Wednesday, 10 June 2009

The Edwardians

Following the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, her son Edward (pictured right) came to the throne. Despite the fact that Edward VII only reigned until 1910, when he was succeeded by George V, the Edwardian era is generally considered to have ended with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, As Prince of Wales Edward was regarded as a playboy and a gambler. Following his marriage in 1863, he continued his frivolous lifestyle, and it was common knowledge among the aristocracy that he kept numerous mistresses. During his reign much of his time was spent hunting, shooting and yachting, and spending time on the continent, before returning to London for the Season.

By the end of Edward's reign, the British Empire was already in decline as both Germany and the United States challenged the hitherto dominance of Britain's major industries, coal, and iron and steel.

The Edwardian era brought with it great change, previous Victorian values were cast aside as more modern lifestyle emerged in Britain. Whilst Victoria had shunned society, Edward led a fashionable elite with few responsibilities and even fewer morals. The British class system was very much in evidence, and it was very much a period personified by the upstairs, downstairs, way of life. The upper classes embraced leisure sports, which led to the rapid development of new fashion. Whilst the lower classes were segregated from the aristocratic and mercantile society, with few luxuries afforded to them.

The period was characterised by its own unique architectural style, fashion and way of life, and was strongly influenced by Art Nouveau. In literature novels and short stories became very
popular whilst musically phonographs, playing waxed discs, became available to the better off. There was an increasing interest in watching live performances. The lower classes were able to listen to military bands, who played in public parks in the summer. The old Victorian Music hall remained popular, but found itself in competition with New Drama in the theatres.

It was also a time of innovative technology. The first transatlantic wireless signals were sent by Marconi, the Wright brothers took their first flight, and by the end of the era Louis Bleriot had crossed the English Channel by air, and automobiles were common. First Roald Admundsen and later Scott's teams reached the South Pole. In 1908 the Summer Olympics were held in London. Sport became immensely popular during Edwardian times, tennis and yachting with the wealthy, and soccer with the lower classes.

Also at this time women began to gain more recognition. Emmeline Pankhurst political activist and leader of the British Suffragettes movement was recognised as having achieved women's suffrage in Britain. On 4 June 1913 another British suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, fanatically dedicated to her cause, staged a dramatic protest at the Epsom Derby, throwing herself in front of the King's horse, Anmer. She was very badly trampled and died four days later on 8 June.

The Edwardian period is often regarded as a romantic Golden Age of long summer afternoons, garden parties and big hats. Later the Edwardian age was viewed with irony, as a mediocre period of pleasure between the the great achievements of the Victorian age, which preceded it, and the great catastrophe of the war which was to come after. Which view you took no doubt depended, to a large degree, on whether your were wealthy or poor.

To watch a video clip of late Victorian and Edwardian times click the link below;
(Launch in stand alone player and full screen mode)

Poem - Diary Of A Church Mouse

A week ago today I began a series of poems by John Betjeman. Below is the second poem in the series, entitled 'Diary Of A Church Mouse', with an introduction that explains the sentiment behind the verse

The church mouse is one of the most charming and lovable of all John Betjeman's characters. She has a simple but shrewd outlook on life, living humbly in a forgotten junk cupboard, and getting little to eat except once a year at Harvest Festival. But how unfair it is, she thinks, that rats and mice from all around, who are never seen near the church the rest of the year, should come at Harvest Festival and greedily eat the food they have no right to. Some, she knows, have no religion at all, and some are quite different religions, yet that does not stop them coming to steal the Church of England's festive food.
The little mouse is quite sure that human beings wouldn't behave so badly. Yet on second thoughts, perhaps she's wrong? For who are all those people who fill the church on Harvest Festival Sunday whom she's never seen before? Are humans as bad as the animals and come to church only on the big festivals, but not on all the other Sundays of the year?

Diary Of A Church Mouse
Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregation and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn's Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle's brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes ..... it's rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preachers seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Came in to hear the organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible everyday
And always night and morning pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God's own house.
But all the same it's strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don't see at all
Except for Harvest Festival.
John Betjeman
A Ring Of Bells

Today's Smile

Wedding Cake


Old Indian word for bad hunter.

The only time some married men get to open their mouth.

Vuja De
The feeling you've never been here.

To remove money from a bank down south.

Vegetable which can be baked, boiled fried or steamed before the kids refuse to eat it.

Blankney Pictures

On the corner, the Old Blankney Post Office, on the left
an adjoining cottage.

Thought For Today

In heaven all the interesting people are missing.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Church Signs