Tuesday 31 December 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an old Scots writer and Americophile called Andro Linklater

Andro who was an author fascinated by the relationship between people and land has died at the age of 68 from a heart attack while on the isle of Eigg, researching for a new book on the history of land ownership in the Hebrides.

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

* was born in Edinburgh, the son of former actress of great beauty, Marjorie McIntyre, a formidable character who later became a campaigner for the arts and the environment and novelist father, Eric, then at the peak of his reputation.

* grew up by the sea outside Tain in the Highlands, where, along with his three brothers and sisters, was largely left to his own devices and developed an independence of character.
* attended Belhaven Hill School in Dunbar, East Lothian (left) and then the independent boys' school, Winchester College, before studying modern history at New College, Oxford in the early 1060's and where, according to his brother Magnus : "Neither school nor university offered him a settled compass."

* in a university vacation, canoed, with a friend, down the River Danube from Upper Austria to Belgrade and the next year, bought a motorcycle in Calais and rode, without documentation or qualification, to Northern Greece.

* after graduation, spent time in France, as tutor to the adopted family of the dancer and singer Josephine Baker, then crossed the Alantic and began his great love of the USA, was present at the historic Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968 and went on to San Francisco where he worked in an art gallery.

* returned to Britain and after a spell working for the Liberal Party, trained as a teacher in Glasgow then taught at a tough comprehensive school in west London until he was asked, in 1974, to complete writing the history of the 'Black Watch' regiment which his father had been writing at the time of his death and which was well received on its publication in 1977.

* worked for the 'Telegraph Weekend Magazine' and covered subjects ranging from classical music to powerboat racing, from wildlife to Tornado jets, from prisons to gardening, from cannibalism to computers.

* at the age of 33 in 1978, had a successful children's book in 'Amazing Maisie and the Cold Porridge Brigade', about an adventurous little girl, Cosima, who looking for a camel to ride, finds 'Maisie' who can talk but can’t bend her knees to let her on board.

* in 1980 published a life of Charlotte Despard, older sister of First World War, Field Marshal Sir John French, who enjoyed embarrassing him with her campaigns as suffragette, socialist and Sinn Feiner.

* from the mid-1980s, was based for nearly five years on the near uninhabited Isle Martin, off Ullapool on the west coast of Scotland and  rejoiced at the opportunity to work undisturbed on his biography of 'Compton Mackenzie', published in 1988.

* at the age of 42 in 1987, married the photographer, Marie-Louise Avery and settled in the Kent village of Markbeech, where he was an enthusiastic member of the choir of Holy Trinity Church and immersed himself in local causes.

* in 'Wild People' in 1994, produced a comical and humane account of his cancelled commission from 'Time-Life' to cover the headhunters of Sarawak and his discovery that they had abandoned headhunting, used chainsaws to develop rice fields, succumbed to American T-shirts, plastic buckets and worst of all, covered breasts.

* wrote 'The Code of Love' in 2000, an untold Second World War story of a failed marriage rekindled in memory by the wife after her husband’s death, by the deciphering the code which he had used as a prisoner of war in Japan, the key to which was based on their joint names.
* in his most important work, 'Measuring America' in 2003, told how, beginning in 1785, the United States was gradually divided into squares and rectangles, using the British 'chain', the length of a cricket pitch or 1/80 of a mile, so that the Public Land Survey System could register land and make it saleable and so showed how American democracy, laws and government, evolved in large part to support the property rights of its rugged individuals.

* in 'The Fabric of America' in 2007, deepened the understanding of the nation's roots by focussing on the role of a largely forgotten surveyor, Andrew Ellicot, who defined the borders of 11 American states as well as of the District of Columbia.

* in 2009 in 'An Artist in Treason' in 2009, wrote a biography of James Wilkinson, who, a general at the age of 20 during the War of Independence, later combined high command in the Army with spying for the Spanish.

* last year in his 'Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die', reconstructed of the only assassination of a British Prime Minister
suggesting that the assassin, John Bellingham, might have been a pawn, knowing or unknowing, of the Liverpool slaving and trading interests which Perceval had affronted.

* awaited American publication of  'Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership', chronicling the enormous impact on civilisation of the once revolutionary idea : 'that one person could own part of the earth exclusively' told through the stories of unknown settlers and famous figures and putting forward the thesis that forms of property ownership have a bearing on the different kinds of government created in America, Europe, Russia, China and the Arab World.

* received the tribute in the 'Telegraph' that 'He was not merely witty in himself: through his openness and generosity of spirit he became the stimulus of wit in others. Nobody was better able to set the table on a roar — and without ever resorting to the devil’s instruments of malice and spite. He treated the young — indeed he regarded them — as complete equals, enlisting himself in their cause against the entire adult conspiracy. One of his godchildren was delighted to find himself the beneficiary of a fund for Running Away From School' and
'would certainly have enjoyed more worldly success if he had worshipped at the shrine of celebrity. Something in his nature, however, recoiled from human eminence.'

What better eulogy might a man have ?

Monday 30 December 2013

Was Britain no country for old men in 2013 ?

Since I started my assessment as to whether Britain was no country for old men back in 2009, one conclusion I have drawn this and every year is : that while it remains a country for a sizeable minority of financially better off and healthy old men, there are significant minorities for whom it is not a nice place to be.

These old men in 2013 can be grouped in those who are :

* poor :

* lonely :

* cold :

* hot :

* short lived :

* hospitalised :

* in crisis :

* with cancer :

* with HIV :

* with dementia :

* with autism :

* malnourished :

* imprisoned :

* abused :

* housed in 'care' :

* 'cared for' at home :

* chemically coshed :

* conned :

* rural :

* webless :

* in Manchester :

* pedestrians :

Saturday 28 December 2013

Britain is no country for an old druid called King Arthur Pendragon at war with English Heritage

King Arthur, the Battle Chieftain of the Council of British Druid Orders, who was born John Timothy Rothwell, is 59 years old and changed his name by deed poll 27 years ago after a friend told him he embodied the spirit of the legendary king. He is not a happy King. The cause of his unhappiness being the decision of English Heritage to give public display to locally excavated 5,000 year old Stonehenge human remains inside its new visitor centre.
He said :
"English Heritage's argument is that it's all about the history of Stonehenge. Well, kings and queens of England are all about the history but they are not digging them up and putting them on display, or ex-prime ministers, are they?
There needs to be a change in the law. Pre-Christian human remains can be put in display, but ones afterwards cannot. Our ancient ancestors should have the same protection under law."

The King is also a critic of the policies of the Cameron Government :

Druids, pagans and revellers gathered in the centre of Stonehenge, hoping to see the sun rise, as they took part in a winter solstice ceremony a few days ago on December 21. Despite the rain and wind, they celebrated the sunrise closest to the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, an event claimed to be more important in the pagan calendar than the summer solstice, because it marks the ‘re-birth’ of the Sun for the New Year.

King Arthur was there on the edge of the site to lead a boycott protest with his Loyal Arthurian Warband Group :

According to Stonehenge General Manager, Kate Davies, arrangements for Winter Solstice this year were similar to previous years, with English Heritage working to ensure a "safe and happy" occasion. King Arthur, however, was highly critical :
"The Winter Solstice was incredibly over-managed this year. The situation with parking was awful and everyone was herded like sheep. People were asked to leave before midday, when in previous years they have stayed at the solstice until well after 5pm. I got the impression that English Heritage wanted worshippers out of there as quickly as possible because they thought they got in the way of tourists. I'm sad to say that it was an utter shambles."

The King has taken issue with the display of this prehistoric Briton's skull which has been used to produce the most life-like, and arguably the most accurate, reconstruction of a specific individual's face from British prehistory. He wants his bones to be reinterred.

English Heritage has said that it : ' believes that authenticity is important to tell England’s story. We only use replicas when the real item is not available. Research shows that the vast majority of museum visitors are comfortable with, and often expect to see, human remains as part of displays. Stonehenge is the focus of a ceremonial and ritual landscape shaped over 1,500 years. The exhibition puts at its centre the people associated with it and as such, the remains have a rightful place in the exhibition.'

King Arthur, however, has said : “If English Heritage thinks I’m going to go quietly into the night then they’re mistaken. They’ve picked on the wrong druid.”

Sunday 22 December 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to its greatest TV sports commentator called David Coleman

David, who has died at the age of 87 elicited these tributes :

* was born in 1926 in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, the son of parents from County Cork, Ireland and after attending the local grammar school, worked as a trainee journalist on his local 'Stockport Express' before stating two years National Service in the Army 1948 with its newspaper unit, with postings to West Germany and East Africa.

*  came to sport as a gifted amateur runner and at 23 in 1949, won the annual 'Manchester Mile', but three years later, injuries prevented him from entering trials for the 1952 British Olympic team and in 1954 joined the BBC in Birmingham, concentrating on sport in the Midlands after a stint as editor of the weekly 'Cheshire County Press' and writing scripts for the BBC's Manchester newsroom.
* got his break at the age of 28 in 1954 with a 'fill in' interview with the popular Argentinian golfer Roberto de Vicenzo and was handed the reins of the BBC's main sports programme, 'Grandstand' by Peter Dimmock (left) who said he was "20 times better at it than me".

* in the studio or on location, proved unflappable at taking a producer's direction, in spite of the din either all around him or through his earpiece and delivered his race-reading of successive Olympic 100 metres finals, from Rome in 1960 to Sydney in 2000, with spot-on identification of eight men tearing headlong at him in a less than 10-second blur.

* proved to be his most resplendent as a journalist in 1972, working from one, distant, fixed camera, throughout the day of the murders of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Village..

*   was irritated him to the point of anger in the 1970s by the fortnightly log of commentators' gaffes and tautologies published in the satirical magazine, 'Private Eye' called 'Colemanballs' , but had mellowed by the time tvs 'Spitting Image' in the 1980s http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liJAnl7I09E
 and he could laugh at himself as a crazed, check-capped puppet, finger in earpeiece, squealing: "Er, reallyquiteremarkable and, er, I'vegonetooearlyand Ithinkit'simpossdibletokeep upthislevelofexcitement withoutmyheadexploding…"

 * fronted 'Grandstand' for a decade, moved to a midweek slot with 'Sportsnight' for five years from 1968, was the BBC's senior football commentator in the 70s and from the early 80s concentrated on athletics and in addition, brought his  businesslike geniality to chairing 'A Question of Sport' for eighteen years from 1979.

* at the age of 74, following his final Olympiad at Sydney in 2000 at a ceremony at the International Olympic Committee's base in Lausanne, Switzerland, had the IOC president, Juan Antonio Samaranch pin to his lapel the rare Olympic Order medal, the first broadcaster or journalist to be so honoured.

 * was said of by :

Brian Moore, his rival at  ITV :
"All round the world, David offered no real friendship. He was so spiky. If he even said 'hello', it was more with a sneer than a smile. But while his temper was short, his standards were immensely high. His hard edge made him as formidable a journalist as he was an opponent. He knew he was the best and professionally, all said and done, we knew he had set the standard and there was simply nothing we could do but admire and respect his talent."

Brendan Foster, his fellow commentator and former Olympic 10,000 metres bronze medallist :
"David enriched so many lives and that was down to his brilliant commentary and presentation at all the major sporting events of the world. In my view everybody had a David Coleman quote they could use. It could have been about Pele, Charlton, Toshack or Keegan, or just 'one-nil'.

 Colemanballs :

With numbers and quantities :

He is accelerating all the time. The last lap was run in 64 seconds and the one before that in 62.”

“There is Brendan Foster, by himself with 20,000 people.”

“And here’s Moses Kiptanui – the 19-year-old Kenyan who turned 20 a few weeks ago.”

“He’s 31 this year – last year he was 30.”

“Nobody has ever won the title twice before. He (Roger Black) has already done that.”

"It’s gold or nothing ... and it’s nothing. He comes away with the silver medal.”

"We estimate, and this isn't an estimation, that Greta Waltz is 80 seconds behind."

Tautologies :

“Forest have now lost six matches without winning.”

“The front wheel crosses the finish line, closely followed by the back wheel.”

“If that had gone in, it would have been a goal.”

“This evening is a very different evening from the morning we had this morning.”

Impossibilities :

“Both of the Villa scorers – Withe and Mortimer – were born in Liverpool as was the Villa manager Ron Saunders who was born in Birkenhead.”

"And the line-up for the final of the women's 400 metres hurdles includes three Russians, two East Germans, a Pole, a Swede and a Frenchman."

“In a moment we hope to see the pole vault over the satellite.”

“He just can’t believe what’s not happening to him.”

And :

“I think there is no doubt, she’ll probably qualify for the final.”

“Don’t tell those coming in the final result of that fantastic match, but let’s just have another look at Italy’s winning goal.”

Saturday 21 December 2013

Britain is a country where one old butler called James Gray, unlike thousands of other old men, will not be alone and depressed on Christmas Day

Some sobering statistics : The 'Mental Health Foundation' has said that between 10 – 16% of old men and women over 65 have depression and an estimated 2 – 4% have severe depression and for those living alone, in care or coping with physical illnesses or disabilities, the figures are even higher: some 40% are affected by depression.

Depression is a problem faced by people of all ages and from all walks of life, but old men and women can suffer particularly badly.

The advice website http://www.myageingparent.com/w.myageingparent.com has published a handy guide identifying the main reasons why some find it hard to cope. The site's Director, Deborah Stone has said :
“ For some, later life can become something of a catalogue of problems or set backs, which can put us into a spiral… the loss of a partner or good friends, increased isolation, medical problems, money worries and so on. Even retirement – which some of us will see as a boon – can lead to a loss of identity and purpose. Many depressed elderly people or their relatives fail to recognise the symptoms of depression. Or if they do, they don’t take the steps to get the help they need. They may be reluctant to talk about their feelings, or too embarrassed to ask for help: many people are frightened or too proud to admit to feeling depressed.”

The website gives advice as to the tell-tale signs of depression in and old man or woman for which friends and family might watch out. However, what about those thousands of old men and women who spend much of their time alone, will certainly spend this Christmas alone and have no family or friends watching out for them ?

Question : Who will recognise when they :

• are fatigued, lose weight and appetite ?
• abandon or lose interest in hobbies or other pastimes ?
• have disturbance sleep ?
• suffer loss of self-worth, feelings of hopelessness or helplessness ?
• have increased their use of alcohol or other drugs ?
• become fixated on death and have suicidal thoughts ?
• suffer unexplained or aggravated aches and pains ?
• become irritable, anxious and worried ?
• suffer memory problems and slowed movement and speech ?

Answer : No one

Not all lonely old men can take the initiative like 85 year old James Gray who :

* as an elderly member of the Irish community living in England, is twice as likely as the rest of the population to be alone at Christmas and in his case, born in Midleton, Co Cork in 1928 in a workhouse, because his mother was unmarried, has had no contact with his family since his first cousin died.

 * living alone in South London, had wanted to set up a pensioners' group to meet for the traditional Christmas dinner at a hotel in Sutton, but only one response - from a lady who later changed her plans.

* having spent the past 10 Christmases alone, placed a newspaper advert asking for someone to share Christmas Day and since featuring on the front of 'The Irish Post' has received invitations from dozens of well-wishers and charities.

* said : "I'm used to the loneliness but I don't want it to be the same this year. I think there must be quite a few lonely people around and I am on my own, so it would make sense, I think, if someone came here for Christmas lunch. I just had smoked salmon and prawns on my own last year and I had to put up with it. I think the last time I saw someone on Christmas Day was when I saw my accountant about 10 years ago."

P.S. James, no doubt, would have been a stranger to loneliness at Christmas when, as a younger man, he worked as a butler in some of Ireland's and England's most lavish homes, including the Guinness family seat at Luttrellstown Castle in Dublin.

My Christmas post in 2011 :
Britain is no country for 100,000 lonely old men on their own today, Christmas Day 2011


Friday 20 December 2013

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an old businessman, turned late-in-life novelist, called Paul Torday

Paul, a businessman who found fame as novelist late in life has died at the age of 67.

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

* was born in Croxdale, County Durham, the son an Irish mother, Eileen and Hungarian father, Laszlo, who had emigrated to the North East from Hungary with his parents in the late 1930s and where, with the help of a Government grant, his father, Paul's Grandfather, set up a electroplating business.

* went to the Royal Grammar school, Newcastle (right) and won a national poetry competition sponsored by the 'Daily Mail' at the age of 16 in 1962 and saw the prize pay for his first foreign holiday and also won a scholarship to study English at Pembroke College, Oxford.

* left university in the 1960s, followed a business course in Manchester, worked in market research in London, then a company in Leeds before joining the family firm in Carlisle at the age of 27 in 1973 while writing two novels in his 20's, which went into a drawer and were shared with no one, but was writing poetry for a magazine, the 'Little Word Machine'.

* saw the family company expand and took over its running from his father and uncle but was forced to sell it in the 1990s before retrieving his business career and going on to buy several other companies.

* in his mid forties to fifties used his experience in the oil and gas industry and understanding of the insanity of much government bureaucracy, as inspiration for a novel, 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen', the idea of a
Yemeni sheikh who wants to introduce salmon fishing to his desert homeland, coming to him in a business meeting in Oman.

* sent the manuscript to an agent, forgot about it and found that six months later, it had been the subject of a competitive auction and the talk of the 'Frankfurt Book Fair' going on to sell more than 500,000 copies in Britain and win the 'Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize' in 2007, when he was 61 years old.

* faced with a cancer diagnosis shortly after the book was published,  recognised the extent to which his time might be limited and said that he, perhaps treated writing like 'learning to ride a bike : he kept pedalling like mad because he was afraid that if he fell off he might not be able to get back on.'

* continued to work in industry and published, generally to critical acclaim, a new novel every year including : 'The Irresistible Inheritance of Wilberforce' in 2008, the story told backwards of an alcoholic's decline through an addiction to fine wine : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmH4jN0v9L4

* wrote 'The Girl on the Landing' a ghost story in 2009 and 'Light Shining in the Forest' this year, a crime thriller about abducted children set in the North-East of England.

* exuded the air of the English country gentleman, enjoyed food, wine and salmon fishing, liked shooting, walking and climbing and lived with his second wife at the Jacobean, Chipchase Castle in Northumberland, on an estate she had inherited and which he helped to manage.

* was too ill to attend the premiere in 2011, of the film of 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen', which starred Emily Blunt as the sheikh's representative and Ewan McGregor as a cynical fisheries expert who begrudgingly accepts the challenge.

Kirsty Dunseath, Publishing Director at Weidenfeld and Nicolson Fiction said that in many ways he :
"invented his own genre. His extraordinary fiction was filled with warmth and a wry, humane wit. He was a gentle observer of the foibles of human nature and our social behavior. He wanted to entertain, but his novels were also infused with a deep social awareness, exploring issues such as political expediency, alcoholism, mental illness, class and our national heritage."

P.S. Paul particularly enjoyed the fact that Yemeni tourist organisations were later often asked for details of their fishing holidays.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Britain is no longer a country for an old school villain and Great Train robber called Ronnie Biggs

It is ironical that on the very day BBC TV is to broadcast 'The Great Train Robbery' with Jack Gordon playing his character, that Ronnie should die at the age of 84. It also says something about Britain today, that his death was the first item on BBC Radio 4 news this morning, indicating the reverence with which old criminals are held. I noted something similar in my post about Mad Frankie Fraser, back in the summer :

Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Britain is still a country for a violent old villain called 'Mad' Frankie Fraser

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

* was born in Lambeth, London, was 10 years old when the Second World War broke out in 1939 and was evacuated to Cornwall and after the War was enlisted for national service in the Royal Air Force at the age of 18 and was given a dishonourable discharge at the age of 20, on a charge of 'desertion' and after breaking into a chemist shop.

* started his criminal career and a spell in prison after a conviction for stealing a car and on release, took part in a failed robbery on a bookmaker's office in Lambeth and in prison again, met Bruce Reynolds.

* on release from prison, tried to go straight, trained as a carpenter and at the age of 27 in 1956, married the 17-year-old daughter of a primary school headmaster, with whom he had three sons.

* in 1963 at the age of 34 and in need of a loan, approached Bruce, who offered him a place on a proposed train robbery and was tasked to find a suitable engine driver to move the train forwards to the unloading point and on the night of the raid.

 was a passenger in the getaway car and only saw the haul of money once the gang returned to Leatherslade Farm.

* had taken part in the crime of the century, the hold up of the mail train from Glasgow to London in the early hours of 8 August 1963 and stealing the haul of £2.6 million in used bank notes, £40 million in today's value, during the course of which, the engine driver was hit on the head with an iron bar.

* played an undistinguished part in the robbery : the driver he had enlisted had not driven a diesel engine and was replaced during the raid by the injured, bleeding driver Mills; was a passenger in the getaway car and only saw the haul of money once the gang returned to Leatherslade Farm; left his fingerprints on a ketchup bottle at the farm; three weeks later, was arrested along with 11 other members of the gang in South London.
* was in 1964, along with nine of the 15-strong gang, jailed for the crime and received a 30 year sentence, served 15 months before escaping from Wandsworth Prison by scaling the wall with a rope ladder and dropping onto a waiting removal van, fled to Brussels by boat, then went with his wife and sons to Paris, acquired new identity papers and underwent plastic surgery.

* in 1966, flew to Australia and had £7,000 of his £143,000 share of the haul left by the time his family joined him, having spent: £40,000 on plastic surgery in Paris and the rest on the package deal to get him out of Britain to Australia and legal fees and expenses.

* in 1967, with the police closing in, fled to Brazil which had no extradition treaty with Britain and seven years later, after a 'Daily Express' team broke the story of his whereabouts, saw Scotland Yard send Detective Jack Slipper arrive but fail to extradite him, his Brazilian girlfriend being pregnant and Brazilian law did not allow a parent of a Brazilian child to be extradited.

* as a known felon, could not work, visit bars or be away from home after 10 pm so provided an income, by hosting barbecues for tourists at his home in Rio, recounting his involvement in the robbery, selling 'Ronnie Biggs' mugs, coffee cups and T-shirts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1IBTdbEBBgQ and recording vocals on two songs for the film about the Sex Pistols, 'The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle'. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-oZeSqxT2I

* in 1981, was kidnapped by a gang of British ex-soldiers who took him to Barbados hoping to collect a reward from the British police but, since the country had no extradition treaty with Britain, was sent back to Brazil which, in 1997 ratified an extradition treaty with Britain, but saw the extradition request rejected by Brazilian Supreme Court and was given the right to live in Brazil for the rest of his life.

* in 2001, at the age of 72, announced to 'The Sun' newspaper that he would be willing to return to Britain, aware that, with 28 years of his sentence left to serve, he would be detained upon arrival which was the case and according to his son, was motivated not simply by his need for health care, but also his desire to "walk into a Margate pub as an Englishman and buy a pint of bitter"

* in 2007 at the age of 78, appealed, from Norwich Prison, to be released saying : "I am an old man and often wonder if I truly deserve the extent of my punishment. I have accepted it and only want freedom to die with my family and not in jail. I hope Mr. Straw decides to allow me to do that. I have been in jail for a long time and I want to die a free man. I am sorry for what happened. It has not been an easy ride over the years. Even in Brazil I was a prisoner of my own making. There is no honour to being known as a Great Train Robber. My life has been wasted."

* was released from custody in 2009, two days before his 80th birthday, on 'compassionate grounds' due to his deteriorating health but said "I've got a bit of living to do yet. I might even surprise them all by lasting until Christmas, that would be fantastic."

* in 2011, was admitted to hospital with another suspected stroke and in November, launched his autobiography, 'Ronnie Biggs: Odd Man Out, The Last Straw' and unable to speak, used a word board to communicate with the press and in March this year ( right) attended the funeral of fellow train robber and mastermind of the robbery, Bruce Reynolds.

Sunday 15 December 2013

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to Dave Clark and old men remember when he and they were young and yelled "Catch Us If You Can" with all of their might

Dave, erstwhile drummer, leader and with Lenny Davidson, surviving member of the 'Dave Clark Five', first of the 'British invasion' bands to follow the Beatles to the USA in the 1960s, is 71 years old today.
From left to right : Denis, Dave, Mike, Rick and Lenny as they were.

My memory of Dave and his band dates from the year 1965, when I was 18 and Dave was 23 with a hit record he had written with Lenny called 'Catch Us if You Can'.

From the age of eleven I had attended this huge secondary school, built to house me and 2,500 other the post Second World War, South London, baby boomers, called Eltham Green Comprehensive School.
In that Summer of 1965, the Headmaster, Mr Davies, had planned his usual 'Farewell to the Sixth Formers Assembly' in the school hall and I was one of the 18 year old leavers.

A tradition had grown up that, the Sixth Form school leavers would do something to disrupt the Headmaster's speech made in the hall filled with a thousand pupils and relayed by the tanoi broadcasting system to the rest of the school, seated in their form rooms.
1. It had all been fairly mediocre stuff in the past, like planting alarm clocks in cupboards in the hall, timed to go off when the Old Man was into his speech or chaining the exit doors, so no one could get out at the end of the Assembly.

2. This year it would be in a different league, for unbeknown to any of us, five of the lads in the sixth form, had a drink in the local pub the night before and, after closing time, dressed in dark clothing, had climbed over the school gates and made their way to the hall, where, by chance, they found an exit door open.

3. Once inside the darkened hall the tick of the clock startled them. They put their plan into effect. 'B' stood on tables and chairs and placed an old fashioned loud speaker, out of sight, on the wooden sounding board (seen on the right) and way up above the stage. They then ran a single wire room the speaker, down the wall, through a door opening and along the wall of the corridor behind the hall and into one of the small music rooms. The wire was fed into an old fashioned reel-to reel tape recorder and a prerecorded tape placed on the deck. The lads then made their exit from the school.

4. After lunch the next day, the hall began to fill up. First the younger kids downstairs and then the Sixth Form in the balcony. It was at this point that 'F' had been delegated to make his way to the music room to switch on the tape which was timed to play blank for 20 minutes. 'F' noticed that the indicator light was on and so placed the leather bag of one music teachers against it and a tray of glasses on top for good measure. He then made his exit and went to the balcony.

The Old Man was well into his speech with the usual stuff about 'torch bearers' when the first blast of music came out of the hidden speaker :

The Headmaster sat down angry and perplexed. Teachers ran around like blue-arsed flies, trying to find from where the blast of music was coming and were unsuccessful. The kids were collapsed in laughter.
Two and a half minutes later Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's "Goodbye" finished. It was then that the Old Man made his big mistake. He got to his feet and resumed his speech saying that the perpetrators would be found out.

Unbeknown to him or anyone in hall or school, except the lads on the balcony, the tape played blank for another few minutes and then :

Here they come again, mmmm-mm-mm,
Catch us if you can, mmmm-mm-mm,
Time to get a move on, mmmm-mm-mm,
We will yell with all of our might.

Catch us if you can ......

Now we gotta run, mmmm-mm-mm,
No more time for fun, mmmm-mm-mm,
When we're gettin' angry, mmmm-mm-mm,
We will yell with all of our might.

Catch us if you can .....

Here they come again, mmmm-mm-mm,
Catch us if you can, mmmm-mm-mm,
Time to get a move on, mmmm-mm-mm,
We will yell with all of our might.

Catch us if you can.

Our Sixth Form tutor on the balcony said to one of the lads : "Nine out of ten 'W"
He was wrong, it was '10 out of 10'.
The Headmaster got the police in, but they could find nothing, since the lads had not forced an entry.
Sadly, 'G', the mastermind behind the single wire and tape died in a motor accident some years ago.
When I was 19 and travelling round Greece in the summer of 1966, I met other students from London schools who had heard about that caper.
I can't think that Dave's song has ever been put to such apposite use as it was on that South London summer's day, 48 years ago.

What I didn't know about Dave, today's birthday boy was that he :

* was born in Tottenham, North London and left school without qualifications at the age of 15 and becoming a film stuntman, performed in over 40 films and in his late teens in the late 1950s, bought himself a set of drums, taught himself how to play them and formed a skiffle group to raise funds so that his football team could travel to the Netherlands.

* saw the group grow into The Dave Clark Five' with him as leader, co-songwriter, manager and producer and grow in popularity, unseating the Beatles "I Want to Hold Your Hand" from its number one spot in the British singles chart in January 1964 with "Glad All Over". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P94S8IAv94w

* followed the Beatles to the USA in 1964, was on The 'Ed Sullivan Show' more times than any other English group and  achieved 15 consecutive Top 20 hits including :
'Any way You Want It'.

'Glad All Over'.

'Bits and Pieces'.

'Do You Love Me'.

* in the late 1960s, in addition to managing the band, began directing and producing for television and in 1968 made  'Hold On, It's the Dave Clark Five' which was followed by the break up of the band in 1970 and his ending his drumming in 1972, after beaking four knuckles in a tobogganing accident.
* in 1986 at the age of 44, wrote a science fiction stage musical, 'Time' which played for two years in London's West End, starring Cliff Richard and later by David Cassidy and featuring Laurence Olivier's huge holographic image.

* became a successful entrepreneur and a multi-millionaire, with property in West London, with revenues from his rights to all the Dave Clark Five music and episodes of the '60s tv music show, 'Ready, Steady Go!'.

* in 2008, at the age of 66 and marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of this band, was inducted into the USA's 'Rock and Roll Hall of Fame' and made a rare public appearance with, the then, two other surviving band members and accepted the award on behalf of the group. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKTtGjYl5yU

I saw this tweet yesterday from American, Maureen Van Zandt, wife of Steve Van Zandt :

Happy Birthday to our dear friend Dave Clark , leader of the DC5. Fab musician, producer, filmmaker &now author. One of my fave people ever.

To which I replied :
"Happy Birthday" indeed,
and added a link to this post.

To which she replied :
Fantastic piece! 

Thursday 12 December 2013

Britain is still a country for and says "Happy Birthday" to a charming old stage, film, television and radio actor called Bill Nighy

Bill who is 64 years old today was born in 1949 under the star sign of Sagittarius. I don't know if he shares the Sagittarian characteristics of generosity, honesty, daring, friendliness, confidence, enthusiasm  argumentativeness and bluntness, but I do know that he :

* was born in Caterham, Surrey and his Glasgow born mother was a psychiatric nurse and his father, Alfred, managed a car garage, over which the family lived, after working in the family chimney sweeping business and as part of part his Irish heritage, Bill was brought up as a Roman Catholic and served as a church altar boy.

* attended the John Fisher Grammar School in Purley, where he was a member of the school theatre group and left in 1965 at the age of 16, with minimum qualifications and the ambition to become an author, inspired by his teenage heroes : Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford and Bob Dylan.

* got a job as a messenger boy with 'The Field Magazin'e and said later : "I used to eat my sandwiches in Berkeley Square and wave at all the Rolls-Royces. Eventually the proprietor, Sir Geoffrey Harmsworth, said "If you learn shorthand and typing, we'll put you in the sub-editors' office". Of course, rather than doing that, I ran away to Paris to write the Great English Short Story."

* failed to produce his story and was persuaded by a girlfriend to apply instead to the 'Guildford School of Acting' and at the start of his stage career, after two seasons at the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool, made his London debut in his late twenties in the late 70s at the National Theatre in an epic staging of 'Illuminatus', followed by two David Hare premiers at the National.

* in his thirties during the 1980s, put his voice to use as Samwise Gamgee in the 1981 BBC radio dramatisation of 'The Lord of the Rings' and in the radio version of 'Yes Minister' and on tv played in 'Hitler's SS: Portrait of Evil'.

* claimed that his tv part in 'The Men's Room' at the age of 42 in 1991 (right) launched his career and after quitting drink with the help of his then-partner, fellow actor Diana Quick, won acclaim in his stage performance at the National Theatre as Bernard Nightingale, an unscrupulous university don, in Tom Stoppard's 'Arcadia' in 1993.

* received some recognition by American audiences for his portrayal of overaged rock star, Ray Simms, in the 1998 film 'Still Crazy' and further prominence in Britain in 1999  with the starring role in 'The Photographer', an episode of the BBC tv mockumenatary comedy series, 'People Like Us', playing Will Rushmore, a middle aged man who abandons career and family in the deluded belief that he can achieve success as a commercial photographer.

* was never much interested in performing Shakespeare and has only done so professionally twice preferring to operate within a contemporary, middle-class context, playing a variety of "violently constrained Englishmen".

* at the age of 51, played a consultant psychiatrist in 'Blue Orange' for which he won an 'Olivier Award Nomination for Best Actor' and at 52,  portrayed crooked politician Jeffrey Grainger, in tvs 'Auf Wiedersehen Pet' and played in the costume drama, 'He Knew He Was Right', the following year.

* in 2003, played the Vampire Elder Viktor in the American production, 'Underworld' and in 2004 at the age of fifty-five, was awarded the BAFTA Film Award for 'Best Supporting Actor' for his role as shameless, washed-up rocker, Billy Mack, in 'Love Actually' (left) http://www.muzu.tv/bill-nighy/christmas-is-all-around-music-video/250600/ and followed this up with a 'BAFTA Television Award for Best Actor' for 'State of Play' .

* after he starred as Lawrence, another thwarted civil servant, in the Richard Curtis's G8/Make Poverty History drama ,'The Girl in the CafĂ©' in 2005, was approached by Oxfam and now regularly visits the G8 on the Charity's behalf, to have cameras pointed at him and thus ensure "that the plight of the poor is a live issue on the agenda".

* in 2006, appeared as 'Gideon' in Stephen Poliakov's drama, 'Gideon's Daughter', a successful events organiser who begins to lose touch with the world around him in a performance which won him a 'Golden Globe Award' for 'Best Actor in a Mini Series' and in the same year made his Broadway debut in 'The Vertical Hour' directed by Sam Mendes.

* played principal villain, Davy Jones, with a Scots accent and his face entirely obscured by computer generation
in the film, 'Pirates of the Caribbean : Dead Man's Chest' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3rOZwgOZeY
and reprised the role in the 2007 sequel, 'Pirates of the Caribbean: At the World's End', with his real face briefly revealed in one scene.

* at the age of 57, in 2006, played the role of Richard Hart in 'Notes on a Scandal', http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-EKMY8lRMg for which he was nominated for a 'London Film Critics Circle Award' and appeared as General Friedrich Olbricht, one of the principal conspirators, in the 2008 film, 'Valkyrie'.

* in 2009, played Rufus Scrimgeour in 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 1' (right) and last year starred in 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDY89LYxK0w and this year played in 'Darkside', Tom Stoppard's radio drama based on Pink Floyd's album, 'The Dark Side of the Moon'.

* is known for his bespoke navy suits and this year was listed as one of the 'Fifty Best-dressed over 50s' by The Guardian.

* reflected on his career : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoyRamnNdJ8