36: Long Ago In Llandudno…

 

Llandudno 1980s Style: The Prom

The association with North Wales began in 1980. Up until that year I hadn’t considered it as a holiday choice. To be honest, I didn’t know anything about the place.

But in 1980, friends of mine, Mr and Mrs Post, were going to Llandudno for their holiday.

‘We’re off to see Llandudno,’ said Mrs Post.

‘And I’m off to see the Wizard…’ I re-joined cheerfully, bit my voice trailed off as two pairs of eyes gave me hard stares. ‘…the won…der…ful..wiz…’

Deciding my failed attempted at humour was over, Mrs Post continued. ‘It’s in North Wales. Our daughter was going with us but she’s decided to spend the week with her boyfriend,’ she explained. ‘We were wondering if you’d like to come along? Have the room she was going to have?’

I agreed. It was somewhere I hadn’t been and as such it’d be an adventure. Besides, I suspected they’d lose their money if they couldn’t get someone else to take the room; and it was quite a few years since I last had a holiday.

Fortunately, taking the room intended for their daughter didn’t involve dressing up in women’s clothes. I have always been one for trying something different but you’ve got to draw the line somewhere! Besides, it would have been a devil of a job getting something in my size that showed me at my best!

(Apologies to those of a weak disposition in whose head I’ve put pictures of a distasteful nature!)

Anyway, with the holiday agreed, I let my parents know (I was still living at home at the time). When it got around to how we were going to get there I said it’d be by train. However, Dad Fitrambler said we could use his car rather than fuss about with a train journey.

That being the case it made life a lot easier for the Posts and me.

So, the day arrived and off we went. I can’t remember how long the journey lasted but I do remember we made several stops. One of which was in a place called Ruthin where I managed to use the public toilets and find a shop which sold bottles of Old Peculiar; the two are not mutually exclusive! I bought four in a pack, roughly just under a half pint per bottle. Well, on many holiday one must ensure you stock up on essential supplies; first rule of survival.

A View From The Room 1

The place we stayed in was in Lloyd Street which led directly to the promenade and the beach. Unusually, if you went in the other direction it also led to the beach, although not directly and not the same beach. Llandudno had two beaches. The east and west beaches; something I’d not come across before.

The house was divided up into small self-catering rooms. Mine was one of the singles at the back and with just a view of other houses, along with one of the biggest features in the resort and that was the Great Orme. The Posts’ room was a double at the front and the view was the main street and the building opposite housed the Lifeboat Service.

My flat, as with all of them in that house, was self-catering and the room was equipped with a sink, a cooker, a fridge. On top of the wardrobe in the corner opposite the window and next to the door was a television. It was only a black and white set (only the double rooms got a colour set). It was a room I’d use for my visits over the next five years.

Once I’d unpacked and had a quick wash, I went to the Posts’ room and we all went out for a stroll for the evening. Mrs Post wasn’t in for the long walk or indeed a few beers so took advantage of the Bingo games going on. That left Mr Post and myself to try out a beer.

A View From The Room 2

After the long journey we went to The Albert (a Greenall’s Pub) for a beer.

The beer, a mild, didn’t taste too bad, in fact it was a lot better than I expected. I’ve always quite liked mild. So, I was pleased that quite a few pubs served a mild; it was to be the first of many.

As we had arrived rather late in the day so we got an early night, only having the one drink.
Over the week, we paid a visit to Colwyn Bay, the next day, and I had a half (I was driving) in The Park. There was a lot of work going on in the town, mainly along the coast. A little further in there was a mini-market with stalls selling a variety of things from records to sweets to foods, including Welsh Cakes. (It must be recorded here that The Pink Lady makes a wonderful Welsh cake which I’ve been lucky enough to sample on more than one occasion.)

The next day we made a trip to Conwy where I was rather impressed by the Castle. I managed to get one in at The Liverpool Arms; a half of bass.

The Self Catering Flats are now just Private Flats.

After that there was the day we drove up to the top of the Great Orme. I remember the facilities reminding me very much of the 50s and 60s; very minimal. It was like some of the early cafe’s where they did mugs of tea, bacon sandwiches and fry-ups. The tables were wash vinyl style. But on top the Great Orme it was like a vast assembly room from school with tables and chairs. A big difference compared with my more recent visits. So not much to get excited about except, of course, the view. That was quite stunning and remains so.

It only took a couple of days for me to decide it might a good place for Blameworthy and I to visit next year. That was mainly down to there being a vast number of pubs and I thought it beautiful part of Britain. It was also an area Blameworthy hadn’t been too. Of course, transport and getting from place to place would be important. As we would be drinking, me driving wouldn’t be a good idea, presupposing Dad would lend me his car again.

Llandudno itself isn’t on a direct rail route. Approximately three miles from Llandudno is Llandudno Junction which is a station on the main line. There are regular trains that go from Llandudno Junction to Llandudno and back again during the day; Llandudno Junction is a station on the main line The North Wales Coastal Line. This goes along the coast to as far away as Holyhead in one direction and Chester in the other. Between Llandudno Junction and Llandudno is Deganwy. Like Rhos-on-sea and Colwyn Bay, Deganwy and Conwy almost seem as though they are the same place

I did think about taking the tram up to the Great Orme but never got around to it. (Some twenty years later the Pink Lady and I did.) However, more importantly, only a few yards from the tram station was a pub; The King’s Head. I nailed that one (naturally) that evening. Pints all round as I wasn’t driving, and fish and chips from a place no more than ten yards away.

Fitrambler in paradise!

The next day was a drive to Rhyl. It was the furthest we ventured that week. A strong memory of that trip that remains after all this time was Mr Post and I having a drink in The Abbey Vaults. It was in this public house that I tried my first half of Marston’s Pedigree. Again, I was playing it safe as I was driving…

The Albert (Picture Courtesy the Blameworthy Archive)

There was a television in one corner, high up on the wall. A Gerry Anderson series called Joe 90 was just starting and brought back memories of my childhood. It wasn’t best series Gerry Anderson produced (I’m more of a Thunderbirds fan) but it was entertaining enough. I would have liked to have watched the episode all the way through as it didn’t seem to get many repeats in the Swindon area. But Mrs Post was outside and it was unfair to leave her there on her own, despite the weather being rather good. Some years later, video would be mainstream and owning TV programmes would become commonplace.

Conwy From The Outside

The Rhyl monorail made an impression on me. I hadn’t seen anything like it before (nor since) and had to have a photograph. Up until recently, I always thought it was around for years but that wasn’t the case.

Conwy From The Wales of the Castle

The monorail opened for business in August 1980. It was about 15 feet in the air on specially made pillars and ran about six hundred yards. It was doomed to failure because it suffered regular technical faults, most of which were between stops. I don’t suppose the sight of passengers climbing down ladders was a good advertisement for the ride. The sight probably caused some amusement; except if you were one of the passengers and suffered from vertigo.

It lasted six weeks and ran up debts in of over of £650,000…

Another of many Pubs We Drank In.

Another thing I noticed within the amusement arcades and that was pool tables. Blameworthy and I were rather partial to games of pool. In fact, we began an annual pool contest on the strength of the many opportunities we got to play.

The Doomed Rhyl Monorail from a distance

Having had good weather all week I got back home feeling it was money well-spent!

A few days after that first week, I managed to persuade Blameworthy that North Wales, with Llandudno as our base, would make a good place for a booze-hound week.

So, the following year, again in my father’s car – he was kind enough to lend it to me again – Blameworthy and I began our journey. It was no surprised he’d prepared a route which would take us to some good pubs on the way.

Of course, I played it sensibly and only drank shandy…

A Closer Look At The Monorail

All was going quite well until the final part of the journey and negotiating a lot of bends high up in North Wales. I don’t think, up until then, I’d ever been around so many bends and certainly not as many so high up.

We’d been travelling a few miles when disaster struck!

It was my fault, really. I made the mistake of spending too much time looking in the rear-view mirror at the chap behind and not enough on the road ahead. With each bend, I could see him get closer. It wasn’t a sensible preoccupation and I found that out when taking a bend that seemed to suddenly creep up on me too fast!

I swerved to avoid and narrowly missed – and I mean by mere inches – the car coming the other way; having strayed to the wrong side of the road taking that bend. Then I found that I was heading for the other end of the bend, the one with only a barrier between the end of the road and a very long drop. I turned the wheel again and we hit a barrier side on, smashing it, the poles either end of the barrier hit the front and back of the car before we came to a halt. A little further and we would have plunged over the edge and not only could I have been done for reckless driving but also for flying without a pilot’s license!

It was only when I got out of the car to inspected the damage that I realized what a drop it was.
Although it was probably of little importance in the scheme of things, the half dozen eggs given to me by Mum, were still intact in the box. However, some of the butter had got into Blameworthy’s jacket and it seemed to reappear throughout the course of the week.

From the car I nearly hit, a man charged over. At first, I thought I was going to get a crack on the conk. I’d come so close to smacking into his car so I couldn’t blame him. However, he was quite good about it. He asked if we were all right and if he needed to get the police or an ambulance. Blameworthy dismissed that idea.

‘You scared my wife. Anyway, best get back, she can’t seem to get her hands off the steering wheel, gripped it so hard when she saw you coming at us.’

I apologised as I remembered how close I’d come to smacking into his car. I guessed he’d take over the driving, once he’d prised her hands off the steering wheel…

The man strode off to his car and left us alone.

A few minutes later, I was, all things considered, feeling lucky. Part of that was because we hadn’t gone over the edge and partially because the dent in the front missed penetrating the radiator by millimetres; that really would have put the tin lid on things. We wouldn’t have been able to get to Llandudno in it; or indeed anywhere in it.

The bonnet was in a mountain shape but was soon bashed down but we tied it down with string; not sure where that came from? It rattled a lot and made things tense as I imagined it would fly up at any minute and block my vision. Another accident wouldn’t have been welcome!

As we changed the back tyre, a shard of wood puncturing the tyre, I thought about how I was going to explain this to my father, the grievous bodily harm I’d inflicted on his pride and joy. I worked on it for most of the journey to Llandudno.

As we got into Llandudno, it began to pour down with rain and we eventually made our way to the flats. By the time we had settled in, the rain had stopped. Blameworthy wanted to get out and around a few pubs. I suppose the alcohol would sooth his shattered nerves, if they were shattered. He seemed remarkably calm considering what had happened to us…

Over The Top Of The Entrance To The Fun-fare At Rhyl

However, I rang my father first. I used a call box because in those days iPhones or indeed any sort of mobile phone were not common place. I felt it was better to get the bad news out-of-the-way first. I told him what happened. He asked first if either of us were hurt and when I told him we weren’t he said not to worry about the car, we would talk about it when I got back…

Later, I would find out that my sister retorted ‘…and then he’ll kill you!’

Despite the bad start, or perhaps because of it, it was quite a good holiday. There was no chance of using the car but a couple of places were within walking distances and others we got to by train. We discovered a weekly train pass that allowed us to travel anywhere along the North Coast – Holyhead to Chester. It was only nine pounds. A bargain however your looked at it.

Being in a new area and one that was hundreds of miles from home was the different sorts of beers available. We certainly allowed ourselves to sample as many of them as we could over the week. It was also an opportunity to try many different pubs. I think we went around 40-50 during that week in 1981.

That first year I believe we began a tradition that seemed to last quite a few years – being forced to walk from Llandudno Junction to Llandudno. For some reason, every time we got the last train back from Chester it was late and because of that we missed the last train from Llandudno Junction to Llandudno.

Boo hiss!!

The Links Hotel in the 1980s

The station between those two was Deganwy. For some reason, Blameworthy and I thought it sound like a South African state. So much so that we took to punching the air and saying rather too loudly, ‘Deganwy!

Well, we laughed!

By the end of the week the ‘joke’ died somewhat and we gave a slight raising of the hand and only muttered ‘Deganwy,’ almost instinctively while distracted by reading the paper

Of the pubs’ we visited (numerous times) in Llandudno was The Links Hotel; it served JW Lees beers; a beer I hadn’t heard of prior to the holiday. It was like Marston’s the previous year.

There was also The Washington where we played darts quite often. In those days it was an Ansell’s pub. I can remember the Ansell’s brand from the commercials. Several men, walking to the pub with the designation ‘The Ansell’s Bitter Men’. I didn’t qualify for the title as I tended to drink the Ansell’s mild; rebel that I was. Then there was The King’s Head, another favourite; we had quite a few late-night drinking sessions there.

Something else (besides the forced walk from Llandudno Junction after a visit to Chester) that became something of a tradition was a walk to Conwy. We did most of the walk along the beach, then across the bridge that led to the little town built inside castle walls. We seemed to always have the right weather for that walk, dry and sunny.

In those days, my focus would have been more on the beer and the walkies, the odd game of darts and pool – and no one plays odder games than Blameworthy and I.

After a week of drinking I remember that we got an early night on the Friday and began our journey home at 5am Saturday morning. This was because of the state of my father’s car and wanting to avoid too much attention of the way home; a flapping bonnet was inclined to be something of an attention grabber.

Initially, on my return home, my father wasn’t home but once he returned he seemed a lot more relaxed than I expected him to be. However, a few hours later that changed; a closer inspection gave rise to the full extent of the damage. His main complaint beyond the obvious was how I managed to hit three sides of the car; the back, the front and the side. At first, he developed the theory that I hit the side first and then had another couple of attempt to hit the back and front. I let the accusations go as I knew the full impact (no pun intended) of the damage had got through to him. I couldn’t really blame him for being angry. It was a mess!
After that accident, I made one of those promises that you make after an evening putting away too much booze; and that was never again. I decided I would give up driving.

However, later in 1981, friends of mine got me to hire a car and drive them to Cornwall, Bude to be precise. I got the taste for driving back. So much so, that the following year, 1982, in an Auction in May I bought a Yellow Mark III Cortina for £390.00. The only other car I had ever owned prior to that on was a mini, in a similar colour. The new car had a problem driver seat (and some might say a problem driver) but that and a few other irritations were fixed by Neatentidy. He was always rather good with cars.

It was in this car which I christened ‘Chloe’ but others later called it ‘The Yellow Peril’ that I made my second visit to Llandudno in, with Blameworthy. After the previous year’s accident, I felt he was very brave to go through that journey with me a second time and he did it without a sedative. Fortunately, this time I got us there without a redesign of the car’s bodywork. I did consider having another accident so that Dad would feel less paranoid about me crashing his car but felt Blameworthy’s nerves probably couldn’t stand it. I knew mine wouldn’t.

The funny thing about these holidays is that I remember it as being Sunny all the time.

Roughly seven weeks over five years and not a single rainy day seems quite preposterous in Britain. Still, memory is often selective.

Betws y Coed

I did most of the cooking as our holidays were self-catering. There’s another sign of Blameworthy’s bravery in the face of adversity. I sometimes think, what with my driving and cooking Blameworthy should have been awarded the George Cross years ago; but then, that medal is generally awarded posthumously. I am sure when given the choice between being alive without the medal or getting the medal and being dead that he would choose the former. I certainly would.

On one occasion, deciding on a cooked breakfast, he told me he liked his bacon crispy, so I did my best. He ended up with bits of bacon so crisp that when he tried to cut into it sent pieces charging across the plate like shrapnel from a cluster bomb.

Then there was the curry, the one I tried to do without a packet sauce. Half-way through he told me he felt the chunks of pineapple – as he identified them – were a bit over the top. It puzzled me and then when he pointed one out I corrected him and told him they were cloves of garlic. He didn’t look too comfortable about that, especially as he had chewed and swallowed about four of the things. (Unlucky, as there were only four in the whole mix – what are the odds?) Still, we had little trouble getting to the bar in crowed pubs, he just breathed a pathway.

It was the day we were going to check out the pubs in Prestatyn, I’d run out of milk, so we ate our muesli without it. Our enjoyment of the macabre was such we finished a whole packet of the cereal. It seemed funny at the time.

There were quite a few regrets during that day; the beer we drank seemed to expand the cereal in our stomachs. I am sure I must have got a bout of wind that compared to thunder for the rest of the day; jet propelled or what!

Fortunately, not all breakfasts were disasters, (well, unless I cooked them!) We had many days when we just went for the breakfast cereal (with milk) and it was only the excesses of beer that did for us on occasion. To be fair, though, I cannot remember getting a single bad hangover on those holidays. But then, I suppose you need to be sober to get a hangover.

Over the years, we must have been in most pubs along the coast of North Wales and played pool in many of them. We did have an annual pool match every year. A lot of the games I remember playing in Rhyl in one of the large amusement arcades; this was when pubs shut between 3pm and 5.30pm.

During one of these games in the arcade, I went and got two hotdogs for Blameworthy and myself and decided to be very over generous with the mustard; again, it seemed funny at the time. As it was me who’d done the damage to the hotdog I felt I obligated to finish mine with all the mustard on; I think Blameworthy was sensible enough to remove a lot of the mustard on his; giving me a slightly disapproving sideways glance as he did.

Once the first couple of years were over and we had been to most pubs once we tended to go back to the best ones which often had a pool table. One of those was the Dudley Arms in Rhyl.

We drank in there quite often and played quite a bit of pool.

One year, much to Blameworthy’s annoyance, of each game we played and I kept the score in a small notebook, meticulously recording the results of every game.

After a few days, it became known as ‘that bloody book’. Looking back, I can’t blame him for getting annoyed, I think I even got to hate it, but it had to be filled in. I don’t know why it did, but the OCD in me said it did!

On the return from a drinking session, quite possibly in the King’s Head, we got Fish and Chips from Tribells (still going today and it’s really called that and I don’t think it got its name from a Star Trek episode.). It was only a few hundred yards up from where we were staying. We got a few yards away from the chip shop when Blameworthy, for some reason I don’t remember, decided he didn’t want his fish and chips and lobbed them across the road.

There was no way any of my portion of fish and chips would end up taking flying lessons. I kept a tight hold and ate mine alone in the flat. Unfortunately, I still felt hungry after mine. So, and I put it down to the vast quantity of beer I’d probably drunk that night, I went back outside and looked for Blameworthy’s thrown fish and chips. A grin to rival a Cheshire cat’s spread across my face as I found they were still there. Fortunately, wrapped in several layers of paper and undamaged.

What’s the old expression? Waste not, want not. Well, that was certainly my motto that evening.

And yes, they went down rather well.

The next morning, I planned to confess what I’d done and pay Blameworthy for them, but in the cold light of day I felt a little embarrassed. Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

The Washington – we played a lot of darts there

I think it was the third year, 1983, that began the mystery of the disappearing jeans pockets. It was something that bothered my mother for a few years. When I got back from Llandudno, when washing my jeans, she noticed the inside of the pockets were missing. It wasn’t as if they were worn away because there would have been traces of them, they were gone!

Eventually, I confessed. There were a few times when I used some public toilets and unfortunately there wasn’t any toilet paper, so one had to improvise. Don’t judge, the alternative wasn’t a pleasant option!

And talking of toilets, in the place where we were staying, there wasn’t a toilet on suite. But one on each floor. My memory tells me the one of my floor was just a toilet and there was a separate bathroom. From the door to the toilet itself was quite a few feet. It also had a slightly faulty lock. You thought you were locked in and then it would click and the door would slowly open.

The first time this happened, I’d just sat down and the door creaked open. Not wanting to be exposed, I got up and moved to the floor. Unfortunately, as my trousers and pants were around the ankles, I fell forward. For a few seconds, whilst laying there, I had visions of another guest walking by and seeing me flat-out on the floor white buttocks on show – not a pretty sight!
Fortunately, I got up, pulled up the trousers and made sure the lock was engaged properly before without being seen! I could then conclude my business without interruption. Fortunately, there was always toilet paper in there so the jeans pockets survived!

I think the last time I went to North Wales with Blameworthy was 1984. I’m not sure why we stopped, it could be we had done North Wales well and truly.

But then, I didn’t know that I was far from finished with North Wales and Llandudno because 20 years later…

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21: The Morning After

Leaving the hotel....

Leaving the Hotel...

As befits a man of middle years I got up about three times in the night and each time reminded myself that I was in London. It was to stop myself from having a Patrick MaGoohan moment. However, one look out of the window would show me I wasn’t in a village I couldn’t recognised, with some over-grown balloon chasing me through the streets. Besides, I hadn’t resigned from my job as yet. Finally, at just after 9am, I got out of bed for the final time. Although I was up several time during the night the bed was surprisingly comfortable. I felt I could have slept on another couple of hours. I finished off the orange juice I bought last night, and decided to have as shower. It’d been a hot night. By the time I was dried and dressed I’d mapped out what I was going to do until my return train left at 2.27pm. One of the most important things was to get breakfast. It wasn’t included in the stay so I needed to find somewhere to eat. Yesterday, on the way to the hotel I’d spotted quite a few places to eat although most were mid-day and evening meals, so I wasn’t sure where I was going to have the breakfast or what I wanted, although the full English did cross my mind several times. One of the other things was to walk to Paddington at a reasonable pace so that I could have a good look round; I wasn’t sure when I’d get the opportunity to come to London again. I’d been to that part of London but it was some years ago, and I believe it was a booze-hound trip with Blameworthy. By about 2pm on such trips I’d be hard pressed to work out where I’d been all morning and be barely sober long enough to remember much about the evening with any geographical clarity… Ah, those were the days…The 1980s… It was the feeling of size that always went through my mind, the amount of floors the house had, the very width of them. Kensington High Streethad been no exception when I walked it yesterday. The there was the noise, the smell of car fumes and lots and lots of people. It’s always been a place I like to visit but I wouldn’t ever want to live there. It was 10.30am and my time was up in the hotel, time to check out and leave. As before I walked down half a dozen flights of steps, due to my phobia about lifts. I always felt they would get trapped between floors, which would be bad enough if they did, but going in a lift with someone you know… Well, friends tend to view me in slightly different light. It’s probably down to the way I stand in the corner of the lift, eyes two inches from the wall and whimpering incessantly throughout the ride…

Three attempts and still a car got in the way. The Goat.

It was a bright but cool morning and I decided I would get breakfast at the first place that took my fancy; somewhere not too busy. I set the iPhone to show me the most direct route and headed towards Paddington. I stopped a few times to take some pictures. Of course the ‘spoil-a-picture-taskforce’ was on hand to get in the way, so the potential for a decent photo was reduced to a bare minimum. I only managed a couple of shots of pubs in Kensington High Street, before I turned off to go through Hyde Park to Paddington. I did managed to get some decent pictures as I went through there, along with some of the Albert Memorial. Despite feeling hungry, it was approaching twelve midday and I still hadn’t eaten. Most of the places I passed either didn’t look open for business, just cleaning themselves after the previous night’s activities. I ended up in Paddington before I made my choice. There was an Angus Steakhouse, and for a while I toyed with the idea of combining breakfast and dinner. But on looking at the prices of the steak I settled for the full English. It seemed reasonable at around eight quid. I found a seat, although not by a window, gave me a view of the bright sunny outside world. Not overly picturesque, but certainly better than staring at a wall. I ordered the full English and an orange juice, then pulled out the old Kindle and downloaded the Sunday edition of the Independent. Thought I might as well catch up on what was happening in the world. There weren’t many people in the Steakhouse. There was a chap near to the door at a window seat. He was quite fidgety, and gripped a knife and fork in each hand, seemingly ready to tuck in as soon as the plate was shoved in front of him. He seemed to have that sort of look, the one you see in the eyes of monkeys at a zoo when they realise there’s humans outside with food. He made me feel I was glad I wasn’t the waiter; I would be in fear of losing part of my arm as soon as I put down the plate, if I didn’t move it back quickly enough. Of course, having an overactive imagination it also went through my mind that he was some sort of terrorist and had planted a bomb nearby and was just waiting for it to go off, just to see the results of his actions. Hence why he was so nervous. There were two others a few tables up from the nervy bloke. They were caught up in a really animated conversation. They made me think of the Eric Sykes film Rhubarb, Rhubarb, where all the people seem to be saying was, well, rhubarb. Except it was just noises I could hear, not really anything that sounded like words I could understand. I began to think the old lugs might need their regular rebore… The orange juice arrived, then ten minutes later the full English. I have to say it wasn’t as good as the breakfasts the Pink Lady and I have at Brooks in Highworth, but it wasn’t bad. Two hash browns, mushrooms, beans – in their own side dish -, egg, half a good sized tomato, sausage, short but fat and bacon, topped off with two slices of white bread toast. The bacon was quite thick and the sausage was really good. The Pink Lady, I believe, would have approved of the sausage; and believe me she’s fussy about the type of sausage that passes her lips! It was pleasant, a nice respite and with the sun shining I felt rather good. It made me wonder why I didn’t do things like this more often. I also reflected it would have been rather good if the Pink Lady could have come along. We could have extended both Saturday and Sunday; that is book an earlier train for arrival and a later train for departure.

The Pride Of Paddington

Unfortunately, the Pink Lady is not a fan of The Persuaders!Still, nobody’s perfect, so I’d made the arrangements without including her. The breakfast filled the gap rather well and I ordered an Americano afterwards. The coffee being rather good, I took my time over it and in between reading The Independent and watching the world go by. By now the nervy bloke had been served with his steak and was tucking into it as though it was his first meal in ages. Such gusto and enthusiasm must have served as a good advert for the Steakhouse. Although I’d been in there for around half an hour, the other animated blokes still hadn’t been served with food; still working their way through what looked like a couple of mineral waters; either that or half a bottle of vodka each… Of course, had they ate like they talked then must people around them and the windows would have been given a share in their meals. I paid up, the final bill coming to £13.25. It wasn’t bad, I thought as I packed up my things and left, not for London. Outside I checked my watch and found I had just under two hours to go before my train would leave. I decided to walk round, work off the breakfast and take some pub photos to take back to show Blameworthy…

The Dickens Tavern

The pattern was very much like earlier, every time I tried to take a photo cars or vans got in the way. Bloody things; damn well think they own the roads! Still, I suppose, if the quality turns out ok then a little messing about in Photoshop might correct the problem. One photo, the one of the Dickens Tavern, I rather caught a young woman by surprise. Probably who the old fart was with the camera; either that or frightened she’d just got herself a stalker…

The Mitre

As it came up to 1pm, I realised I’d been on my feet – with a half hour exception in the Angus steakhouse – for about three hours. I needed to find somewhere to sit, especially as it’d clouded over and was beginning to spit with rain. I found a spot quite quickly and sat down. From a shop on the way I bought a thin notebook and wrote up a little about this weekend. I should have brought the iPad with me for making notes on but I didn’t want to leave it unattended in the hotel. While I was there a touch of mischief descended on me and I bought a stamp and a postcard. I found a post box, wrote out a message to the Pink Lady and sent it. I felt it might amuse.

The Sawyers Arms

It began to rain, and didn’t stop for about twenty minutes. Luckily bench I was on was under a tree; I kept quite dry. I completed some blog notes and about fifteen minutes later the clouds moved away and the sun was out again. It was about twenty minutes after this I was in Paddington station. Not as clouded as yesterday but crowded enough. As I checked the train times I decided I needed a coffee, which was a little bit of a mistake because I then saw food; hunger suddenly echoed in the old brain box, although probably a fake hunger and I succumbed to an Italian meat ball sub, coated with a tomato and herb sauce. The departure boards told me that the train was now ready for boarding and I went to find my seat… It was time to go home. I told myself I should make a trip to London more often…

20: Moore To See

I suppose it really hit home when I opened the letter from Lord Brett Sinclair, with the Gold Napoleon ticket inside. I was going. So, confirmed I made the arrangements to go to London on the 10th September…

The Letter From Lord Brett Sinclair

So when I left home on the 10th I felt as though I was well organised; nothing left to chance. It was 11.45 and I was over half way to the Swindon Train Station. It was then, as I checked my iPhone for messages, I realised the charge was down to 65%. I would need to charge that when I got to the hotel…

Then I remembered I hadn’t packed my charger!

I thought about going back but decided against it. It would have meant a hurried journey to the Station. Also, I was sure it would last until I got home tomorrow…well, fairly sure….well, ok, I did not think I would need it urgently if it ran out…

I was off to London and I could not remember the last time I went to London. Well, if you do not include Paddington Station, where I stopped a couple of times this year to wait for a tube train to take me to the Greenford arm of the Company I work for.

I used the service where you collect your tickets from the machine at the station. I have to admit I am not over impressed with the bloody things. I mean, what if they had a tantrum and decided not to give you your tickets…

Well, it was funny I should mention that. I looked at the booking number on my iPhone note pad, Then I put my debit card in and nothing. The option to buy or collect never came up.

Great!

Out came the debit card and I tried again….and again….and again….and again. The Corporal Jones in me was beginning to surface…

Finally, after trying every conceivable way of putting the card in, it worked with the way I put it in the first time.

Cheers!

I entered the number only to be told it was not recognised. Three more tries and the machine had obviously got its sight back because it recognised the number I keyed and the message came up:

“Please wait for your tickets.”

As if I needed to be told!

I moved away from the machine. I was now suspicious and decided to check the tickets before I went any further. Were they all there, were they printed correctly? After what I had been through my confidence level was not high.

Now the second hurdle of the day. I got to the machine stations had put in all over the country whose only purpose, from my experience, is to assist passengers to miss their trains. Of all the journeys I have made since they installed the bloody things only twice has the ticket opened the barriers; nearly every time the guard has to let me through with his over-ride ticket.

The same thing happened today and I got about twenty feet from the machine when I was called back. Time was running out and the last thing I needed was some officious guard…

“Sir, sir,” she cried.

I turned round rather impatiently and I noticed she was holding something, but didn’t really register what it was.

“Is this your wallet,” she asked

“No,” was my first answer, then I looked more closely. It was!

My manners improved here, somewhat, and I thanked her after telling her some of the things that were in it. That was careless and could have made a big difference to the day I had planned out.

I thank her a couple of times more and then dash off to the platform.

The weather, when I got up looked quite bright, now it was dull. As I waited on the Station, I wondered if I would regret not bringing a my Columbo style raincoat. I shrugged. It was too bloody late now.

The train turned up on time – a pleasant surprise – and having got a reserved seat I did not hurry too much. I was placed on an Aisle seat and was next to some chap who was reading a football magazine. A little further up the train were some youths wearing football shirts.

I began to think. Why did they do that, wear football shirts? I suppose it was a tribal thing; bit like national flags. I looked at an overweight, seat busting chap, thinking how big the sizes must go up to? An injury in their favourite team and suddenly there is an announcement:

“Will the fat bastard in the team shirt report to the team manager…he’s needed to replace our star striker!”

Hmm. Ok. Too much time on my hands…

I decided to read for the hour or so I would be on the train. I removed my Amazon Kindle and opened up ‘The Man With The Golden Gun’ by Ian Fleming; the last Bond novel written by the original author. Over the last couple of months I had been re-reading all the James Bond books again.

The train journey passed by quite quickly, and as we drew into Paddington I looked out of the window to see high-rise flats, most of which displaying the week’s laundry over the balcony. One had a bike. I thought about living in one of those high rises, especially with my fear of lifts and insistence on taking the stairs. By the time I would have got the bike down all those flights of stairs I would have been too tired to ride it!

Again, I avoided the rush and stayed seated until most people piled off. Then, once on the platform I needed the toilet. I found it quite quickly and looked at the price. Thirty pence.

Hey ho!

I got in, walking to the left, which the sign says is the way in. By the turnstile where you put your money in, is a chap, in a chair, looking relaxed.

“Go in the other way,” he says.

“Thought this was the way in,” I smiled.

“It is, but you need to go in through the way out.”

“Right…” I said, dubiously. I had never been one for riddles…

I turned round and went to the way out and got to the turnstile. I could not get my coins in because it was blocked with coins. I fiddled with it for a good ten minutes, the pressure in my bladder increasing. I was rapidly approaching the Red Indian war-dance stage of wanting to go.

Then some chap from behind just strolled through the turnstile. It was not locked and dependent on coins to release it. I watched two other blokes walk through before the urge in me focused my mind and I dashed in and to the nearest cubical, nearly knocking down to other blokes on the way. When you have got to go, you have got to go!

I stood there for around three minutes or more, my eyes glazed over as I emptied my bladder. The simple pleasures in life are often the best…

Once out of Paddington Station the changeable weather decided sun. I could live with that. I figured it might be a good idea to check out exactly where the venue for my evening in London was in relation to my hotel. I wanted to make sure I would allow enough time to get there later; I hate to rush.

I put the postcode in on the iPhone map app and it plotted the route for me, telling me how far and how long it should take me on foot. The positive was the route took me through Hyde Park, a lot of people about either jogging or walking. There were quite a few families about and events which seemed to be catering for them.

It was Kent House in Rutland Gardens that I was looking for. After thirty minutes or so I found it, tucked down a side-street, with a barrier and gatehouse vetting the cars who came and left.

A Nice Walk To The Venue Via Hyde Park

At around 6pm tonight it would be hosting an event for a company called Network. It was through this Company over the last half-dozen or so years that I managed to collect numerous DVD collections of some of my favourite ITC series of the sixties and seventies. Series like The Saint, The Champions, Man In A Suitcase and many of the Gerry Anderson TV Series along with The Sweeney.

Tonight I would be attending the launch of the 40th Anniversary of The Persuaders! To mark this event there would be a showing of two episodes of the new digitally re-mastered series. The two episodes had been chosen by Sir Roger Moore, who would be at the event that night and was probably the main reason I decided to go.

At the entrance to Rutland Gardens was a gatehouse with a guard working the barrier. I decided to make sure I was at the right place so went and spoke to him.

“Hello,” I said, being all for original openings. “But is Kent House down there?”

“Yes, sir, first building.”

“I’m attending an event by Network DVD tonight…”

The guard frowned. That caused a tingle to run the length of my spin. Had I got it wrong? Surely not? I checked my ticket – probably for the hundredth time. No, it was all set up for today…

The Gold Napoleon Ticket

“Yes, it’s being attended by Sir Roger Moore…” I said, old name dropper me.

Another frown, then a “Really.”

He looked up a list, then smiled at me. “Ah yes, hadn’t noticed that before. I only got on an hour or so ago. We don’t get told in advance. His driver is booked in. He’s been here before for some other event, some sort of awards, I think.”

It was my turn to say: “Really?”

“Yes, very nice bloke.”

“I’ve heard that,” I replied.

“Yes, that night he’d been inside for a couple of hours and then came out with a plateful of food and a drink for the driver outside. Didn’t have to bring it himself, could’ve sent someone else.”

We talked for a couple of minutes then I decide to walk to the hotel. It’s this part of the journey I needed to measure for that evening. It was now 1.30pm. I programmed the iPhone and by coincidence it was around two miles to the Hotel.

The bulk of the journey was quite straightforward, along Kensington High Street. About forty minutes later I found the turn-off just eight minutes after it had turned cloudy again and began spitting with rain.

I checked in at the hotel and found the room to be cramped with bunk bed, metal but felt comfortable; the bathroom was a small room with a toilet, basin and shower. One window, about eight inches square. It was open and let in little air. The room was stuffy and I was feeling hot.

I took a quick shower and decided the room was not a place to hang around in. The weather had brighten a little so I thought I would go for a stroll. It was less than ten minutes before I would be on Kensington High Street where the shops were.

I suddenly realised I had not eaten since 9am, so bought a couple of sandwiches, a drink and a Snickers bar. I know how to live!

The event called for formal attire and I had dressed in jacket trousers, shirt with tie but my footwear was the walking trainers. I had brought along my only pair of shoes. Heavy and steel toe-capped. They were uncomfortable like most shoes I had worn in my life. However, needs must…as some chap once said…

So around 16:45, with the shoes on I begin the walk, deciding as soon as I find a cash point I would take a bus, I managed to work out they ran regularly up and down Kensington High Street.

However, by the time I found a cash point which would give me my money without having to pay for the privilege I was almost fifty percent of the way there. I walked the rest as well and get to the venue twenty-two minutes early. But I got a few pub shots on the way; even if everyone seemed to try to get in on the photograph.

My feet were already beginning to hurt, and there was at least three hours or more to go. I hoped there was seating inside other than the screening room.

It was 17:38 when I got there, very much on time. The reception was at 18:00, the two episode viewing was supposed to be at 18:45.

About ten minutes later myself and other Gold Napoleon ticket holders were called in. A majority of the people seemed to have come in seventies gear; as suggested but fortunately was not compulsory.

In eight minutes the crowd started to move then a woman calls out if the Gold Napoleon Ticket holders would like to come to the front…

Other Side Of The Gold Napoleon Ticket

The time-table was changed, as I along with other Gold Napoleon ticket holders, walked in. Sir Roger Moore was to sign the copies of the Box Set. As I queued I got to see the original Aston Martin DBS, that Roger Moore drove as Lord Brett Sinclair. The boot was open and in was signed by both Tony Curtis and Roger Moore.

Maleclipboard checked by name and let me through and Femaleclipboard took me to the room where Sir Roger Moore was signing The Persuaders! Blu Ray box sets.

As I entered the large room I saw the man himself. In front of me in the queue was a bloke who told me the man to Sir Roger’s left was his PA. Much to his delight, my fellow queue mate saw another bloke stood in front of the desk where Sir Roger was seated, signing box sets. He was taking each person’s camera or camera-phones and taking pictures. Although a lot less outwardly demonstrative than my queue mate, I was pleased that there was an opportunity to get my photo taken with the man himself…

I had not brought my camera as I had read the blurb when the ticket arrived which indicated no cameras. However, all was not lost as my iPhone has got a perfectly good 5 megapixel camera which should do a good enough job. So, as my turn arrived I handed over my iPhone to the bloke in front of the desk and handed over the box set to Sir Roger Moore and showed him where I would like him to sign it.

The Signed Blu Ray Folder.

“Thanks for such an entertaining blog and your work in the children’s charity,” said Sir Roger to me.

I raised an eyebrow in surprise. “I didn’t think you read my blog?”

“Ah, you’ll be surprised,” he responded…

I woke up from the daydream. Yep the last bit of dialogue was a lie…

I said a few words, none of which were what I planned, and then moved on after getting back my iPhone.

It was then onto the reception room. I was given a glass of Champagne and then mingled amongst a bigger crowd than I would have expected. There were sandwiches, small cut without crusts available. There were egg and cress, chicken and Caesar salad, Brie and cranberry – not a proper cheese as far as I’m concerned, rather tasteless but the cranberry was ok though – beef and mustard. I ate about 12; but they were no more than 1.5 mouthfuls each…well I was hungry and had done quite a bit of walking that day!

After twenty minutes or so my feet and back were killing me; a combination of the walk to the venue and walking around the room with only two chairs and both of them in use by disable chaps. What made it worse was there were quite a few people wearing trainers! I need not have caused myself such grief!

The Cover For The First Release of The Persuaders! In The 80s

I drank about two and half glasses of the bubbly, then went onto orange juice and was relieved when they announced the episode screenings. A chance to rest the old dogs…

In the viewing room was quite a big screen. In front of it was a small stage and I did not need to be a detective to work out it was for the question and answer session after the screenings.

Once most people were seated, I got a bit of shock when Barry Norman came onto the stage and explained there was to be a change in the schedule. They would show the first episode then there would be a Q&A session which Barry Norman would moderate. Then the second episode chosen by Sir Roger Moore would be shown.

I was surprised Barry Norman was there, even more surprised to hear his high praise for Sir Roger, especially as behind the man’s back Norman was quite critical. Thinking about it, perhaps I should not have been surprised as he had always tended on the hypercritical in my opinion.

The first episode was shown and I enjoyed the novelty of seeing it on the Big Screen. Of course, it would have been better had people not insisted on holding up their mobile cameras at various intervals but there we go, for every advantage of today’s devices there are disadvantages.

So through the first ever televised episode of The Persuaders! (Overture) we went. It looked rather good up on the big screen. Projected from a Blu Ray player using one of the box sets.

The Q&A’s came. After regularly watching Barry Norman’s Film programme over the years, hearing the way he ran down old Sir Rog, I was quite surprised at his gushing praise for the man now…or was I? Years of watching his Film ‘whatever year’ programme should have prepared me for his ‘style’.

Anyway, despite Barry Norman’s probing, trying to dig up the ‘dirt’, so to speak, about things like Sir Roger’s working relationship with Tony Curtis, Sir Roger never dished out the dirt only the positive. It was the same with Sir Roger’s autobiography, where he made it clear from the outset his biography, ‘My Word Is My Bond’ was not going to be seedy revelations…

The Persuaders! Annual: Nearly 40 years old.

Once Barry got his questions in he generously allowed others from the audience to ask questions before the introduction to the second Persuaders! episode chosen by Sir Roger Moore.

The session must have gone on for forty minutes at least and ended with a standing ovation. I was one of the first three to stand up. I would like to say it was purely because I enjoyed it but that was only part of it. My arse was dead and standing up helped restore the blood supply.

Quite a few people left with the exit of Sir Roger Moore. But despite my protesting arse, I stayed on to watch the second episode ‘A Death In The Family’. I probably would not get the chance to see any episodes on the big screen again.

After the episode I left. My feet and arse were still killing me so I decided I would take the bus, it would drop me off near enough to the hotel to give the dogs only a short walk.

I bought a litre of orange juice and two Oatmeal bars in a shop before getting back to the hotel, tired. I drank half the orange juice, ate the bars and then went to bed; which was surprisingly comfortable.

As I drifted off I reflected on an episode of Inspector Morse, the one where he meets one of his heroes of Opera. It turned out to be a great disappointment to him; as did most things for him, which was why he (probably) was such a misery guts. I felt rather luckier than that because I had met one of my heroes and he had turned out to be very much as I imagined he would be…

Of course, it was a brief meeting in very amiable circumstances, but still, it was nice to be left without disappointment….