Archive for November, 2012|Monthly archive page

Forty-Six Years On – Part Two

“Here is the clock.The Trumpton clock.  Telling the time, steadily, sensibly, never too quickly, never too slowly.  Telling the time for Trumpton”

So Camberwick Green appears to have been laid waste by the advance of modern society, crushed by the homogenising of standards that took place when artisanry was removed from the picture under a welter burden of mass-produced, functionally satisfactory items.  Standards slipped, we accepted this as a society for reduced cost.  We truly became the peanut payer and we got out monkeys by return.   Has the county town of Trumptonshire suffered the same fate?  Well, let’s have a look… 

  • The Mayor, Philby and Mr Troop – The combined “staff ” at the town hall, the mayor was forever in ceremonial garb and this was a state of affairs that couldn’t last.  Successive councils ultimately abolished the role – there was talk of an elected mayor but they took one look at the buffoon in London and the county voted all but unanimously “no” to that.  The role is now filled at ceremonies by the head of the council – the chain is now a museum piece.  Philby drove the mayor’s car.  Redundant, he ultimately took to cabbing after various driving jobs.  Mr Troop the town clerk is still at the Town Hall.  He is now respectfully called “Mr Troop” rather than the peremptory “Troop” the mayor used so frequently.  The mayor, redundant, left the area.  He is believed to have retired on a ridiculous pension after seeing a couple of years out at the Cabinet Office in a sinecure arranged by an old school chum.
  • Chippy Minton – His name gave away the fact that he was the town carpenter.  His son, Nibbs, was apprentice to him.  As one of the few artisan roles that couldn’t really be undercut, Chippy has made a living over the years, both in intricate woodworking and sitework as his bread and butter.  Nibbs has taken to the family trade well and the Mintons are if not wealthy, at least confident of a stream of work that keeps the wolf a fair way away from the door. 
  • Mrs Cobbit – The flower seller who hadn’t missed a day in forty years (Sunday excepted) is a mere wrinkle in the history of the town now.  The demand for fresh-cut flowers, barring fabricated holidays, funerals and weddings, disappeared completely.  Even linking with the flower cartels that cover the entire country was not enough and shortly after achieving 50 years of not missing a day, succumbed to market forces and retired.
  • Miss Lovelace – Millinery died in the same way flower selling did only quicker again.  Miss Lovelace changed her business over to a genteel tea room and made a living out of that until the coffee revolution came along and, in a cutthroat market, removed her completely from the fray.  She still keeps Pekingese dogs, her window to the outside world.  She doesn’t see as many people as before on her travels but at least she has some contact.
  • Mr Munnings – One of the great artisan trades for five hundred years that had its Armageddon in the 1980s, Mr Munnings was also a victim of the government assault on the print industry.  The advent of desktop publishing saw the demise of typesetting, photogravure and other aspects of the hot metal and plate-based shop.  Mr Munnings sold up, left the area and his present whereabouts are unknown.  His shop is now a tanning salon.
  • Mr Platt – Again, a man whose trade suffered for the advent of the digital age, Mr Platt did, however, manage to survive some lean times where others did not.  A clockmaker by trade, his work diminished in the face of digital timepieces but he maintained a living out of batteries, analogue repairs and the occasional curiosity piece.  A revival in the fortunes of the quality timepiece along with some horse trading in antiques kept Mr Platt afloat.  But then his work was also his hobby
  • Mr Clamp – Mr Clamp, the greengrocer, went the way of the grocer.  The latter is now known only by approximation in the entity that is known as the general store/corner shop and even then that image doesn’t quite sit right.  The greengrocer, despite his local, fresh, high quality produce, lasted longer but also went to the wall in the face of cheap, vacuum-sealed, all-year-round global produce that because of preserving measures outlasted local produce and became cheaper.   Mr Clamp runs a stall twice a week at a local market but is for all intents and purposes out of the trade. His shop became a betting shop and after that traded up to bigger premises, a letting agent.
  • Mr Craddock – The park keeper, he has spent a career dodging removal from his job.  Council services were deregulated but he survived the cull.  Some of the land was sold off, he hung on again.  Redundancy and further reductions in service mean that he is one of the lucky ones – he is in a small, overworked team whose budget will be cut again next year and his job, finally, looks as if it will be going.  He’ll now retire on a pension that is far too small for the years he put in and yet people will abuse him for his loyalty and efforts over time.
  • Fire Brigade – Cuthbert has gone, BarneyMcGrew took a package during the last round of voluntary redundancy and the twins are entirely disillusioned with the job.  Dibble is off long-term sick after a serious injury that has been clearly attributed to understaffing and undermanning and Grubb is holding on because the service is his life.   The station is continuing in the face of a closures campaign even though it puts Trumpton’s safety under dire threat.  Captain Flack remains, but he has never seen morale so low.
  • Mr Wantage and his assistant Fred – Telephone engineer and engineer’s mate, they have gone from the GPO to BT, from BT to O2, never leaving the job but being subject to the misery of increased privatisation that would be so much worse but for their stalwart defence of position by the efforts of the CWU.  The days of the local exchanges might be gone and the personal touch as well as they work for an international behemoth, but they will at least get to retire in comfort.  Small comfort.
  • Nick Fisher, Mr Robinson, Walter Harkin – A bill poster, a window cleaner and a painter and decorator respectively, all three were tangential characters and managed to tick over through the years by the very nature of their specialist skills.  Sole traders all, they would probably be looked upon as somewhere between self-employed and franchisees. Work ebbed and flowed but never dried up; Nick indeed has never been so busy as advertising became one of the genuine growth industries over the interceding years.  And everyone has windows and walls..
  • Antonio – Ice cream man.  Survived various turf wars and thrived as increased population meant that his round expanded without becoming geographically larger.  Sales of crisps, drinks and sweets effectively door-to-door helped too.  Frequently racially abused despite his English roots and accent because his name isn’t “effnickly” British.
  • Raggy Dan – Disappeared years back when the local council arranged individual homeowners to recycle their rubbish for free.  When the council finally latched on to the adage “where there’s muck, there’s brass”, the totter’s number was up.  Current whereabouts unknown.
  • Constable Potter – Redundant.  Job ceased to exist through cuts and the amalgamation of the two stations in Trumpton and Camberwick Green.  PC McGarry already retained a role at the reduced station at Camberwick Green.  Potter ended up in private security on a fraction of the wage at yet another out-of-town supermarket.  Former station is now a wine bar

So that’s Trumpton.  Once again the concertinaing of services and the acceptance of  “good enough” over “excellent” shows an overall decline in fortunes but as a small glimmer of hope, at least some of the individual semi-skilled/skilled workers made good for themselves, even if the community appears to have suffered a structural collapse not unlike Camberwick Green.  Let’s not forget that in the interceding period, Trumpton suffered the most awful riots, documented here.  Even in the most idyllic setting, social deprivation can lead to discontent and unrest.

Next – Chigley

Forty-Six Years On… Part One

Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play. But this box can hide a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today?
 

In 1966, Gordon Murray created a stop-start motion series that it is said ostensibly mirrored the triangle of towns in East Sussex that are Wivelsfield Green, Plumpton and Chailey.  It entered the national psyche as something that the nation’s children would grow up alongside.  Those children are now in their forties or (yes) fifties.  The voice of the Trumptonshire Trilogy, Brian Cant, legendary much-loved children’s presenter, is now in his eightieth year.  We all age.

The characters in the series, however, never did. Gordon Murray (a nonagenarian now) destroyed the puppets from Camberwick Green (1966), Trumpton (1967) and Chigley (1969) in the 1980s as they were not built to last and were  in an increasing state of disrepair.  The shows remain but in an appalling lack of wisdom by the BBC, the masters were lost.  They were recovered after prompting by the animator and his son-in-law and remastered in 2012.  Are they important?  Well, if I typed the two words “Pugh, Pugh…” the odds are that the reader will have recited the next four names before they finished this sentence and will be now grinning at what they just did.  They were much loved and they will be again.

So the shows are remastered and have a new lease of life in the twenty-first century.  Would the characters be in the same position?  They hark back to the age of Wilson’s first government, filmed in colour when colour was not yet a broadcast option and television ran to two channels and for a part of the day only.  Would they still have the same stories to tell today?  Let’s see…

Camberwick Green started the ball rolling

  • Mickey Murphy – Mickey was an artisan baker.  The days of the independent baker were sadly numbered by the 1980s with the increased demand for pre-sliced bread in polythene that lasted a week and Mickey’s lot was no different.  He left his specialist skills behind (although he still bakes authentically for pleasure) to man an oven at an out-of-town supermarket, finishing off no end of part-baked loaves delivered by truck.
  • Windy Miller – Windy if anything was more anachronistic that Mickey.  He owns a windmill and the demand for the grains he formerly ground for specialist flour dried up through cheap imports and lack of demand for quality over cost.  He converted the mill to wind power and now faces the opposition of any number of small-minded idiots who now suddenly have decided that his ancient self-powered home is in fact an eyesore.
  • Jonathan Bell – Farmer.  Barely surviving as through intensive increases in milk yield over time, he now has to produce more than twice the milk as forty years ago to just stand still in the face of the handful of large milk companies that took hold of the deregulated market on the demise of the Milk Marketing Board in the 1990s.  Considering turning his land to tourism over farming.
  • PC McGarry – The local bobby on the beat, affectionately know by his number (“number 452”) no longer has a beat in Camberwick Green.  His station is now manned on Tuesday and Thursday only (11am – 3pm) with a telephone access to leave a message outside those hours.  Successive governments have devalued his work and he hopes to retire while he still has a pension for which it would be worth retiring.
  • Mr Carraway – A fishmonger in a country that no longer values fresh fish.  Mr Carraway’s business was in steep decline from the mid ’70s onwards and he sold his shop to sell from a van.  This stayed the execution for quite a while – there was enough business to take the fish to the people and he thrived in relative terms.  Sadly, the decline continued and he sold up completely.  Works part-time on a supermarket fish counter (see Mickey Murphy) that ironically imitates his old shop layout.
  • Peter – A postman, he found his round and working practices under attack time and again.  The GPO has changed name (or “brand”) on several occasions but ultimately he still delivers letters and he is still a postman.  Lives in perennial fear of privatisation and intends to retire within the next twelve months or so before the organisation is sold off from under him.
  • Mr Crockett – Owned the garage.  However, the car maintenance business dropped off as cars became more mechanically sound over time.  Although MOT certification kept him working, alone it was not enough to sustain him.  Sadly, selling petrol tailed off as he was priced out of the trade by high volume, low profit supermarket chains.  Works part-time from home in semi-retirement.  Garage site sold to fast food chain.
  • Doctor Mopp – Left medicine the minute the idiotic hand of government told him to become an administrator rather than tending to and treating sick people.  Sold his practice and retired on the proceeds.  Misses the patients, does not miss the interference of authority.  Not a fan of Andrew Lansley nor of his successor.  Recently seen at several anti-privatisation protests.
  • Thomas Tripp – The milkman, his role has changed somewhat over time.  No longer a sole trader, his round was bought by one of the large milk concerns after deregulation when he would have been forced out through competition. Retains his old round but his round and range of products has expanded while his orders are more likely to be submitted online.  Few nowadays know him by name.
  • Roger Varley – A chimney sweep.  Central heating obviously saw his work tail off over the years.  Retained his motorbike and sidecar which serve him well as a delivery man of various stripes, as well as retaining his chimney sweep paraphernalia for use on demand as the traditional symbol of luck for church weddings in the area.
  • Mr Dagenham – A salesman, the only real change in his business was the advent of mail order, allowing him less time on the road and more in managing orders.  Transnational internet-based behemoths ate into his business to the extent that he was muscled out of the “sales on demand” game and has returned to personal representations.  He is back selling on the road. 
  • Captain Snort and Sergeant Major Grout – The stalwarts at Pippin Fort saw their regiment dissolved as it was merged with another regiment in the area.  It is now a field hospital rather than a training centre for cadets and now is home to any number of military and medical uses.  The historic red uniforms have been discarded for modern-day fatigues.
  • Mrs Honeyman – The chemist’s wife and local gossip, she works part-time and blames immigrants, benefit scroungers and people faking disability for her needing to work despite Camberwick Green having full employment, a 100% White British community make-up and anyone there who actually has a disability is working.  At least some things never change…

The fabric of Middle England appears to have been sacrificed on the altars of big business, standardised mediocrity and the acceptance of convenience over personal touch.  Or am I being cynical.  If only there were more examples I could review…

Next – Trumpton