Lazy Sixties Afternoon

Galleywood Heritage Centre – formerly the Galleywood Race Course – was the venue for a great heritage day on Saturday 3 June. Lots of different groups guided visitors to ways of finding out about local history or their own family history, in a room that had once been the base of the Grandstand. It was a really hot sunny day, with much coming and going and sharing information and drinking tea and eating rather delicious cakes.  In a separate room, decorated with a host of interesting pictures of Chelmsford in the Sixties, and with the Kinks and Roy Orbison and the Stones crooning in the background, I was talking about My Generation.

What was very nice for me was hearing the experiences of those in the audience. In the first session there were no (ex)rockers, but in the second session there was a mix of (ex) mods and rockers – I had to be careful what I said. The discussion ranged far and wide from the pop groups that went to Southend to the £10 Poms who went to Australia, from Martin Ford (fashion emporium) where I bought my pin-striped fan pleated skirt, to the trendy straight shift dresses that made it easy to run up a new outfit for yourself. We talked about National Service and pubs and cafes. And I read a chapter from the new book (working title The Girl in the Green Mac) which went down well. So it was a great day all round.

One session ran from 11.30 to 12.30 and the second ran from 1.30 to 2.30. In between, with scarcely enough time for me to eat a cheese sandwich, Andy Stephens, a local reporter, asked me a few questions.  And here are the answers.

60s Music at the Fair

Indie Author Fair

At last week’s Indie Author Fair at Foyle’s in London the room rocked with over 50 authors and their books. Readers, agents, organisers, artists and poets cruised around the room, wine glasses in hands, surveying, perusing and purchasing great reading.

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In one corner of the room I lured people to my table with the offer of a 60s music quiz. People stood in the middle of the room, humming 60s tunes to each other, remembering the titles, guessing at the artists.  Christine Wilkinson, fabulous photographer and designer of the book cover and I answered questions as best we could, without giving too much away.
For those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s the quiz. Unfortunately no fabulous prizes remain (gorgeous fridge magnets (see below).  I know! you’re sorry you didn’t come now), but you’ll be left with a comforting sense of pride that you know all the answers.  Or not.    If in doubt, ask your mum.  Solutions later.

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Quiz

1. Who sang …?
 a. Baby Love
i. The Ronettes
ii. The Crystals
iii. The Supremes
iv. The Chiffons

b. Oh Pretty Woman
i. Marvin Gaye
ii. Roy Orbison
iii. Del Shannon
iv. Marty Wilde

c. Shout
i. Brenda Lee
ii. Lulu
iii. Dusty Springfield
iv. Helen Shapiro

2. Van Morrison was a member of which group?
1. Dave Clark 5
2. Them
3. Spencer Davis Band
4. The Searchers

3. How many members were there in
1. The Dave Clark 5?
2. The Big 3?
3. The Beatles?

4. Who was the lead singer of the Animals?

5. Here’s the first line – what’s the song?
1. People try to put us down
2. Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something, I think you’ll understand
3. If you see me walking down the street and I start to cry

6. Which was the first record released by the Beatles
1. Please Please Me
2. Love Me Do
3. Can’t Buy Me Love

7. Charlie Watts was a member of which group?

8. In which city were Tamla Motown records first recorded?

9. On which TV Station did Top of the Pops start?

10. Which night did Ready Steady Go appear on TV?

 

a sense of occasion

The essential book about the 60s

An Awfully Big Occasion

What a swell party it was.

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Time – 17 April 2015, 4pm-7.30pm

Place – Foyle’s, Charing Cross Road

Meet the author!  Buy books.  Meet other authors.  Buy more books.

Yes – Foyles on London’s Charing Cross Road, is playing host to The Indie Author Fair on Friday 17th April 2015, 4-7.30pm.  The fair is organised by Triskele Books and sponsored by XPO North.  It’s free to the public.  And I shall be there!  With A Sense of Occasion.

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And what an occasion.  There will a drinks reception, there will be goodie bags.  It’s going to be great!  I shall be signing books, selling books and answering questions about the 60s, Chelmsford and Betty Crocker cakes (possibly).  I have a feeling that Motown music blasting through the room may not be welcomed by all authors, so I am trying to devise a situation where I provide the CD player and multi sets of ear phones so browsers can listen to Green Onions,  Hi Heel Sneakers, Little Red Rooster (the list -and the beat – goes on) while deciding how many copies to buy. Of course, in my hands this may not be desirable, even if technologically possible.  It will be a blast.

Just keep the date in your diary.  Friday 17 April 2015.  Be there or be square.

More details and press release here

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Moving to London

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The action now takes a step to London.  What did we in Chelmsford know of London in the 60s?  We knew Oxford Street – it was in the C&A store there that I bought my suede coat.  At last I was a real mod.  I was so proud of it – it was brown, it was soft, I could swap buttons with Christine and her brown leather.  I didn’t realise till later that it was  wrong, the sleeves were too wide and it had an A-line shape, akin to what was then called a duster coat.  It wasn’t a straight, narrow tube.  But it was suede, real suede.  And it came from London.

What else we knew about London (apart from Trafalgar Square where we fed the pigeons when we were small and gathered at the end of Ban the Bomb marches when we were teenagers) was that there were clubs.  Christine, my best friend, and I didn’t know them personally.  On Saturday evenings in Chelmsford, when the groups had finished playing at the Corn Exchange, the mod boys would mooch up to the railway station to jump on a train, or hop down to the A12 to hitch a ride to the Smoke, to go Up West, to the Flamingo or the Marquee, where they would often see the same group that had just been grooving it up in Chelmsford.

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And now the two worlds will collide – in the best possible way – at the London launch of A Sense of Occasion.

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Read all about it at http://www.elizabethwoodcraft.com

 

A Night at the Saracens

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People tell stories about the Saracen’s Head.  Ghost stories, why else is it called the Ghost Bar?  Stories of famous visitors – the Who sat there once, apparently, drinking beer, looking like any ordinary mod in Chelmsford to hear a good group at the Corn Exchange.  War work was carried out at the back of the building.  And last week – the Chelmsford launch of A Sense of Occasion.  As has already been reported, Chelmsford was aquiver with excitement.  And why not?

A Sense - Invite Chelmsford

The music was good – who could argue with Chris Montez, the Crystals, Bob and Earl and of course, Smokey Robinson?  The atmosphere was great – candles, pictures of Jim Morrison, Amy Winehouse, Madonna, comfy chairs, white tablecloths, Twiglets.   The awaiting welcome glasses of Prosecco had strawberries in. 

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It was a great evening, filled with people from far and near but who all had some connection with Chelmsford – including Christine, my oldest friend, who lived across the road.

There was a prize draw with fabulous prizes – mugs and pens with the book cover on them (plus a bottle of bubbles for the youngest guest (5) who came with her mum and dad).  It has to be said that there was a poor showing in the best mod outfit category (in fact I should have won – I had arrived in a parka and had a mod-ish dress from Sainsbury’s – my couturier of choice)

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but I had a pen left so gave it to the sisters to share (you can do that with pens).

One of the best moments for me was the response when I said ‘Let’s hear it for the Woodhall Estate’ and the room was filled with a loud cheer from all the people who had lived on our estate.   A very good evening.  And I sold a load of books.

Thanks to all at the Saracen’s Head, particularly Sharnelle and Jordan, to Gill, Chris and Caroline – and again Christine.

Next stop London.


 

A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford launch

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There has been an early entrant to tomorrow night’s Best Mod Outfit competition.  Because Steve is, as we say in the legal world, beyond the seas (Australia), he is being allowed to enter, although he won’t be with us physically.

One or two people have expressed concern about their own costume for the evening.  Those who follow me on Facebook will know that I have already had to share an article on how to match your socks to your outfit.  I hope this will be of use, because let’s face it, it’s the little things that matter.

I have also been asked exactly what I mean when I suggest that a ‘Cleopatra’ hairdo might be required.   I am not suggesting an upstyle, decorated with asps and a gold locket, of course.  I am thinking more of those days when Cleo was mooching round Caesar’s country house, humming a tune, relaxed, her locks swinging shiny and free, dreaming of a time, a couple of thousand year’s hence, when Cathy McGowan would copy her look every Friday on Ready Steady Go.  As Cleopatra herself might have said – the weekend really does start here.

A Sense of Occasion

Planning the Chelmsford launch of my book, A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford Stories Final cover_1622x2500px

Lights, music, sparkling wine. The Saracen’s Head will be fizzing.  There will be a prize for the best mod outfit, which of course I shan’t be able to win, but I have to set an example.  I am in major conversation with Frank, my hairdresser, about the appropriate hair-style.  We didn’t have curls or waves in those days, it was all (an attempt at) the smooth Cleopatra bob as worn by Cathy McGowan on Ready Steady Go.  It will be a good evening.  Loads of old friends and family (including Auntie Rita hopefully). The book is something I’m very proud of, and I’m really looking forward to being in Chelmsford listening to the music that ushered us into the Corn Exchange on Saturday nights.

Can’t resist including Going to a Go-Go again.  Fantastic.

 

 

Tommy Steele again

Tommy Steele I recently read this memoir by Tommy Steele.  It’s a good book, a real page-turner, and for me full of memories.  When I was 7 and 8 years old Tommy Steele was ‘my’ pop star.  My best friend Sandra had Adam Faith and her sister Marie always chose Cliff Richard.  They were needed when we played those games that required each of us to choose a rock’n’roller.  I can’t remember now what the games were.  But Tommy Steele always worked for me.  I went to see Tommy the Toreador – it wasn’t gritty enough for me.  By the time Half a Sixpence came out I had moved on, I had passed through my Beatles’ phase, was immersed in Tamla Motown and was tentatively buying Buffy Sainte-Marie and Fairport Convention LPs (at last! we had a record player).

Time went by.  It was 1979.  I was studying for my Bar exams, and to earn some money I went back to my old job as a teacher.  For a couple of terms I was a ‘temporary terminal’ English teacher at Bacon’s School, Bermondsey.  And guess what!  Bacon’s was the very school that Tommy Steele attended.  A coincidence?

Two years ago Val Wilmer, knowing something of my history, asked if I’d like to go to the London Palladium to see Scrooge starring Tommy Steele.  We went and it was very very good.  It was the first time I had seen him perform live – after all those years.  He was on stage practically for the whole show and sang, danced and acted splendidly.  A joy.

And then, 55 years after those childhood games played in the street on our council estate, I publish my collection of short stories – A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford Stories.  It contains a story called Tea for Tommy – where Tommy Steele goes to Linda’s house for tea.  A month ago I sent the book to Tommy Steele’s agent.  Last week, I received a card, from Tommy Steele himself! saying that he had enjoyed the story very much.  ‘A lovely lovely read,’ he wrote.  I cannot describe the pleasure it gave me.  It was worth the wait.

http://www.elizabethwoodcraft.com

The Gift

There was a boy called Ronnie Dee.  He was older than me, 18 maybe 19.  He had a smooth face, dark eyes and short dark hair in the mod way,  and a navy blue leather.  He was quiet but he told little jokes, and then he would turn and smile at me.  When he came down the Orpheus, the mods’ coffee bar, someone would put ‘King Bee’ by the Rolling Stones on the juke box.

Bee Dee.  Blond Don would start to sing, ‘I’m a King Dee,’ and Ronnie would shout ‘Turn it off!’ but I don’t think he really minded…

Read on in A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford Stories

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The In-Crowd

When I was fifteen I got a Saturday job in Wainwrights, the Milk Bar, on the corner of London Road and Tindal Street.  All the girls wore a white overall with a red and black check pinafore apron and when Steve started, he wore a white jacket, like Mr Wainwright.  We served milk and milkshakes, tea and coffee and Horlicks, and egg sandwiches.  There was no juke box, and it wasn’t hip, but it was popular.

There was a group of people, of whom my sister, tragically for me, was one, who came in every Saturday.  Val, the other Saturday girl, and I called them the In-Crowd.  The boys were at the Grammar School and the girls were at the High School.   They always had the same thing, Foxy had espresso – you had to go to the other end of the counter for espresso, and Steve had tea.  Johnny had lemon squash and my sister and Marilyn and the others had the ordinary coffee.  They would get their drinks and take them upstairs and sit for hours, taking up two tables, talking about horse-racing and records.  They weren’t mods, and despite my sister’s best attempts, they weren’t really beatniks.  The boys always wore nice jumpers, plain, no pattern, round neck, navy blue usually, sometimes maroon, and good jeans.  The girls wore mohair coats, or in the summer shift dresses in blue or pink.

They weren’t mods, but they really were a sort of In-Crowd.  And because they were two and three years older than me, it was a crowd I couldn’t join, even if I’d wanted to.  Later, when Foxy worked in London and so did I we became really good friends.  What a difference fifteen years makes.

A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford Stories