Television is a great recorder of the past, and most channels, and especially cable tv have great libraries of films that go back more than a hundred years.
And, whilst it’s possible that modern-day films and television series can try to recapture the past, the English as an exception being very good at it, often it is impossible to capture it correctly.
But, if you have a film shot in the moment, then you have a visual record of what life, and what was once part of our world before you in all its dated glory. The pity of it is that, then, we never appreciated it.
After all, in those particular times, who had the time to figuratively stop and smell the roses. Back then as life was going on, we were all tied up with just trying to get through each day.
Years later, often on reflection, we try to remember the old days, and, maybe, remember some of what it was like, but the chances are that change came far too rapidly, and often too radical, that it erases what we thought we knew existed before.
My grandmother’s house is a case in point. In its place is a multi-lane superhighway, and there’s nothing left to remind us, or anyone of it, just some old sepia photographs.
I was reminded of how volatile history really is when watching an old documentary, in black and white, and how the city I grew up in used to look.
Then, even though it seemed large to me then, it was a smaller city, with suburbs that stretched about ten or so miles in every direction, and the outer suburbs were where people moved to get a larger block, and countrified atmosphere.
Now, those outer suburbs are no longer spacious properties, the acreage subdivided and the old owners now much richer for a decision made with profit not being the motivator, and the current suburban sprawl is now out to forty or fifty miles.
The reason for the distance is no longer the thought of open spaces and cleaner air, the reason for moving now is that land further out is cheaper, and can make buying that first house more affordable.
This is where I tip my hat to the writers of historical fiction. I myself am writing a story based in the 1970s, and it’s difficult to find what is and isn’t time-specific.
If only I had a dollar for every time I went to write the character pulling out his or her mobile phone.
What I’ve found is the necessity to research, and this has amounted to finding old films, documentaries of the day, and a more fascinating source of information, the newspapers of the day.
The latter especially has provoked a lot of memories and a lot of stuff I thought I’d forgotten, some of it by choice, but others that were poignant.
Yes, and don’t get me started on the distractions.
If only I’d started this project earlier…