Fighter pilot, Royal Navy 1945, Hydrographer Iraq 1947-52 India 1952-53, Canadian Hydrographic Arctic explorer 1953-1960, Writer-producer Canadian National Film Board 1961-72, Freelance journalist, audio-visual producer 1972-2009, National Press Club of Canada 1961 - 2006

Saturday, April 24, 2010

In Old Iraq

Sindbad the Sailor and me

On various maps I’ve drawn of Iraq’s extreme southern extremities I have indicated that a mixture of local coffee-house legendary storey-telling and hydrographic-geography has it that though in 1950 the fabled Mesopotamian city of Basra was 70 miles upriver from the blue headwaters of the Persian Gulf, that back in the legendary time of Sindbad the Sailor, Basra was actually on the coast.
Such a legend is not too far fetched on consideration.  The confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are so greatly augmented by the mighty Karun sweeping down from the snow-capped mountains of Iran, that when the silt-laden spring waters of these three rivers combine to form the Shatt-al-Arab, they have, over the centuries, deposited enough suspended silt material to move the coastline 70 miles southward.  This is easy to believe by the fact that in the spring flood season, as the snows in the distant Iranian mountains melt,, 18 inches of soft mud can be laid down in the shipping channels during the course of just one single tidal cycle.
So if Sindbad the Sailor was dissolutely spending his night-time hours amid the pleasures of the Al Faribi, or even perhaps Abdullah’s place, in Basra about 1600 years ago, as has been reported, that should mean that since I left Iraq in 1952 the coastline should have migrated about (70/1600 x 58) — or around about a 2.5 miles southward. 
Looking at Google Earth and the latest Admiralty chart of the area I don’t see any really hard evidence of this.  
To verify it I’d need to somehow return to the area, find my old survey vessel, El Ghar (not too promising a search — she was built in Bombay in 1914) poke around and try to access  my old hydrographic work sheets, and then and make some updating survey observations.  
Unfortunately, I do not think I’ll have the opportunity to do so just now.  Nor, for obvious reasons, in the foreseeable future.
Anyway, after all the wars and political turmoil of the past sixty years all my twenty crew members are probably dead.  Sadly, the good old days of Iraq are over.  For now at least. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Dundee Trawlermen

A Wonderful Night in Oban, Scotland

One autumn evening in 1952, in Oban, in western Scotland, I fell in with a couple of seafaring fellows in a pub.  They were Dundee trawlermen from the other side of Scotland.   
Their fishing vessel was tied up alongside in Oban.  When, as we spun yarns together, I told them how I had just spent the last five years living aboard my Iraqi survey vessel, El Ghar, at the northern end of the Persian Gulf, we easily accepted each other as fellow seafarers.
We yarned and chatted over several pints of beer and later went together to a dockside cafe where we met half a dozen of their shipmates.  
When I realized I had missed the only bus back to Taynuilt they said not to worry, they had a spare bunk on their trawler and would not be casting off until midmorning at the earliest.  
So I went back aboard with this happy gang and found that all hands slept in the fo'c's'le where about a dozen bunks, one atop the other, were ranged around the forward part of the ship.  In fact it was just about the same size as had been my cabin aboard my survey vessel El Ghar, of which, being in command, I had been the sole occupant, .  
Before turning into their bunks these hardy fishermen didn't remove any clothes, they put more clothes on.  Even though we were still in a warm autumn.
As we fell asleep, late that night, and later the next morning as I joined them in their simple but hearty breakfast, they recounted stories of their encounters with the deadly black ice during cold winters off Iceland and Greenland and also of the fabled characters with whom they had sailed on previous ships.  
They all laughed and contributed personal segments of a long saga concerning one particularly eccentric woman of Dundee.  It seems she was noted for her quick and prolific sandwich-making prowess.  In fact, all aboard that trawler vowed, she was the champion sandwich maker in all of Scotland.  In this capacity she was famed for growing an enormously long thumbnail on her right hand.   With this natural appendage she could scoop up just the right amount of butter and then spread it accurately and evenly over slices of bread in the briefest flash of time and without recourse to the use of any artificial tool. 

One of the older fishermen told of how when he was a child back in the 1890s his mother, every Saturday, made a batch of oatmeal porridge for her six children and husband, a batch so big, as to last them all for the coming week.  This gallon or two of porridge was poured into the top drawer of a clothes chest and left to solidify.  Then each morning the mother would open the drawer and cut a slice for each child to take to school or work for his or her lunch.
All the trawler crew agreed that herring had played an important part in their daily diet as children.  They also all agreed that they still relished herring as a favourite food.  No wonder they were all such tough trawlermen.  
No wonder, also, that the soldiers of the highly-acclaimed Scottish regiments have always given such good account of themselves in battle.  
Personally, if I were serving in an enemy army opposing such tough, white-hatted, good guys, I'd rather be facing the spam, french-fries and apple-pie eaters than ferocious oatmeal-and-herring eaters — the renowned hardy kilties of the Highland Division.  

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wings Parade Pageantry

The Magic of it all

Several topical Hollywood movies made during the Second World War era showed for their emotional climax the wonderful passing-out parade scenes of  newly-fledged heroic young pilots receiving their hard won wings.  
They showed the triumphant lined-up ranks of the hero graduates, the watching crowds of cheering, proud parents and emotionally- charged admiring girlfriends, the massed bands and guards of honour and the distinguished four-star generals who were along to pin on the newly gained shiny wings and take the salute at the grand final march past.

Well, we Royal Navy, Fleet Air Arm ratings didn't expect to get a show like that.  
And we didn't.
Instead, a couple of days before, we were instructed to each go to the navy stores and buy a rating's red-cotton-embroidered pilot's flying badge.  They cost fourpence in Britain and so I think we had to pay a dime in Kingston, Ontario.  
We each had to drop the badge we had bought into an old cardboard box.  
Then on the cold and gloomy early morning of February 6, 1945, in a dark and freezing hangar, we were lined up—all the final nineteen of us who remained of the contingent of 121 which had landed in Boston ten months before.   Our names were called and (because I think our resident navy lieutenant was off somewhere else that morning, or maybe was still in bed) one by one we marched up to a Royal Canadian Air Force flight lieutenant and saluted him.  
A sergeant from the orderly room had the cardboard box in one hand and with the other he fished out the first pair of red wings he found.  These he handed to the RCAF flight-looey who shook the student's hand and gave him the wings.  They weren't even the same pair one had forked out ten cents for.  And they couldn't be pinned on because no one really knew where they should be worn by men dressed in traditional square rig.  Anyway, the badges didn't have any pins.  
So we just stuck them in our jersey pockets.  
For an audience we had, over on the far side of the hangar, half-a-dozen mechanics banging away with wrenches and ballpein hammers and in another corner a couple of guys hanging around the pop-dispensing machine, waiting for someone else to get the one-in-every-sixth empty bottle, which was the arbitrary way the pop makers manoeuvred things to keep payments in balance with the new one cent increase from five to six cents as the price of a Canadian bottle of pop at that time.  
Then we all just sloped off without anyone playing even a mouth organ.  That was it.  
I guess we had the rest of the day off.  
But, so what if there was no fanfare.  
We were Royal Navy.   
We had Royal Navy wings. 
And best of all, they were our wings.  
Also that day we were upped to petty officers with an accompanying modicum raise in daily pay.
That night we had a wings party in the local Kingston Yacht Club.  Just we nineteen and our handful of wonderful RCAF instructors.  
And just lots of beer and bits and pieces to nibble on.
The next day I helped clear up the empties and the day after that we were entrained for Halifax to board our ship back to Britain.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ottawa Citizen newspaper editor shares a giggle... he suffering from too much sensitivity training?

Head placed over a letter-to-the-editor, April 8, 2010:

Machete attack shows
lack of tolerance

Is this the understatement of the semester?
Hmmm!  Well, I suppose, in Canadian universities these days, it’s a debatable cutting point in discussion. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Dateline : 110 - 71 Years Ago

Items of Concern

Rooting around amid my office clutter regurgitates four copies of the British Daily Mail newspaper, one each for the years:
1900, 1923, 1936 and 1939.
They are fascinating.  


The front pages of the 1900 issue are full of advertisements of all kinds including one  headed:

(Established 1745)

No this was not a personal hygiene promotional ad.  It merely sought customers for Dirty Dick’s  — a pub on Bishopsgate, opposite Liverpool Street Station in London, and a place I myself often supped a few pints of ale many years ago.  
Another prominent item was the Shipping News, with weather reports and reported sightings of incoming vessels passing points in the outer approaches to the Channel (no ship-to-shore radio then).  

Among personal columns of urgent and serious mien there were two or three like this one:

PW   (illegible)  (sic).  

Yeah!  That’s it.  All there was of it.  Probably sent in anonymously with no return address.  The editor had no choice.  He took the enclosed money-order fee and published what he could of the item.

Some were in code, thus:

FAITHZshbsav nym zyhp jdwljumxxn-ty fw owxx lag tiffin-jwldwhp nymdh always.
(obviously a secret code between two illicit lovers who sent erotic messages to one another, and whose great-great-grandchildren probably text-code each other in similar fashion today).  Clue: Tiffin is Hindi for dinner.  
The Daily Mail charged these personal ads at eight words for three shillings and fourpence per word after.  
(Note: The first Ough-Zone reader to solve this early Enigma-coded message and send it in, accompanied by the lids torn from 24 non-Macintosh laptop computers, will receive a guided tour of the Bletchly Park secret WWII code-breaking facilities in UK.)

Along with ads wanting to buy scrap metal, second-hand watches and jewellery, and stuff, were widespread demands for ‘old used false teeth’.  Yuck!!  Prominent among the ads are those by pawnbrokers with ‘amazing bargains and sacrifices’. 

Other oddments from 1900 include one reporter’s comments on an economic situation which described one group of people as “being screwed” by a certain decision.  I’ve always though that term to be a modern crudity, akin to the other popular term of “blowing opportunities” as often used by the most staid of public figures.  So perhaps both these figures of speech are derived from circumstances different, and less earthy, from what I hitherto believed to be the case with my vulgar seafarer’s vocabulary.

One ad offers “A gentleman’s horse for sale, equally good for riding or driving, £25”.  It’s daring owner indicates his reason for selling is that he has thoughts of buying a motor car.
And a lengthy column is devoted to railway companies’ promotions of special excursions to all parts of Britain.

Chapter XXIX of a gripping serial fiction story is somewhat spoiled by the author butting rudely into his own script to clumsily destroy the magic entrancement he has striven to create, with interjections like: the curtain rises upon a different scene and a wonderful change has taken place in the fortunes of the principal actors in our drama...  This surely brings the reader back down to reality with a bump from the trance of imagination the author must have hoped he had put them in.

And here's an 87-year-old shade of Afghanistan...

News item (1923):
Two British army officers who took their dogs for an after tiffin walk along the Khyber Pass were found later, each with three bullet holes in their heads.  Happily, their dogs were ok and found guarding the bodies.

In 1936 the Royal Air Force was advertising for young men 18-25 to apply for Volunteer Reserve pilot training.  Daily pay of 15/6d was offered, followed up with a £2 annual retainer.  See that?  They got three bob more as flying pay than we were paid on the squadron nine years later—and this when they were still undergoing training.

Also, strangely, in 1936 the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) was already under observation and criticism by the Press and Parliament regarding not only their secret balance sheets and accounting but complaints of having bias and opinions of a subversive character.  This led to a ruling that in future all BBC officials must be British subjects.  
What on earth was this all about?

A lengthy and detailed column on Week-End Angling Prospects for coarse fish, for different parts of the realm, forecast good sport unless the wind was from east or north.

Of real interest is the September 4, 1939 issue—printed just a dozen hours after war was declared.
Of utmost importance, this was the first day that the Daily Mail placed its big news items on the front pages—displacing the classified advertisements from their hallowed traditional place of prominence to unaccustomed obscurity back among the twelve inner pages. 
And what a medley and welter of pertinent-for-the-times ads they carried.
ARP —(Air Raid Precautions) was the advertisers’ key word for attracting customers.  Everything for the astute, abreast-of-the-situation, householder was advertised:  
Rolls of blackout cloth and paper, cans of black paint (guaranteed dense and fully opaque), first-aid kits, blankets, extra-thick combination underwear, camp cots and portable heating stoves for home air raid shelters, flashlights (electric torches), water bottles, rubber boots, and — for the extra timid — there were advertisements for real estate:  dwellings, properties, and accommodations for sale or rent in ‘safe areas’ such as Ireland, Wales, Devon and Scotland.

The blackout curtaining industry was given a government boost when the penalty for allowing stray light through curtains, or doors, was threatened to be as much as two years in jail and a really hefty fine.  If rigidly enforced this law would have seen two-thirds of the population in prison — living on the public purse.

Car lights had to be shaded almost to obscurity with just 1/2” slits (and hooded slits at that) over headlamps, and shades over side lights and the single rear red light (British cars only had one rear light in those days, something modern war film movie makers today are quite ignorant of by always showing staff cars and other WWII vehicles with two rear lights).  
All a bit far fetched this light hiding business, anyway.  Do you think you could have seen a faint glow from a dim 1939 rear light or the thin glowing end of a Wills Wild Woodbine or Players Weight  cigarette from 10,000 feet?  And if you did see it what information could you gather from this momentary glimpse?  Would the keen-eyed enemy observer have at once yelled out by radio to his whole squadron or wing:  “Break starboard 180 and release all bombs”.  Poof!  There goes Farmer Giles field of prize mangel-wurzels or turnips.  Furthermore, if a traitorous glow from a rural citizen’s pipeful of Digger Shag, could possibly have been seen  from two miles above on one particular night, it might well have saved Coventry Cathedral and its surroundings from the devastation they suffered that same awful night.

Yet all in all, this issue of the Daily Mail shows how wonderfully prepared Britain was, how well planned and executed were the essential services required for wartime.  The evacuation of children and mothers was right on time.  All who had applied were already gone or were on their way.  Hesitant, nervous latecomers were given yet another chance  to go to meeting places for latecomers’ removal.  All had been issued with gas masks, thousands more were being manufactured.  
Rules were in force to punish employers who fired male staff of call-up age.  
Free delivery of air raid shelters, stirrup pumps, and small sandbag bags had been carried out smoothly and quickly.  Emergency water supply tanks had been built and street air-raid shelters constructed.  And no terrible foul-ups, political haggling or waste seemed to have marred these efforts.
All this showed that droopy old Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, now, probably rightly so, ridiculed for presenting himself in his silly, kind-old-innocent-gentleman-role vis-à-vis Hitler, was nevertheless all that time also allowing Britain to be readied for war, had been doing so for at least a year, and probably much longer—see item above regarding RAFVR pilots being trained in 1936 (when prototype Hurricane and Spitfire fighter aircraft were first being put through their paces) as examples.  And today the pathetically over-civilized gentleness of Sir Neville’s overdone appeasement of the ambitious, cruel and heartless evil ones, so dangerously echoed by the faint of spirit and the barmy ‘we’re all loving brothers and sisters’ multitudes of today, can be seen being re-enacted ineffectually against  an even more diabolical threat.  It all goes to show that absolute nasty mental-deficients can always rely on being abetted by other well-meaning, faint-hearted, home-grown mental-deficients.

Back on the evening of September 3, 1939, the King’s radio address to the nation is just about the most excellent example of its kind one might ever hear.  Beautiful in word, texture and meaning, clear and simple, not at all insipid, right on target, it is especially a delight to read today.  

The pound sterling, on that historic September 4, 1939, was worth $4.20.  Ten years later it was to be devalued by 45 per-cent.  
Today, it is around $1.52.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I watch an over-indulgent Polar Bear...

...and remember aspects of very effective
Early Educational Methods

It was past midnight on August 17, 1956, as the powerful Canadian Government icebreaker d’Iberville crushed through the ten-foot-thick sea-ice of the Arctic Archipelago.  But here, on the top of the world at north latitude 80 degrees, there was still enough light to see the huge polar bear.  He had obviously just finished eating a seal.  A very big seal by the look of the bloodstained surface of the ice hummock upon which he was lying.  And a big seal by the bear’s sleepy non-reaction to the loud screeching and scraping made by our ship’s two-and-a-half-inch-thick steel bow plates as they rasped aside hunks of ice as big as double-decker buses. 
That vividly-coloured, two-tone bear, still snow-white on top but now with blood-red underparts, was relaxing in exquisite post-prandial tranquillity.  So, as I saw Captain Caron reach over to the whistle handle to give a sudden blast to startle the Arctic stillness and get the bear up and moving, I raised my hand in polite protest and shook my head.  The captain, shrugged, smiled, and desisted from his usual practice upon seeing a bear and came over to the port side of the bridge next to me.  We were now within a few hundred feet of the somnolent bear and it looked as if we would pass within little more than thirty yards of him.  Yet still he didn’t move.  Just raised his head a little and looked at the ship’s massive bulk through glazed, uncomprehending eyes.  He must have eaten a giant of a seal.  
As we passed by, the captain and I engaged the bear in an eye-to-eye exchange through our binoculars.  We could make out every detail of the bear and his bloodstained coat and surroundings.  The staring contest went on for several long seconds.  We won.  He blinked first.  And for the second and third times, also.  That massive meal had left him totally bereft of any antagonism or interest in anything in his field of vision, direct or peripheral.
Even before the vessel’s midships had passed him by, his head had subsided back down onto the ice in the torpor left by overeating and he slept the confident sleep of a king in his own domain.  We strange, arrogant egoists were nothing to him.  No more than an absurd dream brought on by overindulgence.  A passing fantasy to be immediately forgotten.

As the sated bear was left behind, only a few yards from the lead of open water the d’Iberville’s massive hull  had created, I couldn’t help wondering what my twenty-man Iraqi crew of the Survey Ship El Ghar,  which I had commanded during the years from 1947 to 1952 at the head of the Persian Gulf, would think of the scene of which, as the d’Iberville’s  hydrographer, I was now a part.  I also thought of Able Seaman Albert of the Indian Navy, conscripted as my survey assistant and with whom, in 1952 while working for a London based engineering company, I had ventured into the terrible darkness of the Bombay sewers.  How he, Albert, would appreciate being here amid this snow-white, pristine and unblemished region of the world.  This in turn made my mind go back the dozen years to when I was a fighter pilot and I wondered what my closest friends, with whom I had flown in Royal Navy Fighter Squadron, No. 805 (Seafires), were presently about.
  In 1956, as I watched that slumbering polar bear recede from view in the ice-pack, I also thought of the two proceeding years that I had spent aboard the chartered sealer, Theron,  and the adventures and thrill I had experienced of personally discovering and naming new geographical features to be placed on the maps and charts of northern Canada.  
Then, in anticipation of the future, I wondered what it might bring.  Did I suspect and hope then, that the fickle finger of fate was to bring me back again to the High Arctic aboard other Canadian and United States Coast Guard vessels?  And that soon other assignments would take me up to the wild Yukon and later around the world.

Then, again, looking back, even farther in time, my mind went back a full twenty-five years to the year 1931, to when I had learned to read under the formidable Miss Bagg.  First by learning the alphabet, then short words like cat and dog, then longer words like lion, tiger and bear.  And then just not any old bear, but:  Polar Bear.  
 In my mind I could still picture the elderly Miss Bagg, the awesome head mistress of the crowded infants school, and the sketch of a polar bear on an ice floe that she pinned up on the board.  
Not too accurate a picture.  Probably drawn by some artist who had never been farther north than London’s Epping Forest.  But it had nevertheless fired my imagination and spawned a desire to travel and see things for myself.
At the age of five years, in 1931, I had already begun my travelling —  riding three miles each day on the top deck of London Passenger Transport double-decker buses, to SS. Peter & Paul’s elementary school in Ilford, northeast London.  There I was one of the new boys and girls who met face-to-face with Miss Bagg.
Miss Bagg was always dressed in black.  She was grey-haired, severe, and to us tender infants, a most fearsome figure.  This was mostly owing to Miss Bagg’s possession of a very effective learning aid:  a two-foot-long, solid wood, rock-hard, tapered-to-a-point, pointer stick.  This instrument of enlightenment was as unbending as was Miss Bagg.
Purportedly designed by its manufacturers for the primary task of pointing to the large ABCs printed on the blackboard, Miss Bagg’s secondary, but not very secondary, use of the pointer was to sometimes stand close to the currently selected student and repeatedly rap five-year-old finger knuckles until their owner had learned how to give a reasonably correct phonetic rendering of the particular letter of the alphabet that had been chosen at that particular moment for intense discussion.  Obviously, Miss Bagg thought some students’ poor pronunciation was more the result of defiance than ineptitude.
Looking back to this very effective educational method, now fallen largely into disuse, it is obvious that if used today by the Berlitz and other similar schools of languages, they could turn out polished speakers of Chinese, Swahili, Serbo-Croation and Urdu by the many thousands in very short order.

But all dark clouds eventually pay off with a silver lining.  And in the case of our weeks of enduring Miss Bagg’s persuasive tuition, the silver lining following closely on the healing of bruised knuckles eventually appeared as a magical flooding of enlightenment —we had learned to read. 
So already at the age of six most of us became members of the children’s section of the big public library attached to the Town Hall of the Ilford Borough Council.   And there we discovered the wondrous worlds of Dr. Dolittle and other infant stories that now opened up before us, to be followed later by the adventures of William Brown, Biggles, Arnold Adair, Grey Shadow Master Spy and others.  And of course, travel books like, With Rod and Gun in Canada, with actual photographs of far off things like grizzly bears.
A couple of years later, with our new found literacy, we invented a way to make dull, classroom reading-out-loud practice sessions into hilarious entertainment.  A dozen of us agreed that when following the text, we would mentally transpose all nouns beginning with a “c” into cabbages, all those beginning with “s” into sausages, and all those starting with “p” as puddings.  This made even the most morbid text of some life-of-a-saint a spluttering comedy.  The teachers took weeks to fathom out the cause of our uncontrollable mirth and when having pried out our secret even they would sometimes embarrass themselves by bursting out laughing at some particularly ludicrous passage.

Four or five years later, after graduating from Miss Bagg’s jurisdiction, another example of our school’s educational curriculum was provided by a young, athletic and dashing teacher named Mr Riley.  This rather likeable and personable teacher was, as much as Miss Bagg had been unbending, of quite opposite bent, being an almost daily proponent of bending.  That is, he kept discipline in his classes using the same teaching aid as Miss Bagg but using it on the backsides of presumed errant boys (never girls) whom he ordered to bend over to receive a couple of brisk strokes of his wooden pointer.
  It was also to the dapper blond Mr Riley that the younger women teachers, notably among them the stern-looking but very handsome and raven-haired Miss Harden, usually turned to for help when they decided one of the boys in their class was in need of official corporal punishment.  They would summon Mr Riley to perform the physical caning of the palms and fingers of upturned, outstretched hands.
  This ritual punishment began with the misbehaving boy being sent to the headmaster’s study to ask for the punishment book and a cane.  Kindly Mr Saurin who always seemed to regret having to comply to this request, would motion to the cabinet where the book and canes were kept and the victim would carefully select the cane of his choice (thick ones bruised and thin ones stung) according to his experience in such matters.
Back in the classroom, the lady teacher would send someone to ask for Mr Riley’s presence as executioner and the whole class would fall into silent fascination as the tableau personalities assembled for the real life play depicting crime and punishment.
The accused boy would be ordered to stretch out his arm to his utmost reach with the palm of his hand turned up.  Mr Riley would take three or four false strokes to measure the correct distance and then would administer the first energetic punishing stroke of two, four or six, whichever number had been decided upon by the instigating teacher.  Some boys would endure their ordeal stoically, perhaps even defiantly, refusing to utter a single whimper or protest to mask the loud swish of the cane through the air and the smack of wood against flesh.  
Then after receiving their due number of strokes on alternate hands, they would return quietly to their seats and regard the teachers with unblinking, silent disdain, sitting on their stinging hands as if they were but unconcerned witnesses quite remote from the incomprehensible scene and happenings that had just occurred.  Then the boy’s name, offence, number of cane strokes administered and the date would be entered in the large hardcover, crimson-coloured punishment book and the entry duly signed by the members of officialdom involved.
For other boys, poorer in spirit and of much leaner moral fortitude, there was often the fearful and futile last moment pulling back of hands as the cane descended.  This would often cause a titter from a few of the more callous student onlookers but would only increase the duration of agony for their poor weak classmate.  Because, even if the cane painfully only caught the outermost tips of the retreating hand, that stroke still did not count and it would be repeated.
Such scenes, perhaps repeated two or three times and often accompanied by tears, moans and even screams, clearly stimulated the two pretty girl teacher’s-pets who were seated together in the front row one school year.  With flushed faces, fleeting half smiles and nervous giggles, these two delicate eleven-year-olds brought to mind the carnival atmosphere of mediaeval public executions.  Of course, in those pre-World War II days, when television was only just being experimented with in Britain, there were very few programs at all and certainly none to entertain or excite with daily doses of sex, mayhem and violence as there are today.  And the drama movies of the time were quite innocuous and corny in comparison to the realism of modern horror dramas.