Pop, Pirates and Postmen

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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

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.

 

 

The Milk Bar

The Dolphin-Wainwrights

In Chelmsford in the Sixties, as in so many other towns in England, the demolition of many of the best parts of the town began – that is the Corn Exchange and beside it, Tindal Street, the narrow cobbled lane that was home to the White Hart, the Spotted Dog and the Dolphin, and at the far end, Wainwrights Milk Bar.  They all disappeared.  Before that happened, I started working there, on Saturdays and in the holidays.  It was August 1966.  We served milk from a special machine, milkshakes made with bright sweet milkshake mix and Horlicks, made with milk, on a noisy beige electric mixer.  I never liked serving Horlicks because somehow, for me, it always turned out lumpy.  Why would anyone want to drink Horlicks in the daytime, anyway – or at all?  We also served tea, and two types of coffee, ordinary, which we served from an urn behind the counter and – Expresso! The Saturday girls weren’t allowed to touch the Expresso machine, as we called it.  Elsie, who worked there full-time, and was usually in charge, said that was because it was dangerous.  She’d knocked out her two front teeth one morning making frothy coffee for someone.  So she said.  Her two front teeth were certainly missing.

On my second day at work, in my neat white overall and red and black check pinafore apron, I got my first and only ever tip.  Which, I wrote in my diary, was ‘for giving a man 3 sugars in one cup and 1 and a half in the other.’  It was sixpence.  Not bad!  But why?  The Milk Bar was the hub of the town, I think.  My dad went there for coffee at 11 o’clock from the AEU office in London Road, where he worked.  There he met his old friend Jimmy Peacock who wrote a column in the Essex Weekly News.  My sister’s gang – the In-Crowd – slouched in on Saturdays.  Shop workers came in, occasionally a mod drifted in, sometimes even a confused rocker, young families wanting lemon squash, people from building sites wanting pie and beans.

On 13 August 1966 – 29 years ago today – I did hardly anything ‘except make ice-cream sodas’ (which in Chelmsford consisted of fizzy lemonade, a dollop of vanilla ice-cream and a stir with a long spoon.  I still like it). People came and went, it was hot, it was summer.  The Corn Exchange was closed till the autumn.  Perhaps that was the reason the Troggs were at number 1.

A Sense of Occasion – the Chelmsford Stories

I have tried to find out who took the picture of Tindal Street.  If you know, please get in touch.