Saturday 24 July 2010

Dr Who at The Albert Hall

The Summer Proms at The Albert Hall are with us again. They are sponsored by the BBC and the BBC records the lot, for radio and much for TV. The BBC is a National Treasure. I honestly don't know how the rest of you do without one.

In recent years, I think from 2008 the PROMS have devoted one evening to Dr Who music.

Two years ago Nigel Kennedy performed his version of the Dr Who opening title music on his electric violin.
Nigel Kennedy, if you don't know, is one of the leading violinists in the world today, a protege of Yehudi Menuin and a Sheffield United supporter. He also plays brilliant jazz and versions of Jimmy Hendrix classics on his violin.

If you met him in the street you might think he was a skin head, yob or hooligan. He's supposed to be quite nice really. Here he is in all his glory, playing the Dr Who theme tune outside The Albert Hall two years ago.

Tonight it is this years Dr Who themed concert at The Albert Hall with Matt Smith and other Dr Who actors presiding over events.

You will be able to access the concert throught the BBC i-player.

All the best and enjoy(If you are a Dr Who fan).


Sunday 18 July 2010


Born : 16th December 1775.

Her father wrote at the time,

" a present play thing for her sister Cassy and a future companion. She is to be Jenny."

Died: 18th July 1817.

Her sister Cassandra wrote:

" I have lost a treasure, such a sister, such a friend as can never be surpassed,-She was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow, I had not a thought concealed from her,& it is as if I had lost a part of myself."

Sunday 11 July 2010

Anniversary of The Battle of Britain (Howard Reeves.)

My Uncle Howard  was nineteen and a member of the Home Guard in 1940. He was not called up to the regular forces because he had a reserved job. He was a draughtsman, alongside his father, my grandfather, in Thorneycrofts, a local shipyard in Woolston, Southampton. They were building minesweepers and destroyers.
He died a few weeks after this picture was taken, on Sunday 24th November 1940 the day after one of the worst Luftwaffe raids on Southampton. He was helping to pull the dead and wounded from the rubble of a pub in Woolston, called The London Arms, when another bomb hit them.

Howard 1940.

The lady who owned the dress shop opposite The London Arms, Mrs Adams, came out into the street after the last bomb had exploded which fatally injured my uncle. She climbed in through her own shop window that was smashed and broken and tore material from dresses she had on disapply to tie tourniquets around my uncles many wounds. She could see he was bleeding to death. She tried hard but couldn't save him. She spoke to my grandmother later about it. My grandmother had been expecting Howard home and had prepared his favourite meal of fish and chips. I often had fish and chips cooked by my grandmother in later years. The policeman who came to my mother and grandparents house later that day to tell them about their son was in tears. He cried uncontrolably. My grandparents house was the sixth he'd been  to.

The  site of The London Arms in Woolston, Southampton.

Woolston was famous for the Supermarine Aircraft factory. This was where the Spitfire was designed and built . Supermarine's chief designer, R J Mitchell, who designed the Spitfire, lived in a small bungalow about a mile from my mother and grandparents. This is an old news picture of the factory in Woolston making spitfires.

My mother told me a story of how the sirens went one night. She was on her way to their Anderson Shelter and she could hear machine gun fire from a German Bomber flying low over Woolston. She later discovered from neighbours and friends that over 100 factory workers at Supermarine had been mown down and killed in the road between the factory and the air raid shelters.

 The site of the Supermarine factory in Woolston today.   

R J Mitchells bungalow in Woolston, Southampton. He was the designer of the Spitfire.

RJ Mitchell, Supermarines chief designer and the designer of the Spitfire.

The memorial in Woolston to R J Mitchel.

My grandmother told me how on another night the sirens once again had sounded. She was standing in her back garden in Longmore Avenue when a German Bomber flew low overhead.She looked up into the pilots eyes. She yelled out to everybody, " I can see him. He's looking at me." He was being chased by a Spitfire sent up from Southampton Airport and was flying low over housing to protect himself. The Spitfire pilot would not have shot up houses and gardens to get him. The German aircraft was later shot down over the New Forest.
Spitfires over Britain.
This is one of the saddest stories from the Southampton Blitz. Some school children were having an art lesson in Southampton Art Gallery on the 6th November 1940, when the sirens went. They went with their teachers and art gallery assistants into the basement. A bomb drilled through the roof and two concrete floors before exploding in the basement and killing them all.

Seventy years ago in the Summer of 1940 the skies of Britain were the scene of a deadly struggle. Day after day The Luftwaffe and the RAF fought relentlessly for dominance of the skies.

Over London and the skies of Kent, Sussex and Hampshire the interwoven con trails of fighter aircraft laced the sky, 20,000 feet above England.

Many of the towns and cities of England were being bombed too;
Great Yarmouth,Dover,Folkestone,Portsmouth, Southampton, Plymouth,Exeter, Cardiff, Swansea and towns and cities in the industrial centre of Britain, Coventry, Birmingham and of course London, were all bombed and some devastated cruelly. But the struggle went on.

If it hadn't been for ,"the sacrifice of the few," as Churchill put it, there would have been no fortress Britain and the build up of the massive army of British, Americans, Canadians and forces from around the Commonwealth that attacked the mainland of Europe on June 6th 1944, D-Day.

Here is a link with many archive recordings of that time:

One of the most poignant recordings is the live report by Charles Gardner of a dog fight over Dover as it actually happened, .

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Why do we want to visit Chawton?

Why do people want to visit Chawton, the place where Jane Austen lived?
Sunday 20th November 1808 Jane writes to Cassandra from Castle Square:
(Jane, her mother and Cassandra are contemplating their move from Southampton to Chawton. )

“There are six bedchambers at Chawton; Henry wrote to my mother the other day,& luckily mentioned the number-which is just what we wanted to be assured of. He also speaks of Garrets for Store places, one of which she immediately planned for fitting up for Edward’s manservant- & now perhaps it must be for our own- for she is already quite reconciled to our keeping one. The difficulty of doing without one had been thought of before. - His name shall be Robert if you please.”
The coach parties arrive. The car park is used by visitors, families, groups of friends, individuals who have found their own way there.

So why do they come to Chawton, the last home of Jane Austen?

They have invariably read Pride and Prejudice or one of the other novels or all of them. They know a little about Jane Austen’s life already.

What does actually going to Chawton do for somebody?

They walk on the very ground that Jane walked on. They go inside the cottage that Jane inhabited and are surrounded by the walls of brick that enclosed Jane’s slight frame. They walk and stand in the same spaces she stood and moved in. They fill the spaces where she laughed and thought and wrote and slept and argued and loved and hated.

They can’t become Jane even if they wish for that. They can’t become the writer she was though they may want to be.

Imagination plays a large part and the imagination feeds on knowledge of Jane’s life, her stories and the period she lived, the things she used and touched.

What does the visitor come away with? It has been a pleasure to be where Jane had been. Maybe they marvel at her circumstances. Maybe they try to work out how she functioned in this environment. They empathise. The final thing they come away with is a closer emotional relationship with Jane.

They have seen, they have felt, they have thought.