This is an offence against humanity and must surely be proscribed by the Geneva Convention?
Never before in the history of human endeavour have so many creepy revolting cookie cutter racially stereotyped animatronic singing plastic dollies been so much in need of a Mongol Horde sweeping in to do some judicious and long overdue beheading. Never before has a soundtrack to a theme ride sounded more in need of a David Koresh to flush out, screaming from his compound and begging for mercy (although of course self -immolation seems infinitely preferable to even a millisecond of the Small World theme)
Small World represents, even encapsulates everything I most dislike about the Disney ethos, the one micron thick avuncular paternalistic face of rabidly offensive capitalism, the carcinogenically saccharine sentiment, the rictus grin, the general jiggery pokery fakery of it all. .. lets all smile.. and join hands so we cant stab each other in the back-ness..
Horrible horrible, beyond horrible. I definitely would not have bought this even if I was eight years old, and I am certain my own daughter would never ever ever do anything but want to destroy this abomination, preferably with high explosives. If you enjoy the schmaltz of a Hamley’s Christmas display this is probably enjoyable and and if you don’t think thats funny or creepy or sinister you probably arent English. At All.
Sorry. I *really* don’t do Disney. I tried though..
In November 2007, My mother and I visited our Welsh cousins, who still live in the home of our ancestors, and had a good look around.
We set out in the brightest of sunshine on the Friday morning and had a great journey right up until we crossed the border into Wales, when the heavens opened and that was the sunshine gone for good.
It continued cold and rainy for the rest of the trip, which is exactly how I remember Wales from when I lived there in the early 1980s.
The B&B we stayed at was really nice, run by a rather posh couple, (he, retired Civil Service, and she, a former “Point-to-Point” equestrian champion from another titled family, with fine old furniture and pictures etc to match ) so we felt very grand by the time we got home.
We went to the church at Abergwili on Saturday morning, and were shown around by a very kind and accommodating Church Warden chap, but the experience was rather frustrating and disappointing; the two oldest Philipps memorials were completely illegible and there was no sign of Griffith (1712-81) and Lucretia (1729-1810), my great, great, great, great, great Grandparents.
Lucretia, it subsequently emerged was buried at St Martin’s-In-The-Fields, in London. The only one of their children with a memorial there was John George 1, their eldest son. Most of the memorials were to the children of his son, John George 2, and all fairly dull.
I don’t mind admitting I had hoped for wall plaques to all the members of the Philipps family entombed in the vault beneath the Philipps pew in the church. I knew the remains of my great great great great Grandfather Herbert Martin Philipps were there, and those of his sister, Lucretia, who scandalised polite society by marrying a servant, Henry Harris, at a very young age and then spent the rest of her short life bearing his children and begging for money and favours from her family.
My ancestor, Herbert, a man of volatile temper who was a wastrel lieutenant in the local militia, gambled away all his money and died at age twenty eight, leaving his young wife and four children with not enough money to bury him. The family paid for the burial. To me they seem like classic Jane Austen characters.
I suppose Lucretia, Mrs Harris and our poor Herbert Martin weren’t really relations they’d want to shout about, as there was no indication of their presence there, other than burial records and other family papers. I have to admit I felt a bit crushed, and spent the time taking photos of the other memorials instead, desperately trying to disguise my disappointment. After this, we spent a fruitless hour or so in the the Abergwili Museum and then on to Carmarthen for a look about and a bite to eat, before the Main Event, our appointment at Cwmgwili.
Carmarthen is a pretty town, but the Library was shut for refurbishment, and St Peter’s, the main church, was all locked up, so no insight there.
On meeting my cousin Griff however, later that day, he was able to tell me that our ancestors do like to make their presence felt even though they have no memorial. Abergwili is so low lying that the vault floods from time to time and Griff told me of several occasions he can remember when the solemnity of Divine Service has been punctuated by the crashing and bumping sounds of floating coffins sailing about in the vault beneath!.. and considering John George 2 (my 1 cousin x 5 removed) was a 15 year old Midshipman for Capt Thomas Louis aboard HMS Minotaur, at the Battle of the Nile (1798), this seems appropriate somehow! This really appealed to my sense of humour I’m afraid!
Our cousin’s home was reached by driving up a mountain-side single track country lane for several miles, with nothing but sheep above to the right and precipice below to the left (luckily concealed by hedging) After a while we drove past some farm buildings and a gatehouse cottage hard-by two unpretentious, unmarked stone pillars. We entered. The driveway was very long and dark, under an avenue of beech trees with the ground stilldropping away to the left. The surface was poor and bumpy and we hoped we had found the right place, or that there were understanding people and a place to turn around at the other end.A couple of very sharp turns saw us swooping down from the left into a gravelled area, passing by the house on our right which was surrounded by trees and creeper covered as far as we could see.
The house is on a promontory halfway up the valley and it appears all higgledy-piggledy; many buildings of different dates jumbled together. It’s hard to get an overall impression, as there was no place (that we saw) from which you could see the whole house, we only really saw one side wall. The rendering is painted a bright custard yellow. I knocked at the only door I could see, a very non-grand looking door at one end of the building.
It was answered by Griff Philipps himself, a very tall, slender good-looking man in his 70s, beautifully spoken, with impeccable manners. He was pretty much my idea of an officer and a gentleman.
Entering a stone flagged hall about 40′ by (almost) 20′; our jaws were already dropping. It was lined with massive portraits, about 12 of them, (they have immense oil paintings the way we have wallpaper) It was like walking into a court room, or on a stage, as if one were being watched from all sides. The room was lit only on the right side by windows much overgrown with creepers so the light, which was poor anyway, was greenish. Both Mum and I felt as if we were going into a storybook world, only reachable by magical means. The long room was filled with ancient side tables, coats, boots, bicycles, toolboxes, wine racks, lawnmowers, crazy things you expect to find in outbuildings all over. At the far end of the room there was the most immense 17th century Welsh dresser, smothered in all kinds of interesting stuff. We saw no evidence of any pets though, which surprised us.
Turning left at the end, we opened a very wide but low door directly into a slightly smaller room. There was a grand piano, Persian, Caucasian and Baluchi rugs, silver framed photos of all sizes and ages, fabulous furniture, all slightly shabby; lots of books, magazines, cabinets of trophies, porcelain, silver and many exquisite miniature portraits. There was also a dozen more portraits of huge size, and an enormous fireplace with roaring log fire (the logs were each about 5′ long, just to give you an idea)
Elegant, but well used chairs and sofas were gathered around and this is where we settled down. It was quite strange to be sat exactly where our ancestors sat, and even on some of the same chairs.I handed over a whole lot of trees and bits of paper for Griff’s records, and he said that it would be very interesting for his grandchildren’s sake to have all this kind of information at some stage in the future.
Griff and Ingrid were so nice, and took trouble to put us at our ease. We also met their second daughter Charlotte, her husband, William and their (gorgeous) 3 year old son Griffith who shook our hands like a true gentleman, before shyness sent him scurrying back swiftly to Mummy and Daddy.
The son of the elder daughter, Marianne was upstairs somewhere, on his Playstation, and did not appear. I’m afraid I didn’t catch his name. He lives with Griff and Ingrid much of the time, as I understand his parents serve in the US Military overseas, but I did catch that despite his US accent and dual British / US nationality, he definitely thinks of himself as Welsh, and he and his cousins attend local Welsh speaking schools.. (no-one I met there displayed the slightest trace of a Welsh accent, but their pronunciation of Welsh place names showed they certainly knew how to speak when necessary) The youngest daughter Ebba (pronounced Ev-va) joined us to listen to what I had to say, and she was a really lovely girl (looking much younger than her thirty six years) who was friendly and intelligent and seemed very interested in everything I had to say. I seemed to hit it off with her, and we were soon chattering and laughing like friends. Both she and her sister were on a weekend visit from London.
Mum mainly talked to Ingrid; a tall, tweedy lady of effortless elegance; who had baked a delicious plain “Sunshine” cake ( a Swedish recipe) with a flaked almond top which was delicious, (and still warm) to go with our cup of tea (“China or India?”—-and there’s me, just used to teabags!)
It was incredibly dark in there, throughout. I think their electricity supply must be a lower voltage, probably from a generator. I’m pretty sure the house is off the grid. It was REALLY dark all through the house although many lights were on..but it might be because it was panelled with wood everywhere (white in the sitting room, dark in the adjoining dining room and in the passages and staircases) The electric wiring was certainly antediluvian, I can easily imagine the place burning down.
The house is formed from two mediaeval halls sandwiched together, we were told, and from an aerial photo, it looks like a backwards question mark. Most of what is visible is Queen Anne period with a lot of Georgian additions, but all of that has been crafted onto the much older mediaeval buildings; not a straight line in the place. It’s massive; not a palace, but certainly a mansion. A pocket palace, one wearing a corset, with big rooms leading from one to the next, or at most, separated by the narrowest of corridors. It felt undesigned and unplanned; spacious in the rooms, but cramped everywhere else. It feels VERY old The walls are amazingly thick and the windows have the most incredible views across the valley of the Gwili to the opposite hill, where their son, John George G and his family live in a house directly opposite his parents bedroom. It was from there we saw him get into his car and drive away up the hill. John George G’s house is probably the best place from which to look at the big house from the outside.
Griff took me on a tour of the portraits and I photographed the ones he said would be of interest. He had a couple of printed catalogues for all the pictures that someone from the University of Wales had done for him. In the sitting room I photographed a number of pictures out of courtesy, though I knew they weren’t my ancestors, but in that main sitting room were, opposite each other, a huge portrait of Griffith Philipps 1712-81 and his maternal grandmother Mary Gwyn of Cynghordy, who lived in the times of the Civil War and Cromwell. This second was a really good quality picture that looked to me like “school of Sir Peter Lely”, but we didnt discuss the artists so I dont know.
The one of Griffith showed a rather lumpish, round faced young man who seemed to be wearing some sort of turban. I’d say the portrait dates to about 1740 Unfortunately, I’m afraid the photos did not come out as well as I had hoped, although my Dad thinks they’re not too bad. He says it is hard to use “flash” on anything flat and shiny, so I guess I did quite well really.
Passing through a door by the fireplace, we found ourselves in the Dining Room. It was even darker in here, and just by the door, a small picture of Lucretia Folkes as a young girl, looking rather like an exophthalmic Virgin Mary (I was gonna say “pop-eyed Madonna” but that conjures quite the wrong picture to mind!)
They were actually unaware of our Lucretia’s many noble connections, but I’m guessing they probably weren’t all that impressed as Griff’s own mother was a very grand aristocratic lady herself; Lady Cuninghame, daughter of the 7th Earl FitzWilliam. I understand Griff was her sole heir and I conclude that many of the things in the house may be more connected to that family than to ours
Also in the Dining Room was a portrait of Fanny Hawford, “wife of J.G.2” who never lived at in the family home, as her husband preferred a house nearer town and let his brother Grismond take over. Her portrait is at the head of the wonderful antique table at which, I was told, the Queen, and her parents before her, had often dined in Griff’s father’s day, when he (Sir Grismond) was the “Lord Lieutenant and Custos Rotulorum for Carmarthenshire” .
I also understand Fanny Hawford was rather ill treated by her husband and that he wasn’t a very nice man, and it is because of this, at Ingrid’s insistence, that her portrait now presides at the head of the table in perpetuity as compensation for being married to such a nasty man. My photo of her is the most disappointing, as the bounceback of the flash falls on her lovely face, but she was a pretty delicate looking little lady who looked like she was straight out of a Jane Austen book. She was the daughter of Smith Hawford and Mary Phippard Hawford of Portsea, where she was born in 1788.
Across from her was a fine picture of a man in a long, heavy, grey wig, who is believed to be Griffith Lloyd, the barrister, who, dying in 1718, bequeathed the house to his great nephew, Grismond Philipps, father of Griffith (1712-81).
Adjacent to Fanny’s picture was one of John Philipps of Kilgetty, who became the 6th Baronet Philipps of Picton, wearing the dolphin motif of the Sea-Serjeants, a society of Jacobite sympathisers. It is a very fine picture of him as a young man in a blue velvet coat, very much superior to engravings of him I have seen on the Net, of him as an older man. Next to him is a really delightful (and matching) portrait of someone I was told was his sister (and certainly the two pictures look like twins) although I have not discovered he had a sister, but there is such a striking likeness it was immediately noticeable.
Passing on to the stairs, and possibly the most beautiful lady in any of the pictures was Eliza Catherine 1787-1878 who married the barrister Peak Lewes Garland (not Pentre Garland as stated in the printed pedigrees) She was the daughter of J.G. 1, and her son, with whom she lived until her death, Arthur George Garland 1822-88, became Vicar of St Katherine’s Church, Littleton, Harestock, Winchester; this village being, (co-incidentally), my own birthplace. It was here that Eliza died, aged 90 and classed as a lunatic (probably dementia)
There were some very old pictures of some Stedmans of Strata Florida at the top of the stairs, but I didnt get a picture for some reason, and I wasnt 100% sure who they were in relation to me. We were being called down for more tea I think, and it was getting quite dark. We saw some pictures from the 16th century in a lovely study room, but again, like the exquisite picture of Lord Stafford in the Sitting Room I think they were associated with the FitzWilliam family. In the same room was a miniature silhouette portrait of JG1. He had a very large nose, as do his descendants, but they are all nice looking especially Ebba.
There was a stunning mid Victorian picture on the stairs of “Miss Philipps who married Mr Saunders Davies” I ventured that this would be Frances, but Griff said he had thought her name was Elizabeth; so whether he actually meant Elizabeth, daughter of Col Owen Philipps of Williamston Pembs. who married Daniel Arthur Saunders Davies or Frances Philipps, dau of Grismond Philipps, who married their son Arthur Henry Picton Saunders Davies is not entirely clear. Either way, the lady in the picture was apparently a bit of a martinet and had a taste for whipping her servant girls etc, and she certainly looked scary enough.
In former days, some servants talked of seeing the white clad lady about the place in spectral form, but Griffy said it was nonsense of course. The house felt welcoming and happy, although the entrance hall was admittedly very spooky.
By this time, we had been there a couple of hours, and it was getting very dark. We were conscious of the fact that Griffy and Ingrid had not yet had a chance to spend time with their visiting family and we wanted to get away and find ourselves an evening meal before going back to the B&B. Mum wanted to negotiate the driveway and the lane before it was dark, but we were too late, it was. We said our goodbyes and thanks and left, neglecting in the process to take their email details!
We returned to Abergwili Church on the Sunday for the early morning Holy Communion Service (alas the Book of Common Prayer 1984 edition, rather than the traditional one, but mercifully not the beastly over modernised one from “Common Worship”) It did give me a thrill to take Communion there though, and at the end of the service, (taken by the vicar of St Peter, Carmarthen, Will Strange, in lieu of the Abergwili vicar Leigh Richardson, who was on his Territorials duty in Iraq) we were approached by a good number of the congregation who had been friends with the late Sir Grismond and who told us of picnics and tea parties held for village children back in “the old days”.
It was lovely, everyone was so nice and friendly. We returned to the B&B after that, before driving home. It was an amazing and electric experience for me, and it gave Mum a terrific lift too. She had been very down since her adoptive sister Maureen died, a couple of months before, in September, but the change in her was amazing after this. At the time we believed her to be the last surviving grandchild of “Grandma Stroud” who claimed that her great grandfather was “related to a lord” My adventures of last summer when I rediscovered my mother’s biological sister after a lifetime of looking is really the subject for another blog.
Want to “meet with” my Great Great Great Great Granddad, Mr Herbert Martin Philipps?
What an amazing find this was, and it was a real compensation for finding him with no memorial in his burial place.
The extracts are from the Memoirs of his friend Henry Angelo. (E.O tables were a casino type game, a primitive and early form of Roulette. E.O is an abbreviation for “Even/Odd”)
In the year 1781, there were swarms of E.O. tables in different parts of the town, where any poor man with a shilling only might try his luck. They were open to every body, till at last the Bow-street police began to interfere.
Herbert Philipps (his father was known in the House of Commons then, a Welsh member) and myself, I believe, were the two first “malheureux” who had the misfortune to receive their visit. One night coming from the play, we went to one of these tables, kept a few doors under the Piazzas, near the theatre.
It was on the first floor, at a hatter’s, named Pond, and when we saw it, we could not refrain from entering. Up-stairs we marched. We had not been long in expectation of returning home rich, when suddenly in came Justice Addington, and Wright, accompanied with Bond, &c.
We were all of course very much frightened, and hastened to the fire-place, leaving sundry silver coins on the table. We were innocent as lambs, for each persisted that he had not been playing, only looking on, nor even when called upon would he confess that he had left any money on the table.
Not so, however, with my friend Herbert, who was a rum genius. “Sans ceremonie, ” he marched forward, and said, ” Six of the half crowns are mine.” “Take them up, young man,” said Addington, ” but never let me see you at a gaming house again.” “The rest of the money “, (no one having courage to come forward), “shall go to the Poor.”
After taking down our names, and telling us what we were to expect if ever seen again at a gaming table, we were suffered to depart home. The proprietor of the table, a little hump-backed man, was sent to prison, where I heard he died of grief. This was the commencement of the alarm that afterwards was spread among the other E.O. table keepers.
In 1780, when Herbert Philipps was my companion, we made an excursion to Portsmouth. It was in the very heat of summer. At night we took our seats on the top of the coach from Charing-cross.
For hours the heat continued, when about three o’clock, A. M. came on a cold damp mist; the fields around appeared like a sheet of milk ; at six, a broiling sun, which scorched us. till ten, when we arrived at our journey’s end. Though much fatigued, before breakfast, both of us plunged, indiscreetly, into the sea, heated as we were.
After a good doze and a hearty dinner, we went to Portsea Common ; the 14th regiment of Foot were on the parade, and it was there I first heard Carter’s ” Oh Nanny, wilt thou gang wi’ me,” and seeing twelve men of war pass by at the time, on a secret expedition, the melody produced an additional impression upon my mind, so that the recollection since remains of the delight I felt at the time.
The next day we saw the Flora, Captain Peere Williams, bring in a prize, the Nymph, & French frigate. On going aboard, the havock which had been made, and the sight of the wounded, gave us a dreadful idea of a sea action. We now began to feel the imprudent effects of our sea-bathing, for not only did the skin peel off our noses, but we were attacked with a slow fever, which kept us some time from pursuing our intended ramble to the Isle of Wight. It was very fortunate, that our indiscretion did not produce any worse consequence.
Op Cit. “REMINISCENCES OF HENRY ANGELO, WITH MEMOIRS OF HIS LATE FATHER AND FRIENDS, INCLUDING NUMEROUS ORIGINAL ANECDOTES AND CURIOUS TRAITS OF THE MOST CELEBRATED CHARACTERS THAT HAVE FLOURISHED DURING THE LAST EIGHTY YEARS.” VOL. II. LONDON: HENRY COLBURN AND RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET. 1830.
UPDATE: Since I wrote the piece below, some of Buzzy’s music has been cleared for sale by download early in the New Year. His health continues to be poor, and he is still in need of help, but he seems a lot happier and has friends close by and his circumstances seem to be a lot more comfortable
3rd of March marks the birthday of my dear friend Buzzy Linhart. If you don’t know who he is watch the above video
Buzzy and I have been close friends since August 2008 when a mutual contact asked me to telephone him. This contact had related to Buzz what a huge fan I was, and reminded him of a previous correspondance that he and I had had around the year Y2K when I had bought some very rare albums from him direct, as I could get them nowhere else.
Buzzy and I hit it off spectacularly well; not that surprising really, as I had been a major fan since I was 17 years old and recalled his music even from when I was about ten.
We ended up talking every day for about a year until the proxy dialler I had been using stopped working on his line and I could no longer afford to call so often. Even so, when I do call it’s still just as wonderful, none of the warmth has disappeared from the friendship.
What can I say about Buzz? Well, probably a lot more than some would like me to say. I see a dear friend suffering daily in pain from his severe glaucoma and degenerated leg joints, who has barely minimal resources to support him in old age and ill health, who has suffered separation from family and friends, who has been robbed and cheated and taken every advantage of.
Much of his catalogue of great songs has been as good as stolen from him, and now others reap the rewards of his labours. The rights were lost when Buddah Records went out of business and now a lot of the assets of that company moulder, pretty much forgotten, in the vaults of Sony BMG, amongst others
Linhart is a national treasure. His wealth of crazy stories are like a Who’s Who of the 60’s counter culture. He knew everybody, Hendrix, Dylan, Carly Simon.. everyone, seriously..and now he is passed over and forgotten; an old near-blind and disabled man, frightened in his own home, wondering if the next person knocking at the door will help him or attack him and steal from him.
All the same, Buzz is still a crazy character and just listening to him makes me think that if only he had more reliable people around him he could make so much more of his somewhat beleaguered situation through public speaking etc. I tried to talk to our mutual contact about my concerns about Buzzy’s health and well-being and was pretty much asked to mind my own business. Buzzy however was of the opinion that this person was not particularly interested in his well being, just in preserving the legend rather than the man himself
I think Buzzy’s lyrics are remarkably prescient of his hardships and suffering, and yet at the same time, they are searingly innocent and optimistic in many ways. There is the distinct ghost of the carefree hippy era present. The music speaks for itself, in a big way. I hope you have time enough to really listen. It’s mostly a happy vibe. My friend is a forgotten genius, and I personally don’t feel that is hyperbole.
I asked Buzz once what was his favourite song he had written, and he chose one of my own favourites “There It Goes Again” which, he told me was written at the height of the campaign against Draft dodgers when NYC Subway employees used to delight in misdirecting any long-haired hippy types off in the wrong direction and sending them off into the ghettoes, potentially to get mugged and beaten.
Buzz said he wrote the song after this had happened to him several times already that day, and he sat weeping on the station platform. He was an invalid veteran, not a dodger, which makes it even more poignant. Hearing this story certainly added a spectacular new dimension to a song I have personally delighted in for the last twenty-six years.
I know he is still a darling of the Medical Marijuana brigade, and he is very interested and vocal in a lot of issues about food and nutrition. Buzz is a sublimely eccentric and off the wall character, and I am sure to a lot of people he may seem like a complete flake, and an inconveniently awkward old bugger.
But I fucking love that guy so much, and it makes me happy to say I’m pretty certain he likes me right back..
And who wouldnt be proud of a friend like this??
February 2007 / Revised 4/2009
P.S.C, BA (Open), ACIB, FGS, AMRI, Curator(Hon) Oxford University Museum Fellow of The British Institute for Geological Conservation
A NATIONAL SERVICEMAN AT R.A.F. IBSLEY: 1950/2
I was called up for 18 months National Service in the RAF on 19th January 1950. There were many induction paths to follow; mine was – Padgate – West Kirby – Bawdsey, for Trade Training as a Fighter Plotter.
Padgate I remember as a lot of young men in ill-fitting uniforms singing mournful choruses of ‘Good Night, Irene’ – all very homesick and hormonal.
West Kirby – square-bashing – end of that story.
Incidentally, in 2004 during one of my geological excursions I was able to stay ‘B & B’ at Bawdsey Manor, which was by then an International Language School; ‘B’ was sole occupancy of a cottage on the estate while ‘& B’ was a short drive to the Manor house to eat in the one-time Admin. Block/Officers’ Mess – which I had not previously entered unless accused of some terrible breach of King’s Regulations.
Towards the end of the Bawdsey course volunteers were sought for an overseas posting (Changi, I believe) and I duly volunteered. However, everyone but me was drafted and I was sent off to RAF Ibsley, arriving there some time in March/April 1950. There was a certain malicious satisfaction to be derived a few weeks later when my course-mates from Bawdsey arrived at Ibsley, following cancellation of their overseas posting – but not before they had undergone the full course of painful inoculations!
Initially I was billeted on the lower level of No.2 Accommodation Site and transported daily to RAF Sopley GCI station (surface block at that time) to ‘Protect The Airspace Of Western Democracy’. Unfortunately Bawdsey had trained me on a horizontal plotting-table using magnetic bits and pieces and it soon became apparent that I had the kind of brain that could not cope with writing backwards with crayons from behind a Chinagraph screen. I suppose that there was some element of desperation involved when I was transferred to the Fighter Marshal’s section – a small group of airmen who talked to the fighters and gave them D/F positions, all under the direction of a good-tempered and patient Sergeant (a fairly rare species). The Sergeant sometimes took his team-for-the-day down to Sopley in his Austin Seven – a much more civilized mode of transport than the usual 3-tonner ‘cattle trucks’.
Having spent three years in a naval boarding-school I was used to discipline, rules and restrictions so I settled into routine fairly happily, apart from when the Government decided that National Servicemen should serve for two years instead of one-and-a-half because of the Korean War. Home was in Portsmouth Dockyard and I became a regular hitchhiker.
Being a fairly ingenious youth I soon found that displaying sporting pretensions was a good way of avoiding extra duties “Sorry ‘Flight’, the Cross-country Team is scheduled for a training run” – even if it only involved a trot across the moors behind the camp to a welcoming pub (but we didn’t mention that bit, although with his experience, he must have suspected). Of course, I’d justify it as being more worthy than skulking in a hut. I led the team to fairly undistinguished results in Cross-country events at RAF stations Tangmere, Benson and a trip to North Weald for 11 Group Sports, with results long forgotten. I won the Station quarter-mile in 1950 (second in ’51) and anchored both the Medley-relay and Tug-of-War Fighter Plotter teams to victories in the 1950 Station Sports – by the way, I still have the medals. I had been successful in Rugby Football at school but found that trying to bash strong young men out of my way was rather more difficult than massacring schoolboys – so I gave that up.
Among my black-and-white blurry ‘snaps’ I have annotations that there are images of:
Eric Burdett, Jock Slaven, Bob Weightman, Bill Elliott, Tony Marner, John Hill, Allan Wiseman, Allan Godfrey, and John Knight. There are somebody else’s rather better pictures of the
Cross-country team in action, showing Jerry Owens, Colin Stephenson, Terry Belcher, Allan Godfrey and Pete Wills. Hidden amongst the other bodies are John Figg, Ivor Rice-Jones and Andy Cardwell (and me).
Among the interesting characters that I knew and befriended was Leonard Setright, a hut-mate and introspective intellectual, mad keen on motor-racing, who introduced me to the sport. We often went out in his Morgan 3-wheeler – far too fast, of course. Len became a famous motoring journalist and author, writing in magazines like Esquire and Playboy; because of his influence I attended at least one of the car-race meetings at Ibsley in 1951. Then there was the virtuoso pianist who never seemed to play anything other than ‘Sabre Dance’ or was it ‘The Ritual Fire Dance’?
As for Air Force duties; these included unloading barbed wire at the now defunct Ringwood railway station and a never-to-be-forgotten Night Infiltration exercise where a group of us started in Sopley village, tasked with infiltrating the GCI station in the face of searchlights and patrols. We were instructed to make maximum use of natural cover, skulking in hedges and ditches – unfortunately the weather was blowing a gale with horizontal rain, so a few of us came up with the idea that the ‘enemy’ would be looking for us in cover so we would walk up the middle of the field, looking like a patrol and getting wet but not muddy. To our surprise and disappointment (?) we were soon captured and incarcerated in a warm, dry guardroom. There was one truly remarkable event, involving a major air exercise when, for some reason that I have forgotten, data flow to the main screen was interrupted for a short while and information about the exercise was temporarily taken from the D/F Table – which I was temporarily in charge of! We were ‘fixing’ continuously, the bearing-setter lads were working their socks off and I was carrying a mass of call-signs, heights and vectors in my head. My brain was crystal-clear, my concentration intense, to a level that I have never achieved again. Burnt-out at 19 years of age – tragic. I was distantly aware of an audience but when someone sought to relieve me, a distant voice said – “Leave him alone, he’s the only one who knows what’s going on”. Eventually, the situation was resolved, I was relieved, thanked and told to take the rest of the watch off. Actually, sensible management as by that time I was exhausted and no use at all to anybody – just as well I was ‘off-watch’ as I remember going to sleep in a chair! Time passed and, to my surprise, having been LAC and SAC, I was promoted to Corporal – surprise compounded because nobody told me face to face, just that I happened to read the Station notice board. This meant a transfer to the upper site at Ibsley, was it Hut 312? where, amongst other ’deficiencies’ I had to sign for many, many feet of wooden shelving, long since fed into the central cast-iron stove.
Eventually, 18th January 1952 came along and I left Ibsley forever, as I thought. I resumed my career in banking, ending as an Administration Manager attached to a Regional Office for ‘hatchet jobs’. Along came retirement and a new ‘career’ as a geological educator (unpaid) and Honorary Associate Curator, Geological Collections, Oxford University Museum (still unpaid!) but no thought of RAF Ibsley, although I had been living in Lymington (a mere19 miles away) since 1966. Eventually I discovered the annual ‘History with Wings’ fair and that there were societies for former inmates of Ibsley and Sopley. I then learned that that long-ago good-tempered and patient Sergeant with the Austin Seven was living in Fordingbridge and I had great pleasure in telephoning him to say “Hello Jimmy, I’ve not spoken to you for fifty-five years but how are you?”. Yes, it was Jimmy Moir and I am very happy to have had another opportunity of working with him on ‘Bygone Days’.
But that’s not the most amazing thing – and here’s hope for all of us with failing memories – on the second occasion that I met Jimmy I suddenly said, without any prompting “Was there a Flight-Sergeant Enticott?” – answer ‘yes’ – but I had not given him a thought for all those fifty-five years, so where did that come from? Don’t despair, it’s all in the mind, somewhere, even if buried deep!
So, this isn’t an autobiography, just random memories set down to give a flavor of what it was like for some to do National Service in the 1950s and a continuation of the ‘Ibsley Story’ after closure of the airfield. Less important in ‘The Grand Scheme of Things’ but it was important to us at the time.
If anyone out there can amplify or correct, I’d be pleased to hear from them.
I’ve been reading a lot of things lately about the difficulties of monetizing skills and talents, both on the internet and elsewhere.
Unbelievably incredible creative people are finding the rug tugged out from under them in this digital age of mp3s and JPGs.
Over time the internet has become just one huge trolley dash to grab at everything unthinkingly, with no sense of the damage to those people who put their talents out on show for us to enjoy. We’ve all downloaded copyright content I’m sure, without the slightest sense of guilt or shame. Are we missing the bigger picture?
Human beings (such as myself) are selfish creatures on the whole, and are motivated almost entirely by self-interest. I want to do what I want; when I want; and at minimal cost to myself in almost every situation, but one. That exception is social.
There is an impulse to act unselfishly in support of family, and of friends. We do not offer an aesthetic critique of the paintings our children bring home from school; we smile and thank them, because we love them. In doing so, some may argue, we may have compromised one part of our integrity, but that is more than compensated by the deeper significance of supporting and loving another human being. In this way we endow our friends and our families with the confidence and the potential to move on, improve and facilitate their continued progress and success.
We may claim to love our favourite TV stars, singers, writers and artists too, but until now, we did not have the opportunity to know them personally in most cases, but things have changed. The difference is that now we have Twitter
Last night I read an incredibly moving blog post by Wil Wheaton You can read it here
From @WilW 10th Feb 2010
“In which the impact of Twitter on my life is examined, and thanks is given to @ev and @biz http://wilwheaton.typepad.com/wwdnbackup/2010/02/in-which-the-impact-of-twitter-on-my-life-is-examined.html%20“
Now to me, eighteen months ago, Wil Wheaton was just some young American actor I had seen on TV a few years ago. He doesn’t know me, we’ve never personally interacted, he has no idea who I am; yet in those words he has expressed a large part of what I too would like to say on this subject. Twitter changes lives, and it deserves to be taken seriously.
Most of the print media, certainly here in Britain, are fond of running disparaging pieces about Twitter and how they see it as a pointlessly ephemeral waste of time designed for geeks, nerds and losers who have nothing better to do than be on the Internet twenty four hours a day. Now, why would they do that? Call me a cynic but to me it is glaringly obvious that they realise that they are in a dying industry and cannot compete. They, and other leviathan old media institutions, like record companies and broadcasters creak and groan as the age of information overtakes them like a swarm of migrating army-ants, leaving them gasping and struggling in a snare of millions of copyright infringements. (As an illustration of that let me direct you to Al Yankovic’s tweet
From @AlYankovic 8th Feb 2010
“In case you were wondering… ditto for me. http://okgo.forumsunlimited.com/index.php?showtopic=4169 #okgo”
An eloquent and impassioned explanation, brilliantly expressed there by Damian Kulash of @OKGO)
In this free for all, where are these creatives to find new markets?
It seems obvious to me that we are downsizing and, with tools like Twitter we are getting up close and personal with people whom we would normally never have come into contact with. There are so many examples of this.
Musicians, such as the extraordinarily lovely and talented Terra Naomi (@terranaomi – another of whom I knew nothing before Twitter) streaming live from their own living rooms to their Twitter followers and creating not just fans, but making new friendships; new allies in strangers from all parts of the world, who, in their turn will be very likely to buy the music, or the tickets to live shows when they are offered, because they now “know” that artist and can relate to them, not as a remote figure, but as a sort of a friend to whom loyalty is gladly given.
Other artists use Twitter and other social media to organize national tours of ordinary people’s living rooms, like wandering medieval minstrels. These people have an urge to create, and to share their art with other real people.
A great example of using Twitter comes from the extraordinary Peter Serafinowicz (@serafinowicz) His amazing story of how he used Twitter to get his DVD publicly released can be found here in this Boing Boing interview
It’s our attitudes that need adjustment as we enter this new era.
Already, the once World Wide Web is being carved up by big business to fit a tired old world business model. If we decide that we want to retain the freedoms that are here in cyberspace, we need to address the issues entailed and devise radical global solutions to copyright law issues if we are to achieve justice for the brilliant people who entertain us
So many unexpected and serendipitous collaborations have arisen on account of this supposedly trivial and pointless website, that I think it really is time to stand up and say NO. Twitter should not be viewed as a passing fad. There is an ease and openness of communication available here as in no other place.
On Facebook, if you don’t know me, you aren’t going to add me are you? You’re in your ivory tower with your chosen few and I’m just a peasant at the gate. That’s why Facebook sucks.
MySpace was actually a whole lot better when people still used it, and additionally it was a great market place for creative people to showcase what they do. It’s so sad that it became deserted as the sheep all flocked to Facebook instead. I still really don’t understand the appeal of that site, but I digress…
Due to its format, Twitter is not cliquey. I can follow anyone, (except those who have protected their tweets.) I can, after a fashion, “talk” to anyone out there. Whether they respond or not is neither here nor there. Some people I talk to all the time, but although they may never respond (you know who you are!) I can be reasonably confident that I got my point across anyway J
Twitter. It is important. It is democratic. It is frightening those who would control us and separate us. We, the people have the news before the old-school news media, governments or authorities can sanitize or censor it. We need to recognize the importance of unrestricted wide scale, real time communication and the part it can and will play, not only in the recreation of business and economic institutions and society, but also in the defence of human life and rights as we have seen in Iran and Haiti for example.
On a more human scale, and as Wil Wheaton pointed out, Twitter is a place to meet people and make friends. On the strength of some encouragement given to me by someone I much admire (@TheGreatBermuda) I have put a lot more thought in the last year or so into what I actually enjoy and what I am good at.
To me Twitter has become an important way for me to get to know and learn from incredibly talented writers. The warmth of the welcome I have had from many professional writers has been so nurturing to me, that I really am starting to think that perhaps I too have a valid creative urge irrespective of whether that will ever put food on the table. That encouragement and friendship has actually changed the way I view myself from a negative to a positive light. That has to be a good thing.
Thank you for reading.