Welcome one and all to my beach hut

Grab a deck chair, Tea or coffee and help yourself to a buiscuit but you'd better mind the seaguls or they'll grab them first. Just look at that view and doesn't the sea look inviting.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Songwriting Partnerships

Burt Bacharach celebrated is 83rd birthday just a few days ago and the BBC television have been showing documentaries and live performances. Burt’s music has had a profound influence on my life, but you know it wasn’t just Burt that penned all those hits we all love, there was also Hal David his song writing partner and he deserves credit too. Then I came to think of all the song writers that have played a big role in my life they were all in a partnership. So here’s my take on the five top song writing pairs of my choice.

It was very hard to choose between the best two teams of songwriters but finally I settled on Bacharach and David. It was the Dionne Warwick hit that first brought there name to my notice. Walk On By began a life long love of the voice of Dionne Warwick, I had all her vinyl albums in my collection at one time and even today I eagerly await any new album she releases, only just a few years ago I have the frill of attending one of her concerts at the Embassy, Skegness, truly a night to remember. Many top artists of the 60s chose Bacharach/David songs to launch there career, Gene Pitney - Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa, Sandy Shore – Always Something There To Remind Me, Cilla Black – Anyone Who Had A Heart, The Walker Brothers – Make It Easy On Yourself and The Carpenters – Close To You to name just a few and all of them rate very high on my favourite play list. Bacharach/David wrote some great songs for two of my all time favourite Female singers, one I’ve already mentioned in Dionne Warwick the other was in my opinion the British greatest female singer of her age and that was Dusty Springfield who had major hits with The Look of Love and IDon’t Know What Else to Do With Myself.

It was another song sung by Perry Como that had the most effect on my life, it was in 1983 having done some DJ work using other peoples equipment, that I decided to buy some second hand decks and a few lights and go on the road with my own mobile disco, but I wanted a name and a catchy song for my signature tune. I finally settled on the name Magic Moments, because it fitted my idea of mainly being an Oldies Disco playing hits from the 50s/60s/70s and at the end of every night I would always finish with Perry Como’s Magic Moments. It was an inspired choice, many who booked us remembered our name because of that song and the Bacharach/David song was to give us 8 years of fun on the road. So if I have to pick one song by Bacharach and Hal David above all the others it has to be Magic Moments

My second Choice and one that nearly became my first choice has to be John Lennon/Paul McCartney, it was them who started my life long love affair with popular music, I bought all of there Albums up to Abbey Road, they changed the course of popular music for ever, it was because of there songs and influence that started my music collection and knowledge of 1960s popular music that eventually led to my DJ work. I think I wore out at least two copies of the Sgt Pepper Album I couldn’t get enough of it. Technically you could say that the partnership wasn’t a true partnership because both claimed that they had penned songs separately but added them all under the title of Lennon/McCartney but I can’t believe that they didn’t influence each other in there writing especially in the early years.  For me Paul McCartney made the greatest influence of the two and in Yesterday the song that has been sung and recorded by most of the artists. But if I had to chose a favourite McCartney song then it would have to be ‘In my Life’ because of the lyrics. My favourite Beatles Album at the moment is the Love Album which was commissioned for the Cirque du Soleil show, the album is collection of Beatles tracks remastered by George Martin and made into a continues mix of music that brings the sound of the Beatles right up to date, for anyone who is not familiar with the Beatles works this album is a brilliant introduction.

My next choice of singer song writer partnership is Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield. Neil started is career as a singer songwriter in the Brill Building in New York. The Brill building was like a hit factory that churned out hit after hit after hit. Other writers working there included Burt Bacharach, Carol King, Neil Diamond and Paul Simon. Neil got together with Greenfield whilst working in the Brill Building and a string of hits such as Oh Carol, Breaking up is hard to do and Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen, he became known as the king of Shalala’s because of some of his lyrics, he also wrote many hits for other artists like Stupid Cupid for Connie Francis. One of his later compositions with Howard Greenfield was a big hit with Tony Christie I’m referring to Amarillo, which was also a great tune to be played on my Disco at party nights. He also corroborated with other writers like Frank Sinatra (The Hungry Years) and Elvis Presley (Solitaire), But my Favourite Sedaka song has to be a song co-written with Phil Cody, Laughter in the rain.

My fourth Singer Songwriter partnership is Elton John/Bernie Taupin, a friend played me Goodbye Yellow Brick Road the double album and I became an instant fan. The Yellow Brick Road album has remained one of my top ten most loved albums even till today. Right from the haunting opening tune (Funeral for a friend) to the rock Classic (Saturday nights alright for fighting) the album is pure magic. It includes most of Elton John’s early hits such as Candle in the Wind, Your Song, Bernie and the Jets and the title track Yellow Brick Road but some of the other tracks on the album I like more than the hits. It’s a story book album with great lyrics, Elton John/Bernie Taupin continued to have many great hits after that album and influence my music in many ways. My favourite song as to be Your Song the lyrics are just perfect.

My Final choice of songwriter partnerships because of there genius and because of the great please they gave myself and my wife through there music is Richard Rogers and Oscar Hamilton, I have always been a big fan of there Musical Films such as The King and I and Carousal and my particular favourite South Pacific and my wife as always loved the Sound of Music. On her 50th Birthday year I took her to Austria to see and experience some of the places from the film and our best memory as to be Salzburg where many of the songs were performed, looking back I think that was probably our best holiday abroad.

Of course there were many more songwriter partnerships such as Leiber and stroller and Simon and Garfunkel but I feel those five have had the greatest influence on my life.     

Friday, 27 May 2011

Travelling Fair comes to town

With the approach of another bank holiday weekend my mind goes back to my childhood when the bank holiday meant the funfair was due to visit the town. As soon as us kids got wind of the arrival of the fair we would race off to the site which mostly was our local municipal park, to lend a helping hand to be rewarded with a couple of free ride tickets on opening day.

The fair would often consist of a few traditional fair ground rides, such as the Waltzers, Speedway, Dodgems, Helter Skelter and the Whip ride plus a selection of children’s rides.  Bigger fairs had a big wheel and Dive bomber ride, if you were lucky there would even be a fairground organ and Cakewalk ride. A cakewalk ride was a moving platform that you had to walk along usually along to the music of the fairground organ like the one in the musical ‘Grease’ when Olivia Newton John is singing to John Travolta ‘you’re the one that I want’.

Besides the rides there were a number of games and side stalls to test your skills, such as hook a duck, roll a penny, throw the hoops,  rifle range and coconut sty and if you got hungry there were also the usual foods stalls like Candy Floss, hot dogs and toffee apples to enjoy.

The magic of the fairs coming to town was not just about the thrills provided by the rides, it was a place where the whole town could go and have fun, it was a combination of the lights, sounds and the bright colours of the fairground art that thrilled us kids. The Funfair was an introduction to me to the sound of Rock and Roll, the thumping beat of a Jerry Lee Lewis song or a tune by Johnny and The Hurricanes even to this day conjures up memories of times spent soaking up the atmosphere of our local fair. On a Saturday night the would stop the dodgems whilst they ran dance competitions that the teenagers entered, I remember entering one of these that involved the latest dance craze of the day the ‘Twist’. We all left at the end of the night with a gold fish in a plastic bag won on the hook a duck stall and I bet that in many of the houses in the fifties you would find a plaster cast model of a dog or cat won at the fair, usually with an ear or nose broken off.

At the end of the summer these travelling fairs would all gather together for one or two annual large scale fairs, in our area there were two such gatherings, one of which was on the streets of Ilkeston and the other was the famous Goose Fair of Nottingham.
At these events besides the usual rides there would be side shows, such as the mouse town and the illusions that were the woman with no head or just half a body.   http://www.thisishullandeastriding.co.uk/news/fun-fair/article-2506214-detail/article.html. My Favourite was the boxing/wresting booth where anyone could take on the king of the wring and if you could last 3 rounds in the ring with the champions you won a few pounds. Another common site during those days was the 'Wall of Death' show where we would stand at the top of a cylinder shaped tower and watch people riding around inside on motercycles and us marvelling how they never fell off.

I’m very fortunate living in Skegness that I can visit the funfair whenever I want to during the summer months and although I no longer have the energy to enjoy the thrill of the rides I still find the sounds and sights of the fair magical.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Perfect Days Out

Treats for us kids in the 1950s were a lot different from today, back then there were no Alton Towers or Lego Land, very few families’s had a car and trips to the seaside were generally reserved for the main holidays if you were lucky. There was not a lot of money to spare for travelling far on day trip, though for us kids that didn’t seem to matter so much.

Two days out spring to mind when I look back at my childhood days in the 1950s. The first of these was a Sunday school outing by bus; it seemed to us kids that we had travelled a long way when in reality we had only been taken some 15 miles or so from Long Eaton to Markeaton Park in Derby. Markeaton Park covers a large area with a large scale lake that was used for boating. I remember walking down to the lake and crossing over a bridge and as I reached the other bank, there in front of me over a small rise appeared a travelling fair with a galloping horse’s fairground ride and a helter skelter. It was just like the scene from the Disney Film Mary Poppins when Dick Van Dyke takes them all to the fair it was just like I had entered some magical dream world. Much later when I was older I remember being taken to Markeaton Park and when I discovered the Fair wasn't a permanent attraction my dream world was shattered.

There was another trip though that was really special, about once or twice a year in the late 50s I was taken to Nottingham (about 18 miles away) and in the old market square we would take a ride on a Nottingham Corporation Trolley Bus to Trent Bridge. I always got excited about riding the trolley buses they were much better then you ordinary buses, the smell of the leather seats the smoothness of the ride and they were so quiet compared to the petrol engine buses, and at  the terminus you could watch the driver move the connecting arm over to the over head cables that gave the trolley’s their power to run using a long pole for the journey back. At Trent Bridge we would board one of the many pleasure boats that were moored at the side of the Trent and be taken a couple of miles up river to Colwick Pleasure Gardens. To be honest it was only a couple of old wooden sheds with a few slot machines inside, a few swing  boats and part of the river roped off  for a paddling pool but for us kids it was as good as a day out at the Seaside.

If we were really lucky we would go for tea at Lyons Corner House restaurant in the Market square and afterwards be taken to the cinema. Nottingham at night in the days of the trolley buses was great fun especially if it had been raining, Sparks would fly off the over head electrical wires as the trolleys ran over them and the sky would be lit up just like on November the 5th.

Those days out were just perfect, because there were still a lot of bombed sites left by World War II and we were just getting over rationing but in many ways they were still happy days.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Beach Hut Time

May 21st is a marked day on my calendar because it is the start of the 2011 season for hiring Beach Huts along our coast from the council.

You may ask what is it with Beach Huts, why are they loved so much by the British; sure they are only a shed by the sea? You can’t sleep in them; they are only for day use. They don’t run on wheels like in Victorian times when you could wheel them down to the waters edge. So why do they fetch very high prices (over £100,000) in certain parts of the country and in Scarborough new Beach Huts have been selling for around £35,000?
We British have loved our beach huts ever since the Victorians invented them, There are thousands of these small huts dotted all around our coast line, some are situated just behind The busy beaches of our main resorts whilst others are hidden away in quiet coves, some are easily accessible whilst others can only be reached by winding cliff side walks. Thse who are lucky enough own thier own private Beach hut that can be enjoyed all through the summer others are owned by hotels and offer there guests a welcome facility and a large amount of the huts are owned by local authorities who rent them out either on a daily basis or weekly.
The advantages of having a beach hut are many, it gives you a base on the sea front that the whole family can use, and those that are happy to just lounge about can look after things whilst others can explore or just go off for a swim. Each Beach hut comes equipped usually with a power point and kettle, basic cutlery, plates and mugs and 4 deckchairs. So you have a constant sconce of making hot drinks and somewhere to store food. On the odd occasion that you experience a short sharp shower you have a means to shelter and if you feel the need to go off to find somewhere for lunch you have the choice to leave all of your bags and towels locked away instead of having to drag them around with you.

Our favourite Beach Huts along our stretch of the coast are at Mablethorpe adjacent to Queens Park. There you have the choice of relaxing on either the front or back of the BH, the front looks towards the sea and golden beach whilst the back looks over the superb facilities like Boating lake, crazy golf, bowling green, large Paddling pool and Miniature Railway (see photo on this page), Ideal position for when the family visit us. We really enjoy hiring the beach huts, I can relax with a good book, enjoy a cup of tea when I feel a thirst, and just watch everyone enjoying themselves, its not expensive to hire one, its around £20 a day or £60 a week, the week runs from Saturday to Friday and for a day you can book one from 10 am onwards.
Why doesn’t Skegness have many beach huts and in fact none on the sea front? For the answer to that question you have to go back to the 1960s, After the severe floods of 1953 Mablethorpe had to rebuild there sea front but it wasn’t till 1960 that funding was provided for the Sea Defence wall to be built in Skegness, with Skegness Urban district council paying out for a public walkway to be laid on top. When it was completed the council applied for permission to erect beach huts along the length of it, but because of keeping the cost low the promenade around Skegness was only half the widst of the same prom in Mablethorpe and the then River Authority denied the plan on the grounds that the prom was only just wide enough to allow access for their maintenance vehicles to use, this was a major set back at the town because it was hope that the development would allow them to recoup some of the expenditure of building the public walkway and for us it would have meant that proper maintenance of the walkways would have been assured. There is however a few beach huts behind the sand dunes beside the pier that can I believe be hire from £10 a day, but for us we would rather travel the 18 miles to use the wonderful facilities at Mablethorpe.

To hire a beach hut here is where you can do it

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

When I Was A Nipper Alan Titchmarsh Book Reveiw

For anyone who grew up in the 1950 and 60s this book will be full of memories, as you turn the pages it will be like opening a curtain on a world that seems so different to the one we live in today. Alan looks at every aspect of life as it was when he was young, he looks at school days, the work place, how we shopped on the high street pre Supermarket days, how we relaxed and what we did on our holidays. He sets out to show the good and bad of the way we lived back then interspersed with stories about his own growing up in Ilkley, Yorkshire. For those who were not about 50 years ago you will find a well illustrated look at how you parents or grandparents lived. I sometimes find it hard to believe that I grew up in a world where horse drawn vehicles were still common site on our streets, where to daily postal delivery was often the only way of communicating with people outside of your area and when you could go out eat and be entertained and still have change from a pound note.

The excerpt from the book I’ve chosen is a description of what to us is an essential everyday item. The telephone.

 Hardly anyone had their own phone at home when I was small, but you’d find telephone boxes in towns, strategically situated outside the main post office, in the square and on major street corners. They were the proper red sort, which are mostly collectors’ pieces now, and used as garden gazebos. Goodness knows who people phoned, except for shops and businesses. But if you needed a plumber you could at least ring to book your burst pipes in for treatment, which is why ours was one of the first houses in our street to have a phone. Dad needed it for work. Ilkley 107 was the number, sadly just a digit off James Bond, but then dad had a licence to plum.

At least by the time we got our phone, in the in the early 1960s, you could direct dial. People who had a phone in the 1950s often had the old upright ‘candlestick’ phones with handles that you banged up and down to summon the operator. When she replied, you’d dictate the exchange and number you wanted (Whitehall 1212, for instance was Scotland Yard), and she’d connect you. A phone was a great luxury to be used very sparingly-children and teenagers never used it without permission – and everyone kept calls short and to the point, with no idle chit chat. A lot of people put on a special ‘telephone voice’ for answering the phone to impress whoever was on the other end with their refined tones.

STD (Subscriber Trunk Dialling) didn’t come in until 1958, and then only gradually, but it was seen as a huge advance since you dialled the number of the telephone switchboard followed by the number of the subscriber you wanted to talk to, and the call went straight through automatically. As the demand for household phones grew, ‘party lines’, where one line was shared between two houses, were introduced as a way of stretching limited resources round all the people who wanted to be connected. People would never know whether their neighbours were on the phone until they picked it up and heard a conversation already taking place. Good manners demanded that you put the phone down right away, without listening in, and try again later, but there was no such thing as privacy. And how on earth the telephone company worked out the bills I’ll never know.

Alan Titchmarsh’s book is a great read and one that can be dipped into whenever you feel the need of nostalgia.  

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Tale of Grannies opening

This morning I left my virtual beach hut to visit Skegness Library for a monthly group session when we with the help of Library staff delve into the local history of Skegness and district. This morning my attention was drawn to the photograph shown on this page mainly because of my interest in our Coastal walkways.

I come from Derbyshire on the doorstep of the beautiful Peak District that is enjoyed by ramblers every weekend of the year, but it was not always the case in fact in the 1920s there was a battle going on between weekend walkers from Manchester and other surrounding areas and major land owners of the moors. The land owners didn’t want people walking over the land but the ramblers were adamant that they were using footpaths that had been used for hundreds of years to cross the moorland. Then on 24th April 1932 a mass ramble of 400 walkers set off to reach the summit of Kinder Scout, small skirmishes broke out between walkers and Gamekeepers and on descending the summit some walkers were arrested and the following court cases were big news. The walkers won the battle and Kinder Scout is now a part of the famous long distant footpath known has the Pennine Way.

Skegness has its own rebel who defied the land owner and the law of the land. The picture you see is of Councillor Samuel Moody J.P who is holding a pair of wire cutters and who as gone into Skegness folk lore because of what he did in the belief that he was in the right. The Story goes that in 1900 land was purchased to form the North Shore Golf Club and later in 1908 the land owners decided to fence off a footpath known locally as Grannies Opening. This footpath had been used for many years by local people to get to there place of worship in Skegness especially during winter months when low lying fields were often flood. On one particular Friday night Councillor Moody and a group of locals approached the fence armed with wire cutters. Councillor Moody made a speech where he stated that this was and had been an important right of way not only for locals but for volunteers to reach the lifeboat station in order to save lives at sea. He then took the wire cutters and cut through the barbed wire and also dismantled part of the fence before walking through the gap he had created and along with is group carried on across the golf course despite the objections of an official from the golf course. Following this occurrence Councillor Moody was arrested and summoned before the Lincoln assizes which I believe was being held at Spilsby a few miles outside of Skegness at the time. A lengthy 2 months court case ensued and another interesting part of the story is that the Judge overseeing the case was the son of the author Charles Dickens. The outcome was that the court ruled in favour of Mr Moody and stated that the path because of its long standing use by locals was to be deemed a public right of way and to this day if you venture along Roman Bank Road you will find a footpath that leads to the sea right through the centre of the Golf Course. My interest in the case stems from the fact that around the year 2000 after reconstruction the sea defences and footpath that formed part of the original path that ran along the sea shore was closed to the public by the golf course in the interests of health and safety.

One day when times allow I hope to research the original case findings of 1908 to establish just what made up the path that was deemed a public right of way, and if I could get the support use the 2010 law that was established in order to create a public footpath around our coastline to once again create a continuous coastal walk along the foreshore between Ingoldmells and Skegness. It is because of people like the Manchester Ramblers and Samuel Moody that we have the freedom to roam that we often so much take for granted today.
If you would like to walk along the footpath know has Grannies Opening I have found a link to a walk recommended by the Skegness branch of the Ramblers association here http://www.skegnessra.madasafish.com/Ramblers_Initial.htm and if you would like to join me in my campaign to ensure that access to our coastal paths is available to all then please contact me through this blog.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Sevvi Ballesteros

I was never the athletic type as a child, so running around chasing someone or something just didn’t appeal to me, but I was always keen to have a go at pitch and putt or crazy golf when visiting the seaside. In the late seventies we moved into an area that was close to the Derby Golf Club and in the 80s I took up golf and joined the club. At this time two men were an inspiration to me, one of these was the great Jack Nicklaus who was winning every competition that he entered. I read a lot of Jack's teaching books and although it didn't make a great difference to my ability to master the game I did learn how to have fun and enjoy the game at my level. The other man dominating the world of golf at that time was Sevvi Ballesteros; he had at that time become the people’s champion. I think it was the charisma of the man that made him so popular and the winning smile that he was always displaying. With Sevvi there never seemed to be an air of playing safe, he always wanted to drive the ball the furthest and even though some of his drives went astray and into the rough it was always a challenge, Sevvi's attitude was there was always a shot to get you out of trouble. Time and time again he proved that what to most would be an impossible shot to him it was so simple. The first time I went to watch sevvi was at Hollingwell nr Sutton in Ashfield, Notts. Hollingwell is a very long course which very much suited Sevvi's style of played. I can still recall the drives he hit that day which to me at the time didn't seem humanly possible, another thing that endeared him to the fans that followed him was the way he always made time to talk to people as he played his game. That day was the first time I had gone to watch a professional tournament and Sevvi became my champion.

My most memorable moment though was in 1985 when I went with a party from the Golf club to watch the first of the new Ryder Cup, previously the Ryder Cup format was England v USA but in 1985 it became Europe v USA. I stood beside the green of the 10 hole par 4 the green was surrounded by water and at the time was not considered reachable in one shot, both American players had layed there balls up on the fairway just across the water from the green with an Iron shot when Sevvi stepped onto the green with his driver every one held there breath. Sevvi hit the drive strong and true it landed on the green and rolled to near 10ft from the pin, the cheer from the crowd surrounding the green was deafening and that shot from Sevvi has gone down in the history of golf as the moment that inspired the European team to victory for the very first time.

I also recall the showing around that time of a series of pro celebrity golf games that the famous golf commentator Peter Alliss used to present, Sevvi was often a guest on these games and he was always the gentleman and sportsman that we loved, he often played against another sporting greats of the time who as also died in the last week Henry Cooper, these series of golf games between professionals and celebrities were a joy to watch and I often wish they could repeat them.

Sevvi Ballesteros was a sporting great who will never be replaced, he died too young and I'm sure if it hadn’t been for is illness would have had a long career in the presentation of the sport and on the seniors tour.

RIP Sevvi