Saturday, May 17, 2014

Away With the White Horses

It has been an odd couple of days. Yesterday, a man turned up at work on a white horse, as if he was inviting me to join him on a quest. I would have said yes, but I was busy trying to move ten thousand books to a new building, one car load at a time.

I never found out what he wanted.

In the evening, a friend casually told us that he had done the voiceover for an advert that was voted the greatest UK television commercial of all time. Why hadn't he mentioned it before? I'm still telling people that I was on BBC Radio Five 14 years ago.

This morning I woke up to the sound of horses hooves and as I stood on one leg to place our broken blind in the small gap between the roller and ceiling, I saw some men in chainmail walk past. Then I remembered that it was the 750th anniversary of the Battle of Lewes.

The actual anniversary was a few days ago. At least, that's what everyone seems to think, but didn't we change our calendar in 1752 and lose eleven days?

Today, the town ground to a halt and a group of volunters recreated the Battle of Lewes, following the original route of 1264:

It was all good fun, unlike the original battle.

I always mixed feelings at events like these. On the one hand, I enjoy living in a town that cherishes its past (I imagine that in a hundred years' time, Lewes will look almost the same as it does today). But I also feel conscious of being, as the song goes, on the outside looking in. Perhaps I'll never be a Lewesian.
But enough of Lewes. This is supposed to be a book blog, so I'll move on to some of my favourite discoveries from last week, beginning with this striking frontispiece:

It comes from a 1920s book on aircraft, which was surprisingly worthless. I threw away the book but kept the frontispiece.

The next illustration has a very odd caption underneath:
"A quick desperate wriggle and his legs were over the board and the rest of him followed anyhow." Well, yes.

This illustration is from a rather disturbing 1920s book about the mind:

It comes from a chapter called "Cretins and Dunces", in which the author expresses view that weren't out of step with the times. The widespread enthusiasm for eugenics shocks us today, but of course it enjoyed a wide range of supporters that included Churchill, H G Wells, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, John Harvey Kellogg and Marie Stopes.

Finally, two completely bonkers 1960s sci-fi novels:

Androids with whips? For some reason, that reminds me of this atrocious song.

As for this, perhaps it was a thoughtful novel about eugenics that was given a less than enlightened cover treatment to boost sales. I don't know. I can safely say that I will never read this book to find out.


Lucy R. Fisher said...

Ah, the 70s, when in the future we would all wear shiny stand-up collars... Love that song!

Brett said...

Thanks for the video. That was fun. We have an annual reenactment like that, the Battle of Natural Bridge. I really ought to go sometime. I have always wondered where they get the "yankees" to beat every year.

Do the androids whip you if you don't dance, or while you are dancing, like the outlaw of the Old West who shoots at your feet?

Tororo said...

I wonder if some day in the future there will be reenactment events of illustratorial heydays of the past, with dedicated amateurs dressing up as illustrators from the twentieth century and recreating in front of admiring crowds frontispieces for books on aircrafts, educational panels for eugenics manuals, covers for the Saturday Evening Post, German Expressionist movies posters and Pear Soap packaging art.

Steerforth said...

Lucy - I've never quite recovered from my disappointment at realising that the future wasn't going to be like UFO. No Nehru suits, no moonbases and no cars with electic doors. A great pity.

Brett - I expect there must be a few people who identify more with the Union and would happily wear their uniform, even though they lost that battle. I'd always go for the losing side because you get to have a lie down!

Tororo - Quite possibly, as doing anything by hand, without the aid of technology, will be seen as wildly exotic.

Annabel (gaskella) said...

I couldn't bear to watch all the video! Those SF books and covers are just too much - hilarious, the lot of them.

Abingdon claims to be Britain's oldest town - but we don't have any battles to re-enact. On New Year's Day, there is always a walk around the old town boundary, with a historian and the Town Crier. One of their stops is outside our house, as we're at one of the main junctions into the old town. We always listen out and wave to the walkers - one day we might even join them!

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Perhaps Health and Safety could use that illustration in one of their campaigns ?
Who in Heaven's name decided that there was something "wrong" with that little girl , let alone what label to stick on her ?