Fellow Pilgrims Way denizen Paul Kennedy recently sent me a file used to illustrate a talk by Philip Grant of the Wembley Historical Society. The talk covered all the prefab estates built just after the war in Wembley, including Pilgrims way, and draws on evidence held by Brent Archives. The Pilgrims Way section is about half way through the talk, and includes a letter from Charlie Watts and some images I have not seen before. Thanks Paul!
A few weeks ago, out of the blue the phone rang to tell us that our old, and much-loved next-door neighbour Tony Bray had died. This sad news, followed by his memorable and moving burial at sea near Gosport a few days later, reminded me just what a formative period this was for us all.
Looking back, Tony, his wife Adrienne and their two sons remain right up there in the top ten greatest strokes of luck we ever had. There’s only so much research you can do when looking for a new home – estate agent blurbs, surveys, casing the joint, it’s always hit-and-miss, and one of the most important factors, your new neighbours, is the hardest factor to find out about. In this case we had won the lottery, but we didn’t know it straight away.
When our local Woolworths closed down it seemed that the heart of the town stopped beating. It’s true that our beloved high street retailer had been ailing for some time, but nevertheless, the fatal blow came as a national shock. My first thoughts were for all those who worked there, suddenly out of a job. This reaction was probably coloured by my own memories of working as a part-time Woolworths Saturday boy in Neasden, London NW10, sweeping floors, bailing cartons and tending the boiler.
The collapse of Woolworths triggered a train of thought; I began to think about all the part-time jobs I had as a hard up teenager, either on weekends or, later, during school holidays. One thing has become quite clear. Though the need for employment back then, between about 1958 and 1962, arose simply because I needed money to buy things which my parents could not have afforded, l now see there was an unforeseen bonus – these were learning experiences which I now value as highly as any amount of official education. Continue reading
We didn’t choose to live in Dunedin. It was a decision made by my employer, the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, with no consultation. It was also the result of a promise made and broken by the head television producer, Roy (aka “Rosie”) Melford. I had just qualified as a producer, having “passed” Roy’s Producers’ course, which apparently gave the NZBC the right to post me, and my family, to any of the four state-owned TV stations in New Zealand, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Roy had promised that if I passed I would be posted to Auckland, as soon as a vacancy occurred. This edict came at a very bad time, shortly after the birth of our second child.
Bear in mind that Wellington, where we lived at the time, and Dunedin are 492 miles apart by air. This wasn’t too bad a prospect for the family, but I would have to get there by road and ferry. The plan was go ahead to find somewhere to live and check in for duty at DNTV2.
When I arrived in Dunedin it was eight degrees below. I had been seasick on the overnight ferry from Wellington to Lyttelton (Christchurch), facing the 230 mile drive in our campervan down the East Coast of the South Island, to find a hotel in Dunedin. I’m not usually fussy about accommodation, but my mood was not improved by finding the only heating in the room was a two-bar electric wall mounted heater. I spent a cold sleepless night fuming about the turn of events and working out what to say in the morning to my new station manager Alf Dick, whom I had never met. Continue reading
In 1954 I passed the eleven plus exam, a bundle of tests which, according to Tory MP David Davis “rescued a generation of underprivileged children”. Even at this tender age we all in our last year at Fryent Junior understood the what was going on, and many feared the consequences of failure. I can’t remember much about the tests themselves, and I was surprised that I passed, as I suspect did my parents.
I know my Mum and Dad were pleased, especially as I had missed best part of a year’s schooling when I nearly lost my eyesight when I was eight. I learned later that for Dad, Grammar School entrance was a pretty big deal as he had always resented having been denied the opportunity himself in favour of one of his three brothers.
I remember the impact of my attainment on my Dad’s meagre wage packet, which immediately arose from the need to kit me out with an expensive uniform, only obtainable from a posh tailors shop in Golders Green which enjoyed a monopoly supplier arrangement with Kingsbury County Grammar, the school in London NW9 which the local education authority had selected for me. Continue reading
Previous post First Steps in the NZBC
We had been warned. We should not have been surprised when our bed sheets were torn from the clothes line and distributed down the gorse covered hillside behind our rented house in Karori, a windswept suburb of Wellington, capital city of New Zealand, in 1971, not long after we moved there.
In 1966 the New Zealand National Film Unit produced a documentary called “Toehold on a Harbour”, which, not without typical kiwi irony, will give you a fair idea of what we were up against, including the wind problem and the near perpendicular housing sprawl. (Stay with this film, it really does the job, even though we moved to Wellington five years after the film was released).
The man in the Dargaville pub turned out to be Keith Bracey, presenter of the local TV regional news magazine programme Town and Around, produced daily by the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation station Northern Television, formerly AKTV2, Auckland. I’m not sure why I had been invited to the Northern Wairoa hotel, and I was a bit embarrassed anyway because we didn’t have a TV then and I hardly knew who Keith Bracey was. I had also never quite got used to New Zealand beer or the “six o’clock swill”, i.e. drinking to excess with colleagues in public. To a deadline. Or at all, really.
Well Keith turned out to be an affable kind of guy, happy to spend NZBC expenses on the locals, presumably on the pretext of boosting viewing figures, even though at the time there was only one TV channel in the country. I remember little of the conversation, except talking about my fall from grace at Dargaville High and the probability of going back to the UK. Keith had a different idea; why not come and work in TV? Continue reading