Let’s take a slight detour here and resume the short series I began back in November – Old Rossallians on Youtube. We’ve seen Patrick Campbell – now let’s have a look at Phil Kelsall.
I do envy people who have one single, achievable, goal in life. Philip Kelsall, from a very early age, had one ambition and one ambition only – to play the Mighty Wurlitzer in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom, and he achieved it remarkably early in life. He perfected his craft playing the organ in the school chapel. Some of the stuffier masters did query his choice of ” Oh I do want to be beside the seaside” as the recessional, but – quite rightly – he refused to be bound by convention and followed his star.
In the way, I suppose, that people who grow up in London very rarely go to the Tower of London, as tourists do, I rarely had a lot to do with Blackpool Tower. I was taken up it once. I remember visiting the zoo (or possibly aquarium?) concealed in its base and I certainly remember being taken to see the circus. The star attraction here was Charlie Cairoli And His Clowns, who, I’m afraid, I absolutely hated. The main joke seemed to be that a very tall clown who looked genuinely half-witted would be hit in the face with a plank of wood or have his trousers set on fire, and I failed to see the humour in this (and, in fact, found it quite disturbing) . I don’t know whether I was an unusually sensitive child, or just an unusually ungrateful one.
Doing some research into this (i.e. checking how to spell Cairoli) I see that the once popular Leeds anarchists Chumbawamba once wrote a song comparing Cairoli to the anarchist Prince Kopotkin, although I struggle to see the resemblance. Perhaps Kropotkin hit half-wits over the head and set fire to their trousers too? Would this have been in line with his philosophy?
Anyway, here is the maestro himself. Not to everyone’s taste, I imagine, but it must have been very hard to do. (And the ballroom itself is magnificent, by the way – it’s even got an inscription from Shakespeare over the stage – “Bid me discourse, I will enchant thine ear” (from Venus and Adonis)).
From today’s obituary in The Guardian of Tory historian and Peel* biographer Norman Gash – Norman Gash –
“He must have been one of the last British people to have attended a Hitler rally. When the second world war came, he was working in University College London under Sir John Neale. Gash joined the army and rose to major in the field of intelligence. He specialised in debriefing SS officers, and could be nostalgic when a room lined with steel filing cabinets reminded him of a Gestapo headquarters.”
*Robert, not John.
Your starter for ten, from the Playfair Cricket Annual for 1969 –
Who are the following – Basil Fitzherbert, Lancelot Richard, Philbert Blair, Garfield St. Aubrun, Vanburn Alonza, Grayson Shillingford?
The committee of the Drones Club? The core of Lord Salisbury’s cabinet? Nope – the first and second names of some of the West Indies’ touring party for 1970. (Butcher, Gibbs, Sobers, Holder are 1, 2, 4 and 5).
Always take a small, inexplicable delight in observing someone doing something that – to my mind- they ought to be doing. I think by this I mean doing something that they would be doing if they were stock characters in a British film from the 1950s. Milkmen should always be whistling, for instance. If I saw a postman having the seat bitten out of his trousers by a dog, I’d be delighted (not that canine postie abuse isn’t a serious issue, of course).
Yesterday, at St. Pancras, saw a policeman (in spite of being kitted out in a high vis jacket and – no doubt – being armed to the teeth with tasers, stun grenades and sub machine guns) writing with a stubby little pencil in an old-fashioned flipover notebook. I didn’t notice him licking the pencil before doing so, but I trust he did. Would have thought they’d have more hi-tech ways of recording their observations these days, though I couldn’t say quite what – don’t suppose Twitter would do the job.
His notes very voluminous – perhaps the raw material for a tell-all copperblog?
A wedding at St. Dionysius today. Church bells ring out, making conversation difficult, crowds gather round the market square , most admittedly early morning drinkers outside for a fag.
Eventually the bride arrives in a (very slightly) beaten-up fifties American car – a Cadillac? a Chevrolet? a Thunderbird? a Pontiac? (all those evocative Native American names …) the image (to me, as she sped by) of Marilyn Monroe. The persistence of some pop-cultural fantasies – will any bride (in 50 years time) go to the altar wanting to look like Kate Price?
Two special offers in today’s Mail on Sunday –
1. Free “Keep calm and carry on” poster and set of mugs.
2. 50% off Kleenex anti-viral handwash.
Suggesting that, in this atavistic re-enactment of World War II, the MOS is –
1. Taking on the functions of the Ministry of Information on a for-profit basis and
2. Encouraging what would once have been seen as profiteering.