Back in the 70’s whenever I was at my grandparent’s house I was always drawn to my granddad’s book collection. There could be found proper old hard backs, beautifully bound with that distinctive old book smell. There were old science books (probably even then incredibly dated but with amazing black & white photographs) a whole set of fascinating books on the Gallipoli campaign with pictures of old dreadnoughts, and another certain book which is the cause of this reminiscence. I can’t remember its title but I remember it had a picture of Gordon of Khartoum on the cover and it was full of tales of heroic derring do, written during the height of Empire. It was proper Boys Own stuff and was probably intended to inspire young folk to go out into the world and ensure the sun never set on Britannia’s empire: the days when great swathes of the world were coloured pink in atlases.
But set the sun did, and even at the young age that I was it was clear that the book, with its fine line drawings and subjective narrative, was describing an altogether foreign country of the past. If this was standard reading matter once upon a time, it explains why Monty Python’s Flying Circus and the Ripping Yarns TV series very often parodied this old colonial mind-set.