London 1927 in living color

This is delightful, really, and sad, too, in a way -a travelogue film of London, in 1927. Found at New Advent, who notes that this film was taken “five years after Chesterton’s conversion and thirteen years before the blitz.”

Fascinating, and a little melancholy to consider. Wonderful to see how London had recovered from “the war to end all wars,” and to see the promise inherent in all of those new forms of travel and communication. Melancholy because “promise” seems all used up, and all we are left with, lately, is scolding, and a sense of things coming end, rather than to constant new beginnings.

It all seems so innocent, self-assured, and so stable; “there will always be an England.” Only 82 years later, we’re forced to wonder about that. That is, I suppose, a new beginning; what shall we make of it?

Related: Some truly amazing color stills of trench warfare, that Ace had yesterday. Great historical stuff.

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  • dry valleys

    [Disclaimer- films don't work on my computer so I can't directly judge]

    The first thing to say is that life was actually pretty awful at that time for the majority. The British Empire benefited a handful, none of my family amongst them, but most lived in desperate poverty, before & even more so during the depression.

    Books like “The Road to Wigan Pier”, “The Classic Slum”, “A Ragged Schooling” etc. killed stone dead any hint of nostalgia I might have felt (“Akenfield” is an interesting rural counterpart- life was just as rough for them).

    But I am now thinking we are concreting over our legacy too wantonly. People were outraged about how bad the slums were. But instead of renovating the neighbourhoods of row houses, they simply wiped them out & built giant estates of public housing. I grew up on one of the worst. Some of the houses are well built, but there are also grotty little prefabs & even worse high-rise flats. Because only poor people ever lived in these areas, far away from town cerntres & wealthy areas, they developed predictable social problems.

    So I think they should have renovated the old areas rather than laying waste to them. What is interesting is that housing associations (sort of not for profit trusts that own properties & cheaply rent them to poorer people) buy up row houses & certain houses built by the government, but won’t touch new-builds from private developers as they are of such low quality that it is too much like hard work to sort them out.

    At the same time, high-rise blocks of public “housing”, built by arrogant architechts who scorned the people shoved into them, are finally being demolished. They won’t be missed. We should have concentrating on renovating the old neighbourhoods to keep honest working-class communities living there.

    In my native city we are seeing the house my grandmother was born in, a shop selling local delicacies, & a very popular real ale pub being threatened with demolition for a pointless temple to our new good, shopping. I am sure “libertarians” will welcome it because it makes more money for businessmen. But what is the true price, & can a conservative look at what is being ripped out by “development” without flinching?

    I do not support open borders. But I find it mystifying that so many vilify immigrants for changing this country, yet have nothing to say about the forces that really are eroding our way of life.

    What I find interesting on the right is this tension between the hypothetical village & the hypothetical “developer”. We’ll see which side Cameron & Osborne take soon enough.

  • Victor

    For what “IT” is worth, I can’t recall Anchoress also not having posted any of my comments!

    I hear ya! What are you talking about Victor? :)

  • Elaine

    Just seeing it in color somehow makes it more real. One of the best and most moving WWII documentaries I ever saw was “World War II in Color,” comprised entirely of rare color footage taken from Pearl Harbor to the death camps to V-J Day.

    For some reason I was really struck by the color shots of the crowds on V-J Day and how they actually looked like “real” kids, teens, and 20-somethings whom I could have seen on the street the day before.

    I always knew, of course, that my dad and others who fought in World War II weren’t old men when they did it, but somehow, that really drove it home for me that this war — like all wars — was fought mostly by “kids” — defined as anyone younger than myself :-)

  • http://VirginNet Brenda Preston

    Waiting for the war to end

    Music drew me out of bed to creep across the landing,
    crouching on the top stair listening – mother playing piano – father making sweet sounds on violin
    People made their own entertainment – no television then – waiting for the war to end
    I couldn’t believe that real live pictures would one day be seen
    There from that polished wood box, with its tiny glass screen,
    which on the sideboard stood blankly – waiting for the war to end

    Father, on leave in his soldier uniform, took me to the seaside at Littlehampton
    But oh for me such frustration! There stretched an expanse of beautiful hard sand,
    I stamped my feet in a tantrum – I wanted to paddle – could not understand that danger was hidden – barbed wire stopped us walking down to that wonderful blue sea –waiting for the war to end

    Down our garden, hidden by brambles, was a stuffy damp air-raid shelter where grandparents, parents, baby and dog all slept under corrugated iron, in company with spiders and many crawly creatures
    Condensation ran down the walls and dripped from the ceiling, radio our contact with the outside world
    When the awful warning siren started to wail, any passing tradesmen or neighbours would join us
    usually joking and laughing, many tales were exchanged, while waiting for the war to end

    Grandpa stood watching bombs going over roof tops – we called them “doodle bugs”
    When the noise stopped they dropped, a tremendous bang, the ground shook like an earthquake
    Grandpa blown off his feet into the shelter onto his backside – then the long note of the “all clear” siren meant we could tentatively climb out again

    Our house was safe, but all windows were broken, how terrible for next door whose home was flattened – just a pile of rubble would stay there – until the war should end

    No more to go fighting Father came home crippled, with arthritis and asthma to overcome
    He patiently made models and many wooden toys waiting for the war to end

    One day at school we were given sugared almonds, just a few each, wrapped in a twist of paper
    For us such a treat, from our American friends while waiting for the war to end

    Brenda Preston