The British – The National Character Observed by Pont
This is a rather neat little hardback, containing a series of cartoons by Pont (aka Graham Laidler, born 1908, died of tuberculosis in 1940). The black and white cartoons were published in ‘Punch’, which for younger ARRSErs, was a radical/political magazine for thinking people until it closed in 1992 (a short-lived later incarnation under the ownership of Mohammed Fayed doesn't count).
The cartoons are set out in plenty of space on the page, and the paper and hardcover are of good quality. They include such titles as ‘Adaptability to Foreign Conditions’, ‘Love of Open Air Sports’ and ‘Skill at Foreign Languages’, which poke gentle fun at British People of the early twentieth century and will be recognisable instantly. I particularly liked ‘A Tendency to learn the Piano when young’ and the man leaning over the wall saying ‘I suppose you know you’re doing that all wrong’. There’s a lot of amusing detail in the ‘side characters’ portrayed.
However, with the passage of time, and the massive changes to the way we British live which have happened since 1979, the humour cartoons like ‘A Tendency not to know what to do on Sundays’ may be not be understood by those not old enough to remember the days when the pubs opened from 12-2 and 7-1030, most shops were shut, and one could buy a ‘top shelf’ magazine but not a Bible. Likewise the cartoon of a cook being told there will be ‘nineteen extra people for lunch today’ is somewhat out of time (unless the cook is one’s Domestic Spouse).
I like this book but feel I can give it only two mushroom heads, as although it would be a nice gift for the over 55s to reminisce, I think that younger readers would find it hard to understand a lot of the observations without explanations from their elders.