Thursday, 9 July 2009

FYI



Yesterday afternoon Alma and I watched Charley Says, a collection of public information films shown on British television from 1959 to 1983. Being 76, Alma remembered nearly all of them, albeit vaguely, but most of them were new to me.

It’s a fascinating watch. The films tend to vacillate between the mind-bogglingly obvious, the highly disturbing and the just plain weird.

The early ones seemed obsessed with road safety, as well as general road courtesy...



...and the country code, depicting posh or otherwise thoughtless people making farmers irate by dumping rubbish, picking wildflowers, starting fires or getting jiggy in the woods…



The best of the rest were the ones with amusing, well-drawn characters who appeared in different situations in a series of films. My own personal favourites are Joe and Petunia, a pair of common-as-muck Northern ninnies whose infuriating stupidity knows no bounds…



There are four Joe and Petunia films on the DVD, one explaining that if you see a man drowning, you ought to phone the coastguard; one explaining that if you see a red flag on the beach, accompanied by a sign reading ‘DANGER – STRONG CURRENTS – DO NOT BATHE’, you really oughtn’t venture into the sea; one in which Joe and Petunia shit all over the countryside like the patriotic, ignorant, crass, boorish, self-centred, wilfully working class oiks they are, and are rightly castigated by a hopping mad rural type; and the final film, in which Joe and Petunia get their comeuppance, dying tragically in a car accident because Joe is simple-minded enough to drive around winding mountain roads with badly worn tyres, despite very large warning signs…









Up there with Joe and Petunia of course is the eponymous Charlie and his unnamed and slightly moronic boy-pal…



Lessons taught by Charlie and the ignorant boy include the following: do not play with matches (‘they can hurt you’); don’t jump headfirst into a river (‘Charley nearly drowned’); don’t go close to ‘stoves’ (‘hot things there can hurt you’); don’t pull the tablecloth off the table (‘the hot water from the tea-pot can hurt you very much’); don’t go anywhere without telling your mum where you’re going and, of course, ‘never go anywhere with men or ladies you don’t know’ – even if they do offer to show you some puppies…



Speaking of paedophilia, I was surprised by how commonly it cropped up. I didn’t really think it existed until the 90s. But it did. Look...





It was always very subtle of course, the overall message being do not, under any circumstances, talk to strangers. Oh, unless they look like this



Or this



Or – God forbid – this



Watching the whole collection makes you think that although people often complain today that we’re living in a Nanny State, we should really shut our mouths and think ourselves lucky we’re not still living in the seventies.

On the whole, these 157 short films give the very strong impression that everyone born before 1977 was a genuine, 100%, bona fide moron. Most of the information imparted can be boiled down to a simple list of staggeringly obvious dos and don’ts. Mostly don’ts. For example…

Don't lean over a pond with a big stick, especially when the Grim Reaper is standing behind you...



Don’t play near pylons.

Don’t play near railway lines.

Don’t go to A&E with a sore finger.

Don't let your child go out mugging people and vandalising public property...



Don’t get a fine - get a TV licence.

Don’t dazzle – dip.

Don’t get hit by a car if you can help it - you’ll be like a peach under a hammer.

Don’t burn coal when it's foggy or you'll turn the fog into smog, and smog kills...



Don’t get stuck in a hideous and meaningless job when you could do something more worthwhile simply by contacting the careers advisory service.

Don’t use paraffin heaters without adequate ventilation.

Don’t forget to tell someone if you decide to change your sailing plans, take a detour in your boat and spend the evening chatting up a fulsome bar wench in a distant tavern…



Don’t run in front of a speeding car whilst trying to catch a bus.

Don’t line your kitchen ceiling with polystyrene tiles and gloss paint, you dolt.

Don’t put your arm in an alligator’s mouth…



Don't piss around on frozen ponds.

Don’t mix cross-ply and radial tyres on the same axle.

Don’t leave fridges lying around because…



Don’t overload your caravan.

Don’t change lanes at traffic lights.

Don’t keep losing your birds (or in other words, learn to swim, young man. Learn to swim.)…



Don’t fuck about in the workplace (‘metal filings in the eye can very often blind a guy’).

Don’t get run over in front of ice cream vans.

Don’t let men in sheepskin coats make off with your vagina…



Oh, and don’t leave broken bottles on the beach. Christ, are people really that retarded?

Yes. They really are.

This has me flinching every time…



On the positive side, whatever you do, do make sure your house is frost-proof.

Do clean your teeth.

Do put the chain on before you open your front door, and also, do have a little panic that you might be about to be murdered by ‘a mad, mad axeman who is deep in sin’…



Do leave five cars’ space between you and the car in front – yeah, right.

Do keep an eye open for felons...



Do bend your legs when lifting heavy objects…



Do check your safety equipment when going out in a boat.

Do be seen at night...



Do give blood.

Do take precautions against malaria. Oh, and rabies…



Do unplug all electrical equipment every night…



Why? Just do it. Also, think before you drink before you drive, and when you are driving, clunk click every trip, think once, think twice, think bike. OK?

Oh, and obviously, in the event of nuclear war, if you happen to be outdoors, remember to ‘brush and shake off any fallout dust you may have picked up and get rid of it.’

Pffft.

We’ve come a long way.



Don’t have nightmares.



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18 comments:

Nicky said...

YOu've made me cry with laughter at the end of a thoroughly shitey day at work - and I remember loads of these! Love you forever just for stopping me from slitting my wrists today. I'm off for a large dry white ...

La Bête said...

Splendid. I'm very pleased. Enjoy your wine (assuming that's what you meant)...

Nicky said...

I did - but now you come to mention it ....

Andy said...

Don't forget that thoroughly nasty railway vandalism film "The Finishing Line". I think it's on YouTube somewhere. I also remember having the piss scared out of me when I was 6 by a film called "Never go with strangers". I think that's on YoTube too.

annie.sh said...

Second to Nicky! I've had a crappy day, I have SO much to do, I'm not well, have to be up dirt early and all my optimism had dribbled out of the ends of my feet. I have to confess to having jumped on specifically hoping there was something new that would cheer me up. There was and it did! Thanks!

xa

Catofstripes said...

I much preferred the bottling factory and the potters time fillers. I think there were some others but it was usually time for my nap by then.

It would be good to get a copy of this for a woman I know, who still unplugs everything, not just at night, and hides all the sharp knives under a teacosy. It's important to reinforce these important messages. Did you get it off Amazon?

gong-man said...

I left the UK years ago (a climatic rather than a political decision)although now it seems I chose well politically too.Not that everything is perfect in Sarkoland.Been in France "longtemps"

So the advice about the chain on the door was....

What chain??? I don´t even lock my door.If people come by to give me a bottle of wine and I ain´t there and the door is locked..well work it out for yourselves.

Give blood....

Interestingly I tried to give blood here in France.I was refused.
Why? Because I lived in the UK in the early 90´s.The words "cow" and "mad" spring to mind.

La Bête said...

Yeah, CoS, first link takes you there.

Ahh, Gong-man, you make me want to live in a foreign land where doors can be left unlocked and wine brought round by cinnamon-scented neighbours. Are they cinnamon-scented? I bet they are.

gong-man said...

Try garlic...

La Bête said...

CINNAMON.

gong-man said...

oh cinnamon where you gonna run to..

Thinking on my feet here :)

Andrea said...

Isn't that Ma Boswell in the first picture? There's also a public information fil that has Timothy Spall as a pedo with a Rubiks Cube and Duncn Preston as another pedo with a blue car. I cn't remember what it's called though.

gong-man said...

On the subject...

I grew up in Blackpool and Madame Tussaud (see,there was a French connection already)had a waxwork museum on the Golden Mile.As a ghoulish 10 year old I was drawn inexorably to the CHAMBER OF HORRORS where I learned/saw enough about syphilis and ghonnoreah (spelling?)to put me off the fair sex for the rest of my life (but I was only 10)

In the chamber of horrors was an actual mini car which had had an argument with a tree whilst transporting joyful holidaymakers to their personal Mecca (where they could play bingo all day long)

There were of course no motorways in those days and Preston to Blackpool was windy and twisty.

Tussauds had replaced the deceased with waxwork dummies replete with copious amounts of red gloss paint.

For a 10 year old it was quite disturbing.I have never had an accident in a car.Just don´t mention motorbikes OK....

Tim Footman said...

God, imagine having to choose whether you want to be fiddled with by Timothy Spall or Duncan Preston.

The Sagittarian said...

Fantastic! However, you forgot "Don't run with scissors" presumably its all good until someone looses an eye! Over here we have to have TV remind us not to hit, maim or kill our children/partners/old people. Go figure!

Tanya Jones said...

I'm glad you've seen these. The Charley Says collection is a favourite of mine; so much so, that I've written about them myself:
http://www.noisetosignal.org/selected/the-good-old-days-public-information-films-in-britain

Enjoy!

Alison Eales said...

Ahhhh, fantastic. I love PIFs. My favourite one is the rug on the polished floor... "you may as well set a MANTRAP."

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

[sings to self]

Breast stroke, back stroke, butterfly and crawl
Doggy paddle, belly flop, you can do them all
Learn to swim!

Get a routine, show your intentions
Fire prevention, fire prevention
diddle-de dee, close every door
Da-da da-da da-da da daa
Bedtime routine!

Keep your happy smile
Sparkling clean and bright
Brush after breakfast
And last thing at night.

I was born in 1969.