Category Archives: Social life

lady gaggia

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – May 2021)

Hawkins Wine Bar.

Having spent a good deal of my teens frequenting pubs around West Birmingham during the mid 1970s, it seemed perfectly natural to progress to working in them. My ambitions were to go on the stage but a girl has to make a living, right?

As soon as I left school in 1978, and with no particular place to go, I headed for an interview with a new wine bar that had just opened in the city centre – very upmarket!   Harpers occupied a large corner site near the police station and Accident and Emergency Hospital, so I figured I’d be safe walking late at night to catch the bus from outside the ‘Back of Rackham’s’.

(Rackham’s was an elegant department store occupying a whole city block on Corporation Street in Birmingham. Rumours abounded that ladies of a certain type frequented the pavements outside the back door and Mom always warned me against hanging around there.   I walked many times around the ‘Back of Rackham’s’ as I grew up and never once saw anything improper going on, much to my dismay.)

With Mom’s advice to ‘look smart and mind my manners’ ringing in my ears, I borrowed her fashionable black and white dog-tooth checked suit (shortening the skirt, obviously); teaming it with my white leather cowgirl boots, white cotton lace gloves and an antique parasol.

With the audacity of youth, I strutted into Harpers one sunny October afternoon and stopped in my tracks to gaze in wonder at the fabulous fixtures and fittings. The long mahogany bar was backed by a reclaimed church façade and bevelled mirrors, which reflected the light from the enormous curved, windows. I felt very grown up.

(Opposite: Harpers interior – now Sound Bar.)

Assistant Manager Tristan must have noticed me gawping and bounded over, shook my hand and ushered me to a table. He had a big Zapata moustache and an equally big, bright smile. 

“Hello Darling, you must be Andrea?” 

“Yes thanks, I am.” (Going well so far) 

“So, you’ve come about the position as bar maid and waitress?” 

“Yes thanks, I have.” 

“Have you had any previous experience?” 

“No, but I learn fast!” 

Tristan flashed his brilliant smile at me, touching my arm lightly: 

“I love your outfit darling – especially the parasol! Wonderful!” 

“Thanks!” 

“So, when can you start?” 

“Right now.” (Mom had said I should appear ‘keen’.) 

“OK darling, I’ll just have to introduce you to the manager.

Tristan trotted away to find said manager; a tall man with a weak handshake which worried me slightly as Dad had always warned me of men with a “limp” hand shake.  (“Honey, you know where you stand with a firm grip.”)

“This is Andrea –  isn’t she gorgeous? She can start right away and she’s a fast learner.” 

“I bet she is,” said the manager as he looked me up and down.  My interview was apparently over and I was asked to start work the next morning at 7:30 am  to   serve continental style breakfast and coffee from eight. I was put to work on the food counter, serving cold meats and cheese, croissants and pastries and the infamous Gaggia espresso machine. This great red and chrome beast occupied the whole length of the food bar, with its hot water spouts, coffee grinders and stacks of white cups and saucers. 

Getting to grips with the Beast, as it became known, wasn’t easy – it was all in the wrist action. Customers would stand behind the counter and watch as the other girls and I twisted and twirled the mighty coffee grinders and polished the spouts in time to the music; steam hissing into the steel milk jugs. We could pull quite a crowd. 

Having to start work so early meant I was often the first person there with the cleaners, one of whom was spooked by rumours that Harpers was haunted. There were stories that the bar stools had been found one morning stacked on top of each other – just like the kitchen chairs in Poltergeist! The lamps behind the bar moved and footsteps could be heard running up from the basement kitchen, where people had died during WW2 as they sheltered from the bombing.  I hoped against hope to see a ghost but never did – but the old building certainly had an odd atmosphere.

Andrea in 1978 … and in standard issue Hawkins beige cords.

Reports of hauntings didn’t put punters off, as solicitors from the Law Courts next door poured into Harpers for their ‘working lunches’.  I worked the mighty Beast in beige cord jeans so tight I had to lie down and zip them up using a coat hanger.  I was voted ‘Gaggia Girl 1979’ – my claim to fame!

As I worked the bar one evening, Andy Gray, – the Villa footballer – came in and asked the other girls and me if we would like to come over to his new night club? I had to think about that for, oh, maybe two seconds. Imagine, the girl from Virginia who didn’t know what the Villa was, now being asked to come check out a night club owned by a Villa player!  Ha – what would the lads at the God Awful school think now? 

The nightclub was the most fantastic, exotic place I had ever been! Like a dark cave, it went back and back through a series of rooms beneath the railway arches at Snow Hill station. It became a new romantic club in the early ’80s with live bands such as Roxy Music and Duran Duran, but when it opened in ’79 it pumped out disco. TheHarpers staff became regulars after our shift ended; strutting our stuff fired up on Pernod and coke, great music and youth. I crawled home at 2am to sleep it off, get up at five and do it all over again

Back at Harpers the buzz was always at fever pitch as we worked to the heady disco beat on a Bose Sound System:  ‘Le Freak’’, ‘Ladies Night’, ‘Instant Replay’, ‘You Make Me Feel, Mighty Real’ beneath the huge mirror balls and innovative laser shows. I loved every minute. 

It was in this heady atmosphere, that I first met George Melly when he was booked to play a gig at Harpers with John Chiltern and his Feet Warmers. I was asked to go down into the staff room to serve drinks to the band and was introduced to Mr. Melly, who was sitting with his large frame overextending the rather small chair; resplendent in a snappy pinstriped suit with wide lapels and a large snap brimmed fedora hat.  He smiled his languid smile and said something like:   

“So, my dear, how kind of you to bring old George a drink.” 

As the lights in the bar dimmed to a spotlight, Mr. Melly sashed onto the floor with a wicked gleam in his eye and a whisky in his hand as he belted out Bessie Smith’s ‘Kitchen Man,’ which was rich with lewd innuendo.

I became a big fan, following his gigs from London’s Ronnie Scotts to the Malvern Theatre, where he had to stop the show and tell the be-jewelled, staid audience to clap on the off-beat: “This is Jazz!” he growled.

 I saw George Melly several more times, including an appearance he made on BBC Pebble Mill’s ‘Six Fifty-five Special’ – a surreal experience.  I was invited to meet him in the Green Room, where he sat in his trade mark Zoot suit and snap brim Fedora before he went on air. Whether he remembered me or not is doubtful, but he spoke to me as though I was his best friend:

“Hello my dear, how kind of you to come to see old George.” He still twinkled.

With him was Kenneth Williams, who was staring up the nostrils of  70s actor and singer David Soul, giving him an impromptu lesson on how to speak with an English accent:

“Enunciate, dear boy, e-nun-ciate.”

I had just witnessed a Master Class.

Before I left Harpers, we had a New Year’s Eve fancy dress party with a ‘Glamorous Hollywood’ theme. All staff were expected to do a ‘turn’ and having recently had my permed hair cut into a short crop, I went along dressed as Liza Minnelli as ‘Sally Bowles’ from “Cabaret” in bowler hat, black waistcoat, fishnets and towering stiletto’s.  Grabbing a bar stool, I did my best, although I couldn’t for the life of me bend backwards over that stool! My brother Dale tagged along wearing a full suit of armour. Unable to sit down, he stood all evening with cigarette smoke curling through the grid on his visor. 

Liza Minnelli as Andrea … no, wait …??

The drag acts were outstanding that evening, including ‘Fred and Ginger’ who thrilled us with their rendition of ‘Cheek to Cheek’ and ‘Rita Hayworth’ slinking across the floor to ‘Put the Blame on Mame’. We danced until dawn, seeing in 1979 in considerable style and with heavy hangovers!

Oh to be eighteen again!

(Copyright: Andrea Burn May 1st 2021)

Last Night a DJ Saved My Life

Paul Fitzpatrick: London April 2021

If you’d told me 45 years ago that a DJ could be worth $300 million, I’d have said ‘away and boil your heid’.

But it stacks up when you learn that Calvin Harris can charge up to $400k per show… which will probably rule him out of spinning the discs at any 21st’s up The Muscular Arms this weekend.  

Not bad for a former shelf-stacker from Dumfries.

Like most of us, my introduction to DJ’s was via TOTP.
That first generation of Radio One DJ’s all looked like accountants trying a bit too hard to be trendy, apart from Jimmy Saville who always looked, well…. weird.

My favourite Radio One DJ in the early 70s was Johnnie Walker.

Walker famously got sacked by Radio One for calling The Bay City Rollers “Musical Garbage” at the height of their popularity (RIP – Les), he had a laid-back delivery and a great taste in music.

Johnnie Walker presenting his show on BBC Radio 1 in January 1975

He was the guy who championed the 1975 Fleetwood Mac album when everyone else had written them off, and his show is where I first heard Rhiannon as well as nuggets from Steely Dan and Little Feat that no one else was playing at that time.

Moving into the mid 70s I started to get into Soul & Funk which you could only hear in clubs back then until a London DJ called Robbie Vincent came along with his weekly Soul show on Radio One.
It was perfectly timed, early evening on a Saturday night as you were getting ready to go out, and would get you in the mood for the evening ahead.

The only other DJ’s we had contact with in our youth were the mobile variety at various youth club & school discos…. a bit like Ray Von and his ‘wheels of steel’ from Phoenix Nights…

When our crowd started going up to clubs in Glasgow we went to the aptly named Clouds, (atop The Apollo) later to become Satellite City.

Tiger Tim was the DJ most Friday nights and the whacky son-of-a-gun used to dress up as a teddy-boy… or a frog!
It was 1974 and he had just started at Radio Clyde with his… ‘The Aff its Heid Show’…. (ok I get the frog suit now!) and was fast becoming a local celebrity.

Up the toon c.1975

Going to Clouds …. walking round that amphitheatre of a dance floor (always anti-clockwise for some reason), and then avoiding the turf-war, gang fights at George Square where we had to wait to catch the last bus home, was a Friday night ritual for a while.

Thinking about the music, Tiger Tim had a pretty eclectic taste, he would play a bit of disco, a bit of chart stuff and then throw in curveballs from the 50’s like Dion’s – The Wanderer or Clarence (Frogman) Henry’s – I don’t know why I Love You But I Do… probably to support his Teddy Boy persona..

A new city centre club opened in competition to Clouds in 1974, called Shuffles which we went to a few times for a change of scene.

The highlight was when the legendary Emperor Rosko of Radio Luxembourg fame, rocked up with his roadshow… resplendent in chest-wig, medallion and of course armed with his trusty catchphrase…. ‘Have Mercy’

Bizarrely, Clouds and Shuffles were both unlicensed despite the fact you had to be 18 to gain entry.

As we got a bit more sophisticated and progressed to licensed premises, Craig Davis was a name that cropped up a lot.
‘Craigy Baby’ was the flamboyant DJ at the Burnbrae Hotel on a Sunday night, he also had a residency at the Normandy Hotel in Renfrew on a Thursday night and he was a regular at Maestros in Glasgow.

Craig may have been a superfly DJ by night but by day he worked for film distributors, helping cinemas to schedule their movies for the coming weeks.

I got to know Craig through a friend of my Dad’s and he was always good enough to get me movie posters if I asked for them, I remember he turned up once with a poster for an obscure Peter Fonda movie called Futureworld that he knew I liked (the follow up to Westworld)…. I wish I’d kept a few of those posters now.

Craig famously got pulled over and breathalysed by the police one evening after a festive period gig and was staggered to learn that he was over the limit as he was completely tea-total, and never drank.

Despite his protestations he got huckled and the officers took him back to the station for another test, which was borderline…. whereupon a befuddled Craig remembered that he’d scoffed a box of chocolate liqueurs during the course of the evening that a fan had gifted him.

Fortunately for Craig the police bought his story and released him without charge.

The next day, the bold Craig was plastered all over the Evening Times telling his story… his big cheery smile pictured next to a box of cherry liqueurs.

There were some other great DJ’s back in the day like Gary Moore and his crew at The Rooster and City Limits, and that’s where you’d first hear the soul/funk imports from the US, long before they got into the UK charts.

DJ’s of course, always got a lot of attention, and maybe like musicians some of them got into it to improve their chances of meeting the opposite sex.

The Argentinian dudes Joe Hunter and I saw DJ’ing at a club in Calella, near Barcelona in 1975 were certainly a case in point….

There was 3 of them and to be fair they looked like Latin gods… all over six-foot, perfect physiques and long flowing hair straight out of a L’Oréal shampoo commercial.

In fact, when I saw Mario Kempes play for Argentina in the 78 World Cup a few years later, I was sure he was one of the DJ’s…


It didn’t take long for us to work out why there were 3 of them – they would each take turns on the decks so that the other two could be freed up to strut around and meet their adoring public…

Not only did these guys look the part, they were also brilliant dancers and to top it off they were great DJ’s as well… (I hated the b*stards!).

I remember one of them always played a killer 3-song sequence of….
Sex Machine by James Brown, Trampled Underfoot by Led Zeppelin and Disco Stomp by Hamilton Bohannon… which brought the house down every night….

I always liked DJ’s like Gerry Kennedy, brother of my good mate Joe Kennedy from Clydebank who knew his stuff and just played great music with no fuss.
Gerry was the resident DJ at the Boulevard Hotel in Clydebank (the Bouli) on a Sunday night, a regular haunt for myself and buddies… Joe Hunter, Joe Kennedy, Billy Smith and Marty Roberts.

Getting ready to go up the Bouli with wee Billy Smith

Gerry wasn’t interested in being the centre of attention he just wanted to keep everyone up on the dance floor, and his splendid finale of three great moonies was always the perfect way to finish the evening…

Three times a lady
How deep is your love
Always and forever


Well it worked for me anyway… that’s how I met my wife Margo, in July 1978!

Some 70s tunes on the playlist below that remind me of those days….

my 1970s teen-angst diary (part 2)

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – April 2021)

Revisit Part 1 of ‘My 1970s Teen Angst Diary’ here.

INTRODUCTION RE-CAP

First crush, unrequited love, friendships, breaking-up, making-up, chicken in the brick, going to the flicks, grey tights, the disco, ponies, clogs, orchestra practice, sexism, a court case and Col’s wooden ‘Andie Block’…it was all going on in 1974!

In those far off pre-digital days of my youth – the 1970s – there were no bloggers, no tweeters, no Instagram or Facebook opportunities to express or comment on whatever thought popped into our heads. And wasn’t it great! The notion that other people might be remotely interested in our inner thoughts was alien; I grew up hearing that old chestnut, “you know what thought did,” even though I had no idea what it meant.

On my ninth birthday in 1969, my mother gave me a five year diary; encouraging me to “keep all my secrets” within this little blue leather book with a lock and key; as she had done in her youth. I kept it sporadically.  It is only in the past two years that I have begun writing a journal once more and it is considerably less entertaining than my teenage diary!

June 2nd, 1974

 “Saw a film called ‘300 Spartans.” Hollywood, violins,  corny but quite good. For lunch, cooked chicken in brick with garlic, also potatoes, peas, fruit salad, milk, gravy & dry cake. Yum!

 Went to Col’s to see rabbits. We just missed DARRYL SMITH! Col was in a towel as he was getting ready for a bath. Couldn’t see rabbits. Went for a walk round the block with Zoo.”

 June 13th, 1974

 “Didn’t go to orchestra practice. I’ll get Mom to write a note. I might (well, probably will) have to testify about accident which Julie and John had (fight). Help! I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God!

Went to piano lesson. Playing Fur Elise. NOT going to disco Saturday night as sold out of tickets. Going to TOP RANK Saturday morning.”

NB: I had witnessed a school fight between Julie and John, which had begun as a flirtatious game but ended with Julie falling down stairs and knocking out a tooth. Her mother reported it to the police and it ended up in the Juvenile Court. My testament prevented John from being sent to Borstal.

June 17th, 1974

“At school today Kim said that Pamela had told her that Darryl Smith had told her to tell Kim that he HATES ME!  (Boo Hoo.) I don’t know why, except that he thinks I’m dependent on him, so at next disco I’m going to dance with other boys (not that I’ve ever danced with Darryl, though I’d love to!!). This might make him see that I don’t need him, so he might like me again. I HOPE SO!! 

Still, as my pals say, “there are more fish in the sea,” though I still like Darryl as much as before.

Saw TV programme on SLEEP – very interesting.”

June 20th, 1974

“Nothing much went on today. Got pen friends, I will write to a few more.  It is EXTREEMLY hot today & tonight!! So hot, I might not use sheets!!

I have just heard a cat scream. Zoo is in heat. Made fudge – turned out like caramel – very nice!

 Julie’s mum doesn’t want her to come to m y house again. She said “you know who your pals are in these cases.” GOOD NIGHT!

June 22nd, 1974

 “Went to Halesowen to Sainsbury’s with Mom and Dad. Dad got sick ’cause they went to a party night before. Gave Shaz a birthday present – Elton John, ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.” Went to disco tonight. Alright but a lot of kids there about 17 – some about 15. They stuck pins in you. Spent night at Shaz’s house.” (WTF – STUCK PINS IN YOU?)

July 16th, 1974

 “Tonight went to Carnival (in the States, a Fun Fair is called a Carnival) in Shenley (near Bartley Green Reservoir). Went on ‘WALTZER JOY-BOUNCE’, ‘SCRAMBLER’, & ‘ROCKETS’. 2nd time on WALTZER man spun me, Shaz & Becky round so I was nearly sick, skirt went back, couldn’t move or lean forward.  ROCKET handle moved up or down but ours didn’t work so we were up in the air all the time – I screamed & held on to Shaz. Scrambler man said to Shaz that I had white knickers on. When we went by him he patted Shaz’s knee. Went on stalls. Shaz won a furry toy on stick.”

July 17th, 1974  

“Had Summer Fair at school tonight. Ii did Pony Rides with Georgina & Jean. Georgina brought their  ponies, FELLA & JUPITER. I think we raised around £5.00. Georgina gave me 20p for my ‘hard work’ (cough cough!) I went in my jodhpurs & riding boots & several boys laughed at me. I got a coke & as I picked it up, I spilled Mr. Gupta’s (History teacher) coffee right in front of Mrs. Carter.” (Head Teacher) Oh well. Went to Georgina’s for an hour. Got home about 10.00pm.”

Andrea, aged 14, on one of her favourite ponies.

July 18th, 1974

“Last day of school this year! GREAT!  I’ll be 4th Year next year! Help! Tonight I am at Becky’s. We have just had an omelette. (Yum!) Tomorrow we are going to town early then going skating.  That should be funny! I’ll write about that tomorrow!

There are some Spanish girls at school. One of them did hand-stands at break on playground & 2 did piggy-backs. They are popular with the boys here. One boy said, “ Can I tickle your fancy?”  She didn’t know what it meant.

 Sang ‘School’s Out’  (Alice Cooper) as we walked home!”

(Copyright: Andrea Burn 11th April, 2021)

my 1970s teen-angst diary (Part 1)

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – April 2021)

First crush, unrequited love, friendships, breaking-up, making-up, chicken in the brick, going to the flicks, grey tights, the disco, ponies, clogs, orchestra practice, sexism, a court case and Col’s wooden ‘Andie Block’…it was all going on in 1974!

In those far off pre-digital days of my youth – the 1970s – there were no bloggers, no tweeters, no Instagram or Facebook opportunities to express or comment on whatever thought popped into our heads. And wasn’t it great! The notion that other people might be remotely interested in our inner thoughts was alien; I grew up hearing that old chestnut, “you know what thought did,” even though I had no idea what it meant.

On my ninth birthday in 1969, my mother gave me a five year diary; encouraging me to “keep all my secrets” within this little blue leather book with a lock and key; as she had done in her youth. I kept it sporadically.  It is only in the past two years that I have begun writing a journal once more and it is considerably less entertaining than my teenage diary!

Andrea’s teenage diary.

For context, when I was fourteen in 1974, there was a local boy called Colin (Col) who had a big crush on me me but I only had eyes for Darryl Smith (he of the David Essex eyes and dimple). Col kept a polished piece of wood in his pocket (don’t!!) with my nickname Andie crudely carved into it, which he called his ‘Andie Block.” I would often peer through the net curtains to see him on the corner of our road, fondling the block in his pocket or giving it a quick polish while waiting for me to come out and look his way. I rarely did. His best mate Gaz tried his luck with Shaz but it was a non-starter.

And as for this #Metoo generation; it was a wholly different world we inhabited in the 70s.  Sexism was rampant and objectifying girls and women was par for the course. I had some near scrapes throughout my teens.  If I could have a word with my fourteen year old self, it would be this:

1) Don’t be in a hurry to grow up.

2) Beware of men in cars who curb crawl and don’t speak to them.

3) Don’t walk home at night on your own or with a girl friend – ask for
Dad to pick you up. .

4) Don’t fret over piano exams – you’ll never be that good anyway  

So for those of you who were teenagers in the 70s, here are a few excerpts from May/June/July 1974…  

     May 3rd, 1974

    “Zoo has worms,but I think she’ll be alright.”

     May 7th, 1974

“Tonight Col and Gaz rang me up. They wanted to know whether I was going to pack Col up tonight & to stop beating around the bush. They wanted a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. I said I liked Col very much as a friend & I didn’t want to lose his friendship or hurt his feelings (for they thought I was saying I liked Col so as not to hurt his feelings.)

I said I didn’t want to go out with a boy  till I was 15 so he’d have to wait, he said he would. I said I would forget about Darryl Smith & Kev (I still like Darryl Smith). Gaz wants to take Shaz to the flicks. She doesn’t like him much but I think she might ,so as not to hurt his feelings.  Gaz is paying for her at the disco, Col isn’t paying for me as I’m not his girlfriend any more.”

     May 8th, 1974

“Today I had the day off school because of the Teacher’s Union strike thing. Julie, Shaz & I went to town. At 12 noon, we met Mom at Rackham’s (department store) to look for a dress pattern for me. I was quite fussy with Mom & I’m very sorry I was. We got a very nice pattern. Shaz got a black velvet (well, like velvet) jacket from a boutique called 2007, it cost about £11.30 or so. PHEW!! I got a SPANISH PHRASE BOOK, ruler, rubber, patractor (original spelling), drawing paper, 2 ‘Win a Pony’ Entry Forms (W. H. Smith’s), food (3 macaroons, apple juice, candy & a sausage roll.) I want a halter top which is just over £1. (about £1.50 from Dorothy Perkins). It’s blue.”

2007 Boutique in Birmingham City Centre, 1970s.

      May 11th, 1974

In the Piano Festival, I got 75 marks.  The winner got 86. He said I should have used the left peddle. I can’t read his writing very well to see what else he said.  I went to town with Julie – also I got a white & pink flowered sleeveless top with pink ribbons. It looks great without a bra. I also got some big black beads – 45p from the market, eyelashes that were 12p reduced from 75p, and eyeliner for 15p. The top was £1.25.

Gaz and Col phoned to say they will collect the disco money tomorrow. I have just watched a film about a lady and Charles 2nd (more about the lady). It looked the real Hollywood type, a bit corny, but overall really good.”

PS: The makeup was from Roscoe’s, near Oasis Market.

May 13th, 1974

“Today I got a chain letter from Joyce Pegg.  I’ve got to copy it out 6 times & send to 6 different friends or cousins. Within 20 days I should get 300 postcards from all over the world I hope so!

We also had orchestra after school. We mainly practised Trumpet Vol., Tartan Polka and El Tanquillo. We are going to play them sometime in assembly.”

      May 14th, 1974

“Today at school, Col, Gaz, Jonesy & co. got Shaz’s ball & wouldn’t give it back at break or dinner. Shaz etc. said they won’t pay for disco money if they don’t get the ball back – I think we made Mrs. Calder cry. Head Master came in class.

I went to Col’s to see 2 week old (6 of ’em) rabbits. They are white little balls of fluff. I’d love one, but Mom said NO!!” 

     May, 16th, 1974

“Today I wore the dress Mom made for  me: flowered print, low square neck, puff sleeves, black beads, clogs (blue denim), grey tights.

Tonight, Denise (next door) had a birthday party. I saw several boys go in – they looked nice. I put my ear to the wall to listen.

Saw a Humphrey Bogart film – very good!  Saw M*A*S*H – very funny!

It is now 11:55pm. GOOD NIGHT. (We had a small thunder storm today. Well, small by U.S.A. Standards, fairly large by English standards.)

     May 17th, 1974

“Tonight I had a piano lesson at 8.20pm. I’m not going to play ‘Flood Time’ until I learn the scales concerned, I’m going to play ‘Fur Elise’. In November I have Grade 3 piano. HELP!!”

   May 18th, 1974

“Tonight Shaz & I went to see ‘Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid.’ It was FAB!! We saw another one too with Raquel (Welch), ‘The Virginian and Ryker.’ It was sad at the end.!!

We walked from the A.B.C. to town and then had to get a bus to Shaz’s. The buses only come about every ½ hour or 1 hour or so. A car came up & 2 men said, “Can you tell us the way?” Shaz said “Where to?” He said, “To Quinton for 2 females who want a lift.” Shaz said, “No thank you.” I looked the other way. Another van nearly pulled up. A car with 2 men pulled up & backed up a bit and shouted, “Hay you!” (or something). After a bit it went. There were drunks and all sorts.”

(… to be continued.)

(Copyright: Andrea Burn April 11th 2021) 

Five Past Kennedy near The Houses of The Holy!

Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow, April 2021

When it was announced in late 1974 that Led Zeppelin were going to play Earls Court, London in May 75 my great friend Peter Milligan and I vowed to get there any way we could!

We had already seen them perform a stunning gig in Glasgow but Earls Court would be at another level!

Peter decided he would ask his Dad to borrow the work’s van, a two seater Ford Transit, and drive the 800 mile round trip!

He had passed his driving test in the previous Spring but had never driven further than Loch Lomond! (I hadn’t yet learned to drive).

Our tickets were for Sunday 25th, the last night of the tour, but we decided to leave on Friday evening to have two full days to explore all the delights that London had to offer two 17 year olds. 
(‘I’ve been to London, seen Seven Wonders’ – The Rover by Led Zeppelin)

We cleaned out the joinery tools from the back of the van, put in a mattress, 2 sleeping bags, pillows, bags of food and drink and enough clothes to last us till Monday.

We set off around 7pm.

Our excitement was already reaching fever pitch.

The van only had a basic radio and it was my job to search for rock songs to suit our journey…not an easy task in 1975 with Donny, ABBA and Bay City Rollers dominating the dire Radio1 playlist!

We stopped at services to eat and use the facilities.

Around 11.30pm we decided to get off the M6 and park up for the night. I spotted a sign for Knutsford (the name appealed to our teenage sense of humour!) so we drove into the middle of an affluent housing estate not far from Manchester to stop-over for the night.

The next morning we set off bright and early onto a very foggy dual carriageway heading back to the M6.
We had travelled about half a mile when I realised I could only see the reverse side of the road signs!
That’s because….we were on the wrong side of the road!! 
Planes, Trains and Automobiles!!

Luckily it was quiet and there was no other traffic about so Peter got off at the next ‘ON’ ramp and crossed over to the correct side of the road!

We got to London in about 3 hours without further incident.

Amazingly without the use of SatNav (not commercially available for another 20 years) Peter drove straight to the designated hotel’s underground  car park in Kensington.

Once parked up we got the tube into central London and headed for Carnaby Street and Soho.

Distracted by our own adventure I had completely forgotten that Scotland were playing England that same day at Wembley in the Home International’s.

Yes it was the infamous ‘What’s the time?
It’s 5 Past Kennedy!’
5-1 defeat to the Auld Enemy.


The city was full of Scots fans in varying degrees of tartan and sobriety.

Beer was on average 18p per pint but we heard of some London bars charging up to a £1.00!

That was probably just an outrageous rumour but whatever the price it was certainly no barrier to yer average Scot!
The streets and bars cleared around 1pm as they all headed to Wembley and we continued to explore.

That evening after Scotland’s 5-1 thrashing you’d have actually thought that they had won!
The city centre was once again invaded by thousands of tartan clad fans. However most of the bars and restaurants were barring Scots from entering.

Tempers became frayed which led to outbreaks of violence and vandalism.

Mark & Peter (in the shades)

None of this impacted on Peter and I as we had changed into smart shirts and suits and easily gained entry to the pubs and clubs.
We were taking it easy though because at last we were nearing the prime reason for our pilgrimage…..The Mighty Led Zeppelin gig at Earls Court.

The next day we made our way to the venue around 4pm and went into the large pub across the road.

It was already busy with a sea of long hair, denim, leather.

My brother Paul and his friend Gerry had tickets for the gig too and had travelled down by train, they were already in the pub….not that much of a coincidence I suppose as nearly every Zep fan in London was in that pub!

The concert itself was just incredible! From the opening drum intro of ‘Rock and Roll’ everybody was on their feet!

Earls Court 1975 – Rock and Roll and Bonzo’s intro

Song after song and solo after solo, amazed and delighted the fanatical 20,000 strong audience. 

Robert Plant’s soaring vocals and commanding stage presence, John Bonham’s incomparable drumming, John Paul Jones’s mesmeric keyboard patterns and pounding bass and of course the Maestro himself, Jimmy Page with his incredible, intricate guitar playing and glorious riffs!

They played 16 songs, most of them extended 10-15 minute versions to increasingly ecstatic applause!

The crowd were hearing songs from the band’s most recent album, Physical Graffiti, played live for the first time including the majestic, awe inspiring Kashmir!

Earls Court 1975 – Kashmir

The three plus hours they were on stage seemed to pass in an instant.
Then they bowed and exited….but we knew they’d be back on as they hadn’t yet played the anthemic ‘Whole Lotta Love!’ 

After 5 minutes of thunderous applause and foot stomping they reappeared and played two songs including WLL.

Off they went again as the crowd screamed for more!
They did come back and I don’t even remember what they played for their third encore as the crowd threatened to blow the roof off. 

Then it was all over, the house lights were turned on and most of the crowd reluctantly headed for the exits.

Peter and I and hundreds of fans were actually out on the street when we heard Plant’s blood stirring vocal intro to ‘The Immigrant Song!’

Everybody turned and ran back in to the arena!

No Health & Safety in those days! 
Nobody tried to find a seat and we all just surged as close to the stage as you could possibly get!
After 15 minutes or so they left the stage for the final time!

They had played for over four superb, magical hours and everybody including the band was exhausted! 

Dazed and Confused you might say!

It has been said many times that going to a Led Zeppelin concert is akin to a deeply profound, religious experience but I fear that my lack of vocabulary prevents me from accurately describing the true essence of this phenomenal gig.

Truly they were/are The Hammer of The Gods!!

It was a wonderful experience and still to this day the greatest gig I have 
ever attended.

And nobody ever mentioned that awful football game ever again!…..well apart from the media, pundits, punters, fans etc

Anyone interested in reliving the 220 minutes of magic can watch it here

Blackpool (owes the charmer under me)

Paul Fitzpatrick: London, April 2021


There’s always been something about Blackpool…. a bit like the Kelvin Hall or The University Café, or more recently BJ’s Beach Bar in the Algarve… it’s been a ‘happy place’ of mine.

My earliest memories of the Lancashire Riviera are a mixture of great memories and trauma, however.

My first visit was in the summer of 1963, I was 5 years old and perhaps the only reason I remember anything about my inaugural trip is because of one incident that has stayed with me ever since.


Cliff Richard was mega then, even as a 5 year old I’d already seen one of his movies – Summer Holiday, dragged along to the La Scala in Sauchiehall St, to see it by my Mum & Dad.

What wasn’t there to like about Cliff – he was clean cut, he could sing, he seemed like a nice guy, he could reverse park a double decker bus and navigate it all the way to Athens, whilst singing and dancing, and not a single hair out of place!

We’d got tickets to see his summer show at the ABC in Blackpool during our stay in 1963.
I don’t remember too much about the performance, just a communal feeling of excitement, and a collective sense of awe that we were all in the presence of this matinee idol.

What I do remember is that at some point during the performance I needed to go to the loo and being a big boy, I was happy to do this on my own….. plus Mum was transfixed by the Bachelor Boy and Dad by the scantily clad dancers.

It was all going well until I made a wrong turn and exited a fire escape door into an enclosed courtyard rather than heading back into the auditorium.

The fire door slammed shut behind me and I was locked out of the theatre with no means of getting back in OR getting out of the enclosed courtyard, I remember shouting for my Dad in vain and it felt like I was there for hours but he was clearly oblivious to the empty seat beside him…. having too good a time.
My Mum I could forgive; it was Cliff for god sake, but my Dad was in big trouble…

HANGING OUT WITH MY MUM IN 1963

Indignation quickly turned to panic, and I remember thinking I would be stuck there on my own forever before a nice lady who lived in one of the flats overlooking the courtyard intervened. Telling me from her 3rd floor balcony, not to worry and that everything would be okay.

Eventually, my Dad tore himself away from the can-can girls, and by tracking my steps, figured out my rookie error.

He thought the whole episode was hilarious, I thought it was extremely poor parenting!

Cut forward a couple of years to our next visit and the big summer show was Morecambe & Wise; I can’t profess to being a fan as a 7-year-old, but I do remember the guy with the glasses was funny.

By age 7, I was dazzled by the bright lights and the goodies on display at Blackpool, there were toys and treats everywhere.
I had also discovered the Pleasure Beach and wanted to go on all the rides, particularly the Waltzers which remained a big favourite, but once again it was a traumatic experience that holds my memories.

On the last day of the holiday, we were due to go to the Pleasure Beach for a last hurrah before heading up the road and I was so excited to be going on all the rides again.

I can’t remember what I was doing (or thinking!) exactly, but at some point before breakfast I got one of my Dad’s lead fishing weights lodged up my nose and presumably swallowed it, as it disappeared when I sniffed, instead of blowing my nose as instructed.

This resulted in a quick exit from Blackpool and a dash back to Glasgow to visit our doctor in Stonedyke, who for those of you who remember, used to be on the corner of Spey Rd & Canniesburn Rd, opposite the shops.

Why we couldn’t have gone to a local hospital in Blackpool (via the Pleasure Beach!) I don’t know, but I do remember a long, tense, silent journey back to Glasgow, feeling both sheepish yet sorry for myself.

I’m guessing the lead content of the fishing weight is what would have caused the panic, but the Doc said there was nothing to worry about and the lead weight would pop out in my next poop, pretty promptly.

Two trips to Blackpool, two traumas.

I can’t remember how many times we returned to Blackpool before I went back there again in 1974 with my mates.

I do recall seeing the brilliant Tommy Cooper one summer c.1968 but there was no associated trauma to remember the trip by, hence the lack of any further recall about the visit.

Fast forward to July 1974 and my pals had just came back from a Glasgow Fair spent in Blackpool regaling tales of high jinks and romance.

One of the lads even had a penpal from Preston now, and he had a letter and present waiting for him at home on his return…..

The Three Degrees – When Will I See You Again, ahhhh.

I had been unable to go with them in July because of a family holiday but I couldn’t wait for the next 8 weeks to fly by so that I could get to this Mecca of fun for the fabled ‘September Weekend’ break.

We set off from Buchanan St bus station at midnight, which looking back seems strange as Blackpool is only 3 hours by car from Glasgow, but for whatever reason it took us 8 hours to get there.

The bus had been organised by Clouds Disco (later to become the Apollo) and there was a party atmosphere on the bus as most of us knew each other, or at least recognised the faces.

On arrival, we made the rookie mistake of hitting Jenks Bar as soon as it opened.

Day time drinking was a new concept to me, but alcohol was probably the last thing I needed, I was already as high as a kite on adrenaline and buzzing with anticipation for the weekend to come.

We were hammered by early afternoon and that first day became a bit of a blur if I’m honest, culminating in some very strange headwear choices and photographs.

Most of us had turned 16 in the summer of 74 so getting into pubs and clubs wasn’t something we took for granted but there seemed to be no barriers in Blackpool as well as a wealth of choice.

Our preferred venue as it was for a lot of Glaswegians was Mama & Papa Jenks, a big sprawling pub with waitress service…. so you didn’t even have to take the risk of going to the bar to get served.
Jenks had three levels, a bar at ground level, a nightclub above it, and a gay bar in the basement.
The set-up was marvellous but a bit of a shock to the system, particularly when you were used to sneaking into traditional working man’s pubs & saloons in Glasgow and hiding in the corner.

The nightclub at Jenks was pretty good if you wanted to spend the whole evening on-site but we found a great little Soul club nearby with a brilliant DJ that just nailed the music.

To be fair there were a lot of great soul artists/records in the charts at that time – George McCrae, Barry White, Don Covay, Johnny Bristol, The Tymes, The Commodores and The Hues Corporation, etc.
The DJ was playing all that stuff plus a load of imports and remixes we had never heard before.

Learning from our first day we paced ourselves over the rest of the trip, spending time on the Pleasure Beach and leaving the pubs till the evening.

I know Blackpool may not have the best image, but we were having a ball and when it came time to contemplate leaving, a few of the lads said they wanted to stay on… as it transpired some did through no choice of their own.

It seemed half of Glasgow was in Blackpool that weekend which contributed towards a great atmosphere, but the place wasn’t without its tensions.

Come the last night, we were in Jenks having a farewell drink and killing time before catching the bus home, and a massive fight broke out, between the Possil boys and the Calton boys…. and when I say massive, I mean chairs, tables, glasses, bottles, the lot.
The fight spilled outside onto the street like one of those bar room brawls you see in Westerns and it wasn’t long before the police weighed in.

A lad we knew, Hughie Kinnaird, was sharp enough to spot the trouble early-doors and encouraged a few of us to follow him and get out of Dodge before it escalated.
We managed to catch the bus back to Glasgow with minutes to spare but a few of our group got caught up in the rammy and ended up spending an extra couple of days in Blackpool… by necessity rather than design.
The return journey home was a bit more sombre than the party-bus we’d arrived on, but it still took 8 hours!

Another Blackpool trip another drama…

I’ve been back to Blackpool several times since 1974 for fleeting visits but mainly to watch my brother Barry compete in dancing competitions and represent Scotland at the Tower Ballroom in the late 70s and early 80s.

The last time I was there was about 20 years ago when I was up in the North West from London for a meeting in Manchester and persuaded a colleague to stay in Blackpool during the Blackpool Illuminations.

He’d never been or wanted to go to Blackpool, so I was excited to introduce him to the delights of my favourite English coastal town and to change his perception of the place, but it was a losing battle…. the place looked tired and run down and the bright lights didn’t seem so bright anymore.

I’ve not been back since then, and I’m not sure I ever will now.

I think I’d prefer to remember the old place the way it was….. bright, lively, invigorating and full of drama…..



beer sans skittles

Russ Stewart: London April 2021

“All right, brain. You don’t like me and I don’t like you, but let’s just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.”

The last pint I had in a pub was last autumn, as a member of the Twickenham Scotch Egg Appreciation Society.

It was a Birra Moretti, cost £5 and was about 5% alcohol. 
Contrast that with a mid seventies pint of Tennants, which cost 20p and was about 3.2% alcohol.

The UK average salary in 1975 was around £3,000 per annum… about 15,000 pints. 
The UK average salary in 2020 was around £38,000, which equates to about 7,600 pints. 

So, in the 70s as we shivered in our single glazed homes, took holidays on chilly Scottish shingle beaches wearing Harris tweed bathing suits, at least we could stupefy ourselves on cheap beer.

Unfortunately, at 3.2% alcohol it took at least a gallon of beer to attain a state where we thought we were witty and interesting. 

In those days beer marketing was focussed on the 6 pint “session” drinker.  
He was a chap in his early 20s who went to the pub with three mates, each buying two rounds.  

I worked as a systems analyst for Courage beer and they launched the “follow the bear” marketing for Hofmeister lager, probably the most recognisable session beer at the time. 


On the other hand, Tennants had the picture can strategy for the take home, carry-out market. 

The reverse of the tin featured a local beauty, typically Miss Rothesay 1962, sporting a West Palm Beach helmet hairstyle, with the intent of prompting your subconscious to increase your thirst. 
Personally a packet of salted peanuts worked better for me.

The Burnbrae in Bearsden was my local then and McEwen’s lager was my preference. 

The Allander was an alternative, and it served Tennants. 
That pub was a temple to Formica.
It was brightly lit and cunningly utilised light wavelength to expertly highlight the plooks on underage drinkers, of which there were many. 

Our other local – The Talbot Arms in Milngavie served Ushers.
It had a lounge bar and the beer was 1p a pint more, due to its lavishly appointed furniture and fittings. 
It attracted a slightly more discerning type of Milngavie Ned.


Pernod and blackcurrant tempted the jaded palates of some session drinkers.

Not for me… however it did contribute to a more fragrant and colourful type of vomit from the over-refreshed. 

Back to the 2020s….
Nowadays I rarely have more than two or three pints a session. 
The beer is too strong, perhaps it’s the impact of the marketing communications, that warn us of “irresponsible” drinking.  

In contrast to the Hofmeister Bear the messaging today is very aspirational.  


Guinness have focused on these ridiculous philosophical adverts, worthy of Eric Cantona at his most confused (I loved the existentialism embedded in his karate kicking of an errant fan). 

I was business systems manager for Guinness for a while and the story goes that they had specially trained rats that scoffed the spent yeast from the pipes in the Dublin brewery. 

Come to think of it, that would be a great commercial. 
The only problem is, that I’m not 100% sure of the veracity of that story, truth or urban myth?

If true, then life really is all ‘beer and skittles’, for some…

I’ll leave you with this beer related thought…..
“There is an ancient Celtic axiom that says ‘Good people drink good beer.’
Which is true, then as now.
Just look around you in any public barroom and you will quickly see: Bad people drink bad beer.
Think about it.”
Hunter S. Thompson

The Castle, the Gypsy and the Fire Dance

Mark Arbuckle: Glasgow 2021

Now this might sound like an unwritten Harry Potter novel but with apologies to Ms. Rowling these events are true and took place a decade or so before she conjured up the young wizard.

Names have been withheld to protect our idiocy!

It all began on a cold but bright Sunday morning in March 1974. A group of around a dozen teenagers, including myself, gathered at the Radnor Hotel on Kilbowie Road, Clydebank to begin our quest to the mythical Mugdock Castle.
We were all suitably dressed for our adventure….

Flared Jeans (more on them later) T-shirts, Denim Jackets and the obligatory Baseball Boots (Basies) or Gola Trainers.
All perfect for the 8°C weather!

The girls had been tasked with supplying the food and the guys with procuring whatever alcohol that they could get their underage hands on. One clever chap (I or C) also brought his battery powered cassette player and a selection of classic 70’s rock music….Purple, Yes, ELP and the mighty Zep

Hoisting our duffle bags we set off and quickly decided that if we were going to hitchhike it would be best if we split up into twos or threes.
We reached Kilbowie roundabout and already a few lucky couples had managed to get a lift. The rest of us continued to walk towards Hardgate and onwards to Milngavie.

MK and I finally got a lift from a lorry driver, who, obviously concerned for our safety, put his large left arm around both of us! 
I risked a glance at MK’s face and she was as shocked as I was!
Thankfully it was a short journey and he dropped us off half a mile from the Mugdock Park entrance. 

The first thing we saw, apart from trees, was an ornately painted Gypsy caravan close to a narrow stream. The resident wasn’t around but it was easy to imagine an old, grey haired, shawl wearing, woman with a stunningly beautiful daughter remarkably similar to Cher singing Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves…..well easy for me to imagine this scene….not too sure about MK who was probably still thinking about our over friendly lorry driver!

SHE WAS BORN IN THE WAGON OF A TRAVELLING SHOW….

We reached the Castle in about 20 minutes.
Remember this was 1974, long before Mugdock had a visitor centre, gift shop or cafe. 
Most of our merry gang were already setting up camp at the derelict castle, swapping stories about their individual hitchhiking journeys.

A couple of the guys had brought fishing lines, presumably to catch their supper in the lake adjacent to the Castle.

However there was one little problem ….the lake was frozen solid!
The fishing line weights merely hit the ice and skidded 10 yards away.

Undaunted by this setback, large stones were launched onto the ice which eventually created a couple of holes. Now the only problem was aiming the fishing line weights at said holes!
After several attempts our ‘would be’ Captain Birdseye’s gave up completely.

Couples were exploring the darker recesses of the castle, which are sadly closed to the public nowadays…. probably just as well!
The music was on, a good fire was lit and everybody was enjoying a drink, a sandwich, or a sausage roll.

MUGDOCK CASTLE

The temperature had dropped and the fire was kept going with bits of wood, twigs and leaves and, to howls of derision, a quarter bottle of vodka!

My great friend Peter (who is sadly no longer with us )  moved closer to the fire, enjoying it’s warmth. Suddenly he leapt to his feet screaming and kicking his legs in the air in a demented dance around the flames!
The rest of us laughed, hooted and clapped at his crazy antics.
He then shocked everybody by kicking his basies off and dragged his jeans down!…. 

MY ORIGINAL FLARES

Now the fashion at the time was to take an ordinary pair of jeans and open the side seams 15″ from the ankles and then plead with your mum to sew in a triangular piece of coloured cloth (mine was yellow) thus making them flared and fashionable. 

Dancing Peter had done this himself, but instead of sewing he had stapled the insert to the denim!
When he sat too close to the fire the staples had melted into his skin causing his mad Fire Dance!

It was now getting dark and had also started to snow.
Peter for one, was grateful, rubbing handfuls of the stuff onto his burnt flesh.
We packed up ready to head home, but for some unknown reason instead of heading back the way we had come, towards Cher’s Gypsy caravan, we started to walk in the opposite direction??

The snow was getting very heavy now, which actually helped us to see as there was no other light and of course nobody had brought a torch!

MUGDOCK IN THE DARK OR IS IT A BLACK SABBATH ALBUM SLEEVE?

We were making decent progress when the gradient suddenly slanted downward causing 3 or 4 people to slip and fall in the snow.

One poor guy (MG) got back up only to fall again over a small ‘hillock’ which bleated in surprise and moved off followed by a few of it’s woolly friends! 

We continued slip- slidin’ away on this downward slope for about half an hour until we entered thick woodland. We could now see streetlights about a mile ahead so had no option but to head for them.

We eventually emerged onto a farm track with houses about 500 yards ahead. Everybody was muddy, shivering and scratched from branches and brambles in the wood. A few of the girls had started to cry (probably guys too) and everybody was cold, hungry and miserable.

I was ‘volunteered’ to go to the first house to ask where we were.
A woman answered and was shocked at my disheveled appearance before politely telling me ‘You’re in Milngavie son’.
I pointed to the sad huddle of my companions and asked if there was a chip shop nearby and to our delight she said there was, just a few hundred yards from her house.

This news lifted our spirits and we trudged off to find it.
Cobbling our money together we had enough to buy three fish suppers to share….. they were ravenously devoured!

I had also ensured that I kept back enough change to use in the phone-box next to the chippy.

I phoned my Dad who voicing a combination of anger and relief agreed to take myself and three more of our motley crew home.
Two others followed suit and got family members to come to their rescue.

I don’t remember much about what followed as nobody really talked about it at school the next week.
I think we all realised how daft we’d been and how fortunate we were that nobody had got hypothermia or been badly injured on the journey home.

We were all a bit sheepish….

Especially MG – who still claims that he ‘fell over’ that one, on that snow covered hillside!

joe jordan ate my rice pudding

Alan Fairley: Edinburgh, March 2021

Black tie dinners – doncha just love them?

From the gilt edged invite to the expense of hiring an outfit from Moss Bros and the humiliation of having your inside leg measurement taken by an over eager tailor followed by the uncomfortable fitting of the winged collar and the black bow tie….. all in the interest of appearing ‘dapper’ (whatever that is) – to the event itself where you sit alongside similarly dressed individuals, all of whom would no doubt have been happier to have come along in their trackies rather than being dressed like penguins.
It’s a ritual in the business world which has been in force for centuries and which, gladly for Moss Bros and their competitors, shows no signs of abating.

During my years in the financial services industry, I attended such an event, and followed the aforementioned ritual, every twelve months.

The occurrence took place when one of my clients hosted its annual charity dinner and auction to raise funds for a Leeds based charity which endeavoured to fulfil the last wishes of Yorkshire children with terminal illnesses.

Such wishes, which were almost always fulfilled, ranged from trips to Disneyland, personal meetings with sports/TV stars or even something less spectacular such as an X-Box which the stricken child’s parents could not afford.

A kind of Jim’ll fix it without the Jim – although we’ll leave that subject untouched for now.

So, off I would head to the banqueting suite at Elland Road, home of Leeds United, every year, bow tie at the ready, to host a table of corporate guests (including at least one B-list celebrity), listen to some equally B-List speakers then watch as the auction would raise, quite literally, thousands of pounds for this very worthy cause.

As such I was in the fortunate position of meeting a number of celebs a few samples of whom are as follows.

Jimmy Greaves and Denis Law
Greavsie, with his TV experience, was a real funny character. Some great stories including the famous one about the Scottish football radio commentator who asked a colleague to confirm the name of a scorer for Italy in a game at Hampden then announced over the airwaves that Fucktivano had opened the scoring. (think about it!)

I’ve no recollection of Denis Law’s speech. I was too much in awe of him and just to be in the same room as him was a privilege for me.
I got them to pose for a Polaroid afterwards – although as you can see Greavsie was getting a bit too friendly with my missus who was working at the event as a table hostess.

Denis was staying at the same hotel as me so we shared a taxi back – he hails from Aberdeen, so needless to say, I paid!

Bobby Collins
Another Scottish football legend, Bobby played for Morton, Celtic and Leeds and was capped 31 times for Scotland
During the dinner there was a game of stand up, sit down bingo where all guests were asked to donate £20 pounds to the charity. Bobby leaned over to me and said ‘you couldnae lend me 20 pounds could ye pal, I’m skint.’
As they say, you can take the boy out of Glasgow….. you know the rest.


Neil & Christine Hamilton
The Hamiltons were high profile in the late 1990s/early 2000s initially when Neil Hamilton, a conservative MP, was embroiled in the well publicised  ‘cash for questions’ affair.
This was followed by some lurid allegations regarding the couple of sexual misconduct which were subsequently disproved.

They agreed to take part in a question and answer session at the dinner one year and the tone was set when the first question came from an elderly Yorkshireman who stood up and hilariously asked-
“I’ve been a bit lonely since my wife passed away, any chance of a threesome tonight?”
Above the ensuing laughter, Mrs Hamilton replied with a definite ‘No, next question please.

THE HAMILTONS

Paul Daniels
I was staying at the same hotel as the magician and his wife, Debbie, and was asked by the organisers of the dinner to organise a taxi to take them to the venue. Ive never been a huge fan of his, a feeling which was magnified when I introduced myself in the hotel lobby and received a snarled response of ‘so what?’
He did however redeem himself to some extent in my eyes with a rather amusing one-liner when he invited a rather portly gentleman on to the stage during his magic show. ‘What line of work are you in?’ he asked of him ‘Waste management’ was the reply Staring at the man’s expansive midriff he quipped ‘you’re not making a very good job of it, are you?


Debbie, by contrast was a lovely lady – polite, courteous and overwhelmingly grateful when I arranged their transport to the dinner. As has often been said – ‘what could possibly have attracted her to multi millionaire Paul Daniels?’

Jack Charlton
Without sounding sanctimoniously self-righteous I always tried to do my bit personally for the charity at these events. I have collected football programmes all my life and had (and still have) a vast collection going back almost 70 years.
Every year that I attended the dinner I would choose a programme relating to one of the guests, get them to sign it and place it in the auction. The results were greater than I could have imagined. I got Denis Law and Leeds legend Peter Lorimer (rest in peace, Peter) to sign the programmes from their international debuts and they were auctioned for 350 and 700 pounds respectively.

When I heard one year that Jack Charlton was going to be in attendance I dug out the programme from his England debut  (v Scotland 1965), approached him at the top table and asked if he would sign it and place it in the auction.
“No problem’ he said and I returned to my table confident that a programme signed by a former Leeds captain and England World Cup winner would raise a significant sum for the charity.
The auction came and went and there was no mention of the programme.

When the dinner finished I watched Charlton pick up the programme, stick it in his pocket and head off home.
To say I was greatly disappointed in Charlton’s behaviour that particular night is an understatement.

Other than those mentioned Ive met many interesting people at this event including Sir Ranulph Fiennes who ran seven marathons in seven days for charity and who narrowly lost out to Roger Moore in the casting for the part of James Bond, the Cheeky Girls, who let me in on their intimate secret as to how anyone could tell them apart, Nick Leeson who infamously brought Barings Bank crashing to the ground and Roger de Courcey with Nookie bear who brought the house down with some very adult, post-watershed, humour.

Gabriela & Monica or is it Monica & Gabriela??

But now, ladies and gentlemen, to the main event of the evening.

Joe Jordan
With the event being held at Elland Road, there was always a healthy attendance of great Leeds United figures, past and present.
As well as the aforementioned Lorimer, Collins and Charlton, I was privileged to rub shoulders with the likes of John Charles, Allan Clarke, Terry Yorath and Arthur Graham but my anticipation levels rose significantly when I found out that my table guest one year was to be none other than Joe Jordan, a true Scottish legend.

We sat beside each other during the dinner, exchanging memories throughout the starter and the main course and when the dessert was served, the waitress planked down two large plates of rice pudding in front of us.
I’ve always hated rice pudding. I don’t know why. Maybe I had a bad experience at school dinners with one but its almost been like a gastronomic phobia for me.

Joe, clearly harboured no such fears and demolished his portion the way he used to demolish opposing defences. He then saw my untouched plate and uttered the immortal words “are you no wanting that, pal?”
I shook my head and watched as he hauled my plate in front of him and scoffed every last morsel.

To summarise my black tie dinner experiences, I’ve shared a taxi with one of my personal heroes Denis Law, I’ve been tapped for twenty quid by another Scottish international footballer, I’ve been snarled at by Paul Daniels, I (and the charity) have been shafted by Jack Charlton and I’ve learned how to differentiate between the Cheeky Girls but the highlight of them all, and my claim to fame is, without doubt…..

‘JOE JORDAN ATE MY RICE PUDDING. ‘

the dating game

(Post by Andrea Grace Burn of East Yorkshire – February 2021)

Prologue…

Bewitched.

As a kid in 1960s America, I grew up on a diet of  TV sitcoms and game shows that portrayed wholesome American family values: My Three Sons, Leave it to Beaver, Bewitched, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I love Lucy, The Dating Game and even the Addams Family,  My mother stayed at home to raise me and my brothers and  my teacher Dad would come through the front door at the end of the day in his trade mark trilby and trench coat with his pipe in hand:  “Hi Honey, I’m home!” Think ‘Pleasantville’.

 I never questioned that I would one day date a handsome, wholesome boy. We’d go for a soda-pop and a hot dog after a baseball game, get engaged and get married.  That’s how it worked, right? The first I heard of  Women’s Lib was in the summer of ’69 when my older cousin ventured outside her house without wearing a bra; causing our grandmother to have a conniption fit and haul her back inside for a lecture.  That was the end of THAT! Where we grew up, women weren’t decent unless they wore at very least a full Playtex Cross-Your-Heart bra, under-slip, pantihose and a girdle. I had a training bra at the age of ten, which amounted to no more than two triangles of cotton fabric on an elastic band. But I still had one. My best friend Catherine even had a training girdle but Mom put her foot down:

“That will squish your ovaries honey.”

I didn’t know what or where my ovaries were at ten years old!

**********
A Match Made, not in Heaven…but in Edgbaston

After we had moved to Birmingham, West Midlands in 1970, my mother – being a Southern Belle of ‘good stock’ – wasted no time in seeking out the ‘right sort of people’ in her eagerness to make ‘good connections.’ Not easy on the border of the Black Country. After seeing the skulking lads from the church hall disco at my fifteenth birthday party, she took matters into her own hands to get me on the right track to finding a suitably wholesome date – preferably a rich one.

My parents met a couple called the Handcocks from Edgbaston (“good area honey”) at a dinner party. Dad was impressed:

“Mr. Handcock works in Engineering. He’s a ‘self-made’ man – yesiree-bob.” (Parents seems to put great store by this.) 

The Handcocks had a son called Douglas who was shorter than me. Great. Douglas was no oil painting either and I know, I know – beauty lies within – but when you have raging hormones and your bedroom walls are festooned with pull-out posters of your favourite heartthrobs from Jackie Magazine: David Cassidy, Marc Bolan and David Essex –  I hoped at least for a dazzling smile and dimple. Jeeze – even the lads at the church hall disco had an element of cheeky charm tucked up their Ben Sherman shirts sleeves. Worst still, Douglas wanted to become an accountant.  I mean, who actually wanted to be an accountant? I thought he was deadly dull. I hoped for a boyfriend with a tad of charisma.

Mrs. Handcock and my mother were in cahoots and arranged a date between me and Douglas. I  was apoplectic. He was awful – so B – O – RING! Mom came back swiftly at me with, 

“Just stick with him Honey; he might have nice friends.” 

That’s how her mind worked. Never mind that I couldn’t stand him; he was rich and lived in a detached house: STICK WITH HIM! 

I had three dates with Douglas – way beyond the line of duty. On our first date, he took me to a party  in a splendid, gothic house complete with sweeping staircase, stained glass windows  and grand, marble fireplaces.

Mom would have loved it and would have probably have tried to marry me off to the boy whose party we were attending. Mr. Handcock picked me up in his Bentley which went down well with my mother.

“Class will always out, honey.”

As soon as we stepped through the Minton tiled entrance hall, I ditched Douglas and made a bee- line for a tall, lanky, captivating boy who sported a navy capped-sleeve t-shirt, Levi’s and a fetching string of shell love beads around his Adam’s apple.  His floppy fringe hid brooding dark brown eyes. I hung around his neck as we slow danced to 10.C.C.’s ‘I’m Not in Love’. Poor Douglas didn’t stand a chance. In fact, I ignored him until his dad picked us up. We sat on the back seat of the Bentley in silence all the way to my front door.

“Goodnight, Mr. Handcock and thank you, Douglas – for a lovely evening!” 

God, I was cruel – but then, kids can be.

Despite my complete indifference towards Douglas he invited me – or rather, his mother invited me – to their house for dinner and to stay the night, so that she and Mr. Handcock could become better acquainted with me (in other words, ‘size me up’ as a suitable girlfriend for their only, darling son).My mother made me a new long flowery ‘frock’ like those in Laura Ashley, with a ruffle at the hem and big sleeves with a sash, which I hated. I looked like a Holly Hobby doll.

Impressing Mom with their obvious ‘good breeding’, Douglas and his father picked me up at seven-thirty sharp, one Saturday evening in 1975.  Douglas awkwardly thrust a bouquet of pink carnations in my hands.

“Here. These are for you.” I handed them to Mom who gushed like she was the schoolgirl:

 “Oh my, why Douglas you’re so thoughtful. Andrea  – what do you say? I’ll find a vase.”

I rolled my eyes and climbed into the back seat of the Bentley.

At dinner, I was seated between Douglas and his mother as I tackled the typical 1970s fare;  Honeydew melon with a cherry on top, Steak Diane followed by Black Forest Gateau and a cheese board.

The Handcocks enjoyed a bottle of Chianti in raffia.  Despite my acute embarrassment, I managed to mind my p’s and q’s and even to use the correct cutlery (well, I was born to be a Southern Belle) as I fielded questions from Mr and Mrs Handcock

 “Andrea , your mother tell us that you play the piano. You must play something for us after dinner.” (Oh shit! My hands would sweat and slide on the keys.)

“And where do you got to school Andrea? The God Awful School? I don’t believe we know that  one.”

As I flopped into bed in their luxurious guest room (Who had those? When my grandmother visited us from the States, she had to be farmed out to a family down the road because my brothers shared a room and I had the box room.) the thought fleetingly crossed my mind that if my mother’s hunch was right – I too could one day own a house with two bathrooms and four-ply towels.

For our third and final date, Douglas took me to see ‘Airport ’75’ at the movies, where I coughed throughout the entire film. A man seated behind me tapped my shoulder and offered me two Polo mints.

“Shur-up for fuck’s sake!”

 I gagged and coughed all the way up the gangway. Douglas did the decent thing and followed me, called his dad on a public payphone and never saw me again.

This didn’t stop our parents from meeting socially from time to time, but the penny had finally dropped.

My mother was right of course; I did meet some nice friends through Douglas… and I didn’t become an accountant’s wife!

(Copyright: Andrea Burn March 20th, 2021)