All the small stuff . .

In amongst all the huge, world changing headlines, the Daily Express carried some small stories, which while not as earth shattering as the main articles, give tiny flavours of daily life in amongst epic change.

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Fashion conscious ladies accessorised their gas masks with lace veils and matched the cases to their clothes while everyday events such as births and marriages carried on apace.


Life goes on, albeit with minor alterations for the plucky citizens of Britain! Whether it’s wryly poking fun at the German war monger or observations on the “best blackout”.

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However, in amongst the levity, even the smallest stories show how life is changing, including this piece about the future of zoo animals following the announcement of war. Each piece evokes little moments and decisions that you would never even think about.


There’s still time to be educational, including this brief lesson on how to pronounce the names of the, up until then, unfamiliar Polish towns that would soon come to dominate the news.

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But war is never far from even the smallest news item, whether its petrol rationing, nationalising of rail waggons or the monitoring of the enemy within – the registration of any Germans who choose to stay resident in the UK.


Adverts a plenty

As the citizens of the UK in 1939 adjust to a new reality they are as yet blissfully unaware of the long battles still to come and so the everyday mundanities of life continue.

Even with the outbreak of war, people still needed watches, vacuum cleaners and underwear! Here’s the shopping news complete with detailed, beautifully illustrated advertisements.


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People in 1939 appear to have the same preoccupations then as now. From making sure their teeth were pearly white to treating their crowning glory to the best possible stout bristled brushes!

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Before cigarettes and suntans were considered a health no no, they were promoted to the public at large.

Rowntree’s fruit pastilles were touted as the best thing to relieve the smoker’s need to take a puff when their pesky employers forbid a fag at work.

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While many adverts are for products that we still recognise and use today such as Beechams powders,  a few are an alien concept to us now.

Liver bile need waking up? Do you have stale foot acid? Never fear, there’s a solution.

I love this line from the liver bile ad: “Your whole system is poisoned and you feel dour, sunk and the world looks punk.” Carters brand liver pills are harmless, gentle yet amazing at making bile flow freely apparently!

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The concept of renting your electric items (Radio Rentals!) and the novelty of the TV set can be seen here.

As most homes now have at least one or two of the obligatory, humongous googleboxes with a plethora of channels it is almost inconceivable to think that this new fangled technology was ever such a rarity:

“Our combined large picture (12″ x 9 1/2″) television and high fidelity ALL-WAVE radio receiver is available to those within a 20 mile radius of Alexandra Palace. This area will be extended as new stations are erected.”

The progression of TV was halted during the war and all news announcements were made either over the radio or in the local cinema.

Other ads persuade readers to part with their money with promises of full testing, guarantees and lasting accuracy.

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Meanwhile concoctions for every bit of the body promised cures for what ailed you. Whether your hair was diseased, you needed a bit of a purge or your acid was rampant, there was a brand to aid you.

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The adverts are a wealth of tiny details, from the delicate line drawings of the products to the superlatives used within them. There’s even testimonials from satisfied customers.

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No nonsense in the shelters!

Today my treasured new purchase is officially 75 years old!! Having broken the news of the second Great War to an expectant public it was also a wealth of useful information into everyday situations in wartime.

The 1939 Daily Express offers hints and tips into what to do when the air raid sirens sounded. Whether you were driving a car, at home or just walking in the street.


From shelter etiquette through to how not to annoy your fellow shelterees, there are civilised, oh so British, instructions for all situations.

P1180858Here the paper suggests that one of the most undesirable companions in an air raid shelter is the man who continually beseeches people to “keep calm”. Apparently he is himself probably in a state of suppressed hysteria!

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This initial robust optimism and no nonsense approach to the idea of war is what would help a nation pull together, survive the blitz and manage, somehow, to endure watching an almost endless stream of boys depart who would never come home.

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75 years on – a warning from history

One of the best purchases I made during my London trip was an original Daily Express newspaper dated 4th September 1939.

The paper was printed the day after war was officially declared against Germany and the Second World War began in earnest.


Given the combustible state of the world at present, the paper offers insights into a civilisation on the brink of unimaginable horror.

As it is exactly 75 years since this particular declaration of war, it is ironic and frightening that we, once again, appear to find ourselves balanced on the same uncertain violent precipice.

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The declaration of war came two days after Hitler invaded Poland.

At 11am, 3rd September 1939, the Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced that the British deadline for the withdrawal of German troops from Poland had expired.

The British ambassador to Berlin had handed a final note to the German government that morning saying that unless it announced plans to withdraw from Poland by 11am, a state of war would exist between the two countries.

Mr Chamberlain continued: “I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received and consequently this country is at war with Germany.”

“You can imagine what a bitter blow it is to me that all my long struggle to win peace has failed.”



Here we read that France, Australia and New Zealand also declared war shortly after Britain.


When war is declared, King George calls upon “my people at home and my peoples across the seas”.

“I ask them to stand calm, firm and united in this time of trial. The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield. But we can only do the right as we see the right and reverently commit our cause to God.”

Meanwhile President Roosevelt declares America’s intention to remain neutral while Czechoslovakia pledged allegiance to the Allied cause despite being unable to provide its own army.

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From the hostile, yet still civil, demands, rejection and ultimate declaration of war via notes and memorandums to the stiff upper lip of the opinion column – it is a glimpse of a lost world, of manners, restraint and a no nonsense acceptance of a new way of life.

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Very at odds with our current society’s preoccupation with selfies and melodramatic, self absorbed outpourings.

With the benefit of hindsight, this small snap shot of history is incredibly poignant, To think that as the paper was printed and read, our country, and indeed the whole world had no idea of the horrors that would unfold with the coming of the second Great War.

However it was not just about huge, world changing events, The paper also covers the ongoing preoccupations of daily life with advertisements, advice, weddings and sports. I’ll show some more in the next post.



Portabello Road

One of my favourite places in London is the hectic, bustling Portabello Road and its markets.


From antiques to food, vintage fashion to costume jewelry, it’s another shopping (and happy snappers) delight.


Whether you’re after a refreshing drink of coconut water, some eye wateringly pricey fungi or just fancy indulging in a little pastry heaven, you’re bound to find it in this crowded, sprawling shoppers paradise.

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I was a woman on a mission, after some hand carved wooden print blocks to display in my printer’s case. But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t get totally sidetracked by other shiny lovely (tasty)things!

This time it included my FIRST EVER taste of a macaroon (lemon) – gorgeous (fitted in my mouth whole) – amazing!


And the discovery of a side shop stacked high with door knobs *quivers with excitement*


There’s hand knitted Rastafarian hats, hot hot chillies and every conceivable trimming, feather and sequin on the haberdashery stall.

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Not to mention Paella, continental cakies and quiches. My stomach is grumbling just thinking about it. (Salivating as I type).

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Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red.

The Tower of London is currently host to a poignant reminder of the futility and horror of war as a sea of poppies gradually turns the green moat into a blood red sea.

888,246 ceramic poppies are gradually being placed around the tower and each one represents a British fatality in the First World War. A visual, heart breaking remembrance to the fallen of just one tiny corner of the globe.

The impressive installation is called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, taken from the title of a poem by an unknown soldier.

The first poppy was placed on 5 August to mark one hundred years since the first full day of Britain’s involvement in the First World War. The last poppy will symbolically be planted on 11 November 2014

The poppies are crafted in my home county of Derbyshire by artist Paul Cummins and the poppies are being arranged by stage designer Tom Piper.

You can buy one of the poppies here and all money raised is going towards six service charities.

Here’s the poem that inspired the incredible poppy sea.

The Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red By Anon – Unknown Soldier

The blood swept lands and seas of red,
Where angels dare to tread.
As I put my hand to reach,
As God cried a tear of pain as the angels fell,
Again and again.

As the tears of mine fell to the ground
To sleep with the flowers of red
As any be dead

My children see and work through fields of my
Own with corn and wheat,
Blessed by love so far from pain of my resting
Fields so far from my love.

It be time to put my hand up and end this pain
Of living hell, to see the people around me
Fall someone angel as the mist falls around
And the rain so thick with black thunder I hear
Over the clouds, to sleep forever and kiss
The flower of my people gone before time
To sleep and cry no more

I put my hand up and see the land of red,
This is my time to go over,
I may not come back
So sleep, kiss the boys for me

Girly weekend in London!

Let’s take a detour from me droning on about Central Europe as I’ve just got back from a whirlwind trip to the capital city.

Me and the bestest gal pal have been talking about a girly trip to Camden and its associated markets for years but never quite made it, until now.


So, men free, wine bottles in hand, cash cards at the ready and all thoughts of financial solvency cast to the four winds, we trundled off for a couple of nights in the big smoke.

Dropping the bags off at our base for the trip – the Tower Hill Travelodge – we first headed to the bastion of cheap consumerism (Oxford Street Primark) before enjoying a tasty meal at The Minories

But the main event was the quirky destination of Camden Town, with its tacky London souvenirs, Cannibis themed clothing / lighters / tea towels / bongs etc, goths, bovver boots and antiques.


Not to mention the moped seats, bunting, food from every corner of the globe, feather boas, carpets, wood carvings and nail art.

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Basically it’s a tourist mecca crammed full of things to buy, stuff to eat and people to goggle at.

In the Stables market, antique mirrors and suitcases are cheek to jowl with retro record players, vintage clothing and boxes of old book pages. Naturally I have to check out the wares!

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Colourful incense sticks, hippy tie dye and endless food stalls assail the senses and tempt the wallet. Head spinning neon and cyber punk sit side by side with Mexican tacos and Banksy wall art.

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It’s all a little too much! We have to stop for a bite to eat and a rest from the relentless pace of Camden.

With a mind boggling array of cuisine to choose from though it’s not a straight forward process! There’s Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Lebanese, Italian and more.


Once we’ve scoured the Stables market we pop over to Camden Lock for a look at the moped seats and the canal.

I think they could make better use of the waters edge personally as it’s a bit run down and rather a lot of dodgy looking characters hanging about (not including us naturally).

Next on the tour we’re off for a posh meal at The Dickens Inn on St Katherine’s Dock, yet more markets on Portabello Lane and a sobering reminder of war at the Tower of London.