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Reviewing the Reviews

After a longish period, with not much happening at all, the last week has been a particularly good time for reviews of my 'nostalgedy&#...

Friday, 27 January 2017

Caught Wrapping!


This month's Derby Telegraph article features some quirky old machinery and the sudden disappearance of a manager!


You can find it here on the Derby Telegraph website, but the content is below:

I absolutely love quirky old industrial buildings that have loads of nooks and crannies (or crooks and nannies, as the old joke goes), with stairways that sometimes lead nowhere and others that take you to places you had no idea even existed.  Old brewery buildings seem particularly prone to this.  Whether this is because they grew organically over the years, or whether brewery architects just had a weakness for maze-like interiors, I don't know.  Wesley's in Victoria Crescent, Burton, where I worked in the early 1970s, was exactly like this.  Hardly surprising given that it housed the Crescent Brewery up until the 1920s (a fact which passed me by, at the time, despite the legend 'CRESCENT BREWERY' being emblazoned across the top of the office building). Such were the twists and turns of the place that, in my first few months, I frequently got lost, wandering hopelessly on silent, dusty floors stacked with rolls of paper and not a soul in sight.

The part that impressed me most about Wesley's was the Printing Department, largely because it was such a wonderful mixture of ancient and modern technology.  At the time, Wesley's printed three types of wrapping paper (mostly Christmas).  These were surface print, flexographic and gravure. 
Surface print was the type of wrapping paper you probably remember if you grew up in the post-war era.  It was crinkly, slightly embossed, quite thin and felt cheap (a bit like me!)  I suppose that, at one time, it was the only wrapping paper that was available.  The printing machines for this had to be seen to be believed.  As the paper passed between the rollers to be printed and embossed, it was then taken up by things like huge coat-hangers which produced folds that must have been about twenty feet high.  Each fold was then carried slowly around a large U-shaped track in the ceiling (as if a giant was about to embark on some paper hanging) until the paper was dry and could be wound back on a reel.  There was a row of these machines, all generating these huge paper trails winding majestically around the room.  It was quite a sight.

Flexographic printing generated a smooth, high quality print, like the wrapping paper we use today and gravure was the very best quality.  Wesley's had just taken delivery of a new gravure printer, which was the department's pride and joy.  Not new, of course.  Wesley's was renowned for being 'careful' with its money and this machine had previously printed newspapers in Fleet Street.  It was by this legendary machine that I saw something that I found both hilarious and unbelievable, at the same time.

Mr. P., the Printing Department manager, was a small grey-haired gentleman of enormous energy.  He ran everywhere and seemed to be constantly in motion, even when standing still.  Arriving at the Department to collect the weekly production figures, I found him supervising the stacking of some printing paper by the gravure printer.  Rolls of paper, about 3 feet high, covered the floor as far as the eye could see.  Mr P. passed me a slip of paper with the figures on, but I noticed that something had been missed.  He said he would go and get it and, to my surprise, bounded onto the first of the reel and raced across the array, toward his office.  What he didn't know was that, for whatever reason, there was a roll missing in the middle of the formation.  I watched with horror as the rapidly diminishing figure of Mr. P. suddenly vanished altogether with a thud, then, after a few moments, bounced back on top and continued his race to the office.  Minutes later, he returned by the same route, carefully avoiding the gap this time, and solemnly handed me the missing figure.  Neither he nor I mentioned his fall, and no-one would have been any the wiser, other than a certain dustiness about his jacket and a slight disarray of his hair.


Mr. P's active life style must have suited him as, the last I heard, he was well over 100 and still enjoying a daily walk.  For me, however, he will always be a diminutive figure suddenly vanishing amidst a sea of paper.


Monday, 16 January 2017

The Unwrapping of the Anti-Present


A year or two ago, I wrote a Christmas story which featured an Anti-Santa (or, at least someone who pretended that was what they were).  You can find it here, if you're interested.  Writing about an Anti-Santa made me wonder if there was anything else of a negative nature tucked away in the festive season, which made me consider the role of the Anti-Present.

Just to clarify, this doesn't mean being against the here and now.  Nor is it a poorly spelled version of 'Anti-President' (I'm certainly not getting into all of that, here).  What I'm getting at are those presents which are not fit for purpose.  Not just things you don't like or, for that matter, didn't want.  Those are just Non-Presents, like socks or allegedly humorous mugs.  No, what I'm talking about are gifts that you not only didn't want but which, because you're forced to use them out of a feeling of guilt and shame, actually make your life just that little bit worse than before.

For example (and you just knew there was going to be a 'for example', didn't you?) a few years ago, someone gave me a very nice, leather key holder.  This was a very kind thought.  It wasn't something I particularly needed, but it's the thought that counts and I decided to move my keys over from the perfectly serviceable key fob on which they had resided for years.  However, I then found that the act of actually using any of the keys, now that they are in the key case, is made difficult, if not impossible, by the presence of the key case.

This isn't the key case in question - I'm sure this one works perfectly well :-)


Logic would state that I ought to do the sensible thing and revert to the key fob, but I can't bring myself to do this.  It was a nice thought and it is a beautiful thing.  It just doesn't work!

So, it is an Anti-Present.  It's not that it is unwanted, it's the fact that, far from improving my world, it has made it ever so slightly worse (as opposed to what an Anti-President might do, as we may be about to find out).

Have you had an Anti-Present?

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Oh, Budgie!

Do you remember the 1960s TV Series, 'Budgie' starring Adam Faith and Iain Cuthbertson?  Probably not, I would guess, unless you (like me) are 'a certain age'.


My favourite character was definitely the Glaswegian uber-villain, Charlie Endell (Iain Cuthbertson) who had a wealth of sayings, the first being one of exasperation which is the title of this piece and another being "There are two things I don't like in this world, Budgie...and you're both of them"  One of my more pointless claims to fame is that I can do a passable Charlie Endell impression.  As you can imagine, there isn't really a great deal of call for this.

This phrase ('There are two things...") made a welcome return from my long-term memory when I was considering what to write today, because there are two things I dislike on television at the moment, and, in time-honoured 'grumpy old man' style, I'm going to tell you about them.

The first is the fashion for countdowns of the Top Ten (Twenty, Fifty or Hundred - delete as applicable) something or others, usually comedy sketches.  Miranda Hart did one over Christmas involving Morecambe & Wise.  This wouldn't be so bad, if that was all that it was, but they can't leave it at that.  Instead, a procession of industry legends, present-day stars and people you've never heard of, are wheeled on to give their opinion on the sketches, as the sketches are being shown!  This means that you are in the ridiculous position of being told why something is funny, at one and the same time as the person(s) doing the telling are destroying every possible vestige of humour that the sketch may once have held for you.  It would defy Chaplin to get a laugh from the excerpts once this lot have finished!

This is just barely acceptable from the industry legends, who presumably know something about it, is presumptuous of the 'current stars' who are rarely fit to lick the boots of the comedy legends playing in the background and is a downright travesty from the 'who the hell are these people?' who are only there because they employ a slick agent with an eye for getting them T.V. exposure.

The second is a series called, something like, 'It Was Alright In The 19xx's', which I mistakenly watched in the first instance because I thought it was going to be 'It'll Be Alright On The Night'.  In this format, the same bunch of industry legends, current stars and wanabees are dragged into the studio again (presumably you can hire a job lot) but this time, instead of excerpts from classic comedy, they're watching a selection of T.V. excerpts purporting to show how T.V. was in the decade in question.  Cue shock, horror and appalled wonder as they stare, wide-eyed and open-mouthed at the apparently racist, misogynistic and homophobic utterances that we are alleged to have taken for granted 'back in the day' (which is another pet hate of mine).  Presumably, we who used to watch such things, should be taking this opportunity to scourge ourselves and repent deeply of our sins.  What no-one points out (but should) is that anyone looking back at the forms of entertainment of 30 or 40 years ago, at any point in history, would doubtless be horrified by what counted as funny, then.  Imagine those living in the 'swinging sixties' viewing the music hall and variety entertainment of the 1920s.  You cannot apply the moral codes of today to things of the past, it's as bad as retrospective justice.

That's it, moan over.  I'll go and lie down in a darkened room now, if you can get the nurse to bring me my tea?