Monday, 23 June 2014

Time Lapse


Last week I had one of those moments when something occurred that hurled me back through time and space. The brass wheels and clocks finally stopped whirring at the spring of 1964. I was sixteen, and half way through my lunch one Saturday the printer father of my ex-girlfriend (my first girlfriend as it happens) pulled up outside our house in his new dark blue Humber Hawk. Diving under the stairs I was finally brought out to be asked if I'd like a trip to London. Yes please, and a couple of hours later packages of print were being off loaded from the cavernous boot somewhere in Blackheath. A short while later I was being treated to a meal in a Quality Inn near Piccadilly Circus, and on walking out into the exhaust fumes and haze of the early evening I noticed the queues growing outside the London Pavilion cinema for Tom Jones, a film that had just won four Oscars. We stopped and stared at the huge gaudy blow-ups that adorned the entrance, and my kindly 'driver' said "I've seen that. It's wonderful". I also noticed that it had an 'X' certificate (oh how we were protected!), but a week or so later I crept into the Picture House in Leicester and saw it. It was like a gun going off in my head as doors flung open. My love of buildings, the English countryside, film and photography, and much more, started in this dingy cinema late on a Saturday afternoon. It was cup final day at Wembley, and during the fight scene in the churchyard (location: Nettlecombe in Somerset) they flashed up a sign on the screen to say that West Ham had won against Preston North End, 3-2. 

Last week the past collided with me. I was sent an e-mail newsletter from the London Transport Museum, and in order to advertise Sunday's cavalcade of buses down Regent Street yesterday they used a period photograph of Piccadilly Circus. It looked so much like a gaudily printed postcard I went onto ebay and much to my amazement found that it was. I'm holding the postcard in my hand now, and the reason for my excitement (doesn't take much these days) was that the London Pavilion is clearly showing Tom Jones. And on further research I discovered that it was taken by Franz Lazi and printed by the Kardorama company which had just started in Hertfordshire. The year is 1964, it's 11.30, it's a sunny day and who knows, in a couple of hours I might just be watching the speedometer on the walnut dashboard of the Humber edge up to 80 on the M1.

10 comments:

Ron Combo said...

Love it.

Helena said...

Ooh, that's weird. It would give me goosebumps!

Mike Biles said...

Great post! It's obviously a sign of some sort... And a Humber Hawk - I used to have the Dinky version, in cream and red.

Peter Ashley said...

Yes Mike, I had the Dinky Toy Humber Hawk but I can't remember which colourway. The other variant was in green and black I think. Or was that an Easter egg.

Jonathan Dudley said...

That's just a great post Peter, and very spooky as Dame Edna would have it.
Isn't it remarkable how indelible one's memory is. The most unremarkable events or objects can trigger off those thoughts as clear as if they were yesterday. The naughtiness of the 'X' certificate, the proper bonnet and radiator of an RT London bus, the sheer glamour of London. I had a boss who was a printer and he never had a van…always delivered print in his Jag, the poor old thing grinding along with its snout in the air and the tyres rubbing on the wheel arches. Humber Hawks and Snipes…didn't cars have such attractive names back in the day…and trucks - The Leyland Octopus and Hippo! Imagine a Toyota Albatross?

Peter Ashley said...

Thank you everyone. Of course this whole episode has got me going somewhat. The menu in the Quality Inn had a lovely period illustration front and back. It also featured Piccadilly Circus, but this time the artist chose to put the 1942 film 'The Man Who Came To Dinner' with Monty Woolley on the front of the London Pavilion. I know all this because I was given a copy of the menu by a waitress (yes, that was all starting too). Trouble is I lost it, and I now continually check ebay for one. It was predominately yellow and gloss varnished.

Sue said...

This feels like the start of a novel to me. I also have memories of being allowed to "go up to London" when very young as my father was working at the MOD, I suppose in Whitehall. We'd go to Trafalgar square and be photographed with the pigeons. And then, we'd go and eat somewhere near Piccadilly Circus - steak and chips, I expect. I wonder if that was the Quality Inn. I'd love to see the menu if you get hold of one - this would have been a couple years later.

Jonathan Dudley said...

We hardly ever went to restaurants when I was lad. My dad would take me to the Motor Show at Earls Court though and we'd go to The Golden Egg afterwards where egg and bacon would be served (to my mind exotically) in a steel dish. I bet the menu at the Quality Inn had those wonderful pen and ink wash drawings so beloved of agencies at the time…a few fashion ads of that genre with the JWT house stamp appeared on last week's Antiques Roadshow incidentally. Your excitement at the discovery of this card is palpable Mr A. and quite understandably so.

Peter Ashley said...

Sue: It's starting to become an obsession, this menu. It was very colourful and so evocative of the time.

Jon: There was something very familiar about those Antique Roadshow fashion drawings, particularly the one with lettering in the background. Then I remembered. Shirley Thompson, the illustrator, was Len Deighton's first wife. I was amazed it wasn't picked up on.

Philip Wilkinson said...

This is a marvellous post. Another thing in the postcard image is that Mini Van in the shade of green that's just west of mustard – very much of its time.