Leicester, Part 2: Turbigo days

I spent three years of my life in Leicester, between 1962 and 1966. In Part 1 I wrote briefly about my earliest impressions of this city, its university, and my tenuous connection to its football team.

Talking recently to another graduate of Leicester University I was reminded of an odd aspect of student life there in the sixties, just one mild absurdity, the use of haute cuisine names for mundane dishes served up in the refectory (academic-speak for canteen.) One ludicrous example  has stayed with me – the term “Turbigo”, used as an adjectival noun in menus, for instance “Chicken Turbigo”.

For me there was something intrinsically laughable about the word itself, and I was amused by the pretentiousness of dressing up canteen food with posh names. Over time I noticed that Turbigo could be applied to just about any main course; the common factor was that the dish always included mushroom stalks. No heads, just the stalks. Continue reading

Thank you General de Gaulle (for my bubble car)

1965 was not a good year for me. As a student reading French I was required, not unreasonably, to spend a year teaching in France. This ought to have been a pleasure, but by and large it turned out not to be. However there was one unexpected consolation prize, thanks to General de Gaulle, then president of the republic.

For some unknown reason, that year he decided to pay an extra month’s wages to all those like me who had been engaged in the mostly futile task of teaching English to French schoolchildren. This inexplicable but welcome gesture enabled me to buy my first car – an Isetta bubble car.

From two wheeled hell to three wheeled heaven! Continue reading

Trolleybus blues, NZ 1972

How many people do you know who have been hurled into the air by a snapping trolleybus cable? And lived to tell the tale.

I can’t find anyone, apart from me; a few injuries and deaths caused by other trolley bus accidents, but nobody who managed to escape death-by-trolleybus without the presence of a trolleybus. Before I tell the tale, if, like my grandchildren you don’t know what a trolleybus is, or was, it’s like a tram without tramlines, powered by overhead electric cables. Trolleybuses replaced trams in various cities, including London, where I was dragged up, and, as it happens, in New Zealand, after the war. Let me set the scene. Continue reading

The great nativity pilgrimage

Spot on Caroline!

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I have a theory. The increase in road traffic at this time of year can’t be due to Christmas shoppers as we all shop online nowadays. And it’s too early for the annual dash to the airport for the great Christmas getaway. And as I sat on the A1 the other day in a traffic jam, I had this blinding realisation as to who it was blocking up the lanes – it’s us! Us lot, the over 50s/60s, the grandparents, the proud parents of children who are proud parents of angels, kings, wise men and sheep and what have you. That was it – we were all on the great annual nativity pilgrimage – some driving from one end of the country to another – and mostly, it seemed, on the A1.

Families don’t all live in the same town these days – we know that. So there we all…

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Working for Auntie: Huw Wheldon

When the name of Huw Wheldon cropped up in a Today programme piece this morning about the death yesterday of the pioneering art critic John Berger, I realised that I have left out an anecdote from my posts about working for Auntie in the seventies.

It happened soon after I started work in BBC Television Presentation department at the TV Centre in White City in 1973. The office was on the fourth floor, and when I was on the early shift I would take the lift from the main entrance foyer shortly before 8 o’clock, usually in a dazed state after the two hour train and tube journey from mid Kent. One morning I was joined in the lift by a man I vaguely recognised. In the few moments it took to get to my floor, Sir Huw Wheldon, Managing Director BBC Television and legendary broadcaster managed to find out who I was, where I worked and what my job was. Continue reading

Working for Auntie in the seventies (continued)

Previous post: 1973 – 74

A few more incidents and situations come to mind from my relatively short stay in BBC TV presentation department in the mid seventies.

 

 

Disqualified!

I got a surprise when an outside broadcast involving royalty was scheduled to be transmitted during one of my shifts. I haven’t been able to track down what the occasion was, but I remember that I was told that I should leave the control room prior to the broadcast, to be replaced by a colleague. Continue reading

Working for Auntie: BBC, London: 1973 – 1974

Warning: this post contains anecdotes and shameless name dropping………

1973 was not a good year to be in Britain, let alone to return there after six years in New Zealand. Return we did though, with very little money, no home and two lovely kids. My immediate priority was to get a job.

The first bite I got from hawking my CV around was at Scottish television in Glasgow. I had a couple if interviews there, and the company were keen to take me on, but there was a problem with the ACTT union closed shop. No ticket-no-job but no-job-no-ticket. After some negotiation they did offer me a trainee post, which I had to turn down, mainly because we could not afford to live on the trainee salary. Pity really; I liked it there, they seemed a friendly bunch. I recall being introduced to a genial up-and-coming comedy performer by the name of Billy Connelly. Maybe I should have accepted that offer.

At the same time I was trying my luck at the BBC. Continue reading