Curator's Blog

Series K, Episode 2


Kit & Kaboodle

Curated by Piers Fletcher

Kit & Kaboodle started out as a show about Kits, Kittens, and people called Kitty, though the purity of that brief was soon overwhelmed by a bad case of mission creep, and we ended up covering Karate, K-Class submarines, and Kendal’s finest product (which isn’t what you think it is). All the material was then re-overwhelmed by an absolute juggernaut of a cast, so that the final product is (once again) almost entirely of their making.

It was an enjoyable script to work up. Mat Coward and I are both snuff-takers, so we had fun looking into the different flavours available. It’s illegal to ‘promote’ the use of tobacco on TV, so we had to devote some time to ferreting out reasons why people shouldn’t be taking snuff. There aren’t as many as you’d think (though I suppose that might be partly because there isn’t as much research as there is into smoking), and in truth the chief disadvantage of the habit seems to be that, arguably, it makes you look a bit of a twit. I speak as one who knows.

The chief disadvantage of snuff seems to be that, arguably, it makes you look a bit of a twit.


The First World War K-class submarines were a delicious discovery, too. When travelling on the surface, they were required to have enough speed to keep up with the rest of the fleet, and the only way that could be achieved at the time was by fitting them with steam engines. Steam engines meant funnels, and funnels meant holes. When they were actually diving, they had an ingenious and effective system to seal the funnels and prevent flooding, but when they were manoeuvring on the surface in heavy seas, the water just sloshed in and put the boilers out. An ancillary problem, which we didn’t really cover on the show, was that they were 339ft long but could only dive to 200ft in depth - which meant that, if they were at a 30 degree angle, one end would be at maximum depth whilst the other end was still sticking out of the water. But, as one officer said at the time, the basic problem was simple: ‘Too many damn holes’.
 

First World War K-class submarines were a delicious discovery, too. They were fitted with steam engines. Steam engines meant funnels, and funnels meant holes.
 

As is so often the case, the piece of research which took the longest route to the most intriguing destination ended up not being used in the show at all. One of the topics involved an 18th-century courtesan named Kitty Fisher, who was, perhaps, the first ‘celebrity’ in the modern, Katie Price-ish sense of the word. Now, if there’s one fact about Kitty Fisher on which all the sources seem to agree, it’s that she is the original of the character in the nursery rhyme that goes Lucy Locket lost her pocket / Kitty Fisher found it / There was not a penny in it / But a ribbon 'round it. Supposedly, the rhyme recalls a feud she had with a prostitute named Lucy. But I looked quite hard at that assertion, and for my money there really isn’t any evidence for it at all, and as the name 'Lucy Lockit' (sic) comes from the Beggar’s Opera of 1728, 30 years before Kitty’s heyday, it seems highly unlikely to be true. If you’d like to debate the point with me, do write in – I’d be glad to learn more, and it’d be nice to know that somebody out there is listening.
 
Happy watching, and I’ll catch you on the other side.

Kaiten Submarine Launch