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Old 01-13-2019, 08:42 PM
An Gadaí An Gadaí is offline
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84 Charing Cross Road - A Question

Yesterday, I rewatched this film, one of my favourites I reckon despite it dripping with Anglophilia.

I have a question relating to food stuffs. Helene Hanff (played by the wonderful Anne Bancroft) sends food parcels to the bookshop ordered from a firm in Denmark. They're gratefully received.

The parcels come up a few times throughout the film. I know rationing was pretty swingeing in Britain in the years after the war but what was stopping the bookshop staff from ordering from the same company in Denmark for themselves?

Did the dollar have a lot more "bang for your buck" than sterling at the time?
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Old 01-13-2019, 10:08 PM
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Beckdawrek Beckdawrek is offline
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That was what I gathered from the movie. Someone with real knowledge of rationing needs to come in and inform us.
BTW, one of my favorite movies too.
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Old 01-13-2019, 11:50 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
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I only know the book, not the movie, but I always thought it was a matter of getting an unexpected gift. I mean, I could buy the Hickory Farms giftbox for myself at Christmas.
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Old 01-14-2019, 02:10 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Helene Hanff paid for the food in the packages. The problem was not rationing by itself. The problem was that the people working in the bookstore couldn't afford any food except what they could get on grocery shelves locally. They couldn't afford to order the food in those packages with their own money (or, at least, it would have been a major strain on their budgets).
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Old 01-14-2019, 04:00 AM
PatrickLondon PatrickLondon is offline
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They wouldn't have been able to spend money abroad, is more the point. There were strict import restrictions on stuff that would be rationed within the UK, and exchange controls on how much money you could spend abroad, no matter how much money you might have within the country.

Plus, of course, working in a bookshop has never paid well, and these were mostly people who would have learnt to be thrifty with their money anyway, partly by upbringing, and partly as a result of ten years and more of making do. I can't remember the details, but I assumed the parcels contained things that weren't necessarily rationed, but things that would have been considered luxury items not generally available. (Though it is also true that "the Almighty Dollar" was rather more plentiful and disposable than sterling).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ration...United_Kingdom

Last edited by PatrickLondon; 01-14-2019 at 04:04 AM.
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Old 01-14-2019, 04:17 AM
Spoons Spoons is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
Helene Hanff paid for the food in the packages. The problem was not rationing by itself. The problem was that the people working in the bookstore couldn't afford any food except what they could get on grocery shelves locally. They couldn't afford to order the food in those packages with their own money (or, at least, it would have been a major strain on their budgets).
This, exactly. In the wake of WWII and rationing, people in the UK made enough to buy groceries and pay the rent. There was a little left over for luxuries (an occasional pint at the pub, for example, or cigarettes, or gas for the car), but not much. So, Christmas packages sent by overseas friends and relatives were most welcome.

My parents used to send an annual package to UK friends, like Helene Hanff did. It was arranged locally, through a local company that did that sort of thing, and every fall, I recall my parents poring over the catalogue the the local company provided. There were packages that contained things that UKers could get, but were very expensive in the UK at the time: fresh oranges from Spain, for example, and things like hams (which as I recall, Helene Hanff sent to her friends at 84 Charing Cross Road). There were plenty of other treats included in the various baskets, and our UK friends were most grateful.

Yes, these things were available to UKers, but at great cost, and were regarded as luxuries. My parents, buying through the agency, could take advantage of the agency's economy of scale, and provide our UK friends with something special that cost my parents less than our UK friends would have to pay individually.
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Old 01-14-2019, 04:50 AM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spoons View Post
... UK ... gas for the car ...
petrol.
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Old 01-14-2019, 06:58 AM
PatrickLondon PatrickLondon is offline
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There was a little left over for luxuries (an occasional pint at the pub, for example, or cigarettes, or gas for the car), but not much.
You're right in general terms, but the vast majority of people didn't have a car in the first place: public transport and/or pushbike and/or Shanks's pony instead.
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Old 01-14-2019, 07:05 AM
PatrickLondon PatrickLondon is offline
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Originally Posted by Spoons View Post
There was a little left over for luxuries (an occasional pint at the pub, for example, or cigarettes, or gas for the car), but not much.
The vast majority of people didn't have a car in the first place: public transport and/or pushbike and/or Shanks's pony instead.

The underlying problem wasn't so much lack of income alone as the fear of rampant inflation and consequent inequality if shortages of supply were left to the market alone to solve, not to mention pressure on international confidence in sterling in the fixed exchange rate system.
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Old 01-14-2019, 08:52 AM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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Great movie (although I kept expecting Anthony Hopkins to slip into his Dr. Hannibal Lecter role), and the book is even better. It's a collection of the letters that went back and forth between Helene and the bookstore manager.

Quote:
Originally Posted by An Gadaí View Post
...despite it dripping with Anglophilia. ....
That's a feature, not a bug!
  #11  
Old 01-14-2019, 09:35 AM
ElvisL1ves ElvisL1ves is offline
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It's a book about writing and letters and love of literature. Making a movie of it was an offense against all that is holy.
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Old 01-14-2019, 10:20 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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It was fairly common for Americans to send food packages to British people that they were fans of:

http://www.cslewisinstitute.org/The_...CS_Lewis_page2
  #13  
Old 01-14-2019, 10:30 AM
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terentii terentii is offline
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The vast majority of people didn't have a car in the first place: public transport and/or pushbike and/or Shanks's pony instead.
What a great expression!

https://wordhistories.net/2016/07/05/shanks-pony/
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  #14  
Old 01-15-2019, 03:43 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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Heinlein used the phrase "shank's mare" several times in his writings.
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