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In 1928 London milk-man Ernest Briggs courts and marries house-maid Ethel, their son Raymond being born in 1934. When World War II breaks out Ethel tearfully allows him to be evacuated to aunts in Dorset whilst Ernest joins the fire service, shocked by the carnage he sees. As hostilities end they celebrate Raymond's return and entry to grammar school and the birth of the welfare state though Ethel is mistrustful of socialism and progress in general. Raymond himself progresses from National Service to art college and a teaching post, worrying his mother by marrying schizophrenic Jean. However father and son console each other as Ethel slips away but before long Raymond is mourning his father too though both Ethel and Ernest will forever be immortalized by Raymond's touching account of their lives.Written by
don @ minifie-1
Milkman's Guide to the Universe - (20th Century, Wimbledon)
The notion of 'ordinary people' is perverse, like fingerprints, everyone is different, living in a celebrity culture where appearing on a television reality show can somehow make you special, someone to keep up with or be interested by, it was timely to receive this Christmas antidote to superficial stardom.
Raymond Briggs' endearing depiction of his parents through a tumultuous half of the 20th century was also an excellent history lesson, showing how major, earth-shattering events influenced supposedly ordinary people. Most of all, it showed how class, status, social mobility and home ownership influenced British social history. There are sadly few milkman around now, if there were, neither they nor contemporary equivalents, would be able to afford the spacious terrace house in Wimbledon!
Just as in Robert Tressell's landmark work 'The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists' Edwardian decorators did not think privilege was 'for the likes of us', former ladies maid Ethel, supported the status quo, voted Conservative, did not envisage storming the barricades anytime soon, whilst Ernest aspired to Labour's inspirational message after the travails of Workd War 2 and was an intrinsic part of the ideological spirit that brought the NHS, welfare state and a less class-ridden society.
Raymond is shown eschewing office work, despite having worked as a draughtsman during national service, for the seemingly risky and unstable world of art. How right he was, as we saw, to follow his talent and become one of the world's greatest illustrators. Although his parents were not famous, they showed the extraordinary stoicism that brought this country through. Sadly extreme voices, alienation and dissimilitude have turned true British grit, tolerance and decency upside down with the appalling, self-defeating referendum and disgraceful betrayal of 'Brexit means Brexit'. Whether part of a family (as here), community (partying on VE Day) or country (Ernest reading the paper daily and keeping up with news on the radio), we are part of one Europe and one world; fragmenting it will lead back to Morrison Shelters in the lounge - or worse.
The innate decency of Briggs and his parents, their acceptance of only being able to have one (super) child, Raymond's wife being schizophrenic and unable to have children, was a marker of this warm, life-affirming film which not only brought tears to our eyes, but should lead us to be better people and show a more caring attitude. We may not all be illustrators or artists, but we can all draw our conclusions....
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