Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Time In A Bottle

We went to our first car boot sale as stall holders on Sunday; it wasn't very busy but we did OK.

We liked the man rolling a cigarette who phoned his brother to ask him if he wanted Mrs H's copy of Thin Lizzy Live & Dangerous (£3. I know, some of you would have taken it) and who came back later for the old viola; we liked the nice lady who bought a clutch of the girls' Polly Pockets for her niece and the big bloke with his wife who pumped my hand super-firmly when we agreed on a price for the wooden bathroom cabinet; we liked the whole 'anyone want a cup of tea?' ambience really.

There was a chap at the end selling old bottles, which put me in mind of this one I've had since I was about 12. I like its connection to a very specific place (a small village between Totnes and Dartmouth in Devon). I can't remember where I got it exactly - either at a school jumble sale, or maybe I dug it up, because me and my friend Brian certainly went through a phase of doing that after I got a book on collecting from the library - but it sat on bookshelves and window sills all through my teenage and student years and it's stood behind me now as I'm writing this.

After the boot sale I thought I'd try to find out about the old 'mineral water works' of Harbertonford and W.G Grills & Son, but drew a blank apart from stumbling on this site and in particular this picture, taken in 1965 - the year I was born. It could have been taken in 1865.

Some lines from the last chapter of the Eno book leapt out at me as I finished it yesterday.

Sheppard writes about trawling through old photos in Eno's personal archive...

It was difficult to reconcile the neatly side-parted schoolboy Brian, smiling by his father's side in a sunlit back garden in the middle of the last century, with the pouting, futuristic figure in gold lipstick and ziggurat-like platform boots I'd just picked from a fat folder marked matter-of-factly, '1970s'. These contrasting images seemed to speak volumes - a vivid illustration of the chalk and cheese disparity between the predictable, buttoned-up England of the 1950s and the outrageous, liberated 1970s. To have grown up in Britain during the intervening hothouse decades was to have experienced an unprecedented acceleration in social and technological transformation that is almost inconceivable to anyone born after about 1970.

Jim Croce - 'Time In A Bottle' (1973)


  1. i had my eye on that cabinet and all.

    and i've been scanning photos from my childhood today marveling that 1969/1970 looked supiciously like 1940. apart from the ones with my mum and dad in who spoil the mood rather with their with it styles.


    ps i'm jealous as hell that this post is so lovely and i managed one measly line

  2. Bless you my dear x

    PS: We must see those photos!

  3. How much do yer want for this Tucker's Luck annual, mate?

  4. I was at Uni when that was on, young 'un.

  5. Ah, so, it said nothing to you about your life, eh?

    I'll give you 40p.

    Got a bag?

  6. How much for the electric ghost generator?

    Bless you for going with Croce, not with Sting and his less objectionable chums.

  7. Lovely post davy.

    Never actually been to a car boot sale, strange |I know but pre kids didn't get up til around lunch time on most Sunday's and post, well in a word M, I can just imagine the junk he would persuade me to buy.

    When I remember the 70's the colours brown, beige and orange are prevelant.

  8. I've only done one boot sale in the early 90s - I clonk it all on the 'bay now, no early starts and you gets a better price

    Eno's Seven Deadly Finns popped into play yesterday (it's on the blog somewhere if you fancy grabbing) A record that could have only been made in the 70s - too space age for the 60s, too much fun for the 80s - it's a got a yodelling coda - you wouldn't get that now..

    I remember someone doing a Stars In Their Eyes Jim Croce years ago, and did you know Dutch Gin is still sold in those sort of bottles...

  9. How much for the vintage cakestand?

  10. Yours for a fiver and I'll throw in the doilly.

    Yodelling codas, yodelling codas...

  11. Hot damn! Milk glass and all.

    I shouted you out a little bit on today's blog entry m'dear.

  12. Car boot sales ? Although an 80's phenomenon, they are redolent of those earlier decades you allude to. Great picture you paint of said event.

    And I am compelled to agree with Halfhearteddude's observation on Jim Croce rather than Sting. You kept me guessing on that on, Davy.

    Ah. 1965 was a fine year, indeed.

    Nice bottle.

  13. Hi,

    I grew up only a couple of miles away from Harbertonford and my parents are still in the area. I thought you might like to know that it pretty much looks unchanged from that photo from 1965. Can't help with W.G Grills & Son though I'm afraid.

  14. No, I suspect they went a long time before our times Toby: Hi to you too, from a fellow South Hams boy.

    Same vintage ib? It was a very good year...

  15. I have an antique shop in harbertonford, and have many old photos of the village. also a grills bottle and other village treasures.
    The bottles are are from 1930s and are uncommon now

  16. JoJo, it is a source of no small pride and honour for me to know that The Ghost Of Electricity is reaching even the antique shops of Harbertonford - good on ya.

    PS: Is it worth anything, guv?

  17. IO brought my bottle of ebay, been loking for ages, £15 including postage and large chip, hope this helps, grills was brewing behind the malsters pub, which is still there now, only pub left in village. i know they were brewing on 1850 census, still reasearching, lots to learn. Our shop is called Fine Pine, and has been in the village from 1973 in part of the old woolen mill.

  18. W.G Grills & Son located to within a few yards! Proper job.