“This historical record contains material which some may find offensive.”
I really didn’t expect to encounter this warning when I called up the November 1953 issue of the Radio Times. It has HM the Q, along with the D of E on the cover – they are due to embark on their tour of the Commonwealth.
There are adverts for ‘Radio Rentals’, where people can pay instalments to hire a hefty Bakelite-and-amber wireless with a huge rotating dial.
We have an obituary for Dylan Thomas (‘He developed the radio talk into a form of art…’) and a full-page advert for the new Gillette blade dispenser. We also have an interview where Frankie Howerd discusses his thirteen-year journey to overnight stardom. “‘I’m not really a comedian’ he says, rumpling his already-rumpled hair.”
You can imagine Boris Johnson making a similar comment in a few years’ time, when he has been banished to the TV chat-show circuit following a titanic election meltdown.
‘Away with badly-fitting shirts and on with the Radiac!’ yells one advert, addressing the problem of disappearing shirt -cuffs; on the next page we have an advert for the latest technology, a 17-inch Ferranti television set.
And then, the listings for Monday 23 include the Frankie Howerd Show (oo-er, missus!) and a sci-fi radio drama called Journey Into Space, featuring Andrew Faulds – one-time Argonaut and MP for Smethwick – as the spaceman Jet Morgan. Jason and the Astronauts, you could say…
And then we find an offensive article, a programme called ‘The Whitaker Negro’ written and presented by Robert Graves. This appears alongside ‘The Archers’ and a twenty-minute talk about Busoni’s writings about music.
In his opera ‘Doktor Faust’, Busoni refashions the role of Mephistopheles and portrays Faust as a psychological case-study, whose tormented conscience manifests itself as the fiend. Perhaps the same was true of Dorian Gray; paranoid, awash with herbal narcotics, he becomes convinced that his expensive portrait is deteriorating and revealing his guilt. Everybody knows he is engaged in reckless debauchery; they amuse themselves by pretending to believe that his appearance is unchanged and his reputation still spotless.
A few pages later, we find an advert for Andrex toilet roll – 1/3d for a single roll, or 2/5d for an economical double roll pack. What would the readers think, if they could be whisked 67 years into the future, to see supermarket shelves carrying economy packs of 24 rolls (and shoppers panic-buying this product) in a range of colours. Perhaps some of the more priggish RT readers would write angry letters in green ink, protesting against this vulgar and degrading advertisement.
Another advert, this time for chocolates: ‘Nestlé’s Home Made Assortment gives a special touch of hospitality to a television party or a family game of bridge.’
Does anybody remember ‘Batchelor’s Baked Beans – the best you can buy!’
And then to prove that feminism was just a distant dream, we have a half-page advert for domestic appliances showing a wholesome nuclear family: “Naturally, you are eager to give her what she really wants – something to make life easier, pleasanter, happier for years to come! Give her a Hoover – she knows it’s the best!’
Or: “Try this on your favourite man this Christmas – get him something that really does make sense to a man, a Ronson lighter! For the young people there is also the Ronson Cadet from 25/-…”
And then on Friday 27, we had a broadcast concert by the Brighouse and Rastrick band, conducted by James Hickman.
A large advert shows a tin of ‘Du-Lite Emulsion Paint’ from the makers of Dulux. The company name and address are given as ‘Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd, London SW1’, which gives some idea of the towering confidence (arrogance?) of that organisation.
And a full-page advert on the back page shows a newlywed couple visiting the Cadbury’s factory at Bournville, and admiring the staff leisure facilities. How stable and secure life in Britain must have seemed at the time…
The Saturday listings show that the week rounds off with a charming programme: ‘Your table is reserved at Café Continental, the Gay International Cabaret’. Sydney Jerome conducts l’Orchestre Pigalle. Gay times, indeed!
According to my copy of Boye de Mente’s 1987 textbook ‘Japanese in Plain English’ the honorific term San is used to address anybody and takes on the appropriate meaning of Mr, Mrs or Miss. The author points out that “The concept of ‘Ms’ has not penetrated the Japanese language or culture”.
I was reminded of this when I spotted a recent news item concerning Nippon Paint, which has moved into the field of consumer paints. Initially their product range was stagnating, until two of the female employees came up with the idea for ‘Roombloom’.
This was proposed as being ‘A well-designed paint for women’, and included radical ideas such as ‘Repainting your home’s ceiling and walls according to your tastes’ and ‘If the paint cans were cuter, women would also probably buy them.’
Because of the successful advertising campaigns launched by (for instance) Honda and Toyota, we may be in danger of thinking that Japanese consumer and corporate cultures are almost the same as our own. It may be that Japanese home-owners always use professional decorators, and that the idea of painting your own walls is a novelty.
Perhaps Nippon Paint executives are already aware that in Europe and the States, women are not seduced by cute label designs, but instead are making important decisions on technical and commercial aspects of coatings. And women tend to show a much lower incidence of colour-vision defects than men, so it makes perfect sense to employ them in the coatings sector.
Meanwhile, I shall keep a look out for tins marked ‘A well-designed paint for men’ next time I’m pushing a trolley round B-and-Q at Batley….