This month's edition of The Session finds me remembering when I was 19. See, when I was in my first or second year of undergrad, some guy sold a huge stash of original Penguin and Pelican books from the 1930s into the used book stores of my town, Halifax in Nova Scotia. Some were falling apart, stained or foxed. Others were in mint condition. I bought them up. One was 1939's Britain by Mass Observation published in the the bold white and orange hooped strip of Penguin. My father told me how, as a boy, his Labour activist mother, the municipal politician Catherine McLeod, Bailee of Greenock saw these books as a breakthrough in public learning. They came out weekly or monthly and, like with me and Marvel comics in the 1970s, pocket money was regularly spent on them. A bookshelf suited to their modest size was bought to be filled as they were offered. My box of books in the 1980s reminded my father of his 1930s.
I remember my copy of Britain by Mass Observation. It's now long gone. The victim of many moves. It might have ended its life in a box under a leaky roof in a shed at the family cottage in PEI. I might have sold them on to someone else who saw the prize that lay before them. I can't remember. I recall the book. I remember it had a lot of discussion on the dance craze, the Lambeth Walk. Plenty of data and detail from folk assembling their jottings about a passing fad, a popular wave of fun. Boak and Bailey are asking us to do something similar:
What we want people to do for The Session is to recreate this exercise in 2016: take a notebook to a pub or bar — any one you fancy — and write a note of what you observe.
What an excellent idea. I am not sure that I will do it given I do not live near these sorts of pubs. But what an excellent idea. I might discuss my backyard which often operates much as a pub saving that aspect that it shares craft beer - it excludes what is not invited. More a private than a pub. Yet, if I am to observe and tomorrow being the great national holiday one must be honest in these matters. We shall see.
Later: Frig. I actually ended up in my favourite pub mid-afternoon on 1 July but as it is Canada Day we just had a late lunch, a great chat with my pal Chris the town crier and a couple of pints of 8 Man. Maybe someone was observing me. Botched. Not a BoJo or anything but still...