As good as it gets.
I rarely read novels, getting all the fiction I need from the press, but a mention of the Jim Stringer – Steam Detective novels on the BBC’s Radio 4 the other day saw me getting engrossed in Andrew Martin’s novels of the life and times of a 1905 British Railways engine fireman turned detective named Jim Stringer. If you love steam and the Industrial revolution era, these are for you. Enjoying the marvelous character and landscape painting of Martin in the Yorkshire of the time, I started having flashbacks to classic Hovis bread TV advertisements I recalled seeing in England back in the 1970s.
A moment on YouTube saw all those memories flooding back and, lo and behold, there was a very recent 2008 Hovis ad which lacked none of the class and style of the originals, whose thrust was that unchanging quality would always survive. Like English Tweeds or Fortnum & Mason delicacies or Savile Row suits.
In two short minutes you see a brilliant reprise of the last 100 years’ or so history of the greatest industrial power before America’s supremacy, everything from the Titanic, the suffragettes and the war which destroyed English aristocracy, through Britain’s Finest Hour to the stirring words of Churchill and the thrilling sound of a twelve cylinder Rolls Royce Merlin in a Spitfire. The sound track drops then swells. Inspired. If that 15 second segment doesn’t do it for you nothing will. Following is VE day and England’s splendid victory in the World Cup.
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There’s a glimpse of the Swinging Sixties and dolly birds, through to the far less appealing modern times of armed policemen with shields and batons and street violence, followed by a joyous shot of millennium fireworks. The ad pulls no punches. Note also how the little boy’s clothing changes over time. Throughout the piece, as he runs through history, he clutches his precious loaf of Hovis bread under one arm, until he finally arrives home.
When I was a boy in England, Hovis was distinguished from other mass made breads by the fact that it actually had nutritional value, unlike the white starched wool that passed for bread from the other major bakers. And you actually had to slice the loaf which always gave me an indecent thrill – early stirrings of the engineer’s soul. This will tickle your visual sense every much as Andrew Martin’s books will stimulate your mind.