The Starfish Thrower (1)

Until 2012, we always spent our family holidays in the very far west of Cornwall, near Penzance in a district called Penwith. One of the most famous places to visit is St Ives, a small town on the north coast. The map shows roughly where we are in England:

And here is St Ives. Welcome back, O Orange Arrow, which today marks the site of an Art Gallery, of which more later:

I love St Ives, even though it has changed enormously since we first went there in 1987.  Tiny interesting shops, faced with weekly rents of £2000 for a glorified phone box have all departed, unsurprisingly, leaving just fast food shops selling either traditional Cornish pizza and burgers, or surfwear shops, all tight and rubbery, and presumably not meant for the people who visit the fast food shops. St Ives is now really too expensive for locals to live there, thanks in the main to the London bankers and financiers, who can buy a house or two with their annual bonuses. Some streets are completely full of second homes so that from October to April, some areas of St Ives can become a ghost town.
In summer though, it’s different. Here’s the beach on the map above, and in the background, all the houses have saffron yellow lichen on their roofs, a sure sign of clean air:

When the tide is completely in, the beach disappears and the real locals come in to see what they can steal. A male Grey Seal knows he can come swimming into the waters near the Pier and a fisherman will throw him some unwanted fish:

On the promenade, the cleverest individuals in St Ives move to the attack. They are Herring Gulls larus argentatus argenteus. The gulls just walk around on the pavement and people might give them a chip or some other scrap of food:

On other occasions they operate in twos and threes and behave just like velociraptors:

One gull will get your attention and the second one will fly in from the side and snatch your lunch. Don’t ever taunt them. I saw a slack jawed teenager do this once. She waved her ice cream to the female gull in front of her, taunting her with how much food she had and the bird had none. The teenager didn’t even see the male gull who crashed into her head from the side. She dropped her ice cream on the floor. The female picked it up and they both flew off. How I wish I’d been filming it!

I found this among many other photographs of naughty gulls on Google. The good proportion of them were taken at St Ives:

This lady is not the silly teenager that I spoke about earlier. She is a completely innocent and trusting bystander.

Incidentally, I had a second hand operation on February 8th, so I won’t be able to reply to any of your comments for, probably, a couple of weeks. As soon as I am able to, though, I will answer what you have been kind enough to contribute.

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Filed under Cornwall, History, Personal, Wildlife and Nature

Staff cricket : the Golden Years (1)

Just after I started work in the High School, my interest in cricket began to grow. Luckily, there was a well established Staff Cricket Team. Indeed, it was during the Summer Term of 1947, that the staff had fielded their own cricket team for the first time ever, playing several friendly fixtures against the staffs of other schools. The most likely suspects would be the local Grammar Schools, Bilborough and High Pavement, and possibly Henry Mellish and the Old Nottinghamians.
Sooo….I decided to give it a go and I asked the team if I could play. I am no expert at playing cricket, but I was assured that this was just social cricket, played merely for amusement and companionship. Weeks later, I realised that the staff matches that I played in were played for amusement and companionship as if they were the last decisive test in an Ashes series in Australia:

In my bestselling book and my two screenplays for both Hollywood and Bollywood films, “Nottingham High School: an Anecdotal History”, I mentioned staff cricket on a number of occasions. The first occasion was the year before I began at the High School in the Summer Term of 1974:

“One of the most famous incidents in staff cricket occurred when according to “The Nottinghamian”, David Matthews “courageously stopped the ball with his head”. It cost him a pair of glasses, and two black eyes. Other participants during the season were Paul Dawson and  Brian Hughes, specialist batsmen David Padwick and Dave Phillips, specialist bowlers John Hayes and Marcus Coulam, and Jimmy Sadler, who in one match took four wickets in the last over, to snatch an unlikely victory.  John Hayes and Allan Sparrow were the usual umpires.”

This old staff photo from 1973 has John Hayes (front left) and in the centre of the front row, Dave Phillips.

Alas, David Padwick has now passed away and the rest of those names must be well into their sixties if not older. Certainly, it is a good while since any of them taught a lesson at the High School. I did find one or two of them on some pictures of the staff which I scanned in the early 1980s. They are not very good, but they are recognisable. On this photo are Bob Dickason, Ed Furze, Chris Smith and Me on the back row, and Ian Driver, John Hayes, Edwin Harris and Dave Phillips in front.

Here are David Matthews and David Padwick :

Luckily, colour film was invented in time to capture the greatest moment of John Hayes’ life. The day he took delivery of the High School’s first ever minibus::

It was during this season that David Padwick passed into legend. In a game against Trent Polytechnic, as it was then called, played at the Clifton campus, there was a fairly steep bank on two sides of the ground, about three feet high, just inside the boundary. Padders was fielding on the long on boundary, where he was theoretically unlikely to get up to too much mischief. At this point he was standing quietly at the top of the bank.

Suddenly, the ball was hit high, high, high into the sky in his direction. But he couldn’t judge the ball’s trajectory properly. Surely he was too far back to catch it. Quick, go forward, down the bank!  But no! Surely he was now too far forward to catch it. Quick, back up the bank! No, that’s wrong. Quick, quick, down the bank!  No, no, no!  Quick, back up the bank! For a good fifteen seconds or more, Padders became the cricketing Grand Old Duke of York. And did he catch it? Well, what do you think?

The next mention of staff cricket comes when:

“There was a report of staff cricket in 1977 in the Nottinghamian of December 1999.  It appeared in William Ruff’s “From the Archives” section of the magazine. Mention was made of Tony Slack, “our benevolent dictator”, Dave Phillips who “wields the straightest golf club in the business”, Phil Eastwood, “for whose particular torture the LBW rule was invented, and Clem Lee, “whose pectorals imitate the motion of the sea as he runs up to bowl”. The regular umpires this season were Allan Sparrow and John Knifton, although the latter did play in one game, “and took an impossible catch to win the game”. The more often I read that, the less possible it seems.

Again, I have found one or two old staff photos to enlarge. On the 1970 photo, there are Phil Eastwood (top right) and David Matthews again (No 3 on the front row). The back row also has Allan Sparrow and, I think, Brian Hughes  :

This photo has at least one more cricketer, Marcus Coulam, the young man to the right on the very back row:

The photograph also shows Norman Thompson, Dick Elliott, Stanley Ward, Ian Driver, Martin Jones, Chris Curtis, Jeff Leach, Gerry Seedhouse and, I think, Will Hurford. The two young ladies, I do not know.

More chat about the sporting superstars next time. Incidentally, I had a second hand operation on February 8th, so I won’t be able to reply to any of your comments for, probably, a couple of weeks. As soon as I am able to, though, I will answer what you have been kind enough to contribute.

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Filed under History, Humour, Nottingham, Personal, The High School

Look at that fat bloke, Stan (6)

Please don’t look at this last blog post and think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts have been about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes. In this one, you will see who wins. Were you ever in any doubt?

I’m going to finish just by looking at one or two programme covers from Puskás’ career. Real Madrid, being such a fabulous team, were very much in demand as opponents in friendly games:

Here are the two lists of possible players at this prestige game in Glasgow:

The teams were actually, for Celtic:
Haffey; MacKay, Kennedy; Crerand, McNeill, Price; Lennox (Carroll, 45), Gallacher, Hughes (Chalmers, 45), Jackson, Brogan ( Byrne, 45).
Scorer: Chalmers (62)

And for Real Madrid:
Ariquistain; Casado, Miera; Muller, Santamaria, Pachin; Bueno, Amancio, Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento.
Scorers: Puskas (10), Amancio (30), Gento (61).

The Referee was the same as for the 1953 Wembley game, Leo Horn of Holland. 72,000 watched the game, and you can watch a bit of a different era, here, courtesy of boszikblogspot:

Then came a European cup tie against Rangers of Glasgow:

 Here are the two teams:

Full details of the match can be found here . The result was 1-0 to Real, with that fat bloke scoring the goal. In Spain, Real won 6-0 with 3 goals from Puskás. Here is the game in Scotland:

And then came another European game, against Kilmarnock, a tiny club in Scotland who had won the League that year against all the odds. A bit like Luxembourg winning the World Cup, or Leicester City winning the Premier League (just joking!) :

Here are the team line ups:

The result of the game was  2-2 but Puskás did not score. In the second leg Real won 5-1 for a 7-3 aggregate. Puskás was by now 38 years old. The last programme I have which features him is for a testimonial match playing as a 40 year old guest player for South Liverpool against Billy Liddell’s XI at Holly Park in Garston in Liverpool.The match raised £1,100 for Bankfield House, a local community centre:

And here are the team line ups. How absolutely incredible to have a Real Madrid player playing in an obscure testimonial match like this! It is exactly as if Ronaldo went on loan and played a few games for Accrington Stanley:

Willie Moir was a friend of my Dad’s in the RAF. Notice how somebody has written in a team change. That means that this programme was very probably at the game. I do have a programme of the 1953 England-Hungary match where a traumatised English supporter has written the score on the front cover as he made his sad way home on the train. How close to real history is that?

Puskás was beloved by one and all. In 1998, he was named a FIFA/SOS Charity Ambassador. His country renamed their main stadium the Puskás Ferenc Stadion. He was declared best Hungarian player of the last 50 years and in 2009, FIFA inaugurated the Puskás Award for the player who scores the “most beautiful goal” during the past year. Here are the finalists for 2017. I’ll let you find out who was the eventual winner:

Puskás died of pneumonia on November  17th 2006. I think he was the greatest footballer who ever lived.

One final note. I had a second hand operation on February 8th, so I won’t be able to reply to any of your comments for, probably, a couple of weeks. As soon as I am able to, though, I will answer what you have been kind enough to contribute.

 

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Filed under Football, History, Personal

Hedgecoe and Bamford : Death in the Night

I am currently carrying out research about the 100-odd Old Boys of the High School who gave their lives during World War II. Certain websites are very good for this, certain books are excellent but for really interesting details, it is always the “Forums” which take the prize.

I wonder if people realise that so many individuals, so many hundreds, if not thousands of people, spend their valuable spare time working away on their computers, trying to trace the fate, not just of their relatives, but of the young men or women who have captured their imagination.
I did some blogposts recently about the De Havilland Mosquito, and they reminded me of a trail which I followed a few months before that. The trail was started off, of course, by a story I came across on a forum.
Here are Flying Officer Edward Richard Hedgecoe (pilot), and Flight Lieutenant Norman Llewellyn Bamford (radar operator) in a photograph which I have borrowed from a search engine. On the original website it appeared by courtesy of Colin Bamford, so I hope it doesn’t cause a problem. I will obviously take it down if he wishes.

The two men were apparently involved in a strange incident during the night of March 24th-25th 1944. They were flying a Mosquito night fighter when, off the coast of Kent, they found an apparent Junkers Ju 188 weaving violently from side to side. In order to be certain of the rather exotic aircraft’s identity, they approached to within 100 yards’ range before they fired a long burst of cannon fire at it. This was the correct thing to do, of course, but not if the quarry aircraft suddenly explodes in a huge fireball. This is a Junkers Ju 188:

With its burning fuel and pieces of its own fiery débris, the German aircraft actually managed to set fire to the Mosquito, which was, of course, covered in extremely flammable fabric, stretched over a wooden frame. Very soon, in Bamford’s words, “our aircraft was ablaze from end to end”. Not a good situation to be in, and the pilot decided that they needed to abandon the blazing aeroplane as a matter of some urgency. He was flying straight and level to give Bamford an opportunity to bale out when he noticed that the fire was actually getting no worse. Indeed, before Bamford was ready to jump, the flames actually went out.

Although they were lacking a number of the usually vital parts of the aircraft, the pilot was still able to fly straight and level, despite not having any rudder control as the fabric had been totally destroyed by the fire. The only action necessary was to get a piece of old cloth, lean out of a side window and wipe as much soot as possible off the Mosquito’s perspex windscreen. To be honest, that only produced a kind of tunnel vision effect, but it was enough to fly carefully back to base at RAF Manston. Here is the Mosquito in question, after the landing:

That story is an amazing tale to uncover and it appeared, presumably for the first time, in the Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser for January 12th 1945. But that wasn’t all that had been found about these two men on the forum. Hedgecoe claimed 8 German planes destroyed and as a radar operator, Bamford claimed 10. Hedgecoe’s minimum list of kills included 2 x Junkers Ju 88, 2 x Messerschmitt Bf110s, a a Messerschmitt Me410, Junkers Ju 188, a Focke Wulf Fw 190 and one unidentified. This is a Messerschmitt Bf110:

Amazingly, Hedgecoe himself had already baled out once previously under rather peculiar circumstances. He hunted down a German aircraft in the darkness during the night of September 15th-16th 1943 and opened fire on it. For some reason which never became apparent, this action shattered the nose of his own aircraft which he was then forced to abandon.

The other details discovered about these two men across the Internet were quite astonishing. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website is always the first port of call, providing, for all casualties, service numbers, units, dates of death and the names of parents and spouse, with locations where possible. And, of course, the basics are there as well. Norman Bamford was a Welshman and came from Llanfair near Harlech in Merionethshire:

Edward Hedgecoe lived with his wife Sheila Sandford Hedgecoe, of Brookmans Park in south Hertfordshire. Here’s the bridge at nearby North Mymms:

Researchers though, can nowadays also trace the individual’s path through various units. In the case of Hedgecoe he was in 85 Squadron, the Fighter Interception Unit, the Night Fighter Development Unit and finally 151 Squadron.

The details of somebody’s education can be found…in the case of Bamford, he attended The Bec School in Tooting and then University College in London in order to qualify as an architect. Family details can be traced…younger brothers, where the family live and where they used to live, the name of the widow, and in due course on occasion, the details of her remarriage and where she went to live.

And all of it down to the Internet of course. Had these two young men ever been shot down by a Luftwaffe aircraft, we could even be reasonably certain who pressed the firing button.
These two young heroes came to their end on January 1st 1945.  Edward Hedgecoe was 34 years of age and Norman Bamford was just 25 years old. They had recently been transferred and were flying with 151 Squadron on their very first flight with that squadron. It was very bad weather, they crashed and tragically, they were both killed. Edward Hedgecoe was buried in North Mymms Churchyard in Hertfordshire. Norman Bamford was cremated at Croydon Crematorium after a service attended by his family and friends and two representatives from the RAF Base:

And were it not for those people who maintain all the websites and the ones who beaver away on the Forums, nobody would ever have known the faintest thing about them.

One final note. I am having a second hand operation on February 8th, tomorrow, so I won’t be able to reply to any of your comments for, probably, a couple of weeks. As soon as I am able to, though, I will answer what you have been kind enough to contribute.

 

 

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Filed under Aviation, History, Personal

Photos on the Fence: Holocaust Survivors at the United Nations

This blog is written by Susan Landrum who lives in New York and it is called “Finding NYC”. It is a wonderful blog to follow because she deals primarily with art exhibitions and other artistic themes. This post is a little different. It shows the photographs of Holocaust survivors outside the United Nations building. Enjoy a wonderful set of photographs and try to remember who and what they represent.

Finding NYC

Last weekend I had the chance to go see a special installation displayed on the fence outside of the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. The photos are one half of an exhibition memorializing the victims and survivors of the Holocaust titled Survivors, Victims and Perpetrators, and were taken by Italian photographer Luigi Toscano as part of the Lest We Forget project. (I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see the other half of the exhibit, which is located inside the Visitors’ Center.)

The photos are larger than life and intensely powerful. The survivors’ faces engage the viewers; both hope and sorrow are visible in their gazes. Each one is accompanied by a small card that gives each survivor’s name, place and date of birth, date and details of arrest and detention, and information about liberation. Some cards had additional heartbreaking details about what happened to other members of the…

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Look at that fat bloke, Stan (5)

Please don’t look at these blog posts and think “I don’t like football” and then go on your merry way. All of these blog posts are about much more than football. In particular they concern the eternal battle between sporting genius and cream cakes.

After the Wembley game in 1953, Ferenc Puskás went on to play in a number of other matches in Great Britain. After England’s defeat, Wolverhampton Wanderers tried to re-establish the reputation and the enduring quality of English football by playing prestigious friendlies against top European club sides. And if they beat enough of them, they would be able to make the claim that they were  the Champions of Europe. Puskás played for Honved of Budapest in one such game:

Here’s the line up of the two teams. Six of the players had played in 1953:

Never underestimate the English love of a cartoon on the back cover of a football programme:

From Hungarian football Puskás joined Real Madrid.  He played in a second legendary game, the European Cup Final of 1960 which finished Real Madrid 7 Eintracht Frankfurt 3. Frankfurt had already beaten Glasgow Rangers by an aggregate of 12-4 in the semi finals. In the final, Puskás scored four goals:

Here’s the team line-ups:

Being a very sad person indeed, I bought a reproduction ticket to the game. Here’s the front:

And the back

That game is widely accepted in football as the greatest ever played. It was between two teams, one of which was very, very good and one of which was walking into legend. And certainly, very few of the crowd of ‎127,621 were disappointed by the game.

 

 

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The Day from Hell (2)

Last time, I told you about Jack Ketch’s abilities as the King’s Executioner. He was useless. Absolutely useless. All that happened to him, though, was that he was promoted.

If you are in management, always give  the important  jobs to the most useless people. It will make your own performance look so much better. Ketch was the man tasked with executing the Duke of Monmouth:

The Duke of Monmouth knew all about Jack Ketch’s reputation for incompetence. They were all assembled, up on the scaffold and ready to go, when the Duke walked over to Ketch and said:

“Here are six golden guineas for you, Ketch. Do not hack me to bits as you did with Lord Russell. I have heard that you struck him three or four times. My servant will give you even more gold if you do the work well.”

“No problem, your Dukeness” replied Ketch, picking up his axe to begin the ghastly deed.

Monmouth ran his almost royal finger over the edge of Ketch’s axe. He was not a happy man. The axe wasn’t really that sharp. It was certainly not as sharp as the knife he’d had at breakfast. And it didn’t cut his finger at all.

Ketch began his work.

One slash of the axe. It missed. Just a little nick on the neck. Monmouth actually got up from the block and gave Ketch a dirty look.

Second go. Whoops, missed again. Sorreeeeeeeee !

Third attempt.

“Don’t worry, Duke. I’ll get you next time.”

Next time.

“Sorry, I don’t know where I’m going wrong. It was all right yesterday at rehearsal.”


That made four goes. How many more were needed?

Well, at least four more large swings of the axe. Ketch made a grand total of eight attempts at killing the Duke. And there were even some witnesses who talked of double figures.

And was the Duke dead? Well, no, not quite. Not yet. The neck was still not severed and the Duke was still moving about on the planks of the scaffold.

Ketch flung his axe down. The crowd was not happy. But they knew the rules.

Either the job was finished and the crowd went home happy or they themselves would ensure that at least one person went home dead. And that one person would be either the Duke or it would be Ketch. They really were not that bothered.

Lucky then that Ketch was carrying a penknife in his pocket. “Bear with me”, he shouted to the crowd, “I’ll get him this time.”

And he began sawing the Duke’s head off with his penknife. Eventually, he did it.

Here’s the close up. Look at the knife. Eight inches? Ten? :

The Duke of Monmouth was now, as requested by the King, in two completely separate pieces.

Ketch showed the two pieces to the crowd:

And then some slack jawed local of an assistant piped up with something he should have said to Ketch about an hour before:

“Jack!! Jack !!!  Don’t forget the drawing.”

“What drawing?”

“Well, Jack, they haven’t got an oil painting of the Duke anywhere in England so there’s a man here who needs to draw the Duke before you cut his head off.”

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

Was Ketch beaten? Hell, no. They sewed the Duke’s head back on to his body (which was not considered a serious breach of the Two Pieces Rule) and the artist then drew a quick sketch. When he had finished, Ketch took out his trusty penknife and cut the Duke’s head off (for a second time, presumably) and the Two Pieces were sent off for burial and/or display.

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Now THAT was a bad day.

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Incidentally, the oil painting is still in the National Portrait Gallery. They insist on calling it the “Portrait of a Man Sleeping” but they’re wrong, very, very wrong:

Just look at that piece of cloth tucked neatly around his neck. Surely it covers second rate stitching done at speed.

This is not a Man Sleeping.

This is the Duke of Monmouth.

But unfortunately, he has ceased to be! ‘E’s expired and gone to meet ‘is maker! ‘E’s a stiff! Bereft of life, ‘e rests in peace!

No no he’s not dead, he’s, he’s restin’!

NO  ‘E’s kicked the bucket, ‘e’s shuffled off ‘is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible!! THIS IS AN EX-DUKE OF MONMOUTH!!

Jack Ketch died in November 1686. He went on to be mentioned in three different novels by Charles Dickens. He also gave rise to the Rock/Punk/Metal/ super group entitled “Jack Ketch & The Bilge Rat Bastards”.

I could not have written this blog post without the description of events supplied by Lord Macaulay in his “History of England”.

 

 

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