Walking into a lion’s den and out again with a smile on my face

The blue plaque on a building in South Street, Mayfair, which was once the headquarters of the Rank Organisation.

It was a delight to pick my old Morris Minor up and it didn’t take me long to drive from Colchester to Basildon where I was greeted by the three young ladies in my life.

Sarah, who was two and a half years old now, was a little chatterbox while her baby sister Jacqueline, barely a year old, was just starting to toddle.

That weekend we spent time together just getting to know one another again. In the evenings, with the children in bed, Marion and I discussed the future and the most important thing was for me to find a job so that I could help support our little household.

I made it clear that at the moment I did not want to return to journalism.

We talked on and off, in between me playing with the children so that Marion could get on with her household routine, and all of us going out for a walk. Then out of nowhere, literally nowhere, the cinema raised its head.

Despite my casual dress during the tour I had always been proud of myself in a two or three-piece-suit with a smart tie and well-polished shoes or boots. Marion had once been an usherette at a local cinema before working in London. We both had an impression of a cinema manager looking smart in a lounge suit during the day and black tie and dinner suit in the evening.

At that moment I determined that instead of waiting to be told what jobs were available I would head into London the following morning and first of all try my luck with the Rank Organisation who operated the Odeon cinemas.

If that failed I could always go to the local ABC cinema in Basildon.

I had got on well with the manager of the Odeon in Rhyl when I was working there on the Journal and had always been able to get a couple of seats with no charge and invites to midnight presentations of some of the big newly-released films. I remember just such a showing of Doctor Zhivago when the guests as well as the manager were in evening wear.

At that time with no internet and no home phone I had no way of ascertaining where to go but just took the chance that once in London I could easily get an address from the phone book.

Which is precisely what I did.

On arriving at Fenchurch Street station in London I went to a phone box and looked up the Rank Organisation. The address was in South Street in Mayfair, right across London from where I was.

I needed to be careful with the pennies but I wasn’t prepared to walk that distance in a city I did not really know. I decided to take the Underground instead, it involved a bit of walking to get to the right station but overall it took me about 40 minutes.

Just as when I had travelled to Basildon for my interview in 1972 I was smartly dressed, two-piece suit, collar and tie, nothing too flashy but colours that worked together.

Outside the grand offices I took out my comb and ran it through my hair, straightened my cuffs (enough to show off a smart set of gold cufflinks my father had given me) and made my way into the building and presented myself at the reception desk.

I had no appointment and I had no idea who I needed to talk to but I think my confident air when I asked to see whoever was responsible for hiring managerial staff at Odeon cinemas impressed the receptionist.

She asked for my name and then called up a number on her switchboard.

At the best I hoped I might be given an appointment to see someone later in the week. At worst they might just tell me they weren’t holding interviews.

Instead the receptionist said that I should wait and someone would come down to meet me and take me to the appropriate department.

Even then I thought they might just take me to the personnel department where I would be asked to provide my details before being told they would write and let me know if any vacancies arose.

Maybe I should have been as confident in my mind as I was in my outward appearance because the young lady who came down to collect me took my straight to a very impressive office where a very impressive man in a dark blue pinstripe three piece suit, a crisp white shirt and a maroon tie sat behind a very large impressive desk.

He stood up, reached across to shake my hand and gestured me to a wooden chair with a padded seat on my side of the desk.

His opening question was: “Why do you want to join the Odeon management team?”

No problem there.

“I am keen on current films and period films, I am at ease with people and like to see them enjoying themselves, which they would do watching a film in the surroundings of an Odeon cinema, and cinema these days is on an equal footing with a stage show.”

It seemed the last comment was the one that caught his attention and he asked what experience I had regarding the stage as a source of entertainment.

“I have been involved in amateur dramatics for the past 12 years, not just as an actor but also as a stage hand, stage manager, lighting and sound technician and working front of house from ticket office to confectionery and ice cream sales.

“Oh, and for the last eight months I have been touring as assistant stage manager, sound technician and carrying out general duties for Harry Corbett, Sooty and Sweep.”

That got his attention.

“Sooty? THE Sooty?”

“Yes.”

At first he was like a child again reunited with his favourite TV star.

He was now hooked.

There were a few more questions about my previous work and he found it interesting that I was trained as a journalist and also that I had helped my father, the pharmacist, with stocktaking and general cashing up.

He finally asked me where I was living and how far was I prepared to travel.

The second part was, of course, any distance within reason.

Once I said Essex he immediately said that the Essex area came under a district manager based in Southend and asked if I was prepared to go there immediately to meet him.

Without hesitation I said yes.

What did surprise me was that he then said his secretary would issue me with a travel warrant from London to Southend and from Southend to Basildon as well as reimbursing my fare from Basildon to London.

I could hardly believe that my audacity in just fronting up at the offices had gained me an interview with a senior executive let alone a further interview with the district manager who decided who to take on in a managerial role.

I travelled back across London to Fenchurch Street on a cloud but came down far enough to get myself a cheese and tomato roll and a coffee to provide sustenance in advance of the next interview.

This time I was expected and once again I was presented with a smartly-dressed man behind a large desk.

He had clearly been briefed on my background so, apart from mentioning the touring show (“Did you really work for Sooty?”), he moved straight on to checking on my education before I became a journalist.

This is where I still had a bit of ammunition left in that my college course had been commerce and office practice which included the basics of general book-keeping and how to handle rosters and draw up timetables etc.

Eventually he asked me how soon I could start work if I was offered a managerial position.

“Tomorrow?”

That was a little bit too quick apparently as they had to make certain arrangements and go through certain hoops before I could actually take up my new position which was to be – career assistant manager at the Romford Odeon (told you Romford would feature in my life again) and I should report to the manager, Tony Portsche, at 9am the following Monday.

Romford Odeon in the 1970s

I travelled home on Cloud 9 to tell Marion the good news.

The next day I went to the Basildon Labour Exchange/JobCentre to sign off.

A brief break in my old haunts then home again, home again, jiggity jig

After the tour it was a change to have a good Sunday roast with my parents and a very comfortable bed to sleep in that night, but no rest for the wicked, as they say, not that I consider myself wicked of course.

Bright and early Monday morning, well not long after 9am, I went into Rhyl to find the Labour Exchange or Jobcentre, or whatever they called it in those days. It was the first time in 10 years of working that I had actually been unemployed.

Although I would be going back to Basildon I wasn’t ready to go back to journalism. If I had contacted either of my North Wales editors, Peter Leaney or Brian Barratt, I am sure there would have been a job for me.

The same applied to Tony Blandford, if they were recruiting for the Basildon Standard Recorder I felt sure he would have taken me back.

That was not my plan, however. Maybe I would return to the fold in my own good time but at that moment the world of newspapers was still on the back burner, and the flame was turned to simmer.

When I filled in all the forms they only needed my last job and reason for leaving it. That was no problem because Harry had said if I needed a reference he would give me a glowing one.

Again, when asked for what sort of work I was seeking I simply said theatrical with the stress on technical rather than acting. I still had the possibility of contacting the company which had a number of rep companies out on tour.

Having signed on I had a good look around the town which had been my home for so many years. Although it wasn’t even three years since I left I could see the changes and for the first time I no longer felt that this was my home. That is not to disparage Rhyl, which will always have a place in my heart, but I had spread my wings and felt there were still places to find.

Over the next few days I visited family and friends and took in more of the wider area around my parents new home in Dyserth, as well as heading for some of my old haunts with my good friend Roger and downing a pint or seven.

By the end of the week I had had enough of my old stamping ground and was intent on heading down to Basildon where I knew a warm welcome awaited me, not just with My Muse but from two little girls as well.

Our correspondence had been wonderful, as I have said previously it was like an old-fashioned courtship with a couple of visits along the way.

I had checked with the garage in Colchester and arranged to pick my car up on the Friday afternoon. I would then drive down to Basildon and be able to join my three lovely girls once more.

No more Izzy Wizzy it’s time for me to say ‘bye bye everybody, bye bye’

The time had finally come when The Sooty Show turned its back on the South and East and headed North – which for Harry and Sooty was really going home because Harry was a Yorkshireman to his boots, despite his time down in the West Country.

We had six venues left on the tour but only three really stuck in my mind.

The first of these memorable theatres was in York, the Theatre Royal, a beautiful structure from the 18th century. It was a pleasure to play in such a building with so much history in the dramatic arts.

We shared the venue with a touring production of The Threepenny Opera. The lead role of Mack the Knife had gone to a 50s/60s pop star and actor who had appeared in another, more modern musical in Basildon the previous year – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

I had heard from stage crew at Basildon that the star was considered to have an air of self-importance and some of the cast thought he needed to be taken down a peg or two. There was a scene where he had to throw himself on a woman lying on a bed. One night, as he threw himself at the bed, the woman raised her knee with somewhat painful consequences.

Whether or not the story was true it certainly seemed the star had changed his attitude as it was clear the stage crew and cast in York considered him a “proper actor” rather than a “jumped-up pop star”.

The theatre manager found a spare seat for me one night and I must admit it was an excellent production of Brecht’s interpretation of the 18th century The Beggar’s Opera by John Gay, a fine example of the satirical works prevalent at the time.

The second theatre was on the seafront at Southport next door to one of the town’s biggest venues which attracted top stars.

At the time we were doing The Sooty Show at the smaller theatre my showbiz idols, Morecambe and Wise, were playing at the larger venue next door.

It was not unknown for stage crew to work at more than one venue if necessary and that was how I came to be standing in the wings watching Eric and Ernie keeping their audience in stitches.

I was wearing my stage blacks except that instead of a plain black T-shirt I was wearing one which read THE SOOTY SHOW in large white letters.

At one point Ernie Wise was holding forth and Eric, who was supposed to be looking at his partner, was looking over his shoulder into the wings and saw my TV shirt.

At that he almost corpsed but his professionalism shone through as he held up the index finger, thumb and middle finger of his right hand and said: “Who’s that?” Ernie fell back to his role as straight man and said: “I don’t know, who is that?”

The response was quick and witty: “Sooty in the nude.”

The audience were in stitches.

The third and final venue on my list, and the last venue of the tour, was at Saint Helen’s, Lancashire, another Theatre Royal. which was the last date on our tour and at the end of the week I would be saying goodbye to my companions of the last seven months.

Once again we were sharing the venue this time with a touring repertory company, and I had met some of the actors previously. Not, as you might think, in Basildon but in a previous life in Rhyl when they had been in a company doing a season at The Little Theatre, when I had helped with the lighting, including doing a full lighting plot for one of the plays.

It was fun spending the week doing our final shows and spending some leisure time with my old friends from the theatre company.

I had no plans as to my future once the week at Saint Helen’s ended but a couple of members of the rep company did suggest that there might be a technical/managerial with one of the companies in their group.

I took the details of the company head office and both my friends said they would put in a word for me.

After our final performance we cleared the stage of all our gear and got it all in the scenery dock before cleaning ourselves up and having our final weekly meal at a restaurant courtesy of Harry.

These meals had become an end-of-the-week ritual over the tour and Harry, despite the reputation people of Yorkshire have, was a generous host, telling us to order whatever we like.

At the end of the meal he would always order coffee and liqueurs all round, my poison of choice in those days was a creme-de-menthe frappe. Harry would always have a brandy with his coffee but this was when his Yorkshire roots came to the fore.

He always told the waiter: “I don’t want a fancy Napoleon or Courvoisier, a cooking brandy is all I need because it’ll be going straight into the coffee.”

That final meal was sad but happy at the same time, especially for myself and Howard because we would be going our separate ways while Lawrence was staying with Harry and Toabs as stage manager when they went to do their TV Sooty shows.

I stayed in the caravan that night and Lawrence and I were up early to complete our final getout before I header for the railway station to make my way to Rhyl where my father would pick me up and take me to their new home in Dyserth where I would be staying for a few days while I decided on my next move.

You can never have enough when it comes to a collection of books

I was checking my collection of books recently and realised the number does not seem to have gone up or down in recent years, and as life goes on I find books I want to read now but know I still have books to be read.

I do make good use of local charity shops to offload excess books, ones I am not likely to read again, even if I did enjoy them. I may take in 20 or so books at a time but I am just as likely to add four or five to my collection when something in the charity shop captures my attention.

It seems strange to think that when I moved into the first home of my own, a corporation flat in Basildon which I think was on the ninth floor, I had a three-shelf bookcase and my book collection did not even fill that.

Within a week I had discovered the weekly outdoor market and there I found an array of second hand books from Lenin’s Little Library to the old orange cover Penguins, fiction and non-fiction, and even hardbacks in good condition but cheap.

The stall – well it was the equivalent of three stalls – had paperbacks and hardbacks, thrillers and romances, politics and historical tomes as well, in fact just about anything you want.

My bookcase was soon full and I put up shelves in the spare room to take the overflow. By the time I left, not much more than 18 months after my arrival, I needed a packing case to take all my books.

I stored it at my parents’ place while I was on tour, along with bits of furniture etc., and a suitcase of clothes. Once life became settled, some time after I said goodbye to Harry, Toabs, Sooty, Sweep, Soo and Lawrence, the books came out of store and gradually increased as My Muse Marion is also a lover of books, just not to the same extent as me. I hate to get rid of books in case I want to read them again.

Some of the books have been to Australia with us and the collection increased during our stay. Most were left in store during the two years in the Middle East but once back in the UK they were out and on the shelves again. Luckily our home in Prestatyn had a spare room I could turn into a library/study.

Nowadays the majority of my books are in the loft but I do know precisely where they are, well as near as damn it.

For instance I recently went up to the loft to put the Camillieri (Montalbano) books into store until I am ready to read them again. In return I brought down some of my family history books to remind me of bits I might have forgotten about during my research break.

I also have a full set of Walter Scott’s Waverley novels, my edition having been published late 19th early 20th century. These will have to wait for a while because I have to tuck into a similar set of Dickens’ works which I intend reading over the next year as soon as I decide which one to start with. I am debating on a choice between A Tale of Two Cities, Hard Times or The Pickwick Papers. I will let you know how it goes.

I have plenty of choice of other authors if I want to take a short break in my Charles Dickens marathon.

A blog is not a one-way street – so why not let me hear your ideas

Hello readers everywhere, and it does appear I have readers not just all over the country, but around the world as well.

I do intend to get at least one post up every day, even though I did fail yesterday but hopefully I can catch up with two today or tomorrow.

As you know I have been covering a variety of subjects ranging from my life, to my work, reviewing books I have read and even family history.

I hope to expand but would really appreciate hearing from you, my readers.

You can make comments on any of the posts but maybe you have questions as well as telling me your opinions.

In particular you might be interested in family history and if I can help or advise you there it would be my pleasure.

Or maybe you have your own family history tales to tell.

I would be delighted to hear from you all.

Best wishes from Robin.

Quick trip to pick up gas lands my faithful Moggie back in the garage

We still had a few dates down South before heading North up the M1.

As I said I had picked up my Moggie Minor from Harry’s place on a trip West and just felt happy to have it with me.

One Thursday Harry asked me to collect some gas canisters which we used in the water sequence. He told me to get some petrol in my car and he would reimburse me.

The depot for the canisters was in Romford, a town I knew about but had never visited. Little did I know that in the future this Essex town would play an important part in the next stage of my life.

I found the depot easily enough and I was soon heading back to the venue – then my car broke down. I can’t remember what it was but it was certainly not a five-minute repair. This was a time when I could have done with my mate Roger to lend me a hand.

I was on the edge of Colchester and I called the AA who turned up very quickly. The AA man said he would have to give me a tow to a nearby garage where I could arrange for repairs.

At the garage I was told the job would take a few days and as we were heading North at the weekend I had to ask them if they would do the work but then garage the car until I could get back to pick it up.

It was a wrench leaving her behind so soon after getting her back.

I called the theatre to tell Harry what had happened and he said I should get a taxi from Colchester to the theatre and he would deal with the payment when we got there.

By good luck the garage also ran a taxi service and as the theatre was about half an hour away I got there just in time to get the canisters backstage and then head out front to man the merchandise stall.

It was fortunate that I was wearing my stage gear, black shirt, trousers, boots etc. as I would have had no time to change.

Normally I would have done a full sound check and also made sure everything was in the right place in the wings to make sure scene changes and the UV sequence ran smoothly and quickly.

Because of the mishap with the car I had not been able to carry out my normal checks but we had everything running so efficiently by this stage of the tour that there were no further problems that day.

NEXT TIME: Heading North for the last days of our tour

Final form in a set which takes you from the cradle to the grave

The third, and final, certificate that applies to all people in the UK is the one issued after their death.

The area above the main part of the certificate indicates the year of death, the registration district in which the death occurred, the sub-district and the county, in this case Norfolk.

The main body of the certificate offers a range of information which can be checked against other sources to ensure you are tracking the right family member.

BOX ONE

This details the full date of death and full address of the deceased.

BOX TWO

The full name of the deceased. This again is information which can be checked off against other information. In this case the first and last names correspond with other information but the middle name has the same initial as a previous certificate but here it is Vyrnwy whereas a previous certificate listed the name as Vernon.

BOX THREE

provides the information regarding sex of the deceased.

BOX FOUR

This reveals the age of the deceased and is something which can be checked off against other information including the known/ date of birth.

BOX FIVE

This is another important piece of information which can be used to check against other sources – occupation of the deceased. In this case it can be compared to the occupation listed form the same name in other sources and in this case confirms we have the right person, a minister of religion in the Presbyterian Church of Wales (retired) which corresponds with the information provided on his son’s marriage certificate.

BOX SIX

The cause of death can reveal a good deal of information. As well as the actual cause of death this may also include the letters P.M. which indicates that a post mortem examination was made. This is not normally the case in death from a long-term illness, especially if the deceased was seen not long before death. It might be carried out if there are indication that death might have been from a different cause. The name and qualification of either the family doctor or the person who carried out the PM will also be included.

BOX SEVEN

Identifies the informant including their address. In many cases this will tend to be a relation and can be very useful again in identifying the correct family. In this case, however, the informant was clearly the senior person at an institution, probably a hospital, in which the death had occurred.

BOX EIGHT

Gives the date on which the death was registered. Normally this occurs on the day of death or within a day or two. If there is a long gap between the date of death and the date of registration it might be worth investigating.

BOX NINE

This is simply the name of the registrar who has noted the details.

The three certificates which track your life and death might appear very basic and lacking in information, but they are important in confirming details of the person whose lineage you are tracing.

An error early in the research could end up with you tracing a family who have no connection with your root person and could be very costly.

Tracing ancestry can be fun but you must remember to check every detail and then check it again.

Which came first – the chicken or the egg; the tv series or the book?

I have just finished reading one of the best crime drama series, with more than a hint of humour, I have ever read and I have taken Holmes, Poirot, Morse and more into account.

In this case, however, I was introduced to the sleuth and his sidekicks via the medium of television. Having read crime mystery books since I was about 10 years old, often long before they were portrayed, I found that in half of the books I read I had pinpointed the guilty person half-way through the book.

Not so with Agatha Christie’s stories on first reading and not so with the series of books I have just finished reading – the Italian-based police crime series about Inspector Montalbano by Andrea Camilleri, translated into English by Stephen Sartarelli.

The TV series was in Italian with English subtitles but after a while the mind took in the translations in the subtitles without conscious effort and allowed the viewer to concentrate on the plot and the action.

I say plot but the television tales appeared to jump from one part of the story to another with nothing to explain the changes that came into the storyline. It also seemed as though it was being played for laughs.

A regular character in all the books is a uniformed member of Montalbano’s team who really appeared to have been included for laughs. He was telephonist and desk officer and used to burst into the inspector’s office with a slamming of doors against walls as he often fell flat on his face.

In the early days just watching the tv series I gained the impression that Alberto Rosso, who played officer Catarella, must have been a well-known Italian comic or comic actor who played the role as one of the characters he might have used in stage shows etc. Similar in a way to George Formby or Norman Wisdom who always seemed to be the same character no matter the plot.

My assumption could not have been further from the truth.

After we had seen a few of the Montalbano series I decided I would like to read the books to compare them to the onscreen portrayals.

We were still under the Covid lockdown which prevented me going to a bookshop so I went online and actually found a seven-volume set of Montalbano books at a cheaper price than buying them individually so, in for a penny in for a pound, I placed my order.

The Shape of Water, first in the Montalbano series, was a real eye-opener.

Apart from the inspector in the book having a good head of hair, on the television the character could have been played by Yul Brynner or Telly Savalas, he was as bald as a billiard ball, he was almost the same as his portrayal in the book except that here his character was fleshed out as we enter his mind as he tries to solve his cases; or we join him at his favourite restaurant where there were great varieties of seafood for him to enjoy before he walked down to the harbour and stared out to sea as he considered how to find the latest killer.

This is why the tv series seemed to jump about so much. It would be almost impossible to portray these mind conversations where Montalbano often played two sides of himself, or the dreams he has which are so vivid that initially you think the inspector is actually involved in these actions in rfeal life.

The other eye-opener was the first introduction to Catarella as he bursts through the doors to Montalbano’s office, smashing one of them with a thunderous bang against the wall as he almost falls flat on his face in front of the inspector’s desk.

Rather than the actor putting his own portrayal to the character he is actually portraying the character directly as the author had written it.

In fact his speech reflects the character himself as he faithfully informs Montalbano that “the Commissioner is poissonally on the line and wants to talk to you poissonally in poisson.”

He is what we might call a country bumpkin but Camilleri refers to as a provincial. He comes from a village in the mountains and his version of Italian is a dialect which the inspector often finds difficult to understand.

Montalbano appears to have taken a shine to Catarella and puts up with his strange ways because the officer is a good man with a good heart.

A few books into the series the police station in Vigata, where Montalbano is based, has a computer installed and, despite having doubts, the inspector decides to send Catarella on the computer induction course and discovers that, although the man is clearly a couple of shiny buttons short of a uniform jacket, he has a natural affinity with computers and becomes an invaluable member of Montalbano’s team.

As well as sundry police officers and detectives Montalbano’s real team boils down to himself, his deputy Augello, who is a womaniser and remains so after getting married and becoming a father, a young detective called Fazio, with a penchant for noting down far more information than his boss can handle, and, of course, the faithful Catarella.

In recent times I have read nearly all of the two separate series of Anne Cleeves’ two amazingly different police detectives, Vera and Jimmy Perez , as well as the many crime novels of Val MacDermid and can honestly say thast when it comes to characterization and plot Camilleri is very much their equal and at times can leave them both behind.

I had bought the rest of the 30 books in the series and I did find one thing strange about the final Montalbano book, Riccardino, which I completed today.

About halfway through Camilleri suddenly introduces a new character, the Author, who we discover has been putting Montalbano’s stories into book form which has led to a tv series about – you guessed it – Inspector Montalbano.

This character calls Montalbano at odd points in the investigation and suggests a different line the inspector could take, or suggests he has been in error in suspecting one person rather than the other.

In fact in a fax to Montalbano the Author actually outlines the way he feels the story should end and the inspector realises that he and his “biographer” are no longer singing from the same hymn sheet and it is time for him to leave the scene.

I do seriously suggest you introduce yourself to Inspector Salvatore Montalbano. It doesn’t really matter whether you read the books first or watch the tv series, they complement each other.

Getting hitched provides plenty of clues for a family historian

As I said earlier there are three main legal certificates which you will find useful when it comes to researching your family: birth certificate; marriage certificate; and death certificate.

In my time as a young reporter we used to refer to births, marriages and deaths as: hatch, match, and despatch.

We have covered the birth certificate and the information it provides now we will move on to the marriage certificate.

The marriage certificate not only names the two people getting married but also gives their addresses, ages, occupations, father’s names and occupation of fathers. This gives a lot of information to cross check with other certificates, ensuring you have the right certificate for the family you are following.

Across the top you will find the year of the marriage and the place, ie. the church or register office, where it took place.

The box on the extreme left is a purely archival reference so we will start with the next box as:

BOX ONE

This is the full date of the marriage.

BOX TWO

This provides the full name of the bridegroom and the bride.

BOX THREE

This gives the ages of the couple getting married and can be an early indication as to whether or not you have the right couple. If the ages don’t match what you already know, for example if the couple are boith aged in their thirties yet you know one is a teenager you might need ti doiuble check the details.

BOX FOUR

Defines the marital status of the couple. In this case naither have been married before. If one or other has been married but is now divorced this will be indicated, or if the partner of one or the other is dead it would be marked as widower or widow.

BOX FIVE

This is where the occupations of the couple will be noted. Bearing in mind the date of the marriage it is not surprising that the bridegroom is in the armed forces, in this case as a member of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

BOX SIX

This gives you the residence of bridegroom and bride at the time of marriage. Sometimes this might have the same address for both but this does not necessarily mean they were cohabiting. It might just be a bed and breakfast property where the couple stayed, separately, or at such a time as the outbreak of war, the bridegroom might have been on a very brief leave of absence and might have stayed overnight in the home of the bride’s parents.

BOX SEVEN

This is where you will find the names of the fathers of the couple. Again this can be a major identifier as to the family links. A middle name for a father, for instance. In this case Edward has a middle name beginning with V (Vernon). As it happens this is a mistake on this particular certificate as the registrar in this case misheard the Welsh name Vyrnwy and wrote Vernon instead.

The name Vyrnwy appears on all other documentation.

BOX EIGHT

The last numbered box gives the rank or profession of the two fathers.

In this case the groom’s father is listed as an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, an important reference during further research.

The bride’s father is listed as a lance corporal in the National Defence Corps. This immediately tells you the person served in the British Army during World War One, as this was the criteria for being called up.

Finally the information on the lower part of the form offers further clues.

First, bride and bridegroom both signed the register showing they had a reasonable education in that they could write. Even early in the 20th century one, or even both, of the couple might just have made their marks.

Finally there are names of witnesses. In this case two of the witnesses are close friends of the couple, whose names and photographs are referred to in later documentation.

The third witness was the father of the bridegroom.

Look Ma – top of the world, well actually it’s a West End theatre

In the middle of the tour we had what was almost an easy date when we played a London theatre for a two-week “season” either side of Christmas. In fact we did get two days off together, which was more than we had ever had.

We were actually in the West End at the May Fair Theatre, which had been built using a former ballroom area and taking in rooms on the next floor to create a tower for flying drapes etc.

The theatre (pictured) was only built in 1963 and The Sooty Show was one of the early shows booked in after a long run of Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author.

This year was the tenth season Harry had played The May Fair and it was also the last but that’s another story;

It was owned at the time by the Grand Metropolitan Hotel Group and as it happened I had actually dined at the May Fair Hotel. It was one of the places we visited when I was on a press trip hosted by the the Grand Met group and British Rail. We may have dined there but they didn’t put us up there for the weekend.

Once we were in we knew we would not have to strip the sets out and load the Sooty van for another two weeks and that would be in a New Year.

It was a lovely little theatre, in fact it was not much bigger than the Little Theatre in Rhyl. It had 310 seats (I think the Rhyl Little Theatre has 250 seats), the seats could be moved as could parts of the stage to create different styles such as apron, in the round etc.

As it was Christmas time we did two shows a day and three on Saturdays and played to full houses for the whole fortnight. The Christmas Eve second show ended about six and we had just enough time to clear the set ready for Boxing Day afternoon before I dashed off to catch a train to Basildon.

That’s right, Basildon.

My Muse had invited me to have Christmas Day with her and their girls.

I could never have got to North Wales and back before noon on Boxing Day so would probably have spent that time in the caravan behind the May Fair Hotel.

We had been having what really amounted to an old fashioned courtship by letter and it had been going well, but it still had a way to go.

It was a calming interlude.

We were now in the New Year and headed back West for a few dates and I managed to get a lift back to Harry’s place so that I could pick up my car. I needed to get it then because the last few dates would be up North and once I finished with Harry I would need to have my own transport.

As it happened things did not work out that easily.

That is another story, however.