Monday, 25 March 2013


When I was little I loved Sooty - well the Sooty show that is. I didn't actually like Sooty himself as I thought he was a bit of a goody two shoes sneak all too ready to get Sweep into trouble. I adored Sweep - he was cheeky and impish and could be quite naughty and I loved the way his squeak sounded when he laughed. I didn't like the way Sooty took advantage of his slightly dim nature and Sue - well she was just a bit too high pitched really and a bit of a suck up to Mr (Matthew) Corbett so she got on my nerves too. I was also quite fond of Spike the dog.

Some years ago I went to the Sooty Museum in Shipley (sadly no more) and it was a wonderful meander down Memory Lane - there were videos of proper old black and white Sooty shows with Mr Corbett Senior in charge of the mayhem, as well as sets and props. I spent ages happily wandering about though my back did ache after a while as it was really designed for children so everything was a bit lower and I had to stoop to see everything.

One of the toys I still have from being little is my Sweep and he is quite tatty, bit manky looking and misshapen but I adore him. Plus if you press his tummy he still squeaks!! No mean feat considering he has been so well loved and must be at least 40 years old.

Here he is in all his slightly faded and grubby glory :-)

I have seen the latest Sooty incarnation - well the episode that featured John Shuttleworth that is and that was funny , though the new man in charge of Sweep et al wears very heavy foundation and I don't think I could sit through the whole series. It was far too noisy.

But I could sit in front of this (almost) all day and be utterly entranced - this is the one that can be found on  front at Cleethorpes and another fully restored one can be found in the Vintage Arcade on the pier in Southport. In Cleethorpes you put in 20p and they dance and play along to Buddy Holly and The Crickets and in Southport they dance and play along to old nursery rhymes like Baa Baa Black Sheep and Pop Goes The Weasel. The one in Cleethorpes is full of dust and held together with sellotape but the one in Southport is much more pristine - still worn but not quite as manky and operated by a big old golden penny. And best of all when they finish playing a tune in Southport Harry Corbett himself says in good old fashioned Sooty style - 'bye bye everybody, bye bye'.

The vintage arcade in Southport has all sorts of gems and if you're ever near there or Cleethorpes I urge you to go and seek them out as they are the best nostalgic fun you can have for pennies - plus you can marvel at Sue's dedication to her drumming in Cleethorpes as she doesn't actually hold the sticks - she has had them grafted into her arms - now that is dedication for you. But there must have been artistic differences within the band though as in Southport she's been shifted from the drums to the piano and Sooty is on the drums and Sweep's guitar has been replaced by a saxophone. Here is Sweep in all his saxophonic glory - 

I've just noticed that Sweep in both Cleethorpes and Southport is grey with black ears whereas mine is two shades of brown with black ears - I never noticed this when I was little as we only had a black and white telly - but now I'm looking at him and wondering if my beloved Sooty who I've had for years is in fact a knock off version......
Oh and if you know where there are any other Sooty TV Concert machines please let me know as I'd love to visit all the ones left I've heard a rumour there might be one in Southend but if anyone could verify that for me before I set off to try and find it that would be aces.Ta.  

Monday, 18 March 2013

Another In The Old Postcard Series

This postcard is of The Pagoda Fountain at Alton Towers, not sure when it was taken but a quick tinternet search informs me it is still there which makes me want to go and see it. But otherwise I have no interest in going to Alton Towers as I'm not that keen on rides really and I certainly don't want to go on something that makes you go upside down and makes you feel like your insides are going to drop out. The Mouse at Blackpool Pleasure Gardens is as scarey as I've ever got and that was quite scarey and bouncy enough for me. I quite like the old style Merry Go Rounds though and those swings you sit in that go outwards. I'm not sure yet if I'll go on the Leeds Observation Wheel as it looks a bit too wobbly for me - though a chum who has been on it assures me it's okay as long as you don't move around in your little capsule. Hmm - I'm not convinced.

But back to the postcard it is that lovely muted oldy worldy colour that I adore - it must have been hand tinted as this was well before the days of Photoshop and the Pagoda looks suspiciously yellow or maybe they used filters when taking photographs at F Frith and Co Ltd who were based in Reigate. The tinternet tells me this company was founded by Francis Frith in 1859 and was the worlds first specialist photographic publisher. He embarked on a mission to photograph all the towns and villages in Britain, had to hire people to help him do so and became so successful that at one point his postcards were sold in over 2,000 shops in Britain.  He died in 1898 but the firm he founded continued without him until it closed in 1970. His incredible archive was bought by Rothmans and then by John Buck and it is now called the  Francis Frith Collection and you can look at it here  and buy things should you so desire. My postcard is there - albeit in black and white and it seems it was taken in 1955. So it must have been handtinted for publication.

The date on this postcard is obscured but the stamp is a brown 2d one which the tinternet tells me was in use between 1957 and 1959 and it was sent to Mrs someone (can't read the handwriting) who lived at Sunnyside in Jersey. The message reads:

Dear Win
Arrived here O K after lovely trip in the coach, went to this place yesterday, a friend has lent us a car, hope to go to Dove-Dale tomorrow.
Hope you are all well.
Catherine & Geoffrey sent their love
Nora (I think it's Nora - could also be Dora - handwriting isn't very clear)

I wonder if they did get to Dove-Dale after all.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Are Pyjama Cases Still A Thing?

I had at least two pyjama cases when I was little, one of them was shaped like a koala bear and it had scratchy black plastic claws, and a zip on the back of its neck and you undid the zip and stuffed your pyjamas inside it. I'm not quite sure what the other one was like - plain I think. I'm not quite sure whether this was to fool burglars intent on stealing your pyjamas who would be looking for pyjamas rather than cute stuffed toy things containing them or because it was a way to have a stuffed toy on your bed without embarrassment if you were a grown up.

Like I said I'm not sure either way but I adored my koala - even if it was uncomfortable to sleep next to because of the plastic scratchy claws and I was very upset when my Mum deemed it was time for him to go in the bin - I'd somehow got felt tip all over his tummy and it just wouldn't wash off. I was quite upset but consoled myself with her argument that I was now a big enough girl to just fold my pyjamas and put them under my pillow instead.

And she was right - pyjama cases are a right load of faff really when you can just fold your pyjamas up and put them under your pillow instead. Mind you the pyjama sized hole inside a pyjama case was useful for storing contraband on occasion - I seem to remember secreting Club Biscuits inside of mine once - back in the day when they really were covered in lots of chocolate and it was a delight to eat the chocolate off the sides and top of the biscuit before crunching the now slightly soggy biscuit itself. Orange ones were my favourite but I also liked the ones with raisins in too.

I'm not sure if you can still get club biscuits but a quick tinternet search shows me that pyjama cases are still very much a thing and available in all manner of branded character versions and that most double as pyjama and hot water bottle cases. That's progress for you. Hot water bottle covers were unheard of in my house then (I now have lots - mostly with skull and crossbones on but I also have a Spongebob one) so you scorched your feet on the meltingly hot plastic for as long as you could before moving it away and it was awful when you came across it in the morning - by now freezing cold.

We didn't have central heating and the only heating upstairs (aside from a two bar electric fire which you only got the use of if you were poorly) was an ineffectual electric heater positioned high above the bathroom door - which smelled of burn when it got switched on for the first time after the summer. I was also reminded of the things I now take for granted which I didn't have when we were younger this week with the news articles about census results. I've always had an inside flushing toilet but my grandparents didn't - theirs was at the bottom of the garden but at least it was theirs and it did flush. Most people now have a washing machine - we used to use the launderette at the bottom of the street and I can still remember the awe and wonderment when my Mum upgraded from having just a spinner to having a twin tub as well. We had a phone box at the end of the street - don't think we had our own landline til the early 80's and then it was a party line.

Misnamed as there never seemed to be any partylike goings on it at all. Now of course people are more likely to have a mobile phone than a landline.

I'd be lost without my washing machine, I think I could just about manage (but wouldn't like to have to) without central heating and double glazing. I could cope without a microwave too - at a pinch I could manage without my mobile phone too but please don't take my washing machine away. I have however been managing quite happily for years without a pyjama case which means a)I really am almost a grown up and  b)they really aren't that useful after all.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

(yet) Another In The Old Postcard Series

It's a long time since I've been to Lladudno, must be over twenty years ago. I don't remember much of it except it was exactly the kind of slightly past its best seaside place that I love. I do remember a lovely old secondhand bookshop which had lots of books which I couldn't afford at the time as I was absolutely skint but which I would happily have sold my soul for. I wonder if the bookshop is still there. Lladudno has been on my list of places to revisit for a long time. My grandparents used to go there a lot - along with the Isle of Man and Blackpool it was one of their favourite places to go to. I wonder if they walked along the Colonnades pictured in the postcard and if they are still there and still recognisable. I have vague memories of walking along the Promenade and having a go on the seaside treat of a firefighting tableau that you put money in and then aim a massive water pistol at characters mouths. I can't help but wonder if Happy Valley is happy? I did climb part of the Great Orme on a school trip once, I was wearing an orange kagool of which I was inordinately proud of at the time, no idea why. I've moved on to umbrellas now and would rather get wet than wear a kagool - even if they don't turn inside out in the wind - one of my biggest gripes about 'sensible outdoor gear' is that it is mostly available in brown and navy, two colours I've banned from my wardrobe (unless you count the brown in leopardprint that is) and whilst it may be water and wind proof it is also unbelievably dreary. Why can't it be in black or red or purple - which are of course the best colours.*

But I digress - something I often do and something which was occasionally commented on in my school report, think 'prone to going off at a tangent' was the phrase used. I've been to Conway Castle too - a rather magnificent building. I really must go back.

This postcard was posted on 10th September 1958 to a Miss V Moss who lived in Walsall. It was signed G.
It reads:
Thank you for letter this am, am glad to know you are alright and Whisky too.Sorry you did not get my PC til Tuesday. I posted early Sunday AM so you should have had it Monday.
Having a lovely time and yesterday and today have been glorious and cloudless, v lovely. Monday v wet AM but fine later. Would you be alright if I stayed til Monday next? Aunty would like to stay and everyone says better for travelling, so if you would be alright, arrive the usual time just before 6 o'c? Going to see Sallie tomorrow. Lots of love to you and Whisky.Nearly living on the Par?
PS Pretend you are on holiday too - get out a bit.

I wonder what V stands for - Veronica possibly, I wonder what G stands for and what kind of creature Whisky was - am presuming it's a dog but it could have been a pony or even a cat. I wonder if Aunty did stay and if it was a successful visit and if V did get out more. I don't know what Par means either - a place or a status, not sure.

*pedants can feel free to point out that black isn't a colour but rather the absence of colour.