The end of the back end
Hallowe’en marks the end of the back end fairs. I was in Thatcham in Berkshire again for Green Halowe’en, at the stunningly beautiful Nature Discovery Centre in aptly-named Muddy Lane, Thatcham. I park up the night before alongside the lake being sung to sleep by the geese, ducks swans and assorted wildlife. The next day was beautifully warm and sunny, and the shows went well with lovely audiences. A really memorably charming end to a great summer for me. I feel I’ve achieved a lot this year. I’ve made a lot of new friends, developed some routines I’m pleased with and survived with only one significant injury, a twisted ankle, which is now almost fully healed.
I have one more Christmas event booked than last year so should make it through to the lean months with enough saved to survive. And of course I’m now a pensioner so receive the state pension in return for all the years of National Insurance contributions I’ve dutifully paid.
Cat’s Paw Theatre is about to go on tour with two teams working at the same time, one Welsh and the other English, and for the very first time a Cat’s Paw production going out without me. In fact even more bizarre with someone playing me. Well at least playing the role I have developed, scripted and played for five years, and playing it in another language.
I have been thinking about the next period of time and how I am going to include writing this blog in my life. Well not just how but really what I am going to blog about. I have tried to avoid just writing about the mundane and boring stuff, and instead tell you stories and incidents that I hope make interesting reading. The trouble is that winter is almost here and instead of travelling through this wonderful country from event to exciting event, I am sitting in my lorry in the yard watching the rain pour down, dreaming of summer and putting off all those jobs I really ought to do in the workshop.
So I have decided that for the next few episodes I will tell you something of the history of my life, and in particular the peculiar and particular episodes that have engineered me into the eccentric showman I am today. Can I call myself that? I guess so. I do shows and I am a bit strange. Eccentric is better than strange. More British somehow, and I am very British.
Which is why the first chapter of my story may shock some and worry others as it seemed, to those at the time, that I was displaying some particularly anti-British views. I wasn’t, but looking back and trying to see what I did through the eyes of teachers and parents, I can now see that this simple act was bound to set me aside as a rebel, and one with perhaps somewhat dubious motives.
To tell the story I must carry you back, most of you in imagination, some in memory, to 1956 and a country very different to the one we now live in. North of London, the village of Southgate was given its name by Henry VIII as it formed the south gate of his hunting fields, north of London Town.
By 1956 of course it was joined onto London, not quite swallowed by it as it is today, but definitely joined onto it by the No 29 bus and the Piccadilly tube. Still a village though with a green and a pond, a cricket ground, a pub and a church and, nestling in the middle, Walker Primary School in which an innocent and unaware eight year old committed an act so heinous that it branded him forever at best as a very naughty boy and at worst as a lot worse, and turned him overnight into the outsider he still is today.
I was reminded of this story by a Facebook friend who posted a webpage called Reclaim the Swastika. Check it out by a Google search, it makes interesting reading. But in 1956 the symbol had, as it still has to many, a very different meaning that was still very fresh, painful and unredeemable in everyone’s memories.
Read the full story next time and in the meantime, all the best from a road near you,