Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Fair Games

Any film starring Alistair Sim is worth a look and the 1941 'Cottage to Let' is up there with the best of them.  His character, Charles Dimble, is initially an annoying nosy parker, whom the viewer is led into suspecting is up to no good.  One memorable exchange between him and another of the characters concerns his reading of a postcard.  He speaks for us all when he responds to the challenge "Do you always read other people's letters?" with a "No.  But postcards are fair game."

Aside from Alistair and his deft games with the audience (we don't find out his true motives until the very end of the film) there is a delightful performance from a young George Cole as an evacuee.  I also have another, professional interest in the film.  I work as a fundraiser (no, before you go off me, not one of those really annoying people with tabards who try and mug you with a clipboard and their sparkling personality while you're minding your own business.  I hate those chuggers as much as anyone else.  It really goes against the grain to the British charity giver to be approached in this way.  We will give money, but we will choose who to give it to in our own time and we will certainly not be bullied into it by a gap year student with too much character and not enough inhibitions, thank you.)  My job involves writing grant applications to big grant givers such as the Lottery, local authorities and charitable trusts and foundations.  This is just one of many fundraising jobs out there now in a professional and regulated sector.  I have a certificate to prove it!

In the early 20th Century, fundraising was very different.  In many cases it was a past time to keep ladies of leisure occupied and to guarantee their place in heaven. People who were disadvantaged in any way relied on acts of kindness by the richer classes to ensure their survival.  As the current government does its best to erode the welfare state, we would do well to remember that this 'lady bountiful' kind of philanthropy could be all that stood between a disabled person and destitution.  But I digress a little.  In 'Cottage to Let', the Mrs Barrington character showcases the kind of fundraising activities that took place during World War Two. It shows that interestingly, the bread and butter fundraising events activities have remained the same for 70 years or more. An auction of donated goods.  A guess the weight of the cake.  A bric-a-brac stall.  Something to aim missiles at.  All present in both Mrs Barrington's 1941 garden and my daughter's school fete last summer.  But don't get me started on schools needing to raise money...


  1. I only saw this film a couple of years ago and, although I enjoyed it at the time, I'm strugglnig to remember much of it at all now, aside from some treachery and deception and a frantic finale in a hotel. Oh, and George Cole being about 15!

    Completely agree with you re chuggers btw. Bumptious thoroughfare blockers the lot of 'em.

  2. It'll probably be on film 4 again soon - they seem to play films at least 3 or 4 times over a few weeks. Definitely worth watching for George Cole with his voice only just broken!