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.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Treasures From The Attic

I am sure that all of us at some time have given away or disposed of personal items which in later years we wished we had held onto. Items that we had grown out of or we consider at the time to be of little value but which often prove to be of great value to us in years to come.

I often wish I had looked after and put away those Dinky Toys I had so many of has a child. If only I had kept that model 1952 coronation gold coach and team of horses that now sells on eBay for £100 upwards. If only I had held onto those pop concert programmes and pop mobilia items that just disappeared with time. If only I had stored away my collection of comics and Rupert annuals dating back to the 1950s. These and many more items that I took very much for granted are now much sought after collectors items.

There are so many of these action type shows on television at the moment and how often do we see items go for very high prices that we once had in our possession but got lost or given away over the years. If I had made a profession out of collecting all the mobelia associated with the sixties pop band ‘The Beatles’ I would have been a very wealthy man by now. But of course it is very easy to be wise in hind sight, none of us around at the time expected the kind of interest the Beatles would have all over the world even 60 years after they were formed.

Most of us have at least one item handed down through the family that we treasure, for me it is a scrapbook that a six year old brother of my Grandmother made. He must of made it sometime between 1906-13 when just a boy, there are some fine examples of Edwardian fashion and decorations from about the time, I also have one of his sketchbooks, he was a very good artist in my opinion. My one regret is I was unable to hang on to four volumes of books all about the Boer War that my Grandmother had, after her death they were sold along with the house contents. Some of the illustrations in the books of battles during the war were breathtaking, as a boy I used to spend hours looking through them. I believe the contents of the four massive books were released on a monthly basis and were collected by my Grandfather when just a lad and later bound together, shudder to think what they would be worth in today’s market.

However it is my belief that the greatest of all family heirlooms any one of us can possess is the simple family snap shot. I have only a very few photos of family members, just two of my Grandparents and none at all of my Grandfathers family. I wish I had taken more interest in family photos when I was younger, there were always loads of them lying around in drawers or in old handbags and now that I am researching my family tree there are so many gaps in my family where I have no knowledge of what any of them looked like. It was not until the 1960s and beyond that camera’s became affordable and in general use and that is why many of our family photos were often taken at the seaside by professional photographers. It’s a pity there is not a photo bank where you can send off for those lost pics of great uncle Jim or Great Aunt Maud. That is why it is very important that we try to preserve those family snap shots in our possession. The internet is a wonderful way of preserving them. There are many photo sharing sites like Flikr or Photo Bucket that will hold all of your photographs for free even. In future years your offspring’s offspring will be able hopefully to be able to view these treasured flicks and so will be able to put together a more detailed account of your life than any of us are ever likely to achieve of our ancestors.

So no matter what you throw away of your many possessions that we seem to value so lightly these days, please preserve those family snap shots for posterity.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Visions Of Spring and Kisses On The Bottom

We have just spent the weekend in Peterborough. My father is 90 on Monday and so we organised a party for him at the sheltered housing complex where he lives. He had a good turnout and really enjoyed it. We stayed overnight at a Premier Inn, the first of their chain of hotels we have stayed at and we were really impressed with the breakfast set up. We have stayed at both Travelodge’s and Holiday Inns many times and usually they deployed a Buffet style breakfast. At today’s Premier Inn the Continental breakfast was help yourself but the full English order was taken at your table and brought to you freshly cooked from the kitchen with plenty of choice and you could order any amount of each item. The breakfast set us well up for the Journey back home and after a visit to my Father we set off for Skegness.

It was a heart warming journey back in the bright sunshine which was a real surprise as the original forecast was for a wintery weekend. The smile on my face widened with every mile we travelled, with just small fluffy clouds above and plenty of snow drops growing on the grass verges it really did feel that at last we had turned the corner and winter was on its way out and spring was definitely in front of us. I do realise that we are a long way from out of the woods yet, there is still time for more snowfall and ice during this month but just a glimpse of what is not to far away warms my heart immensely. With it came thoughts of trips along the coast, days at the Mablethorpe Council owned Beach Huts and summer concerts in Tower Gardens and all the other wonderfuljoys of living in Skegness during the spring and summer months

When I was much younger winter was fun and I too felt excited by the promise of snow and Ice, but the more you age the more you have to fear about the prospect of winter and falling on the ice and the possibility of breaking bones, then there is the cost of warming the home and staying healthy enough through the winter months and so it is a great joy when at last you view the first images of spring as we did today. It is a wondrous thing that we take for granted the way the earth rotates through its yearly circle and strange to comprehend that whilst we are coming out of winter somewhere else on this planet is heading towards it.

On arriving back to our apartment we were ready for a rest after the journey and activity of the day before so I settled back to listen to a new bit of music I have just downloaded off I tunes. ‘Kisses On The Bottom’ is the new Paul McCartney Album. It was to be called My Valentine after the new single and the Album was to be released on St Valentines day but then Paul has he say’s felt he didn’t want the Album to be associated with just the one day in the year but for all days and so someone came up with the name Kisses on the bottom which is part of the lyrics of the opening number on the album an old Cole Porter song called ‘I’m gonna sit write down and write myself a letter’. The Album is a collection of songs from his parents days, some of them are familiar to me and some not, but the style of songs that come from the nineteen thirties and forties period except for two new tracks on the album.

Paul doesn’t play any instruments on the album which is unusual for him but he does have Diana Kroll and her band accompanying him on all the tracks which gives it a rich Jazz feel to it. Eric Clapton plays guitar on a few tracks including 'My Valentine' and Stevie Wonder provides a great Harmonica sound on the ‘Only Our Hearts' number.  My favourite track at the moment is the My Valentine single. Paul says he was out in Morocco  with Nancy is new wife and it was raining one afternoon and the there just sitting there and she said “ what if it rains, we can still have fun and we know the sun will shine soon”. A few days later he was sitting in the foyer of the hotel at an old piano in the corner when the idea for the song was born. It’s a kind of song you feel that you have heard before its got that old feel about it and I really like it.

I’ve been following Paul from his early days with the Beatles and you could say we have grown old together (not that you would think of Paul McCartney as old when you see him perform). Of the McCartney/Lennon partnership it was always Paul who created the slower classics like ‘Yesterday’ and ‘Michelle’.  He had created great Albums and performances throughout the years and for me this Album is no exception. Another member of the Beatles Ringo also has a new record out at this time. It is very different to the style of Pauls but very enjoyable even so.

Whilst away I saw the images of the funeral of Whitley Houston, so sad to see a great talent like hers to end this way at such an early age of 48. Watching the few shots of the funeral Service I couldn’t help thinking about some of the stars like Stevie Wonder and Dionne Warwick who were performing there tribute to Whitney. They must have faced the same temptations and stress that both Whitney and Army Whinehouse had come up against and yet they had come through unaffected. When we consider the Beatles we remember only two of them survived, John was murdered and George lost his life to cancer. But they all went through a period of booze and drugs but they came through the trial. None of us can understand the stress and temptation that the music industry puts on a person unless we have been apart of it, with so much money and offers of free booze and drugs thrust at them it’s a wonder that more are able to withstand it. Both Amy and Whitney had the added indigence of having a violent partner and one that was into booze and drugs big time and this must have damaged them even more. Let us be thankful we have so many good examples around us and let us hope that young people setting out on the road to fame take heed of the dangers they face and what it could do to you         

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A Night At The Flicks

A night at the flicks is a term often used in my younger days to describe going for a night out at the cinema, sometimes also described as the Flea Pit for the run down type or a Picture Palace for some of the more grand affairs you might find in a city centre. In my youth we would often go to the pictures at least twice a week, the feature films would change every 4 days. The picture houses had grand names like the Empire or the Ritz or the Essolda, some belonged to chains like Odeon, ABC, Paramount or the Savoy.
Picture houses back then mostly had just the one large screen and the screening would be continuous all day from 2pm till 11pm, which meant that you could come and go as you like, if you missed the beginning of the film you just stayed in you seat until it was re-run to the point where you came in and then if you wished you could leave or watch the performance again.

Every Saturday morning the would be a kids club which usually contained Cartoons, westerns and Sci-Fi serials like Flash Gordon, unfortunately they often turned out a bit unruly at times.

Going to the cinema back then was a much different experience than it often is today. Each showing of the main feature film was accompanied by a full programme of supporting features.

Arriving at the cinema you would be met by the Commissionaire in his smart military style uniform who would point the way to the ticket box and also ensure that no undesirables entered.   You bought your tickets at the booth, also on sale were movie magazines and sweets, you took you seat either in the lower stalls or the upper gallery usually to the sound of recorded music or in the larger establishments you were entertained by the resident organist on the Wurlitzer theatre organ. Our local cinema always played the greatest hits of the Shadows before each performance. The Screen would always be covered up by a velvety red curtain and standing in front of the screen would be usherettes selling ice creams and soft drinks.

The programme would start with a series of adverts, some national and some for local shops and restaurants; this was followed by the trailers of films that would be shown at the cinema in future weeks (http://youtu.be/SgnDCS11EWw ). Next would come the Pathe News   http://youtu.be/PJ-vJARftrk covering news from home and abroad and sporting news all in colour. In a time when less that half the population didn’t own a TV and no one had colour it was perhaps the only opportunity for people to see what was going on in the world. Before the main feature they would show the ‘B’ movie, this was a low budget movie some of which were very good some not so good. These films were often Westerns or Sci-fi some have even reached cult status in recent times. At the end of the ‘B’ movie there would be a short interval before the main feature was shown.

Many towns in the 1950-60s had at least two cinemas, some city’s at maybe five or six and even cinemas that just showed News reels and cartoons all day. Unfortunately with television spreading into move and more homes in the 1970s less people used the cinema and it was inevitable that by the late 1970s many of the picture houses had turned into Bingo halls.

There has in recent years been resurgence in cinema goers and new cinemas   are opening once again. I would love to be able to go to my local cinema but unfortunately the only cinema we have is above an amusement arcade and not particularly accessible to people with disabilities. But I have hope that one day we may have one of the modern Multiplex so that I can view some of the exciting new releases coming our way.

The link below shows just some of the films making the rounds of cinemas in the 1960s

Link below shows more of the great films of the 1950s

More great films this time from the 1950s

The link below gives you some idea of the Cinema experience of this time

Monday, 13 February 2012

Folklore or Fact

Those of you who are regular reads of my blog will know that history is something I’m very passionate about. Since moving to Skegness some 13 years ago I have steadily involved myself in the study not only in the history of our local area but also Lincolnshire as a whole. History is in my opinion not all as some may think all about dates and the facts associated with those dates it is much wider than that. It concerns people and how they live and there traditions, once we start looking deeper into how people have lived though out history it’s inevitable that you will also enter into the realm of Folklore. Folklore falls somewhere between history and hearsay and it’s often very difficult to measure how much fact and how much hearsay is a part of the tale, here are just a couple of examples.

The county of Lincolnshire is full of wonderful sounding place names. Whenever I’m driving back from Boston through East Kirby there are two road signs that are guaranteed to put a smile on my face. I speak about the signs that direct the traveller to Old Bolingbroke and Mavis Enderby. I always have the picture in my mind of an old couple who are devoted to each other rather than as the really are two villages close together. How many more people just like myself have associated these names in the same way and I often wonder if there are any songs out there about this fictional couple, I am reminded of the tale of a road sign just outside one of the villages that read ‘To Old Bolingbroke and Mavis Enderby’ and someone had written underneath ‘A gift of a son. The Oxford dictionary of British place-names states that Enderby was the farmstead or a village that belonged to a man called Eindrithi and adds the prefix mavis is a reference to the Malebisse family that lived in those parts. But in spite of this know fact I would rather imagine that Mavis was a real person and speculate on story’s about her.

My second example concerns an article in this weeks local paper. It seems a number of red lights seen above Skegness and the paper asked had any one else witnessed them. Many had speculated that they were merely Chinese Lanterns but of course some would rather believe that there was a more sinister reason behind the lights. I wonder what will be made of them in say a hundred years time when future local historians look back on events of this week.

This recording of the red lights over Skegness reminds me of the story of ‘Clays Light.

Halton Hillgate is just a mile away from Spilsby, it had a Churchwarden called Thomas Clay and they still refer to him today when they talk of Clay’s Light. The local tale is that the light warns of an imminent funeral. Thomas clay was a man who lived alone by the ‘Fen’ – a mile away from the church. He was Churchwarden in the years 1658, 1661 and 1662 and apparently he would walk to church for service in the evening every Sunday, but he would not use the road, walking over rough ground instead. He asked that is own coffin be carried on that same difficult route and thoughtfully left some cash to pay the unfortunate pall-bearers to do this.

 Understandably the general feeling was that such a task was a waste of time and so he was taken but road instead. But on the evening of the day when the funeral was to take place, a light was seen moving on the churchwarden’s favoured route to church; the light then settled on the church tower. Since that day, the story goes, when someone is to pass away the light shines out over their home.

In this edition of my blog you have read tales of a historical nature as well as tales steeped in folklore. History and folklore often combine and it can at times be difficult to separate them. It can often fall on the person, for instance a journalist/historian who records the historical fact on how much can be classed as accurate facts. Figures like Hereward the Wake and Robin hood are steeped in folklore but how much is fact.

I will be delving into some curious tales from Lincolnshire and surrounding area over the coming months ahead and hoping to find some entertaining nuggets that I can share with you.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Winter by the Sea

No where else can there be a greater contrast in the way people live and how life goes on around every one than you can find in a popular British seaside resort like Skegness. For half the year the place is full of light, lights from the fun fair, the cafes and later the illuminations. The town can go from all hustle and bustle and noise of all description with packed beaches and the smell of hot dogs and toffee apples. Then the lights go out, the kiosks and cafes shut, the beaches stand empty and just a few people walk the prom, head covered and bowed against the oncoming wintry wind.

For some it brings joy, for those who make there money from tourism it’s a time of rest, a time to have a holiday a time to put on a lick of paint and get ready for the opening of a new season. For some it means a struggle without the seasonal work, (it’s a fact the only place who take on extra staff during winter is the Jobcentre). For some it’s a time to enjoy the solitude and to make the most of the relaxed atmosphere and the empty car park and empty roads.

For many though it means a complete change of lifestyle, its time to close up the caravan, stack up the cushions, cover everything up and no more weekends away till spring. For some residents it means night time buses don’t run and there a longer waiting times during the day. It’s a time when local businesses struggle to survive and will even put many more business from setting up in town. Many shops will shut for the winter. Pubs won’t put on the same entertainment as during the season and the beach huts stand empty and alone.

As you can guess I am not one of those who welcome the winter months. I reveille in the hustle and bustle of the Summer crowds, the happy faces, the music and screams from the fair ground rides but most of all the Laughter. 

Its February here in Skegness and in my eyes it’s the worst month of the year. All I see as I walk along the foreshore is the ghosts of all last year’s visitors, the empty benches, the shuttered ice cream and hot dog stalls the empty boating lake and park benches in front of the empty and silent band stand.

However I have my dreams of how it could be different during the winter. If only we had a under cover all weather attraction where some could shop and others play and some could even sit and chat and watch life going on around them, if only we had the facilities to attract conference parties and big sporting events like Snooker and Darts, if themed weekends and exhibitions. Just down the road Butlins have successfully achieved all of these things and are a successful all year round thriving business, oh if only Skegness could follow there example.

To achieve all this first and foremost we need investment from outside of the town and even more important it would require cooperation from everyone, that means the hotels, shops and other local tourist businesses would need to work together, but the advantages to the town would be great, no longer would shops shut down because of the lack of custom and in fact we would encourage new retail outlets to start up.

Until and if this ever happens I will just after be patient for the time when the crowds return and our lovely resort awakes from its slumber and once more comes alive to the to the sounds and sights we so easily conjure up when we think of Skegness.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Smugglers Tales

The Lincolnshire coast has had its fair share of smuggling over the years and there are many tales of smugglers & smuggling to be found in these parts.

Skegness being 19m NE of Boston and the task of prevention of the smuggling of contraband falling mainly on the shoulders of one riding officer from Boston and with his other responsibilities meant that he was unable to visit the town daily. If his inspections coincided with a run, he might find himself entertained at a local hostelry, while the locals unloaded the small boats that were beached between Seacroft and Gibraltar Point. These vessels plied between the beach and the smuggling cutters, unloading various contraband cargoes, typically gin, tobacco, snuff, tea and sugar.

The haunt of the Skegness smugglers was The Vine inn, and here in 1902, building work revealed a skeleton dressed in uniform with brass buttons carrying the royal crest. This was probably the body of a revenue man who disappeared in the early years of the 19th century. It was in the Vine that the unfortunate man was last seen alive. The room where the skeleton was found is now the Grill Room.

The most notorious of the Skegness smugglers were Thomas Hewson and James Waite. Hewson was a tailor by profession, but left his family in his native Anderby to take up the free-trade. Among other dark deeds, he was suspected of the murder of a young man of Sloothby: Hewson was known to have lured the lad away from his employer, and was caught with a watch belonging to the youth. However, the body was never found. James Waite was caught for smuggling numerous times, and had three boats confiscated and sawn in half: when he was not awaiting His Majesty's pleasure he lived at Ingoldmells, in a house picturesquely named Leila's Cottage (now a prominent pub called The Ace). Waite's renown can be judged from the fact that Skegness Coastguards at one time carried in their watch boxes a portrait of the man, captioned 'James Waite, the notorious smuggler'

The coast north of Skegness to Saltfleet was another popular stretch for landing goods. Boats were unloaded on the beach, and the contents transferred to carts. These were then hauled through gaps in the sand dunes, known as 'pullovers'. Ingoldmells was for a long time a favoured landfall, and as late as 1846 Dutch vessels were still landing tobacco on the beach there.


Contraband landed on the beaches here could not always be spirited away immediately, and tubs were frequently buried in the dunes to await later collection. Early in the 20th century a partly decayed barrel of tobacco was unearthed in the sands: the owner had clearly been unable to return to claim his cargo, or perhaps had failed to take accurate bearings to locate the hiding place among the drifting sand-dunes.

Oliver's gap was a regular highway for smuggled goods, and two local smugglers had houses near here: Ned Bell lived at Bleak House, and is reputed to be buried in the family plot at Theddlethorpe St Helens some three miles north. William Twigg lived at North End Farm, which also still stands. To the north a mile or so, a brick cottage called the Curlew, half hidden by the dunes, was home to another smuggling family, though it was demolished in the last century.

In the 18th and in the early part of the 19th century, smuggling was common along the Mablethorpe coast. Customs duty on tobacco, spirits, tea and silk made it a lucrative occupation although very dangerous. They were hard times so desperate measures were taken to make money.

The export of wool was taxed and at one point, banded. Unsold wool in England together with a great demand on the Continent lead to illegal exports. If caught, men were whipped, transported to penal colonies in Australia or sometimes, hanged.

There were examples of battles between excise men and smugglers along the coast. A cannon ball was recovered from sand hills not far from the town that was reportedly fired from a excise boat at smugglers escaping. A regular ploy was to send a boat just off the coast showing a light, the news of this would then be passed on to the excise officer and whilst he waited for things to kick off further down the coast contraband could be unloaded with no trouble.
In the middle of the night carts drawn by horses were driven through the sandhills and out into the shallow water to waiting ships. Kegs of gin and bales of silk were transferred and silently return into the night.
Farmer’s carts would often be used to transport smuggled goods off of boats. Sometimes the white faces of the horses were blackened and their hooves covered with sacks. The iron shod cart wheels were wrapped with straw. This was to deaden their sound if they had to pass over chalk roads. Otherwise, the noise would carry some distance on a still night. The contraband gin and tobacco would then be hidden away in barns, cellars and in secret hiding places in chimneys..

The bathing machines were also used to store smuggled goods in. The bathing machine would often be wheeled down to the seas edge just before nightfall. Goods from boats would be unloaded into the machines during the night and then next day during daylight hours the machines would be wheeled away into the sandhills to be unloaded the next night.

The Riding Officers of the Customs and Excise were established in 1898. Their responsibility was to prevent smuggled goods from being transported inland. They covered up to 10 miles inland. Items were often stored in farmer’s barns until safe to move them inland.

One farmers daughter recalled when she was an old woman how she often travelling to Alford with her father on his cart when delivering smuggled goods. The goods would be place on the cart and then covered by a large quantity of Potatoes. On arrival in Alford is mates in the know would often call out in jest “are those taters for sale” to which he would reply “All sold all sold”. He would then pull up in a busy Inn yard late in the day and the Landlord to make sure no one would be suspicious would call out “Oh you’ve brought those takers at last have you, no time to unload them tonight you’ll have to leave the cart in the carriage shed.” The Carriage shed would contain a secret vault where items could be stored until safe to move them again.

Thomas Paine was a radical socialist thinker and is considered to be one of the forefathers of the United States. He lived and worked as excise officer in Alford but only for just over a year. However, his role in the formation of the United States of America is so important that Alford takes pride in its association with him
In the 18th Century, Alford was a centre for smuggling. This consisted of the illegal export of wool from the Lincolnshire coast and the import of contraband, particularly alcohol and tea.
Paine began as an Excise man in Grantham but Alford was his first responsible position. He started in August 1764. His office was in the Windmill Hotel in Room 105. It overlooks the main Market Place in Alford. The inn was also and important trading and commercial venue in the town. It's position made in idea for conducting business.
The Excise laws of the day were very strict. Many people felt that the restrictions were grossly unfair so many ordinary people were involved. It was there were many fights and consequently, casualties on both sides. Most smuggling was carried out at night.
The period here was fairly peaceful when Thomas Paine served in Alford. He tried to discourage smuggling rather than to punish it. He was dismissed for passing some goods on their documentation, rather than inspecting it himself. This was common enough where the trader concerned had a good name, but it gave some jealous colleague an excuse to have shopped him. It was a number of years before Paine was reinstated. He eventually served again at Lewes in Sussex.
In 1774, Paine immigrated to America. At this time the people there were preparing for Independence, which was formally declared in, 1776 July 04.
Paine became an influential writer. He became famous for his pamphlet, "Common Sense", and is credited for coined the name 'United States of America'. He was a good friends with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.