The upside of coal

See below for a truly extraordinary coal advert from 1975, where, looking for fresh workers, the UK National Coal Board basically says “this job is a fanny magnet.”

Meanwhile, I just finished Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags, which some say is his best.  Published in 1942, it is about the phoney war – it starts in September 1939 and finishes, mostly, with the British expedition to Norway in April 1940.  It’s bleak, funny, scathing etc.  Waugh definitely on top form.  This bit caught my eye, and may turn up either in my thesis or something else about the ‘value’ of fossil fuels.’

The Cafe Royal, perhaps because of its distant associations with Oscar and Aubrey, was one of the places where Ambrose preened himself, spread his feathers and felt free to take wing. He had left his persecution mania downstairs with his hat and umbrella. He defied the universe.

‘The decline of England, my dear Geoffrey,’ he said, ‘dates from the day we abandoned coal fuel. No, I’m not talking about distressed areas, but about distressed souls, my dear. We used to live in a fog, the splendid, luminous, tawny fogs of our early childhood. The golden aura of the Golden Age. Think of it, Geoffrey, there are children now coming to manhood who never saw a London fog. We designed a city which was meant to be seen in a fog. We had a foggy habit of life and a rich, obscure, choking literature. The great catch in the throat of English lyric poetry is just fog, my dear, on the vocal chords. And out of the fog we could rule the world; we were a Voice, like the Voice of Sinai from a cloud. Then, my dear Geoffrey,’ said Ambrose, wagging an accusing finger and fixing Mr Bentley with a black accusing eye, as though the poor publisher were personally responsible for the whole thing, ‘then, some busybody invents electricity or oil fuel or whatever it is they use nowadays. The fog lifts, the world sees us as we are, and worse still we see ourselves as we are. It was a carnival ball, my dear, which when the guests unmasked at midnight, was found to be composed entirely of imposters. Such a rumpus, my dear.’

Evelyn Waugh, Put Out More Flags (Spring, Ch 4)

Now, that extraordinary advert. Brace yourselves.

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3 thoughts on “The upside of coal”

    1. It’s genuinely literally jaw-dropping, isn’t it?

      It’s like the New York audience watching “Springtime for Hitler” in “The Producers”… You can’t quite believe it’s real, nor believe it’s a parody…

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