Friday, June 03, 2016

Black and White in Colour

OK, so lets get the kitchen stuff out of the way - the first coat of paint is complete and it is all looking pretty damned good.  Not that painting the kitchen was all that I did today.  Oh no. I also paid an arm and a leg, (not to mention a kidney, a lung and half a liver), to get the car serviced and have various bits of work done on the suspension.  Cars, eh?  They just eat up money.  Unfortunately, mine is essential for work, so I have no choice but to keep it going.  But way from all this mundane domestic stuff, I've also used these past two weeks off work to catch up with some essential pop culture.  The big news is that I've finally managed to catch up with notorious British sleaze/slasher movie Don't Open 'Til Christmas and Naked England, the Italian mondo take on swinging London.  (I'll be able to tick another piece of British schlock off of the list tomorrow, when the Horror Channel screens Virgin Witch).  To be entirely accurate, rather than Naked England, what I actually saw was Inghilterra Nuda, the original Italian language version.  Whilst I don't speak Italian, I think I gathered the general gist of the movie, (although I'm still somewhat mystified by a couple of sequences).  I'm still hoping to eventually turn up the version with Edmund Purdom's supercilious English language commentary, (coincidentally, Purdom also starred in and direct Don't Open 'Til Christmas).

But discussion of all those films is for another time.  This week I also finally caught up with an old Ministry of Information film from World War Two, Welcome to Britain, which was aimed at US servicemen arriving in the UK for the first time.  Fronted by GI Burgess Meredith, the movie attempted to introduce our American allied to such British customs as the pub, advising them on the correct etiquette to adopt in order to avoid upsetting us native Brits. Other topics included the extent and affects of British rationing, how to pronounce our whacky place names and understanding British money, (in which Burgess is aided and abetted by Bob Hope).  But the most interesting section to modern eyes is the segment involving attitudes to race, in which an old lady happily invites a black GI to tea, prompting Burgess to remind the audience that segregation doesn't exist in the UK and that many Britons had no problem in associating freely with 'coloured boys', (to use his terminology - back in the forties 'coloured' was considered more acceptable than 'black').  It's quite startling to be reminded, in these days when racially charged hate speak seems prevalent in the UK and immigrants are demonised, that there was a time when Britain was considered racially tolerant.  Certainly more so than many parts of the US.

Indeed, I remember my father telling of what a big hit the black GIs were with British girls, being considered not only 'exotic' (more for their American accents than anything else) but also very courteous and well behaved compared to their white colleagues.  Although there was still prejudice toward them from some quarters, in my hometown of Salisbury, the boxer Joe Louis, whilst serving as a GI, was infamously turned away from a cinema because of his race.   But at least the bigotry wasn't institutionalised.  But it still seems jarring that Americans would have to be reminded of this fact.  Then again, I believe that there had already been problems in the US, when sailors recruited from the segregated South were in leave in New York large scale fights broke out when they found blacks and whites freely associating in jazz bars.  Anyway, enough of my musings on historical race relations - I've got more pressing concerns.  Like putting that second coat of paint on the kitchen walls.    



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