Friday 30 September 2011

Britain is a country where old men become young men in a mobile cinema with an old tv broadcaster called Melvyn Bragg

Melvyn Bragg, 72 years old next week, author and veteran broadcaster, is currently retelling the stories of life in Britain from 1900 to 1970 in a BBC tv series using archive film collections. From 'coal mining' to 'seaside holidays', Melvyn reflected on the hardships, pleasures and enormous social changes in British life.

He traveled across Britain meeting members of the public who appeared in the historic films featured and brought them face-to-face with themselves and their relatives with the help of a 1967 custom built vintage 'mobile cinema', a converted Bedford van with 30 seats inside, an aisle down the middle, designed to go round the country to show educational films to young working people to demonstrate : 'how the factories they were working in could be improved.'

Melvyn has said that :

* "At the turn of the last century one invention changed the way we recall our history forever – the motion camera. Thanks to Britain's pioneering film-makers, we can still glimpse a world long gone."

* "I read history at Oxford University, putting it rather crudely, I’d never come across anyone like me, i.e. from a working-class background. You only saw the people who made history: the aristocracy, the politicians, the war heroes, the generals. Most of the people like me had just been numbers. Whereas the aristocracy of this country had a history. They had a history in their portraits, and in their family genealogies and they had it in history books."

* "Now, partly because of oral histories and photographs, but I think more dramatically because of film, ordinary Britons see that they have a history too. Film has changed the way we look at the past."

* "One of the great things about making 'Reel History' was meeting British people from all over the class system. It made me realise that London is a different country. When you go out into the country people are a lot nicer, more careful and thoughtful. I sometimes think the only true record of England is the Cumberland News.”

'Meeting the Lambeth boys 52 years on' is an excellent example of Melvyn taking old London boys back to the time when they were cocky young men in 1959 when Karl Reisz filmed them.

Thursday 29 September 2011

Britain is a country where old men say "Goodbye" to David Croft whose gentle comedy made them laugh when they were young men

David Croft, best known as the co-creator with Jimmy Perry of the tv series 'Dad's Army' and also created 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum' and 'Hi-de-Hi!' with Jimmy Perry, has died at the age of 89.

What you possibly didn't know about David was that he :

* was born into a showbiz family where his mother, Annie, was a famous stage actress and father, Reginald , had a successful career as a radio actor in Hollywood.

* after leaving Rugby School, saw his film career begin and end with an uncredited appearance in the film 'Goodbye, Mr. Chips' in 1939.

* enlisted in the Royal Artillery in the Second World War in 1942, contracted rheumatic fever in North Africa, was sent home to convalesce, then underwent officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

* was posted to India as the War in Europe ended and when the War was over began working in the entertainment industry, as an actor, singer and writer, eventually settling as a TV producer creating his first sitcom, 'Under New Management', set in a derelict pub in the North of England.

* working at the BBC in the mid-1960s, was introduced to actor Jimmy Perry, who handed him an unsolicited script for a pilot called The 'Fighting Tigers' about the British Home Guard during the Second World War and the two of them went on to co-write nine series of what became 'Dad's Army', when I was between the ages of 21 and 30, from 1968 to 1977.

David recalling writing 'Dad's Army' :

* began to co-write 'Are You Being Served?' with Jeremy Lloyd and went on to ''Allo 'Allo!'.

* with Perry, created 'It Ain't Half Hot Mum' :

'Hi-de-Hi!' :

* had his last full series 'Oh, Doctor Beeching!' broadcast from 1995 to 1997, was co-written with Richard Spendlove.

* married theatrical agent Ann Callender in 1952 and they had seven children

Clips from the Guardian :


Tuesday 27 September 2011

Britain said "Happy Birthday" to an old and sometimes controversial crooner called Bryan Ferry

Bryan Ferry, 'The King of Cool' was 66 yesterday.

What you probably did know about Bryan, that he :

* as a musician, is known for his suave manner, glamorous image, seductive music and wistful vocal style, famous 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 in Washington, County Durham, where is father was a farmer who also looked after coal pit ponies.

* studied 'Fine Art' at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and then became a 'pottery' teacher at Holland Park School in London.

* formed 'Roxy Music' with friends and acquaintances in 1970 and collaborated with fashion designer Antony Price for clothing and image consultation.

Aspects of Bryan's life where he has courted controversy when he :

* in 2007, Ferry praised the imagery and iconography of the Nazi regime in an interview with the German newspaper, 'Welt Am Sonntag' and stated :
"the way that the Nazis staged themselves and presented themselves, my Lord!...I'm talking about the films of Leni Riefenstahl...and the buildings of Albert Speer and the mass marches and the flags—just fantastic. Really beautiful."

* made a public apology, stating : "I apologize unreservedly for any offence caused by my comments on Nazi iconography, which were solely made from an art history perspective. I, like every right-minded individual, find the Nazi regime, and all it stood for, evil and abhorrent."

* found that the British retailer Marks and Spencer, where he was to model their 'Autograph' menswear line, severed their ties with him.

* gives support to the 'Countryside Alliance' long defended hunting, especially fox hunting, and opposed the ban on fox hunting and other forms of hunting with hounds, which came into effect in England and Wales in 2005

Putting aside my personal feelings about Bryan's views, his music still resonates for me.

Smoke Gets in your Eyes 1974 :

Love is the Drug 1975 :

Dance Away 1979 :

My post about Richard Hamilton, Bryan's teacher at University, with him talking about Richard :

Sunday 25 September 2011

Britain is no country for old men who fall over

Falls and hip fractures are a big reason why the health of old men deteriorates and they are unable to remain at home and apparently, each year, more than 500,000 old people end up in hospital accident and emergency departments after a fall.

A report from the 'Royal College of Physicians',however, has revealed that in many parts of the country, treatment and prevention of falls is substandard.

The facts are, that :

* falls and fractures in the over-65s account for more than 4,000,000 bed days a year in England, at an estimated cost of £2,000,000,000.

* 'guidelines' say old people who fall should receive 'prompt treatment', but 33% of those with hip fractures do not receive pain relief within an hour of arriving in hospital and there is also inadequate attention to prevention of pressure sores or to early provision of intravenous fluids.

* every old person who has suffered a fracture in a fall should also have an assessment to establish how mobile they are and how good their balance is and 94% of 'primary care trusts' claim to do this but only 34% of those who break their wrist, arm, pelvis or spine are assessed.

* the important principle of care is to respond to the first fracture in order to prevent the second and old people cannot currently be assured that their local National Health Services will do this.

* Dr Jonathan Potter, a Clinical Diecto at the Royal College of Physicians's said : "it was starkly apparent that what organisations say they provide is not matched by what people receive".

* Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director of 'Age UK', which helped carry out the audit said :
"Falling and breaking a bone can have serious, life-changing consequences for older people – one of which is that they are much more likely to suffer falls in the future. It is extremely worrying then that in many areas of the country, people who have already broken bones are not receiving the treatment and support to avoid future injury, including the lack of referral to comprehensive falls prevention services."

Question : Are these clips of old people falling over funny ?

Thanks for your comment 'English Rider', nice to know that across the Atlantic my views strike a chord.

Friday 23 September 2011

Britain is no longer a country for an old German called Henry Metelmann, peace campaigner and one time devotee of Adolph Hitler

Henry Metelmann, soldier, railway worker, groundsman, writer and peace activist, has died at the age of 88.

Henry was an intelligent and interesting man who served in a German Army Panzer Tank Division between 1939 and '45, witnessed the 'Battle of Stalingrad', the shock of defeat and the long retreat out of Soviet Russia and across eastern Europe had opened his eyes to the reality of Nazism and led him on a lifelong journey of atonement.

What you possibly didn't know about Henry, that :

* he was born in a working-class part of Hamburg in North Germany, where his father was a railway worker and staunch socialist and his mother was highly religious.

* in the 1930's, at the age of 10, he became a member of the 'Hitler Youth' with a 'uniform with a brown shirt and a shiny leather belt' and later recalled that it 'was smashing' along with the glamour of the banners, fanfares and promises of glory.

* was seduced by the lure of Hitler and later said : 'I thought he was a second God. I wanted to believe it because I wanted to belong to something that was powerful, which was understandable when you are 12, 13, 14.' and in the process caused immense sorrow to his father, who died in 1940.

* aged 18 in 1941, was drafted into the 22nd Panzer division and as a tank driver, advanced across Soviet Russia, narrowly avoided being captured along with the rest of the German Sixth Army in 1942, spent the next two years in retreat and then surrendered to the Americans in 1945.

* was sent to the USA as a prisoner of war then to Britain in 1946, where he worked on farms until he was released in 1948, returned to Germany to find his mother and most of his family was dead and became increasingly alienated by his fellow Germans' reluctance to talk about their culpability in the rise of Hitler.

* returned to Britain and worked as a railway porter and a signalman and in 1952, married Monika, a Swiss 'au pair' he met while working on a Hampshire farm and later worked as a groundsman at Charterhouse school.

* encouraged by his children, wrote 'Through Hell for Hitler' in 1990, and recounting an episode he was ordered him to drive his tank over an injured Russian said : 'I had to run over the injured man and kill him. I became a murderer' and also described how peasants' houses were burned down in the middle of winter, when temperatures dropped to minus 40C.

* had his first doubts about Nazi ideology when he fell in love with a Russian girl and said : 'Nothing happened, it was just puppy love, but I admired Anna and she could argue with me. I realised the Russians were fine people. This was the first dent in my feeling of racial superiority.'

* found his book and a second, 'A Hitler Youth' in 1997, him national attention and an interview in the 'Guardian' in 2001 :

and a BBC 'Timewatch' drama documentary in 2003 :

* wrote in 'Through Hell for Hitler' : 'The feeling of guilt for what in a collective way I have done to others, especially the people of Russia, lies very heavily on me. Coming to the evening of my life now, I sometimes wonder what it has been, a drama, a tragedy, a crime or a comedy. I cannot be quite sure. I have regrets for the suffering I have caused others, but no complaints about what others have done to me.'

Henry said : 'There is so much unreason. Korea, Suez, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq: I am disappointed that people have learnt nothing from the horror of the catastrophe of the Second World War.'

A very old Henry, not so long ago, visiting a Wimbledon signal box on an outing from his 'Woking Home Residential Care with a Railway Heritage' :

Thursday 22 September 2011

Britain, already no country for today's old men, will become even less of one for tomorrow's

An article in 'The Daily Mail' yesterday was entitled :

A quarter of over-55s have to survive on £24 a day: Spending on food is cut as millions struggle to pay bills

It was based on a report from the insurance giant 'Aviva', itself based on one of the largest and most important surveys of 'over-55s' in Britain, where more than 10,300 were asked questions about their finances ranging from the size of their mortgage to whether or not they had a pension ?

It found :

* that 23% of over-55's have to survive on a post-tax income of £750 or less each month, equal to about £24 a day and out of this, had to pay all their bills, from council tax and energy to mortgage and were cutting spending on food in a desperate attempt to save money.

* there was clear evidence of old people ‘cutting discretionary food spending and opting for cheaper options’ and using discount shops or cheaper supermarkets and boycotting more expensive options such as organic food.

* many had threadbare personal finances with one in six having no savings and will either have to work until they drop because they cannot afford to retire, or rely on modest State benefits if they stop working.

* around 7% of over-75s still have a mortgage, with the average size a ‘worrying’ £46,873.

Clive Bolton, a director of Aviva, said that the situation is made worse by rising inflation, which cripples pensioners more than any other age group because, although they are living on a fixed income, their bills are rising rapidly, particularly for energy.

Saga, the old age specialists, said that its research found that more than 60% of those over the age of 50 say their lifestyle has ‘crashed’ in the course of the past year and have made cutbacks ranging from using their car less and buying fewer clothes, to cancelling holidays and never eating out or going to the cinema.

Simon Rose, from the campaign group, 'Save our Savers', said:
‘No matter how bad the climate for savings, people need to get into the savings habit. Unless you save for a large part of your working life, you are going to face an unhappy and impoverished old age.’

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Britain is no longer a country for an old race horse trainer called Ginger McCain immortalised by a horse called Red Rum

Ginger McCain one of Britain's great horse racing characters who trained one of the greatest racehorses of all time, the Grand National legend 'Red Rum', has died at the age of 80.

What you possibly didn't know about Ginger was that he :

* was born in Southport and went to his first 'Grand National' horse race, 15 miles away at Aintree, at the age of 9 and later wrote : 'To a young boy, it seemed like the whole world had turned up.'

* left school and drove a horse-drawn float for a local butcher, then worked for a car hire company and had passengers in the shape of Frank Sinatra, Norman Wisdom, Margaret Rutherford and a handler with a lion, who sat salivating menacingly in the back, while being driven to London.

* started to train racehorses in 1953 and had to wait until 1965 to send out his first winner, San Lorenzo, in a steeplechase at Liverpool and combined training with a secondhand car business with the stables tucked behind the car showroom.

* in the early 1970's, struck up a friendship with a local businessman, Noel le Mare and in 1972, for 6,000 guineas, bought the 7 year old 'Red Rum' who had endured a tough racing schedule from the age of 2 and had already been through the hands of 4 trainers.

* found Red Rum's potential severely compromised by 'pedalosteitis', a disease of the hoof and working him on Southport sands, found galloping through seawater worked wonders on his feet.

* saw the horse start joint-favourite in the 1973 Grand National, along with the brilliant Australian horse 'Crisp', who built up a gigantic lead and within half a mile, was in remote pursuit, but caught him a few yards from the winning post to win by three-quarters of a length and demolished the course record in the process.

* a year later, saw the horse win again and become first two time National winner since 1936 and when Red Rum lined up for his fifth consecutive National in 1977, saw the now 12-year-old win with ease, prompting commentator Peter O'Sullevan's famous call: "It's hats off and a tremendous reception – you've never heard one like it at Liverpool."

* moved his training operation from Southport to the Cholmondeley estate in Cheshire in 1990, he sent out his fourth Grand National winner, 'Amberleigh House', in 2004,

The BBC report of Ginger's death :

Red Rum died in 1995 and this is Ginger at the grave in 2006 :

My own acquaintance with horse racing was a short lived experience over 40 years ago when, living as a student in Brighton, I made the acquaintance of E.S., the one with the pot in the photo whose father owned a betting shop in London. E.S. took me to greyhound racing at Hove and in 1967 we went to the Derby at Epsom and saw Royal Palace win. I can't remember if I'd had a bet on him.

I must be in the crowd in this film :

Monday 19 September 2011

Britain says "Happy Birthday" to an old thespian called Jeremy Irons with a long film and tv career and large social conscience

Actor, Jeremy Irons is 63 years old today.

What you possibly didn't know about Jeremy, that he :

* was born in Cowes, Isle of Wight, his father was an accountant and had a great-grandfather who was one of the first Metropolitan Policemen and later a chartist.

* was educated at the independent Sherborne School in Dorset, where he was a drummer and harmonica player remembereed for his rendition of 'Stairway to Heaven' in a school band called the 'Four Pillars of Wisdom' and was also known as half of a comic duo performing skits on Halloween and at end-of-term 'house suppers'.

* trained as an actor at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, performed a number of plays and busked on the streets of Bristol before appearing on the London stage as John the Baptist and Judas opposite David Essex in 'Godspell'.

* starred in tv series in the 1970's including 'The Pallisers' at the age 26 in 1974.

* found fame as Charles Ryder in the tv adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's 'Brideshead Revisited', that beautiful evocation of aristocratic life in the 1930's which puts 'Downton Abbey' in the shade, at the age of 33 in 1981 a role which reunited him with Anthony Andrews.

The Art of drinking wine :

Brideshead visual excerpts :

* also, in the same year, starred in the film 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' opposite Meryl Streep.

Jeremy has done much work since 1981, but it was for these pieces of work when he and I were young men, that I shall remember him.


He supports a number of chairities including 'The Prison Phoenix Trust'.

Argues against the death penalty :

At the 1991 Tony Awards, was one of the few celebrities to wear the recently created red ribbon to support the fight against AIDS and was the first to wear it onscreen.

In 2010, starred in a promotional video for 'The 1billionhungry project', a worldwide drive to attract at least one million signatures to a petition calling on international leaders to move hunger to the top of the political agenda :

Sunday 18 September 2011

Britain is a country where some old men in some places prepare to celebrate 'Older People's Day'

'Older People's Day' is on Saturday, October 1st this year and I have no doubt that preparations are well advanced in all parts of the Realm for what is the main annual event in the Government supported 'Full of Life' campaign which is :
'a celebration of the opportunities, achievements and aspirations of old people and their contribution to society and economy and through this start to tackle negative attitudes and outdated stereotypes.'

No doubt, old men in Britain looking for inspiration for their own event, looked at some of the successes in the last Older People’s Day organised in 2010. Apparently, over 700,000 people took part in local events across the country, ranging from theatre projects to tea dances, fitness and healthy eating classes to fun days and many of these events were built around 2010’s theme of 'getting and staying active in later life.'

As a case in point, the town of Hyndburn in Lancashire had 5 events themed around the 'Full of Life emotions' :

Vitality was represented by a walk along the canal.

Knowledge involved the members and guests taking part in a quiz.

Talent had an afternoon of dancing.

Wisdom involved Lancashire dialect poetry and a speaker.

Energy was a vigorous walk round the gardens at Clayton Hall.

Well, that sounded a lot of fun, didn't it ?
I wondered if my local town of Gillingham in Kent was organising events ? Sadly, a bit of research revealed the answer :
" Absolutely nothing "

Saturday 17 September 2011

Britain is no longer a country for an old artist and the 'Father of Pop Art' called Richard Hamilton '

Richard Hamilton, the artist who created and coined the phrase,'Pop Art' has died at the age of 89. He created the collage :
'Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing?',
for the 'This Is Tomorrow' exhibition, an incredible 55 years ago, in 1956.

It was quite shocking for the time, with a naked woman on a sofa, a bodybuilding he-man holding an over sized lollipop labelled 'Pop' in a prominent position, lots of domestic gadgets including a TV, the cover of a comic presented as a framed painting, an all-too-urban scene through the landscape window and the ceiling covered with a space-age photo of Earth.

What you possibly didn't know about Richard, that he :

* was born in London, where his father was a driver for a car showroom, left school without qualifications, became an apprentice working at an electrical components firm, discovered he had an ability for draughtsmanship and began painting at evening classes at St Martin's School of Art which led to his entry into the Royal Academy Schools at 16.

* had his studies interrupted by The Second World War, then after the War re-enrolled at the Schools, but was later expelled on grounds of 'not profiting from the instruction' and the loss of his student status forced him to carry out National Service.

* in 1948 was at the Slade School of Art and after two years began exhibiting his work at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) where he also produced posters and leaflets and then taught at the Central School of Art and Design 1952 until 1966.

* went on to teach at the Newcastle College of Art where on of his pupils was Bryan Ferry.

Bryan, acknowledged Richard's influence when it came to designing Roxy Music's early record sleeves, and said : "Maybe the fact that I’d studied at a school which had a big pop-art thing going on helped. Marilyn Monroe was one of the big iconic graphic figures that Richard used, Andy Warhol too. She was very much a part of what was around in the media, she represented one of the most glamorous parts of our culture".

* was, from the mid-1960s, associated with the pop music scene, became friends with Paul McCartney and produced the cover design and poster collage for the Beatles' 'White Album.'

And some more :

Friday 16 September 2011

Britain is a country where old men say "Happy Birthday" to Lauren Bacall and remember being bequiled by her beauty and voice when they were young men

American actress, Lauren Bacall, is 87 years old today and Britain's old men remember admiring her beauty when they watched her black and white films when they were young.

What they possibly didn't know about her, was that she :

* was born Betty Joan Perske in New York, where her parents were Jewish immigrants from Europe and when they divorced when she was five, took her mother's name, Bacall.

* made her acting debut, at 17, on Broadway in 1942, as a walk-on in 'Johnny 2 X 4' and in 1943 took lessons at the 'American Academy of Dramatic Arts' and, at the same time worked as a theatre usher and fashion model.

* was spotted by the wife of film director, Howard Hawks, on the cover of 'Harper's Bazaar' who urged him to have her take a screen test for 'To Have and Have Not'.

* was signed up to a 7 year personal contract with Hawks who brought her to Hollywood, gave her $100 a week and began to manage her career.

* was taken under the wing of Nancy who dressed her stylishly, guided her in matters of elegance, manners and taste and at the same time had her voice was trained to be lower, more masculine and sexier.

* in 'To Have and To Have Not' was so nervous that to minimize her quivering, pressed her chin against her chest and to face the camera, tilted her eyes upward and produced the effect became known as 'The Look' which was to become her trademark.

* when she was 20 in 1945, sat on top of the piano while Vice President Harry S. Truman played at the National Press Club Canteen and saw the resulting photos cause controversy and make worldwide headlines.

* started a relationship with Humphrey Bogart and appeared with him in the film noir 'The Big Sleep' in 1946 :

and John Huston's 'Key Largo' in 1948 :

* While struggling at home with Bogart's terminal cancer, starred with Gregory Peck in the screwball comedy, 'Designing Woman' which was directed by Vincente Minnelli and released in 1957, four months after Humphrey had died.

* saw her movie career wane in the 1960's and she was only seen in a handful of films then in 1976, co-starred with John Wayne in his last picture, 'The Shootist'. and despite the significant political differences between them, became friends with him.

* in 2006, was awarded the first 'Katharine Hepburn Medal', which recognizes 'women whose lives, work and contributions embody the intelligence, drive and independence of the four-time-Oscar-winning actress'.

At tribute in photos :