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, 23 April 2012

Spencer Perceval

People are always saying “ It was never has bad as this when I was young” to which I often reply “ no, it was probably worse”. I’m always dipping into history and the more I do this the more I understand that nothing has changed over the centurys, only the names and faces are different.

Take for instant the story of Spencer Perceval. The name is unlikely to ring a bell, perhaps the only time the name comes up these days is during a pub quiz when the question is ‘Who was the only British Prime Minister to be assassinated whilst in office? I came across this story recently and even though it took place 200 years ago it wouldn’t be out of place during these life and times.

It was May 1812. Parliament was involved in pushing through sanctions against France as a result of the Napoleonic wars that was damaging British trade with Europe. At the same time the luddite movement was causing riots because workers were unhappy that new machinery was putting skilled workers out of a job. The prime minister was in a hurry to get to a meeting when he was confronted in the lobby by a well built and well dressed man who raised a pistol to his chest and at point blank range shot him through the heart. Perceval was dead in minutes and this swiftly led to panic has it was thought that this murder could have been the start of a general onslaught on Parliament.

Such a response was hardly surprising. Not only was Britain at war, but the Conservative government had also been coming under pressure from two domestic movements. First, A revived radicalism had brought talk of corruption in high places centered around the wealthy and radical MP, Sir Francis Burdett and his calls for political reform and secondly by the Luddism movement, which had spread from Nottingham in 1811 to many other parts of the country. Less than two weeks before Perceval’s death, Luddites had murdered a mill owner in West Yorkshire and public unrest was spreading rapidly.

However Perceval’s Assassin gave himself up with out a struggle and it was soon discovered when questioned that the act of murder was due to a totally separate grievance with the government over an arrest in Russia and wrongful imprisonment and that the government had failed to compensate him properly.

During the trial he denied insanity and was found guilty of murder and executed just 6 days later. The public mistaking the murder as a political act actually gathered to boo the soldiers who took the Assassin away and the Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge later came across some men in a pub drinking a toast to the assassin. Evidence of celebrations after the news of Perceval’s death came from far and wide, at Nottingham the church bells were rung, at Leicester there was a super and song and at Sheffield there were sheep roasted whole.

Six years later it was only luck and his habit of bounding up stairs that saved Palmerston from an attempted assassination by another disappointed petitioner. There are so many recognisable similarities to our present time which is why I have used it. Unpopular government and rumours of corruption in high places and  mass unemplyment and that this is why I chose it as an example

History teaches us that the same problems and conflicts keep repeating themselves and only the names and faces change. Because it is built into our nature to be competitive there will always be conflicts and battles, whether those battles are light hearted such as the ones held last weekend on the the TV programme ‘The Voice' or whether they are fought between rival groups of supporters on the football terraces or  religions, policies or Countries who just don’t see eye to eye, they will always be there. 

No one age is better than another, just the winning sides change. Today is St Georges day and I rejoice in the Knowledge that so far during my life time I have not known conflict on the scale of my fathers and his fathers, my personal feeling about this is that this is due to the courage of the men and women of the first half of last century, I can also rejoice that during my life we have had a settled Monachy in this country and although we often take this for granted I believe the work undertaken by our Queen has made a considerable impact on our stability. I’m glad to be English and I’m glad to serve our Queen and I can but hope that we will come through this present upheaval to make Britain Great once again.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Mr Guitar

He was known simply as Mr Guitar and was the inspiration for a generation guitar legends like Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney.

Born in East Ham, East London in 1920 he was just 12 years old when he persuaded his dad to by him a guitar from a stall in Petticoat lane Market for the equivalent of 75p.

In a very varied career that took him from playing with some of the top dance bands of the day such as Ted Heath and Mantovani before going on to backing great stars like Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Nat king Cole and Judy Garland before having chart success in the 1950s with Guitar Boogie Shuffle and Nashville Boogie.

He was nearing 40 years of age before he became the inspiration that brought us the sound that we have got to know and to love. It was in 1957 that his book ‘Play in a day’ was released which became the manual that introduced a generation of young musicians to Stardom. Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison all learned to play the guitar from his book, without Bert we may never have heard guitar Idols like Keith Richards, Pete Townsend and Brian May.

Every youngster who wanted to learn the guitar bought is book ‘Play in a day’ because they all were eager to learn as fast as they could. It was the Shadows who owed so much to him for there success that recorded a tune called Mr Guitar as a tribute to him.

I remember hearing Bert on his many appearances on the Sunday morning radio show ‘Easy Beat’ and have always regarded his hit Guitar Boogie Shuffle has one of the great instrumental tracks of it’s age.

The ‘Play in a day’ book went on to sell millions and was surely the reason for the growth of first the 60s beat sound that led to the first Rock Bands in the 1970s.

Rest in peace Bert we owe you so much for the wonderful music you inspired.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

And The Band Played On -By Christopher Ward

You would be mistaken if you thought that this book is another book just about the sinking of the Titanic. Yes it does play an important part of the book but only during the opening chapters. Christopher Ward started the project of researching the family tree of his Grandfather Jock Hume who was a member of the Orchestra playing on the Titanic the night it sunk. Christopher’s intention was to compile a family tree to pass on to his children but during his research he uncovered remarkable story that revealed how the sinking of the titanic and the loss of Jocks life affected his ancestors right down to the present day. It was only after completion of is research that friends convinced him that the story of love, hate, deception and courage should be made into a book. Jock was a remarkable violinist who quite possibly made a career for himself had he not died on the Titanic that fateful night. The story tells of how Jock turned to playing on cruise ships to escape is spiteful Father and how he met and fell in love with Mary Costin. The voyage on the Titanic would have probably have been is last because Jock found out that Mary was going to have his child just before he sailed and how he planned to Mary her on his return. The opening chapters describe the fateful full night and the recovery of the bodies after the sinking of the Titanic. It compares the life and death of the passengers and crew and shows how class still played a major part even after death. Like at home was not a happy childhood, his mother was ill and is father was both cruel and a compulsive liar who was against Jocks relationship with Mary because he felt she was only from a working background and has such he would be marrying below his status.

This part of the story of Andrew Hume disowning Jock and Mary and his own grandchild kind of mirrored my own story and so had a personal feel about it. My Great Great Grandfather had disowned my great grandmother for a similar reason. He was a wealthy industrialist who had done well during the Nottingham lace making of the 19th Century and his wife was from a working canal family. My grt grandmother met a railwayman who was lodging across the street. To understand why Enoch was against my grt grandfather Samuel you need to understand that the railways had put the Canal families out of business and Enoch was also a high church man and Samuel was a chapel person and a non conformist of the day. So when Samuel and Harriet married Enoch disowned them both and has my research shows made a considerable difference to the social life of my ancestors.

The story recounts how the brave bandsman’s death was commemorated in his home town of Dumfries  and how the deceitful action Jocks father denied his granddaughter even the a chance to get money from a trust fund set up to care for unfortunate families. It shows how his deceitfulness later ruined Andrews’s life and how he rebuilt it with even more deceit. Andrew was a wicked and some feel a somewhat mad person who was cruel to both is wife and children and how as soon as his wife died he married an equally cruel woman. The story shows how this cruelty to one of his children led to another scandal that rocked the Hume household and had a lasting effect on individuals.

I really enjoyed this book because it not only gave an insight into the final hours of the Titanic and what happened afterwards but gave many clues to how different society lived in those days when news travelled a lot slower and what class you belonged to mattered more than what kind of a person you were. I recommend this book to all who have undertaken family research or who enjoy reading about the past, it is well written and moves at a steady pace.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Sunday School

I was reminded whilst watching a television programme the other day of the time as a child when I attended Sunday school. Like many children of my age I was packed off every Sunday afternoon to attend classes at a nearby chapel. My parents weren’t particularly religious I think it was more about getting a little peace and quiet from us after Sunday lunch more than anything else. I can’t say I benefitted much from the experience but there was one annual treat that I am thankful for and the effect of it has stayed with me through out my life.

Every year on prize giving day each pupil was reward for their attendance to Sunday school with the gift of a book. We were very poor and books were a luxury and apart from Christmas when if you were lucky you might receive an annual from a relative books were not something we came to expect and so an adventure book as a prize was something very special. I believe that one of the books I received was ‘Treasure Island’ by Robert Louis Stevenson which remains to this day on of my favourite stories. 

Another treasured memory I have of my Sunday school experience was the annual Sunday school outing and one outing has remained in my memory. On the day in question we all piled into a double decker bus and I recall most of us boys made our way onto the top deck. The Journey must have been less than 18 miles to our destination which was Markeaton Park on the outskirts of Derby but to us kids it was as good as a trip to the coast. I recall having a Mary Poppins like experience on arrival at the park. We were led up the path which was on a small rise and has we crested the rise there in front of us was a bridge across a lake and on the other side was a small fair with all the usual fairground attractions and I remember thinking that somehow we were about to enter a magical Kingdom.

So all in all Sunday school was not a bad experience,

The Sunday school we attended though was a far cry from the early days of the movement. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century children as young as eight years old were working in factories 6 days a week. I was shocked when researching my own family tree to discover in a census of a great grandfather of mine whose trade was lace making to find a granddaughter of his residing with him having her listed occupation being a lace drawer at only 8 years of age. Unless you were a household of means it was very unlikely that your children would have had the opportunity of schooling. Robert Raikes one of the pioneers of the Sunday school movement had witnessed that many of the children brought up in slum conditions who were illiterate went on to a life of crime and imprisonment. He saw schooling as the best prevention, but Sunday was the only day when they were not working. The first Sunday school was set up in a private house in 1780 and was only for boys. Reading and writing was taught and the text used for this purpose was from the Bible. Later girls were allowed to attend and within two years several schools opened in and around the Gloucester area. Similar stories were going on in other parts of the country and soon these new free forms of education became established in the community.

  Within seven years it was estimated that nearly a quarter of a million children were being taught in Sunday Schools. This was almost three percent of the population. The children aimed at in the scheme were those whose parents could not afford day schooling or children already in employment and so at work during the week.

Meanwhile Raikes’s work in Gloucester continued to attract attention. Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, granted him an audience and encouraged others to follow his example. He was continually widening his interests and was involved in the establishment of the Gloucester Infirmary and a new and improved prison. He is an example of the zeal for social reform that was making great strides at that time. The establishment of Sunday Schools was one small part of the great social changes that were to change the face of society over the next quarter of a century

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Living Statues

Over the last year or so we have got used to seeing living statues in Skegness. They come in different costumes; a man dressed as a cavalier, a Victorian lady with parasol and my favourite the angel. Human statues have a long history in European street theatre; especially in city’s like Rome and Barcelona and more recently they have been seen in our university cities and places like Covent Garden.

They can be classed as buskers; street actors who dress up use make up and pose in a still life position. The clever ones will know how to work a crowd and by using simple movements will draw people to them to deposit a coin for an action. I like the Angel who gives out small glass pebbles to young children who deposit a coin.

The latest living sculpture to appear on our street has puzzled me. Not quite sure what or who it is supposed to be, it wears a dark costume with a very fuzzy wig that almost covers its face. Its fingers squeak when they move and when someone deposits a coin will trigger sound affects, sometimes the Adams Family Theme or the chimes of large big Ben style clock. I like the use of sound I think that aspect of the performance will grow.

There are all kinds of characters used by living statues, below are just a few.

I enjoy watching these street performers and the reaction of young children and think it’s an important ingredient in a modern day high street setting. I believe that if we are to encourage people back to our high streets we need to use street theatre and performers to add a little entertainment.

Another idea could be to use interactive projected scenes on both floor and side screens as shown in this example.  http://youtu.be/4pOJzMr2Jg0

The use of buskers and street performers will I believe become a more common site on our high streets in the future and there are many agencies springing up who specialise in providing these performers. Below are a few examples

Take a look at these funny vids of human statues on you tube

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Mods and Rockers

It seems a long time ago, and when I come to think of it that’s exactly what it was. Forty six years ago I came to Skegness as a mod. That’s me sitting on the right of the photo (top right) with my mate Geoff. I suppose I joined the mod culture because of the music, Tamla Motown, The Who, Small Faces, Troggs and The Kinks. A mate of mine I used to hang around with had a Lambretta Scooter which was I suppose another good reason why I became a mod. It was soon after this that I acquired a parka jacket which at the time was one of the distinctive pieces of clothing that all mods wore, however my job didn’t pay enough for me to splash out on the trendy suits that mods wore when they were out on a Saturday Night. The smarter you looked the more you stood out, especially with the girls and the top guy symbolised by ‘Sting’ in the Film ‘Quadrophenia’ was know as the ‘Ace Face’. Your 60s Parka Jacket were cheap, warm, relatively water proof and great for riding scooters in a pre-helmet era as one could tie the fur hood right up around your face. Plus, no one else was wearing them on the street and that was important to the mods. I think I got mine from the Army and Navy store, as soon as I got home I stuck some fur around the hood and painted a red white and blue bulls eye motive with the words The who written through it onto the back of the jacket. Now I could be recognise when out with my mates has a mod.

Greases like Rock and Roll music, wore leather jackets (some with studs in the backs of them in the design of a skull. They rubbed lots of brylcream in their hair, which has well as there scruffy appearance because they were always taking there bikes to bits gave them the name of greasers. Rockers rode Motor Cycles which on the whole were fairly plain to look at compared with the Mods form of transport

 The Mods preferred scooters which were more cleaner, often painted with Union Jacks to their engine casings, had mirrors attached to the front bodywork and usually spoted a long aerial attached to the metal back rest with a piece of fur attached to the top of it. My mates scooter was a Lambretta, another popular make was a Vespa which as often been described as having a hair drier attached to one side, which was really the engine.

The particular Easter we came to Skegness was some time in the mid 60s, I rode as pillion passenger on the back of Geoff’s scooter and I remember as we rode along we would often sing the Troggs classic hit ‘Wild Thing’

We arrived in Skegness around lunch time and spent most of the afternoon just riding around. We saw the occasional groups of Rockers but we kept to ourselves and never saw any trouble. We spent most of the evening in the Beachcomber Bar which was situated then in the Grand parade Complex that burnt down a few years back. The bar was full of mods but there was no trouble throughout the night. After the bar closed we followed the crowd onto the beach somewhere in the south of town. Someone had started a small fire and we dug holes in the sand and tried to bed ourselves down for the night. As usual it was a very cold Easter and not many of us got any sleep and about 4 am we were all sitting outside of a sea front cafĂ© waiting for it to open so that we could get a warming mug of tea.  I never saw any trouble the whole of the weekend, we came for a laugh but most of us left cold and just wanting some sleep and a warm bed.

Strange isn’t it but kids look at us today as if we don’t know what fun is about and as though there the ones that discovered how to rebel. Little do they know lol and I can remember that Easter Holiday as if it was yesterday.

Whether you were around at that period in history or not re-live the news of the day on these YouTube clips

How I remember those far off days, on the dance floor and not on the beaches scrapping.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Peter Pan Railway

Just received a post card I purchased on eBay. The picture on the card conjures up very special memories for me from my childhood. Like most young boys at that time I was mad on steam engines. My Grandfather was an engine driver bases at Toton goods yard near Nottingham and whenever possible I would persuade him to take me to where he worked and to see all the engines lined up in the sheds or shunting in the yard.

Whenever we went to the seaside the first thing I wanted to ride on was the Peter Pan railway and to be honest I think if they had let me I would have rode on them all day. Each miniature steam engine was brightly paint red, blue, pink or green and each engine took a maximum of four passengers. What was really great about the Peter Pan Railway was you could go on it and sit in the driver’s seat without an adult present. In our young innocent minds we believed that we were driving them all by ourselves, whilst in reality they were being controlled by the man in the hut who also took the money. There was a bright silver bell to ring and we weaved around flower beds through a tunnel whilst we steered the little engine with a steering wheel, or so we imagined.

I was always taken on holiday either by aunts and uncles or my grandparents as a child. They all worked on the railways so could afford to travel around our coast, north, south east and west and luckily there seemed to be a PPR in every resort around the country when I was growing up. I recall I wondered off one day and a frantic search was started but they needn’t have worried because they guessed where I might have been, I was found standing watching my favourite red engine weaving its way around the tracks

The Peter Pan Railway in the post card was at Butlins Skegness. The PPR in Skegness was next door to the model yacht pond (more or less where the River Rapid ride is today, just before you enter Bottons Pleasure Beach). Later I recall they replaced the Peter Pan engines with sport cars but they never had the same appeal for me.

You could keep your Dodgem cars and your big wheel I was happiest riding the Peter Pan Railway.

Heres a recent youtube clip of the familiar Peter Pan Railway in action

I do hope other readers have happy memories of the PPR wherever you found it, if so please share them.