Thursday 30 September 2010

Britain's old men say "Happy Birthday" to Rula Lenska and Angie Dickinson

Of these 2 beautiful thespians, Rula Lenska is 63 today and on the other side of 'The Pond', Angie Dickinson is 79.

Things you probably didn't know about Rula, that she :

* was born as 'Roza-Marie Leopoldyna Lubienska' in St Neots, whose father, Major Count Ludwik Maria Lubienski, had led 'Radio Free Europe' in Poland and was the chief of the Polish military mission in Gibraltar during World War II. Her mother was the former Countess Elzbieta Tyszkiewicz.

* had a big break as 'Little Ladies' band member on tv and then 'Q,' in 'Rock Follies' in 1976

* renounced her title as a Polish countess saying : "In England it doesn't count, if you'll excuse the pun."

* in the late 70's and early 80's, became famous in the USA and Canada for her 'Alberto VO5' hair products commercials which began with a closeup of her stating, "I'm Rula Lenska." People assumed this was a product endorsement by a celebrity whose name they were expected them to know, it was a marketing ploy which worked and so she became famous for pretending to be famous.

* is a blood donor and an ardent conservationist who has travelled widely raising awareness about the world's dwindling wildlife.

Rula with elephants:

Rula with Terry in 'Minder' :

Things you probably didn't know about Angie Dickinson, that she :

* has appeared in more than 50 films, including 'Rio Bravo', 'Ocean's 11', 'Dressed to Kill' and 'Pay It Forward' and starred on tv as 'Sergeant Suzanne Pepper Anderson' in the 1970's crime series 'Police Woman'.

* was born in Kulm, North Dakota, the daughter of Frederica and Leo H. Brown in a family of German descent and was raised as a Roman Catholic.

* graduated from 'Immaculate Heart College' with a degree in business.

* took a cue from her publisher father and intended to be a writer.

* after her first marriage to Gene Dickinson, decided to pursue a career in acting and a few years later was approached by NBC to guest-star on a number of variety shows.

* met Frank Sinatra who became a lifelong friend and she would later play his wife in 'Ocean's Eleven'.

Here she is with Michael Caine in 'Dressed to Kill' in 1980 :

and with Lee Marvin, in, I think, 'Point Blank' from 1967 :

If you want to know more about Angie, check her out on Wikepedia :

P.S. Polish and German blood. Is beauty in the genes ?

Britain's old men remember and laugh with the late Jonathan Routh

I found another delightful Jonathan Routh 'Candid Camera' episode called : 'The Interpreter', which I want to share because it makes me laugh :

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Britain is a country where some old men became the men they are in the 1970's

A 36 year old historian called Dominic Sandbrook has given me some insight into my past, by pointing out that it was the 1970's, when I was in my 20's and not the 1960's when I was in my teens, which were the most important years in my life.

He had an article in the 'Daily Mail' in which he made the following points :

* we love to recall the pleasures of the 'Swinging Sixties' and in the public memory, they are indelibly stamped as the decade of the 'sexual revolution', a watershed era of freedom, which changed society for ever.

* this stereotype of the 'permissive, self-indulgent Sixties' is misleading and in reality, it was a time when the great majority of the British population remained conservative in attitude and behaviour and most teenage boys not only expected their bride to be a virgin, but also agreed that a boy should marry a girl if he got her pregnant.

* step over into the 70's and the brakes come off and the key was 'the pill' which, when it first went on trial in 1960, had little impact. Then, in 1970 under pressure from the Government, the 'Family Planning Association' told its clinics to make it available to 'single', as well as 'married' women and within 3 years, 65% of young women had taken it.

* Here, in the 'Swinging Seventies', was the real revolution. For the first time, the mass of women had a reliable contraceptive and complete control over their fertility. Before that, 'having sex' had immense emotional, economic and symbolic weight attached to it because it was tantamount to choosing them as a life partner.

P.S. 'The Joy of Sex' a manual by Alex Comfort, published in 1972, seems to confirm Dominic's hypothesis.

Monday 27 September 2010

Britain is a country where today's old men in their 60's were 'feminised' in the 1970's

Like my fellow male, Post-War Second World War 'baby boomers', I spent the 1970's in my 20's and, according to historian Dominic Sandbrook in a 'Daily Mail' article, became 'feminised' in that decade.

He made the following points :

* the role of women changed in an era epitomised by Germaine Greer's 'The Female Eunuch' in 1970 and by counter-cultural women's magazine 'Spare Rib' in 1973.

* this social upheaval had enormous implications for men who were suddenly being challenged - everywhere.

* affluence was eroding the old bastions of segregation and the young couples of a new generation spent far more time together with men now devoting weekends to their immediate family, gardening, doing DIY around the house and going on outings and shopping trips.

* the kitchen was no longer a mystery to men thanks to Len Deighton's pioneering graphic cookbooks, in they mastered the culinary arts to produce continental casseroles.

* there were massive changes in men's fashion, with enormous collars, garish shirts, patterned ties and painstakingly curled hairstyles now the order of the day - all of which had, until very recently, been signs of decadence and degeneracy.

* aftershave commercials invited men to douse themselves with pungent aromas, from 'Old Spice' which was 'the mark of a man', according to its ads and to 'Brut', endorsed by the boxer Henry Cooper.

* adventurer 'Jason King', portrayed on tv by Peter Wyngarde from 1969 to 1972, came to symbolise the apparent changes in masculinity in the early 70's. He wore silk dressing gowns, suede jackets, snakeskin shoes and a selection of kaftans and kimonos and had his hair in a bouffant and an outrageous 'Zapata' moustache.

* Ziggy Stardust, created by David Bowie, was the talk of the rock world and nobody seemed to mind the overtly homosexual overtones.

Britain is a country where old boys should be treated differently from old girls

There was an article in 'The Sunday Times' newspaper last weekend, entitled : Its different for boys and involved an interview with the Head of Eton Boys' School.
'Boys are being let down by the state 'education' system that treats them the same as girls'.

In the points below I have lifted bits from the article and substitute 'boys' with 'old boys' and 'girls' with 'old girls' and I think it makes a lot of sense.

So it becomes : 'Old boys are being let down by the state 'welfare' system that treats them the same as old girls'.

* 'old' boys are hardwired differently from 'old' girls.

* 'old' boys are competitive, can't multitask, need to be physically active and are more emotional than 'old' girls.

* advice to anyone one with an 'old' boy - only nag them about one thing at a time.

* the 'old' boys brain can only cope with one thing at a time. It either switches of or explodes.

What do you think ?

Sunday 26 September 2010

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to Bryan Ferry

Bryan Ferry, 'The King of Cool' is 65 today.

What you possibly did know about Bryan, that he :

* is an English singer, musician, songwriter and occasional actor.
* was known for his suave manner, glamorous image, seductive music and wistful vocal style.
* came to fame in the early 1970's as lead vocalist and principal songwriter.
for 'Roxy Music'.

What you probably didn't know about Bryan, that he :

* was born into a working-class family where is father was a farmer who also looked after pit ponies.
* attended 'Washington Grammar-Technical School' and then studied 'Fine Art' at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
* became a 'pottery' teacher at Holland Park School in London.
* formed 'Roxy Music' with a group of friends and acquaintances in 1970.
* has collaborated with fashion designer Antony Price for clothing and image consultations.

These Foolish Things 1973 :

Smoke Gets in your Eyes 1974 :

Love is the Drug 1975 :

Dance Way 1979 :

Jealous Guy 1981 :

More Than This 1982 :

Avalon 1982 :

Britain says "hats off to Bryan" whose recording achievement is awesome :

A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall 1973
All Along The Watchtower 2007
All I Really Wanna Do 2007
All I Want Is You 1988
All Night Operator 2000
All Tomorrow's Parties 1993
Amazing Grace 1993
Angel Eyes 1979
Another Time, Another Place 2000
Answer Me 1993
As Time Goes By 1999
Avalon 1982

Baby I Don't Care 2000
Baby, Let Me Follow You Down 2007
Because You're Mine 1993
Bete Noir 1986
Both Ends Burning 2004
Boys And Girls 2000

Can't Let Go 2000
Carrickfergus 2000
Casanova 2000
Chain Reaction 2000
Chance Meeting 2000
Chosen One 2000
Crazy Love 2000
Cruel 2002

Dance Away 1979
Day and Night 1986
Do The Strand 1986
Don't Ever Change 2000
Don't Stop The Dance 1985
Don't Think Twice, It's All Right 2002
Don't Want To Know 2000
Don't Worry Baby 2000

Easy Living . 1999
Falling In Love Again . 1999
Fingerpoppin' 2000
Fool For Love 2002
Funny How Time Slips Away 2000
Gates Of Eden 2007
Gemini Moon 2000
Girl Of My Best Friend 1993
Goddess Of Love 2002
Goin' Down 2002
Goodnight Irene 2002

Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall 1989
He'll Have To Go 1988
Heart On My Sleeve 2000
Help Me 1988
Help Me Make It Through The Night 2000
Hiroshima... 2002
Hold On (I'm Coming) 2000

I Love How You Love Me 2000
I Put A Spell On You 1993
I Thought 2002
I'll Forget More Than You'll Ever Know 2002
I'm In The Mood For Love 1999
If Not For You 2007
In Crowd 2004
In The Midnight Hour 1986
In Your Mind 2000
Is Your Love Strong Enough? 1985
It Ain't Me Babe 2000
It's All Over Now, Baby Blue 2002
It's My Party 2000
It's Only Love 2000

Ja Nun Hons Pris 2002
Jealous Guy 1981
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues 2007
Just Like You 2000
Just One Look 1993
Just One Of Those Things 1999

Kiss And Tell 1986
Knockin' On Heaven's Door 2007

Let's Stick Together 1979
Limbo 1986
Love Is The Drug 1975
Love Me Madly Again 2000
Love Me Or Leave Me 1999
Lover, Come Back To Me 1999
Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever 2000

Make You Feel My Love 2007
Miss Otis Regrets 1999
More Than This 1982
Mother Of Pearl 2002
My Only Love 2000
N.Y.C. 2000
Name of the Game 1986
New Town 1986
Nobody Loves Me 2002

Oh Yeah 1980
One Kiss 2000
One Way Love 2002
Only Face 2000
Over You 1986

Parallels 2007
Party Doll 2000
Piece Of My Heart 2000
Positively 4th Street 2007
Price of Love 1988
Pyjamarama 1986

Rescue Me 1993
Right Stuff 1986
River Of Salt 2000
Rock Of Ages 2000

Same Old Blues 2000
Same Old Scene 1980
San Simeon 2002
Sea Breezes 2000
Sensation 2000
September Song 1999
Seven Deadly Sins 1986
Shame, Shame, Shame 2000
Sign Of The Times 1986
Simple Twist Of Fate 2007
Slave To Love 1985
Smoke Dreams 2002
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes 1974
Sonnet 18 2000
Stone Woman 2000
Street Life 1973
Sweet And Lovely 1999
Sympathy For The Devil 2000

Take A Chance With Me 2004
Take Me To The River 2000
Taxi 1993
That's How Strong My Love Is 2000
The Right Stuff 2004
The Times They Are A-Changin' 2007
These Foolish Things 1973
This Is Tomorrow 1988
This Island Earth 2000
This Love 2000
Time On My Hands 1999
Times They Are A-Changin' 2007
Times They Are A-Changin' [DVD] 2007
To Turn You On 2000
Tokyo Joe . 1988
Touring 2007
Track of My Tears 2000
Trash 2004

Valentine 2000
Virginia Plain 1972

Walk A Mile In My Shoes 2000
Wasted Land 2000
Way You Look Tonight 1999
What Goes On 2000
When She Walks In The Room 2000
When Somebody Thinks You're Wonderful 1999
Where Or When 1999
Which Way To Turn 2000
Wildcat Days 2000
Will You Love Me Tomorrow 1993
Windswept 2000

You Are My Sunshine 2000
You Do Something To Me 1999
You Go To My Head 2000
You Won't See Me 2000
Your Painted Smile 1988

Zamba 1986

Saturday 25 September 2010

Britain was once a country for Jonathan Routh and 'Candid Camera'

My posting about Pete Murray and his role in the radio version of 'Candid Camera' took me back to the 1960's, the TV version and a very strange and funny man called Jonathan Routh. Almost 50 years later, I can see that many 'modern' British comics have their antecedents in him.

What I didn't know about Jonathan, that he :

* died in 2008 at the age of 81.

* was christened Jonathan Reginald Surdeval Routh.

* worked on 'Candid Camera' from 1960 to '67.

* published a number of humorous books, and also painted for many years and his paintings of nuns and Queen Victoria were turned into a number of books.

* was the son of a British Army colonel and spent much of his early childhood in Palestine.

* was educated at Uppingham School, and Emmanuel College, Cambridge where he read history.

* created an unusual set of small guidebooks:

- 'The Good Loo Guide' and 'The Good Cuppa Guide' about London.
- 'The Guide Porcelain to the Loos of Paris.'
- 'The Better John Guide' about New York.

His humour owed much to his 'apparent' seriousness and his affectionate parody of the connoisseurship of 'The Good Food Guide.'

I don't know the books, however I do remember episodes from 'Candid Camera' and in the reactions to him among the unsuspecting members of the public, I see those traits which made and still make for most of the population Britain today :

* composure in the face of the unusual
* tolerance of the unusual
* willingness to go along with and comply with the unusual
* help the unusual

I think his talents and these traits can been seen in these clips :

Telephone box assistant :

Change of name :

Gangle pin :

Supermarket swap :

Here he is on the radio on 'Candid Mike' which predated 'Candid Camera' :
In the tailor's shop and the taxi driver and the recipe :

All these years later the clips still make me laugh.

His obituary in the 'Independent' :

Friday 24 September 2010

Britain is more and more a country for 'Victor Meldrows'

Victor Meldrew was a fictional character in the popular BBC One sitcom 'One Foot in the Grave' which ran from 1990 to 2000. He was created by David Renwick and played by Richard Wilson, the archetypal grumpy old man.

In the series Victor :

* had been forced to take involuntary early retirement,

* tried to keep himself busy, whilst encountering various misfortunes and misunderstandings.

* lived with his wife in a suburb of London based on Luton.

* became, for many who watched the series, a mouthpiece for the very things that always got on their nerves like : children, cars, animals, power cuts and the neighbour next door.

* developed the catch phrase, "I don't believe it!" as an expression of discontent which was used since he would often stop short at "I don't...." because David Renwick wanted to avoid the phrase becoming overused.

* was 'ironically' given the name 'Victor', since he almost always ends up as the loser.

In Britain the term 'Victor Meldrew' became shorthand for a constantly bitter and complaining elderly man. However, Richard himself once said in an interview that he was a "normal man in a world full of idiots". Many people found themselves sympathising with him, rather than laughing at him as he became embroiled in complex misunderstandings, bureaucratic vanity and, at times, sheer bad luck.

In the final episode, 'Things Aren't Simple Any More',Victor was killed after being hit by a car and, despite the incident being fictional, passers-by left bouquets of flowers at the railway bridge in Shawford, a small village in Hampshire, the location where it had been filmed.

Here's a short clip of Victor 'calling' for his.....

This 10 minute clip made for 'Comic Relief' in 1993 gives a flavour of Victor :

Thursday 23 September 2010

Britain is no longer a country for composer Geoffrey Burgon

The composer Geoffrey Burgon, remembered for some of the most memorable music for television drama has died aged 69 and Britain has lost a beautiful, shining light .

He composed the music for :

* BBC's television dramatisation of John le Carré's 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' in 1979 :

* The 'Life of Brian' in 1979 :

* 'Brideshead Revisited' in 1981 :

* 'The Chronicles of Narnia' in 1988 and later claimed one of the highlights of his career was when he was standing in the checkout line in Tesco, "and a little girl about 10 years old started singing the theme from Narnia and I thought, 'Wow, that is really nice.' :

* The Forsyte Saga (2002) :

Sunday 19 September 2010

Battle of Britain pilots, the last of 'The Few', what do you think of the Britain you fought for now ?

Surviving 'Battle of Britain' pilots gathered with 'The Forces Sweetheart', Dame Vera Lynn.

Prince William laughing with Wing Commander Bob Foster and Prime Minister David Cameron at a 'Battle of Britain Commemoration Service' at Westminster Abbey last weekend.
Addressing the congregation, the Air force Chaplain in Chief said:

"Seventy years ago a generation of young men, supported by many, took to the skies and their bravery and sacrifice won our freedom. Today, we salute the few and give thanks for their bravery, sacrifice and our freedom."

What kind of country is Britain 70 years on from 'The Battle of Britain' ?
What do the surviving old, brave men make of the country they fought for and their fellow airmen died for, think of Britain today ?

Some facts about their country :

* After polling more than 3,500 people, the 'Joseph Rowntree Foundation' concluded that Britain's 10 evils were :

- the decline of community
- individualism
- consumerism and greed
- a decline of values
- the decline of the family
- young people as both victims and perpetrators
- drugs and alcohol
- poverty and inequality
- immigration and responses to it
- and crime and violence

Those questioned blamed big business, religion and the media.
'People are concerned about the way our society has become more individualistic, greedy and selfish, seemingly at a cost to our sense of community. The focus on greed as an issue reflects concern about the growing gulf between the rich and poor. Connected to all of these issues was the perception that we no longer share a set of common values and that we have lost our 'moral compass.' '

Seventy years on, the heroes who repelled Hitler’s Luftwaffe during the 'Battle of Britain', arguably the most important ever fought by the nation, are a dwindling band. It is thought that only 79 are still alive.
At the start of the Battle Prime Minister Churchill said :

Many were in their late teens or early 20's when they took to the skies in Spitfires and Hurricanes from July to October 1940. Others flew in Blenheims, Beaufighters and Defiants. Some became the ‘aces’ of the Battle, shooting down plane after plane.

During the Battle, Sir Winston Churchill said: "The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World war by their prowess and by their devotion.
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed, by so many, to so few."

When it was over, 544 RAF pilots and aircrew were dead.

Those still alive :

* Flight Lieutenant Robin Appleford. Age 89.
Joined 66 Squadron aged 18.
Vividly remembers cheating death after his Spitfire was attacked over Kent.
1 below.

* Flight Lieutenant Owen Burns. Age 95.
A gunner in a Blenheim in 235 Squadron, Coastal Command.
2 below.

* Flight Lieutenant Terry Clark. Age 91.
An air-gunner with 76 Squadron,
3 below.

* Air Commodore John Ellacomb . Age 90.
Single-handed took on 12 German planes over the South East coast.
4 below.

* Hubert Flower. Age 88.
At 18, was the youngest 'airman' to fly in the Battle of Britain.
5 below.

* Wing Commander Robert Foster. Age 90.
A Hurricane pilot in 605 Squadron.
6 below.

* Flight Lieutenant Trevor Gray. Age 95.
Became friends with a German pilot whose Messerschmitt 110 he shot down in a dogfight with his Spitfire.
7 below.

* Flight Lieutenant Bill Green. Age 92.
Found himself outnumbered 16 to one while circling over Kent with 501 Squadron.
8 below.

* Sqn Leader Tony Iveson. Age 90.
Flew Spitfires with 616 Squadron.
9 below.

* Wing Commander Terence Kane. Age 91.
A member of 234 Squadron, he recalls abandoning his Spitfire over the Channel after a dogfight in which he, aged 19, shot down a German plane.
10 below.

* Wing Cmdr Tom ‘Ginger’ Neil. Age 90.
One of the pilots the War Ministry used in propaganda because of his height and good looks.
11 below.

* Squadron Leader Tony Pickering. Age 90.
Shot down by a German fighter plane, he recalls being forced to bale out of his blazing Hurricane at 3,000ft.
12 below.

* Squadron Leader Nigel Rose. Age 90.
Joined 602 Squadron in June 1940, aged 20.
13 below.

* Squadron Leader Michael Wainwright. Age 90.
Destroyed a Messerschmitt fighter off the South Coast in July 1940.
14 below.

* Flight Lieutenant William Walker. Age 97.
Went into action in June 1940 with 616 Squadron after just five hours’ training.
15 below.

* Sqn Ldr Geoffrey Wellum . Age 89.
The youngest Battle of Britain fighter pilot, he flew Spitfires with 92 Squadron aged 18 and was officially credited with three enemy aircraft destroyed, four probables and several damaged.
16 below.

* Flying Officer Ken Wilkinson. Age 92.
Flew Spitfires with 616 Squadron under the command of legendary RAF ace Sir Douglas Bader.
17 below.

The finale from the film 'The Battle of Britain' : September 15th 1940 :

1. "Some Messerschmitt came out of the sun above us. I was the 'tail-end Charlie' at the back of our patrol and the first thing I knew was that the starboard wing had disappeared. I opened the canopy and was blown out and landed in a field near Maldon in Essex. My shoes were a mess, which made me annoyed because I had bought them only the day before."

2 Distinctly recalls the silk underwear he wore to protect him from the bitter cold and feeling vul?nerable. "You’re on your own, completely. All you’re concentrating on is getting back to Earth again and when you got out of the aircraft and saw the holes, sometimes you’d been riddled with bullets. We were all very young, it was a totally different world we were living in."

3. Has an abiding memory is of bitter nights spent on cold floors waiting for the order to 'scramble'. "All we had was a small blanket to keep us warm, but they used to keep us going with 6in-thick sandwiches as we whiled away the time playing cards."

4. Brought his Hurricane down in a field after a bullet hit his engine. "As I pulled myself out of the plane I saw a man running towards me, waving a pitchfork and shouting, “I am going to kill you, you bloody German!” He was chasing me around the plane. Fortunately four British soldiers arrived and disarmed him."

5. An air-gunner and wireless operator with 248 Squadron, he flew Bristol Blenheims.

6. "Sitting around waiting was always the worst part of the thing. Waiting for the bell to ring to tell you to take off."

7. "I took the German pilot out to dinner with his wife and my late wife, Dorothy. We swapped Christmas cards every year until he died three years ago."

8. "Suddenly there was a crash of glass, a big hole in the windscreen. I started getting covered in engine-coolant liquid and I realised my aircraft was crippled". He baled out, but initially his parachute failed. He recalls: "Quite magically, there was a jolt. The wind must have got under the folds of the parachute. I couldn’t believe that I was alive."

9. "As far as we were concerned, we saved the world," he says. Facing enemy fire he plunged 18,000ft and ditched his plane into the sea near the Suffolk coast.

10. "My engine stopped and I deci?ded the only thing was to bale out." He couldn’t release his oxygen mask and had to climb back into the aircraft to free himself. "I reached for the parachute ripcord and couldn’t find it. Panic set in. I was falling through cloud . . . if I’d been three seconds later pulling the ripcord, I wouldn’t be here. The Germans fished me out and I spent the rest of the war as a Prisoner of War.’

11. A 'Hurricane Ace', he flew 141 combat missions, (few pilots reached 50), shot down 13 enemy aircraft and was still only 19 when the Battle of Britain ended. " I should have been killed a dozen times."

12. "We were very young. I don’t think we realised fully what we were doing. We were enthusiastic and we were driven on by Winston Churchill."

13. "We were very new and raw. On my third day with the squadron I had my first engagement, when Germans were spotted coming in. I’d never seen a German aircraft before, not one, and here were 100 or so. I got my baptism of fire then, I really did."

14. Two months pre?viously, the 20-year-old member of 64 Squadron had claimed another 109, this time over Dunkirk during the Battle of France. In his wartime logbook he wrote: ‘I never made serious friendships with other pilots. I didn’t want to be friends with somebody who got killed."

15. Two months later his Spitfire was shot down over Dover by one of Germany’s most famous air aces, Werner Mölders. "In the sea I tried to sit on some floating wreckage but kept slipping into the water. A fishing boat picked me up." By the time they reached Ramsgate, he was suffering from hypothermia. "I was carried up the steps of the harbour and a crowd all cheered and a dear old woman handed me a pack of cigarettes."

16. "The Battle of Britain made me want to put a value on life. I decided that if I survived, I wanted to be allowed to relish it. Now I have a life of deep tranquillity."

17. "We were cocky. Stupidly cocky, if you like. We just didn’t envisage defeat. Some people may have been killed, but we knew we were going to win."

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to Pete Murray

Pete Murray the erstwhile disc jockey is 85 today. He is bottom left im this photo alongside other old d.j's. I shall always associate him with the 1960's and have discovered that he :

* was born in London where he attended the famous independent school,St Pauls.

* joined Radio Luxembourg in 1949 or 1950, remained there until 1956 and was one of the first people in the world to use the 'F' word 'on air', after a technician put the wrong record on the turntable.

* back in London, presented popular music on the BBC 'Light Programme' and hosted one of BBC Television's earliest pop music programmes, the skiffle-based 'Six-Five Special' in the late 50's.

* was a regular panellist on 'Juke Box Jury' in the 1960's.

* was among the first regular presenters of 'Top of the Pops' when it began in 1964.

* was one of the original BBC 'Radio 1' d.j.'s when that station started in 1967.

* was also an actor who attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and is a RADA Gold Medallist. On the London stage he starred in the musical 'Scapa!' in 1962.

* once broke down on live television after his son committed suicide at age 27 and afterwards he gave talks on coping with family tragedy.

* courted controversy in 1983 when he appeared as a guest newspaper reviewer on the BBC TV's 'Breakfast Time' and encouraged viewers to "Vote Conservative" at the upcoming election claiming that "a vote for Labour would be a vote for communism, and may God have mercy on your soul". At the end of that year the BBC controversially cancelled his radio shows, describing his style of broadcasting as 'too old-fashioned'.

Here he is in a comedy sketch from the 'Morecombe and Wise' show in the 1960's :

I stumbled across this gem of a programme called 'Candid Mike' with Jonathan Routh setting innocent people up in 1957. Over 50 years later, I think it is still very funny.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Britain is no longer a country for an old hippy called Sid Rawle

Sid Rawle 'King of the Hippies', who fought for love, peace and land is dead and his death took me back to the 'Love and Peace' of the late 1960's.

I remembered his name, but didn't know that he was :

* a big, burly, charismatic man with a mane of ginger hair and big voice who often dressed in long robes and played a prominent role in the squatting and commune movement of the 1960s.

* involved in the 'free festivals' at Windsor and Stonehenge in the 70's and the birth of the 'Peace Convoy' and 'New Age Travellers Movement'.

* born in Somerset to a farmer and his Romany wife and, as a boy, roamed the hills, checked the sheep, observed the deer herds and absorbed the countryside.

* at school, a slow dyslexic learner who, at the age of 15, was able to read but not to write.

* someone who, moved to London in the mid 60's and set up the 'ultra-hippy cult' called 'The Hyde Park Diggers', led their 200 members and played a prominent role in the 'Squatting Movement' and a 6 day occupation of a 100-room mansion in Piccadilly.

* offered the 'custodianship' of an island off the coast of County Mayo, owned by John Lennon and in 1971 led 30 people to start a new life there and survived there for almost two years.

In his own words :

* someone who :

- with the 'Diggers' gave away free food at the 1971 'Glastonbury Fayre' and became a key figure in the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge.

- created the 'Peace Convoy' which, in 1981, travelled from Stonehenge to Greenham Common in Berkshire to support the 'Women's Peace Camp'.

- set up the first 'Green Gathering' at Glastonbury, which attracted more than 5,000 people.

- set up the 'Rainbow Village' at a disused US airbase in Cambridgeshire which was a proposed cruise missile site.

- led a convoy which prompted the 'Battle of the Beanfield' in 1985, when around 1,300 policemen ambushed it in Wiltshire and more than 500 people were arrested.

* retired to the Forest of Dean and continued to work through smaller camps and festivals.

* wrote in his manifesto 'The Vision of Albion' in which he said :

'In the end it all gets back to land. Looking back, I see a link that runs through my life concerns the right to land and property on it.'

* believed that the land in Britain should be shared equitably, so that all could own a couple of acres in order to be able to sustain themselves.

* lived communally for more than 30 years and is known to have fathered seven children by various mothers.

The Beatles and 'All You Need is Love' in 1967 :

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Britain is no longer a country for a great old Judge called Lord Bingham

Lord Bingham who, as 'Lord Chief Justice', ran the criminal courts as Britain's highest-ranking judge has died at the age of 76 and Britain is no longer a country for a truly great old man who was to the fore in promoting a strong, independent judiciary.

At a time of growing executive power and a diminishing influence for Parliament and in particular, following the terror attacks of 9/11 in New York and 7 and 21 July 2005 in London, the Labour Government adopted an increasingly authoritarian approach. This included the power to detain foreign nationals 'indefinitely without charge' and the right to use evidence that 'may have been obtained by torture'. The Government also argued for a strong role for the executive, with which the judiciary should not interfere.

"He will be remembered as an exceptional man with a brilliant mind," said Professor McCorquodale, Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.

Shami Chakrabarti, Director of 'Liberty' described him as her hero, praising "his unrivalled combination of intellect, integrity and humility" and calling him "perhaps the greatest world jurist of our times".

"As long as people anywhere fight torture and slavery, treasure free speech, fair trials, personal privacy and liberty itself, Lord Bingham will be remembered."
As Senior Law Lord he ruled that detention of foreign terror suspects without charge breached their human rights and after his retirement in 2008 he argued that Britain's invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke international law.

In 2004 he wrote :
'The function of independent judges charged to interpret and apply the law is universally recognised as a cardinal feature of the modern democratic state, a cornerstone of the rule of law itself'.

Last year he said at the 'Convention on Modern Liberty':
"The possession of great powers by the state is not a reason for using them, rather it should prompt a principled determination to ensure that the permissible exercise of such powers is strictly defined, regulated and monitored so as to guarantee that any intrusion into liberty and privacy of the individual is fully justified by an obviously superior community interest."

Here his comments on the legality of the war in Iraq give a flavour of the man :

Britain is no country for poor old men

Britain's 'poor' old men beware - these rich young men, your Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. They love you not.

The Trades Union Congress has spoken out against the Coalition Government's spending cuts with a new study called 'Where The Money Goes'. It states that the UK's poorest 10% will be hit 13 times harder by spending cuts than the richest 10% and will suffer reductions in services equivalent to 20% of their household income, while the richest will lose the equivalent of just 1.5%.

Take the case of the pensioner couple, Eric and Judith who are are 76 and 70, they :

* rent their house in the West Midlands from a housing association.

* get 'pension credit' to help them get by and have no other sources of income.

* are, because of their low household income and reliance on social care and housing provision, especially vulnerable to the cuts, even if they get more credit.

* are to lose the equivalent to 16.2% of their household income, or £1,701 per year by 2012. If they had to make up this spending on care services themselves, it would reduce their household income by over 4%.

Sunday 12 September 2010

Britain is a country of old men who remember 'Only Fools and Horses with affection

'Only Fools and Horses' was a British television sitcom, created and written by John Sullivan and the title comes from the experssion 'only fools and horses work'. Seven series were originally broadcast on the BBC between 1981 and 1991, between my ages of 34 and 44.
It was set in Peckham in South London not far from where I grew up as a boy and starred David Jason as ambitious market trader Derek or 'Del Boy' Trotter. The series chronicled their highs and lows in life and, in particular, their attempts to get rich.

It still holds the record for the highest UK audience for a sitcom episode when it atrtacted 24.3 million viewers.

It also had an impact on British culture, contributing several words and phrases to the English language and helping to popularise the 'Reliant Regal' van.
My local supermarket had a classic ar show at the weekend and the little van was on show.

These 3 scenes give a flavour of the comedy :

In the bar :

The lyrics :

Stick a pony* in my pocket,
Fetch the suitcase from the van.
Cos if you want the best-uns,
But you don't ask questions;
Then brother, I'm your man!

Cos where it all comes from is a mystery,
It's like the changing of the seasons,
Or the tides of the sea.
But here's the one that's driving me beserk,
Why do only fools and horses work?

We got some half price cracked ice
And miles and miles of carpet tiles,
TVs, deep-freeze and David Bowie LPs.
Ball games, gold chains, whatsernames.
And then I'll push
Trevor Francis tracksuits
From a mush in Shepherd's Bush.
Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush Bush

No income tax,
No money back,
No guarantee.
Black or white,
Rich or poor,
We'll cut prices and a straw!

God bless Hooky Street!
Viva! Hooky Street!
Long live Hooky Street!
C'est magnifique! Hooky Street!
Magnifique, Hooky Street!
Hooky Street.
Hooky Street.
Hooky Street.

* cockney slang for £25 ( origin unknown )

Britain is a country where old men, with fond memories, said "Happy Birthday" to Judy Geeson this weekend and also remember Sidney Poitier

Judy Geeson was 62 this weekend. I recognised her name, but I couldn't place her and then it came back to me. She played the incredibly pretty pupil, Pamela Dare, in 1967, in the London school where Sydney Poitier was the new teacher. She had a 'crush' on him and the film was 'To Sir With Love'.

The 83 year old Sir Sydney Poitier has, since 1997, been the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan. In 2009, he was awarded the 'Presidential Medal of Freedom', America's highest civilian honor, by President Obama.

Back to Judy, here she is with Rod Steiger in 'Three Into Two Won't Go'in 1969 :

and with Roy Dotrice in 'One of Those Things' in 1971 :

Saturday 11 September 2010

Britain's old men recognize that Frank Sinatra had been there before them

When I was seventeen,
It was a very good year.
It was a very good year,
for small town girls,
And soft summer nights.
We'd hide from the lights,
On the village green.
When I was seventeen.

When I was twenty-one.
It was a very good year.
It was a very good year for city girls,
Who lived up the stair.
With all that perfumed hair,
And it came undone.
When I was twenty-one.

When I was thirty-five.
It was a very good year.
It was a very good year for blue-blooded girls,
Of independent means.
We'd ride in limousines.
Their chauffeurs would drive,
When I was thirty-five.

But now the days grow short.
I'm in the autumn of the year.
And now I think of my life as vintage wine,
From fine old dregs,
From the brim to the dregs.
And it poured sweet and clear,
It was a very good year.

It was a mess of good years.

This wistful song was composed by Ervin Drake in 1961 for and originally recorded by Bob Shane of 'The Kingston Trio', but it was made famous by Frank Sinatra whose version won the Grammy Award for 'Best Male Vocal Performance' in 1966.

Some interesting things you probably didn't know about it, that :

* it was released by Lonnie Donegan in 1963.

* Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass included a melancholy instrumental version of the song on their 1966 album 'What Now My Love'.

* William Shatner, of 'Star Trek' did a spoken-word cover of this song interspersed with lines from Hamlet on his 1968 album 'The Transformed Man'.

* Boris Karloff performed a moving rendition of the song on The Jonathan Winters Show in 1968 at the age of 80.

* in 1970, Michael Jackson sang a parody of this song in a skit with Diana Ross during the 'Diana!' TV Special.

* In the 78th episode of The Muppet Show, Statler and Waldorf performed the song from their box.

* Robbie Williams recorded a version for his album 'Swing When You're Winning', in duet with Sinatra's original vocals.

* it was featured in the 1991 Spike Lee film 'Jungle Fever'.

*in a 1993 episode of 'The Simpsons', Homer sang a parody of this song entitled "I Drank Some Very Good Beer", recounting the first beer he ever purchased with a fake ID.

* The Reverend Horton Heat covered the song in 2000 and released it as a single to promote the album 'Spend a Night in the Box'.

* In 2003, Paul Young included a cover version on his album 'The Essential Paul Young'

* Ray Charles covered the song as a duet with Willie Nelson on his 2004 album 'Genius Loves Company'.

* It was used as the opening song in the second season premiere of 'The Sopranos'.

Friday 10 September 2010

Britain is no country for old men like Pastor Terry Jones, who want to burn books, not yet anyway...

The intention of Pastor Jones, leader of a tiny Protestant church in Gainesville, Florida, to publicly burn copies of Islam's Holy Book,'The Koran' has made world headlines.
He has faced calls from the U.S. Government, military and religious leaders and from abroad and he remains defiant and said : "We are not convinced that backing down is the right thing. A burning of the Koran is to call attention that something is wrong. We need to stand up and confront terrorism."

An article in the Guardian newspaper entitled :
Book-burning: fanning the flames of hatred Pastor Terry Jones's plan to burn 200 copies of the Qur'an in Florida was widely condemned. But the unique symbolism of book-burning has a long and sinister history.
made the following points :

* on the night of 10 May 1933, 40,000 people gathered in the 'Opernplatz' in Berlin and amid joyous singing, band-playing and chanting of oaths and incantations, watched soldiers, police from the SS, members of the paramilitary SA and youths from the 'German Student Association' and 'Hitler Youth Movement' burn 25,000 books decreed to be 'un-German'.

* Propaganda Minister Goebbels said : "You do well, in this midnight hour, to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past, from this wreckage the phoenix of a new spirit will triumphantly rise."

* books burnt : Brecht, Einstein, Engels, Freud, Gide, Hemingway, Kafka, Lenin, London, Mann, Marcuse, Marx, Trotsky, Wells, Zola and Zweig. I can understand the choice of Jewish writers, but why Wells, Hemmingway and London ?

* the German poet, Heinrich Heine had his books burned and wrote a play in 1821 in which he said :
'Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen'.
'Where they burn books, they will, in the end, also burn people'.

* the English poet, philosopher and political theorist John Milton, whose books were publicly burned in England and France, wrote in 1644 :
'Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are. Anyone who kills a man, kills a reasonable creature, God's image, but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself.'
* in Ray Bradbury's book 'Fahrenheit 451', book-burning had become institutionalised in a anti-intellectual USA.

* in George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', unapproved books and tracts were consumed by flames in a 'memory hole'.

* in China in 213BC the Emperor Qin Shi Huang's ordered that all books of philosophy and history from anywhere other than Qin province be burned and a large number of uncooperative intellectuals be buried alive.

* Ancient Greeks and Romans burned Jewish and Christian scriptures.

* Popes from the 13th to the 17th centuries ordered the burning of the 'Talmud' and Tyndale's English New Testament in the 16th.

* the Spanish Inquisition burned 5,000 Arabic manuscripts in Granada in 1499 and Spanish conquistadors burned all the sacred texts of the Maya in South Americaq in 1562.

* communists burned 'decadent' western books in the Soviet Union in the 1920s.

* several American libraries burned the works of supposedly 'pro-Communist' authors during the McCarthy era.

* Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem burned copies of the New Testament in 1984.

* Salman Rushdie's 'The Satanic Verses' was burned in Bolton and Bradford in the U.K. in 1988.

* Harry Potter books have been burned in the USA and in Rome the 'Da Vinci Code' was consigned to the flames.

* in history, whole libraries have been razed to the ground : Alexandria in Egypt and Washington by the British, Louvain, by the Germans.

* Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate said :
"Book-burning, is first and foremost a monumental manifestation of intolerance. It's the conflation of what ought to be nuanced views into one, hate-filled act."

* Anyone who had tried to burn Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' in Germany in 1933, would have been arrested and shot.

P.S. I have seen the memorial which marks the spot of the book burning in Berlin. A thick sheet of glass in the pavement allows you to look down into a room with empty book shelves. I found it both moving and thought provoking.

From 'Fahrenheit 451' in 1966 :

Britain is a country where old men try to understand their past

I've been thinking about my youth, so overshadowed by the Second World War and made more poignant this week by the 70th anniversary of the start of the 'Battle of Britain'.

I thought about 'how ?' and 'why ?' such a cultured country like Germany could spawn the ideology of Nazism which led to the Declaration of War on Britain and the bombing of British cities in 1940.

I couldn't put my finger on it until I saw it in this scene from the film 'Cabaret' in 1972 :

It still sends a shiver though me and I am reminded of it when I hear about small town America where men want to burn books.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Britain, no country for today's old men, was once one for them, when they were boys

I was 13 years old in 1960. My 'formative' years were in that gentler world of the 1950's. Pictures turn back the keys of memory with more poignancy than words :