The Writings of Ingrid Pitt

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Ingrid Says... Pitt of Horror Website Message

April 2009
Ingrid Pitt Ready For Action

I like writing fiction. It's so much more connected than fact. You get a story, extrapolate it to a satisfying conclusion and Roberta's your auntie. Never like that with fact.

For instance: for as long as I can remember the perceived wisdom was that the smart people saved for their old age. That included putting aside a little each month for their pension. It meant that when you bowed out of the rat race in your sixties you could retire to a life of grace and favour. What could go wrong?

Then there was the frugal housewife syndrome. Never live beyond your means. If you just had to have an ergonomically chromium plated fish slice, you took careful note of the price and your income and, if you couldn't buy it outright, which was considered the proper thing to do, you made sure that there was enough cash on the right hand side of your ledger to be able to afford a regular outlay until the purchase was paid for. What's more, before you could sign a hire-purchase agreement, you had to prove that you could afford it, and didn't really need the cash injection.

Marriage was not considered a GOOD THING. It was the ONLY thing. You kept your hand on your ha'penny until you found a suitable soul mate, introduced him to the folks back home, and justified your choice if they disapproved. The principal tenet for wedded bliss was having children. Before the sixties, the kids represented you. Until the advent of Elvis and Dr. Spock, how they behaved reflected on the parents, and they were kept in line by the mores of society.

Backing all this up was the work ethic. There were plenty of jobs about, not always what you wanted, but at least they were out there. The whole country was supported by industry. The Brits had a great tradition as sailors and builders of ships, factories turned out automobiles with names that still cling on but are owned by other countries, and King Coal was the driving force. It was a dirty job but, as they say, somebody had to do it. The people who worked underground were exploited and badly served, virtually sacrificed on the altar of progress. And backing up the nation's output was the steel industry. Another sacrificial altar.

"An Englishman's Home is his Castle." At least that was the perception. Only one person had the right to step over the threshold uninvited and that was the Customs Officer. He/She had to have a good reason and the Police had to have a warrant. Everyone was allowed to complain, but there was nobody to listen. There's the rub. While England's elite grew rich on the humiliation of the masses, the guidelines for society were laid down. Like all guidelines they only suggested a foundation. A foundation which, at that time, could only work for the rich and landed, but a solid foundation, never-the-less. And it was based on the acquisition and distribution of money.

Banks, in those days, were a place to keep your hard earned. Bank Managers the servants, not the masters. If you wanted to borrow money, you saw the manager, and he took into account your ability to garner from the richer, and put more money into the coffers. Micawber had it right: "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen, nineteen, six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds, nought and six, result misery." In the former bracket you were invited into the manager's inner sanctum and offered a glass of sherry. If you admitted to being a part of the latter part of the Micawberian philosophy, you never got past the accounts clerk.

On the street, the Policeman was the supreme authority. Even those of a criminal bent admitted this, and worked within self-imposed rules. The Policeman was there to sort out any problem, hand out wisdom, inflict cursory punishment, and tell you the time. Paperwork and targets were for forgers and poachers.

So what happened to this virtual world of perpetual soot filtered sunshine and bonhomie?

Let's start with the First World War. The Great War, The War to End War! The War that promised a land fit for returning heroes. The heroes with names like Rothchild, Cavendish and Grosvenor that is. For the others it was a land in which they could parade through the streets displaying their shattered limbs and blind eyes, and hope that someone could spare a penny.

The Second World War was a whole different kettle of neurosis. The sons and daughters of WW1 warriors were less eager to march through the streets singing patriotic war songs. What they wanted was a home worth coming home to. This time they intended to get it. If Churchill hadn't been spell-binding the masses, it is doubtful if the outcome of the war would have been in the Britain's favour. This counted for nothing when hostilities ceased. At least in the European theatre. War done, Churchill took a bow and was swiftly shuffled onto the sidelines and the Labour Government with its plans for a National Health Service, houses for all and a fairer distribution of wealth, embraced the Peace.

It all looked so wonderful at the time. Now the slightest sniffle or the most gangrenous limb could have a highly skilled and solicitous medic hovering over it for a paltry few coppers a week. That didn't last long. Teeth were seen to be a luxury so the NHS Dentist became an elusive beast in most parts of the country. Freelance Dentists charged patients ever rising sums for anything beyond a simple extraction or a blast with a drill at a recalcitrant molar. And a steadily rising subscription for prescriptions was levied on medicine.

Housing was addressed by building the much maligned 'pre-fabs'. Utilitarian building that could be made in a workshop and erected on site. For some it was the first time they had experienced the wonders of a bath with a plughole and the sybaritic pleasures of an inside toilet.

By the time the 'Fifties' hove into view, and the future Queen's holiday was wrecked by the untimely death of her father, George VI, there was an air of optimism abroad. The Skylon, an imposing futuristic shaped monument erected on the South Bank site of the Festival of Britain, was generally acknowledged to point the way onwards and upwards for the nearly bankrupt and battered Britain. With the anointment of Elizabeth the optimism of the Nation grew and everyone looked forward to a New Elizabethan age.

There was going to be no more war. Well at least once the little bit of nastiness in North Korea had been settled. Britain was going to be the land that war weary Brits deserved. The children were the future.

And, if you squinted your eyes and ignored the niggly bits, it looked like a cosy time to come. There was still a sense of cohesion about society. Everyone had their place and there was a place for everyone. In the resulting laissez faire society the collective hubris of the people could not be denied. This was the time of the radical Union leaders. They saw a mainly working Britain and decided, quite rightly, that they deserved a piece of the pie. Unfortunately their power went to their collective heads and they set about destroying the Goose that was laying the proverbial eggs. Confrontation was bound to lead to social warfare and by the Seventies the trenches were dug and the bullets flying.

Maggie Thatcher stepped up to the barricades and sorted out the problems that were dragging the country under. Unfortunately she stayed around for too long, and by the time she was toppled by her trusted ministers, she had become out of touch and toxic.

Nirvana was officially declared and it was peace and prosperity forever.

So what went wrong?

28/4/2009

The Writings of Ingrid Pitt