Bishop’s Stortford, In the air, underwater…

Bishop’s Stortford is in Hertfordshire, just one of the many fascinating facts about this town.

A small but lovely audience for the show who stood at the end which was very nice. Chatted to a local jazz musician after the show who told me about Flt. Lt. Dickie Lee who was posted at nearby RAF Debden before and during the war. He was a bit of a local hero and celebrity and the musicians (I must start remembering people’s names) dad who worked next door to the airfield remembered there being a cardboard cut out of him at work.

He performed a stunt in which he flew a biplane through an aircraft hangar at Debden in the 1938 George Formby film ‘It’s In The Air’ In the story this was supposed to be George, out of control, flying the plane.

He was a pretty fearless pilot who won the DSO and DFC for his service. He disappeared on the 18th of August 1940 chasing German planes out to sea with almost no fuel left. His friend who watched him go said in his memoir “‘Come back, Dickie,’ I called but he was drawing away. Again and again I called, but he kept on. It was useless to chase Huns out to sea; they would be back again the next day. Something had got into Dickie and there was no stopping him. We were both low on fuel and I was out of ammunition. There was only one thing to do: turn back.”

dickie lee

Flt. Lt. Dickie Lee


Girls with lipstick often kiss walls backstage at theatres and these were on the wall at the Rhodes Arts Centre in Bishop’s Stortford like some weird effin’ jellyfish underwater scene;




And so to Ireland next (I’m actually already here but am pretending I’m not for the purposes of the blog) with Formby director Ed Hughes driving like lunatic in order to make the ferry.

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Funny to think the armchair from my living room is traveling across the Irish sea in the depths of this big icy bugger.

Excellent boy, lovely work.

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Exmouth, cricket, wandering off

When I was a schoolboy, a large portion of my summer holidays was spent at cricket clubs in the South West watching my dad and brothers playing for Sidmouth Cricket Club.  I remember all that time spent at the cricket quite fondly… but… a cricket match makes for a  long day and my general feeling towards cricket and sports in general was the same then as it is now…

If it was decided tomorrow to cancel all sport for ever, round up all the scores, decide a sort of over all winner of each sport and then stop doing it for all time, my life wouldn’t change in any way. I probably wouldn’t even notice they had cancelled sport.  I can get into the rugby and like watching darts a lot and I actually don’t mind playing some sports.  I can enjoy the actual doing of sport, but I don’t have any desire to win a sport.  Or to have a team to get behind. And when an England sport team win something I don’t feel it has anything to do with me.  I used to enjoy preventing other people from winning, particularly my sister at Monopoly, but only for the pleasure of that not the pleasure of winning myself. Well maybe a bit. There’s just not a part of my brain allocated for sport. Actually of course, if they did cancel sport it would affect me because my Dad and brothers would be pretty pissed off and that wouldn’t be very nice.

Exmouth Cricket club was one we regularly went to and I imagine as my dad stood out at the crease all those years ago, he might have noticed his slightly strange son wandering, or quite possibly ballet dancing out of the cricket ground and off into an alternate world of his own. Down this very path in fact;


Past ‘ere where I did the second Formby show on Wednesday; DSC_0209DSC_0206

I started being interested in George Formby  around the time that I was wandering out of Cricket Grounds and around places like Exmouth. They used to show his films on telly on Saturday mornings along with Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd and the old Tarzan films. It seems that most of my inspiration nowadays comes from this happy time when me and my little brother Jim would like nothing better than dressing up as Johnny Weissmullers Tarzan or Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan from Undersea Kingdom and fighting each other. Ahem..

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Exmouth Pavilion was originally an old dance hall and has a large stage at one end. At the end of Formby I ask if anyone in the audience would like to play or sing a tune. In Exmouth I could see the hand of a bloke in the front row shoot up when I asked this so seeing that he was in a wheel chair I went down to hand him the uke. He played a chord then decided against it and someone else played.

Afterwards he told me about his medical condition and that as soon as he went to play his hand seized up. He used to be a folk musician and founded a well known folk band in the South West. He gave it all up to nurse his wife for eight years until she died. All that time he had shut his instruments away in a cupboard and not played, but after she died he realised he wanted to play again. He said that the ability to play comes and goes but (his words were) ‘every day I try to create an ‘atmosphere’ around myself and give myself one thing to focus on doing for that day’. I’m not totally sure what he meant by the atmosphere bit but that’s the thing that stuck with me for some reason.

Hertfordshire then Irish odyssey coming next…

What a lovely boy, well done.

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