So last century: Rita Clews and her Victorian Week Committee - Credit: Dave Griffin

OPINION: It’s time for Britain to rise from history’s naughty step - Dave Griffin

Dave Griffin

Ilfracombe’s Victorian and Steampunk Celebration commences this Saturday, 11th through to 19th June, and there’s a wide variety of events to delight you, details of which are in programmes available all around the town.

The Victorian Week committee has worked its socks off preparing this year’s nineteenth-century extravaganza.

Visiting tourists will be grabbing their phones to snap townspeople strolling along the Esplanade in their frock coats, boaters, bustled dresses, and the formal attire once reserved for Sunday afternoon promenading.

For the fortieth year, Ilfracombe’s Rita Clews will reign over her subjects in her traditional role as Queen and Empress. Suffragettes are to march with their placards, and look out for the Red Petticoats and Pearly Kings and Queens.

Vintage car lovers have been catered for, and a whole day has been devoted to a Bathing Belles and Beaus showtime. In those modesty-obsessed days when even table legs were covered, men and women were strictly segregated at the seafront’s Tunnels Beaches, but Victorian prudery failed to prevent guys swimming without their kit on.

Now, I hear some ask, what’s Steampunk? I have difficulty explaining this quaint style, but basically, it describes Victorian science fiction based upon a steam-driven future. Maybe that’s what the goggles attached to top hats are all about, but 1890s folk believed that international flight would be achieved by coal-powered engines providing the motive power for passenger-carrying airships. Few, of course, can make accurate predictions.

My 1960s Eagle comic featured full colour centre-spreads illustrating space-age ‘Year 2000’ towns and cities, with pointy buildings and skyways. The reality turned out to be a demand for Edwardian fireplaces.

The Victorians were outstanding builders and innovators. Their technology, created by individuals motivated by the desire to create wealth and improve lives, is still in daily use. Victorian enterprise and ingenuity changed the world for the better.

Inventors and engineers, among them Brunel, Dunlop, Parsons, Stephenson and Wheatstone, transformed the planet; they tower above even today’s scientists.

Instead of indulging in the masochistic, hand-wringing penitence that Britain feels it is obliged to demonstrate, and wallowing in the wrong-doing that Victorian entrepreneurs were supposed to have inflicted on mankind, why shouldn’t we stand up and celebrate our recent ancestors?

The UK is surely the only country on Earth that cannot stop apologising for its forefathers’ indiscretions.

Given the malign ambitions of Germany’s and Japan’s wartime leaders, those countries’ present populations don’t appear to have saddled themselves with a self-imposed national guilt complex. Our self-flagellation should cease.

It’s time for Britain to rise from history’s naughty step. The very fact that hundreds risk their lives each day desperately attempting to reach Dover on inflatable dinghies designed for boating lakes is testament to our enduring international reputation of sanctuary from evil.

Let’s hope a sense of Victorian-style belief in self-reliance and personal endeavour, coupled with a rejuvenated etiquette, may return as a civilising antidote to the seam of vulgarity that has reduced some TV and social media platforms into a cesspit of profanity. Think Darwin. Think Nightingale. Think progress.

The Price Is Right – But It’s Not

Fuel costs are rocketing. Petrol and diesel hovers around 169.9 and 179.9 per litre. But why do oil companies express pump prices this way?

Why can’t they be straightforward and display £1.70 and £1.80? We’re not fooled by this 0.1p ‘discount’.

Pubs don’t charge us 349.9 for a pint of bitter, nor is milk sold at 128.9 per quart. Presently, the government is tinkering with a revival of the imperial system we used prior to EU membership.

Until the pre-calculator mid-1970s, kids worked out in their head's complex sums of volumes and distances, using pounds, ounces, feet, yards and furlongs.

Schoolchildren were incredibly mentally agile. Ask your nearest 70-year-old the cost of a dozen eggs @ 3-1/2d each. (Answer: 3s/6d). Of course, if we do return to imperial measures, you’ll be paying £8.13 per gallon, or £8.2s.6d, in real money.