Saturday, August 05, 2006

Ladybird book, Woodborough Road, Putney 02/08/06

Oh my gosh. This is what Eye Found It is all about. Great finds in obscure semi-suburban London settings. I spied this baby nestling by the curb on a quiet street, bleating piteously at me to rescue it from a fate of muck and mire. And liberate it I did.

Infused with a kind of cheery work ethic, this slender volume hails from the sixties, and offers a cursory rundown of what soldiers do in large serif type. I think the decade of free love must have had the establishment running scared, as this comes across as a 'get 'em early' recruitment drive for the army.

Incidentally, I do remember being briefly taken with the idea of being a soldier at the age of six (I think it was the uniforms), though it was an ambition that quickly dissipated. Maybe it would have done me some good however, as here I sit, long haired and shiftless, writing blog entries about the discarded miscellany of modern consumer culture I have appropriated womble-like from the streets.

The illustrations or 'commercial art' are uniformly gorgeous, though my favourite is this one of a cavalryman from the reign of King Charles II, where the painter has exercised artistic license in giving the figure in the foreground a couple of homunculi or 'mini me's'. (I think this conceit was to show off their pikes).

This image shows a young fresh faced chap in the recruiment office, about to accept the queen's shilling and take his first step into the manly world of work.

Is it just me, or is that doubt I see stealing across his face like rats through the basement of a Soho brothel? One thing's for sure, his entire body language broadcasts reticence.

Things I like about this artfully constructed scene include: the tentative way he's holding the slip of paper, as one might caress a scorpion, and the way the officer leans eagerly forward into the frame in askance. "come on sonny what's it going to be?, I ain't got all day you know, sign your name and you can have a cigarette".

The book concludes with the statement "Soldiers are well-fed and well-clothed and are always with their friends. They have busy lives and are happy men."

It does rather skirt around the awkard issue of soldiering's occupational hazards, such as getting shot in the head in a foreign field, insofar as it doesn't bring up 'the whole dying thing' at all. Neither does it point out that you as a soldier might be called upon to shoot someone else in the head, though really, what plucky lad wouldn't want to shoot someone in the head in the name of king and country.

The possibility that you might be doing all this for a deluded messianic leader who believes he's got a batphone direct to god, and is happily wandering up the garden path in the middle east in the wake of a right wing superpower is also not alluded to. But then this isn't Private Eye.


Blogger gridrunner said...


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