Victorians had a sense of humour not dissimilar to ours and some very whacky, almost pythonesque, magic lantern slides have survived to confirm this. This set of six slides from the 1890s is mild compared to most, which often had racist and sexist themes that, thankfully, are not acceptable today. I think I’m on safe ground with the subject matter and, hopefully, no-one will be offended.
It’s a story of a park keeper who varnishes a bench and puts a ‘Wet Paint’ notice on it. Inevitably, a gentleman sits on the wet varnish and this is the story of what happens next. The ending is not one we would use today as, to escape his predicament, he takes his trousers off and leaves them on the bench.
This story is still funny today ….. I know, I’ve shown these slides many times and the laughter is immediate and natural ….. but our society has become so risk averse that we think that someone (well, men actually) watching children play or even a one hundred year old photo of a man taking his trousers off in public, is a potential menace.
I’ve often found myself in a situation where, perhaps in a queue, a child is looking at me. Do I wink, smile, pull a funny face or do none of these in case their mother thinks that I am a pervert? I’ve taken the decision, so far, to act like a normal human being and interact with the child and it always results in a smile or laugh. The worrying thing is that, as I’m doing this, I’m wondering how the parent will react when they realise what is happening. What have we become? How did we get to this suspicious, over-protective view of the world? They’re kids, we’re adults, surely we’re genetically wired to nurture our young and make their lives fun. There ….. I’ve had a whinge, I feel better now.
If you would like to see all of the slides and listen to the script, you can do so in my YouTube video.