Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Renouncing The Prosaic With Commander Flowerday's Watch

I am not sure if I am sold on the idea of extreme blogging. Blogging is something you do from the comfort if your office chair surrounded by a layer of real and virtual curiosities. The fact that I was cold in the crematorium (yes, Michael and Hanne, it was I) or that the Good Lady Wife scrutinises the coffee shop bill with a doggedness that only a Yorkshire woman can muster, is interesting only to those suffering some form of sensory deprivation. I therefore renounce the prosaic and turn instead to the subject of wrist watches

I had need to buy a new watch the other day. It keeps perfect time, has a battery which will probably outlive me, tells me the date, glows in the dark and plays a perfect rendition of Auld Lang Syne every New Years' Eve (all right, I made that last bit up) It cost me £28 including the postage. Whilst sorting through the layers of real curiosities which are preventing dust settle on my desk at the moment, I come across a copy of Picture Post magazine dated July 29th 1939. And there is a wonderful advert for Services Shock Proof Sports Watches which, according to Commander V E Flowerday of British Airways, is "very satisfactory on distant flights". According to the advertising copy, "There is no room for doubt in the air - you may take this Master Pilot's word for DEPENDABLE timekeeping". The next time I have reason to take to the skies I will try to remember that my safety depends on the reliability of a fifteen shilling watch.

Another advantage of desk-based blogging is that you can put yourselves in the capable hands of Commander Flowerday and go for flights of fancy. What a man, what a name! We can search the internet and discover that he made it through the war and then he returned to work as a commercial pilot, eventually retiring in the 1950s. We can calculate that the 15 shilling watch in 1939 is the equivalent to over £100 today. We can learn that the Services Watch Company was a Leicester based company, founded in the 1920s and only going out of business ten years ago.

As I browse through the old magazine which was published on the eve of the Second World War, I cannot read any of the copy without seeing a watermark of the coming conflict etched into the very paper it is printed on. The photograph (left) comes complete with the following caption : "Main road traffic is held up while workers from the Bristol Aeroplane Co's factory pour out on bicycles, line up for trams. About 20,000 workers employed by this company. Bristol aeroplane factories play a vital part in Britain's air rearmament programme. They are kept working day and night to produce engines and aircraft for the RAF". There is something strangely hypnotic about the patterns in the picture, something rather disturbing about the people queuing to enter the unknown. I check my £28 watch : it is time for lunch, time to leave the past behind.

12 comments:

  1. I hope the captain of my Ryanair flight tomorrow has a good watch then! I do like the patterns in that bicycle/queue picture. What a fascinating read that Picture Post must be.

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  2. How long since "Very satisfactory" was sufficient hype to sell anything? So wonderfully understated!

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  3. This is wonderful. I was surprised to learn that the commander was a real guy, I assumed that they made up that name for the advertisement. Congratulations on your new 007 glow in the dark watch!

    Kathy M.

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  4. Fascinating. The past is not so bad depending how one looks at it!!

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  5. Love this Alan! Thanks by your nice words.
    I come back today LOL

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  6. I like the design of the Services Watch and hadn't thought that the Commander would be 'real'.

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  7. For some reason you left me with the eerie image of future archaeologists excavating skeletons with still-working digital wrist watches.

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  8. What a very tough time in history. It is great to see something of great design even though they had serious work to get done.

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  9. There is a kind of poetry in that old photo of the folks on bikes and queueing. I don't suppose people will be reading our blogs in 70 odd years time - or will they?

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  10. I remember as a boy, watching in awe, as the Ford motor works changed shifts, and there were streams of men on bicycles, lunch-bags slung over their shoulders. The motor works was/is situated next to Southampton Airport. I wonder if Commander Flowerday ever landed there?

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  11. I look forward to seeing your new timepiece when the Old Gits meet next week.

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  12. Remember those glow-in-the-dark watches with a dab of highly radioactive stuff on the numbers and hands? I wonder if they caused any deaths...

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