The Auntie Doris Years: 1915

Charlie-ChaplinCinemas had been popping up all over the place in the 1910s, The Tower, the Regent, the Grand, the Majestic, the Strand, and the Coliseum. Loads of them. All bingo halls, pubs and carpet warehouses now, if they haven’t been ruddy pulled down. Not that my Mother and Father ever went. He saw the rising popularity of cinema as a sign of the End of Days, and forbade her to go anywhere near one. When you think what went on in some of them ruddy films, you can almost understand him. One of the top films of 1915 featured a homeless vigilante, who hit his adversaries in the face with a brick wrapped up in cloth, or on the head with a large mallet, only stopping when he was shot in the leg as he chased some thieves. And this was a comedy! “The Tramp”: written, directed by, and starring Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin was a huge star all over the world by 1915, and “The Tramp” was the film where he perfected his most popular character. Bowler hat, cane, tight jacket and ruddy great enormous trousers. My mother always told me never to trust a man in baggy trousers. The baggier the

trousers, the filthier the so and so inside them she used to say. A man can get up to all sorts of tricks in a baggy pair of trousers. Charlie Chaplain could anyway. In “Easy Street” he went into a church and hid the collection box inside of them. Although he did give it back once he clapped eyes on Edna Purviance. He had his eye on her, did Charlie. In fact whilst he was sitting next to her, there was probably a damned sight less room in his trousers than there was when he was sat next to the vicar. He liked all his leading ladies, and the younger the better… but that’s another story My Raymond’s friend Albert once tried that trick in Fine Fare and stuffed a bottle of Asti Spumante into his underpants whilst wearing some huge trousers. Unfortunately, the top wasn’t on properly, and it fizzed up a bit whilst he was walking home. He bumped into our Madge down Salisbury Street and as he stopped to raise his hat, there was a loud pop and all white foam started frothing out of his flyhole. Madge didn’t know where to put herself, and didn’t speak to him for over a year afterwards. Doris’s Pop Pick of 1915: “Pack up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag” by the Powell Brothers. The buggers were trying to break the stalemate of trench warfare by using poison gas. The U-boats were preventing supplies getting into Britain. People were realising that the War was going to last a lot longer than expected and many young men were going to perish. What better way to try and make light of things than by having a song that suggested you “smile, smile, smile” in times of difficulty.

The Auntie Doris Years: 1914

1914The year 1914 is embedded in the minds of many people for the dramatic events which unfolded on the world stage at the time, coming to a head with the commencement of the Great War. Of course in those days “great” didn’t mean “wonderful” like it generally does today. There was nothing wonderful about that war. It just meant “big” as in the Big War. We still use great like that in “Greater Manchester” – not wonderful, because its always ruddy raining, just bigger than the city of Manchester. And we use it in “Great Britain” – not wonderful, but alright for those with a bit of money behind them, not even big actually, but bigger than it would be if you didn’t include Scotland and Wales and Northern Island and all the fiddly bits in the middle of the sea. And we use it in terms like “Great Steaming Nitwit” Not wonderful by any means, but a big steaming nitwit, and anyway, he was my Raymond and I was sort of used to having him around.

Britain declared war on Germany on Tuesday August 4th 1914. Everyone expected it to be over for Christmas, but it wasn’t. Exactly four weeks later, on Tuesday September the first, I was born. I don’t know how long they expected me to last, but I carried on a damn sight longer than Christmas, and the ruddy Great War, and I am still going strong today. And that’s despite the fact that I have been dead these past 18 years. Whilst I was taking my first breaths, they were already digging the trenches on the western front that wouldn’t get left alone for the next four years.

What was it all about? My mother always said that the Black Hand Gang started it. The Black Hand Gang weren’t exactly Germans, but they were foreign, and they did used to murder people. When they murdered one of the ancestors of Alex Kapranos, the lead singer out of Franz Ferdinand, the Germans were impressed. They had been plotting to murder the ancestors of Alex Turner out of the Arctic Monkeys, and looked to the Black Hand Gang for tips and advice. Therefore when countries started to try and crush the Black Hand Gang, the Germans defended them and started declaring war all over the place. Soon all of Europe had joined in, then Japan, America, Brazil and even Montenegro were at it, although Montenegro didn’t qualify for the later stages. To be honest, the start of the Great War smacks to me of too many men running the show. If the suffragettes had had their way a bit sooner, and women had been in charge, they might have managed to settle things in a more civilised manner, without the need for all that ruddy bloodshed. But that’s ruddy men for you. All bluster and peccadilloes.

Doris’s Pop Pick of 1914: “Keep the Home Fires Burning” by Ivor Novello. Like I said, they thought it would be all over by Christmas, and that the boys would be happily coming home to a nice warm fire that winter with the job done. If only they had known. Poor Beggars.