I love them but I also look at these doorstops and think, well it'll be 2012 before I turn the final page of that one and under the circumstances there's only one bookmark to use.
I often have books like this as a backdrop and may dip into them on an every-so-often basis building up a reading trail around them, so we'll have to do 'early assessment'... or 'interim appraisal' in order to offer fledgling thoughts on some of these chunksters in progress.
This one's a corker...Brasso, Brillo, Lifebuoy, Silvikrin,Toni Perms, rompers, knicker elastic, Green Line, trolley-buses, jumping jacks, cap guns, Uncle Mac, Nellie the Elephant and so the back cover blurb continues, I was bound to love it.
I have a feeling I may finish it long before 2012 because David Kynaston's Family Britain 1951- 1957 is my kind of history, social, relevant, page-turningly readable and completely fascinating, especially if like me you were born in the middle of it as us Coronation year babies were.
Clearly these were the years when I didn't take too much notice of what was going on out there because like all young children I was at the centre of my own universe, but I could so easily have been that little girl in the swimming costume on the cover. I don't think we ever took our buckets and spades to the banks of the River Thames, but we were regulars at Bognor Regis where perhaps I was a little housewife in training, because apparently I would happily spend all day doing this...
Well look, someone had to do it and thankfully I'm over it now but who knows what reading this book might explain?
After all we were the generation that forsook scrubbing the floors for something else entirely and I know I have my mum in particular to thank for that...I knew from a very young age that, as a woman, I would have the education and the career that she had lost to the war.
Family Britain 1951-1957 part of a series to which I had paid little attention entitled Tales of a New Jerusalem and which will cover Britain from VE Day in 1945 to the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. The first volume Austerity Britain must also have thudded past me unnoticed so I will have to backtrack.
Within this 700 page volume are two separate books and the first, The Certainties of Place, opens with the King and Queen visiting the 1951 Festival of Britain and at least I have the stamps to show for it.
The Festival itself something of a minor post-war miracle and seemingly, like the Millenium Dome, not without its naysayers and critics and I am already marveling at the depth of David Kynaston's anecdotal research, placing as he does so effectively well-known figures within the context of the times.
Footballer Bobby Robson continues to train three night a week at Fulham, whilst working as an electrician by day.
Princess Margaret's foot is accidentally trodden on by 'over-keen reporter' Keith Waterhouse...what was it with HRH Margaret's feet?
Struggling young actor Kenneth Williams finds it all 'madly educative and very tiring.'
Vere Hodgson (of Few Eggs and No Oranges fame) bought a cup of tea and a roll for 6 1/2d and was delighted.
Marghanita Laski and Dylan Thomas were impressed, as was a seven-year old John Simpson, though obviously in his pre-BBC days.
Sir John Barbirolli was not impressed but waited four years to say what he really thought about the Festival Hall.
These were also the days of the migration of the London population out to the twelve New Towns and though smaller houses were the new order, the luxury of indoor toilets and warmth more than compensated for the cramped, single-room conditions that many families had been living in. New communities had to be created out of the people and the buildings, and there was much dismay about shared front gardens and wire for fences which revealed the contents of washing lines to the world and its mother, and what on earth was supposed to happen at a Community Centre?
No one really had a clue and for many this all took friendliness a step too far.
David Kynaston even makes politics fascinating and few writers manage that for me.
Labour can't quite decide what they stand for, Anthony Wedgwood Benn is starting to emerge on the political scene and the word is he's not to be trusted (how interesting that I now see him as one of the few to trust) and Margaret Roberts is about to marry Dennis Thatcher.
At the cinema the film of the moment is The Lavender Hill Mob and husband and wife Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier are doing their own thing with Anthony and Cleopatra, Foxhunter is jumping at the Horse of the Year Show...I could go on and on.
Though it's these details that are making the book such a winner for me, it's not just a nostalgic wallow. David Kynaston is explaining the world and the times I was born into and setting it into a context I had never quite appreciated. The post-war anxieties, Labour's pledge to create the classless society dubbed disparagingly by Churchill as 'Queuetopia'
'We are for the ladder. Let all try their best to climb. They are for the queue. Let each wait his place till his turn comes.'
and there was my family with its working class roots, a foot on the housing ladder and living slap bang in the middle of all that.
David Kynaston utilises a wide range of women's voices too, Mollie Panter-Downes, Barbara Pym, Nella Last, Vere Hodgson and Frances Partridge, all the women diarists and journalists who were keeping a watchful eye on proceedings.
The death of the King brings the nation to an abrupt halt.
Well actually it brings the BBC to an abrupt halt with the suspension of all programmes and a diet of solemn music for the entire period of mourning, which soon wears very thin with even the most die hard Royalists. The nation's loyalty tested to the limits without their daily diet of entertainment and Mollie Panter Downes told the New Yorker as much in her regular letter.
'there are few English who do not say frankly that the time has dragged like a year and who are not relieved it is over.'
Interesting too are the details of that famous picture of Queen Mary with two Queen Elizabeths in mourning, which created quite a stir when the Daily Express published it prompting loud mutterings of shocking impropriety. But I had always wondered about those veils which from film footage had always seemed impervious to light, so I was pleased that David Kynaston solved the mystery with an extract from the Crossman diaries,
'After the coffin came the most extraordinary sight, the Queens and Princesses...clothed in dead black, swathed and double swathed with veils so thick they couldn't read the order of service through them.'
Magic Moments one of the songs my mum and I used to sing and this book is full of them. (Que Sera Sera was our other favourite and that's probably relevant too.)
So I'm galloping on now, Barbara Pym's Excellent Women has just been published (and finally I've read that) and David Kynaston, my friendly guide, is about to delve into education. I'll be back with an update but searching around for some fiction to suit, quite by chance I started A.S.Byatt's The Virgin in the Garden, which couldn't be more appropriate for the era. I'm in complete reading clover right now.
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