Wednesday 10 November 2021

Hyde Park in plain sight

I stepped into a time machine the other evening and travelled back to 1971, courtesy of a charming documentary currently available as part of a BBC Four collection on the iPlayer.  If you’re in need of some uncomplicated escapism and have 50 minutes to spare, may I recommend this unhurried wander through London’s famous Hyde Park amid a fascinating variety of human (and a few animal) visitors from 50 years ago. 

It’s a lovely location, but of course it’s the people who make this so interesting.  There’s the man in his swimming trunks standing on his head, the novice rider with no sense of rhythm, the humble 'Geranium King' who doesn’t like geraniums.  There are the Cockney boys eager to get on camera  (“woss it all abaht?!”) and the not-so-Cockney boys eyeing up bikini girls through their telescopes (“…an hour with her!”)  It’s like a community within a community, with unabashed orators and placard-holders at Speakers’ Corner, a fashion shoot taking place on the bandstand and a fabulously percussive performance of ‘Roll Out The Barrel’ - not on the bandstand.  Then there’s the lothario strutting around in his teeny tiny trunks who… well, don’t let me spoil it for you if you want to watch!   And so many others observed without judgement nor comment, the combination of which seems to illustrate in the simplest terms both the frustrations and joys of just being human - the collapsing deckchair and the squeaky wheel could have come straight out of a comedy sketch show.  Of course my favourite character is the beautifully spoken lady taking her beloved duck for a swim.  Where is she now?!

But one of the main things that makes this film report so delightful and immersive is its style.  It has such a lightness of touch which seems rare now.  There's no generic piano music in the background, nor those irritating pizzicato strings to lead us subliminally to an intended emotional reaction. No over-dramatic narration to humiliate its subjects and lure us towards a predictable opinion (I can't stand being subconsciously directed on what to think!) You can just let go and enjoy your guided tour... at a comfortable 1971 pace.

That’s how I like my observational documentary style.  You too?

Here's the link (Man Alive: Hyde Park):

And the song to accompany Mr Lothario:

Roy Brown: Mighty Mighty Man


  1. Replies
    1. Hope you enjoy it, Martin. I found it so charming - and a reminder of our eccentricities.

  2. Whenever I think of things from 50 years ago, my head just hasn't caught up with the fact that's now the 70s - Instead of being in black and white, it's colour and the people look like us (more or less). Watching this beautiful film, it harks back to simpler, gentler times where no-one is glued to a screen 24/7. I've been to Hyde Park a couple of times over the last 10 years and we were lucky enough to see the Household Cavalry ride past on one of those visits. I'm going to have to watch it again properly but just wanted to drop by to thank you for the heads up. The deck chair mishaps and the duck lady - Just wonderful stuff.

    1. That's so true about the 50 years thing. I did a bit of a double-take when I realised just how many years ago it was, it sort of feels like it should be somewhere around the 30 mark, not 50. A bit of a shaker really! Glad you enjoyed the silent deck chair mishaps and the duck lady (I want a duck like Doo).

  3. That looks like my Friday night sorted.

    1. Sit yourself down with a bowl of Angel Delight and enjoy!


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