Mr Postman please, is there a letter in your bag for me?

Book coverIt’s only February and already I have a new worry waiting in the wings: letterboxes. As in – how will I explain letterboxes to my grandchildren on our future walks round the neighbourhood? Given that I have, as yet, no grandchildren and that letterboxes are still being used (well, sort of), this may seem a premature worry to you.

But the signs are all very clear. New Zealand Post alone processes 50 million fewer postal items every year. In the States this climbs to a terrifying 28 billion fewer postal items per annum.

I’ve been keeping my own stats and can confide in you that I received only twelve Christmas cards this year – all from the mobile elderly still lucky enough to have a post office nearby. Twelve. What else could I do but cheat and put up a few of my own to boost the numbers?

Our neighbourhood is full of characterful letterboxes: a weirdly shaped pukeko, a  mosaiced castle, a cheerfully painted kettle –  they are often the first and sometimes the only indication of the personalities that inhabit the houses. Chrissie Ward saw this coming and has put out a book on New Zealand letterboxes: Kia Ora Postie.

Of course I love my e-mails, but part of me is still the lady in this photo waiting for the postman to bring the mail from overseas – written on lined paper using a fountain pen and blotting paper, the parcel secured with string and sealing wax, embellished with colourful stamps and hand delivered to me outside my cottage  by a cheerful, chatty postman. Almost all gone now.

What makes you come over all nostalgic?  No need to send a note via carrier pigeon, just click on Leave a Comment above!

The ghosts of cinema past

Architectural plan of Everybody's TheatreEverybody’s Theatre (pictured) was proposed to be built on Lichfield Street the 1930s, and I’m thinking it might have been quite flash for a night out.

The image is from of our collection of  digitised plans of Christchurch buildings, where you’ll also find the original floor plan of the Majestic Theatre. I read recently that the Majestic building will be refurbished again, and I started thinking about the disappeared theatres in Christchurch.

From the tiny Savoy 1 & 2 (where I saw everything from Star Wars and  2001 : A Space Odyssey to Arnie movies and the eye-popping Evil Dead 2)  to the West End (Stripes), or the Avon (Goodbye Pork Pie, I think), there’s several theatres that have disappeared over the years.

Which Christchurch theatres do you remember? And which movies did you see at them?

Trash to treasure – bestsellers from decades past

Following on from our recent displays of classic and vintage science fiction and adventure thriller, the Popular team is once again taking us on a trip down memory lane (this time the slightly risque shaded reaches of Lovers Lane, perhaps?).

Wendy says:

Pop into Popular and have a look at our display of “sizzling” books from the past – books that defined a generation, made a difference, turned heads and pages.

For the post-war generation, it was little beauties like On the Beach, Room at the Top, or The Sun Also Rises. In the 60’s and 70’s, many of us remember most fondly the books we weren’t meant to read: for some it was Angelique and the Sultan, or Valley of the Dolls; for others, Lolita and Portnoy’s Complaint.

Trash or treasure?
Movies from the books became classics themselves – think Gone With the Wind, Far From the Madding Crowd, and Doctor Zhivago. The scene of Alan Bates and Oliver Reed’s naked wrestling in Ken Russell’s Women in Love is forever etched in my mind …

So if you would like a little stroll down popular fiction’s Memory Lane, come and have a browse here at Central, or leave a comment with any books that “sizzled” for you.

To infinity and beyond


To all those who got excited about our post a couple of weeks ago on retrospective displays at Central, a big thanks, and wow!  You guys are a little scary in your fandom.  You will be pleased to know that we now have a table full of sci-fi goodies just waiting to be browsed over and borrowed.  Next on the menu is Adventure – we’ll be digging up armfuls of McLean, le Carre, Wilbur Smith and assorted other stories featuring rugged middle-aged soldiers/scientists/archaeologists marooned in the desert/Arctic/South American jungle, who find mysterious artifacts/enemy spies/deadly germs, and who save the world with the help of exotic young and beautiful Russian professors of linguistics.  Oh, and a gun.

Once again, please overwhelm us with suggestions of authors and titles, and we will do our best to track them down for you!

Oldies and goodies

Ice Station ZebraSeeing as we’re getting all nostalgic and historical round here this year, we at the Popular Centre thought it might be fun to dig around in the shelves and stacks and bring out some of those ‘oldies but goodies’ that might not get to see the light of day very often.

You know the ones I mean – the books you read as a kid (under the blankets, with a torch), or the ones you nicked from mum’s bookshelf (Peyton Place – sorry, mum!) when she thought you were reading the Hardy Boys; books read in baches on the West Coast during a rainy holiday; books that made you feel really intelligent when you were reading them (Leon Uris and Dostoyevsky, anyone?), and books that you read guiltily when you really should have been studying for that advanced physics exam.

Over the next few months we plan to bring out some of these old treasures so you too can revisit the past, renew old friendships, and maybe even make some new friends. Look out for retrospective displays of everything from early science fiction to classic 1950’s and 60’s romance (saucy or not), with a good helping of horror/western/adventure and even actual classic Classics for good measure.

Starting early next week, come and visit us on the ground floor at Central, and see what’s on display – we’ll even let you take stuff home. And if there’s anything at all that you’d just LOVE to chase down and reread, please let us know and we’ll see if we can find it for you!

The Beano

Cor readers, here’s a book.  The history of The Beano: the story so far is a big glossy book (too big to read in bed comfortably) that is probably aimed at nostalgic adults rather than children.

I had not known that The Beano had been around so long. It came from the D.C. Thomson comic empire in the 1920s (they are the group that gave the world The Wizard, The Rover and The Hotspur. These publications were followed in 1937 by The Dandy and in 1938 by The Beano, described as “a great new fun paper” and giving its readers a free “Whoopee mask” with every copy. They started with their most enduring character, Lord Snooty, an aristocratic boy who lives in a castle but spends most of his time with a gang of rascally working class friends. He is still going strong and hasn’t aged a bit. Other strips featured such characters as Big Fat Joe (“he hasn’t been weighed since the age of three – the weighing machine always broke you see”) and other vaguely anarchic types who would be classed as ADD or in the need of an army of social workers these days!

The Beano continued during the War despite other children’s publications ceasing publication. It became something of a propaganda tool with Lord Snooty and his pals making Hitler look foolish and Pansy Potter, The Strong Man’s Daughter, capturing a German U-boat. Goering was portrayed as a fat fool and Mussolini featured in a strip defiantly titled Musso The Wop.

The 1950s brought in that delinquent, Dennis The Menace, and other mischief makers such as Minnie The Minx and The Bash Street Kids. They all continued for decades and provided an irreverent and essentially British flavour. They were all involved in practical jokes or escaping stern and put upon schoolteachers and long suffering parents. They usually didn’t get away with it so parents could rest easy that delinquent behaviour didn’t go unpunished!

The 1980s introduced favourites such as Ivy The Terrible (girls were rarely constrained by polite role models in The Beano) and in 1998 the first pregnancy in a children’s comic took place when Dennis The Menace’s mother went into labour and Dennis had a sister.

This delightful book is filled with lots of  comic strips and a number of adventure stories and it wonderfully evokes an innocent world of endless fun and excitement. Although it’s not mentioned in the book you can see how the endlessly rude adult comic Viz took much of its inspiration from comics like The Beano (their characters like Buster Gonad and his unfeasibly large testicles and Felix and his Amazing Underpants are in the same visual style but with ruder content) and Private Eye uses the Beano style in comic strips about politicians).

So if your childhood reading included a weekly fix of The Beano, this luxury book, with its journey through the comic strips of almost a century, will give you that warm nostalgic glow that comes from recalling the escapist delights of another world.