Posts Tagged ‘poster’

My misspent teenage years….

This week, Emily and Kelly have told me to write about about going to concerts. And so I must.

I did my fair share of concert going when I was younger actually. As mentioned in The Handbags And The Gladrags, it started with Ant and Dec AKA PJ and Duncan. I went to three of their concerts. The first one was the one mentioned in the post, where my friend and I wrote a letter to them to ask if they needed backing dancers cause we were really good and had even made up some of own dances to their songs already. We were about 10 years old. We also wore co-ordinated outfits to the concert – black heeled pumps, see through tights, white denim skirts, black t-shirts that said ‘Right On’, denim jackets and small black handbags. All matching.

The other two times I saw them, I went with a girl from school. We did all the obligatory screaming until our throats were hoarse and buying t-shirts and massive posters and lingering outside hoping to see them, etc.

I also went to a few concerts that had loads of groups/singers at them. Lingering around outside after those was always good cause you were almost guaranteed to see someone. My big sighting was Shane from Westlife. That was big news with the girls in school the next day.

One time, when I was about 15 or 16 years old, a few of us at school had become really frantic about Westlife. We LOVED them. WE LOVED THEM SO MUCH! AAAHHHH! THEY’RE SO AMAZING!

We loved them. Yes, we did.

Somehow, one of the girls had got hold of the tour manager’s phone number. Now I think about it, it was probably just some bloke pretending he was so that young girls would call him up and act all silly with excitement. Anyway, this girl kept ringing the tour manager and would find out when they were doing concerts, etc.

This one time, they were doing a small private gig in Liverpool. I think it was a restaurant or something, which had a small performing space downstairs, something like that. So we went there, about four or five of us *hardcore* fans. And we stood outside and waited. And these other hardcore fans were also there and they were telling us about all the times they had met Westlife.

This one girl said to us that sometimes Brian (my personal fav) and a bodyguard sneak out of a back door and go to the car so that they can assess the situation and see how many crazed teenage fans are waiting outside to leap on them when they leave. Then the bodyguard goes back and gets the others and they leave by the front entrance.

Breathless with excitement, midnight approaching, heart beating, we snuck around to the back exit and waited, hoping this girl had been right, otherwise they’d leave by the front exit and we’d totally miss it. We giggled, we squealed, we hoped beyond hope that he would emerge, see us standing there, fall in love with one of us and whisk us off in his fancy limo. That’s not expecting too much, is it?

And finally, the door started to open… The girl had been right! A tall man dressed in black emerged, his distinctive blond locks pulled under a dark cap and a bodyguard following him.

We were gobsmacked. There were just five or six of us standing around. It was late. It was dark. It was exciting. And here we were, standing with Brian McFadden from Westlife, as he shushed us a little and quickly signed autographs.

I approached him quietly from his left side as he signed something for my friend. I could see from his hurrying that he wouldn’t have time to sign my notepad. So I did the best I could to create a lasting memory of the moment.

I touched his upper left arm with my right hand. I touched it in wonder. I held onto it slightly, as though I were going to link my arm through his and walk off with him.

And I stared. My mouth was probably hanging open. I may have been dribbling. I honestly couldn’t tell you. He signed two or three autographs then gently told us he had to hurry off.

And then he was gone. Just like that. Out of our lives forever. He ran up the slope toward the front and got in the waiting car. As the girl said he would. Then we ran to the front entrance and waited for the other four Westlifers to come out. As the girl said they would. We were obviously at the back of the crowd because we had spent all our time waiting for Brian at the back. We saw the tips of their heads at most.

But it didn’t matter.

I had held Brian’s arm. His arm, goddamnyou! His ARM! Does it come much better than that?

I think not.

Special pigeons

We’re mixing it up this week and having the guest blogger’s contribution on Monday, instead of Wednesday. Enjoy!

I recently visited a place in England which was very top secret during WW2. It was where the government set up a special department for breaking codes used by its enemies: Bletchley Park. Wartime communications, especially military, were normally sent in some coded fashion. This has been the way for many hundreds of years; a way of trying to prevent your enemies knowing what you are planning either defensively or against them directly.

We’re all familiar with the idea of a code: something which changes the letters of normal words into something which hopefully is hard to decipher if the message falls into enemy hands. A simple code would be like this: nwpf usppqt up uif csjehf. It means “move troops to the bridge”. You can probably see it’s just a transposing of the normal letter by one to the next letter in the alphabet. Nothing else has been done so the same number of letters appear in each word once it is coded. A slightly harder version might be npw fus ppq tup uif csj ehf where the letters are grouped into threes and it is much harder to see how the words are made up. Of course there are much more complex versions of coding and ones based on some mathematical formula. During WW2 the Germans had invented a machine which produced one of the most complicated forms of coding. It needed three wheels to be placed into the coding machine each set to a certain letter of the alphabet. Once in place when the operator pressed say the letter “a” out would come “t” and then after “b” was pressed out would come “m” say and so on. The receiver of the message then put the same three wheels in at the same positions and typed the coded letter and out would come the real one. The only way you could fathom it out would be if you know which wheel settings had been used and in which of the three slots. Anyway the job of the folks at Bletchley Park was to try and figure out how the wheels altered the normal letter into the coded one. There’s too much detail to go into here but here is a picture of the front of the machine they built to try and duplicate what the German coding machine was doing.




Alan Turing was the man in charge of the project and the machine was called a “bombe”. (The word bombe came from anglicising the name of an earlier simpler machine used by Polish code breakers. They had called theirs bomba kryptologiczna). Although it looks like something sat on a table it is big – it actually reaches to the floor and is taller than a person.



It’s amazing seeing all the wires making the connections to wonder how Turing’s team could have possibly been able to work out how to make it.


Bletchley Park is a very big site and if you wanted to read all the info boards you’d need a whole day. I couldn’t spend the whole day but I was there about 5 hours. A number of the huts that were used during the war have been made into exhibition areas on different subjects. One in particular was very interesting because it was on a subject which many people know little or nothing about – how pigeons were used in the war. If you read my post from 18.7.12 about bird droppings you will remember I was not very complimentary about pigeons because of the mess they make on our cars, houses and washing. However, one of the films I saw showed how during the war there were times when homing pigeons were essential: when radio silence had to be maintained. Agents on the Continent would use them to send messages back to England with information about troop movements and requirements for the resistance organisations. The use of them was taken so seriously that the occupying forces used snipers to try and shoot down pigeons flying over the area. Anyone keeping pigeons would of course be under suspicion. Paratroopers sometimes carried them in their uniform to release when they had landed. I was surprised to learn that flying relatively short distances over The Channel back to England they could fly at speeds of 60mph.

Pigeons have been used for carrying messages for hundreds of years (different ones of course as they don’t live for hundreds of years individually!). One ancient ruler actually set up a regular messenger service using carrier pigeons between Baghdad & Syria. They’ve been used at various times throughout history for carrying valuable information; and scientists still don’t really know how they find their directions. A number of theories have been postulated: inbuilt compass, using invisible magnetic lines & using physical geographical features like roads or rivers. Some appear to follow roads or rivers when trying to get their bearings. Anyway however they do it, it seems to work.

The usefulness of carrier pigeons led to a number of measures being taken by both sides in WW2. Look at this poster headed “Defence of the Realm”.



You could get 6 months in prison or £100 fine for shooting one according to this poster issued in Leeds. Also the government offered a reward of £5 for info leading to a person being convicted of shooting a homing pigeon.


This poster I assume was done for publicity purposes to frighten the local community. This man as you can see was shot the day before the notice was put up. He was shot because they believed he had released a pigeon with a message for England. Pigeons’ abilities were taken very seriously by both sides. However the film mentioned that there were horrendous numbers of casualties & birds which didn’t make it home. Some may have been shot; some may have been killed by natural predators; some may just have not found their way back. Despite this they clearly supplied enough good intelligence to keep the idea going and homing birds have continued to be used even in conflicts of recent times.

Things I have said to famous people whilst making coffee for them

Simon Callow

Now you must bear in mind when reading this, that I had not had a television since leaving home when I was 18 and had not really been absorbing anything I did watch, even then. This is attested to by the fact that I have no idea whether I have watched loads of really classic films that I’m guessing I probably did watch at some point in my childhood. That is my defence.

This incident happened about six years later, when working in a little coffee kiosk in a train station.

A man came in one day and got an espresso and an orange juice. His face looked really familiar. When he left, I asked the others if they recognised him. One was Portuguese and the other Polish and they hadn’t recognised him at all. I’m not sure how well he is known outside the English speaking world but neither knew his face.

The next day he came in and I decided to be brave and asked him.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to sound over familiar but I recognise you from somewhere and I can’t think where. Are you off TV?”

Yes. I said that. Those exact words – “off TV.” Are you off TV? Like some chav who can’t speak properly. Me. I said that. To Simon Callow.



What an insult.

He good-naturedly said, “Well, some of the things I’ve been in have been shown on television, yes.”

After he left, a poster on the station wall caught my eye. A poster for a pantomime showing at the nearby theatre. The man was on the poster! I quickly googled his name on my phone and realised, with a sinking feeling, that it had been Simon Callow. The famous Shakespearean theatre actor, Simon Callow. Yes, him.

And I’d asked him if he was “off TV.”

The next time he came in, I apologised and he was lovely and gracious about it, obviously. He asked my name and every time he came in, most days for the next few weeks, he always popped his head round to where I was tucked away making coffee and said, “Hello,Laura.”

Thank goodness he was so nice about it!

Gita from Eastenders

This one is from the same coffee job. A lady had been in every day for a few days and I had a real feeling that I knew her, or had known her, from my childhood in Liverpool. Now Liverpool isn’t the whitest place in the world but in comparison with London’s ethnic make-up, you just do notice people of different ethnicity a bit more because there are fewer of them.

This lady obviously had an Indian background and a slight Indian accent and, for some reason, my first thought was of my Maths teacher at school, who was also of Indian origin but had a Liverpudlian accent. So the picture didn’t match exactly but I couldn’t think of anyone else Indian I had known during my childhood. Other ethnicities, yes, but not Indian.

But she was really familiar so I knew I knew her somehow.

“Hi, I hope you don’t think I’m being rude but I feel like I know you somehow. Did you ever live in Liverpool, I grew up there. Have you taught before?”

“No, I’ve never lived there. I was an actress about ten years ago though. You might have seen me in something?…”

It started to dawn on me and my face started turning red.

“I was in Eastenders. My character was called Gita.”

And there it was. That was how I knew her. My mum used to watch Eastenders so I’d been peripherally aware of her via TV. And then, years later, I’d seen a face that I knew from my childhood and asked her if she used to be my Maths teacher! What a let down for someone who spent a significant amount of her life doing a job she presumably loved, being recognised at the time and being in a well established television series which has won awards. Then you go for coffee ten years later and someone says, “Did you used to be my teacher?”

Big fat fail by Laura. Oops!