Friday, 18 November 2011
Greenwich Airport? - No!
A diary of one man's utter failure, depression, frustration, cock-ups, and impecuniousness, starting in August 1947
In this chapter he remembers from 1950s, as a young lad, when his Dad would take him to the Empire Theatre in Nottingham, and used to made him sit and watch what bit he could see over the front of the stalls up in the 9d (3¼p) seats in the Gods, with many wonderful acts performing things he was not the slightest bit interested in. This particular trip had a profound effect on him.
Chapter 55 - The Trip to the Empire Theatre
After Dad had taken his usual hour and a half to get himself ready, we would set off (he had to take care, cut-throat razor and all that), avoiding the horse droppings that had not been collected for peoples allotments (no gardens where I was brought up), and onto the next street, under the railway bridge past the gasometer's, then the Duke of Norfolk pub where the murder of Muriel Harbuckle took place on 1949, and around the corner past the chip shop, where Dad would refuse me any chips on a regular basis.
Time permitting, this is where I would lose him as he would disappear into the Nag's Head, reappear with a bag of Smiths Crisps, and sometimes a bottle of lemonade, disappear back into the Nag's Head, and reappear yet again, always with the words (or similar to); "Sodding 'ell, we can't stay here any longer we've got to get tu Empire afore it starts, your always holding me up, cummon!" With which I would be dragged by the arm, scruff of the neck, or kicked into activity as we progressed to the Empire Theatre.
Sometimes we would stop at Watmough's toffee shop, to get 2 oz of Nuthall mintoes (Oh I hated them!), and once inside he would produce his penknife and slowly cut one in half, granting me the pleasure of a half of one!
So back to the walk, up passed the Hong Kong Restaurant, where they were repeatedly prosecuted for selling 'Choosy' or 'Kit-E-Kat' cat food on the menu as something else, they would sell the business to the next brother and carry on as usual, I know this for certain, as when dear Mother was at home, she worked there for a bit. Dad told me.
Onward up towards the Midland Railway station, passing the even more georgeous smelling 'Friary chip shop that I would not be frequenting, and down towards the canal with its working barges, and smelly water. (The down and outs had not yet taken residence under the bridge behind what was then called the 'Dole Offices, as they do nowadays).
So on this particular day, we progressed past Woolworth's and the Queen Victoria statue and Wigfall's television shop, without incident. Then up King Street passing the pawn broker's and Post Office, and over the road to the Empire.
Joined the queue (not calling into the sweet shop, and went upstairs to take our seats.
One of the acts, I think a fire-eater, set fire to the curtains, and we all had to evacuate the theatre, now Dad was mainly concerned with getting his entrance money back, and as we were all rushing down the stair, I fell, but he dragged my up and we got out alright to join the other audience members.
We were told later that the theatre would not be re-opening that night, and we had to go back home, and I was limping and had a tiny spot of blood above my eyebrow from the fall.
Dad notice this by the time we were half way home, and some compassion arose in him, and for the first and only time ever, I was treated to a bag of chips on the way home!
One of the few glorious moments in my life that was. Shame I had toothache.
Chapter 56 - Landing Concorde
The bus taking the fishing team to a match in Leeds, had stopped at a transport cafe en route, and all the lads piled in to get some breakfast.
There in the corner, was a new machine, that for 1/-, one could test ones skills at landing landing Concorde. There was if I remember right, controls for speed, left right, up, down, braking etc. And a crude map of London to guide you in. A read-out was produced after the game was over, with estimated damage caused in cost and casualties.
A few of the lads had a go, and really made a mess off it, nearly all of them crashing on the landing. This caused the usual gambling instinct among them to come to the fore, and about eight of us put 10/- in the kitty, to go to the lad who had the least number of casualties, we assumed no of us would actually get to land the thing! (and we were right)
I went last, feeling sure I could not do worse than the others, they produced end figures like, Cost: £1m Casualties: Deaths 75 Injuries 102.
The map, I thought was the secret, I had to use it to guide myself near enough to any airport, (the scenario chosen for me by the machine, was that the plane had to land within so many minutes of the game starting)
I espied Greenwich airports location early in the game, and tried, even when it was taken off the map, to keep an eye out for it at all times.
As the plane descended, there at the bottom corner of the screen I could see the word Greenwich, and moved towards it, turned, and made what I thought was a spot on landing on it!
It turned out to be Greenwich Power Station! (They tell me that even if it was the airport, the landing strips were too short for the plane to land on anyway)
So, with a read-out of Cost: £150 billion (The machine could not record anything higher) Casualties: Deaths 245,765 Injuries 901,808, I did not win the bet.
More to follow