Oh What a Lovely War
Thank goodness for the forties weekend on the North Norfolk coast. It reassures us that the summer is not quite over. It is a chance to celebrate something, a chance to dress up and play act and oh how we British love to dress up.
The towns of Sheringham and to a lesser extent Holt see it as an opportunity to do something different and attract the crowds and more importantly the customers. As for the North Norfolk Railway they pull out all the stops and are very much the centre of attention. Steam trains and old fashioned railway carriages – what fun – just the way it used to be.
But was it?
For some I suppose the war meant good times. The spivs did quite well and many of the girls had more admiring young men than they knew how to handle.
But for others it was a time of hardship – restrictions on food, restrictions on travel, restrictions on freedom – “Don’t you know there’s a war on?” In addition there was the uncertainty of life itself. Would the menfolk return from battle safe and sound? How many more sorties would have to be flown at night? Was that an air raid siren? – or on the North Norfolk coast, was that a church bell signifying an invasion by the enemy?
In this photographic essay
I tried to get my subjects, who agreed to be photographed, to show certain emotions. The intention was to go one stage further than merely dressing for the part and I asked them to depict specific feelings about the war. Some found it harder than others. And apart from me we didn’t have any tears. Perhaps as the viewer you might be able to work captions for the pictures yourself.
I think I have come to the conclusion that the forties weekend isn’t about war at all. It’s in line with all that play acting which allows us to replace pain with laughter. It’s rather like a massive episode of Dad’s Army, Allo Allo, ITMA and Much Binding in the Marsh all rolled into one. In other words it’s about the way we want things to have been.