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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Wear your poppy with pride

Lest we forget!


My father was in the Royal Navy during The Second World War.  He was on the minesweepers.  His ship wasn't a big British built ship with the proud name of, HMS Harrier, or Hazard, and a crew of a hundred sailors. It was a small wooden craft, not much bigger than a boat really.  Some had come from America. They didn't have names, only numbers, and some weren't even seaworthy when they arrived on our shores. 

Dad's job was to guide the anchor when the ship entered or left port.  He was locked in an airtight compartment.  If a mine had touched the anchor, or its chain - the only part of the minesweeper that was metal - it would have exploded.  The small compartment would have flooded, dad would have drowned, but the ship would have been saved.  Whether it was luck, or that dad was good at his job - I'd like to think the latter, though I expect luck played a big part in it - the ship survived the war and, thank God, so did my Dad.

My handsome father, Jack Smith, is standing top left as you look at the photograph.  As an amateur boxer for the Royal Navy he was exceptionally fit, in every sense of the word. 

Dad's ship was the first up the Seine, France, and the lead ship into Copenhagen harbour, Denmark, after sweeping the North Sea.  He told me once that an officer on his ship fell overboard into the North Sea and he jumped in and saved him. The officer got a medal.  Dad?  He got a double ration of rum.  Which he told me was his reward for doing the dangerous job he did.     

Many brave men and women have lost their lives in conflicts before and since WWII.
We remember them all .  

I wear my poppy for the men and women who did come home,
and the men and women who did not
More photographs from WWII

Dad, back row second from right,
taking a break on a beach somewhere
Dad's Ship
Dad, back row far left, and the football team

WWII (Left to right) Uncle Tom (Army), uncle Arthur (Navy), Aunty Dorothy (WAAF)  
First World War, grandfather Tom Ward (Royal Engineers on horseback)
Two world wars - Two generations

Sunday November 10th  2013, Lutterworth Church

World War One helmet on a cross
made from two sticks in front of the alter

Flags at salute

With my lovely friends, Mickie and Ken Secker.
Ken was with RAF Bomber Command in WWII


Friday, 18 October 2013

Pauline Barclay : Sitting Round my Pool is the Amazing Multi-Talente...

Thank you for your generosity in interviewing me about my acting career, Pauline. Talking to you about it brought back some happy memories, and some life changing ones.  I don't do bitter or anger, I believe everything happens for the best, eventually, though we don't always see it at the time. If my life hadn't gone down the road it did, I wouldn't be a writer now which, I love.  I have no regrets. 

Today I am so pleased to have Madalyn Morgan sitting round my pool. I met Madalyn a few months ago on Social Media and from the first m...   Log onto the link below to read the interview.


Thursday, 10 October 2013

A trailer, "Entertaining the WI with sketches by Joyce Grenfell"

Click on the link below for Entertaining the WI Trailer

Performing at The Leicester & Rutland AGM of the Women's Institute, Oct 2013

Fifteen minutes of entertainment at the Leicestershire and Rutland Annual Women's Institute Group Meeting, hosted by Lutterworth WI and held at, The Lutterworth Cricket Club, on October 4th 2013.
Madalyn Morgan in dinner suit

It was a fantastic evening.  Lutterworth WI President Frances welcomed everyone, and then we stood up and sang, Jerusalem, which got the evening off to a great start.  

    Toastmaster, Geoffrey Harris
When we arrived both Geoffrey Harris and I were dressed in black. Then Geoffrey changed into his red Toastmasters tails and I changed in to... Well, you'll see what I changed into lower down the page.

Geoffrey had been a school teacher, and then a professional clown. Ten years ago he trained as a Toastmaster and is now a Fellow of the National Association of Toastmasters, working in some of the grandest hotels and houses in the country.

"A Toastmaster's Tale" is a light amusing talk about his work, which Geoff has performed in a wide variety of venues all over the UK.
N.B. And, Geoff knew every word of Jerusalem. What a star!

I was asked to judge "A Diamond Celebration" with the WI Federation Representative. So difficult.  The half a dozen amazingly clever table top designs were made of white and silver, fabrics and crystals. They were, Diamond Jubilee arrangements. I know everyone says it, but they really were brilliant. They were all winners, but there could only be a first, second, and third. Thankfully we both agreed on the placing. There was a lovely home made buffet with wine. I was given a large glass of very nice red wine, which I put on a side table for after I'd finished my stand-up performance. In more than thirty years as a professional actress, I have never had alcohol before going on stage - and I wasn't about to start then. So after putting my wine on a side table, alongside a glass of water, which I might or might not need between sketches, I set out my costume. I needed to put it in order, so I could slip in and out of it easily, unobtrusively, while introducing the next sketch. I'd rehearsed it until it was slick.

First, on the table behind me, I put a black chiffon and sequinned stole and a string of pearls for Mrs Fanshaw in "Stately As A Galleon." Next to that a polka-dot headscarf, already tied in a bow at the top, wave grippers, nappies and clothes pegs. I draped a 1950s bibbed-pinafore on the back of a chair, so I could easily and quickly slip my arms into it while introducing the second sketch as a cockney girl, "Rainbow Corner." Finally, I set a simple brown cardigan and a beige woollen scarf for the nursery school sketch where I play the nursery school teacher in "Story Telling".
Frances introduced me and I joined her in the middle of the room in front of the table.  I smiled broadly, but I had never been so nervous in my life. 
Mrs Fanshaw in "Stately As A Galleon"

I thanked Frances for inviting me, said what a lovely evening I was having - and how good the Toastmaster was - and began chatting about Joyce Grenfell's life and career while I took off my jacket and put on pearls and stole to play, Mrs Fanshaw in, Stately As A Galleon.

The audience laughed in all the right places (not difficult to achieve when you're saying Joyce Grenfell's amazingly funny lines). And, after being more nervous than I had ever been, I was enjoying myself. At the end of the first sketch, still talking, I went for the second costume, the pinafore on the back of the chair. And it had gone. I got myself ready all but the pinafore, and then said, 'Who's nicked my pinny?' The audience laughed. They looked around. I think they thought it was part of the show. Then I said, 'It was on a chair just here.' The super lady who had adjudicated with me said, 'I took the chair.' I pulled her leg accusing her of trying to steal the show and there was more laughter. She had been sitting on it. It was great fun.

Cockney friend of Gladys and May
in "Rainbow Nights"
This sketch is set in a kitchen some years after WWII where London girls look back to when they were young; when they used to go, up West (the West End) to a US canteen called, Rainbow Corner.  I play, Me, Gladys, May, and four yanks - Joe, Hank, Red and Slim.  Yep! No kiddin.  I don't think I could have written a better bit of audience participation script, if I'd tried.  At the end of the first paragraph I look to the left and say, 'Me and Gladys had some fun.  We did, didn't we Glad?'  And before I could say the last line as Glad,  'We did.' The lady on the table where I was looking said, 'We did.'  It was perfect.  

A photograph of London girls dancing with American servicemen at Rainbow Corner, 1944

A Getty image, borrowed x ? x

The last sketch, Story Time, was written in 1944 and is one of Joyce Grenfell's Six Nursery School Sketches.  It has the famous line, 'George...  Don't do that!'
                                   Nursery school teacher in "Story Time"

                 Preparing to play the girls in "Rainbow Nights"

  'George...  Don't do that!'