Meeting My Great Aunts

Katie
Katie Neville, 1929

As I explained in a recent post, my mother came from a theatrical family; her father, John Barton White [otherwise known, for his romantic proclivities, as ‘The Bounder’] was both playwright and actor and ran his own successful touring company; her mother, Louise, was the eldest of four sisters, all of whom appeared on the stage from a very early age – Louise, Katie, Ruby and Pearl. Both her father and mother died before I was born, but I did get to meet my great aunts, Katie and Pearl on several occasions, most memorably, in Brighton, early in 1942.

Pearl
Marie Pearl, 1920s?

By then, Katie would have been in her early 70s, Pearl some ten years younger. I would have been some months past my third birthday and not long started at kindergarten under the watchful eye of the nuns of the La Sainte Union Catholic School in north London, and the war would have been well into its third year.

Aunts
Katie & Pearl in later years [And how about Pearl’s outfit!]

We were in the kitchen when the bomb dropped. Or was it bombs? Whatever the case, the sound of the explosion was sudden, frightening; the vibrations close and strong enough to send every pot and pan from the high open shelves cannoning across the room and along the floor. What happened then, I don’t know. Did I scream or cry? I imagine my mother attempting to comfort me while my aunts, perhaps, put on a brave show of it, singing – they both regularly appeared in musical theatre and pantomime – as they cleared away and set things to rights.

There was more to come. We were walking, my mother and I, along the front, heading for the station, when a German plane – I presume on its way home after a raid – flew low towards us, strafing the promenade with machine gun fire. From nowhere, a man rushed towards us and shepherded us urgently towards one of the benches, under which we took shelter. It was over in moments: I remember it clearly. That and the saucepans flying from the shelves. Brighton, 1942.

 

 

Poetry & Jazz at the Brighton Fringe

Performing with the John Lake Band at The Latest Music Bar, Manchester Street, Brighton, as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival, Thursday, 25th May.

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Here we go … © Molly Ernestine Boiling
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Phil Paton on tenor sax. © Molly Ernestine Boiling
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Never too late for a few last minute changes. © Molly Ernestine Boiling
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Phil and I in perfect (?) harmony. © Molly Ernestine Boiling
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Simon Cambers at the drums. © Liz Isles
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John Lake keeping a watchful eye on things from the piano. © Liz Isles
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Simon again – who said drummers couldn’t read music? © Liz Isles
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Grim down South! © Liz Isles
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I know it’s here somewhere! MB to the rescue. © Liz isles

I shall be reading with the John Lake Band at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London, on Friday, 24th November, and at the Underground Theatre, Eastbourne on Friday, 29th December.

Liz Isles’ website is lizislesphotography.com

Molly Boiling’s photographs can be viewed at http://whyernestine.tumblr.com

John Lake can be contacted at johnlaketrio.blogspot.co.uk

 

 

Getting to Grips with Poetry

Chrissy Williams and I were guests last Thursday at Pighog Poetry’s monthly reading at the Redroaster Coffee House in Brighton. It was, I thought, a splendid evening, with no fewer that sixteen poets, under the watchful eye of organiser, Michaela Ridgeway, reading from the floor. The place was full, virtually standing room only, and Chrissy and I were both made to feel welcome and listened to with attentive enthusiasm. [You can feel it!] I closed my set with a new poem, Curve, written after going down to an exhibition of Bridget Riley’s paintings at Bexhill last year, and it was this that drew the most positive comments afterwards.

The poem has just been included in the Spring issue of London Grip’s online poetry magazine (which also includes work by Norbert Hirschhorn and Rob Etty amongst others) and you can link to it here http://londongrip.co.uk/2016/02/london-grip-new-poetry-spring-2016/