Monthly Archives: October 2017

1920s music and some rather good performers

Paul Samuel Whiteman was an American composer, orchestral director and violinist as well as being the leader of one of the most popular dance bands in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s.  Bing Crosby and Al Rinker had been together in a Jazz band in Spokane, Washington while in college. However, the band was so popular that the two dropped out of college and drove Rinker’s Model T to Los Angeles where Rinker’s sister, Mildred Bailey, who was a Jazz singer, was working. Shortly after their arrival in Los Angeles they landed a gig on the vaudeville circuit, as a vocal act. Some members of Paul Whiteman’s Orchestra caught their act and recommended them to Whiteman. Nothing appears to have happened.

Don Clark was a former member of the Whiteman band and, in 1926, offered the two individuals that were waiting & hoping to join Paul Whiteman the chance to make their first record.

They said ‘YES’ and, on Monday 18th October 1926, accompanied by Don Clark’s Biltmore Hotel Orchestra in Los Angeles, Bing Crosby and Al Rinker recorded “I’ve Got the Girl”.  The song was recorded using an electrical, not acoustic, microphone and “I’ve Got the Girl” was released on a 78rpm disk as Columbia #824-D. On the flip side was Don Clark’s instrumental version of “Idolizing”. Two months later Bing and Al joined the Whiteman Orchestra in Chicago, where, on December 22nd 1926, they cut their first records with Whiteman — “Wistful and Blue” and “Pretty Lips”.

I think it’s safe to say that the ‘rest is history’.

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I was sitting in Switzerland and watching things in Mexico.

It was Friday 18th October 1968 and four of us were having an evening drink or two by a lake in Switzerland.  We were on a product training course across the border in France but staying in Switzerland.  The Mexico City Olympics was on the television and the men’s long jump was about to begin.  I had done some long jumping at school and Pete’s son was a school high jump champion.  Alan and Chris were good at drinking beer!  We had been watching ‘our man’ Lynn Davis – the then reigning Olympics long-jump champion – but his first jump was poor – almost a foot shorter that the women’s champion had achieved!

Bob Beamon had come close to missing the Olympic final, overstepping on his first two attempts in qualifying. With only one chance left, he had re-measured his approach run from a spot in front of the board and made a fair jump that advanced him to the final.  When the final stages were beginning, and Bob Beamon was preparing for his first leap, Alan said ‘he don’t look very good; beers all round guys?’  We said yes and turned to the TV screen.  Beamon got ready, set off down the track and took off.  It looked pretty good but Alan returned with the beers and they now took precedence – although we all did watch his leap.

My beer was almost empty when the announcer called out the distance for the jump, 8.90 m (29 ft. 2½ in.)  Bob Beamon was unfamiliar with metric measurements and didn’t realize how far he had jumped.  It was when his teammate and coach Ralph Boston told him that he had broken the world record by nearly 2 feet, Bob’s legs gave way and an astonished and overwhelmed Beamon suffered a brief cataplexy attack brought on by the emotional shock, and collapsed to his knees, his body unable to support itself, placing his hands over his face.

In one of the more endearing images of the Games, his competitors then helped him to his feet.  Lynn Davies told Beamon, “You have destroyed this event,” and in sports jargon, a new adjective – Beamonesque – came into use to describe spectacular feats.

We also came to our senses and called for another round of beer to celebrate!

I can but hope!

In 1948 the Grey Walls Press in London published a book, edited by S. L. Locker, called ‘The Nature Diaries and Notebooks of Richard Jefferies’.

For Saturday 16th October 1878 Richard is in Surbiton, Surrey and records a fascinating scene: ‘Wasp and very large blue-fly struggling, wrestling on leaf.  In a few seconds the wasp got the mastery, brought his tail round, and stung once or thrice; then bit off the fly’s proboscis, then the legs, then bit behind the head, then snipped off the wings, then fell off her leaf, but flew with burden to the next, rolled the fly around, and literally devoured its intestines.  Dropped off the leaf in its eager haste, got on third leaf, and continued ‘till nothing was left but a small part of the body – the head had been snipped off before.

This was one of those black flies – a little blue underneath – not like meat flies, but bigger and squarer, that got to the ivy.  Ivy in bloom close by, where, doubtless, the robber found his prey and seized it.

Now, I spend a reasonable amount of time in my garden, and watch all kinds of birds and insects, but have never seen anything like this.  Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m watching and writing in 2017.  The book was published in 1948 and this recorded event took place in 1878.  Do you think that if I watch in my garden in 2018 I may see something similar?

A new coin replaces the old 10 bob note

It was Tuesday 14th October 1969 and a new 50-pence coin sparked confusion among the British population. The seven-sided 50p coin had come into circulation to replace the 10-shilling note but had received a mixed reception.  It was the third decimal coin to be introduced into the British currency – a currency that was scheduled to go totally decimal on Monday 15th February, 1971 – day to be known as D-Day!

The British public had already got accustomed to the new 5p and 10p coins that had been introduced in 1968. Today’s new arrival was made of cupro-nickel and was, according to Lord Fiske, the chairman of the Decimal Currency Board, the only heptagonal coin in circulation in the world.

However some shopkeepers, bus conductors and members of the public were complaining that, in spite of its distinctive shape, it is too easily confused with the 10-pence coin or half crown.  One Londoner told the Evening News that he had accidentally left a 50p coin in a saucer full of 10ps as a tip for a waiter.  “Fortunately the waiter was dead honest and told me. But I suspect there’ll be a lot of cases where that doesn’t happen,” he said.

The Decimal Currency Board had stockpiled some 120 million 50-pence coins at banks around the country ready for this day’s introduction of the coin, making it the largest ever issue of a new coin.  Lord Fiske said the reason for this was to replace the 200 million ‘ten-bob notes’ as soon as possible and added that the issue would eventually save the Treasury money.

He said that “the note is being replaced primarily on economic grounds. A 10s note has a life of some five months and the costs of distribution and withdrawal are comparatively high. Although a 50p coin will cost more to produce initially, it should have a life of at least 50 years and the metal will subsequently be recoverable.”

None the less, many people were unhappy with the new addition to their purses and pockets.  There was also still three coins left to come – the 2p worth 4.8d, 1p (2.4d) and half pence (1.2d).  No doubt we’ll come to these in due time.

George Orwell writes from Marrakesh about chickens and hens

Wednesday 12th October 1938: George Orwell writes to Jack Common who was looking after his cottage:

‘I hope the hens have begun laying. Some of them have by this time, I expect, at any rate they ought to.

We’ve bought the hens for our house, which we’re moving into on Saturday. The hens in this country are miserable little things like the Indian ones, about the size of bantams, and what is regarded as a good laying hen, i.e. it lays once a fortnight, costs less than a shilling. They ought to cost about 6 pence, but at this time of year the price goes up because after Yom Kippur every Jew, of whom there are 13,000 in this town, eats the whole fowl to recompense him for the strain of fasting 12 hours.’ 

I think I would be very happy to be offered a British chicken!

In writing this I have discovered something new (to me) about George Orwell – he was actually named Eric Arthur Blair!

Chris Tarrant – a man of many rolls

Christopher John Tarrant was born on Thursday 10th October 1946; was educated as a boarder in Choir House at the King’s School, Worcester where he represented the school at hockey and cricket. He briefly became a researcher for the Central Office of Information before becoming a newsreader on ATV Today.  It was in 1974 that things progressed. For 8 years between 1974 & 82 he hosted the ITV children’s television show Tiswas.  Two years later – in 1984 – he joined Capital Radio and was host for 20 years.  He is probably best remembered, though, for his 16 years on the ITV game show ‘Who wants to be a Millionaire?’

In March 2014 he suffered a stroke at 39,000ft on a work flight from Thailand to London.  Doctors at Charing Cross Hospital, London, told him he’d had a stroke, and did emergency surgery to remove a blood clot from his right leg. Chris recalls: “They were brilliant. I’m always aware that if I hadn’t gone I could be in a wheelchair. What happened makes me want to enjoy my life. I take medication and pills. I keep pretty active.  I’ve got a big rambling estate in Berkshire so I walk around hills as I can’t stand the gym. I think I’m mentally fit, too.”

What does the morning bring forth for Queen Victoria & Albert?

Yesterday evening we left Queen Victoria, her husband Albert and their ‘team’ settling down to sleep after far from exciting food yesterday.  So what did Wednesday, 9th October 1861 bring forth for the Royal couple?  Queen Victoria tells us that…

It was a bright morning which was charming.  Albert found, on getting up, that Cluny MacPherson, with his piper and two ladies, had arrived quite early in the morning; and, while we were dressing, we heard a drum and fife – and discovered that the newly-formed volunteers had arrived – all indicating that we were discovered.  However, there was scarcely any population, and it did not signify.  The fat old landlady had put on a black satin dress, with white ribbons and orange flowers!

We had breakfast at a quarter to nine o’clock; at half-past nine we started.  Cluny was at the door with his wife and daughters with nosegays, and volunteers were drawn up in front of the inn.  They had all assembled since Saturday afternoon.

We drove as we did yesterday.  There was fine and very wild scenery, high wild hills, and no habitations.

We’ll leave the pair now as they enjoy the Scottish landscape,

A Queen and her husband don’t quite get what they expected.

It was Tuesday 8th October 1861 and Britain’s Queen Victoria, and Albert her husband, are in Inverness-shire, Scotland and heading for their evening abode. She writes in her diary:

It became cold and windy with occasional rain. At length, and not till a quarter to nine, did we reach the inn of Dalwhinnie – 29 miles from where we had left our ponies – which stands by itself, away from any village.

Here, again (as yesterday), there were a few people assembled, and I thought they knew us; but it seems they did not, and it was only when we arrived that one of the maids recognised me.

She had seen me at Aberdeen and Edinburgh.  We went upstairs: the inn was much larger than at Fettercairn, but not nearly so nice and cheerful; there was a drawing-room and a dining-room; and we had a good-sized bed-room.

Albert had a dressing-room of equal size.  Mary Andrews [a wardrobe-maid] who was very useful and efficient and Lady Churchill’s maid had a room together, every one being in the house; but unfortunately there was hardly anything to eat, and two miserable starved Highland chickens, without any potatoes!  No pudding, and no fun; no little maid [the two there not wishing to come in], nor our two people – who were wet and drying our, and their, things – to wait on us!  It was not a nice supper; and the evening was wet.  As it was late we soon retired to rest.

Mary and Maxted [Lady Churchill’s maid] had been dining below with Grant, Brown, and Stewart [who came, the same as last time, with the maids] in the ‘commercial room’ at the foot of the stairs.  They had only the remains of our two starved chickens!

I wonder what the morrow will bring. 

A million becomes 60 million after this story hits the screens.

It was on this day – Saturday 6th October 1962 – that a film of the book launched the James Bond saga across the world.

‘Doctor No’ was the sixth novel by author Ian Fleming to feature his British Secret Service agent James Bond.   He had written the novel in early 1957 at his home in Jamaica and it was first published in the United Kingdom by Johnathan Cape on Tuesday 31st March 1958. The novel centred on Bond’s investigation into the disappearance in Jamaica of two fellow MI6 operatives.

Sean Connery – agent 007 – had to battle with the mysterious Doctor No – a scientific genius bent on destroying the whole U.S. space program. As the countdown to disaster began James Bond headed for Jamaica.  There, surprise surprise, he encountered the beautiful Honey Ryder (played by the beautiful Ursula Andress).  Together they have to confront a megalo-maniacal villain in his massive island headquarters.

Created on a one million dollar budget, the film box offices returned just short of 60 million dollars!

A new train arrives 3 minutes early!

Monday 4th October 1976 saw a new high-speed train go into service for the first time. Powered by two diesel engines the trains were capable to a top speed of 140mph which, at that time, made it the fasted diesel powered train in the world.  It is recorded that, on this first journey it arrived 3 minutes early at Bristol!

So what was involved in creating this new wonder?  Well British Railways was creating and introducing the Inter-City 125 trains so as to provide a regular high speed service between Cardiff, Bristol and London.  This was the first traveler but British Rail planed to extend the HST service to other major cities over the following two/three years.  Powered by two diesel motors the Inter-City 125 had already recorded a top speed of over 140mph in trial runs, making it the fastest diesel-powered train in the world.

It was recognised that most other countries had developed electrically powered high-speed trains but the cost of electrification on Britain’s network was considered, at the time, to be prohibitive.  The diesel-powered 125 was a new product from existing technology and was a reasonable stopgap.  The absence of an official ceremony by British Rail to mark this initial occasion meant that few passengers on the trip were aware they were making history on the morning when the 08.05 train left Paddington on time and headed west.

However, it dose appear that most of the travellers did appreciate some improvement in comfort – the carriages featured aircraft-like seating, with sliding electric doors at each end.  Not only was this comfort welcome – hot food could be promptly served from an on-board kitchen with the aid of a state-of-the-art microwave oven!