‘Bless This House’ is one of those spin-off films from a 1970s sitcom. All the successful series from this era did it - from ‘Steptoe and Son’ to ‘Are You Being Served’ – with varying results. Some are watchable if you’re not in the mood for anything taxing; while others are an embarrassment – British cinema’s dying gasp. ‘Bless This House’ (1972) comes somewhere in the middle of the scale – predictable and hackneyed in places, but with a liberal enough sprinkling of laughs to keep you watching. It’s also a feelgood factor to see so many familiar faces from your childhood viewing. Sid James, Terry Scott, June Whitfield, Peter Butterworth and, well, I was going to say Robin Asquith but the only other thing that I know him from is the Confessions films and I’m sure I didn’t see those as a child!
When I last watched ‘Bless This House’, I settled down with my sewing box. Films like this, easy to follow and so very familiar, are a cosy background to another task. Two relaxing hits in one. Three in fact, as these two are invariably accompanied by a cup of tea and some chocolate. ‘Bless’ means an hour and a half of bliss. You can allow your imagination to have a wander too, and this time I was blessed with quite an interesting idea along with a realisation that things aren’t always as modern as they seem.
The film opens with Mrs Abbot (Diana Coupland) and Mrs Lewis (Patsy Rowlands) collecting what many would call junk. It’s their intention to open an antiques stall in a specialist market place and they are busy building up stock by rummaging in jumble sales. One person’s junk is indeed another’s treasure, as a charity shop fanatic myself, there’s no need to convince me of this. Armed with my copy of the latest Vogue magazine in order to read up on what I should be looking for, I rattle through the rails looking for discarded sartorial treasure. I’m proud of my eclectic wardrobe, where very few items cost me more than a tenner and many of them were made to fit well and to last. When I tire of them, I either give them back to charity or sell them on eBay, sometimes even getting my original outlay back. Cheap and environmentally friendly!
While watching ‘Bless This House’ I was replacing some shabby buttons on an otherwise decent linen cardigan, with a set from my extensive collection (thanks to Nan and Oxfam). It wasn’t long before I had the idea of setting up an Etsy shop to sell on some of my old (otherwise known as vintage) sewing kit. And following that thought came another about some things never changing. I am by no means the only person going around second hand sales and later selling on my finds – it’s a booming business out there in cyber space. I had lazily thought that this was something new that had been born out of our new way of life, half spent in the ether. But having watched ‘Bless This House’ I can see that I was wrong. Of course I was. Didn’t I spend my teenage (pre computer-age) years riffling through the stalls on Sheffield flea market? Doesn’t every town have its antique/second hand quarter which goes way back in its establishment? The only difference is that now more people can afford to do it, as the overheads of this activity have been reduced to a listing fee. We’re all digging out our junk in the hope that it’s treasure – and now that we are well into the disposable society age there is more of it in circulation.
I can’t quite decide if ‘Bless This House’ recognises the environmental connection to this junk recycling. Sid and Diana’s daughter (Sally, played by Sally Geeson) spends much of the film protesting against environmental damage. Had the connection between recycling and the environment been made back then? Again, quite lazily, I had assumed not. In fact I wouldn’t have said that there was much at all in the way of environmental awareness back then but it seems I was wrong. Sally supports her mother’s venture. Perhaps even in 1972 some did recognise the need to re-use materials. There was certainly a lot less waste back then, as the small dustbins that I remember from my childhood attest. What a shame that it took so long for the need to recycle to really take off…and let’s hope that we get better at it.