Sunday, November 30, 2008

War in peace

Seeing Vera Drake again on television tonight, I'm
reminded of what a very good film it is. Quite apart from
its intrinsic dramatic value, it captures convincingly the
reduced quality of life in postwar Britain. Well, it looks
convincing to me. And how semi-militarized society
remained: this was true of New Zealand too. Public life
up to the 1960s was so orderly—all those hats—because
the habits of war stayed strong in peacetime. For at
least 15 years after 1945, New Zealand carried on as if it
were still at war: only now the enemy was ourselves.
Marching in step was the thing, with polished buttons.
The average suburban home was an armed encampment,
the maternity hospital a barracks. Babies were fed to
order; mothers presented arms on command. We never
went so far, though, as the regimented fun routines of
British holiday camps. We had the hi but missed the ho.

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