Weird & Wonderful London 5
This was taken in 1933 but feels a century older. The villagers are receiving their Maundy peas – 20 bushels of peas and 2 bushels of wheat were given to the poor of the parish every Maundy Thursday, in a ritual dating back to 1572. Maundy money is still handed out today at a service, where a monarch or a royal official ceremonially distributes small silver coins known as Maundy money as symbolic alms to elderly recipients, chosen because of the Christian service they have given to the Church and the community. A red purse contains ordinary coins while a white one contains silver Maundy coins amounting to the same number of pence as the years of the sovereign’s age. Britain is mad. And that vicar looks well dodgy.
Oh no, it’s those frightful debutantes again! This one’s looking apprehensively at a cake big enough for someone to jump out of, possibly a landowning Rees-Mogg type who’s going to drag her off to his estate in Boringhamshire. Did they know this was their last chance to be sold off to the gentry before the Queen disbanded them?
Speaking of the Queen, here’s Elizabeth II getting to race the penguins down the slides at Lubetkin’s delightful penguin pool at the London Zoo, now no longer used because it gives the flightless birds hardpad. She got to do what the rest of us longed to do as children.
Another shot that looks at least 100 years older than it actually is. In London’s East End there were still roads with ancient tollgates that lasted right up until WWII. This was taken in the 1930s, when my mum would have been ten years old.
Here’s an old tradition that died out in the 1970s. Families in poorer parts of the city took two weeks off in the summer to live communally in the Kentish countryside, picking hops to make beer. The hop-pickers had parties after a day’s work and often whole neighbourhoods went together. Children seemed to have an especially raucous time of it, probably because they were pissed the whole fortnight.
If they didn’t go hop-picking families headed for the coast in charabancs (this is in Bournemouth), although sadly they never mastered the continental style of looking good on the beach. Dad with his knotted hankie and his trousers pulled up round his ears and mum with a newspaper on her head is a far cry from a tanned Italian in a thong. Thank God. Let’s have none of that continental vulgarity.
Finally, a thought in these less-than-kindly times. While so many suffered under the Nazis in central Europe, others arrived in the UK as refugees and were met by townspeople who turned out with welcome wagons of food and – of course – tea before accepting them into their homes. Now they would be met by Nigel Farage and his blackshirts.
I plan to dip into a much larger collection of big-format photographs going back to the birth of photography, some showing how entire neighbourhoods deteriorated from 1900 to 1925. This is the last of the photo albums for now, but they’ll be back later in the year.