05 August 2013

it always rains on sunday

We'd just moved into a hard-to-let council flat on tenth floor of a tower block in Bethnal Green after three years of travelling. It was a Sunday, pouring with rain, and we were watching It Always Rains on Sunday on a small black and white portable TV somebody had given us.  "I wish there was no such place as Bethnal Green. No pubs, no jobs." says Googie Withers, laying back on the grass with her bad-boy lover. We thought it was a hoot. 

I've watched the film a couple of times today and it's actually much better than I remember it. Googie, a housewife worn down by post-war austerity, helps her ex-lover when he escapes from Dartmoor and turns up in the shelter in her backyard. The locations are bleak - bombed ruins, a church with the steeple missing, wet streets, railway yards, dock walls. There are some neat period costumes - a pretty pinny, plenty of headscarves and oilskins to keep the rain off, sharp suits and hats on the dodgy Hyams brothers (John Slater and Sydney Tafler), less nifty clobber on Jimmy Hanley and Alfie Bass. The interiors are evocative - washing drying in front of the range, a tin bath in the kitchen, proper pubs - and plenty of authentic dialogue: "diabolical liberties", "too much sauce", "mending to be done"; and a good smattering of the sort of Yiddish and slang that you'd actually hear around the place. What's more, according to my dad, his own father was responsible for driving one of the Council's cleaning lorries to make the streets wet for at least one of the scenes, none of which are actually in Bethnal Green according to the brother in law who is something of an expert on this kind of thing. I loved it.

It didn't rain this Sunday as far as I remember, but it did rain today, teasing clouds and sunshine this morning, then finally a tremendous downpour. I enjoyed it very much. When the weather is fine I simply have to be out in the open, a leftover from those traveling days, so being indoors with the windows wide open listening to the rain and catching the scent of the wet garden was an unexpected pleasure. A bit of light mending, a couple of cakes in the oven, catching up on some reading and writing, Cornelia Parker on the radio talking about the beauty of dust, all of these things were little splashes of joy because it simply doesn't always rain on Monday. 


rusty duck said...

I'd agree.. an occasional day of rain can feel almost like a holiday. The garden will have loved it too.
Just as long as the sun comes out again the next day..

annie said...

Listening to the rain with the windows still open and the lovely fresh smell - I agree, something special!

60 going on 16 said...

Loved this post, C, as much as I love Googie Withers and all those old, grainy black and white films like 'It Always Rains on Sunday', full of spivs, wide-boys, and men in trilby hats, wearing suits with enormous lapels and usually carrying a battered old leather suitcase. I never miss the Boulting Brothers' 1947 version of 'Brighton Rock', whenever it's on TV.

Another favourite and another Boulting Brothers classic is 'Seven Days to Noon', (1950), much of which was shot in Notting Hill, on the street where we lived three decades later. At the time the film was made, Notting Hill had some of the UK's worst and most overcrowded housing; Alan Johnson MP's autobiography, 'This Boy', evokes the place, the time and the poverty brilliantly - and unforgettably.

As for the rain, we have far too much here in the South West for me to love it but if, occasionally, it gives me an excuse to curl up and watch an old film, I don't complain.

colleen said...

Must add Alan Johnson's autobiography to my ever lengthening reading list. Want to know more about his sister!

Liz said...

All I know about Bethnal Green was gleaned from reading Young and Willmott's Family and Kinship in East London (with so many parallels to what was being experienced here). That film, and those mentioned by D, take me back to Sunday afternoons (wet or otherwise) at Aunty M's. She was film mad and every week we'd settle down to watch whichever was on TV (B&W, just two channels) with a bag of sweets. I still remember the week Diana Dors had me in tears.

Philippa said...