Saturday, 14 March 2015




Sometimes I set out to see one thing, then something else takes my fancy when I get there - and yesterday, although I was aiming to see Canalettos, I found myself lingering in this small exhibition of early black and white photographs by Martin Parr who is now renowned for exuberant colour. But in the mid -1970s, colour was for snapshots and commercial photgraphy and, if you wanted to be taken seriously, you worked in b/w. (Anybody remember the first newspaper colour pix and how frivolous they seemed in a serious monochrome world?)   
Parr was in his early 20s when he moved to Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire, straight from art school - and he captured a world (now gentrified and completely changed) that still revolved around chapel and hill-farming. These were hard-working, frugal, self-reliant people - who were fond of tea and cake. Ladies in hats and Crimplene coats with cavernous handbags and varicose veins enjoy sit-down chapel teas of fairy buns and buttered malt loaf and liberally-sugared tea. There was a bit of a scrum for slabs of pork pie and boiled eggs at the Mayor's inaugural banquet (above) and middleaged men got together for the AGM of the Ancient Order of Henpecked Husbands. (It disbanded in the mid-1970s; but presumably would have become redundant, anyway, given today's lesbian demographic!) There was a butcher's shop that displayed joints on bloody china platters in the window and a baker's that sold wobbly custard tarts; you could buy coal, clogs and corduroy - because people still made their own trousers. Women took pride in the whiteness of their nets and clothes hung on a maiden to dry above the fire. And although I grew up on the other side of the Pennines, there was so much here that I remembered and it's shocking to think that it's 40 years ago and it's history. 

I've also been watching this TV series which brought back memories, although unfortunately the mother in this family who are eating their way through the decades from 1950s Austerity and into the future would have been a grimly incompetent cook in any era. (I wanted to shake her when she dished up cold fried liver and cold cauliflower because any 1950s housewife could surely have managed liver and onions and Oxo gravy.) But, heavens, it took me back ... I'd completely forgotten Rise and Shine orange juice, a rare treat in our house, and the crispy noodles on a 1970s Vesta Chow Mein (though I preferred the reconstituted chicken and shrivelled prawns in a Vesta paella.) But surely these were never served up for family meals; they'd have been far too expensive if you bought enough to go round. 

4 comments:

Sue said...

Rise and Shine, now there's a memory! Vile stuff which my mum also bought as a treat. I'd watch that programme if Giles Coren weren't in it.

mary said...

I can't stand him either, Sue - but he's not as intrusive here as in some other series.
But I have been shouting at the telly ... Pot Noodle was never a family dinner! And I do wish they had chosen a mum with basic cooking skills. This poor lady is so hopeless that she makes a dog's dinner of what could be quite tasty meals. Though I sympathised with her terror of chip pans.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

People took these sorts of things when they went camping in France , I remember . Camp sites near the channel ferries saw many a feast of fried Spam and Smash , I expect !
But I have seen Pot Noodles being eaten lately ... a family , camped near us at a festival a couple of summers ago , had brought a huge supply of Pot Noodles which their daughters ate every morning for breakfast .

mary said...

What a start to the day!