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End of the Month Blog: Day 151…

Hang on a minute- wasn’t it February just now? 

I’m delighted to welcome Nell Peters back with her regular (now bi-monthly) blog round up of the last 31 days.

Over to you Anne…

By ‘eck! Time flies, doesn’t it? Here we are at the end of May already – the one hundred and fifty-first day of the year, no less. That means there’s just another two hundred and fourteen to go until the end of 2019.

Irish actor, Colin James Farrell, was born in Castleknock, Dublin forty-three years ago today. His father, Eamon, ran a health food shop and played footie for the delightfully named, Shamrock Rovers FC – as did his uncle, Tommy. While he was still at senior school – Gormanston College in County Meath – Colin unsuccessfully auditioned for the group, Boyzone, after which he enrolled in Drama College, inspired by Henry Thomas’ performance as Elliot in the movie ET.

When #4 son was born on Christmas Eve, 1992, we hadn’t decided upon a name for either girl or boy, but we had a short list for both, including Elliot for a boy (obviously!) On Christmas morning, I declined the invitation to venture downstairs to take part in the traditional TV broadcast of carols from Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, London, as I eagerly awaited our carriage – or beaten up BMW, if I remember correctly – to whisk us to Twickenham, where everyone and their dog was gathered at my parents’ house. Nothing to do with the new baby just the normal extended family Christmas bash.

One of the questions everyone asks when checking out a new arrival is what they are to be called – and lo, the after-dinner entertainment that year became I Can Name That Child in Eighty-Five Ghastly Suggestions. Fortunately, the more seasonal offerings like Gabriel (with apologies to any Gabriel/Gabrielles who may be lurking hereabouts), found little favour amongst those gathered – and when someone said that the baby’s wrinkly neck looked like ET’s, I mentioned that Elliot was on our list, which immediately got the thumbs up all round. So, we called #4 John – just kidding!

Where was I? Oh yes, Colin Farrell was studying drama – he didn’t stay the course, however, as he was offered the part of Danny Byrne in the BBC series, Ballykissangel in 1996, aged nineteen.

He was pretty lucky to have the opportunity, after being arrested for attempted murder in Sydney, Australia the previous year. The police sketch of their suspect looked uncannily like him and he had admitted to remembering nothing of the evening in question – but fortunately for him, his friend had kept a journal which crucially described the two of them partying across town that night, taking MDMA (Ecstasy). Who remembers enough to keep a journal of when they are high as a kite?

Despite an impressive award-winning career, not everything has run smoothly for the poor chap. In December 2005, Farrell checked into rehab for addiction to recreational drugs and painkillers. He later described the effects of the drugs thus; ‘An energy that was created, a character that was created, that no doubt benefited me. And then there was a stage where it all began to crumble around me.’ He also picked up a stalker along the way and an ex-girlfriend threatened to publicise a sex tape unless he paid her $5M. Yikes. Let’s hope his birthday passes without incident.

Since I was last here, there has been a lot of family stuff going on, starting 2nd April, which would have been my dad’s ninety-fourth birthday. He shared his date of birth (1925) with George MacDonald Fraser, British poet, author (Flashman) and scriptwriter (Octopussy, The Four Musketeers), who was born in Carlisle, UK, as well as Hard Boiled Haggerty (whose rather more boring real name was Don Stansauk), American professional wrestler and actor (The Incredible Hulk), who filled his first diaper in Los Angeles, California.

They died in 2008 and 2004 respectively, while my dad made it to 2017 and can therefore claim the prize for longevity. 2nd April 1925 was also the day upon which lawyer and future Nazi war criminal/Hitler’s personal legal advisor, Hans Frank, aged twenty-four, married secretary, Brigitte Herbst, aged twenty-nine, in Munich, Germany. In 2019, it was the day of my ex-husband’s funeral – he dropped dead from cardiac arrest in March, a few days after his sixtieth birthday.

Nipping forward, there were the Easter hols and the traditional Easter Egg Hunt for the Grands in our garden. A little different to most years, however, as the loot had to be placed in shaded areas so that chocolate didn’t melt in the heat – and the children were running around in their swimming cosies, diving in the pool to cool off. Bizarre, but brilliant.

We don’t like to give the children too much chocolate, and so the hunt typically includes toys and craft stuff plus this time, named dinosaur t-shirts for the younger ones. At eleven, I didn’t think the oldest GD would appreciate a dinosaur splashed across her chest and so got her an apron, as worn by sleb contestants on the Stand up to Cancer Bake Off programme – I’ve never seen it but she’s a big fan and loves to cook, especially cakes. She so doesn’t take after me! The (pretty hideous) pinny was designed by Ted Baker (who else?)

It was a lot cooler just one week later, when our middle GD celebrated her 6th birthday with a ten pin bowling party – an action replay of last year – joined by a host of school friends, including one little boy who wasn’t even invited! Being terribly British, none of the adults said a word, or even batted an eyelid. Everything was well organised by the venue staff, who supervised the little dears, did the catering and even cut up the cake provided by the parents.

Then it was back to our house for present opening and a Harry Potter-themed dinner, overseen by a huge unicorn balloon, which had nearly launched me into outer space the previous (very windy) day when I was carrying it through town. GD cannot decide between unicorns and Harry P, so we hedged our bets.

On the day she was born (26 April 2013), thirty people were killed when a bus crashed following a Taliban attack in southern Afghanistan. Over in the good ol’ US of A, country musician, George Jones aged eighty-one, (Golden Rings, Oh Lonesome Me), died from hypoxic respiratory failure. That’s when the usual exchange between oxygen and carbon dioxide in the lungs fails and as a result, not enough oxygen can reach the heart, brain, etc. Curtains. Sharing his date of death aged eighty-two, was film, stage and TV actress, Jacqueline Brookes. Amongst many other roles, she played Beatrice Gordon in US TV soap, Another World – although not for the entirety of its thirty-five year run.

This was also the day upon which my friend, Simon – fellow uni student when I read for my last degree – finally made an honest woman of his beautiful, long-suffering partner, Lydia. She got a smattering of revenge by leaving him waiting at the altar for almost an hour (it was a Friday, so presumably not too many happy couples lining up to tie the knot), during which time he was ‘bricking it’, to use his quaint expression.

Returning to the other side of the pond, Canadian actor and musician, Cory Monteith (Glee), emerged from a drug rehabilitation facility on that day, no doubt full of hope for the future. Tragically, he died of an overdose just weeks later in Vancouver on 13th July – the day upon which both Jenny and I get to blow out our birthday candles.

A dear friend was sixty at the beginning of May and her husband/family arranged a surprise party for her. On the day she was born – 1st May 1959 – West Germany introduced a five day working week and Floyd Patterson scored an eleventh round KO of Englishman Brian London in Indianapolis. This was the fourth time Floyd had successfully defended his World Heavyweight Boxing title.

Back to the party – the birthday girl had been told she was going to someone else’s party and so was somewhat surprised to see the OH and I scrape through the door of the venue just ahead of them (our taxi was late), as we don’t know that other person. It was a fab night and lovely to catch up with some people we hadn’t seen for far too long. Of course, a party meant I had to smarten up from my usual tramp gear of skinny jeans and hoodie – it was from the very shallow pocket of a jacket that my phone plunged into the loo, after we got home. Pre-use of the facilities, I hasten to add.

#2 son was staying and immediately tried resuscitation via the rice trick, but after a good few hours it became obvious that the situation was terminal. Damn; it was but a few months old. I am obviously a slow learner, as this was the same jacket I wore to my dad’s funeral, when another phone tried to swim. We were about to leave the house and so I was closing windows, including the upstairs loo – reached over the bowl … join own dots. #3 son was drying it with a hairdryer, as everyone else piled into cars on the drive. On that occasion, the phone lived to ring another day.

The day my new phone arrived, so did #3 from Bangkok – he hadn’t been back for five months. He spent a day sorting out his Thai work visa and then six of us flew to Dublin for a couple of nights to celebrate his thirtieth birthday, a few days early.

#4 son and his OH had never been to Dublin – or indeed anywhere in Ireland – and so we did the touristy things like boarding an open-topped bus to be blown to bits and buying a drink in the Temple Bar pub in Temple Bar, for which you need to take out a second mortgage. I also scoured the many souvenir shops for sparkly shamrock head boppers, as seen being worn by several hen parties about town.

Mission not accomplished, I gave up and decided to order from Amazon when home. While the rest of us returned to the humdrum of everyday routine, #3 flew off to Antigua for ten days to spend his birthday proper in style, lucky thing. I can’t actually remember what I did for my thirtieth, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t compare too favourably with his jolly.

OK, this is 31st May, so let me stop rambling and we’ll have a look at what has happened historically on this day. The Battle of Jutland in 1916 was the last major battle fought mainly by battleships and the most important naval battle of World War I, with the British navy blockading the German fleet in the North Sea off Denmark. Over the course of the battle, thousands of lives and many ships were lost, but despite British losses far outnumbering those of the Germans, their commander, Reinhard Scheer realised their fleet had been contained. Drat. The Germans never put to sea in ships again during WWI and turned instead to submarine warfare – one of the primary reasons that the United States entered the war in April 1917.

So, what do we think of the name given to their son by the D&D of Sussex? Unlike when #4 was born, I suspect they didn’t have all their relatives and friends sitting around making dodgy suggestions. My lips are sealed, except to mention that on this day in 1943, the comic strip, Archie, was first broadcast on radio in the US.

The character Archibald ‘Archie’ Andrews was originally created as a syndicated comic strip in 1941 by publisher John L Goldwater and artist Bob Montana, in collaboration with writer Vic Bloom. He was the main character featured in the Archie Comics franchise, which evolved to include the long-running radio series.

Finally, who remembers what substance Colin Farrell and his mate were taking in Sydney? A sticky bun for anyone who answered MDMA, or to give it its proper handle, Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (no wonder it’s known as Ecstasy for short!) On this day in 1985 the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency) declared an emergency ban on MDMA, placing it on the list of Schedule I drugs – substances with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. MDMA has remained a Schedule I substance since then, with the exception of a brief period between 1987 and 1988. Bad Colin.

Now I’m out of here. Thanks to Jenny for having me over and to anyone else who has taken the time to read this – appreciated.

Toodles.

NP

***

Huge thanks to Nell as ever for another fabulous blog!

See you in July, Nell!

Happy reading everyone.

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 


End of the Month: March to the past!

Here we are again then!

Another month has whizzed past at breakneck speed. I think we’ve all deserved a rest. Let’s hand over to the fabulous Nell Peters for a while to march through Marchs’ of the past.

Over to you Nell…

There you are – I was wondering when you’d show up!

If you fancy it (and why wouldn’t you?), grab a drink and a comfy chair and settle down with me for a few moments, while we see – intermingled with other random jottings – what has happened on 31st March in years gone by. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin – with one of those random jottings …

In 1924, two men – one American, the other British – were born, both of whom earned themselves catchy nicknames in adult life, courtesy the paths they followed. Felice Leonardo Buscaglia was born in Los Angeles, the youngest of four children of Italian immigrants. Though he spent his early childhood in Aosta, Italy, he returned to the US for his education, and graduated from high school before serving with the US Navy during World War II. The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the GI Bill, was a law that offered opportunities as a thank you for the service of returning World War II veterans – more commonly called GIs. Taking advantage of the legislation, Buscaglia enrolled at the University of Southern California, where he read for three degrees; a BA (1950); MA (1954) and PhD (1963), before joining the faculty.

Buscaglia – by then known as Leo – was teaching in the Department of Special Education at the university in the late 1960s when one of his female students committed suicide. Deeply affected by this tragedy, he was inspired to hold a weekly non-credit class combining psychology and sociology, entitled Love 1A – about (unsurprisingly) love and the meaning of life. There were no grades, but the class led to more formal lectures, then TV exposure and eventually a book called Love was published, based on what was shared in his classes. He became known as Dr Love, or Dr Hug, because – possibly influenced by his emotionally demonstrative Italian background – he hugged every one of his students at the end of lectures.

Leo died of a heart attack in June 1998, at his home in Glenbrook, Nevada, aged seventy-four, but had he still been around, I wonder what he would have thought about the fate this month of the founder, director and former chief executive of clothing chain, Ted Baker. After a period of suspension, Ray Kelvin was forced to resign for ‘inappropriate behaviour’, including ‘enforced hugging’. Well there you go…

Sharing Dr Hug’s date of birth that long-ago Monday was Henry Edward Cubitt, 4th Lord Ashcombe, known latterly as Mad Harry. Eton educated, he served in the RAF during WWII and thereafter became chairman of Holland, Hannen and Cubitt, the family construction firm.

He was also the London-based Consul General for Monaco from 1961 to 1968 – I rather think I’d have insisted on being Monaco-based. Between wives after his first divorce, Harry nipped over to his Barbados estate and hosted a Caribbean house party for the summer – amongst the guests (including Jackie Onassis) was his niece/goddaughter, who was invited to bring a friend. She chose her lucky flat mate, the Hon Virginia Carrington, daughter of Peter Alexander Rupert Carrington, the sixth Lord Carrington and Tory MP who was Defence Secretary from 1970 to 1974, Foreign Secretary from 1979 to 1982, chairman of GEC from 1983 to 1984, and Secretary General of NATO from 1984 to 1988.

Harry was instantly smitten and aged forty-seven pursued twenty-five year old Virginia amongst the palm trees – they were married on New Year’s Day the following year, 1973, and it was for this folly that he became known as Mad Harry amongst family and friends. Upon her marriage, Virginia effectively became her flat mate’s step-aunt, at least while the marriage lasted (six years). You might recognise the name of said flat mate, Camilla Shand? She became Parker Bowles and is now the Duchess of Cornwall, married to Prince Charles. Mad Harry died childless aged eighty-nine in 2013, having given marriage one more unsuccessful try along the way.

Also on 31 March 1924, a strike called by London Transport personnel ended (plus ça change etc) – on the same day that Britain’s first national airline, Imperial Airways, began operations at Croydon Airport. Croydon was also known as the London Terminal Aerodrome or simply London Airport, and was emerging as the UK’s major international airport between the wars. Imperial Airways was the British Government’s cunning plan to develop connections for trade and personnel with the UK’s extensive commonwealth and overseas interests, and so it was from Croydon that in addition to European flights, long haul routes to India, Africa, the Middle and Far East, Asia, Africa and Australia (in conjunction with Qantas) were established. #3 son spends a very great deal of time on flights between Heathrow and Mumbai and Bangkok – he’s in the air for eight and thirteen hours respectively. Goodness knows how long those Imperial Airways flights would have taken – and there would be no getting it over with in one hit.

As I tap, I am also talking to aforementioned nomadic son online, while he is stuck in Kuala Lumpur airport en route for Hong Kong. Because this is a vacation and he is paying for his own flights, he opted for a cheaper non-direct route out of Bangkok – but sadly didn’t notice that the sim card in his phone wasn’t working and therefore hadn’t updated the time, a situation exacerbated by KL being a silent airport with no announcements. Ergo, he missed his connecting flight; a six hour lay-over turned into thirty and of course he had to buy another ticket – so much for economy – plus he’s lost a day of his holiday, silly Billy. In between wearing a hole in the lounge sofas, he’s eaten enough water melon to sink the Titanic, along with the iceberg, and taken five showers – for the last two he invested some Malaysian Ringgit in deodorant, as his was in his checked luggage. Rookie mistake for such a seasoned traveller, I should have thought? And I do hope it’s not an omen that last time he was in Hong Kong in September, he was stranded because of a typhoon …

March 31st 1855 was a sad day for Rev Arthur Bell Nicholls, when his wife, author Charlotte Brontë, and his unborn child died as a result of a traumatic pregnancy. And so, her father Patrick, also a clergyman, outlived his wife and all six of their children.

Charlotte’s most famous novel, initially titled Jane Eyre: An Autobiography and written under the pseudonym, Currer Bell, was immediately successful when published in 1847 – one critic described it as ‘the best novel of the season’ and people began to speculate who Currer Bell could be. However, some reviewers were more critical and described it as ‘coarse’, and even ‘anti-Christian’. It is, nonetheless, still on the shelves more than one hundred and seventy years later.

In 1849, Brontë’s second novel, Shirley, featuring eponymous heiress, Shirley Keeldar, was released. Until then, the name Shirley was generally uncommon and almost exclusively a boy’s name – in the book, Mr and Mrs Keeldar had been hoping for a son and named their daughter accordingly. But after publication, the name Shirley started to gain in popularity for girls, helped many decades later by American child actor Shirley Temple.

I have had multiple dealings with a ‘lady’ called Shirley Sergeant over the last few months – she’s not the type who would appreciate any ‘evening all/allo, allo, allo’ jokes. Shirley worked in the stone masonry department of the funeral directors who handled my dad’s arrangements in August ’17. When the year for settling of the grave was up, #2 son and I did a tour of the cemetery and picked a design we liked, then went to see about ordering something similar. Shirley pounced – we had decided upon white marble, with grey inscription, but she had other ideas. While I know that marble is a porous stone and will therefore deteriorate over the years, I don’t have a problem with the passage of time being evident – in fact, I quite like the idea. But Our Shirl insisted we’d be better off with more robust white granite. The sample she showed us was a speckled white and quite shiny/sparkly and I hated it. Ms S was not about to give in gracefully. Anxious to escape her lair before it was my turn to climb into a coffin, I agreed that she should send quotes for both, plus a CAD illustration of what our design might look like. She was kind enough to point out that although marble is white, the CAD illustration would appear grey. Face-palm. Did she think I’m as silly as I look? Don’t answer that.

The quotes didn’t arrive in a few days as promised, but three weeks later, with another sample of granite – grey (speckled with black), as white granite was no longer available. Seriously? I emailed to say the (more expensive) grey was not to my liking and we’d go with white marble – oh, and where was the CAD illustration as promised? After another month, she replied – my email had disappeared into her junk folder, she said. And so it went on. Bottom line, Shirley has now retired (yay!) and someone else is handling our order – after more than seven frustrating months, my dad’s memorial should be in place for his birthday in April. This year, I hope. Just slightly concerned that their confirmatory email referred to him as Derek P Thompson, when his name was in fact Peter Derek …

On this day in 1770, Prussian/German philosopher Immanuel Kant was made Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Königsberg. He published works on ethics, religion, law, aesthetics, astronomy, and history and more – but since I had enough of him and his Enlightenment buddies when I had to study them, we’ll leave him there, being logical and metaphysical. I believe I’ve mentioned before that another philosopher – the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’, no less – Frenchman René Descartes, was born on the last day of March in 1596, so I won’t repeat myself. I think; therefore I am.

Hard to believe comedian, actor, writer and broadcaster, Ronald Balfour (Ronnie) Corbett died three years ago today, aged eighty-five. This was on the same day as German politician, Hans-Dietrich Gensher (born 1927); Iraqi-born English architect and academic, Zaha Hadid (born 1950); Hungarian author and Nobel Prize laureate,  Imre Kertész (born 1929) and Denise Robertson, British writer, television broadcaster and agony aunt (born 1932).

Enough now, it’s Mothering Sunday/Mother’s Day in the UK, so off you go and have a great day if you qualify. If you don’t, have a brilliant Sunday anyway and take care.

I hope to see you at the end of May, not April, as I am changing the frequency of my guest blogs for Jenny to bi-monthly, because I really need to get back to some serious writing – all the time-consuming family stuff I’ve been immersed in has meant I’ve not produced anything on the fiction front for well over two years, and I need to put that right, assuming I can still remember how!

Toodles all, and thanks Jen.

NP

***

Huge thanks once again Nell!

Looking forward to “seeing” you in May

Jenny xx

 

 

 

 


End of the Month: From Harry Corbett to MASH via David Nivan

I’m never sure why, seeing as it’s only two or three days shorter than the other months of the year, but February goes to fast. It always feels at least a week shorter than all the other months.

The plus side of this, is that Nell Peters is back already with her latest End of the Month blog.

Over to you Nell…

Hello, and top of the morning to y’all. Come on in out of the cold and grab a hot beverage to warm your cockles, so to speak.

The actor, Harry Corbett was born in Burma on this day in 1925, the youngest of seven children. His father, George, was serving with the British army as part of the Colonial defence forces, but the boy was sent back to England aged just eighteen months to be brought up by his aunt, after his mother died of dysentery. As an adult, Corbett enlisted in the Royal Marines during World War II, serving on the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire. Is there such a thing as a light cruiser, I wonder? In 1945, he was posted to the Far East, and reportedly killed two Japanese soldiers while engaged in hand-to-hand fighting. Yikes.

Back in Blighty, after a spot of desertion, he trained as a radiographer before moving into acting, initially in repertory – it was then he added the middle initial H to his name, to avoid confusion with the guy who found fame with his hand stuck up Sooty’s bottom. If asked, he would claim that the H stood for ‘hennyfink’. What a wag. Although acknowledged as an accomplished Shakespearean actor, Corbett was best known for his role as Harold Steptoe, a rag and bone man who lived with his irascible father, Albert (played by Wilfrid Brambell, who was actually only thirteen years older than Harry) in a dilapidated house, attached to their junkyard and stabling for the cart horse, Hercules. The series ran from 1962 until the Christmas special in 1974.

Must have been interesting on set, as Corbett smoked sixty fags a day (until his first heart attack in 1979, when he cut down to twenty), and Brambell was an alcoholic and gay – at a time when homosexual acts were against the law (decriminalised 1967). It was a second heart attack that killed Harry H in March 1982, aged fifty-seven – he was survived by his second wife, a son and daughter, Susannah, who played Ellie, Peter Pascoe’s wife in Dalziel and Pascoe. Outliving Corbett by almost three years, Brambell died of cancer aged seventy-two, in January 1985.

Over in the Soviet Union, it was on 28th February 1953 that Joseph Stalin had a pow-wow with Beria, Bulganin, Khrushchev & Malenkov – it must have been quite a knees-up because the very next day Stalin suffered a massive stroke, which killed him four days later. Perhaps they were celebrating the births of American wrestler Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, (real name Richard Blood); Ingo Hoffmann, Brazilian racing driver; and Paul Krugman, American economist and New York Times columnist, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008?

Mention deoxyribonucleic acid – the molecule that contains the genetic blueprint for cell reproduction – more commonly known as DNA, and most of us could excavate the names Watson and Crick from the memory bank. Officially, it was on this day in Cambridge, also in 1953, that the two scientists were credited with the discovery of the chemical structure of DNA. However, it was at King’s College London, that Rosalind Franklin obtained an image of DNA using X-ray crystallography (the science of determining the arrangement of atoms in crystalline solids), an idea first broached by Maurice Wilkins.

Franklin’s image, known as Photograph 51, was taken by Raymond Gosling in May 1952, when he was working as a PhD student under her supervision. It provided critical evidence in identifying the structure of DNA and was thus a vital contribution to James Watson and Francis Crick’s creation of their famous two-strand, or double-helix, model. There is some doubt that Franklin gave her permission for the image to be used. Of the four main players – Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Rosalind herself, she was the only one with a background in chemistry, and the only one who did not share the Nobel Prize (Physiology/Medicine) in 1962. She died far too young of ovarian cancer on 16th April 1958 – my sister’s first birthday.

Raymond Massey

Had he not died in 1995, Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE would be loading his birthday cake with a whopping one hundred and ten candles today. He was an English poet, novelist, critic and essayist who highlighted themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work, which came to prominence during the 1930s. He was big pals with WH Auden and Cecil Day-Lewis – they met as Oxford undergraduates, even though Auden and Spender had both been pupils at Gresham’s School in Norfolk – and along with Christopher Isherwood and Louis MacNeice, they were sometimes referred to as the Oxford Poets. Right now, I am getting nowhere fast with this and I can relate to a line in one of Spender’s poems: As I sit staring out of my window…

Who can remember the coronation ceremony of Liu Bang as Emperor Gaozu of Han on the last day of Feb 202BC, which initiated four centuries of the Han Dynasty’s rule over China? No takers? OK, what about the first boat load of gold rush prospectors arriving in San Francisco from the east coast in 1849 – the very same day that jockey Tom Cunningham won the eleventh Grand National riding a horse called Peter Simple? Still no? I’ll make it easy-peasy then – we all know that when he was sworn in, in 1952 (Charles) Vincent Massey became the first Canadian-born person to serve as Canada’s Governor General since the Canadian Confederation, eight days after his sixty-fifth birthday. We do, don’t we? He was the eighteenth GG, by the way.

Vincent’s younger brother, Raymond Hart Massey, also briefly dabbled on the sidelines of politics when he appeared in a 1964 television advertisement in support of Republican presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater. Massey denounced incumbent US President Lyndon B Johnson’s strategies during the Vietnam War, suggesting that Goldwater had the nous to win the war quickly. Johnson won a landslide victory and the war trundled on until 30th April 1975, when Saigon fell. Taking the hint, perhaps, Raymond went into acting, becoming a US citizen along the way. His film appearances were many and varied and he was no stranger to the TV screen during the 1950s and 60s, most notably playing Dr Gillespie to Richard Chamberlain’s eponymous role as Dr Kildare.

Massey married three times. His high-profile estrangement and divorce from second wife, actress Adrianne Allen, was the inspiration for Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin’s script for the film Adam’s Rib (1949), starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. In a You Couldn’t Make It Up scenario, Massey went on to marry the lawyer who represented him in court, Dorothy Whitney, while his by then former wife, Allen, married the opposing lawyer, William Dwight Whitney. But before they fell out, Massey and Allen produced two children, actors Anna and Daniel Massey.

Like his father, Daniel married three times – first, actress Adrienne Corri (only slightly spooky to pick someone almost sharing his mother’s name); second, actress Penelope Wilton (Calendar Girls (2003), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Pride & Prejudice (2005), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), The BFG (2016) and all six series of Downton Abbey – to name but a few); and third wife, Linda Wilton, who is one of Penelope’s two sisters. I’m not saying a word.

Incidentally, Raymond Massey died of pneumonia in Los Angeles, California on July 29th 1983, just shy of his eighty-seventh birthday and on the same day as David Niven, with whom he had co-starred in The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) and A Matter of Life and Death (1946). Niven would have been one hundred and nine years old tomorrow.

On the home front, the sale of the family house completed on time – never thought #2 and I would manage it, but it was handed over duly stripped of all furniture etc and decades of accumulated ‘stuff’. There was so much paperwork to go through, I had to ship quite a lot back to Norfolk, as it was far too time consuming to do it all on site with the deadline looming. Luckily, we have a few spare bedrooms here and I have been able to stash it out of sight for the time being – can’t put it off forever, though.

However, sorting out utility bills and cancelling the many, many insurances – any eventuality/act of God was covered, sometimes in duplicate or triplicate I suspect – had to take precedence. As usual, a Power of Attorney complicates matters and there are extra hoops to jump through before anyone will actually deign to talk to you, but I think I can see the teeniest chink of light at the end of the very long tunnel now. The biggest relief was waking up on the Monday morning following completion, and realising I didn’t have to whiz off to the station to embark upon the four hour journey to Twickenham, where I would stay until Friday.

On 28th February 1983, the final (2.5 hour, 256th) episode of M*A*S*H aired in the US. It was entitled, Goodbye, Farewell and Amen – I think I’ll borrow that and add a cheeky Toodles.

Thanks, Jenny – maybe see you in March?

NP

***

Huge thanks Nell. Another corking blog.

See you next time!

Jenny xx

 


End of the Month: Happy New-ish Year

I’m absolutely delighted to welcome Nell Peters back to my place today, for an end of the month blog.

This popular blog series has been having a holiday while Nell and I got on with the serious business of not drowning in work and family life.

As you’ll see, Nell has been far from idle in her absence…

Over to you Nell…

Good morning/whenever, on this fine, final day of January 2019.

You may or may not have noticed I’ve been awol from this hallowed spot since Halloween last year. Jenny took pity on me as I had rather a lot on – as did she – and we agreed upon a two month break. I was about to ask her for January off too, as I didn’t see that I could possibly get through everything I needed to, plus write the blog, when I was struck down with a ghastly and inconvenient virus. So, an enforced few days confined to Norfolk barracks while Samurai warriors sliced at my throat with razor blades, I coughed a graveyard cough etc, instead of being in Twickenham to oversee the final days of clearing my parents’ house for completion of the sale on 18th January.

I am writing this on 15th January and the big Brexit showdown is due this evening. Because of all the house stuff, I have largely missed all the latest proposals/amendments/about-facing/backstabbing/general shenanigans and wheeling and dirty dealing by our elected leaders, and others. I normally refrain from political comment, but will ask, have there ever been so many treacherous weasels gathered in one place, most of whose sole aim seems to be to secure a self-serving solution and sell everyone else down the river? And as for Short Man Syndrome personified, Bercow – how exactly does he still have a job? I am not a huge fan of Teresa May, but I do have a wee bit of sympathy for someone who landed in No. 10 because she was basically the last man standing, and immediately had a poisoned chalice shoved into her hand. No win-no win. However, this is also the person who snatched defeat from the hands of victory at the last General Election, and thereafter entered into an insanely costly alliance with the DUP, in order to pretend she had a majority. Enough, the soap box is being returned to the shed – except, has anyone thought of putting Larry the Downing Street cat in charge? Could hardly do a worse job…

What has happened since we last had a chinwag? Well, Christmas and New Year for a start. The OH and I went to do our mega shop on Sunday, 23rd December, which was our zillionth anniversary. As it was tipping down and freezing cold, Sir Galahad dropped me at the supermarket entrance to source a trolley, and toodled off to park. Shelves stripped of goodies and considerably poorer, we returned to the very large car park to off load our spoils – but where was the car? As we’d taken the small but perfectly-formed, bright red work vehicle, it surely shouldn’t be that hard to find? As OH trawled up and down the rows of parked cars in the rain, shoulders hunched and looking extremely grim, my heart sank further and further toward my soggy boots – until about fifteen minutes later, when little red car was discovered hiding behind a whopping 4×4. Shopping shoved in the boot we headed home, the thought of venturing out again for the anniversary dinner becoming less attractive by the millisecond – and so we cancelled the reservation in favour of pizza delivery, a roaring fire and a rubbish DVD that neither of us could watch through eyes closed in slumber.

Christmas Eve in this house means #4 son’s birthday – his 26th, so into the kitchen I went to prepare a suitable feast. #3 son was on holiday in Bali and Kuala Lumpur  and not due home until 28th, so the gathering was slightly smaller than normal – not that you’d know that from noise levels and general carnage. A quick sleep and it all started again, with even less room to swing a moggy in a kitchen guarded by a giant turkey, which didn’t look best pleased at being plucked. By Boxing Day, I was severely regretting turning down #3’s offer of some of his spare air miles (flash monkey!) to buy a flight to NYC between Christmas and New Year! Just too much stressy stuff on my plate…

While all this was going on, our lovely niece Francesca was worried sick about her friend, Jack, who had gone missing after a night out during the early hours of 23/12. Search parties were formed, social media campaigns shared far and wide, flyers put up locally and the press alerted, plus anything else possible was done to find him, all to no avail. The situation was not helped by the holiday period and businesses with potentially useful CCTV being closed. Tragically, Jack’s body was found in a lake on 3rd Jan – he was just twenty-eight. May he rest in peace. Incidentally, Fran was also twenty-eight, on New Years Eve – I imagine she has had better birthdays.

Prior to 31/12, I went to Twickenham to continue bogging out the house and meet up with #2 son who was already in residence, plus #3 who had just flown in. He met me at the station, still wearing shorts! Over the next couple of days, the local DEBRA charity shop came to love us, as we loaded them up with figurines (so many they actually had their own display cabinet in store), Denby and Royal Doulton dinner services, glassware, plus all manner of fripperies – and that was before we got to the Saville Row suits, designer handbags and Burberry Macs. Do people still wear those? It’s a large-ish house and we hardly made a dent, before we went off to join the rest of the family at a hotel in Kew for a couple of days.

The Grands loved travelling on trains, buses and the tube – something none of them normally experience with their ever-behind-the-wheel parents, and just after lunch on NYE we clambered up the stairs on a double decker and headed to Richmond Theatre for the panto matinee of Peter Pan. They are brilliant productions that I used to go to as a child, and in turn took the boys when they were younger. This year, Robert Lindsay played a very sinister Captain Hook magnificently – he was formerly known as delusional revolutionary, Wolfie Smith eons ago in the TV series, Citizen Smith. His now ex-wife, Cheryl Hall, took the part of his equally deluded girlfriend, Shirley.

More recently, he played Ben Harper, the father in My Family – one of the best unscripted moments in the panto was when Lindsay was doing his Shakespearean actor thing front of stage, over-dramatically asking where he should go, who did he know, when a quick-witted audience member piped up, ‘What about my family?’ Amused me, anyway. After he’d rallied the audience to sing Auld Lang Syne at the end, we got another bus (single decker only, disappointingly) to the family home to have food and fireworks and raise a toast.

#3 flew back to Mumbai on the second, after some stalwart work sorting and dump-running, leaving #2 and I to our own devices at the house – that was when furniture removal started in earnest, via the likes of Sue Ryder and the Richmond Furniture Scheme. All cupboards and drawers – and they numbered quite a few – were packed with stuff and we came across some real goodies, including utility bills from the 1980s, every letter my parents had ever received neatly filed, and jewellery hidden in the most bizarre places – plus, between them, my parents owned enough pairs of shoes to open their own shop and then some. After some quiet contemplation, I threw away my neatly-folded Brownie and Girl Guide uniforms, confident in the knowledge they’d never fit me again…

I made a couple of brilliant discoveries, though – my Blue Peter Badge (won when I was about seven or eight in a photography contest, and which my mother told me had been lifted from her dressing table during a burglary decades ago), along with a photo signed by all the Beatles. I belonged to their fan club (sadly, never allowed to go to gigs) and all my other paraphernalia had been unceremoniously dumped on a maternal whim during the distant past. It was almost worth the entire emotional and physical trauma involved in the clearance, just to find those two items. Almost.

We were all in Norfolk last weekend – including #3, who flew back for a week – for the delayed 3rd birthday party of the youngest GD. I think it went well, but can’t swear to that, as the germs were by then starting to take hold with a vengeance and I was ga-ga at best. Another big family gathering next Saturday, as it is #3’s last night before he flies back to Mumbai or Bangkok – I’m never quite sure where he’s hanging his hat. All go innit? One thing is for sure – it will be a takeaway or delivery!

Just going to mention one 31/1 birthday – one with the most tenuous of tenuous family connections. Songwriter, musician and record producer, Marcus Mumford, is lead singer with Mumford and Sons, and will need thirty-two candles for his cake. Born in California, where his British parents, John and Eleanor were working as national leaders with the Vineyard Church (UK and Ireland), he moved with them to the UK aged just six months, to grow up in Wimbledon. His wife was a childhood pen pal and they reconnected as adults, marrying in 2012. She is Carey Mulligan, and that is where the connection comes in – her older brother, former army captain/now businessman, Owain, is married to my cousin, Barbara’s daughter, Lorna. Told you it’s a tenuous connection!

Owain served in Iraq and Afghanistan and through him, Carey became an ambassador for War Child, a non-governmental organisation founded in the UK in 1993, which provides help to children in areas experiencing conflict and the aftermath of conflict. She is also an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society, a disease from which her grandmother suffers, no longer recognising Carey.

I haven’t seen Lorna for a good few years and I’ve never met the others – I have only watched Carey in two things, as far as I remember; the film Suffragette, in which I thought she played a brilliant part and the TV series, Collateral which I didn’t much enjoy, despite an impressive cast. I have to confess to having a soft spot for Marcus though, ever since he was caught on camera yawning during Harry and Meghan’s wedding. Good man.

By the time you read this, I hope the dust will have settled a little so that I can get some of my life back. That’s the plan, anyway – wish me luck!

Thanks for having me, Jen.

Toodles, everyone.

NP

***

Huge thank you for writing this fabulous blog- although I’m sorry you had to have a virus so you could find the time!

What a start to 2019! Here’s to calmer times ahead.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


End of the Month: Spooky October

It’s that time again! Yes- really- it is the end of the month again!

So, let’s hand over to Nell Peters to see what she’s uncovered for us this month.

Over to you Nell…

To paraphrase the late David Frost; hello, good morning/afternoon/evening, and welcome y’all. In case you hadn’t noticed, this is the last day of October, aka the day we glance in the mirror and girly-squeal at the scary Halloween mask reflected, only to realise it’s not a mask after all.

There is a film called 31st October – an Indian Hindi historical action drama, written and produced by Harry Sachdeva and directed by Shivaji Lotan Patil.

Based on fact, it focuses on the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination on 31st October 1984 and stars Vir Das, Bollywood actor and comedian (although the funnies might have been in short supply in this script) and Soha Ali Khan, actress. The film had its official screening at the London Indian Film festival 18-20 July 2015, before going on general release fifteen months later.

Reaching the tender age of eighteen today is Willow Camille Reign Smith, who is professionally known as Willow, an American singer, actress and dancer and the daughter of Willard Carroll Smith Jnr and Jada Pinkett Smith. Her dad is of course better known as Will Smith, star of the TV series, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and numerous award-winning films. In my end-of-September blog for Jenny, I mentioned Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy’s 1929 hypothesis that all living things and objects are just six degrees of separation away, so that a ‘friend of a friend’ chain can be made to connect any two in a maximum of six steps. Want to take a wild guess at the title of the film in which Smith played his first major dramatic role? A shiny new goldfish (bring your own bowl) for those who guessed it was Six Degrees of Separation (1993).

Frigyes Karinthy

On the very day that Willow was born, Kazuki Watanabe, Japanese musician, guitarist and lead songwriter of the visual kei rock band, Raphael, died aged just nineteen, from an overdose of sedatives. In case you were wondering (as was I) visual kei is a movement among Japanese musicians, characterised by varying amounts of make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes, similar to glam rock. The group were popular, with all their releases entering the top 40 of the Oricon (holding company of a corporate group that supplies statistics and information on music and the music industry in Japan) charts, but disbanded after Kazuki died.

Also breathing their last – though aged a slightly more reasonable eighty-five years – on this day in 2000, was American journalist and screenwriter, Ring Lardner Jnr (born Ringgold Wilmer Lardner), who was blacklisted by film studios during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and 1950s. A member of the US communist party since 1937, he moved to Hollywood to be a publicist and script doctor before writing his own material. In 1947 he became one of the highest paid scriptwriters in Hollywood when he signed a contract with 20th Century Fox for $2,000 a week (equivalent to approx $22,000 a week today). A short-lived claim to fame, however, as later that year he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to account for his left-wing views, two days after he was sacked by Fox. Along with nine others, collectively known as the Hollywood Ten, he cited the First Amendment and refused to answer their questions, but the HUAC and appeal court were having none of it; Lardner was sentenced to twelve months in prison and fined $1,000 for contempt.

Nine of the Hollywood Ten

Blacklisted in Hollywood, he moved to England for a time where he wrote under several pseudonyms for TV series, including (and this will interest Jenny, aficionado of all things Lincoln green) The Adventures of Robin Hood. After the blacklist was lifted in 1965, Lardner worked on scripts for some high profile films, including M*A*S*H (1970), which earned him an Academy Award (his second) for Best Adapted Screenplay. Perhaps as some sort of posthumous tribute, an episode of Robin Hood first broadcast by the Beeb in December 2007, was entitled Lardner’s Ring.

Sticking with 31/10/2000; that was the day Soyuz TM-31 became the first Soyuz spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). Launched from Russia, it carried the three members of Expedition 1 – Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, with American William Shepherd – who collectively formed the first long-term ISS crew.

Lowering the tone as usual, I thought you might like to know there are two toilets aboard the ISS, both of Russian design, which have waste and hygiene compartments using fan-driven suction systems. Astronauts first fasten themselves to the toilet seat, which is equipped with spring-loaded restraining bars to ensure a good seal. A lever operates a powerful fan and a suction hole opens to allow the air stream to carry waste away. Solid matter is collected in individual bags, which are deposited in an aluminium container, and stored for disposal when full. Liquid waste is evacuated via a hose connected to the front of the toilet, with anatomically-correct urine funnel adapters attached to the tube, so that men and women can use the same toilet. Urine is collected and channelled to the Water Recovery System, where it is recycled into drinking water. Fancy that. Actually, I’m not sure I do …

On the last day of October 1941, the destroyer USS Reuben James (named after a boatswain’s mate famous for his heroism in the First Barbary War) was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Iceland, killing more than one hundred sailors – the first US Navy vessel sunk by enemy action in WWII. This was on the same day that, after fourteen years of chipping away, Mount Rushmore was completed.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a massive sculpture carved into Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. The monument took shape under the direction of Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, the sculpture’s 60’ high granite faces depicting presidents George Washington (1st), Thomas Jefferson (3rd), Theodore Roosevelt (25th) and Abraham Lincoln (16th). The site also features a museum with interactive exhibits.

It was historian Doane Robinson who came up with the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the hills to promote tourism. His initial plan was to feature American West heroes like Lewis and Clark (led the first expedition across the western terrain of the US), Red Cloud (one of the most important leaders of Oglala Lakota, part of the Great Sioux Nation), and William Frederick – Buffalo Bill – Cody (scout, bison hunter, and showman), but Borglum decided the sculpture should have a broader appeal and chose the four presidents.

Buffalo Bill

Another mount; the Mountjoy Prison helicopter escape happened forty-five years ago today, when three IRA volunteers flew out of the Dublin jail, aboard a hijacked Alouette II helicopter, which landed in the exercise yard. With IRA Chief of Staff, Seamus Twomey doing a five-stretch and senior republicans, J. B. O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon also being incarcerated in Mountjoy, the command structure was seriously depleted. So, a plan involving explosives that had already been smuggled into the prison (how?!) was hatched; a hole would be blown in a door (anyone else’s thoughts drifting to Michael Caine/The Italian Job? Just me, then) which would give the prisoners access to the exercise yard. From there, they would scale a rope ladder thrown over the exterior wall and bundle into a getaway car, driven by members of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade. Alas (or not!), the plan failed when the prisoners couldn’t gain access to the yard and the rope ladder was spotted.

Back to the drawing board, Plan B involved the helicopter, with pilot Captain Thompson Boyes flying under threat of having his head blown off by the firearms trained upon him. In the exercise yard prisoners were watching a football match, when shortly after 3:35 pm the helicopter swung in to land, with Kevin Mallon directing the pilot using semaphore. (Seriously? If I wrote that in a book, my editor would throw it out as way too far-fetched!) Prison officers on duty initially took no action because they believed the helicopter carried the Minister for Defence, Paddy Donegan, who presumably was in the habit of dropping in for tea. It was only when prisoners surrounded the eight guards present and fights broke out, that the officers realised an escape was in progress. Twomey, Mallon and O’Hagan boarded the helicopter and it took off – apparently in the confusion one officer shouted ‘Close the gates, close the f***ing gates!’ Doh! The escapees landed at a disused racecourse in Baldoyle, where they transferred to a hijacked taxi and were whisked away to safe houses.

Mallon enjoyed his freedom for the shortest time, as he was recaptured in December 1973, O’Hagan early in 1975 and Twomey in December 1977. In the aftermath, all IRA prisoners were transferred to maximum security Portlaoise Prison, and to discourage any further getaway attempts the perimeter was guarded by troops from the Irish Army. And shutting the stable door etc, wires were erected over the prison yard to prevent helicopters landing in future – so presumably poor Paddy Donegan had to get the bus with the rest of the hoi polloi.

On the home front, the OH and #3 son returned safe and sound from their jolly in South Africa, vowing to go back next year and take #4 with them. Fine by me, as I really enjoyed the peace! On their penultimate night they’d booked an hotel near Cape Town on line and had a long drive through filthy weather/bad visibility/electric storms to get there, relying heavily on sat nav. Arriving very late, son gave his name – Piers – at reception and was told they were expected. Shown to a sumptuous twin, with patio doors opening onto a veranda and the beach, they were much impressed by the value they were getting for their money – until they went to pay the bill next morning and were charged considerably more than they had been quoted. They were in the wrong place and the booking had in fact been made by someone called Pierre who didn’t turn up, his travels presumably thwarted by the weather conditions. What are the chances? I gather OH and #3 weren’t overly worried, as it was such a great room.

#3 has since done a lot of to-ing and fro-ing UK/India/Thailand and it’s even more difficult than normal to keep up with where he’s currently hanging his hat. He has some more leave due early in November and will hopefully be around for our annual combined Halloween/Bonfire Night party, delayed for his attendance in his guise as everyone’s favourite uncle.

Favourite Uncle!

I have sold the family home in Twickenham to my parents’ neighbour, who offered my dad an obscene amount of money many years ago and when refused, bought the house next door. It’s strange to think that it will no longer be ‘our’ house after so long, but now that my mother is in residential care (she’s not been thrown out yet!), it’s impossible to justify paying those whopper fees, plus meet the expenses entailed in keeping a large, empty house going.

I say empty, but of course the place is filled with possessions accrued during sixty-odd years of marriage – including a zillion dust-collecting figurines of varying value, so beloved by my mother. We have taken a few favourite pieces to decorate her room in the home, along with family photographs etc, but that has hardly made a dent. What does one do with so many complete dinner services, tea sets and ornate crystal glasses for any drink you care to name? Some of the furniture will be sold, some given away – it may take a while to clear the place! Then there’s the garages and outbuildings, the garden …

Yikes! Best make a start!

Thanks, Jen and toodles everyone! NP

***

Good luck with all that sorting and moving hun!

Thanks again for a fabulous blog.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

 


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