Radio Gorgeous

Wedding outfit

This is a brief post to alert you to the interview I did with Radio Gorgeous which is now up on their website as a podcast. *

Just before Christmas, on a wintery afternoon, Jo Pembroke and I sat in the John Snow pub in Soho, near Carnaby Street and talked – and talked. In the background you can hear the end of the lunchtime rush. Of course we discussed Chelmsford, mods and rockers, the Corn Exchange and music – and the interview opens, like the book, with the haunting organ chords of Green Onions. But the conversation ranged far and wide. Jo steered the conversation to Heybridge Basin in Essex where my dad grew up, Leytonstone in London where my mum was born, Woodford where the World War ll bomb fell on their house, then their meeting in the boom town of Chelmsford, where I was born and grew up.  Then on to Birmingham, Leicester and Tours, before landing back in London.  It’s all here

The picture that accompanies the interview is me in our back garden on the Woodhall Estate.  On the left of the picture is our shed.  People who have read Beyond the Beehive will know the importance of a shed in the life of a young person who wants to keep a secret. Behind me stretch the other houses on our block and far in the distance, on the right of the picture is the beginning of the shops. Important for chips, the purchase of wedding presents, the Off Licence and Sally the Baker’s. Plus the all important grocer’s.

I am wearing a black dress and a red beret. And for real fashion aficionados, the shoes were black patent with Louis heels and a flower detail. An interesting combination for a wedding outfit, and the basis of not a few jokes. But I take comfort from the fact that my niece (whose image is on the front cover of the book) saw this picture and asked me if I still had the dress as she liked it.  Or possibly because she was about to go to a fancy dress party.


* Friend M writes ‘Last night …. could not absolutely could not get to sleep.  Cup of tea etc and then I found Radio Gorgeous and you being interviewed! After that I was ab… z z z z z’

David Bowie

Like many other people I couldn’t believe the news, an email in my Inbox saying that David Bowie had died.  It seemed simply impossible.  He was so young, so creative, so there.  I was shocked, and saddened.

In 1964 any avid watcher of the Tonight programme would have seen David Bowie interviewed by Cliff Michelmore about the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Long Haired Men.

But my relationship with him began in 1966 when he played at Chelmsford Corn Exchange.  That is, my diary entry for that day is headed ‘David Bowie’, but whether I actually stayed in the hall to see him is not recorded.  Often there were more interesting things happening outside on a Saturday night in the streets of Chelmsford.

But I sat through his whole set when I saw him in Leicester in the early 70s.  He was still incorporating mime into his act at that time.  I remember little of the gig itself except that it was all exotic colours and costumes and unexpected performance interspersed with great rock music. Someone wrote to me the other day, after the news of his death, saying he recalled that I had been a great fan of Bowie, but I’m not sure that’s true.  Perhaps what he was remembering was our Saturday Party ritual.  In 1973 I was living in a shared house near Victoria Park in Leicester, and often on a Saturday morning, my house mate Sue and I, both newly qualified teachers, would decide to have a party.  We would roam the streets of Leicester, in our long flowing skirts, and cheese cloth blouses, inviting our friends to an evening of music and party food (jelly and blancmange) and then go home to prepare the house (usually just moving the furniture back against the wall, possibly buying a Party Seven tin of beer). Then, and this was the vital ingredient, just before the allotted time, we would put Suffragette City onto the record player, turn up the volume as loud as it would go, and dance round the living room to get into the party mood.  Try it – it still works.

I really lost touch with Bowie after that, I would hear a track that I liked – Let’s Dance, China Girl, Heroes, and learn the words, hum the tune.  Hesitantly I went to see the films he was in, but couldn’t forget it was David Bowie.  I followed his fashion developments, particularly his long beige mac phase, and the changing hair styles.  I liked that he played around with image, I liked that he was his own person.  I was interested in him, he was interesting.

After his death was announced, Janice Perry posted this on Facebook.  I love its joyfulness, its theatricality, his appearance at the back of the stage, and of course Tina Turner.