Thursday, 26 April 2012
Anyone who knows me knows that I am partial to a bit of escapism when life becomes either too boring or too stressful and, heaven knows, we are all having our fair share of both right now.
When listening to the latest news, H.I. and me have taken to bemoaning the fact that we have chosen exactly the wrong time to begin old age, but there is not much we can do about that, so we turn off and watch a Harry Potter DVD, or a 1940s black and white starring Basil Rathebone.
Whoever came up with the idea that children should never be bored had obviously lost all their childhood memory - children invented boredom, that is part of their job. If a summer holiday can last a lifetime when you are 8, it is because you are in the moment, and you can see no end to it. That can either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on whether or not you are bored.
Children also invented fantasy as a form of constructive escape, and us adults are constantly trying to concoct versions of it which will be acceptable to them, in the same way that we try to get them to eat vegetables. Get it right, and you can end up as rich as J.K. Rowling.
Some people take it a little too far into adult life though, in my opinion. I'm talking about Rockabillies, Line-Dancers, Druids, the Sealed Knot, the Bath Jane Austen fan club and about 90% of the population of Glastonbury.
Ok, I am guilty to a small degree (I tell myself) by trying to dress in a classic sort of way during my time off work - tweed in the winter and a real Panama hat in the summer - but I haven't worn a Deerstalker hat or smoked a calabash pipe since I was 14. Honest.
If you came up to my clay shooting club's site on a Sunday, you would think that every member was plucked straight out of a home for distressed gentlefolk, what with all the plus-fours, gaiters, flat caps in Prince of Wales tweed, waistcoats, etc. when in reality, they are mostly retired plumbers or potato seed merchants.
I have recently decided that given the opportunity to be reborn into a particular age, I would choose the 1660s, because of the changes that occurred at that point which brought us to the start of the modern world, but you will never catch me wearing tights or sporting a wide-brimmed hat with a feather in it. Sorry to disappoint you.
I believe that anyone wearing a DRIZABONE waxed raincoat who is not on horseback in the Australian Outback should be subject to an on-the-spot fine not exceeding ten shillings, for making himself look like a complete prat in public.
There are some people here in England who - having started off collecting the odd piece of retro furniture - have become clinically obsessed with the 1950s, and will not have anything in their houses which dates from either side of that period, including clothing. They even go so far as to have their hair cut in the 50s style, and go out to Jitter-Bug and Jive dances in their American or British vintage cars.
Far from being given much needed psychiatric treatment, they are courted and admired, often featuring in photographic magazines or being interviewed on day-time T.V.
The golden age of culture-clash must surely have been the 1970s, when hoards of Punks would turn up to Stonehenge at dawn on the Solstice to jeer and laugh at all the Druids and Hippies who were desperately trying to be taken seriously.
Hippies still exist here and there, but only by default. A complete absence of dress-sense will make a hippy out of anyone under the age of 25. Anyone over 25 is automatically labelled as a tramp. You need to be meticulous to dress like a Punk though, and thousands of people will, this summer here in Bath, where there will be a massive festival to commemorate the other Queens Jubilee, made famous by the Sex Pistols on that album cover.
Since about 1948, all Art Students have worn a uniform which immediately identifies them for what they are. This uniform is made by the supreme effort to try and convince everyone else that the student cares not a jot for fashion and saves all their aesthetic energy for their Art, rather than frittering it away on haute couture. Using their lower garments as paint-rags helps anyone who is a little slow on the up-take as well.
I suppose it is all just harmless fun and it makes a great spectator sport, just so long as you can de-sensitise yourself enough to not become horribly embarrassed by it by identifying with people who fantasise in public, but even when I drink a glass of wine from an 18th century glass by the light of an 18th century candlestick in the privacy of my compact but adorable city apartment which is wired for electricity, I feel a little furtive.
It's better than dressing up as Adolf Hitler and going out killing people. (There, you see? I just had to mention him again).
Posted by Tom Stephenson at 02:40