Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Golden Pavements by Pamela Brown

published 1947






[The Blue Door group has just saved the day in a college theatre production, and now they are going dancing]

Their friends plied them with lemonade, ices and strawberries, and they soon felt restored enough to go over to the Academy wardrobe and remove their Edwardian finery.

In the square the radiogram was playing dance tunes, and, soft-footed on the grass, the students danced. Most of the celebrities had departed, and the fairy lights were lit as dusk fell. All the windows in the square were alight, and dark figures leaned out, watching the dancers. The Blue Doors were the heroes of the hour, and were danced off their feet, until the square and the plane trees and the tall grey houses reeled round them, and the evening breeze blew through their hair.

At last the radiogram played Goodnight, Sweetheart. The fairy lights were extinguished, and it was time to wander home through the darkening streets, tired, yet unwilling to end a golden day.





observations: This is the sequel to the glorious Swish of the Curtain, and is in some ways better, though it will never win hearts the way the schoolchildren-putting-on-a-play plot does. Here the young people of the Blue Door Theatre Company have gone to a RADA-esque drama school in London, and the book follows them through their training: they live in digs & have no money, the girls borrow each other’s stockings (stocking theme week! See Sunday's Guardian entry), they all eat cheap food. It’s a lovely picture of life for a starving student in the late 1940s, and the description of the outdoor dance above struck me as being beautifully done, amid the rather slapdash prose. Of course Brown couldn’t resist the dramatic setup to this – their play wasn’t selected for the Public Show, but at the last minute the original winners got food poisoning, so the Blue Doors had to go on and do Importance of Being Earnest (scenes from) at a moment’s notice. A classic plot turn for this writer.

There are plenty of enjoyable details – I complained of the lack of these in the comparable Lark on the Wing by Elfrida Vipont. Golden Pavements is much less high-minded and more convincing.

I’m always interested in the rise of trouser-wearing by women, and in this book the two young teenage women ‘bought their first pairs of slacks’ to go on a theatrical tour, and face some teasing. Working as Assistant Stage Managers one summer, they wear trousers all the time, and notice as they go back to college that they are dressing ‘more soberly than they had for weeks. “Don’t skirts seem funny after slacks.”’ [It is while in seaside rep that there is a performance of The Constant Nymph - see the relevant entry from this book here, and from the actual Margaret Kennedy Constant Nymph here.]

When a younger sister starts as a student a year or two later, she gets red slacks as part of her going-away outfit, and ends up living ‘in a pair of shabby corduroys, sandals that were always coming to pieces... and shapeless jumpers that came down almost to her knees.’

The dancing students are from the Library of Congress. The second picture is a social sciences student at LSE from the right era, but I thought she looked just like Lynette studying a script in their poky digs.

8 comments:

  1. Moira - I thought that was a great description too! And this one does seem like a very nice 'slice of life' kind of a story. I like the touch of the theatre about it too.

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    1. thanks Margot -it's a cold heart that doesn't enjoy a story of young students making their way in the world, and drama students are even better....

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  2. To be honest I think LSE was about the same when I was there in the late 80s ...

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    1. I think she has a serious, committed look about her as she does her research - I can easily imagine you being exactly the same!

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  3. Not for me I'm afraid. I am currently introducing an embargo by stealth. No Jane's, No Pamela's, No Jessica's, No Nancy's......I need to approach this embargo from a different angle for it to work!

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    1. That's such a good idea, I bet Araminta is now on your list too? And yet, somehow I don't think it will reduce your shopping list much....

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  4. Not for me, either but ... the images are wonderful. Is the top one of square dancers? I used to do that a bit, when young, and my parents were very active in square dancing and other types of dancing when they were older.

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    1. Yes I think so, well-spotted: it thought it was a lovely image, full of movement.

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