Talking about my generation


First there was the Carnival,

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then there was the Fair.  I’ve written before about the Fair in Chelmsford’s Central Park. Now, in celebration of the Living in 1966 programme (BBC1 Wednesday 7.30), after you’ve remembered the music, the pirate radio ships, the mods and the rockers, you can read a chapter from the forthcoming Beyond the Beehive.


In this chapter Linda and Sandra are going the Fair together.  Sandra is still dreaming of Danny, her bad-boy boyfriend.   Linda is just looking forward to an exciting evening – the Dodgems, the Ghost Train, the Waltzers, and hearing some good music, including Dream Lover by Bobby Darin.

Read more about Beyond the Beehive here  as you listen to Bobby Darin whose hair indicated that he was a bit of a rocker, but whose suits were really quite sharp  (the song starts 46 seconds in).

Pop, Pirates and Postmen


Living in 1966.  They say if you remember the 60s you weren’t there.  But some of us kept a diary!

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(a medical diary only in the sense that my uncle who was a doctor gave it to me – it is in fact full of handy tips about headaches and constipation).
Now the BBC has made a series of programmes about 1966, in all the local regions, BBC North, BBC London and so on, as well as BBC East, which involves Norfolk, Suffolk and … Chelmsford Essex, all to be shown at the same time on Wednesday 1 June on BBC1 at 7.30pm. 
I was there in 1966, and I was there again in March 2016, when on a very cold, grey day in Chelmsford, I was interviewed by BBC Radio 6 Music DJ, Steve Lamacq for the BBC East programme.  We started in the Saracen’s Head
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 and then went walkabout in the town, in the way we used to, best friend Christine and I, on a Saturday afternoon, when I had finished work in Wainwright’s Milk Bar.
The Dolphin-Wainwrights
We did hover for a moment outside the site of the Orpheus in New London Road – but there really is not much to see there now – although the barber was very thrilled at the thought and was very accommodating.
We finished up at the site of the Corn Exchange, the centre of mod life on Saturday nights – the Who, David Bowie, Georgie Fame, the Animals, the Yardbirds – all played there.  Steve Lamacq is too young to remember the halcyon days of the Corn Exchange – his memories relate more to the Chancellor Hall round the corner, but we stood looking at the scaffolding of some more building work that is going on and shared our musical stories.
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Patrick McGrady, the director, has sent me a DVD of the programme (securely stored on a pile of books on my living room table until transmission) and I don’t think I’m giving away too much if I say that the scenes in which I appear have a certain style – because of all the things I do so well, walking, reading, and to a lesser extent, dancing. 
The programme also has clips of the Singing Postman and a piece about the pirate radio ship, Radio Caroline, and the two lads who set up their own radio station in their bedroom, as well as some great footage of the glory days of mods then and now in Great Yarmouth and Clacton.
Watch the programme on You Tube here
Living in 66 - pop, pirates and postmen

Beyond the Beehive

It’s happening!  It’s finished.  The final stages of editing are underway.  Beyond the Beehive is on track to be here in time for your (late) summer holiday reading.

Beyond the Beehive front cover

To paraphrase the Beatles, it’s been a long, cold painful winter in the Woodcraft household, but gradually the sun is shining, not least because the book is finished.

If you were wondering – how can we go Beyond the Beehive if we’re not even entirely sure what a Beehive is.  When we went out shooting for the cover of the book Billie spent a long time preparing by watching videos on the net.  Find out how to do it here. I have to admit that I have never had a beehive – though I will admit to a bit of back-combing on occasion.  It does seem cruel to hair – pulling and teasing it into shapes that we usually only see now on Bake Off when contestants do magical things with spun sugar.  But you know, when you belong to a group, be it beatniks, rockers, and even mods, you have to go with the flow.  And for rockers, the flow for the girls was a beehive.

This was what the world was like when Sandra and Linda, way beyond the beehive, wore their suedette jackets and dreamed of going to the mods’ coffee bar, the Orpheus.

Sandra and Linda are young women living on a council estate in Essex, as is the exotic Sylvie – a woman with a past.  All three have very different dreams for their lives.   Played out against the wonderful music of the 60s – Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Crystals, the Animals, Chris Montez, and even Miles Davis – they grapple with love, loss and the American Way.


Also – another recent pleasure – along with finishing the book, and having lunch in the garden, was a trip to see the new movie Miles Ahead, directed by and starring the wonderful Don Cheadle.  It’s an imagined episode in his life, but gives an interesting view on the life of an artist in the 50s, 60s and 70s.  Go and see it, if only for the pleasure of listening to the haunting music Miles Davis made.