhile, Georgian lads’ mags printed league tables ranking famous women according to their beauty, grace and elegance, with Georgiana Cavendish nee Spencer, the famous Duchess of Devonshire, always coming out on top.  Georgiana actually employed a personal hairdresser, who was paid more than her lady’s maid, housekeeper, butler or coachmen.  And such was the general interest in all these goings-on that shop windows were full of prints of pictures of the rich and famous, and people even rented hotel rooms so that they could hang out of the windows to watch their faves go by.  And we think that obsession with celebs is a 21st century thing!

But, according to Lisa, the shock of the French Revolution caused such a reaction against excessive make-up that it wasn’t until the days of glam rock and the New Romantics that people went so OTT again. I can honestly say that I’d never really thought of it quite like that before, but I can see where she was coming from!   I was going to mention Adam Ant, but dandy highwaymen and Prince Charming are more Regency than High Georgian 🙂 .

However overboard the whole make-up and hair thing went in Britain, it was far worse in France, where hundreds of courtiers would actually go and watch Marie Antoinette performing her toilette, because it was such a long and elaborate job.  It’s fairly hard to argue that that in itself had much to do with the French Revolution, but, OK, it was all part of the culture of excess.

The general idea of the programme was that make-up says a lot about the era, and that, in this instance, the upper-classes used make-up to show off their wealth and power – an ordinary person would never have been able to afford those sorts of cosmetics, nor would they have had the time to apply them.  The programme was as much about hairstyles as make-up, but, OK, the two things go together.  I could have done without the attempts to make everything “relevant” to today – I’m sure we can all think about the Georgians without needing to think about the Kardashians – but it really was quite interesting.

Leonardo – Amazon Prime

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I was really looking forward to this.  Renaissance Italy plus Aidan Turner – what more could you ask?  However, it’s just … strange.  Our hero is handsome, charming, polite, kind, talented, full of integrity, flashes the odd brooding look, has risen above a difficult childhood and always nobly overcomes adversity.  He’s a dream, apart from sometimes throwing in a bit of annoying 21st century speak about everyone being on a journey and painting their truth.  However, what he *isn’t* is anything like Leonardo da Vinci.  Or indeed any other artist in Renaissance Italy, where you looked for a wealthy patron (rather than telling the Duke of Milan that you couldn’t come and work for him because you’d just committed yourself to a job elsewhere and couldn’t possibly go back on your word) and painted whatever they paid you to paint.

Oh, and he’s been wrongly accused of murder and is being pursued by a policeman whose dad used to be in Howards’ Way.  Er, yes.  I’ve read a million and one books about 15th and 16th century Italy.  Funny how none of them ever mentioned Leonardo and the Mystery of the Murdered Muse.

The Murdered Muse is Caterina da Cremona, who may or may not have existed, may or may not have been Leonardo’s muse, and may or may not have been his mistress.  However, the marketing for this series has focused on its exploring whether or not Leonardo was gay.   And, yes, it did bring in the true story of he and three other young men being charged over their involvement with a male prostitute.  However, it turned it into a silly plot in which a jealous rival paid the said prostitute to seduce him, and tipped off the authorities so that they went round and caught them in flagrante, all so that our man Leonardo would get the boot from Verrocchio’s studio.  So, instead of the focus being on Leonardo’s sexuality, it was on somebody else having it in for him.  Is it me or was that rather insensitive?

Finally, they’ve thrown in a storyline about an old witch telling his mother, when he was in his cradle, that he was cursed to be alone and destroy everything he loved.  Because a bird had flown into his bedroom.  And him being haunted by this. I’m not sure if this bit’s meant to be Victorian Gothic or the Brothers Grimm, but it’s certainly not Italian Renaissance.

Er, yes.  So this isn’t really what I was hoping for.  But, hey, it’s got Aidan Turner, and lots of nice shots of Milan and Florence.

So far, things have not gone well for our man.  Mainly because he is so obsessed with painting “the truth”.  He upset Verrocchio by refusing to paint Caterina as a Roman goddess, because that wasn’t how he saw her.  Then he upset Caterina by painting her as he actually did see her, but refusing to leave out a scar on her shoulder, which reminded her that she was unable to have children due to a carriage accident, and feared she would never find a partner.  It was a sad story, but how would internal injuries leave a scar on your shoulder?  Then he got the sack for being gay.  And upset his dad, who’d paid good money for his apprenticeship.  Then he upset the father of a wealthy bride-to-be by painting her holding a symbol of the family of the bloke she actually fancied, not the family of her fiance.  And then he upset the Church by making a mess of a painting of the Adoration of the Magi, and being obsessed with making St Joseph look like his dad.

But presumably things will get better.  Oh, and, just in case you were wondering, no, he didn’t really get accused of murder.  Amazon Prime made that up.  I have no idea why.

Other than references to the Church, an appearance by Ludovico Sforza and one mention of the Medici, I’m getting very little sense of any historical context here.  And I’m not really getting much sense of Leonardo da Vinci.  But it’s all very easy on the eye.

 

 

 

Churchill – Channel 5

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  Whilst I could have done with a bit less Freudian psycho-analysis (we were told every two minutes during the first episode that Churchill had been desperate for his father’s approval, wanted to emulate his father, and was always “trapped in the moment of his father’s death”), the first two episodes of this have been very entertaining.  I love Churchill as a historian, especially when he’s writing about the first Duke of Marlborough, but his own life was pretty interesting as well: the first episode took us from Blenheim Palace to the North West Frontier, to Oldham, to South Africa, to Westminster.  Shame it didn’t mention the fact that one of the people who helped him hide from the Boers was an Oldham coal miner: I like that story 🙂 .

The interpretation of his life was quite strange – apart from the obsession with his father, the presenters’ idea was that he thought politicians had to be celebs.  I’m not entirely convinced about that, but, yes, he probably did go off both to the Boer War and the Great War more with the aim of winning attention and popularity than anything else … rather drastic decisions!   And it worked.  You’d think that the wealthy aristocrat, turning up at the Front with a load of luggage including his own bath, and having been all over the papers after he was pushed under the bus and made the scapegoat for Gallipoli (for which he was partly to blame, but so were plenty of others), would have been resented by the ordinary soldiers, but it sounded as if they all thought he was great.

It’s unfortunate that his own father didn’t – we were shown extracts of letters in which Randolph Churchill said that young Winston would probably turn out to be a “social wastrel and a failure”.  And his mother was more interested in her social life and affairs than in her children.  So rather a sad start in life, despite the immense privilege.  None of this was anything that most viewers wouldn’t already have known, but it was interesting.

So too was hearing about his Army service in India, and then the crazy escapade in South Africa in which he escaped from a Boer POW camp armed only with a bar of chocolate – you really couldn’t make it up!    Then came his first forays into politics, but then the Gallipoli disaster, his rejoining the Army, and then his successful return to politics against all the odds.

I really did enjoy both episodes, and am looking forward to the rest of the series.  I thought they might wokify it and make irrelevant criticisms, but they didn’t – they did make the point that some of his views on imperialism and race might not be acceptable now, but they also made it clear that the articles he wrote whilst in South Africa were very well-received, so he was only reflecting the views of the time.  Instead, they focused on what a character he was – he really was one of a kind!  Enjoying this, and looking forward to more 🙂 .

Russia Vs The World – Channel 5

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What on earth was this rubbish?  I’d been looking forward to it, seeing as it promised to tell “the epic story of Russia and how a millennia [sic] of explosive drama ….” but it was just awful.

It started by jumping from Grand Prince Vladimir of Kievan Rus to Ivan The Terrible, and ignoring the five centuries in between.  Hey, let’s make a programme about “the epic story of England”, and jump from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth I.   And that was just the start.  A small sample of things which it totally failed to mention – the Mongol invasions, the Battle on the Neva, the Time of Troubles, the Schism, the Table of Ranks, the Pugachev Rebellion, the Napoleonic Wars, the Decembrists, the Crimean War, the liberation of the serfs.  It did however mention James Bond, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Rasputin, Vladimir Putin going scuba diving, Boris Yeltsin’s drinking habits and Roman Abramovich.

Then it concluded by saying that Russia had come full circle from Grand Prince Vladimir to Vladimir Putin.  Presumably apart from Vladimir Putin not being a Russian Orthodox saint, and Grand Prince Vladimir neither being interested in scuba diving nor having spies who went to watch Arsenal.

Seriously, Channel 5?  I thought you’d got your act together with history programmes, but what on earth was this?

I think it was just meant to be Cold War-esque propaganda making out that Russia is the Big Baddie.  I don’t want to see stuff like that.  We’re supposed to have moved on from those days, and I don’t want to see any sort of propaganda on British TV.  Out of two hours, about twenty minutes was spent on pre-revolutionary Russia.  Then even the Civil War was pretty much skipped over, and it was on to Stalin, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Chernobyl, the fall of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin sitting on a tank, and then loads and loads about Vladimir Putin.

The argument seemed to be that Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great and Catherine the Great (apart from Vladimir and Nicholas II, every other monarch was completely ignored) were dictators (Catherine would not be impressed with that at all) who paved the way for Putin.  Well, that’s logical, isn’t it?  Three monarchs in 500 years.  You might as well say that Henry VIII, George IV and Victoria are the reason that Boris Johnson could do with losing a few pounds (on which score I sympathise with them).  You could look at any country’s history and pick three monarchs in 500 years, and claim that they somehow typify the country’s leadership.  Then it completely contradicted itself, by saying that it was actually the KGB in charge, not Putin.

Not impressed.  We don’t need this sort of programme on TV.  And, if you say you’re going to talk about a millennium of Russian history, even if you don’t seem to know that the correct word is “millennium” rather than “millennia”, then please, er, do so.

Roman Kemp: Our Silent Emergency – BBC 1

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*Trigger warning – mental health issues.*

There’s a lot of talk in the media about mental health issues these days, but, sadly, the number of suicides remains high, especially amongst young men.  Roman Kemp (and the fact that Martin Kemp and Shirlie Holliman’s son is 28 makes me feel extremely old) made this programme about mental health and suicide after his close friend, Capital Radio producer Joe Lyons, took his own life.  Roman said he lives only three minutes from Joe, and would have rushed straight round if Joe had felt able to ask him for help.  Tragically, he didn’t: neither Roman, nor anyone else in their friendship group, nor Joe’s loving family, were aware of how badly Joe was struggling.

People here in Greater Manchester may be aware of the Shining a Light on Suicide project being championed by Sir Alex Ferguson, Mark Hughes and Andy Burnham.  One of the things it suggests is making a safety plan of what to do and whom to contact if you feel that you’re at risk of harming yourself, and this was also something that was mentioned in Roman’s programme.

No-one really feels very comfortable talking about this sort of thing, but we need to be.  Roman also talked about his own struggles with depression, and the fact that he’s been on medication for it for many years – and the fact that some people, especially young males, don’t feel able to talk about it.  I think women and girls do talk about it more, but it’s still not spoken about openly in the way that physical illnesses now are.  Roman said that more than three quarters of young men feel unable to confide in their friends and relatives about their issues, and that was borne out by the discussions he had with people who’d lost a friend or relative to suicide.

One of the lads he spoke to, who’d attempted suicide himself, said that he wasn’t even sure that he wanted to end his life – he just wanted to get away from everything in his head.  He just wanted it to stop, and it wouldn’t.  A lot of people will have been there.  Everything going round and round in your head.  Maybe other people driving you mad.  Maybe feeling trapped in an uncaring workplace, or a difficult domestic situation.  But, if those safety plans are in place, maybe people’ll be able to see another way out.

It’s been said over and over again that mental health problems need to be destigmatised, but it still seems to be something that many people feel unable to talk about, and it continues to be a particular problem amongst young men.  Please, please, if you’re struggling, ask for help.

 

Children’s TV nostalgia

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I share my birthday with Mr Benn.  Well, sort of.  He first appeared on our TV screens on February 25th, 1971, so he’s just celebrated his 50th anniversary, on the same day as I sort-of-celebrated my birthday.  I’m younger than him, so he’ll get his Covid vaccination before me.  Yes, my brain really did bizarrely come up with that thought.  Anyway, this all got me thinking about the TV programmes we used to watch when we were little kids.  We were still watching some of them when we were big kids.  It was totally uncool to watch Play School or Rainbow once you were past about 6, but most people in my class at secondary school were still watching Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds when we were more like 14.

Mr Benn was more a programme for little kids, though.  So was Bod.  And the Mr Men and Little Miss programmes.  These were animated programmes, so there were no actual human presenters them, which was pretty cool because presenters were grown-ups.  Dastardly and Muttley used to be on just after school, and He-Man and She-Ra were also really big whilst I was at primary school.  Some of them were really ’80s – The Mysterious Cities of Gold was another, as was Pigeon Street, and then there was Danger Mouse, and Inspector Gadget, and Batfink, and Around The World With Willy Fogg – but there were classics like The Flintstones and Scooby Doo as well.  Pigeon Street was really feminist, because Long Distance Clara was a female lorry driver!   Oh, and there was Willo The Wisp as well.  I loved Mavis Cruet.  Most fairies were thin.  I really appreciated the fact that there was a fat fairy!

And The Raccoons was on at weekends.  I think it was actually on as part of those Saturday morning kids’ TV shows.  Tiswas was a bit early for me, and I never really got Swap Shop, but I liked Going Live and Number 73, and, although I was a bit old for kids’ TV by then, I watched The 8:15 From Manchester because it had “Manchester” in the title.  In the holidays, there was Wac-a-Day.  We’re wide awake!  Mallett’s Mallet.

Of the programmes with adult presenters, The Sooty Show and Emu’s World were very popular in our house.  We had Sooty, Sweep and Soo puppets.  We were never really into Jackanory, and only watched Crackerjack occasionally, although I still laugh whenever anyone says “Ooh, I could crush a grape”.  For reason, we never really got into Blue Peter either.  We weren’t that into programmes with presenters.

We watched Grange Hill, and a short-lived ITV school series called Behind the Bike Sheds.  And T-Bag.  And, when we were very young, we watched Bagpuss.

There were some programmes we watched at school as well.  Mainly in the third year infants.  I don’t know why, but for some reason I remember that as being the year of watching TV in the classroom.  Zig Zag did history programmes.  I can’t remember much about You and Me, except the theme tune went “You and Me, Me and You …” and some of the boys in the class would sing “Poo and Wee, Wee and Poo”, much to the teacher’s annoyance.  And there was Why Don’t You.

I’m going to remember a million other programmes as soon as I post this.  We really do seem to have spent a worrying amount of our childhoods watching TV 🙂 .

A lot of them had very catchy theme tunes.  The Mysterious Cities of Gold, Dogtanian, Pigeon Street, He-Man … most people who grew up in the ’80s can still sing those theme tunes, which is rather embarrassing.  And know the words to the Wac-a-Day song, but possibly won’t admit it.  They stick in your head and never leave it!   And which TV programmes you watched as a kid really do mark out which generation you belong to!   You can read older books, or play older games, but you can only watch what’s on TV at the time!   There were no nostalgia channels in our day.

So happy 50th anniversary to Mr Benn, and I’m now off to think of all the programmes I’ve missed out.

 

 

 

 

Wartime Britain – Channel 5

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  The star of this programme, with all due respect to the family reconstructing life in wartime Britain, was a trilby-hatted potato being serenaded by Betty Turpin (sorry, Betty Driver).  “Potato Pete, Potato Pete, look who’s coming down the street.”  I love the wartime information cartoon characters – Potato Pete, Dr Carrot, and, also featured in the first episode of this two-parter, Mrs Sew-and-Sew.  So much better at getting the message across than the likes of the irritating “obesity tsars” we get now.  Nice mention of the work done by Guides and Scouts, as well: we don’t hear much about the important contribution made to the war effort by young people.

I’ve had it up to here with lockdown.  My respect for the generations who got through six years of war has always been high, but it’s gone stratospheric since all this started – and it was fascinating to see how, despite all the talk of keeping calm and carrying on, so much attention was paid to looking after the nation’s mental health, whether it was putting morale-boosting music on the radio and encouraging employers to letting it be played in workplaces, or promoting the idea of “victory roll” hairstyles.  Or having a laugh with the Colonel Bogey “balls” song (you know the one).  And, of course, getting Betty Turpin to serenade a trilby-hatted potato.

It wasn’t the best programme I’ve ever seen, it has to be said.  Referring to the Second World War as “World War II” seems to be endemic now, and I suppose could be forgiven.  Referring to the Queen as “Her Royal Highness” rather than “Her Majesty” really couldn’t be forgiven, though, and saying that GIs were in Britain in 1940 was even worse.  And a lot of it was same old, same old – using gravy browning to draw on stockings, thinking that carrots help you to see in the dark (because RAF men joked about how that was how they were able to see what they were doing), etc.

But there were some fascinating snippets in there, which aren’t mentioned so often.  If the binmen noticed food in your bin, you could get into trouble for wasting food at a time of shortages.  (Potatoes were not affected by shortages, as so many of them could be grown in the UK, hence the Potato Pete song encouraging people to eat potatoes!)   Even growing up in the ’80s, we had the mentality that it was a sin to waste good food.  I never understand younger people chucking stuff out because it’s five minutes past its sell-by date, although I don’t think doing that’s as common now as it was twenty years ago.  And, whilst I think most people are familiar with the idea of “make do and mend”, we don’t usually hear about bemused servicemen coming home on leave to find that their clothes had been transformed into outfits for their female relatives 🙂 .

Another good point made was about the role of older children in the war – all the work done by Guides and Scouts, and the importance of young people aged over 14 in the workforce.  Also mentioned was how families made their own toys for little kids, because toy factories had been turned over to producing goods for the war effort.

And there was a lot about hair and make-up – and how part of the reason for focusing on this was to cock a snook at Hitler, who subscribed to the idea of “pure natural womanhood”.  Sanctimonious people going on about how people shouldn’t moan about hairdressers and beauty salons being closed during lockdown could do with watching this part of the first episode.  OK, if people don’t want to wear make-up or do their hair, that’s obviously up to them, but my eldest great-aunt, who lived through two world wars, was still slapping on a faceful of make-up every day when she was in her 90s and living in a care home, and I really do get that.  Anyway, I haven’t got the confidence to leave the house looking “natural” – it might work if you’re stunningly beautiful, but it certainly doesn’t for me!  Using beetroot lipstick, boot polish mascara and cornflour/calamine lotion foundation when you couldn’t get anything else … brilliant!

But the main thing that really came through was that, as far as possible – obviously not so easy with so many people away in the Armed Forces or doing other war work, and many children having been evacuated – people got through it together. Yes, all right, we all know about the people who broke rules on rationing and all the rest of it, but they were a minority, and things like sewing circle and dances were so important.  Even during air raids, you’d often be with neighbours.  It helps so much when people pull together.  And people understood the importance of keeping up morale.  Also, they had a trilby-hatted potato.  I’m going to be earwormed by that potato song for days …