Contemplating Collections

  I was sat considering what to write today, when a thought struck me. Is the collecting of odd items mainly a male pre-occupation, or do the ladies participate too.

I have over the years collected Postage Stamps, which I think most people of my generation have at one time or another. Cigarette Cards, not such a hard one to figure out with John Players being one of the major businesses in Nottingham at that time. It was their several series on Military Uniforms that gave me an interest that I have followed for most of my Adult life.

Then I suppose I made the natural progression to Military Badges, for no particular reason I started to collect badges of the Scottish Regiments. Years later I saw my first enamelled badge of The French Foreign Legion, as a child I had read P.C.Wren’s Beau Geste and seen all of the Legion films featuring George Raft and Burt Lancaster. I soon re-developed an interest in everything to do with the Legion and Acquired quite a collection of their insignia, which unfortunately the house seems to have swallowed.

I am at the moment in a sort of crossroads situation, I would like to start collecting again, but what, it must be small, relatively inexpensive and pleasing to the eye. I can’t begin to imagine what that might encompass. Any suggestions!!


I can make you Immortal!

  The Artist had selected his canvas and was now busily mixing and blending his colours. His model was late, but he wasn’t surprised by that. She was a popular Courtesan and was kept busy by her clientele, he wasn’t concerned, she wouldn’t let him down, she had too much too lose, and her vanity would bring her to him.

What woman of style, courtesan or not, would not want to be immortalised by the Maestro Leonardo Da Vinci. She would arrive at any moment of that he was certain. He carried on with his mixing and blending and sure enough, she made her entrance.

Mona Lisa couldn’t just tap on the door, she had to make the grand theatrical gesture, the Artist smiled, she was so used to playing this part to her many suitors and clients that it had become almost a part of her. But I can’t blame her, thought Leonardo, that is how she makes her living.

He asked her to remove her cloak and sit on the seat he had prepared for her, ‘Why is the canvas so small, Maestro?’ The Maestro answered, ‘Once I have captured your smile, that small canvas will seem enormous, a larger canvas would be overwhelming!’

She seemed satisfied with the answer and sat and let the Artist pose her, once he was happy with the pose Leonardo began, he started by sketching the outline of her face then her eyes and nose, closely followed by her mouth paying special attention to the contour of her lips. Once satisfied with this the Maestro began adding colour and soon a picture began to appear on the once blank canvas.

Leonardo worked briskly but confidently, making every brush stroke count, after an hour it was possible to recognise his model, after two hours, she was almost complete but for a few clothing details that were to be added.

‘What do you think. My dear?’ asked the Maestro, seeking an opinion. ‘It is wonderful, and you have captured my smile beautifully, let me give you a hug, As she hugged him to her she felt his lips on her neck, it was nothing new to her, many of her suitors kissed and nibbled her neck. She smiled and thought, ‘Bite if you like, Maestro!’ but she was too late the Maestro had already sunk his fangs in to her jugular sending blood spurting out.

At the moment of death, it suddenly dawned on her, how she would become immortal, but all too late as Leonardo sucked away her life’s blood.

I am not for one moment suggesting that Leonardo da Vinci was in fact a Vampire but consider this, in his lifetime he was a famed Artist, Anatomist, Astronomer, Inventor, inventing among other things the Helicopter, the Aeroplane, the Submarine and numerous other ground breaking Inventions. He accomplished all these things in a lifespan of a mere 67 yrs. It may just be me? but I find this incredible!

(c) Damian Grange 2017



Robin Hood – Man or Myth

  Being Nottingham, born and bred I felt it was time to dispel a few of the tales surrounding our local hero. I have no idea what bought this on, probably yet another re-run of the abysmal Kevin Costner version whose only saving grace were the wonderful performances of the late Alan Rickman and Geraldine McEwan. but I digress, first an explanation.

The statement I am about to make gives me an even chance of getting lynched the next time I venture in to the City Centre. The man believed to be Robin was a Wolfshead or Outlaw, Outlaws were also known as hooded men. Maybe he started life as Robin of the Hood or Robin, the Hooded man as one version puts it. Maybe this as even passed down to the present day ‘Hoodies’.

I find it hard to believe that one man, even with accomplices, i.e. The Merry Men could have operated in several counties over a period of roughly four hundred years. I believe that there were many Robins, in different times and different counties. Yorkshire has some very strong Robin Hood connections too.

I have an idea that the Robin Hood Legend probably came about around the same time as the Morte De Arthur, which immortalised King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It might be a little unusual but why not cast an outlaw in the heroic mould, after all it was all about selling romantic ideals about our country.

We all like to think of the underdog as a hero, but in Norman England that would be highly unlikely. Norman justice was swift and sure, I don’t imagine anyone trying to undermine them would have lasted very long. But this is only one man’s opinion, we each have out own beliefs and I wouldn’t try to contradict your own in any way.

I must be feeling my age!

  I have recently noticed that I am becoming more and more addicted to the Antiques Programs on the Television. I don’t know whether this is age related, I admit that I am well on the way to becoming an Antique myself! I am developing a lovely patina, or maybe it’s just my hair gel, but either way I’m fascinated.

I think half of the joy is seeing something old and unique with a providence or history that speaks volumes about the said artefact. OK! some of the items you see may be weird and wonderful but occasionally you get a real gem of an item that stops you in your tracks. That moment makes it all worthwhile.

I remember in my early teens walking up Mansfield Road in Nottingham which at that time had a plethora of Junk / Antique Emporiums. I used to stand with my nose pressed against the window, fascinated by the array of flintlock pistols, bayonets and other militaria that was available. They were not terribly expensive, but well out of the range of my pocket money. I often look back and wish I had been a little more frugal with my money so that I might have been able to purchase one or more of those treasures.

The day I met a Yeti

  I was climbing in the Upper Reaches of the Himalayas, when I was separated from my companions by a rope that had sheared by chafing on a sharp rock. I was hopelessly lost and a snowstorm had just begun. Another addition to my problems.

I trudged on remorselessly, there was nothing else I could do. if I was to survive I needed to find shelter of some kind, either that or perish in the storm. I turned a corner and came face to face with a furry creature that must have been at least six foot six tall, I’m not small but it towered over me. it was covered head to foot in white fur, could this be the fabled Yeti.

The strange thing was, I didn’t feel at all threatened by it’s presence, the creature moved it’s mouth which I took to resemble a smile. I looked into it’s eyes and they seemed to be looking at me in a kindly manner. It seemed to mean me no harm.

The creature lifted me gently in to it’s arms and carried me like a child. I must have fallen asleep with exhaustion. When I awoke I was in a bed in the Infirmary at our Base camp. I hadn’t a clue as to how I had got there, I was told I had wandered in during the night, somewhat the worse for wear.

I never mentioned the Yeti, who had without a doubt saved my life. They would have just said I was delirious, the cold had gotten to me. But he or she was real and to them I owe my life, so it is probably best to leave them in peace, so that they too may survive!

(c) Damian Grange 2017

W.W.1. Ace Captain Albert Ball V.C. D.S.O & 2 Bars. M.C.

  I was born and raised in Nottingham, England as were my antecedents before me. I am proud of my city and county and it’s heritage. Today I feature one of it’s most illustrious sons. W.W.1 Fighter Ace Captain Albert Ball V.C. this young man who before he was shot down and killed himself, had shot down a total of 44 Enemy Aircraft, making him at that time the highest scoring British Ace. Albert like many other prominent pilots of all participating nations was a lone wolf pilot, in that he flew alone, picked his targets and attacked even though he was sometimes outnumbered. he was a very courageous young man and a credit to his upbringing. He was born on August 14th 1896 in Lenton, Nottingham. he enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters ( Notts and Derby Regt,) at the outbreak of the First World War and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant but became rapidly disillusioned with the Infantry, he longed to be in the thick of the action. In February 1916, Albert joined 13 Squadron in France flying BE2c’s on reconnaissance missions. he later joined 11Squadron flying the Bristol Scout and it was there that he perfected the technique of aiming the upper wing mounted Lewis gun and attacking the enemy from below. In 1917 he was with 56 Squadron flying S.E.5a No.8898. On the evening of the 7th of May 1917 during an engagement with Lothar von Richtofen, the Red Baron’s younger sibling, near Douai he lost control of his plane in a storm cloud and subsequently crash landed, dying of his injuries. He was buried in France with full Military Honours. A noble end for a noble warrior!

The statue of Captain Albert Ball in the grounds of Nottingham Castle



The Reluctant Gendarme

This incident, if incident is not to grand a term, happened many years ago when my wife and I were just finishing a holiday in Paris. We were sat outside a Metro Bar, killing time before we had to go to the Gare du Nord Station to catch the train to Calais. We were on the Avenue du Clichy, The Bar was situated on a busy crossroads and due to the amount of traffic a Gendarme was on point duty.

As we sat watching the traffic and people passing by, we both did something of a double-take, we couldn’t believe our eyes. Coming up the road to where to where the Gendarme was on point duty, was what appeared to be a car sized ‘trainer’ or gym shoe , if you prefer the term. It was black, possibly fibreglass on a car chassis with the logo ‘Kickers’ emblazoned on the side, but the strange thing was you could see neither wheels, nor a driver.

A moment or two after us, the Gendarme spotted it, his first reaction was to remove his kepi and scratch his head, then he replaced his kepi and shook his head, by this time the trainer was almost opposite the junction where we were seated, even at this distance, just a few yards away. there was still no evidence of wheels or a driver.

The Gendarme signalled the ‘trainer’ to stop, then he once again removed his kepi and scratched his head, holding his kepi he walked round the ‘trainer’ twice, inspecting it thoroughly, but looking more and more perplexed. Then he reached to his hip and undid the catch on his pistol holster. We deliberated on whether he planned to arrest it or shoot it. it would have been a tough decision. I have a feeling that the thought may have crossed his mind more than once?

But his plans were thwarted when the traffic, that was piling up behind the ‘trainer’ began to toot their horns impatiently, it was lunch time and they had no time for delays, especially from an indecisive Gendarme on point duty.

The Gendarme shrugged his shoulders, replaced his kepi, fastened the catch on his holster and signalled for the ‘trainer’ to proceed along with the traffic queuing behind it. To this day I have never seen a policeman look so bewildered as this one.

It would have been interesting to see the result had he called for reinforcements. I imagine it would have looked like a scene from the ‘Keystone Kops’ or maybe as we were in France, ‘Inspector Clouseau!’

(c) Damian Grange 2017

The French Student

  Many years ago when my late wife and I were on holiday in Paris, we decided one day to Visit the Left Bank. I wanted to see the Marais and the Bastille and my wife rather liked the idea of some different shops. We took in the sites that we had planned to visit and my wife had found a little gift shop and purchased some small items of Blue Limoge Pottery so she too was content to return to our hotel.

It was about then that we realised that we were lost. Nothing unusual in that, when we are abroad if everyone seems to head right we go left. It’s amazing the things that you find that others seem to miss, but that wasn’t solving our immediate problem. Then I saw walking towards us what to all intents and purposes was a typically French student. She had long hair in a curly perm, a hermes scarf around her neck, fitted leather jacket, distressed figure hugging jeans and short ankle boots with high heels.

I approached her and in my very poor tourist French said, ‘ Excuse Moi, Mamselle le direction de?’ I got no further with my request because at this point our French student had a fit of the giggles and said, ‘ It’s awright luv! I’m from Liverpool!’ in a broad Scouse accent, which was just about the last thing I expected. She very kindly took us in hand and showed us our route back in to the city. She was apparently working as a Nanny  but mixed socially with a group of French students which I suppose to a certain degree explained the clothing. We were certainly fooled by her appearance.

(c) Damian Grange 2017

littlerichard 2The day I met a Rock n Roll Legend……But didn’t know!

  A good many years ago, 1961 to be exact. I and the band I was a member of at the time were sat in a central corridor at the Atv Studios in Aston, Birmingham awaiting for our Audition to take part in a show featuring Midlands Bands. Also sat in the corridor were two black guys who we assumed were like us, Musicians waiting to be called for their audition spot, how wrong we were? As musos do the world over we struck up a conversation about music naturally. The younger of the two was very quiet and shy, but the older, a tall stocky guy who was built like a heavy weight boxer, chatted to us for quite some time until we were called to our Audition. When we returned they were gone, it was a pity we had really enjoyed chatting to them.

This was on a Sunday, the following Friday, when my copy of the Melody Maker fell through my door and the cover story was Little Richard to tour the Uk And there was a head and shoulders pic of our friend from Sunday. I couldn’t believe my eyes so I popped around to my mate, who also played in the band and he agreed with me, it was without a doubt the guy we had been chatting too.

The thing that confused us, we had seen Little Richard In cameo roles in several Films, the most obvious one being ‘The Girl can’t help it’ a vehicle to promote the late Jayne Mansfield who at that time was the current American Sex Symbol. In the films we saw Little Richard was a tall skinny guy with big hair, almost like the late Prince but obviously taller, in fact poles apart from the version that we met.

Little Richard, the man we met was kind, humble and self effacing, he was a joy to share time with and pleasure to know. May his success and music survive like himself has, it is his 85th Birthday in December 2017.

The other guy with him was a teenage Billy Preston, they were just about to embark on a UK Tour, Little Richard on piano and Billy providing backing with his organ. As a footnote we failed the Audition as also did a band from Leicester, Gerry Dorsey and the Brothers. Quite amusing when you realise that Gerry Dorsey is now Mr. Engelbert Humperdink who regularly plays Las Vegas. Aah Memories !

And today we are back to School, Mine that is!

And the Stars of today’s Extravaganza are ( fanfare and drum roll please ) Messrs Cawdron and Jowett, my Woodwork Teachers.

Mr.Cawdron was a small stocky man, who at first appeared to be stern, but once you knew him better you realised he had a slightly off beat sense of humour. He was bald headed with just a few wisps of hair at the sides and the back of his head, at the top of his head was a pronounced dent. And so, he was christened Billy Dent by his pupils, who referred to him affectionately this way, but never to his face naturally. Mr. Cawdron was a good Teacher he encouraged us to make things.

Mr.Jowett on the other hand was totally bland. He had his own Mantra, Keep your wood, as long as you can, as long as you can! This Mantra was on all four walls of the workplace and he repeated it almost everytime he opened his mouth. Today he would more than likely be diagnosed as having some weird form of O.C.D. And any fool knows that you don’t cut your wood until you have marked it out then double- checked it for accuracy, there was absolutely no need for his brain washing tactics.

Under his tuition, if you could call it that we made a miniature chair, the exercise was to make a perfect mortise and tenon joint. Fair enough but surely we could have made something more useful and aesthetically pleasing than this pathetic looking little chair.

We turned from a class that enjoyed and looked forward to their Woodwork period, to a class that loathed Woodwork and their Teacher in equal amounts. And as for his Mantra, i’m sure you can all make suggestions as to where to stick that, ( answers on a Postcard please )