Sunday, 26 April 2015

Back in time for dinner: the time travels are over

Well, Back in Time for Dinner came to an end this week, and I'm quite sad to see it go. I really enjoyed sharing the journey of the Robshaws, following them from the 1950s to the 1990s and then, for one final episode, into the possible future of food.

The way the kitchen and living room was made over to match each 'decade' was brilliant, and the 1970s one really pushed the nostalgia button for me. Oddly, the 1980s one didn't – and I was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, that their crockery wasn't Eternal Beau. As a guttersnipe in the 1980s, that china and the way you could get absolutely everything to match, struck me as the height of sophistication. I'd gaze at it in the Grattan or Argos catalogue and marvel at how fancy it was. Before the 1990s episode I wondered if they'd have any Jeff Banks Ports of Call china, and lo, their dinner plates were just that. I still have some Ports of Call pyrex; my late nannie bought it for me and it reminds me of her every time I use it, so even though I'm not fond of the pattern, I'd never get rid of it. Did any of the homewares ring bells for you?
The 1970s. My nannie Mac had a full set of those 'face' pots.
My favourite kitchen was probably the 1960s one; I loved the blue colour and the geometric wallpaper. The 1980s one was my least favourite as it felt so cold, with all those icy whites and greys. Thinking about it, that's a bit weird as blue is hardly a warm colour, but the 1980s one just didn't feel welcoming. Whatever era the episode was set in, I constantly found myself wondering how long it had taken the programme makers to collect everything for each episode, especially for the earlier ones. Finding full dinner services can't have been easy or cheap.
My favourite kitchen
I really liked the way the family thought about the social changes that would have been going on, and that were reflected in what and how they ate, the way cupboards got fuller, and new gadgets (fridge, freezer, microwave) slowly crept in, and they started eating together less frequently. They also noted that their diets were getting less healthy. Nothing was said about the other aspects of every day life, and I did wonder about laundry in particular, as that obviously affected the amount of time a housewife would have had. The experiment only seemed to concern food.
Least favourite. Maybe it's the red...
One thing I've noticed on social media is that Rochelle got a lot of criticism, which I agreed with a little, but mostly thought was unfair. She's Jewish, so having a go at her for not knowing how to cook gammon for her family was a bit much. Her ineptitude at opening any sort of tin with any sort of tin opener was staggering, but the way it came into every episode made me think the programme makers had worked it in as a running gag, which backfired in the way it made people see her. The family is a modern family, dad Brandon prefers cooking, so usually he cooks. If Rochelle doesn't usually want to cook, that's her choice. That's the beauty of living nowadays. On the other hand, food is fundamental to human existence so I find it a bit weird that someone can't cook at all. Fair play to the whole family, though, for taking part in this fairly lengthy experiment, which must have been tough on them.
Microwaved chicken covered in Marmite. Just say no.
As they were following set menus a lot of the time, a lot of the joy of cooking, the creativity, would have been missing. Personally, I don't think I'd like being told exactly what to cook for six months, especially without access to my spice cupboard to liven up the rationing-era dishes. The BBC probably would never do it because it's too expensive, but if they were to do something similar in a future programme I'd love to see a broader range of people (couple, family, student etc) all being given the food and cookbooks from an era, but then given free range to work with those things and see how they cope over a number of weeks. However, what is definite is that a three-part series on Victorian baking has been commissioned, in which professional bakers (who can probably open tins) try their hands at Victorian rural baking, baking in an industrial city, and making bakes and confectionery for the high end of the 19th-century market, all with Victorian equipment and ingredients.
'Ports of Call' plates - I knew they'd have those!
In the mean time, a new programme is taking the Back in Time for Dinner slot, 24 Hours in the Past, in which six celebrities get to 'enjoy' a day in four different Victorian (Victorian is the new black) workplaces, starting with a day at a dump. Lovely. I have to say, as much as I like presenter Ruth Goodman, I'm less enamoured of most of the celebrities involved, so I don't think I'll enjoy that as much as Back in Time for Dinner. If you watched Back in Time for Dinner, what was your favourite bit?

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Sapphire and Steel have been assigned

 Further proof that I don't really dislike the 1960s and 1970s: I really love the science fiction telly of the era. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it was the golden age of British science fiction television; as well as Doctor Who, it was the age of The Prisoner, The Avengers (the real Avengers, not those superhero types), Blake's 7 and, just sneaking in in 1979, Sapphire and Steel. I mentioned in my last post that I'd been watching loads of classic Who, but I switched to Sapphire and Steel because I fancied a change.

When it comes to Sapphire and Steel, you'll be in one of three camps: never heard of it; never seen it; or seen it and deeply unnerved, if not actually scared by it. It bridges the ground between SF and horror. Sapphire (Joanna Lumley) and Steel (David McCallum) are 'Operators', interdimensional agents of a sort, though exactly what, and working for whom, never really gets explained. It's a little like The Prisoner in that respect, and the lack of explanation means things feel mysterious and unsettling all the way through. Time itself seems to be malignant, and will break through to the present and take people and things, and creatures from either end of time will also break into the present. Large numbers of old things, or old things mixed anachronistically with new ones, make it easier for this to happen. (Vintage lovers, beware!) Sapphire and Steel work to put things right, occasionally aided by other Operatives like Lead and Silver.

Only 34 episodes were made, divided into six stories. I find the two stories broadcast in 1979 the most genuinely frightening. In the first, a little girl reciting a nursery rhyme in an antique-filled old house creates a time fracture that snatches away her parents. There's one scene where Sapphire is drawn into a picture and taken back in time to a point where she's about to relive the murderous events that took place there, and it's really tense. In the second story the duo cross paths with a ghost hunter at an abandoned railway station; the creature they're investigating feeds on the resentment of dead servicemen, hence the lonely Tommy walking up and down the derelict platform whistling 'Pack up your troubles'. That particular story is the one everyone remembers, usually either the creepy whistling or the devastating ending, which has to be one of the most shocking I've seen.

If you're looking for a programme that epitomises the style of the late 1970s/early 1980s, this isn't it. Joanna Lumley wears some amazing bright blue, often shiny, outfits, which do look very much of the era and stand out amid the beiges, browns and greys of so many of the sets – McCallum generally wears a grey suit. However, because so much of the programme is about time using old objects to break through into the present, a lot of the things you see pre-date the 1970s.

Generally I'm not in favour of old series being revived – I've tried to like modern Doctor Who, really I have, but it's just not as good as it was in the 1970s – but I'd make an exception for this.* That said, it would need to be done well. Part of the problem for me with modern Who is the way they try to cram a whole story into a week's hour-long episode, whereas in the 1970s a story could take four or six half-hour episodes, and if they did the same with Sapphire and Steel a lot of the tension, that slow scary buildup, would be lost. I do find it frustrating that in an age where audiences clearly love long stories (Breaking Bad, Mad Men and so on), British programme makers seem determined to squash everything into a handful of hour-long episodes with little room for tension or subtlety. If the programme makers were going to try to make it faster, or compress the storylines, it'd be better left alone. We've always got the existing 34 episodes.

*And The X-Files. I am VERY excited about the return of The X-Files.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Crinoline Robot's not vintage weekend

Comfort food, Burmese style
I should have been going to the Frome Vintage Weekend - some of the day events, at least - this weekend with my friend Andrea, but I have been ill. Some sort of nasty virus that has, weirdly, also made my neck seize up. I got through Friday at work, but have been rubbish all weekend, and certainly haven't been up to doing anything like knitting. Wah. I'm a bit miffed at having missed out on what would probably have been a lovely day, though my bank balance is probably a tad healthier than it would have been.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Outfit post: colourful casual 1960s style

The 1960s aren't normally my thing, but if there's one thing my journey into vintage and my encounters with brilliant bloggers have shown me, it's that you'll find something you like in pretty much every decade. I've also come to realise that the late 1950s and early 1960s styles suit my figure better than late 1940s/high 50s New Look styles, with their emphasis on the waist. (I'd love to dress 1930s, but even if I could find enough in plus sizes, my bank account couldn't take the strain.)

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Profoundly. Lovely. Blog party

Put your feet up, I'm going to
Speak My Branes
Lovely Marija of Purple Pinky Honey nominated me for the Profoundly. Lovely. Blog party. I don't often do this sort of thing, but beauty and confidence are two things I think a lot about...

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Cream of Cornish

I blogged excitedly about Poldark when I heard it was being made, so perhaps it's a little surprising that I haven't done so since the programme has been on telly. Well, I said it then and I shall say it now: AY CARAMBA! If ever there was the perfect combination of actor and role, it is Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark. He was fine in Being Human, suitably brooding in Desperate Romantics, but he is absolutely perfect as Ross Poldark.
Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark
Worth every penny of the licence fee...
I'll have mine wrapped to go, thank you.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Vintage Nostalgia is coming!

A fat lady in a coral 1950s dress in front of an aluminium caravan
Did you have a good Easter? It finally feels as though Spring is here, and I've started digging out my lighter clothes and looking forward to a summer of fun. A few people have asked me if I'll be at the Vintage Fair in Bath on 30th May, and I've had to explain that I won't as it clashes with the Vintage Nostalgia Show. Saddo that I am, I have been excited about, and preparing for, Vintage Nostalgia for months. It's less than two months away now. The first year I went, I wasn't sure what to wear, and last year I pulled out all the stops. This year I have learned from the first couple of years, so here is what I'm thinking of taking, and why.