James Bond and The Creeping Landlord
Forgive me for turning this column into the online equivalent of the Antiques Roadshow – I just thought it was an interesting subject.
Had you lived in the latter half of the 19th century and gone to an English fair, you might have tried your luck with a sideshow game and won a trinket, a little china figure now referred to as a Fairing. These Fairings were mostly about 3.5″ long and about 2.5″ deep and 3″ tall, mounted on a rectangular base. Each one, and there were over 400 different varieties, depicted a comic scene either of risqué courtship and marriage, parenthood, politics, war, children and sometimes animals behaving as children. Some of them were quite creepy, like this one – ‘The Landlord In Love’.
When I moved house I found one behind some books called ‘Two In The Morning’, which featured a drunk husband falling over the end of a bed as he tries to come in quietly, not realising his wife is awake and about to hit him. Unfortunately, in the complicated move of two households, it vanished. There are great ones of horrible dentists, disturbed sleepers and drunk barbers, often in violently animated poses, but I could only find a few tiny examples online. Eventually these strange little tableaux were changed to chalk, and the practice of making fairings in coloured chalks continued until well into the 1970s.
Now they’ve all gone – as indeed largely have funfairs themselves – but the fairings have become very collectable. They were manufactured mostly in Germany by Conta & Boehme of Poessneck, and had captions written in black script on the front of the base. Some had titles such as ‘Last into bed puts out the light’, ‘Twelve months after marriage’ and ‘Shall we sleep first or how?’ There were lots of jokes about sex and drunkenness, and they got a bit ruder as the years passed.
‘I’ve been doing some serious thinking,
And a thought has just popped in my head:
If you don’t have a drink when you’re living
You’ll have a Hell of a job when you’re dead’.
One of the most of all popular fairings, a little white china ornament of a British bulldog draped in a Union Jack (sometimes seen smoking a cigar in later versions to resemble Sir Winston Churchill) made it’s way onto M’s desk in ‘Skyfall’, and Royal Doulton Mint reproduced them because of popular demand. They’ve now all sold out.