Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Art of Dancing by Anna Pavlova

Found in the first issue of The Dancing Annual (1923) from the Mayfair Press in London. Anna Pavlova had been living in London for over 12 years and this appears finely written, possibly ghosted, with some vehemence towards a style  ('the lowest slang of dancing') that was prevalent in the early 1920s and has never strictly gone away...

The Art of Dancing by Anna Pavlova

To me, the fascination of dancing lies in this: you can express with it so many moods, and so many beautiful thoughts and poems.

People imagine that self-expression in dancing is only for those who, through many long years of training, have arrived  at the perfection of their art in its highest forms of drama, poesy, or tragedy.  But though this is true, so far as it goes, it does not mean that all those who are not expert ballet dancers are for that reason unable to enjoy some share of its pleasures.

The ball-room, properly understood, is a place where many of the charms of the dance, – and its charms are manifold – may be tasted by all. Grace of movement, dignity of bearing, artistry of step – all these are elements in the equipment of a good dancer, and the outward signs of the inward personality expressed through them. Of course, there are the vulgarities of style and step: the sharp, jerky movements, the exaggerated swaying; but these are only the clumsy efforts of crude minds to express personalities that had better remain obscure. All that is, so to speak, the lowest slang of dancing.  To me, it is very painful to see. Also, it has, I feel sure, helped to cheapen ball-room dancing in the eyes of many, whom, but for that, would have appreciated it for what it really is – a true, though a light side of the arts.

We should then cultivate in dancing only the beautiful, the unusual, or the whimsical; be always graceful, and try always to keep a dignified appearance. In that way, we should not only find self-expression, but express that which is best and most artistic in us.

I do not want anyone to think I am advocating a dull, sullen attitude towards ball-room behaviour; on the contrary, I believe in the joie de vivre most strongly, especially in artistic forms of amusement, such as dancing.

Be light-hearted, even a little light-headed, if you want to, but don't spoil a beautiful art and a charming pleasure by grotesque distortion. Don't, to reverse an old saying, 'Try to make a sows ear out of a silk purse.'  'Stunts' are all very well in their place – which is the circus ring. 

 But let us keep to what you in England call the jolly side of things.  Remember that to dance is to keep young – and that is a very jolly thing, is it not?  There are thousands who would give all they possess for youth. I consider that youth is in the mind as much as in the body; so if you make your feet follow your thoughts, you have done something worthwhile. You are hunting happiness, and she is not such a difficult quarry, if you go the right way to work. Don't run after her – just try merry, graceful dancing, and you may find that you have her for a partner.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Fairies at Work and Play

From Fairies at Work and Play by Geoffrey Hodson. Published by the Theosophical Society in 1925 (and still in print) the book is a sort of Varieties of Religious Experience anthology of meetings with and sightings of fairies, elves,devas, sylphs, 'mannikins', gnomes and brownies. All the observations are by Geoffrey Hodson (1886-1983) who wrote many other religious and occult works in a long and productive life.

Dancing Fairies
Lancashire, 1921              

We are surrounded by a dancing group of lovely female fairies. They are laughing and full of joy. 

The leader in this case is a female figure, probably two feet high, surrounded by transparent flowing drapery. There is a star on her forehead, and she has large wings which glisten with pale, delicate shades from pink to lavender; in rapid movement, however, the effect of them is white. 
Her hair is light golden brown, and unlike that of the lesser fairies, streams behind her and merges with the flowing forces of her aura. The form is perfectly modelled and rounded, like that of a young girl; the right hand holds a wand. 

Although her expression is one of purity and ingenuousness, her face is at the same time stamped with a decided impression of power. This is especially noticeable in the clear blue eyes, which glow like flame, and have all the appearance of a living fire. Her brow is broad and noble, her features small and rounded, the tiny ears are a poem of physical perfection. There are no angles in this transcendently beautiful form. The bearing of head, neck and
shoulders is queenly, and the whole pose is a model of grace and beauty. 

A pale blue radiance surrounds this glorious creature, adding to her beauty, while golden flashes of light shoot and play round her head. The lower portion of the aura is shell pink, irradiated with white light. 

She is aware of our presence, and has graciously remained more or less motionless for the purpose of this description. She holds up her wand, which is about the length of her forearm and is white and shining and glows at the end with a yellow light. She bows low and gracefully, much as a great prima donna might bow on taking leave of a highly appreciative audience. 

I hear a very faint, far away music, too fine-drawn to translate, such music as might be given forth by diminutive needles, delicately tuned, hung and struck with tiny hammers. It is more a series of tinkles than a consecutive air, probably because I am unable to contact it fully. 

Now the whole group has risen into the air and vanished...

Friday, July 26, 2013

John Betjeman on C.R. Ashbee

A good John Betjeman letter found in a VHS cassette from the estate of Felicity Ashbee the daughter of the great Arts and Crafts figure C.R. Ashbee and granddaughter of the erotica collector Henry Ashbee. The video, not played, appears to be of a couple of talks on Ashbee in 1994 at the Fashion Institute of Technology. The letter has no address but interior evidence suggests Betjeman was dodging the bombs in London at the time...

June 2, 1942

Dear Mrs Ashbee,

I was most awfully sorry to read in The Times of Mr Ashbee's death. I had so look forward, the end of this war, which has separated us all from friends and interests, to seeing him again.

The personal loss to you and your family must be great indeed. I remember well that happy life at Godden Green at the time I came to stay with you and he and I walked over to see a *Comper church.

The loss to England is great. I had not realised, until I saw the notice of his death, that he had been two years ill – I hope he did not suffer greatly – that he was 79. His ideas and conversation were so much younger than his age and he was, anyhow, about 50 years in advance of his time. I thought The Times notice did him nothing like justice. His ideas on planning and architectural style and construction were pioneer work of the greatest importance. His advice on planning after this war, would have been invaluable. Thank goodness his ideas are put down on paper. And then there was that glorious and victorious passage of arms he had with the R.I.B.A.  He was a great man. I am so sorry for you all. I hope we shall meet if we all survive the present unpleasantness, in London. I feel an exile here.

Yours very sincerely, John Betjeman

*Sir John Ninian Comper (1864–1960) a Scottish-born architect. Last of the great Gothic Revival architects, noted for his churches and their furnishings.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I once met…Sir John Mortimer

I had been invited to interview him on his book collection. Of course, I was aware of his reputation---as a champagne socialist and general bon viveur. The press photos  always showed him surrounded by adoring and attractive women. He lived in a house designed by his father and inherited from him, in one of the most beautiful parts of Buckinghamshire, among the beech woods of Turville Heath, not too far from Jeremy Paxman’s place and Fawley Bottom Farmhouse, the former home of John and Myfanwy Piper, whom I had known, and who were his close friends too. I was a little envious, I admit.

The taxi dropped me unceremoniously on the edge of woodland. The driver didn’t know where his house stood, and no did I, but I peered any all directions for any sign of a dazzling green pantiled roof, which Mortimer had told me to look out for. In less than five minutes I had found it, splendidly turquoise through the trees, looking as though it belonged to a thirties gem in Stanmore or Bushey than rural Bucks. I approached the front door and knocked. A women in her latish sixties clad completely in a white towel with a turban around her wet hair opened it. The first adoring female fan of the day, I thought. How many more would I meet before I left for home ?

None, as it turned out. The turbaned lady was his wife, who had just that moment stepped out of the bath. She showed me to his study and she did so warned me that her husband was ill. I must say, he didn’t look too chipper. He was wheezing and his face was flushed. He explained that as well as the house his father had bequeathed him two medical conditions—asthma and blindness. My envy dissipated forthwith. We talked about his childhood enthusiasms for the stage and for poetry and how he hated his time at Harrow. One remark surprised me and has remained in my memory ever since. On the subject of Law he remarked that he didn’t consider it a worthy academic discipline and wished that he had spent his time at Oxford reading a 'proper' academic subject, such as  history or English Literature instead.

Before I left he offered me a glass of (you’ve guessed it) champagne—the first and only time I’d been offered this after an interview. His wife joined us and afterwards drove me back to Henley station. [RH]

Too cool names

Found in a HarperCollins paperback Cool Names for Babies (2007 reprinted from Mother & Baby magazine) a list of names that are 'too cool' - in fact it's the last chapter. Have added a few..

What makes a name too cool? Trying so hard that coolness is its main, and maybe its only, merit. Being so aggressively hip that poor little Kool willl bend under the expectations of grooviness created by his name… the line of what constitutes too cool a name seems to get redrawn every day [but] these choices will probably be on the wrong side of it for a long time to come.. 

Henri Cartier Bresson 1954

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Brian Howard to the Duchess (on Rex Whistler)

Signed letter sold in 2010. Brian Howard poet, journalist, socialite, 'failure'. Found in a book from the Gilmour estate.

2pp. About 80 words to 'Dear Mollie' (ie  Mary ('Mollie') Montagu Douglas Scott, Duchess of Buccleuch) on her notepaper - Boughton House, Kettering dated May 1957. It is loosely inserted in a used copy of Laurence Whistler's book on his brother Rex Whistler (Art & Technics 1948) presented to her mother by her daughter Caroline (later Lady Caroline Gilmour.) The letter reads - 'Caroline might be faintly amused to know that when Laurence was compiling this book he wrote to me to for the complete text of my poem about Rex. In one's forgetful, selfish way, I didn't reply - so these weak little lines, this miserable quatrain is all that posterity will receive. The unhappy thing is that the complete (underlined) poem wasn't a bad literary portrait of Rex. Love, Brian.' BH has initialled the relevant 4 lines in the printed text.  LW does not name Howard in the text  but refers to him merely as 'a clever friend (who) drew his character in words...' The poem begins with the lines 'Laughter in the bedroom...' Letter sold with book which is sound but somewhat bumped. Brian Howard letters are seldom encountered.

When a copy of the Whistler book (not rare) shows up again we will post the missing lines.

21/7/13 Sure enough a copy has shown up and the lines read:

          Laughter in the bedroom,
          in the bar-too,
          in the ballroom--
          But the laughter is an urn.

Not exactly The Waste Land but to his brother Laurence the lines catch Rex's character at about 21-- the way in which  he was 'subtly detached' from his 'great gaiety'. He writes 'Rex's smile was immensely amused, as only a thoughtful man's may be..'

Self portrait by Rex Whistler

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rook fuddling made easy

To Fuddle Rooks
Cocculus Indica berrys 2 Ounces. 4 Glasses of Geneva. Crush the Berries & steep them & the Liquor together for 2 Days, then steep barley in that Liquor & lay it where the Crows frequent.

Evidently from the spelling and paper used (a scrap rescued from an autograph collection), this is an eighteenth century recipe. Because it mimics the effects of alcohol, unscrupulous brewers often used Cocculus Indica berries to adulterate beer. Unfortunately, the berries are rather poisonous. The scientist Frederick Accum exposed the scandalous practice in his groundbreaking work,Death in the Pot; a treatise on the adulteration of food (1820).

Consider your rooks (or indeed crows) well and truly fuddled !! Or dead.[RH]

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Shackleton's Phantom Guide

Came across this article in the Winter 1948 Occult Review by the intrepid cinematographer J.C. Bee-Mason, a war photographer in France, Belgium and Russia, and cinematographer to Ernest Shackleton on his last expedition south and other Arctic expeditions. He was obsessed with bee-keeping (hence the hyphenated “Bee” in his name) and filmed documentaries about bees.There is quite a bit about him on the web including his belief that if you ate a hundred pounds of good honey every year you would live to 100. Sadly JCB only made into his early 80s. Part of the interest in the piece is the acknowledged influence of Shackleton's experience on some lines in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land:

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
- But who is that on the other side of you?

This phenomenon  has been called by the author John Geiger the 'third man factor' - the experience of people at the very edge of death who feel the presence of an incorporeal being who encourages them and guides them to safety. Geiger tells the stories of 9-11 survivors, mountaineers, astronauts, explorers and prisoners of war who have reported this feeling…

Shackleton's Phantom Guide by J.C. Bee- Mason M.B.E.

About 30 years ago the world was staggered by the story of possibly the most wonderful feat of endurance ever made by man.

Shackleton – who died 26 years ago in January – Worsley, and a seaman named Crean, after enduring a journey of 500 miles in a ship's lifeboat in the Antarctic in midwinter, crossed the glaciers and crevasses of South Georgia to obtain help for their shipmates left stranded on Elephant Island. The men at the whaling station were astonished when they saw three men dragging slates down the mountains which had never before been crossed by man.

Shackleton, in his book South, says : "...when I look back at those days I do not doubt that Providence guided us. I know that during that long march of 36 hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia it often seemed to me that we were four, not three. Worsley and Crean had the same idea."

Arctic Expedition

I first met Shackleton when I sailed with him on the Quest, and I heard him describe the journey when we were entertained by the members of the English Club at Lisbon. I don't know why, but I had a feeling that he invented the story "we were four not three", knowing it would appeal to the general public.

In 1925, I was a  member of the British Arctic Expedition to Franz Josef Land. Worsley was our leader. We sailed in a little brigantine of about 126 tons register. She had an auxiliary. In pack-ice off  Spitzbergen we broke our propeller and had to carry on under sail. Near Franz Josef Land we got caught in heavy ice and the ship looked like being pinched, so Worsley ordered us to sleep fully dressed in polar kit and be prepared to leave the ship at a moment's notice. He said to me: "if we do, we must walk over the ice to Siberia and God knows how many of us will get there."

Spirit Guidance

It is when men see death staring them in the face, they are more inclined to confide in one another. Whilst pacing the deck one night with Worsley, listening to the timbers of our poor old ship groaning under the ice pressure, I said to Worsley, "Skipper the something I want to ask you." He said "What is it."  I replied: "In Shackleton's book South, he says that, when you were dragging that sledge over South Georgia, you had a feeling there were four men in the party and not three. Is that really true?" Worsley answered: "Yes, Crean was the first to mention it. Whilst he and I were unloading the sledge at the whaling station he said to me, "All the time I was pulling that sledge I had a feeling there were four of us." I replied, "So did I – I wonder if Shackleton did?" Shackleton was standing a few yards away unpacking his kit. I went up to and said, "Crean tells me he had a feeling there were four of us pulling that sledge and curiously enough I had the same feeling, in fact I kept looking around and to see who the fourth man was," Shackleton stopped what he was  doing and said "Worsley, there were four of us."

[The intrepid Bee-Mason recounts a similar occasion in Bolivia's 'Green Hell' with Julian Duguid in 1928, of being surrounded by Toba savages (who torture their captives to death) and not being afraid because 'Like Shackleton's party on the ice- we were not alone.']

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I once danced with Ringo

Almost everybody has met someone with a good story about someone well known that they had met - the 'I danced with a man, who danced with a girl, who danced with the Prince of Wales' phenomenon. Here is one just received about Beatle Ringo Starr.The mention of Barbara Bach dates it in the early 1980s.

I got a minicab from Hammersmith to Heathrow and was chatting with the driver about Robert Tressell's The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists which he had read several times (I think I had a copy with me that I was going to read on the flight). As with so many other readers the book had radicalised him. He told me that he never called passengers 'Sir'. On that subject he mentioned that he had once driven Ringo Starr who told him he was the only driver he had ever had who did not call him 'Sir.' 

Intrigued, I inquired about the great (and irascible) Fab Four drummer*. He had driven Ringo and Barbara Bach from London to a studio in Manchester. Ringo spent most of the journey rolling and smoking joints. At the end of the journey he gave my minicab driver a £100 tip, which he said was still the best tip that he had ever received...and he never called him 'Sir'!

*Of whom John Lennon said  when asked if Ringo was the best drummer in the world --"He's not even the best drummer in the Beatles..." 

A problematical squib by Chesterton

Triolet of the Self-examining Journalist

My writing is bad
And my speaking is worse
I have lost all I had
My writing is bad,
It’s dreadfully sad
And I don’t care a curse
My writing is bad
And my speaking is worse.

G.K. Chesterton
Feb. 27.1912.

Here’s a literary puzzle to gnaw on. In his introduction to volume ten of G. K. Chesterton: the Collected Works, Denis J Conlon maintains that addressing a meeting of the Distributist League at Gatti’s Restaurant in London on January 11, 1934, Chesterton summed up what he called his moral, mental and spiritual condition in an ‘ impromptu triolet ‘. Conlon prints this squib, which in every respect but one, is identical to the one printed above. In the later version the third line has become ‘They were all that I had ‘.

But consider the date at the bottom of the piece. This ‘impromptu ‘ triolet appears to have been anything but an off-the cuff piece , having seemingly been  composed 22 years earlier. In fact, this earlier version was written in Chesterton’s distinctive hand on a blank page torn from a book which I discovered among a small archive of assorted letters and autographs a few years ago. So what’s happening here? Chesterton has signed the composition, which suggests to me one of two possibilities. Chesterton could have written out the triolet in February 1912 and signed it as a favour to someone who requested a signed sample of his handwriting. Alternatively, the manuscript may have been sent to the editor of some magazine for publication around that same date.

Now Conlon maintains that Chesterton ‘never seems to have collected his own poems ‘ and so, assuming that Conlon was familiar with Chesterton’s collected poetic oeuvre, it seems likely that the ‘Triolet of the Self- Examining Journalist’ was a fugitive piece that somehow escaped his critical attention. How else can one explain his assertion that the 1934 version was ‘an impromptu  triolet’ ?

Other explanations are welcome. [RMH]

Thanks for this. Of course GKC could be fibbing or playing a joke, like Father Brown changing the salt and sugar shakers. I once had tea at a tea room in Abinger Hammer where 70 years or so before GKC had been due to address the local literati unfortunately due to his girth he could not fit up the narrow twisting staircase. As the only alternative would have been to winch him up to the first floor they made do with the ground floor.

Monday, July 8, 2013

I once met Snoop Dogg

Winter, London,1997. It was at the Elbow Room in Notting Hill Gate, a bar and snooker hall. The occasion was  the Low, Howard, Spink advertising agencies  creative departments afternoon out and 'jolly.' Snoop Dogg was recording an interview with MTV - in the days when MTV was still cool. We noticed the rapper Snoop and his crew at the bar. His crowd  included his father who joined us admen in a game of pool. Being gentlemen and somewhat affeared of his entourage (blokes with big coats) we thought it best to let him win. He was in fact a good player and a very nice man known affectionately to all as 'Pops.' I also shook hands with Snoop Dogg (a soft, loose grip) and my boss insisted on having a picture of his dog ('Mr. Patch')  taken with the great man.  As I recall he was slightly mystified by this request but went along with it in good cheer.

Photo above is of Snoop with the late show-biz dog 'Lucky' not 'Mr. Patch.' Sent in by Damian - a longterm jotwatcher.

Lovat Fraser on Sty Head Pass

A news clipping from 1919 found pasted to the endpapers of Hall Caine's The Story of a Crime. It is by the artist Lovat Fraser  - obviously a lover of the area, but keen on sharing it with others to the extent of wanting a road to it. He seems to be talking about a sort of Edwardian nimby but as far as I know the road was never built, although the campaign had been going on for about 15 years. Fraser writes well, some of the descriptions of scenery are reminiscent of John Buchan..

Sty Head Pass

The fate of the proposed road over Sty Head Pass, in the Lake District, may be decided today at Carlisle. I have read dozens of protests against the scheme, not one word in its favour. With some trepidation, I wish to take the lists against the crag  climbers on the fell wanderers and to back Mr. Musgrave of Wastdale and his road.

Here is my own experience. Late last October I went through lovely Borrowdale to Seathwaite and walked over the Sty Head Pass down towards Wastdale, and back. Everybody who visits Lakeland has heard about Seathwaite which has the reputation of being the wettest place in England, and has earned it.

By a miracle I struck one of those rare windless autumn days which sometimes break a long wet season. The atmosphere was crystal clear, without a trace of haze, the mountains were steeped in warm sunshine. They told me at Seathwaite that there had been be no such glorious day all last year.  As I sat and smoked my pipe by the cairn at the summit of the pass, and stared down the tremendous gorge between Great Gable and Scafell at the patch of emerald green at Wastdale Head far below I felt I had garnered another lifelong memory.

I spent the best part of the day on the pass sketching and taking a photograph or two. In all that time I never saw a single human being. That is my case for the road.

Sty Head Pass is, so far as I know, the wildest and grandest piece of scenery in England. Even in sunlight it is grimly majestic, a mighty altar, the sort of spot I never dreamed existed in this country. Instead of being known merely to a few people who regard the fells and crags as their private preserve, it ought to be visited every year by tens of thousands of humble folk who can never hope to see the Alps or the Himalayas.

One travels for remembrance. The chief joy of travel is in retrospect. Men build picture galleries for the multitude, but why not show people the most glorious pictures of Nature? Why not help them to store their minds with memories which, as every traveller knows, are an alleviation in times of trial and a solace in old age? The vivid recollection of Styhead Pass as I saw it is worth all the pictures ever painted.

These few climbers and others up forgather at Wastdale Head and other places are trying to keep their Scafell sanctuary to themselves; because that is what all this agitation really means. They may talk of desecration and pretend to tilt against motorists, but they are really precious souls who shrink from contact with the masses.

They do not want tens of thousands to see this mountain fastness. They want to draw a veil between the nation and its heritage. They represent exactly the spirit which leads men to enclose a big park keep it selfishly for their private enjoyment.

This road is needed because Styhead is just too remote to be easily reached and crossed by people who are not well-to-do. The pass is just too steep and difficult for those not in full vigour. Until the road is made, the finest of the western lakes will never be seen by most visitors to Lakeland.

Illustration by Lovat Fraser

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dummy Books for Duchesses

In the library of Chatsworth, the seat of the Dukes of Devonshire, are two doors disguised as shelves of books. The second one was created in the 1960s during renovations, and 28 book-backs were made by binders Sangorski & Sutcliffe, for titles like Reduced to the Ranks by D. Motion, Second Helpings by O. Twist, Dipsomania by Mustafa Swig, and The Battle of the Bulge by Lord Slim. The last volume was Book Titles by Patrick Leigh Fermor, in honour of the inventor of the titles. They were suggested to the Duchess in a letter from Fermor from Euboea dated February 1964. This was published in 2008 ( In Tearing Haste) by John Murray. Among  PLF's other candidates were:

          Knicknacks by  Paddy Whack
          Nancy Mitford & her Circle by Juno french
          Minor Rodents by Aygood-Mausser
          A Tommy in the Harem by Private Parts
          First Steps in Rubber by Wellington
          Flags of the Nations by Bunting
          Will Yam Make Peace? by Thackeray
          Consenting Adults by Abel N Willing
          Where the Hormones...by Christine Keeler  
          Venus Observed by I. Sawyer
          Intuition by Ivor Hunch
          Alien Corn by Dr. Scholl
          March Days by A. Hare
          Creme de la Creme by Devonshire
          K-K-Katie by Kay Stammers
          On the Spot by Leo Pard
          Humble Pie by J.Horner
          The Shaking Hand by Master Bates 
          Ruined Honeymoon by Mary Fitzgerald and Gerald 
          The Day After Gomorrah by Bishop of Sodor and Man
          Call me X by Anon
          Pardon Me by Belcher
          Weather in the Streets by Omega Losches
          Haute Cuisine by the Aga Khan 
          The Babies Revenge by Norah Titsoff
          The Cat's Revenge by Claude Balls

Patrick Leigh Fermor confesses he has a soft spot for the rude ones 'though they're not your style.' Might follow up with more garnered from books, recommendations and the web. The most famous is, of course, Rusty Bedsprings by I.P Knightly. There are manufacturers of dummy bookshelves, mostly providing classic titles like the two vols below by one Ernest Hemmingway...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

I nearly met….Mick Jagger

This is a new category -'I nearly met.' It could be very useful to future writers and biographers gathering info. Take it away Robin:

In fact, I nearly met him twice. About thirty years ago I was reliably informed that back in the late fifties, long before the Stones had been born, he and some mates used to practice in the front room of the home of our  neighbours, the Barton’s, in Woodland’s Park, a new housing estate in Joyden’s Wood, between Bexley and Dartford. I must have been about six at the time. The Bartons were our friends, but I knew nothing of rock music, or R & B, as Jagger and Richards would have called it.

 I don’t think you will find this particular bit of trivia in any account of Jagger’s early life, but Stone’s fans will know that for a few years in the late forties/early fifties Mick attended Maypole County Primary, Dartford Heath, which also happened to be my old school from 1957 – 62. Obviously, I didn’t meet him there , but fast forward to 2001, when prior to its being demolished to make way for new executive-style homes, Maypole hosted a reunion of alumni. Having discovered well in advance that this was to take place, I tried to contact the Stones management people with a view to persuading Mick to revisit his old school. After all, as I think I argued, ‘This could be the last time ‘. The great day arrived. I moseyed up Old Bexley Lane with hope in my heart, really expecting the great man to make an effort. Everyone was there—old schoolmates, some of who I actually recognised, and also some teachers, including the weird Mr T, who used to sit me on his knee (but that’s another story)—and there were old photographs too, possibly one featuring Mick as a boy.But no sign of the Stone’s frontman. Chatting to a few of my contemporaries I found that I was not the only one to be disappointed that evening.

I discovered a few weeks later that on this special day the Stones had been on tour in the States. Not really an excuse, I felt at the time. Mick could have sent a message. Today, the alma mater of Sir Michael (and indeed Keith), is now no more. Anonymous new housing stands on the site. The sprawling Bexley Mental Hospital, which had stood bang opposite, is also fancy executive homes . In my time, and undoubtably in Mick’s, patients used to sneak through the school gates and chat to the children.
I wonder if Mick got a song out of that….[R.M.R]