Thursday, 26 January 2017


Strip cartoons
stay in the year they were first published. Modesty Blaise: 1962. Fred Basset: 1957 (suburbs, man in granddad clothes. In 2014 he’s got a laptop, but they’ve still got an open fire in a 30s grate, with an armchair either side. Clive and Augusta: 1967. Bristow: 1960 (ancient adding machines and everything done on paper).

In radio documentaries, quotations from 18th and 19th century writers are read by an actor putting on a silly voice. They’ve used the same silly voice for 30 years: deep, fruity and with a faint mummerset inflection.

The mantua began as bedroom wear, but developed into a stylised and strangely fossilised uniform for formal occasions. In the slow-moving world of the court it was still worn in the 1760s, but looked like an extreme parody of the off-duty outfits of nearly a century earlier. (If Walls Could Talk: An intimate history of the home, Lucy Worsley) Court dress was still being advertised in the 30s. Debutantes wore a modified version to be presented at Court in the 1950s, before the Queen abolished the practice. The debs weren’t daunted: they now wear long white dresses and curtsey to a cake at Queen Charlotte’s ball. In 2017.

150 years after the invention of the typewriter, some are still insisting that children should be taught “joined up writing” or cursive (the reasons given change). Back then, if you could write good cursive, you could get a job as a clerk. These days, why not teach all children proper touch-typing?

D’Oyley Carte productions of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas became fossilised versions, weighted down by accreted “business”. The company closed in 1982 and others were free to interpret G&S in their own way. But there’s a moment when everybody believes that is the thing. English folk songs just are dirges about mine disasters sung by old men putting on a rural accent. Or else they just are twee choral arrangements sung affectedly by the BBC singers.

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