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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Women drinking pints and other things that give the lie to costume drama

I caught a clip of Pan Am, the new American drama about the early 60s when air travel was glamorous. In one scene the stewardesses were on a layover in London. They were in a pub and  they were drinking pints.

I don't remember exactly when women started drinking pints but it wasn't in the sixties and the last people you would have seen with a brimming beaker in hand were these would-be Jackie Kennedys.

I've adapted to many things but women and pints is something I've never quite got used to. It just never looks right to me. It's obviously one of those things that betrays one's age.

Back in the early 70s the only woman I knew who drank pints was a roadsweeper I worked with during a student vacation. She used to have two pints at lunchtime and a lot more in the evening. She was probably in her fifties and wore bright red lipstick framing her solitary front tooth. I want to call her Lil.

I can't expect the makers of today's period dramas to recognise their own bum notes. The world of Pan Am is about as distant from today as the Edwardian world was from the makers of The Forsyte Saga in the mid-60s. Back then there were probably Edwardian etiquette books they could consult to establish how polite society had been ordered. There's nothing you can refer to which rules with similar authority on what went on in more recent times. When women started drinking pints it was as much a watershed moment as the first appearance of a mini skirt. Nobody, however, seems to have marked it.

17 comments:

David Jennings said...

My mum's 76 today (happy birthday, Mum, I'll give you a call in a bit when you've woken up). I'm only familiar with her drinking habits from about 1970 onwards, but never knew her *not* to drink a pint - and I didn't get the impression that this was either a new development or a strike for feminism (women's lib, as she would have called it) as far as she was concerned. (BTW she usually stopped at one, never had more than two.)

Rob Spence said...

Your mum was unusual then. I think the Pan Am girls would be on Cherry B or Babycham.

Simon said...

There was a pub I used to drink in near Hoxton back in the 80s, long before Hoxton became trendy. The landlord would not serve pints to women; half pints but never pints.

Hoxton pubs were funny places back then though. The one pub in Hoxton that had a mixed race clientele, and a great soul-funk-reggae dj on a Friday night got fire bombed - this was about 1989. And they say things are broken now.

Neal... said...

Another period drama problem pointed out to me once, is that furniture-wise EVERYTHING in a room on TV is from the decade the story is set in, but if you look around any actual room, there'll be an old chair you've had for years and should throw out, something new and trendy, something antiquey.

On telly there's no history, everyone lives in the equivalent of an Ikea showroom of the period.

John Medd said...

I started drinking in the 70s and can remember to this day when, asking for half a lager, being asked by the landlord: 'In a ladies glass?' For what it's worth, the current Mrs. Medd drinks pints; very often, more than me.

Are there as many gaffs in Pan Am as there were in Nowhere Boy?

pete said...

As someone who first flew in the early 1960s aged 3, I didn't find it glamorous at all.

I found it very boring, and my mum still reminds me of my tantrums both at the airport and on the plane.

Mondo said...

This is why I can't be doing with many period pieces. It's impossible to watch something like Life on Mars - without going into I-SPY spotters guide for the seventies mode. I tried it and couldn't settle at all - where was the chintzy wallpaper and post-war furniture? For a sharp-eyed snapshot of any era watch the Public Information Films - set dressed for period authenticity they're indicators of national fears and techno-fretting: electric 3 bar fires, polystyrene ceiling tiles, chip pan fires..

This one minute PIF renders the seventies perfectly - borrowing dad's car, dandruff, public call boxes and seat belt safety

Jon Peake said...

I've seen this too, but I thought it was them rather having a bit of holiday fun trying out things they'd only ever heard of, like Brit's drinking sangria in Spain or something like that.

So a bit of a novelty. Being Americans, they'd be cocktail girls.

I thought the whole London thing was silly anyway, everyone's a bit Dick Van Dyke and their hotel is bang opposite the Houses of Parliament.

John Medd said...

Liar, Idol & Don't Be A Hero can't hold a candle to Blunders. I think it was the same red 1100 they used to remind us that it was never a good idea to mix radials with cross plys.

Mondo said...

Have you met the rest of the family John ? Mr B and Mrs B.

londonlee said...

Caught a bit of the just-cancelled 'The Playboy Club' drama on NBC and while I didn't pay attention to the decor I did hear the bunnies talking about how wearing the costume made them feel "strong" and "in control" which is the sort of female-empowerment language no one used in the 60s. Right then I knew the show was going to be crap.

Dave Heasman said...

In 1964 I was a barman at Butlins Clacton, and there was a married couple there who both drank pints - he bitter, she mild. I doubt she was an air hostess, though.

David Jennings said...

Just checking my facts during birthday chat with my mum (see above) - she confirms that she drank pints in the sixties "from around the time I met your dad (1964) and had someone to drink with". She never felt she was pushing the envelope -- as they never said back then -- but equally she's no air hostess, and would sooner drink her own spit than Babycham.

trail of bread said...

1980/81 I had a female friend who refused to drink pints and because she drank at the same rate as us, we used to get her 2 halves at the same time. It was not seen as particularly odd. By the time I left in 87 all my female friends drank pints - though maybe they were just big drinkers.

Michael said...

You don't need an etiquette book to check up on these things. Just been watching an obscure 1964 film The Comedy Man on Youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/47johnscott#p/u/1/EJBxhYgJ0Jo) about out of work actors in London. At the pub and at the parties all the men are drinking halves and the women are drinking out of 'ladies glasses' - G&T or wine.

Dave Heasman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter said...

The attitude of the young in Game of Thrones is very now, as is the punishment (lack thereof) of said children for speaking to the head of the household the way they do.