Every paper has its constituents, of course, and does its best to pander to their varied prejudices and foibles - doing so successfully keeps circulation healthy. Even the saintly Guardian plays the game, though satisfying its readers' unshakeable conviction that they're 'on the side of the angels' does get exceptionally wearing. But when it comes to nostalgia, the Mail more or less corners the market. (It also helps, no doubt, that people have pretty short memories).
Loosely themed around the fact that years ago the country didn't give a stuff for health and safety ('elf 'n safety is the phrase usually employed by the paper), its spread of pictures is merely an exercise in showing images of 'yesteryear' to elicit from every Mail reader a heartfelt 'aaaahhh'. These pictures don't actually show fluffy white kittens, but they more or less get the same result. Even guys might find themselves suppressing a slight sigh. The first (right) shows two girls enjoying themselves in the street. Note the lack of a safety harness, the wearing of which 24 hours a day is apparently a legal obligation these days.
Then (below) we have this picture of a lad out fishing. That the lad is barely four years old and might tumble into the water at
any minute is neither here nor there. He's perfectly safe because the photographer taking the picture would simply jump in to rescue him. Or perhaps, more truthfully the photographer would probably not think twice about jumping in and getting thoroughly soaked.
Ensuring our youngsters can swim is admirably sensible. They might, after all, from a very early age, choose to go fishing when there is no photographer around to record the
This row of eight toddlers (below) are very young and undoubtedly have not yet tasted their first cigarette, although
that will only be a matter of time. (NB pedants: I really am not sure whether that should be 'is' or 'are' - strictly as I am referring to the row, it should be 'is', but that sounds plain daft. This might be a topic I can raise again at the next meeting of the Feature Sub-Editors Hyphen Committee. Might even be worth and extraordinary meeting. Addendum: Word from up high: it is 'is'.) What is remarkable is that despite their young age, they have all already developed a very good head for heights and seem perfectly happy to be perched on such a high wall. Should there be some kind of mishap, the photographer is again on hand to sort things out and hand the poor child who has just fallen off and broken its neck a consolation lollipop.
Quite what is going on here (below) I really don't know, and I can't even attempt a sensible guess, except to suggest that these four lads are being slowly broken into the joys of English cooking. Or perhaps they are unfortunate enough to attend an English boarding school and are still a little peckish after lunch. It's also quite possible that they have just enjoyed an English lunch and are now engaged in getting rid of it again. One often has to.
I've just found the book from which these pictures came: it is called When I Were A Lad and was compiled by Andrew Davies and published by Portico. Just for an extra plug, similar books can be found at http://www.anovabooks.com/.
To keep this straight, and even though this page is in no way intended as profitmaking, I must point out that all the pictures I have published on this page are the copyright of Corbis.