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OK on with the swinging...............
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SWINGING INTO SCHOOL: 3rd November 1950, I was ten years old. I remember very, very clearly something my Granddad said to me, yes him with the vinegar flavoured dandelion and burdock. He told me I was now in double figures so that meant I was grown up. Sixty years later and approaching triple figures what will I be then ? Granddad, have you got any thoughts on the matter ?
Double figures, ten years of age and at school. What did I learn at school. I can remember ever so clearly what I learned, I learned it was boring.
Aged ten I was attending Banners Gate County Primary School in The Royal Borough of Sutton Coldfield. Every morning I walked to school, no such thing as the school run back then. God gave kids legs to walk with, end of problem. No Mummy holding my hand, no Mummies holding any hands of their kids on the way to school. Dads ? They were at work.
There were school dinners for the unfortunate few but I walked home to dinner which my Mum cooked ready for me. Yes, mid-day meals were cooked, they were not lunches but dinners.
Walk back to school for an afternoon of boredom then walk home again.
That backwards and forwarding would have been around two and a half miles a day. Add it all up and I had more than seven miles of exercise built every week into my boring education. No childhood obesity where I was concerned !
I have briefly touched on sexual inequality and will have more to swing through the sixties with later in the decade but right now we are still in 1960 and about to swing into 1961. Plenty of time yet.
The music teacher at Banners Gate County Primary School got her sexual inequality round the wrong way. She was an ageing specimen by the name of Mrs Egerton, I think she was probably there in person applauding Henry VIII when he composed Greensleeves. Teacher ? That word was not in her lexicon never mind understanding. She did not swing through the sixties, she didn't even waltz. At best she could fox trot with two left feet and a walking stick.
Mrs Egerton was sexist. Music was a subject for girls, not for macho boys. Evert week we lads had to sit at the back of the classroom while the girls learned to read music and play it on descant recorders. No doubt her interest in the recorder came from chatting with King Henry VIII at the time of Greensleeves.
I wanted to learn to read music. I wanted to play music. Christmas, I persuaded my Nan to buy me a descant recorder. I taught myself how to play and how to read music. At the first music lesson in the new term of 1961 I plonked myself down at the front of the class, refused to move and joined in. It was VR Day at banners gate County Primary School Victory recorder Day.
Other boys teased me saying I was a sissy but as the weeks went by more and more boys joined the revolution to make music a unisex subject.
Swinging into 1964, or it could have been 1965, I was then attending Boldmere High School for Boys, still in The Royal Borough of Sutton Coldefield where music was a cool and groovy subject in an otherwise boring timetable.
We were set a piece of homework to pick a hymn and write a new tune to it. I chose Songs of Praise The Angels Sang,
There were forty adolescent boys in that class. The music teacher, Mr Jones, picked out two swinging sixties alternative hymn tunes and gave them to the school headmaster. One was mine and the other composed by a friend Gordon Willis. The headmaster added them to the school assembly repertoire. I cringed and died every time he stood on the stage to announce: We will now sing hymn number whateveritwas to the tune Ashford. Please, please floor open up and swallow me.
Two hymns at the start of every school day, two hymns in assembly. We lads enjoyed singing in assembly because we loved singing but there was an ulterior motive. If we sand badly Mr Simson, the headmaster, would make us sing again to get it right. If he enjoyed singing then he would ask for us to sing again for his personal pleasure. Either way it extended assembly and shortened lesson one.
At the front of the school assembly hall was the hymn board on which each day the two hymns were listed. Hearts beat faster with excitement when Hymn 508 was shown.
It was said that only The Welsh and Boldmere High School For Boys in the Royal Borough of Sutton Coldfield could sing it properly.
Moving now to the swing years of 1966 and 1967 - WOW what years they were ! I was taught music by Mr D C Wild, wild my name and utterly crazy by nature. He taught me how to score read, he introduced me to Beethoven and to Mozart, he brought me to enjoy Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, Dvorak's New World Symphony and Grieg's peer Gynt Suite. He taught me to love classical music and I would swing my way and swing my baton as I conducted my record player.
Above all Mr D C Wild taught me to enjoy Gilbert and Sullivan. He was to conduct The Solihull Gilbert and Sullivan Society. He took we teenagers to watch performances of Trial By Jury and HMS Pinafore. I christened Gilbert and Sullivan Giggle Opera, a term I still use today.
Thank you Mr D C Wild. All those boring monochrome hours at school were worth the endurance for the 1960's vivid colour of music.
PAPERBACK WRITER: I write books, I write stories for my own enjoyment. There are Amazon millionaires but I will never be one. Something I would like to achieve with my writing is to be known as The Thinking Man's Enid Blyton, The clidrens' writer Enid Blyton was been and is still derided for being sexist, racist, middle class and for not writing stories which would stretch her child reader's imagination. I do not agree. She has inspired more children to write their own stories than any other writer. If here swinging through the 1960's inspires anyone of any age, just one person of any age to put pen to paper and write their own teenage memories I will be happy, very happy indeed.
Of course as a small child I would enjoy reading Enid's Noddy in Toyland but it was The Secret Seven rather than the Famous Five I found the most engaging. Although I would like to emulate Enid Blyton she was not my inspiration to become a writer. That inspiration came from The Beatles.
I went to an all boys secondary school, Boldmere High School For Boys. It was the girls who who hysterically screamed after the Fab Four. It was just not cool for boys to like The Beatles and their music. Teachers at Boldmere were ever quick to tell we teenagers that Paul McCartney had passed hid GCE A Levels, Had he ?
The Beatles released Paperback Writer in May 1966 from where it topped the chart.
I would sing the song myself and I dreamed I would become a paperback writer. I do not make any money from it but a paperback writer I am. This book, when finished, will be my twenty-third on my Amazon bookshelf.
I chose the name Craven Chesworth, how un-cool was that ! I started to write a story called Pen Roche. The unfinished manuscript was lost hundreds of years ago. Thank goodness.
My hero was Alistair MacLean who wrote the Guns of Navarone, Ice Station Zebra, Where Eagles Dare and more. I dreamed that I could emulate his writing and emulate his wealth.
The works of Alistair MacLean were not taught in school. Instead we read Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift, that did not do a lot for me. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, I liked that.
School plays at Boldmere included Macbeth by William Shakespeare, a deep tragic tale but lessons around the school play failed to scratch below the surface of the story.
A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt. Now that is a story and a half which certainly captured my teenage imagination.
The Happiest Days Of Your Life, a play by John Dighton where one wartime school is evacuated upon another. My school days, certainly not as a swinging sixties teenager, by any exaggeration happy.
The Winslow Boy by Terrance Rattigan . As a fifteen year old that truly did engage my mind. I decided in my wisdom that the Winslow Boy - George, was guilty and to this day I remain convinced of his guilt.
Ian Flemming wrote an average of two thousand words a day. My output varies from a couple of hundred words a day to in excess of three thousand. I think if people were buying my books then the income would urge me on to write every day and never less than three thousand words a day. Flemming, unlike me, was selling books in my youth like crazy.
On the timetable at Boldmere High School for Boys was a period called Library. It was taken by Mr Holborn. Supposedly it was designed to inspire we kids to read books. In one session Holborn held up a book from Ian Flemming and said: Flemming's books are not written to last. The character of James Bond is a flash in the pan. In just a few years time he will be forgotten.
Holborn shared his wisdom with we youngsters in 1962. I am now writing in the autumn of 2020, fifty-seven years later as a new James Bond film No Time To Die is about to be released.
When I was seventeen I discovered the writings of Dennis Wheatley, satanic horror within his unique and scary style. In a short time I read every word Wheatley had written including The Devil Rides Out, To The Devil A Daughter and The Ka of Giffard Hillary.
I have written books in many genre but never satanic horror. I have an idea for something I want to call The Devil uses Facebook. Nobody, thankfully, in the swinging sixties had ever heard of Facebook, instead we had lives ! I'll leave it there shall I.
What books did you read as a teenager ? Have I inspired you to revisit them ? I will be really pleased if I have.
Time to add another corner piece to our jigsaw. 3rd November 1961, my eleventh birthday, Helen Shapiro was at number one with Walking Back To Happiness.
Helen was only fifteen years of age and still at school when she had the hit. It was not her first hit. We lads loved her and wish we went to the same school she did.