Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Hungerford Arcade is well known its wide range of antiques and collectables and also for the wonderful quirky items that are always to be found here.  The one that caught my eye this week, is a fantastic late Victorian steel and brass yarn winder, made by John Nesitt of Market Street, Manchester.

DSCN0705The hexagonal shaped wheel is mounted on a turned steel shaft with winding handle, counter and bell on a mahogany base with four skein holders.  This is a very impressive machine which drew lots of attention from customers and stallholders alike.  Many people would have like to have purchased this amazing machine, including me, but because of its size this was not possible.  However, a very happy customer fell in love with, snapped it up quickly and rushed it off home.  Customers and staff clapped in delight for this very excited lady.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Hungerford Arcade Readng Digital Business Club

Hungerford Arcade co-owner, Adrian Gilmour, received an invitation from his bank manager, Phil Hobbs, to attend the Reading Digital Business Club: Innovation, organised by Barclays Bank for their business clients.  Adrian accepted and took his managers, Alex Rogers and myself, (Rita) to the event.

We finished work at the Arcade, locked up and went on our way to Reading in Adrian’s car. We had to be there by 6.00 pm.  It was raining as we headed along the M4 towards Reading making very good time.  We were about two miles from our exit when suddenly, traffic began to slow down before gradually coming to a halt. We sat there and sat there in the dark, looking at our watches.  At 6.45 we really began to worry, because if we didn’t move by 7.00 at the latest, we might as well turn around and head back to Hungerford.  Then, at 6.55 the traffic started moving, getting faster and faster.  We were soon at our turn-off just outside Reading. 

        Barclays Bank Manager, Phil Hobbs, Rita Kibble,
                    Leslie Commodore, Alex Rogers

With great relief, we arrived at Barclays Bank, where we were greeted with a very warm welcome.  We had some food and a drink as we were brought up to speed as to what had gone on before. Barclays Digital Eagle, Leslie Commodore presented IT and he was excellent.  We took away a lot of useful information which will surely be helpful to the Arcade business. It was a great evening and we were all very pleased we made it.  Sadly, Adrian is not in the photograph as he was the photographer!


Sunday, 11 October 2015

Hungerford Arcade Meeting Mr Punch

Hungerford Arcade’s great friend and author, Stuart Miller-Osborne has written a wonderful article about Mr Punch.  Judy and the baby are not featured but then again, its all in the name as you will see.  Great writing and a joy to read.  I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Meeting Mr Punch 

When wandering around the Arcade recently, I noticed something which, as I normally sleepwalk through life, I had not noticed before.

Punch 1Mr Punch was beginning to make inroads into the ancient building.  Was he a Fifth Columnist and what was the reason that he was beginning to show his face in our fair town?  But there was no need to worry, as his mission was to amuse and educate us about trifles past and if the subject was serious, then make serious points but with the trace of a smile on his face.

I am of course, talking about our beloved Punch magazine which, like many things, is no longer with us having expired finally in 2002 aged 161 years.  For many years, Punch was the staple diet of the railway bookstand with many of the travellers purchasing their paper and a copy of Punch to read on their journey.

punch 12It was also obviously sold in many other outlets but this was my memory when I worked at main line termini during the 1970s.  It was always of interest to me why people purchased certain magazines. The radicals would buy Private Eye whereas for some reason, men in suits purchased Punch.  I suppose it was seen as too square for the young men with their bushy sideburns. But this was not always the case.

punch 10Punch or The London Charivari to give its other name, was founded in 1841 by a certain Henry Mayhew and his friend the engraver, Ebenezar Landells and at once helped to change our perception of the word cartoon which, in its modern meaning, supposes a humorous illustration away from the lesser known artistic meaning.

Rock on Leonardo, as Mr Punch might say.

punch 2The title was taken from the beloved glove puppet and became a favourite of the Victorians as it favoured sophisticated humour and was not grossly offensive like other magazines (this said, Punch did share Charles Kingsley’s view of our Irish neighbours which historically is to be regretted).

Some of the newspapers of the day, such as The Times and The News of the World (RIP), often stole items from Mr Punch to fill up their columns which further increased the popularity of the magazine.

punch 8It sat comfortably with The Times and The Westminster Review and because of this, its readership spread and spread.  To name but a few people such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edward Fitzgerald and Charlotte Bronte, read Punch as well as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  Across the pond, Americans such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville and the reclusive Emily Dickinson were also enthusiasts.

Did you know that Mr Punch gave the phrase “ Curates Egg” and “Crystal Palace”  to the English language and that classics such asThe Diary of a Nobody and 1066 and All That , were all serialised initially in Punch?  I did not know this fact until I embarked on my research.

By 1910 the circulation of the magazine had reached some 100,000 and peaked just after the war at 184,000 in 1948.  The magazine was especially popular in the colonies and India was quite often satirised in the magazine.  But as society changed then Mr Punch became less popular.  Britain no longer had her Empire and people’s tastes were changing.  A revolution was taking place but few were really aware of this.

punch 9By the freewheeling 1960s, I suppose that Mr Punch’s humour was seen as old hat, a humour enjoyed by the older generations.  There was the Oz magazine and Private Eye to name but two which were much sharper in their humour and satire and often crossed the line and were sued or worse.

Mr Punch lingered on for a number of years but in 1992, suffered a serious illness was hospitalised and suspended for four years until an Egyptian businessman named Mohamed Al-Fayed raised the magazine again in 1996.  However, Punch appeared to have been raised as a weapon in his conflict with Private Eye which was often critical of him, which was sad as the magazine lost some of its bite.

The new incarnation did not last long and at the end of May 2002 it ceased publication again.  It was reported that there were only 6000 subscribers in 2002 and that over the six years of publication, it lost some £16 million pounds.  Whether this was true or not is open to question.

At the time of writing, Mr Punch is still at rest.

He may have been laid to rest in 2002, but I think in Highgate Cemetery, the old scoundrel is still alive and well and is witnessing the usual fun and games associated with this country of ours.  What he might make of political correctness would be fun to behold.  Someone has to understand it.

As I noted at the beginning of this piece, Mr Punch has been seen in Hungerford also.

Keep this quiet and do not spread the word.

If you look hard enough, then you will find him and not just in the book section up the stairs at the Arcade.  He is a crafty old sod and will make appearances where you least expect to see him.  Only today, I was walking past one of the stalls and there he was as bold as brass sitting on top of a chest full of model cars.  This copy of the magazine dated from the 1930s, but I suspect there were others.

punch 4Beware, Mr Punch sometimes wears his best coat and often appears behind stiff handsome covers which enclose a years’ worth of his magazines.  In other words, collecting copies of Punch magazine is not a hard task as they are quite easily available and do not cost that much.

punch 11Quite recently, I purchased a number of copies of Punch dating from the 1930s and they are a joy to read.  It is not just the cartoons and the silliness of the articles that was amusing, but the advertisements were just as funny (yes Mr Punch stooped that low).

One told me that if I smoked Craven A, my throat would be left alone but the ad did not mention the rough time my lungs were having.

Other ads told me that Ever Ready batteries were ever ready and never tired or that if I wanted to keep warm in the winter months that I could purchase aRobin Hood Boiler which was very suitable for the kitchen or the scullery.  My favourites were the full page ads which were often presented in the Art Deco style, although the one I am looking at as I am writing, shows a young lady in a Japanese gown looking at a lone crab on a beach.  The catchphrase is, “The Early One”   which I suppose I understand, but the ad is very cryptic and incidentally, was promoting the values of Wills Gold Flake.  I suppose Mr Punch was just having fun.  But seriously, every time you open a copy of Punch then you are really opening up a time capsule whether it be the articles or the cartoons or the advertisements.  Even the later editions are memorable.

I also possess a couple of the hard back collections of Punch dating back to the 1870s and they are fascinating to read. Issues such as Home Rule were discussed and satirised as well as the mechanics of empire.  The ads date from the period and are equally as fascinating as the ads were from the 1930s.  These magazines were as disposable then as magazines are today but thankfully, thousands survived and that is why they are so easy to find.  

I paid £1.00 for my 1930s copies which is a little on the cheap side, but you should be able to pick up inter-war copies of the magazine for about £3.00 or so. Like everything else it is where you shop.

The same applies to the hard back collections of the magazine. I have seen these collections on sale for as little as £3.00 and for as much as £20.00 but expect to pay around £7.00 to £8.00.  As I have noted these are often to be found in Hungerford, although at present (June 2015), I can only recollect seeing Mr Punch sitting on top of the toy cars although, only a few months later, he was everywhere.

No doubt he is now hiding deep in the recesses of the Arcade just to prove me wrong.

Remember when you buy a vintage copy of Punch magazine then you are preserving it for future generations to read and enjoy.  I have a feeling that we will see Mr Punch again, but when he returns is up to him.

I feel that satire wise, we have lost the innocence that Mr Punch presented and this is fast becoming a lost art.  Private Eye is a fun magazine to read and I am often highly amused by its contents and some of the cartoons are second to none (Action Man Deserter anyone?).  But I have always felt that Private Eye lacked the subtlety of Punch and was designed to hurt and not poke fun at its chosen subject.  Satire is in my view, is at its funniest when it is subtle and this is where Mr Punch wins hands down.

punch 13For the present then, let us preserve Mr Punch and ensure that he is around for many years to come.  He may be a cantankerous old bugger, but like your favourite uncle, he is always fun to be around.

Long live Mr Punch!


Stuart Miller-Osborne

Friday, 9 October 2015

Hungerford Arcade Vintage Military Vehicle Display

Military Vehicle Display
Sunday 1st November 2015
10.00 am to 3.00 pm

Our vintage military vehicle display is back again this year, raising money for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal. It gets bigger and better each year. You will even see Monty (Montgomery)! Do come along for this great day out and see these amazing vehicles and the people who keep them running. They would love to show you around.

You can even sit in them and have your photo taken. Find out how these marvellous vehicles work and what they were used for during the war. They are a great bunch of men and women who are passionate about their vehicles. They take these vehicles all over Europe for shows and have just come back from a tour of Belgium. They all dress in WWII uniform and the atmosphere is wonderful. You will have a brilliant day out and at the same time, help raise money for this wonderful cause. We look forward to seeing you there.

Thank you to Gary and June Crook for organising this fabulous event again this year.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Hungerford Arcade Italia in Piazza

Don’t miss this spectacular Italian food event outside of the Arcade on Sunday, 25th October from 10.00 a.m

Monday, 5 October 2015

Hungerford Arcade Friday Fiction Supper

The Hungerford Literary Festival is always an event to look forward to. Last year’s event was a huge success and this year looks to be even more exciting.  The  Festival is from 16th – 19th October 2015.

Literary Fest Pict

The Friday Fiction Supper with Vanessa LaFaye, Kathryn Simmons and Magnus MacIntyre is on Friday, 16th October at 7.00 p.m. at Eliane’s.  Ticket Price £35.

What a wonderful way to start the festival with not one, but three authors!

Listen to these three wonderful writers talk about their novels between mouth-watering courses next to the book shop at Elianes.

To purchase a ticket for this wonderful Friday Fiction Supper, click on this link 


For any queries, including sponsorship opportunities, please contact Emma at The Hungerford Bookshop on 01488 683480 or email sales@hungerfordbooks.co.uk

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Hungerford Food Festival

At the Arcade, we love getting involved with local community projects. We also love eating! So Hungerford Food Festival always goes down well!
To show our support and get people interested we have set up a display window dedicated to food. With kitchenalia, cheese crates, a picnic set and even a Victorian sweet maker, we are ready to sample the delights of the festival.

Hungerford Food Festival is a family friendly community event that has been celebrating local food producers and artisans since 2009.

The festival is proud to be part of British Food Fortnight and in 2103 they were delighted to come joint third in The Telegraph’s national Bring Home the Harvest competition.

The festival will take place on Sunday 4th October right outside the Arcade, on the High Street.

There will be locally produced goods such as cheese, meat, vegetables and even cider.

The hog roast will be right outside our front door (which I am very much looking forward to). The Town Hall will also be filled with stalls from local producers and cooking demonstrations will be taking place up and down the high street.