Rohan Candappa Guest Piece: Teenage Parties Coming Around Full Circle, 5 April 2017

I am very grateful to Rohan Candappa for granting me permission to publish the following text as a guest piece on Ogblog. Rohan circulated the piece originally to a few friends. I think it deserves a wider airing.

It triggered a whole swathe of memories for me, which led to a few “party pieces” of my own – see my introductory/warm up published yesterday – here.

It also triggered a swathe of bants from others on that original circulation. I’ll take soundings on whether those should see the wider circulation light of day or not. Of course, if people want to add their bants to the comments section of this piece here on Ogblog, then bant away.

Rohan Candappa – bellicose back then…

 

Something has definitely come full circle.

That’s because today is the morning after the night before. And the night before is when my son – 17 two weeks ago – had a party at home. A party with girls. And alcohol. And a herd of previously hand-reared teenagers released into the wild of almost adulthood to fend for themselves.

Oh yes, and let’s not forget the instruction ‘You’re not staying‘ directed to me and Jan. At which point I came back with the perfectly reasonable point of ‘Actually, it’s my house, I paid for it, so I can stay if I want.’ 

So obviously we went out.

Out to the pictures to see ‘Moonlight’ – very good. Then on to a groovy pizza restaurant, to eat a groovy (probably artisan) pizza – also very good. The only problem was that by 9.30 we’d seen the film and eaten the pizza. And both were five minutes walk from our house. So we took a circuitous route home and got back at ten.

Walk up to the house – no police cars, no mass of kids trying to get in, no flames coming through the roof – Result!

Open the front door and, for some reason, the music blaring out is ‘Mirror In The Bathroom’ by The Beat. And that’s when it strikes me. That ‘full circle’ moment. This is exactly what I was listening to 40 years ago when I had a party at home when I was 17.

All of which got thinking.

So here are some of the things I can still dredge up from my age-addled brain of those parties of 40 years ago, Please feel free to wallow in nostalgia, add your own memories, or disown me as a sad old geezer who endlessly bangs on about how everything was so much better back in their day…

 

I remember being the hall of my house, at my party, when someone comes up and says I need to go into the kitchen, and going in to find that all the food was on the floor because Mick Carol had sat on the edge of an antique circular dining table, snapped the central support, and the table at completely tipped over.

I remember being at a party at Nige’s house when the patio door got accidentally pushed out, and Nige’s dad, instead of going mad, was worried about us all getting cold.

I remember that over time, going to parties I graduated from bringing bottles of Merrydown cider, to bringing half bottles of Souther Comfort. Why I brought Southern Comfort I have no idea  as it tasted like cough medicine.

I remember Steve’s pair of Rupert The Bear checked trousers.

I remember taking singles to parties with my initials written on the labels so that you could take them home again at the end of the evening.

I remember that going to parties at other people’s houses was one of the few chances you had to see how other people lived. And sometimes that meant you got glimpses of other worlds. Worlds you could aspire to. Lives you could want to live.

I remember the expectation, the excitement, the hopes, the fears, the bravado, the posturing and posing and awkwardness of it all.

I remember a joint 18th birthday party with Steve at The Shirley Poppy.

I remember Nick and Tim’s disco.

I remember the word disco.

I remember dancing.

I remember rooms starting to spin, and lights starting to blur, and the sobering cold shock of the air as you stumbled out into the night and tried to figure out how you were going to get home.

And I remember walking home with John one night when it had snowed heavily and having a deep, meaningful conversation of which even the slightest detail escapes me.

 

So last night, there I am walking back into my son’s party and The Beat are playing.

Like I said, full circle.

 

And as my son gets older, I wish him many things.

Like friends as good as the ones I grew up with all those years ago and am lucky enough to still have in my life.

…merely cantankerous now: Rohan Candappa

Too School For Cool, Edward Alleyn Club Dinner, 12 November 2016

Them Good Old Boys
Them Good Old Boys

Formal school alumni dinners are not really my kind of thing, nor are they Janie’s kind of thing. Indeed, both of us have managed to reach a fairly ripe (if not actually old) age without ever having attended such an event.

Until this event.

This event was going to be different. Why? Because Chris Grant was the President of the alumni club this year and he wanted to make the event different. In any case, you turn up to events like this to support your friends when it is their gig.

The first I heard of the matter was the evening back in January when a gang of us gathered at Z/Yen to experience Rohan Candappa’s wonderful monologue, “How I Said F*** You To The Company…” and have a curry afterwards – click here for the Ogblog piece on that evening.

I explained to Chris that I don’t do weekend stuff without Janie, but that notion only reinforced Chris’s view that this year the dinner should be different and that he would actively encourage people to bring their partners.

To add to the “making it different” motif, Chris engaged Rohan to write and perform a short monologue for the pre-dinner reception. Chris also asked David Wellbrook to act as Master of Ceremonies for this additional feature.

The long and short of it was, I ended up being a bit of a cheerleader for the event amongst our generation – although it was naturally down to John Eltham to act as gang-leader for those of us from our era to book and sit as a gaggle.

We’re On Our Way

Janie (aka Daisy) in frock
Janie (aka Daisy) in frock
Ian (aka Ged) in a state of tux
Ian (aka Ged) in a state of tux

It seemed strange arriving at the school gates with Janie, but we had the good fortune to run into John Eltham and Steven Butterworth as we were walking in. The pre-dinner function was in a new Edward Alleyn Building, which didn’t exist when I last visited the school, many years ago.

Our rabble-rousing had born fruit, so I chatted briefly with several people from our era; David French, Paul Driscoll, Nick Jarmany, Nick James, Tim Moulson, Tim Church and several other people at that reception.

Rohan’s Bit

Rohan’s short monologue was good fun. A meander around the theme “South London, Nah Nah Nah”. The talk included some navel-gazing around the word south itself. Should it be pronounced “sarf” or “sowf” rather than “south”, for example. Is it merely convention that south is shown below north – after all, the world is a globe? Rohan’s conclusions or central theses (I am truly bigging up this talk, aren’t I?) were that:

  • South London is an edgy underdog that deserves our affection and support, even if some of us have long since migrated north,
  • we Alleyn Old Boys (at least the cohort from our era) formed exceptionally strong bonds of friendship which have kept us together and/or brought us back together across many decades and in some cases vast geographical spread.

Rohan teased us throughout his talk about a blue joke that David Wellbrook wanted to tell, much against Chris Grant’s better judgement. Rohan then nearly told the joke through audience participation, but concluded that South Londoners do not need to be told the punchline of the joke; they are edgy enough to work it out for themselves:

What do we want?

A cure for Tourette’s.

When do we want it?

If you want to read Rohan’s wonderful piece in full, he has kindly agreed to its wider circulation and it is therefore Ogblogged as a guest piece in its own right  – click here.

The Dinner Itself

Then across to the school dinning room for the dinner. It seemed strange to be fine dining in that place, all done up to look sprauncy. Chris had chosen a very imaginative meal, based around curry, to symbolise the friendly informal meet ups that invariably end with a curry.

But this was a posh curry-based meal. A starter of slightly spicy scallops, enough to tell you that the meal was posh, that being the first of three interesting courses. Then cheeses, then coffee and petits fours. A well posh curry-based meal.

There were several toasts, speeches and club business in-between, mostly based on the traditional/regular/formal format of the club, I suppose.

Janie and I were honoured and indeed privileged to be seated next to Sir Nigel Godfrey. Sir Nigel, apparently, has recently received a gong for services to the New Zealand beauty pageant industry.

Ged and Sir Nigel Pontificating Nicaragua
Ged and Sir Nigel Pontificating Nicaragua

Sir Nigel was wearing his Broach of Honour with pride that evening, but sadly he seemed to keep it covered up whenever Daisy was nearby with her camera. Perhaps he thought she might swipe the bauble if he left it unguarded even for a moment. How does he know that Daisy is such a scallywag?

Our table rapt with attention as Sir Nigel orates. Mr Wellbrook taking electronic notes, presumably
Our table rapt with attention as Sir Nigel orates. Mr Wellbrook taking electronic notes, presumably

Daisy was also sitting next to Mr Wellbrook, who had been Master of Ceremonies earlier. I asked Chris Grant, “what did Daisy and I do to deserve the honour of sitting next to Sir Nigel and Mr Wellbrook?”, but I think Chris must have misheard my question, because he merely said, “there’s always one short straw”, which seemed to me to be an answer to an entirely different question.

Then Chris Grant made a short but touching and excellent speech, continuing the themes of edginess and especially the theme of enduring friendship.

The audience was then subjected to the Headmaster’s Savage response…

…correction…I never was much good with grammar, I should have paid more attention in English lessons…

The audience was then subjected to the Headmaster, Dr Savage’s, response. Dr Savage seemed keener on the friendship theme than the edgy theme. That is understandable really. Can you imagine the mischief that might kick off in the school and end up with pupils sent to the Headmaster’s Study, only to get the phrase thrown back by the miscreant, “but Sir, you told us that it is a good thing for us to be edgy”?

Dr Savage spoke very well and quite wittily, although I did think he missed a golden opportunity to pun on the pronunciation of Suffolk (from whence he hails) and Southwark, the borough in which he now heads a school. After all, the two place names, at least when pronounced by a native of the latter, are indistinguishable. (I think he might have been trying to make such a joke, but he got a bit confused and mentioned Norfolk, for seemingly no reason.)

In short, Savage is a talented speaker who prepares diligently, but he lets himself down at times through hurried delivery and under-rehearsal of the humorous lines. A-, could do better than this.

There is an official report and deck of photos for this event on the Alleyn’s School site – click here.

And Then Home

We thoroughly enjoyed our evening. Janie found the company delightful, both the old boys and their wives/companions, such as Lenneke (Chris’s partner) and Emma Jane Moulson. Similarly, I enjoyed chatting briefly with those two and at greater length with Victoria (Oliver Goodwin’s partner) as well as chatting with old school friends.

My only regret is that I barely got a chance to chat with some people I would have very much enjoyed catching up with properly, such as David French, Paul Spence and Nick Jarmany. Perhaps next time, although I hope our next time is a less formal gathering.

Next morning, there was no respite. Daisy and I got up to play tennis in our usual Sunday morning slot. Half way through the game, I realised that I had subconsciously donned a purple top and a purple bandanna. Purple. The Cribb’s House colour. Steeled by my renewed sense of tribal purpose, I naturally went on to win the set.

You can take the boy out of Cribbs House, but you cannot take Cribbs House out of the boy.
You can take the boy out of Cribb’s House, but you cannot take Cribb’s House out of the boy.

South London Nah Nah Nah by Rohan Candappa, Alleyn’s School, 12 November 2016

The following piece, South London Nah Nah Nah, was written and delivered by Rohan Candappa at the Edward Alleyn Club Annual Dinner 2016, in honour of Chris Grant’s Presidency coming to an end. I Ogblog reviewed the event here.

Chris Grant. This image was liberated from the Sport England web site with grateful thanks - we're SO South London.
Chris Grant. This image was liberated from the Sport England web site with grateful thanks – we’re SO South London.

Rohan has kindly permitted the circulation of the piece. If you quote from it, please give Rohan Candappa the credit – he deserves it.

Thank you Mavis.

Recent events have proved to me that the two most important things in this world are ‘words’ and ‘geography’. I’ve always known this as I’m a writer, and I studied ‘geography’ at university.

Now, I know you’re probably thinking ‘what on earth is this fool on about?’ I mean, you’ll probably give me words, but ‘geography’?

Okay, let me prove my point, consider this sentence ‘2016 will always be remembered as the year in which a popular black president stood down, and was replaced by an idiot’.

Oh. Maybe I should have said ‘2016 will always be remembered as the year in which, IN AMERICA, a popular black president stood down and was replaced by an idiot.’

Words and geography. Make all the difference.

Anyway, I’m a writer, and what I’m going to do is read some stuff out to you. And the way I’m rationalising the kind of performance that I’m developing  – is that I’m having a thought, and then taking it for a walk.

And I’d like to invite you all on that walk. To see where we end up.

But before I do ….David, you didn’t tell the joke. I thought you were going to tell the joke….

That’s a shame. It was a good joke.

Okay, a slight aside. When we first got together to discuss this evening David told a particular joke, and we all laughed, and then Chris said we can’t use it.

Probably because it was in poor taste. Or politically incorrect. Or both.

Now, obviously I can’t tell the joke because I am too sensitive and well mannered – but it was good joke…

So here’s what I suggest you do, over the course of the evening, go up to David when he’s on his own and say ‘What do we want?’, he’ll say something, then you come back with ‘When do we want it?’ and he’ll deliver the punch line.

That’s alright isn’t it David?

Anyway moving, on.

I’ve got a piece to read, take about 15…hours. No, minutes, minutes. I know you’re hungry.

So let’s have a thought, and take it for a walk, and see where we end up.

 

——————

 

It’s funny what we remember.  It’s not always what other people remember.

Take this evening.

When Chris first started talking about it he brought up the following incident.

When we were at school the football team made it to a final. The final was held at the ground of Dulwich Hamlet. And during the match, there was a point, or there were several points where we, as supporters of that well known Sarf Lunnun football firm of ‘Alleyns’ started chanting ‘South London, Nah, Nah, Nah!’

Then, apparently, when we got back to school, our behaviour in chanting this chant was berated by Mr Fenner, the Head Master, in no uncertain terms.

And, in part, this incident is what Chris has based his theme for his year as President.

Now the thing is, I was at that match. I was in that crowd. And I have no recollection of the ‘South London, Nah, Nah, Nah’ chant happening.

So it’s funny what we remember, because what we remember, isn’t always what other people remember.

But that’s the glory of being alive. We are individuals. We see the world and interpret the world individually. But we live collectively. And part of our challenge as individuals is to find a way to live collectively.

That’s one of the thing school does for us. In part, in this place, within this school, I learned how to be an individual, but also to function as part of a society. And that played a big part in forging my identity. And I guess I’m not alone in that, or why else would we all be here?

So if a school is a key factor in defining personal identity, which it is, – then what defines the identity of a school.

And does the fact that this school, my school, our school, is in South London have any bearing on that identity?

But before we get to a decision on that, let’s consider the whole concept of ‘South’.

For a start what does it even mean?

Well, that’s fairly obvious – it’s a direction. It’s one part of that set of directions that helps us navigate the world, helps us locate ourselves in the places we live. North, South, East, West. The John, Paul, George and Ringo of directions.

Or, and who else remembers this – Naughty, Elephants, Squirted ….. Water.

South was ‘Squirted’.

Look at a map of the world. Look at a globe, and ‘south’ is, the bit at the bottom. Everyone can agree upon that.

Everyone that is, except me.

Thanks to the power of independent thought that this school encouraged in me, I have stumbled upon this, quite literally world changing, revelation:

The world is a sphere. It floats in space.

There is no right way up for it to be. Given that, then what’s to stop ‘South’ being located at the top?

The only thing to stop it is convention.

Or picture a map of Britain. Well, why don’t we ever draw it, or imagine it, upside down? After all, it exists on the surface of a globe, and a globe is a sphere, and a sphere doesn’t have a top or a bottom.

So ‘south’ is a convention that we have invented, that we all agree upon, because if we didn’t agree on it how would we ever know where we truly are.

But let’s go further in this dissection of the concept of south. Let’s go further because one of the glories of the English language is that words don’t only have ‘meanings’ they also have associations.

So ‘south’ isn’t just a direction.

Things ‘go south’. Meaning they go off the boil, they fall apart.

Or there’s the concept of ‘The South’ in America – the Southern states, all confederate flags, slave owners mansions, and fried chicken.

Or that divide between Europe’s northern states, and its southern ones. That’s a concept wrapped up in all kinds of sub-concepts of power, economic development, even life-style.

Or what about Cockney rhyming slang. North and South. Mouth.

Or, let’s get even more granular – how do you even pronounce the word. Is it ‘South’? Is it ‘Souf’ as in S O U F? Or is it ‘Sarf’ as in S A R F?

I guess the answer to that depends on where you’ve come from.

Or, where you’ve ended up.

For me, as a kid, growing up just off Peckham Rye Park. I lived in S A R F, Sarf Lunnun. Lunnun, as in L U N N U N.

Now I’m older, and wiser, and much stupider, I will say that I grew up, and went to school, this school, in South London.

Clearly the school is still in the same place that it was. So equally clearly it must be me that has moved. In some way.

Anyway, delving deeper into the whole concept of South London, I discovered something really quite surprising. For most of the time South London did not exist.

London, was London, and that was north of the river. The bit to the south was an afterthought, an overspill, a poor relation.

I mean, just look at the buildings in north London. The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, The Tower Of London, The Natural History Museum, St Paul’s, even the City Of London itself. It’s all north of the river.

What do we get? The short lived County Hall. Southwark Cathedral – which is just a very big church. And Dave Wellbrook’s house in Beckenham.

This isn’t the stuff of a major Metropolis.

South London wasn’t London.

So the pre-Uber, cab drivers legend of ‘ Sarf of the river, this time of night, you ‘avin’ a larf mate…’ isn’t an aberration. It’s how the world was. How the world was perceived.

South London was the wrong side of the river, south London was the Badlands, south London was ‘Here be Monsters’.

And you know what, South London Doesn’t Care. If it is the outsider, the underdog, the unacknowledged that’s just fine. Because that gives South London character. Strength. Maybe even ambition.

And it meant things could happen here.

Take Vauxhall, for instance. From about 1650 for 200 years it was one of the leading venues for public entertainment in the capital. 1785 the Vauxhall Gardens opened with attractions like tightrope walkers, concerts, fireworks, hot air balloon ascents and wooded walkways noted for… ‘romantic assignations’. Apparently, for 150 years, references to Vauxhall were as ubiquitous as, and have the same context as,  references to ‘Broadway’ would later be. That was it’s cultural significance.

Or what about something with closer link to this school – The Globe. Shakespeare’s theatre, built in  1599 – closed by the Puritans in 1642. The Globe was at Bankside. The south side of the river.

The south, the outsider, the renegade, the challenger to the old order.

Or what about the founder of this school – Edward Alleyn. Yes, he was established, yes he was successful, yes he was wealthy. But he was an actor.

And acting, I would argue, is the South London of all the professions.

The outsider, the renegade, the risk-taker.

And isn’t that a perfect description of arguably the most creative person this country has produced in the last 100 years.

David Bowie was born in Brixton. He moved to Bromley. He is an individual born, and bred, and buttered, in South London.

So how does all this relate to this school? This institution?

I mean, look at it. It is a place of privilege. How on earth could it be the outsider, the other, the renegade?

Well, in my opinion, it can. Or at least in a sense it can.

Because we did come late to the party. God’s Gift had been given to many, many people before the first brick of this school had been laid.

We always were the outsider, the other, the renegade because we were not Dulwich College. So guess that what I’m arguing is that in this particular small universe, with its own particular laws of physics, and gravitational fields, I’m arguing that Dulwich College is North London, and we, we being Alleyn’s – is South London.

We are the outsider, the upstart, the challenger.

And that might sound like an irrelevant, contrived, spurious notion, but I think that it’s an important one. And one that isn’t just about looking backwards, but also about looking forwards. And here’s why.

I’ve said that this is a place of privilege – and it is. I’ve seen how much the school has developed since I was an inmate. I look at the academic results and have an absurd, totally unjustified sense of pride.  I mean what’s it got to do with me?

I know that anyone would be lucky to come here. In so many ways it bestows advantages on its pupils. Or confirms the advantages those pupils already have.  And I don’t mean that as a political judgement, I mean it as an observation.

But I think, embrace the concept of Alleyn’s as a South London school – with south being a construct that contains within in it ideas of being the outsider, the other, the renegade – then there is something else that comes into the mix for the school’s pupils.

Yes, advantage is an advantage for young people trying to find their way in an increasingly, and insanely, competitive world.  But I believe that if you want to get on, if you want to really push the boundaries of what you have it in you to become, then what you need is not advantage, but edge.

North London doesn’t give you edge. South London gives you edge.

And that’s why I would argue that the fundamentally South London nature of this school is worth recognising, understanding, and celebrating. It’s a part of its heritage as much as the phrase ‘God’s Gift’, or the cornflower, or that time Mr Jenkins got pushed in the swimming pool on the last day of term.

——————

Now, I mentioned at the start that I would be having a thought, and taking it for a walk, and what I’ve discovered is that when you do that you sometimes spot something off the path you’re on that’s worth checking out.

And what I spotted, on this occasion, was the phrase ‘God’s Gift’.

Now ‘God’s Gift’ is the motto of the school, the foundation. The first time I was really aware of it as a pupil, and thought about it, it felt slightly uncomfortable. That’s because it sounded, to me, arrogant. It sounded like we, the pupils, were saying we were ‘God’s Gift’.

There was also the fact that, at the time, the only other awareness I had of those words was in the disparaging phrase ‘He thinks he’s God’s Gift, to women’.

It was a put down.

But, I also knew that the phrase in the motto was actually referring to ‘education’ – education was God’s Gift.

Anyway, writing this piece I was thinking about the phrase and I have come to the conclusion that it needs redefining. Re-imagining.  So I want to give it a context that makes sense to me. And maybe it’ll make sense to you.

I’m here tonight because Chris asked me to speak. This is not an event I have ever been to before. It never really appealed. But Chris asked me to come. And Chris is my friend.

And I thought about that.

And I realised that gift I received from this school wasn’t education. I would have got an education somewhere else. We all would.

The gift I received from this school was the friends I made while I was here. So John, Steve, Nigel, Ian, Olly, Chris, David. I’ve known all of you for the best part of forty years – you’re the gift. Thank you.

And I would imagine for others of you in this audience, who had the good fortune to go to this school, and also for those who have the good fortune to work here, the same holds true. This school has been, this school is, a crucible of friendships. And we forge bonds here that are hard to break.

I know that for a fact, because I’ve known these people for 40 years – and I’ve been trying to shake them off for at least 35. But they’re persistent…

We forge bonds here that are hard to break. And I would say to the headmaster, nurture that, cherish that, celebrate that. There is no exam results table that it features on, but to my way of thinking it paints a picture on a far bigger canvas. And it’s a beautiful picture.

Now I’ve wandered off the path for too long and need to find a way to get back to my central thesis and wind things up.

The central thesis being that Alleyn’s is a South London school, and that gives it, and its pupils, an edge.

Well if the concept of ‘South’ is all about being the outsider, the other, the renegade – if it’s all about not only about having an edge, but also, occasionally, going to the edge and jumping off. Doing the thing you’re not supposed to do, just to see what happens next, then there is only one logical place for me to finish this talk.

So here’s the joke Chris didn’t want us to tell…

 

A Most Unusual, Multi-Media, Transatlantic, Partially On-Air, Pop-Up Gathering by Part of the Old School Clan, 7 May 2016

I had been corresponding with my old school friend Paul Deacon on Facebook for the previous couple of days, sparked by:

As an aside, Paul asked me if Janie and I had listened to his weekly broadcast on The Grand At 101 lately. I had to admit we hadn’t. The show is on Saturday afternoons in Ontario, therefore Saturday evening here. Janie and I are almost always out on a Saturday evening – Ogblog postings passim attest to this fact. It must be more than a year; perhaps even a couple of years since we last tuned in.

However, our Saturday evening plans – feeding friends Kim, Michel and David – had, for practical reasons, been switched to Sunday lunch instead. As it turns out, Sunday 8 May is scheduled to be “sunny, hot, sit in the garden” weather, so the switch was fortuitous in many ways.

In short, we would be around, so I told Paul we’d tune in at least to some of the show. In the course of this correspondence, Paul Hamer (another old school friend) said that he would also tune in “while cooking his risotto”. At the start of the show, Paul Hamer evidenced the fact that he was listening and cooking risotto with this picture:

Paul Hamer Risotto Evidence
Photo courtesy of Paul Hamer

Indeed, Paul Deacon’s posting about his show and all the ensuing Facebook correspondence can be found here.

Once we were listening in, I mischievously sent Paul the following private message, which relates closely to the rag, tag and bobtail records we procured at the Slipped Disc all those years ago:

Ian and Janie messaging in from warm and sunny London. Would you be able to spin a 45 for us today? Ideally a Melodisc classic, such as Jolie La Ville Curepipe by the Alain Permal Mauritius Police Band, Agbogun G’Boro by Tunde Nightingale and his HighLife Boys, Bulgarian Betrothal by the Bulgarian Variety Orchestra or the classic Stop For The Music by The Nutrons. We and your listeners deserve nothing less.

Melodisc was a most unusual label – probably the first truly “Indie” label around – read more about it here.

Of course, I should have known better than to challenge Paul to play an unbelievably obscure 1960s record.

Soon after 20:00 our time, Paul Deacon broadcast a shout-out to Paul Hamer and played some rather unappetising sound effects in honour of Paul Hamer’s jumbo prawn risotto. Paul Hamer’s retort; a photo of said risotto in all its glory – makes better Facebook/Ogblog than it does radio…but it does look very appetising:

Paul Hamer Risotto Full Glory
Photo courtesy of Paul Hamer

I showed Janie the jumbo prawn risotto picture; she suggested I take a picture of the remains of our dinner and upload it. I made an executive decision not to do that. Even if people could imagine that fine meal from the messy carnage of (what had only recently been) a most impressive-looking roast duck…I wouldn’t have wanted to upstage Paul Hamer.

Then a few minutes later Paul Deacon broadcast a shout-out to me and Janie. Much to my embarrassment, he actually played Stop For The Music by The Nutrons as a request for us. “Truly terrible”, was Janie’s verdict on that obscure musical masterpiece.

When Paul (wisely) interrupted the track before the full 125 seconds of noise had completed, he played The Grand at 101 jingle. “Oh, so Paul also has a Room 101 for crappy records then?”, asked Janie. “No”, I replied, “101 is the FM broadcasting frequency of Paul’s radio station”.

To explain, if I put something on a music playlist that Janie really doesn’t like, it doesn’t simply get deleted from that playlist, it gets moved to a playlist named “Janie’s Room 101 Playlist”. The latter playlist would, in extremis, be played continuously on a loop if Janie ever were so badly behaved as to require sending to Room 101 for re-education.

Readers will, I’m sure, be unsurprised to learn that Janie’s Room 101 is more a theoretical construct or “empty threat” than anything approaching reality. She’s stronger than me for a start. Paul Deacon would be a little disappointed by some of the tracks that have ended up in Janie’s Room 101, but there’s no accounting for taste.

Meanwhile, Paul’s radio show. While simultaneously joking with several of us on Facebook, digging out obscure 1960’s Melodisc records…oh, and of course actually broadcasting a show an hour longer than his usual slot to cover for someone…

…Paul Deacon also told us that John Eltham (another old school friend of ours) would be joining him at the studio “any minute”, along with Rich Davies – yet another old school friend, who lives in Ontario near the Deacons.

I was aware that John Eltham was due to visit Paul and Rich this month, as John had mentioned the visit in correspondence with me a couple of weeks ago. I hadn’t twigged that the visit was so imminent. Indeed, while the broadcast was still going on, Paul wrote:

He’s here now! Just telling us about Rohan…

…the Rohan reference is to Rohan Candappa. I suppose in particular the “telling” was about a gathering we had a few months ago to see Rohan’s wonderful one-man show, which we now learn will be going to Edinburgh this summer – click here to read about it.

So, I woke up this morning to see these wonderful postings on Paul’s Facebook Area:

Johnny & Pauly On The Grand
Johnny & Pauly On The Grand – Photo courtesy of Christine Deacon (I think) via Paul Deacon
A Grand Quartet
A Grand Quartet – Photo courtesy of the waiter via Paul Deacon

I reflect that this connected world of ours is truly marvellous. We can banter with old friends and listen to radio broadcasts across continents. Face-to-face visits across such distances are now affordable, practical realities also. But by gosh it helps if you can multi-task like Paul Deacon!

 

Saddlers’ Scholars Dinner At Saddlers’ Hall, 17 April 2008

Photo lifted from the Edward Alleyn Club Website with thanks.

Some months before this event, I dined with the Worshipful Company of Weavers, courtesy of Mark Yeandle. There I met some of the grandees of the Worshipful Company of Saddlers, who seemed delighted to meet me in my capacity as an Alleyn’s School Saddlers’ Scholar. I got the impression that they had never met a real live scholar of theirs before.

So when, a few months later, I received an invitation to dine with the Saddlers’ at a gathering of Saddlers’ Scholars from across the years, I thought that my chance encounter at the Weavers’ dinner might have kicked something off. In any case, it would have seemed churlish and even a little rude to say no; the Saddlers had paid all my Alleyn’s School fees for seven years.

Actually I was glad I went along. I met quite a few old friends from school, in particular several who had been with me in form 1S, where I believe in those days they had congregated that year’s scholars.

Seeing those people again after all that time years made me realise that, as the years go on, I have more in common with my old contemporaries than I have with most of my staff and work colleagues, most of whom are now quite a bit younger than me.

So in many ways it was this evening that spurred me into, subsequently, reconnecting with several people from the old school crowd. Rohan Candappa is one example who rapidly springs to mind, with whom I have kept in touch since – leading to stuff like:

Hats off to the Saddlers’ for their part in reuniting some of us and helping to make that sort of thing happen.

Saddlers’ Hall is a grand venue for a dinner, despite the inauspicious sounding address, Gutter Lane – click here for more on the Hall and the Company.

Naturally it was a fine meal with excellent wine. Naturally there were lots of speeches, although mercifully not interminably long ones.

There is a slide show with lots of photos from the event on the Edward Alleyn Club website – click here.

Naturally a few of us went for a quick decompress in a nearby bar before parting company that evening.

A Weekend In Manchester Straight From School, 7 to 9 March 1980

My memory for this piece was triggered by a very enjoyable reunion with Mark Lewis at Simon Jacobs’s album launch in September 2017.

Mark Lewis is now one of the top media and libel lawyers around – a man who did not fear taking on the Murdoch Empire in the Millie Dowler phone hacking case, nor did he fear Katie Hopkins in the Jack Monroe Twitter libel case.

So I’d better be very careful indeed what I say…

…and agree in advance to amend any part of this Ogblog piece at Mark’s request…

…and use the word allegedly at frequent intervals, even though I know that the addition of that word serves no defensive purpose whatsoever if the statement to which it refers in libellous…

…but I digress.

At Simon’s launch, Mark and I had roughly the following conversation, from which I have recovered some memory (and the relevant diary pages):

Mark: I remember the first time I met you. I had recently joined my local BBYO group in Manchester and you came to stay at our house for for the weekend. You were on the National executive, so it felt to us that you were a visiting dignitary…all the more so, because you came straight from school and you were wearing a three-piece suit when you arrived. Were you wearing tails too?

Me: Was I heck wearing tails. I’ll confess to the three-piece suit though; that was the school uniform for sixth-formers.

Mark: We thought you must be incredibly posh.

Ian: I wasn’t incredibly posh. I was just a scholarship boy at Alleyn’s School…

The conversation continued. I promised to dig out the trusty diaries and try to establish exactly when that weekend happened and see what else the diary might reveal.

So here it is:

I’ll transliterate the relevant bits for any reader who doesn’t read the rarefied script otherwise known as my handwriting:

 school OK, -> Euston -> Manchester -> Prestwich, Mark Lewis, stayed up till all hours -> shule -> lunch -> open house -> Nat Exec meeting -> party -> bed -> North v South soccer -> lunch -> Installations -> Piccadilly -> home (exhausted).

…and who wouldn’t be exhausted after that. I feel exhausted now just typing those words and thinking about it.

I like the Monday message too, by way of echo: “school OK”.

I’d just like to reflect for a moment on the early part of that adventure. The bit where I left school in my three piece suit, went to Euston and up to Manchester. The easiest/quickest route would have been to take the train from North Dulwich to London Bridge and the tube from there to Euston.

But that would have meant me venturing, more or less alone, on the Billy Biro’s (pupils of William Penn School) side of the station/platform, which, while wearing an Alleyn’s three-piece suit, would have been a form of attempted suicide. I don’t remember doing that.

More likely, I left school a little early, probably with Anil Biltoo, most likely (if with Anil) stopping at his house for a couple of cigarettes and an earful of some trendy music served up by his rock chick older sister Benita. Or, if Bi wasn’t around, we’d have probably listened to Innervisions by Stevie Wonder. Then, I guess, on to Euston, either by bus or by picking up the train from the relative safety of East Dulwich.

At no point in this trek from school to Mark Lewis’s house did it occur to me to change clothing. I must have had changes of clothing. But perhaps not a suitable suitcase/bag for my three-piece whistle.

Based on Mark’s 2017 description and my reflections on how I came across, I must have seemed like a Judaic Jacob Rees-Mogg.

I’m not sure whether that visit was my only stay at the Lewis house or whether I stayed there again on subsequent visits to Manchester that year. I certainly do remember discourse late into the night.

I recall Mark’s sister, Mandy, introducing me to the delights of the Manchester music scene, at least to the extent they were represented in her record collection and narrative. I think her main thing was Joy Division, but I might be mistaken.

It was only decades later I learnt that Joy Division weren’t Manchester at all, they were Macclesfield. I also recall hearing Spandau Ballet a few months later and confusing them with Joy Division, much to the derision of friends at the time. I don’t think I needed to confess that foible – I think it might have vanished without trace if I hadn’t raised the matter again. Perhaps Mandy talked about Spandau Ballet, but I think they came later and were quintessentially London. Perhaps none of us knew what we were talking about – I certainly didn’t – I only went to my first proper gig a few weeks later – click here for that debacle.

I hope this piece triggers some of Mark’s memories about that weekend. Or indeed memories of other subsequent weekends if I did stay more than once. I don’t know why, but I think the Joy Division (or whatever “Manchester scene” stuff it was) conversations might have been a subsequent visit.

The National Exec meeting would then, I think, have included Jay Marks, Ivor Heller, Paul DeWinter, Raymond Ingleby and the late, great Jeffrey Spector. We must have discussed matters of enormous import; I’m sure one of the others can fill us in on the details, all of which for some reason have slipped my mind.

I also have no recollection of the North v South football match – but that sounds like fun – perhaps someone out there does recall the match and can provide a match report and/or photographs.

This picture from a different BBYO football match, in Portsmouth. a year or so earlier, but the March 1980 one in Manchester will have looked a bit like this

The installation ceremony cannot have been for Mark Lewis’s new Sunnybank group – that was far too new. So perhaps it was the Sale group or more likely the larger Whitefield Group. Again, perhaps some people reading this can chime in with their own memories and/or diary notes and/or photographs…

Correction: David Nispel has written in to confirm that Sunnybank BBYO had actually been going for 2-3 years by that time and that this weekend was their inaugural installation weekend. Mark confirms that he was a newbie but the group wasn’t. David Nispel has also posted several pictures in the BBYO Facebook Group – members of which can see the chat and pictures by clicking here. One quite extraordinary feat of memory comes from Jay Marks, recalling the score as a 1-1 draw and describing the football match as, “an undignified kick about in 70s terrace attire…” and that…”wherever the party was in north Manchester later it would have been far more successful.”

If any of my old mates from Alleyn’s School are still reading this and had been wondering why I often looked so wrecked on a Monday morning during my last year at school – this piece explains a fair bit.

Anyway, Mark, I have done my worst (as lawyers tend to say) and now rest my case. Over to you.

Mauritius, July & August 1979, Overview, Summary and Picture Links

I spent several weeks of the summer of 1979 in Mauritius, with my good school friend Anil Biltoo and his dad, staying with many branches of their interesting family.

I want to write quite a lot about this trip, as it was the most amazing experience for a 16/17 year old youngster. It was hugely formative for me in many ways, not least sparking my lifelong interest in travel and cultures other than my own.

This posting is a quick summary and overview piece, linking to artefacts already available on-line:

I have started the process of scanning and uploading the letters I wrote home while I was there, which doubled up as my diary/travelogue. They make fascinating reading for me and I need to go through them carefully before I write up my stories and thoughts with the benefit of hindsight.

In the meantime, I shall upload the letters as I go. The brave might try to decipher them. The sensible might wait for my write-ups/stories.

Drewy’s Party and Subsequent Matzo Ramble, 14 and 15 April 1979

I have been reminded of this weekend by several coincidences in the past few days/weeks.

Firstly, I used the following photograph to illustrate one of my party pieces from 1979 (no photos from the event itself) only for it to dawn on me and other commentators what the origins of the following photo must be.

Taken on the 15 April 1979 Matzo Ramble

Also, as part of my Ogblogging, I uploaded one of my old NewsRevue songs, Privatise, which is sung to the tune of Bright Eyes. It’s a real good one, though I say so myself – click here.

I played Bright Eyes while working on the Privatise/NewsRevue piece and it brought on a solid wave of memory from that April 1979 weekend. You couldn’t get away from Bright Eyes that spring; it was the Easter Number One, it was everywhere. I’ll insert a link at the end of this piece as a reward for those who…scroll all the way down there…I mean read this fine piece of mine in its entirety.

Drewy’s Party 14 April 1979

I don’t remember ever decorating at Anil’s house, but that’s what the diary says I did, before going on to Drewy’s place in Harrow-On-The -Hill for the party.

There was a group of visiting BBYOniks from the USA (New Jersey I believe) in town – earlier diary references cover earlier sessions with them. That is probably why I took my camera. Indeed, the photos of Drewy’s party are the only party photos I took throughout those years (unless you consider the conventions to have been several-days-long parties, which is not a ridiculous contention).

The stack of pictures from the party itself, all 31 of them, can be viewed here. A few good examples follow.

Mixture of Pinnerites and Americans

A few familiar faces (and some unfamiliar ones) in the above picture. All familiar faces in the picture below.

Some Pinner BBYO Grandees

Simon Jacobs showed off his cigarette party trick for the camera:

Simon’s party trick

I’ll need to do some work in Photoshop to enable people to see Simon’s smoke well – but I’m sure you all get the idea.

Drewy, perplexed.

Drewy could do a perplexed expression for the camera in those days, so he did that.

It was a big house, the Drewy house. Many of us stayed. Frankly, that number of people often found ways of squeezing into smaller houses – this Ivor Heller Party piece from the previous spring (1978) refers.

Aftermath and Ramble, 15 April 1979

So how have I managed to find solid evidence that my unidentified fragments of negative, including the above “trews-free in the park” picture come from the same weekend?

Not so easy.

The main suspect in “the mysterious case of the trews-free gentleman” (see the first photo of this piece, above) now lives in the USA himself. When approached, he immediately started pleading the fifth amendment, which I think has something to do with bearing arms – I really should have made more attention when I did that comparative law module…whatever, I knew I’d need to handle this character very carefully indeed.

Still, once the gentleman had been offered immunity (which is apparently what you do with guilty folk in America to get them to sing), he sang like a canary.

More conclusively, now that I have gone back to the original negatives and looked at the whole fragment, I have also found the following picture on the same strip:

Clearing up the Drewy house carpet; see the Simon photo above – case proven

Also on the same strip, a couple of nice pictures of Linda, so she must have been there too. Perhaps she has some memories of this weekend to add:

Given the negative numbers and the fragmentary nature of the negatives, I am vaguely recalling that this roll of film was not finding its way happily into and through my camera. Indeed, from the depths of my memory, I think the camera jammed on the ramble, hence the shortage of pictures on that stack.

Nevertheless, there are a few pictures from the ramble – including a couple of rare pictures from that era with me in them – all of which can be examined by clicking here.

My diary is clear that we went on from Drewy’s place to a ramble:

Case proven.

As I write (14 April 2017) it is the 38th anniversary of the Drewy Party and Matzo Ramble weekend. An auspicious anniversary, as it happens, because this is Easter weekend and also the middle days (Chol Hamoed as they are known) of Passover, an unusual coincidence of festivals, just as it was in 1979.

In the run up to this Easter, there has been a storm in a teacup in the UK about Easter Egg Hunts being renamed as Cadbury Egg Hunts – click here.  Whether this was done for marketing purposes or was, as some have suggested, “political correctness gone mad” to remove the specific reference to “Easter” I neither know nor care…

…but in the spirit of the modern era, perhaps we should rename the Matzo Ramble as a Rakusen’s Ramble. Or, in honour of our recently departed visitors from New Jersey, a Manischewitz Meander…

…now I’m rambling. Have a look at the Bright Eyes vid below. Those with memories that go back that far, might just get a little memory flash of that 1979 spring. If so, I’d love to learn about your memories too.

An Evening At The George Canning, 8 April 1979

I enjoyed several evenings of beer and music with mates from Alleyn’s at the George Canning pub, Effra Road, Brixton.

I was reminded of it (April 2017) while writing up the party and rambling events of the following (Easter) weekend of April 1979 – click here – by spotting the following diary entry from the previous weekend, 8 April:

Went to George Canning in eve

No information in that diary entry on who my companions were that evening. I remember going to the George Canning with Jim Bateman more than once and also I’m pretty sure Mark Stevens. Perhaps also Paul Deacon and/or Graham Majin on at least one occasion; others joined us too, I think, on one visit or another. This aspect of my memory needs help.

But I do remember those evenings at the George Canning reasonably well.

In 1979, the pub looked more like the 1905 picture from this urban history site than the 2003 picture – click here – even though colour photography had just about emerged by 1979 (albeit not often in my camera).

As I recall it, the music on all my visits was British Rhythm & Blues – click here – much like the first albums by bands like the Rolling Stones, Manfred Mann, The Moody Blues, the Animals etc. Whether that R&B was the style of the place always or whether that was merely what you got on the nights we could afford, I don’t know.

But we could afford these evenings on a bit of saved pocket money. The beer was just a few pence more than normal, but if you eked out two pints over the evening you could still get a whole evening of beer and music for a quid.

The George Canning type of pub wasn’t a salubrious environment back then. I’m talking about 1979 Brixton, not the hipster “south-Shoreditch-like” inner London neighbourhood of today.

Indeed I don’t suppose my mum would have approved of us going there had she realised what a dive this pub was at that time; but Effra Road was also the location of the Brixton Shule (synagogue), so (in her mind) what could possibly go wrong just a hundred yards or so up the road from there?

From our point of view, it always felt safe and welcoming enough. The nights we went to the place, it was mostly populated by people who were there for a few beers and some music. Perhaps a few old regulars bemoaning the noise, but on the whole there was a sense of shared music-following purpose.

The place is now far more venue than drinking house; Hootananny Brixton – click here to see the site.

“Over 21s only” it says at the top of the web site…that might have proved to be a bit of a problem for us 16/17 year-olds.

Not bad reviews on Yelp for the current venue – click here.

Not so sure about it as a hostel if TripAdvisor reviews are to be believed – click here.

But looking back to 1979, other old friend’s memories of those outings to the George Canning would be most welcome.

Update: when I shared this piece on the Alleyn’s 1970s Facebook Group, both Mark Stevens and Neil Voce owned up to having been part of that scene.

Mark Stevens wrote:

I used to go and see a blues band there – the Southsiders…I think they were the band that pushed me towards blues more than anything else…

Neil Voce wrote:

Definitely used to go to see them at the George Canning as it was and the two brewers in Clapham

Twelfth Night, The Aftermath, 17 December 1978

I also have a recollection about the after show party, to add to the voluminous piece on my Twelfth Night Production experience.

I had invited my extant (and soon to be ex) squeeze to the last night and the after show party. She told me she was especially impressed with Nathan Ariss’s Feste – a perfectly reasonable review, as I recall his performance was somewhat of a highlight. But at the party she seemed to put quite a lot of effort into letting Nathan know how impressed she had been. Nathan seemed in no rush to restore the natural dating order of things either. I let the girl know what I thought and I think that might have been my penultimate date with her. And it was a really really serious relationship – it had been going on for at least 5 or 6 weeks by then so was probably our 8th or 9th date.

I’m over it now. I really am.

I shared this recollection with the Alleyn’s Facebook group and made my peace with Nathan Ariss all these years later, not that there was ever an absence of peace at the time; I’m sure he was blissfully unaware of the matter back then. Indeed, he confused my lass with some other lass who had chatted him up/been chatted up by him at that party.   What a carry on – teenagers – honestly.