Goodbye Mister Whippy

According to this article the ice cream van is disappearing from the streets of England, a victim of “health campaigners and local authorities, which have stopped them operating near school gates, or set up ice-cream exclusion zones in shopping streets.” Not living in Blighty anymore I don’t know how true this is but I hate to think so, it’s depressing enough seeing part of your childhood become a relic but even more so when it’s deemed unsuitable or even dangerous by the No Fun Police. Ice-cream exclusion zones? You’d think Mister Whippy was a child molester or something.

I’d never heard this story before though:

In one of those stories told largely for their allegorical content, whipped ice-cream was supposedly invented by Margaret Thatcher when she was a young industrial chemist working for Lyons. She discovered a method of injecting more air into the ice-cream, making it easily freezable as well as using less ingredients. What a wonderful metaphor for the “free” market, getting us to pay for air! But actually Mrs Thatcher was only a junior member of a team that did the initial research on “fat extension”; I’m not sure we can pin Mr Whippy on her.

Great though this would have been if it was true, I’m not sure if I could have dealt with being thankful to Maggie Thatcher for anything.

Download: Ice Cream Man – Tom Waits
Buy: Closing Time (album)

Something for the weekend

I have an old picture of myself in my bedroom from about this time and there are three Pretenders posters on the wall so you could say I was a big fan, of Chrissie especially who looks (and sounds) so sexy in this video I wonder now if three posters was enough, I should have plastered my whole room with her picture. Sigh.

Goodbye Summer

Definite hint of autumn in the air this morning. Personally I’ll be be glad to see the back of summer this year, it was way too hot on too many days, though I probably won’t be thinking that when I’m freezing my balls off in January.

I’m struggling to find the time to write at the moment (and anything that interesting to write about to be honest) so expect lots of videos and quickies for a bit until the muse and the spare time strikes me again.

Pop goes Bergman

In case you’ve been wondering all weekend (I doubt it) this is my favourite ABBA record, the first one that made me think they weren’t just naff Swedes with a flair for catchy pop hooks but were actually capable of real depth and sophistication. The video is probably the greatest thing they ever did too, adding an icy Euro chill to an already sad record that’s almost Bergman-esque.

Every picture tells a story

After my mother died my sister gave me a pile of old family photos to scan, among them this one of my mother (left) and her three younger sisters outside their Shepherd’s Bush council flat — the same flat my gran still lived in when I was a kid and didn’t leave until the early 70s when my grandfather died. I know exactly when the photo was taken because some helpful person (my grandmother I think judging by the handwriting) has written “Coronation Day” on the back which would make it Tuesday the 2nd of June, 1953 and my mother a mere 18 years old (though I think she looked younger when she was in her 30s). She’d already left school and was working at that point, despite getting several O-levels she didn’t stay on for A-levels because the family needed the extra wage, something I think she always regretted.

My mum told me that she watched the Coronation on television like 20 million other Brits but whether it was their own set or a neighbours I can’t remember. Coronation Day was a holiday (in typical English “holiday” fashion it rained all day) and with their pearl necklaces the eldest three all look a bit dressed up to go somewhere, it could have been a street party or maybe just because they were having their photo taken, though it wouldn’t surprise me if it was because they were going to “see” the Queen on television and thought they should put on their “best” for such an important occasion. As it was a Tuesday I assume my mother wouldn’t have gone out that evening but come the weekend you might have found her dancing at the Hammersmith Palais where, in those pre-rock and roll days, the music was provided by live big bands led by the likes of Billy Cotton and Joe Loss.

The Hammersmith Palais was also where she met my dad about 6 years later who, I imagine, at the time looked something like he does in this photo.

That’s my old man on the left with three of his mates (he also had three brothers) and I don’t know when this was taken but judging by the suits I’d place it sometime in the 1950s too. The thing I’ve always loved about this picture is how suave my dad looks, he seems so much more put-together and debonair than the others, his suit just that bit fancier and well-tailored and he’s even holding his drink rather rakishly. Back then he was known as a bit of a fancy-pants and was nicknamed “Duke” because he always wore suits with a red lining, an indication perhaps that after he married my mother he wouldn’t be satisfied being a cab driver and would eventually make for the sophisticated bright lights of the theatre.

It’s always strange seeing photos of your parents as teenagers (and yourself too) and old photos of people you know are unavoidably poignant and suffused with a sort of innocence because you can see their future and they can’t, and not just in the long-term. Like the characters in Mad Men they don’t know that the 1960s are coming to smash the conventions and assumptions they’ve been living by and in my parents case they happened just a little too late, being married with two kids by the time The Beatles’ first record came out. Who knows what would have happened if my mother didn’t have to leave school to get a job at 16 and share a little council flat bedroom with three sisters until she got married, or my dad discovered what he really wanted to do with his life before then?

But then I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this.

Download: Photograph – Ringo Starr (mp3)

Life imitates art

Founder member of the Electric Light Orchestra killed by giant bale of hay

I know you shouldn’t laugh but “bizarre farming accident” is a very Spinal Tap way to go.

Even though I was a huge ELO fan I must admit I wouldn’t recognize Mike Edwards if he, um, dropped a bale of hay on my head (I think that’s him on the left above) but you can hear him sawing away at his cello on their debut single.

Download: 10538 Overture – The Electric Light Orchestra