“ A modern family live the life of a 1940's family for 2 months. „
I really enjoyed this series ,it was quite authentic .Everything to do with daily living was particularly well done. Also the atmosphere of the time ,down to the hairstyles clothes and way of thinking people were very longsuffering and patient in those days , they had to be . I remember the food shortages ,I never saw fruit accept dried bananas ,it was bread and jam without butter . We were happy when we received american food parcels giving us hot chocolate . This series showed the closeness of families ,and how they would all sit round the radio to keep up with official announcements . It was a stressful time to be living ,but everyone helped one another, so coping was easier ,so in some ways it was a more secure time than now . It was difficult to simulate airaids but they managed to show the disruption it caused to their lives ,the commitee that aranged the program made things very hard for them with mock airaids with a siren sounding they went into the anderson shelter and slept there in discomfort ,they came back to broken glass etc . I have to hand it to the producers of this series top marks for authenticity. One of the women that took part in this program has been so moved by the experience she has completely changed her lifestyle. She never overshops now and visits her corner shop instead of the supermarket. Is now more thrifty with her resources. I was born in 1941 to the sound of an allclear siren which says the airaid was over .
If you watched C4's "The 1900 house", you may pleased to know that Channel4 are repeating the experience but in a more modern time namely the 1940's. The first episode went out on Tuesday 2 January 2001 and I imagine will be shown weekly. For those not in the know about either programme, here it is in a nutshell. Channel4 acquire a property appropriate for the period to be covered and decorate/equip it with fixtures and fittings from the period. A modern day family is chosen and they are expected to live in the house, dress in period costumes and basically do the things a family of that period would have done. The first series (1900 House) covered a 3 month period, whilst the second series covers 2 months. Each house is equipped with cameras to watch the family in action and in the 1900 House there was a video camera to allow the family members to record a sort of diary or vent their frustrations. The houses themselves are very interesting. In the 1900 House, a Terraced house in Charlton (South London) was purchased and turned into a house as it would have looked at the turn of the 20th century. This included gas lighting, cooking range, scullery etc. No mod cons (other than the cameras!). The 1940's house is located in West Wickham, Kent and is furbished for a middle class family just before the war. It has a gas cooker, electric lighting, radio but no TV. The family living in the house will have to live the life of a 1940's family with very little input from the real world. Unlike the 1900 house where life was very hard but stable, the 1940?s house residents will suffer the increasing deprivation of World War 2. This will include a shortage of fresh fruit, rationing, coupons, much lower food intake and air raids. We have met the 1940's family (the Hymers) who were chosen out of 300 families wanting to take part. There are Lyn and Michael, their daughter Kirstie (who is a single parent) and
her 2 boys Ben and Thomas (aged 10 and 7). Michael is really into the 1940?s life and is an avid collector of memorabilia. He is very keen to play out the scenario. They come from Otley in Yorkshire and have a very comfortable lifestyle. In fact too comfortable. Mother and daughter throw away 75% of the contents of their fridge each week before each shop because the food is uneaten or has gone off. The programme goes onto contrast the abundance of food in 2000 compared with the austerity of the 1940's. The producers have to be far cleverer in the 1940's house to effect the residents way of living. All radio programmes will have to be specially recorded. They will be expected to prepare for air raids, live on meagre rations and dig their Anderson shelter. If they don't comply with these requirements they will be penalised by having their already meagre food supply reduced even early. For those who want to read more, the book of the series is out already. Cost for the hardback is £20 though you can get a £4 discount at Waterstones. The Channel4 website www.channel4.com/1940house provides additional details including reference to a house reconstruction at the Imperial War Museum. So there you have it. The house is ready; the family are dressed up and ready to enter the house. And war is about to be declared. It looks to be a fascinating experiment. And no doubt they will go through all the agony of the family in the first house. Can't wait. *** Update *** I've seen the second episode and it gets better. The family have moved in and are immediately under pressure. They have to make 'blackouts' for all windows in the house and get them approved as well as building an 'Anderson' shelter (to protect themselves against air raids) in their back garden. Building the shelter proves to be a very physical experience. They have to dig a 6 foot hole in the lawn with spades.No JCB's allowed!
The first crisis comes with food. Being used to living on pre-cooked takeways and microwavable foods, the idea of baking is a new experience. The 2 children are sometimes fed on jam sandwiches. The bombshell comes with the news that rationing has been introduced and the little 1940's grocery store where they do their shopping is missing many of their favourites including jam and weetabix! We leave the family with the mother of the 2 boys fearing that they won't have enough to eat. I will leave you with the rabbits. Early on in their stay in the 1940's house, the family was given some rabbits to breed and kill for meat. They decided to give them away as the youngest 2 might get too attached. As they get hungrier, will they regret their moment of rashness?! Can't wait until 9pm on Thursday for the next instalment.