Thursday, 15 April 2021

(Old) School

Whenever I take a selfie of me & dad we both go into 'wary' mode

Something I read on
Amy Rigby's intoxicating blog the other day really resonated with me. Long story short she said that even though blogging may well be seen by many as outdated, tired or not on trend "I'm just gonna keep chugging along like an old man's dinghy in a stream of slick, shiny yachts." In other words, and I've said this here many, many times - I'm writing this stuff for me, essentially. If others a. find it and b. heaven forbid, like it, that's nice but not why I do it.


I went to see Dad on Monday. Since restrictions began to ease I've gone over to Grantham a couple of times now for lunch. We generally walk to the park and have a coffee and a sandwich. And a side order of chips; food tastes better sitting on a park bench I tend to find.

Wyndham Park is a very well kempt park and also near to the grammar school I used to attend when I was not long out of short trousers. I asked dad if he wouldn't mind indulging me while I had a nosey through the railings. It's nearly 50 years since I started my first term at King's. A time when masters still wore gowns and mortar boards and thought nothing of a bit of light corporal punishment to while away the time. Luckily in 1972 there'd been a new intake of staff (teachers, not masters) who wore civvies and were actually decent human beings. Mr Roper, our Geography teacher and form teacher, being one of them. Along with a couple of other good eggs he was probably not long out of teacher training college when he came to the school and, looking back, was probably only ten years or so older than us.

Not a playground; it's a quad

My nosey through the railings turned into a bit more when realising the school was closed for Easter I asked the caretaker in the security hut if I could have a look round the old quad. Fill yer boots she said. So many memories came flooding back (mostly good, but not all) as I was transported to a time when Edward Heath was PM and every single one of my exercise books was covered in pictures of the Sweet. I took a few photos and even snuck in one of my old classrooms. Finding it quite emotional I went back outside where my dad seemed to be taking just as many photos as me. 

St. Wulfram's Church

On the way back we went through the neighbouring churchyard of St Wulfram's. Our old music teacher, Mr. Lank, was the choir master and organist there. I remember he let me and my mate Phil Noon talk about Slade for ten minutes in one of his classes; the things you remember. Walking back to dad's he told me that Mr Roper's 'not so good at the moment.' When dad says someone's not so good it's usually followed by an obituary in the local paper (Dad's seen a lot of friends and colleagues in there over the years.) Anyway, that's what I did on Monday.

I couldn't find my blue plaque anywhere

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Fairey squarey

I've been putting together a fair few playlists over Lockdown (pictured above is some of the artwork). I find compiling them very therapeutic. They've gone out to all and sundry: family, friends, Twitter buddies have all been on the receiving end of these digital mixtapes; lasting no more than 60 or 70 minutes they're an ideal way to while away an hour or so. And let's face it, we've got bugger all else to do.

Often I'll get a text or maybe an email back from the recipient with a "Thanks" or a smiley emoji. However, earlier this week after sending one over to my daughter-in-law's father, I was pleasantly surprised when I got this most unique of responses (and as my reply pointed out, I look forward to receiving a similarly detailed critique for each of the other 10 tracks!) 

Over to Andy...

"So, for those interested in cosmic interconnectedness, the first track is played by the Fairey Band based in Stockport so James & Janneke can probably hear them when the wind is in the right direction. Harry Mortimer was their musical director for 30 years and inspired me to play cornet in the local band. Fairey Aviation built the Swordfish aircraft in WW2 and at the end of hostilities set up Fairey Marine to build sailing dinghies. In 1959 they built the Swordfish that I'm currently repairing and hope to sail this year. It's called Sue and my sister, another Sue, was also built in 1959. It's number 215 the last they built and one of the very few that survive. If there's ever a Swordfish world championship I'd stand a good chance of a medal. Welcome to my Cosmos!"


The Williams Fairey Brass Band - Pacific 202 (1997)

Thursday, 25 March 2021


I shan't keep you long today, just a quick show and tell. A song came on the radio earlier this week that, I don't mind telling you, knocked me for seven. And hearing it for the first time I naturally assumed it was a new tune. Well, you do don't you? Wrong! How has this gem, this utterly perfect slice of dreamy pop passed me by? I've been racking my brains and I must have gone to Mars in 2005; that's all I can think. 


EmilĂ­ana Torrini - Sunny Road 


Friday, 19 March 2021


I was made aware this week of a rather significant (and genuinely newsworthy) anniversary: My childhood hero Dennis the Menace has just celebrated a significant birthday. Apparently, young Dennis first graced the hallowed pages of The Beano on 12 March 1951, so I make that 70 years. And because he arrived as a fully formed 10 year old that would make him 80 if he's a day. 
I began reading about the naughty schoolboy's scrapes in the late 1960s when I was a little bit younger than him; though, I've got to hand it to him, he's aged a lot better than me.
Along with The Dandy (for my younger bro) I remember both comics dropping on our doormat religiously every Thursday morning. Looking back I don't think my parents cancelled the subscriptions at the local newsagent till both my brother and I were well into our teens; I would often find dad poring over one or the other in his favourite armchair, guffawing loudly. Happy Birthday, Dennis! 

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Game Changer

Lou Ottens died at the weekend. He was 94*. And although I never met him, Mr. Ottens changed my life; he probably changed yours too.

In 1963, Lou, working for Phillips, presented the first plastic encased cassette tape at an electronics fair. Carrying the strap line ‘smaller than a pack of cigarettes!’ his invention would go on to sell over 100 billion units. As well as countless portable cassette recorders which at a stroke consigned clunky reel-to-reel recorders to the glue factory.

And so the playlist was born. Compilation tapes (mix tapes, if you will) become the currency with which everyone in my school - and the world - shared their music. As I've mentioned many, many times here before, the songs I listened to then (and taped off the radio) essentially laid the foundations my life was built on. Seriously; cut me and I will bleed O Rhesus Glam. Rest easy, Lou.

* Some wag on Twitter said they were pleased he got to see 90.