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Southbound Again

Time has passed so quickly.

It is now over six weeks since my daughter Eve had her brain surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London.

She has been seizure free since then.

Tomorrow we make the 850 mile round trip to London and back for a fifteen minute appointment for the surgeon Mr Harkness to assess Eve’s progress.

See youse on Tuesday then……..

Retronaut

I wasn’t aware of this site but my regular correspondent John O’Hare sent me the link.

This stuff is right up my street. Here is a cross section of what I have found there.

First a letter from Mick Jagger to Andy Warhol about the cover for ‘Sticky Fingers’

How about this high resolution photo of London in 1949? If you click here you’ll see other photos and you can enlarge to full screen.

And what about this postcard of a hotel from 1969?

I found that by clicking a link on this page which took me here

Then there’s a whole page of 60s and 70s Soviet car ads

But really there is just a whole treasure trove of stuff.

Expect to read more about it!

A gift from the past.

With my mum’s funeral tomorrow there’s been a bit of arranging to do. I’ve also been clearing out some of her possessions which is interesting and painful in equal measure.

I found lots of letters addressed to her from my late father, decided they were none of my business, and disposed of them. However on discovering another bundle and with some having London and Sussex postmarks, I decided to have a look.

I resolved that if there was the merest hint of anything that a son should not be reading about his mum and dad, I’d dispose of the letters immediately.

As it turned out, they were a treasure trove. My dad died when I’d just turned sixteen and reading the language, the wit and the wonder in his writing as a young man was a revelation to me today. For instance in a letter from June 1956 he writes to his then fiancée from the Bailey’s Hotel in South Kensington:

Bailey's Hotel. It probably looked pretty much like this in 1956!

“After a pleasant flight, I arrived here in London at 7:40  pm. From leaving Glasgow, in no time we were over the Solway Firth. The striking factor was that it was so peaceful away up there with a giant table-cloth of cloud beneath us. It was akin to an Arctic expedition. Travelling south gave me the opportunity to brush up on my geography.

As the weather cleared, I began to look for Morecambe Bay, The Tower, Manchester Ship Canal and, proceeding southwards, Stratford upon Avon. Needless to say my imagination was well served as I spotted the lot with the exception of Blackpool Tower which doesn’t fit largely in geographical interest. I was greeted on arrival at London Airport with a perfect day and my thoughts turned to my return when I would be honoured by my lady in waiting at Renfrew.*

The airport is the last word and what an experience when you hear “The plane now approaching is flight so and so from Tokyo -this plane is returning to N Africa in 2 hours time”. I was met at Waterloo air terminal by my pal Ian, complete with car. He then proceeded to break the news to me that my bed and breakfast was to cost £2 at Bailey’s Hotel. As I climbed the star-studded stairway, I watched poor old Ian look at me rather askance with the expression “Should I have done it? £2!” Upon arrival at room 107 I put his mind at ease complimenting him on a fine job. In fact I said “Ian next time make it a £3 room – this sort of thing just isn’t good enough” We succumbed to uproarious laughter”

There were many letters from 1956, written when my dad was 29. They were an absolute joy to read, with tales of seminars in Sussex and Trade Union conferences in Blackpool. All written in a different age, another world even.

If he’d been around today, he’d have been a blogger and that’s a fact!

*Renfrew was at that time the location of Glasgow Airport

Seventy Years Ago

The Blitz began on September 7, 1940 and lasted until May 10, 1941 and saw Britain sustain prolonged periods of heavy bombing by the Nazi Germany air forces in several phases of intensity.

A series of photos published in today’s Telegraph blend scenes from 2010 with the same location in 1940.

The Bank of England, London

Park Street Bristol

Selling Snow to Eskimos

It is over thirty years since I ventured to London – just as Maggie Thatcher came to power in fact. I was reminded of this listening to a radio show yesterday where young Scots were talking about moving south in the search for work.

When I went as a nineteen year old, I couldn’t believe the jobs I was offered in the space of a week just popping into employment agencies. I was offered a good job by Michael Heseltine’s Haymarket Publishing, Avco Finance, Citicorp and various jobs selling office equipment.

I took one of these with Olympia Business Machines (how dated does that sound?) selling state of the art typewriters, photocopiers and a new fangled thing called a fax machine.

There was a good basic and commission a bonus scheme and most importantly, a company car (Firstly a Chevette Estate and then after a few months, a brand new Ford Cortina.)

I was Jack the Lad. The job I’d left in Scotland paid less than half of my basic wage in London and I was struggling to run an ancient Renault 12.

Reality hit when I was sent out into my area with a bunch of leaflets and business cards. Go forth and sell! was the cry. My ‘area’ was a square mile of London W1 bordered by Edgware Rd and Tottenham Court Rd East to West and Euston Rd and Oxford Street north to south. Whilst my area included Broadcasting House and many prestigious companies, the hope of selling to these organisations was remote at best.

Much of the area was occupied by the ‘rag trade’. Often owned by Jewish proprietors with one or maybe two, sometimes more, machinists making clothes. I would cold call buildings which could contain eight such businesses in places like Great Portland Street.

Some of the ‘patter’ of the owners of these operations was brilliant. I knocked on the door of one of them one day (Goldstein and Blood or something) and smiling, did my speil. At the end of it the trilby wearing cigar chewing proprietor said  “Typewriter? typewriter? what do I need with a typewriter Scottie? I got a pencil! No! I don’t need no calculator – too slow for me you see! now time’s money son – good luck but I got work to do!”

I cold called the rest of the building and was leaving rather dejectedly when I heard the Yiddish tones of Mr Goldstein of Goldstein, blood out of a stone incorporated.

“Oi!!! Olivetti! Come here!”

“Olympia!” I said.

“Olympia Sholympia – whatever”

“Listen Jock my pencil’s broke! I’m gonna talk to you about discount on yer machines!”

It turned out he had had a thought of buying a typewriter for his daughter’s birthday. He ordered one of the better manual portable ones at about £100. I told him it’d be delivered next day by our van. “No no! Scottie! you deliver it in person and show me how to work the bloody thing!”

I did just that. The guy had secured the top discount but after me showing him all the features of the machine, he said “Thanks Scottie – nah ‘ere’s a drink for yer bovver” and handed me a tenner!

During my time in London on an almost daily basis I would pass rock stars in the street, I once sold a calculator to Chas Chandler (the Animals/Jimi Hendrix mentor) and helped a colleague deliver a photocopier to Alan Whicker.

Perhaps the most satisfying thing though was selling that typewriter to Mr Goldstein AND getting a tip!

The older reps in the office couldn’t believe it. They concluded that it had something to do with Scots being meaner than Jews! (their words not mine!)

I just thought if I could sell a typewriter in rag trade land I could sell snow to eskimos!

London Photos

Whilst having a search through my photos I found these taken on our visit to London last summer. These were taken on our visit to the Houses of Parliament.

Also, remembering that one can never get enough of Loch Lomond and the Ben, I took this one just south of Inverbeg a couple of weeks ago.

Ben Lomond February 2009

Ben Lomond February 2009

Readers’ Help Required!

Anyone care to explain how this thoroughfare in London SW1 got its name? I googled and found there is a Gloucestershire village of the same name but not much other info. I thought perhaps “Little France” (as of course there is a Little Venice in London) but surely that would be “Petit France”?

(why do I feel an answer from Fern Cake coming on here?)

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