Back when I was very young Janet and John were alongside Dick and Dora and Peter and Jane. In the early 70’s Carry On films were also popular and the The Life of Brian was yet to become controversial, made in 1979.
Yesterday these memories came flooding back in a mix of innuendo and good hearted nostalgia. Firstly TOH presented me with a copy of “See John Run“. For those not familiar this is a innuendo filled parody of Janet and John from Terry Wogan’s Radio Two breakfast show team. It is v. funny and available on CD aswell as in book form. It has that same kind of v. dodgy but somehow innocent humour that Carry On had.
The second attack of nostalgia came wandering along the main street in Newcastle and seeing the Fenwicks Christmas window. Firstly the thrill of seeing a proper department store Christmas window is something you don’t tend to get so much these days. When I was a kid I remember that it was a big deal being taken to the Co-op in Tractor Town to see the Christmas window and then being taken up to Santa’s grotto. These were of course the days before cheap deals to Euro Disney or whatever when it would have been viewed as ridiculous to think that kids would go off to Lapland or wherever. Somehow our pleasures were more simple then. Anyway back to the present and Fenwicks Newcastle window. This year they have gone for a traditional feel with the nativity story being told as you walk along the store front. It is a full on cheesy 60’s and 70’s style telling of the events with mechanical figures. The ethnic representations are of course cringe worthy and if this were in a church you would be straight onto who ever was organising about the negative images being sent out. However, in this context it is soooooo right.
What I liked best about the whole thing was that I knew this window would be the type of thing your average Christian Voice supporter would applaud as wonderful. Yet, and this is the good thing whilst representing the nativity in a good way the designer has slipped in odd references to popular films including the Life of Brian. You would have to know the films to get the sly references slipped in. In the case of Life of Brian it is the way one of the buildings has graffiti about the Romans in red writing, complete with corrected spelling mistake and a woman looking out of the window as a centurion knocks on the door. Moving along to where Mary and Joseph have escaped with Jesus to Egypt this is represented by some kind of Prince of Egypt scene.
The thing is though just as you need to understand Janet and John kids books to get the full irony of the stories, or know the films to get those references in the window, you need to know the nativity story to get the Christian side of Christmas. For many kids the nativity is another story, and one which is often expanded in schools to allow participation by larger numbers of children, (think the octupus in Love Actually). The windows will look great but not be fully understood without explanation. That’s why things like “Christmas Journey” are great. Christmas Journey is an opportunity to tell the story and get it explained to kids.
Next week it’s coming to the church I go to. We’re getting school kids in to tell them the story. Therefore, when they head off to Newcastle and see the window they will hopefully have a better idea of what it’s about and may be, just maybe, the Jesus bit won’t be just another one of the cultural references being mixed in which you might or might not get.
For those of you with no knowledge of the cultural ref to the graffiti in Life of Brian I leave with you a You Tube clip of that bit of the film