All posts by angiesallsorts

Volunteer hospital radio presenter and football commentator. I enjoy the theatre, films, photography, good books and I am a general sports pundit.

Adrian Mole Discrepancies

Sue Townsend began her Mole writing in 1982 with the final book published in 2009.  I’ve read all the Adrian Mole books in order of publication, and it seems obvious they were never meant to be read in this manner, as the story line discrepancies are infuriating.  Reading a Townsend interview printed at the end of my last two books she said “once published, I never read my own work”. Believe me you can tell, because at times Sue talked about characters like she never knew their back story at all. Somehow I don’t think the Harry Potter generation from 1997 onwards would tolerate such a seemingly sloppy attitude toward the main characters story.

The first discrepancy I noticed was in characters ages. Adrian’s Secret Diary begins on New Year’s Day 1981 and on April 2nd he turned 14, making his birth year 1967. In the third book Adrian loses a year, seems to regain it again in later narratives, only to celebrate his 40th birthday in 2008! Yet an Adrian Mole CV printed at the back of the last book states he was born in 1967. The Mole boys’ age references are even worse. In “The Cappuccino Years” which spans from April 97 to May 98, William started nursery aged three in 97 (birthday July 1st) and Glenn celebrated becoming a teenager the following year on April 18th. So there are definitely 9 ¼ years between them, but in October 2002 at the start of “Weapons of Mass Destruction” the difference is eight years. Glenn is 17 (correct) and turns 18 the following April as a serving soldier in Kuwait. William is said to be 9 when really he was eight and this strand continues In “The Lost Diaries” where the narrative frankly gets totally lost, with William aged 7 and Glenn 13? William is simultaneously described as a seven year old being drilled for SAT exams, with prevailing references to nursery school participation, yet at five he would have been between these educational reference points.  Glenn meanwhile celebrated becoming 14 in January 2000 when he should actually have turned 15 that April instead?

“The Lost Diaries” wasn’t written as a novel originally, but appeared in The Guardian newspaper as a series of weekly articles known as the Diary of a Provincial Man, between December 1999 and November 2001.  This time period usefully filled some of the gap between the “Cappuccino” & “Weapons” narratives. However, it sticks out like a sore thumb with story plots that are full of contradiction, especially regarding Adrian and Pandora’s parents. Adrian’s mum Pauline falls in love with Pandora’s dad Ivan after the election of 1997 in” The Cappuccino Years”. This results in the even more unlikely get together of George Mole and Tania Braithwaite. Each new couple intend to marry. Sadly in “The Weapons of Mass Destruction” Ivan is said to have drowned on honeymoon, and the second anniversary of his death is mourned on Oct 2nd 2002. So it was with surprise I read the “Lost Diaries” to find Ivan married Pauline on 27th Nov 1999, returned hale and hearty from honeymoon, and worked from home for about a year before suffering a mental breakdown. With his wife Pauline’s knowledge, Ivan returned to Tania’s palatial and less chaotic home to recuperate. Tania’s husband George suffered a back injury putting up a pagoda in the garden and was hospitalised,  only to  succumb to numerous hospital borne infections as well, so is out of the way. Pauline suffers the indignity of jail time for hitting a policeman trying to remove her Beckham nativity scene, and on her release is said to be distraught to find that Ivan is back living with Tania! After fifteen months in the hospital George Mole is discharged on July 2nd 2001, goes on holiday with Pauline and remarries her on August 18th. Their son Adrian had wondered when they went on holiday if their respective partners knew about it. So there is no mention of divorce between Ivan/Pauline and Tania/George and Ivan is most definitely alive at this point. Another story thread that has been altered in the “Lost” book regards Grandma Sugden who is mentioned as having died over twenty years ago. This would have meant she wasn’t around by about 1980, yet throughout Adrian’s teenage years he writes about Grandma Sugden and family celebrating Christmas several times in the Mole household.

The “Cappuccino” book was published in 1999 and “Weapons” in 2004 long before the 2008 “Lost Diaries”, so the dialogue was established. The latter narrative had virtually no co-relation to the others at all, and it’s obvious it was written in a different way. The fact that September 11th 2001 has no distinct diary entry in the “Lost” tome, but is referred to later on speaks volumes. I suspect in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the USA, the Guardian’s Provincial articles were less likely to be published. However, the Sept 11th omission is cunningly dealt with by the suggestion that Adrian’s diary was confiscated by the security forces in late 2001. Could the daily diary entry have been removed?

Adrian’s half siblings Brett Slater and Rosie Mole are born in August and November of 1982. In” The Lost Diaries” Brett’s age of nineteen is actually correct, and Adrian enquires if his father has had any contact with Brett. Yet in “The Cappuccino Years” Adrian finds out that a young teenage Brett has met George several times at Tania’s home. In “The Wilderness Years” Adrian refers to his sister as Rosemary, stating he refuses to bastardise her name to Rosie, despite the fact she was actually given the name Rosie Germaine Mole. Mind you Townsend has form here, as Adrian’s middle initial A is supposed to be Albert after his paternal grandfather, but in “Growing Pains” it becomes Arnold and in “Weapons” it is Arthur. Adrian’s friend Nigel usually has the surname Hetherington but in the “Small Amphibians” text, he is referred to as Nigel Partridge.

With regard to Adrian’s son William, I got the feeling Townsend just wanted to forget the character completely. This was confirmed with an interview narrative from the author printed at the end of the final books. Sue said she regretted Adrian getting married, having William and ending up a single parent. It restricted Adrian as a character, so she packed William off to his mother Jo-Jo in Nigeria and literally forgot him. The narrative in the books from that moment read EXACTLY that way, William out of sight and totally out of mind, for both the author and consequently her main character Adrian. This left an unpleasant taste in my mouth in a similar way to Adrian’s two NEVER changing characteristics.

Throughout the entire Mole series of books Adrian displays pure unbridled jealousy toward anyone with academic success or writing prowess. He rages at Barry Kent becoming a successful writer, is condescending at a writing group member’s poetry success, seethes at hearing Kent’s mother (a toilet cleaner) has gained two degrees, and is baffled & infuriated when Pandora hires Mrs Kent and later Nigel as Parliamentary assistants, when it should be him in such a position. Adrian has difficulty in relationships where his partner has a degree/superior career track record, and almost chokes admitting his own mother wrote the Adrian Mole cookery book. For all the years of diligent writing, Adrian really isn’t that good a wordsmith but remains convinced of his own genius, whilst rubbishing everyone else’s efforts. These disagreeable attributes remain a constant throughout Adrian’s life which is possibly a good thing, when you consider the numerous other details that undergo change without warning or explanation.

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Adrian Mole: The Social Commentator

Sue Townsend published her Adrian Mole diary series between 1982 and 2009, and reading them is like being reminded of various aspects of social change within UK society.  The differences are stark in many ways and I thought it would be interesting to document some of them here.

We first met Adrian Mole through his Secret Diary which he began aged 13 ¾ on New Year’s Day 1981. The usual angst of teenage acne, wanting a girlfriend, problems at school, his baby-boomer embarrassing parents are all there. He lives in an owner occupied house in a Leicestershire cul-de-sac, with one TV and one landline-phone. There are only three TV channels, no personal computers (they are only just beginning to appear on the market) and no internet. Adrian joins the library to improve his intellect. His Grandma still cooks a fabulous “proper Sunday roast dinner”, her grandson lamenting about existing on convenience readymade foods at home (boil in the bag, roast dinner trays thrown in the oven and instant desserts like Angel Delight). In the final book The Prostrate Years, Adrian ruefully shakes his head at the delicious Christmas dinner his wife Daisy produces, mainly thanks to multiple “Auntie Bessie” products and the microwave! You can detect the news headline “decline of cooking ability in Britain” through the Mole eating habits. The irony being in “The Cappuccino Years” Adrian becomes a minor celebrity TV chef with a cable TV show “Offally Good” despite the fact he can’t cook!

In a way, this episode mirrors the sad fact that thanks to reality TV shows in Britain; just about anyone with their 15 minutes of fame is now considered a celebrity, regardless of a lack of talent or ability in any area. The fascination with celebrity is emphasised when Adrian’s mum creates a nativity scene in her front garden comprising of Posh, Becks and their baby Brooklyn (Spice Girl Victoria and her footballer husband David Beckham). There is also a celebrity name drop from Pandora Braithwaite MP (in Weapons of Mass Destruction) when she discusses her autobiography “as I said to Bill Clinton my sex life is full of light and shade-we all need Monica’s and Hilary’s in our lives”. At least with the Beckhams’ and Clinton I knew who they were and what they were famous for. But then I found myself reading “you’ll know where you were Glenn when this happened” and wondering what it meant. Then I realised that it was a reference to reality show “Big Brother” evictions, and suddenly understanding how this type of TV content has somehow become part of everyday language and life. Just like “The Jeremy Kyle Show” where a person’s “dirty laundry” is aired to the general public. As Adrian’s mum discovered however, when she went on this particular TV show to solve her daughter’s paternity, Pauline’s fame took a poisonous turn when the studio audience turned against her.

Both of Adrian’s parents over the years have multiple affairs upsetting the stability of the family dynamic. But at the start of our journey with Mole, all his peers seem to come from a two parent household, even Barry Kent the school bully who lives in a “sink-hole” council estate. By the final book divorce is far more common-place as is single parenthood, emphasised by Sharon Bott who has several children all with different fathers. Her eldest, Glenn is Adrian’s son.

In the early books Adrian becomes involved with helping a pensioner called Bert Baxter, through a school volunteer initiative. As the years go by Bert is given constant help and support from both Adrian’s and his girlfriend Pandora’s parents. That sense of community help I’m familiar with, my mammy frequently helped out elderly neighbours and my Granny during the 70s and early 80s. But I feel that it would be highly unlikely to happen much, if at all, these days. One thing the books do seem to mirror is the known fact of today, that grown-up children often can’t afford to leave their parents’ home, or if they do, they usually return because of failed relationships or financial hardship. Adrian “flies the nest” reluctantly when his mother rents out his room to students to get more money. Yet time after time he ends up back at his parents when things go wrong.

Adrian mentions with reasonable regularity big news events over the decades. Historic moments in British history are acknowledged: royal weddings (Charles & Diana, Andrew & Sarah); Prince William’s birth; various conflicts-Falklands, Gulf War 1, War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan; Channel 4 and Breakfast TV starting; Mad Cow Disease (CJD), 2001 Anthrax scare. Other events like the fall of the Berlin Wall and Communism and the banking crisis/credit crunch/financial markets crash are all alluded to. Economic times of boom and bust are littered throughout the books, with redundancy in the Thatcherite 80s, after the financial downturn, and from closure of businesses through lack of custom, all affecting different Mole generations. Tania Braithwaite’s wealth buying a pagoda and Koi carp for her garden pond, whilst Adrian loses his cash-in-hand pittance wage from a London eatery that turns into an oxygen-bar, starkly highlights the wealth divide of the country. And that divide is still alive and kicking today.

During the boom years I remember the influx of post offering seemingly endless means of credit, sent by companies with little concern in how people could make repayments. I got them and was a housewife with no direct income of my own?  At the same time, many old industrial buildings around the country were turned into executive minimalist apartments, and sold for a fortune. So I wasn’t at all surprised to read about Mole earning a modest wage and succumbing to these unscrupulous offers, buying a flat way beyond his means, and literally ending up bankrupt. The characters naivety which is evident throughout the years is incredibly annoying, because in that sense Adrian never seems to grow up.

Elements of racism and male chauvinism are referred to in a gentle but obvious way, always subtly lying under the surface waiting to come out. Adrian’s thoughts about women/wife roles etc are meant to be funny, and I did laugh at the audacity of the thought being vocalised at all, they were so bad! The occasional racist remarks I sadly recognised as attitudes from my childhood that are still evident today. Peer pressure at school remains a problem, and is highlighted through Adrian’s sons Glenn and William NEEDING to have the right trainers, mobile phones and Pokémon cards. The rule of no photos or video of school productions is fully enforced by the final book, heralding the dominance of a world filled with social media and pushy parents. Civil partnerships give Adrian’s friend Nigel the chance to marry his partner Lance. Another friend Mohammed suffers because of public unease following Sept 11th when he is abruptly taken into custody, only to be later released without charge. Adrian organises a “Free Mohammed” rally and is subsequently arrested under the Blunkett anti-terrorist bill, explaining “The Lost Diaries” tome.

The arrival of hospital superbug infections is touched upon, alongside the difficulty in getting doctor appointments. When the pub and post office close in the village Adrian lives in, the heart of the community is ripped out. Alas, these trends continue unabated ten years after the final book was published. And unfortunately the worst aspect of all from the 2004 “Weapons of Mass Destruction” book fills our 24 hour news channels almost completely today. The division of public opinion regarding the War on Terror was palpable in Townsend’s narrative. Today that divisive political issue is Brexit with parliament members fighting over everything, and citizens literally at each other’s throats whenever the subject is brought up. It does nothing to conjure up a sense of a cohesive society working toward a goal for the common good. Instead I can’t shake off the memory of the miners’ strike in the 80s, where communities/families were literally torn apart by divided opinion. The seismic fracture caused by Brexit is alarmingly stretched throughout the British Isles. With the shambolic opposition/government decision makers we have today, I’m not sure if the country will ever fully recover.

 

How UK Political Turmoil Influenced My Reading

A snap UK general election was called by Prime Minister Theresa May on April 18th 2017, giving less than two months until the polls on June 8th.  Completely fed up with the awful state of British politics, I’d already sought solace/reassurance from my book reading. I’ve come to realise just how much the state of affairs in the country, has directly influenced the type of books I’ve read in the last two years.

During the 80s I adored the British comedy satire Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister TV series, and had the complete works on my bookcase for years, though had never read them. I started “The Complete Yes Minister” at the end of February 2017 inspired by the awful state of British politics today. I was strangely comforted by incidents mirroring events now, and knowing we had got through those tough times and survived. I’m able in my late forties to see through the facade of the face of politics. As a result I found the dialogue even funnier, because it seemed to reflect what I was thinking about government in general today.  I finished Yes Minister just before the election was called, and as the campaigning intensified I read “The Complete Yes Prime Minister”. It was startling to find Jim Hacker had been elevated from Minister to Prime Minister in EXACTLY the same way as Theresa May. No public vote but by party manoeuvres, and like May the fictional PM spoke of having the country’s mandate to govern! I found it fascinating that a TV show from thirty years before, reflected precisely what had happened in the Conservative Party with regard to Theresa May. And at times the scenarios within my book gave uncanny explanations of arguments going on now. You couldn’t help see through the facade of political speak which was very refreshing, and I found my reading material much better than the ghastly party electioneering of the day. I finished it four days before the polls opened. Between these two books I read an original text copy of H G Wells “War of the Worlds”, mainly because I’d seen a staged musical of it and heard a radio play version as well. It was interesting to realise the artistic license used in both. But the irony of the book title and the undoubted artistic license of election promises made, were not lost on me either.

The day after the election I embarked on reading the complete Chronicles of Narnia, finding the idea of inhabiting a fictional land far better than listening about the real one I was in. Take what you want from that statement. I distinctly remember starting The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe as a kid but don’t recall finishing it, the others I had never attempted. So I decided to fill a gap in my childhood reading knowledge, and from 9th June to 30th October 2017 I enjoyed the adventures found in Aslan’s land of Narnia. As I read the seven books of C S Lewis I also studied Michael Ward’s “The Narnia Code C.S. Lewis and the Secret of the Seven Heavens”. A very absorbing book that helped me understand the symbolism and dynamics within the stories in a much deeper way. I rounded off my childhood fictional reading with Kenneth Grahame’s “Wind in the Willows” another book I’d started but never finished as a child.

Since December 2017 I’ve enjoyed some adult fiction from authors Barbara Wilson, Maeve Binchy, Santa Montefiore, and Matt Haig. I’ve also re-read a childhood purchase of Wilson Rawls “Hunters of Cherokee Country” originally titled “Where The Red Fern Grows” an American classic I believe. But the rumbles of news from the United States especially with regard to President Trump’s policies, has focused my eye on the American book purchases on our bookshelves. As a devoted fan of the TV drama The West Wing with a fascination for the Kennedy era, its little wonder there is a distinct political slant to the American section. For several months of 2018 I immersed myself in “Happy Times” by Lee Radziwill; “Thanks For The Memories Mr President by Helen Thomas; “Say Goodbye To America” by Matthew Smith; The Kennedy White House Family Life & Pictures 1961-63” by Carl Sferrazza Anthony and “George & Laura Portrait of An American Marriage” by Christopher Andersen. All offered an interesting take regarding the business of US government and its effect on people, seen from the viewpoint of a family member (Radziwill sister of Jackie Kennedy), the press core (Helen Thomas), historical researchers and a biographer (Christopher Andersen).

In late October I returned to a very British subject matter, the diaries of Adrian Mole! Over three months I’ve followed Adrian from age 13 ¾ to 40, through teenage angst to treatment for prostate cancer, broken marriages, fatherhood, employment/lack of it and insolvency. Once again I’ve read about tough economic times and been reminded that the nation/people somehow managed to survive them. In this dark crazy turbulent world, it’s good to be reminded of that. The books act like a social commentary of the UK since 1981 which in itself is fascinating and deserves a blog of its own.

 

A Lifetime’s Love of Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond celebrates his 78th birthday today (24th January 2019) and I first heard his gorgeous vocals aged four. It was instant love at first listen when my Dad brought home a double 33rpm album of Neil’s called “Diamonds”. A Google search has informed me this album was released in 1974 in the Netherlands, which fits in with my merchant seaman Dad bringing it back whilst on leave, and my feeling Diamond’s music has been virtually ever present in my life. Until I was an adult, this album was my only exposure to Neil’s music other than seeing his film The Jazz Singer on TV.

                                  Diamonds Album Cover

But what an album “Diamonds” is, from that first fun happy sounding song “Cracklin’ Rosie” to the last gut wrenching heartbreaker “Morningside”. Between these came every style of music genre, from the rock inspired “Cherry Cherry”, the storytelling ballad about “Mr Bojangles”, the country sounding “Kentucky Woman”, spiritual “Holly Holy” and the beautiful emotive love song “Play Me”. I may have been very young, but I recognised the lyrical genius of Neil Diamond immediately. His music, words and delivery evoked in me just about every emotion possible. I could be singing and dancing one minute, playing hard rock air guitar the next, listening attentively mesmerised by the poetic quality of his lyrics, and breaking my heart sobbing uncontrollably to finish.  “Diamonds” was an emotional rollercoaster.

It wasn’t until I was at university and met the man who became my husband that I found another Neil devotee. Looking at Rob’s music collection I knew he had good taste when I spotted Abba, at a time when it wasn’t fashionable to admit being a fan of theirs. Spotting several Neil Diamond albums that were all new to me, I realised Rob was a keeper. Although we both loved Neil’s music, neither of us had seen him in concert. So we shared the experience together, going to our first show in 1999 followed by several more, until the final one in 2017 celebrating Neil’s 50th anniversary.

That first concert showcased “The Movie Album: As Time Goes By” and I was enthralled listening and seeing Neil perform. His rendition of “Unchained Melody” (a favourite of mine from The Righteous Brothers) was the best I’d ever heard sung, as it’s not always easy to make out the words. I told Neil the same thing in a note I wrote in my hotel the next morning, using the stationary in the room. I posted it to the venue and thought nothing more about it. A few months later I was surprised to receive a thank you card from Neil, which I have to this day.

                                        Neil Notecard

For posterity my Neil Diamond Concert Portfolio details 7 concerts spanning 18 years:

First Ever Show:  Wembley Arena London Tuesday March 9th 1999 at 8pm

  1. Earls Court London Saturday 27th July 2002 8pm
  2. Ipswich Football Stadium Thursday 26th May 2005 8pm
  3. NIA Birmingham Tuesday 10th June 2008 8pm (Home Before Dark tour)
  4. LG Arena (formerly NEC) Birmingham Tuesday 28th June 2011 8pm
  5. Genting Arena (formerly LG Arena) Birmingham Saturday 11th July 2015 8pm (no Rob)
  6. Manchester Arena (formerly MEN Arena) Sunday 1st October 2017 (50th Anniversary tour)

What I’ve always admired about Neil is that he performs his concerts solo without reliance on warm up acts. Diamond certainly has enough in his repertoire to perform several shows without repeating songs. It’s incredibly gruelling on the artist though, and I’ve been mindful these last few years that Neil and other singers I enjoy (Sydney Devine & Dolly Parton) are all on the wrong side of 70 now. Each of them give their all on stage, and I’ve increasingly thought “will this be the last concert”.

Watching Diamond’s 2017 show there were two or three fleeting moments when I thought Neil’s age maybe catching up with him. Strangely at the same moment an old work colleague’s name popped into my head for the first time in years. Her mother had Parkinson’s disease and she had been to a Billy Graham meeting in Glasgow, where I was singing in the choir. Within minutes of Graham coming to the stage, my colleague’s mum muttered “he has Parkinson’s same as me”. My colleague laughingly said “mum sees it everywhere now, the tell-tale signs, which she then described”. It wasn’t until many years later it was revealed Billy Graham had been diagnosed with the condition. Therefore Neil’s announcement of his retirement from touring, after a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease somehow didn’t shock me the way it should have. Remembering that wonderful final concert, and those odd feelings, I realised I’d had a weird kind of premonition. Every fan only wants Neil to be healthy and happy and his well-being is of paramount importance, so although the 50th anniversary tour ended prematurely his disappointed fans understood.

Neil Diamond’s anniversary show in Manchester was one of the first big events at the re-opened Arena following a terrorist attack.  Neil performed five songs I’d never heard before, so huge is Diamond’s back catalogue of work. I had to turn to Google again, to discover the song titles and which album they came from. One song in particular, Neil dedicated to the memory of those killed in the MEN bombing after the Ariana Grande concert of May 22nd 2017. The song “Dry Your Eyes” from the 1976 “Beautiful Noise” album was very emotional to hear, the lyrics sounding as if they had been written especially for that night. When Neil announced that he would be making a donation to the victims’ fund (I think it was the evenings merchandise revenue), it seemed the entire audience rose to their feet and applauded for a long time. Then almost total silence in that vast arena as Neil sang that emotive song. It’s a part of the evening I’ll never forget.

Neil’s setlist for my final concert was: In My Lifetime-In My Lifetime compilation; Cherry, Cherry; You Got To Me; Solitary Man; Love on the Rocks; September Morn; Play Me; Song Sung Blue; Beautiful Noise; Jungletime-Beautiful Noise album; Dry Your Eyes- Beautiful Noise album; He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother; Forever In Blue Jeans; You Don’t Bring Me Flowers; Red Red Wine; I’m A Believer; Brooklyn Roads; Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon; Be; Lonely Looking Sky; Skybird; Jazz Time-September Morn album; Crunchy Granola Suite; Done Too SoonTap Root Manuscript album; Holly Holy; I Am…I Said. Encore: Sweet Caroline; Cracklin’ Rosie; Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show.

The show was a celebration of Neil’s musicality and lyricism, the songs at times distinctly spiritual or poetic in nature. I relate to his music because it touches me deep within and puts into words everyone’s need for expression. Neil’s voice is that soothing balm in times of strife, a source of advice and inspiration and that friend who vocalises your inner thoughts with complete understanding.

To the boy who walked on “Brooklyn Roads” with his imaginary friend “Shilo”,  who grew to be a “Solitary Man” writing “Beautiful Noise” knowing to “Leave A Little Room For God”, my message is “I’m A Believer” and always will be full of “Delirious Love” “If You Know What I Mean”.  Happy Birthday Neil Diamond you are a real gem of a guy, it’s been a delight knowing your music.

                                              Concert Tops

Art Impressions Over The Last Two Years

There have been five exhibitions I’ve viewed over the last two years that have made a distinct impact on me, and it’s about time I write about them. All evoked emotions within that I didn’t always expect and I’d like to articulate and acknowledge that fact.

Three exhibitions in 2018 all have a definite French flavour: Impressionists in London-French Artists in Exile 1870-1904 (Tate Britain); Monet & Architecture (National Gallery); Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece (British Museum). I realise today that my love of the Impressionists (especially Monet) & Rodin stems from my first visits to Paris with my fiancée/husband Rob. I recall my first visit to the Pompidou, a vast chasm to traverse, and not being particularly keen on what I’d viewed, except for a fun Henry Moore sculpture on the roof. My feet were killing me, I was tired, hungry and grumpy, and I was led into a small annexe. My eyes fell upon the Impressionists and it was love at first sight, I was totally enchanted. I understood these “dotty” pictures of colour (Pointillism) and was transfixed by works of Monet, Sisley, Pissarro etc. My mood lifted immediately and I remained in the annexe for some time, taking it all in. Another place we visited was Rodin’s home now a museum, where I encountered his wonderful sculptures including The Thinker and The Kiss. Once again I was enthralled and couldn’t help but notice the distinct “classical” fundamental basis of Rodin’s work. The similarity to the art, architecture and sculpture I was studying at degree level with Classical Studies was uncanny. So the chance to see my French favourites within defined contexts was too good an opportunity to miss.

Stepping into the “Impressionists in London” I was surprised to discover the historical backdrop to their “exile”. In 1870 France unwisely declared war on Prussia, Napoleon deposed, three month siege of Paris, a popular uprising (Paris Commune) and a brutal government response. No wonder artists left in droves desperate to avoid the war, conscription, famine and political reprisals if you were deemed “on the wrong side”. Apparently and I quote “these artists faced no entrance restrictions: anyone, regardless of nationality, could come and stay indefinitely, including political exiles”. How different Britain approaches the idea of “refugees” today! My dismay at this thought mingled with the knowledge of the conflict backdrop, and I viewed the exhibition with a deep feeling of melancholy that I hadn’t expected. There were a few gruesome paintings depicting the ravages of war and some views (I think early photo’s) of a decimated Paris, which was very sad to see. These acted almost like picture bookends to the remainder of the exhibition which displayed portraits, scenic views and depictions of “society life”. I loved the paintings showing the countryside around London (Pissarro-The Avenue Sydenham 1871 & Saint Anne’s Church Kew 1892, Hampton Court Green 1891), the portraits (Tissot-Empress Eugenie & Prince Imperial 1874-75) and the elements of Victorian society life (Tissot-Hush 1875, London Visitors 1873, The Ball on Shipboard 1874). Of course London featured prominently as well particularly the Thames, Westminster and fog (or should I say smog from pollution). Monet’s House’s of Parliament series cover all these bases well and I also appreciated the lovely subtlety of Whistler’s Nocturne: Blue and Silver-Cremorne Lights 1872. I viewed these more endearing paintings with an added appreciation, having been made aware of the tumultuous circumstances that brought the artists to London in the first place.

The Ball on Shipboard 1874 Tissot     The Ball on Shipboard 1874 Tissot

The “Monet & Architecture” exhibition brought together paintings the artist made of   buildings in London, Venice and various parts of France. It was thrilling to view so many works that have rarely been seen, never mind all together. Although the Thames and the Venetian canals were well documented, other less well known delights were on display. I was captivated by the Cliffs at Varengeville 1875, The Ball-Shaped Tree Argenteuil 1876, Antibes, Morning 1888 and Sailing Boat at Petit-Gennevilliers 1874. All had that unmistakeable Monet “touch” of dancing colour and a wonderful play on the light. I much enjoyed seeing the architecture within the larger context of its more natural framework. It was somehow soothing and definitely was nourishment to the soul, especially in these dark politically troubled days in Britain.

Sailing Boat at Petit Gennevilliers 1874 Monet Sailing Boat at Petit-Gennevilliers

“Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece” was terrific and explained exactly WHY the Frenchman’s work had that “classic” feel. Throughout his life Rodin looked toward the ancient sculptures for inspiration, buying them from dealers, studying them and then making his own interpretation of the various forms. Suddenly all the headless torso models and limb fragments made sense, and the flow of movement and dynamics of form become easier to understand. Pallas With The Parthenon shows a beauty (Athena) the deity of sculpture seemingly wearing the Parthenon like a crown. The Age of Bronze looks incredibly lifelike and uncannily similar to an ancient Greek boy carrying a spear. Being able to view The Kiss and The Thinker up close and from various angles was a very moving experience. In fact seeing The Thinker in various sizes including a miniature version on the Gates of Hell, reinforced the idea of motifs being reused in various guises, just like on the Parthenon marbles. It also made you question the context in how you viewed a piece, as Rodin seemed to play with the emotion, gender and meaning of his classical muses. Seeing the Parthenon marbles in the British Museum clearly had a profound effect on Rodin, who until then had relied on photo’s and plaster copies at the Louvre as reference points. To see Rodin’s work alongside the classical masterpieces that inspired him was magical for me.

Pallas With The Parthenon Rodin.jpg                                  The Thinker Rodin

Pallas With The Parthenon Rodin               Two Thinkers Rodin

In 2017 I viewed an unexpected delight at the National Portrait Gallery The Encounter Drawings From Leonardo to Rembrandt. I thought I’d go along to see it as I’m a member of the NPG but had no great expectations. It was absolutely fantastic and I was somewhat awestruck. Here I was face to face with exquisite portraiture of extreme clarity produced with a deftness of touch that at times used nothing more than simple charcoal on paper. Pictures that were intimate, so delicate in form and nature (the oldest artist was born around 1394) that I marvelled they still existed. Paper was a relatively new and expensive medium to use during the artists lifetimes, and it was prepared with washes to produce different effects, before charcoals, chalk and inks were used to draw the picture. I just couldn’t get over the idea I was viewing something created as much as 550 years ago (Study of a Young Man by Pisanello (c.1434-8). Mind-blowing is all I can say. I marvelled at two Metalpoint drawings Woman Wearing A Hood by Domenico Ghirlandaio (c1485-90) and Boy With Curly Hair by Benozzo Gozzoli (c.1460). The latter one made me think of a photograph negative due to the way the paper had been prepared. It was near black but then the boys form seemed to come through in shafts of silver to beautiful effect. Young Man In A Hat, Probably A Self Portrait by Peter Oliver (c.1620) made me think of Shakespeare in style. And Young Man Wearing A Cloak by Francois Clouet (c.1560) and Francesco Salviati Young Man Looking to his Left (c.1540) were simply gorgeous with photographic type clarity.

Young Man Looking To His Left                        Under the Wave at Kanagawa Hokusai

Young Man Looking To His Left   Under The Wave at Kanagawa Hokusai

Finally the Hokusai beyond the Great Wave exhibition at the British Museum was possibly the most emotional and biggest highlight for me. I’ve known Under the Wave off Kanagawa commonly known as the Great Wave picture since I was nine years old, when I spotted it in an encyclopaedia section describing volcanoes/earthquakes and the possible after effects including tsunamis. The chance to see the real Great Wave picture was amazing and I viewed the exhibition twice. It was incredibly busy the first time, much quieter for the second which allowed me the chance to soak up the experience better. What overwhelmed me was the amazing intricacy of Hokusai’s work and that of Japanese woodblock art in general. After producing detailed drawings, these were painstakingly carved onto woodblocks, a different one for each main colour, and together the woodblocks would be used to print the overall picture. Eventually the woodblocks would wear out, the original picture form was usually destroyed during the carving process, and the mass produced product that sold for a nominal sum wasn’t usually of the highest quality. So the fact these pictures still exist in any number is quite miraculous. The nature, flora and fauna pictures were beautiful, the landscapes sublime, mesmerising and evocative, and then I came upon the Great Wave. Compared to my encyclopaedia motif (large postage stamp size) this was huge, and yet I found it oddly small for such a gargantuan iconic symbol. Of course I seen details I’d never noticed before, three boats not two, Mount Fuji so small in comparison to the stormy sea and monumental wave with fronds of foam. It appeared to emphasise how mother nature can destroy both her own creations as well as manmade ones.  As I stood taking in this iconic scene I was silent, aware of the beauty, intricate detail, simple colours and the powerful statement being made by this fragile artwork about our own tenuous hold on life, and the tears rolled down my face.

ANGIES ALLSORTS SHOW 220 RADIO LEIGHTON 14TH NOVEMBER 2018

7.30-9.30pm: Part 1-56m 46s Song 1-11; Part 2-57m Song 12-23

When Radio Leighton began officially broadcasting to patients on November 14th 1968 Hugo Montenegro topped the UK music charts with The Good The Bad and the Ugly. In football, England was half way through its tenure as World Champions, Manchester United were the  European Cup holders and Crewe Alex had division three league status, having gained promotion in the summer. The UK was between Eurovision wins, Prince Charles celebrated his twentieth birthday as a university student, neighbour BBC Radio Stoke was only an 8 month old baby and man had yet to walk on the moon.

To celebrate Radio Leighton’s golden birthday   I’d like to take you on a nostalgic journey playing music and looking back at some of the news and sports headlines from over the years. Welcome to my Angies Allsorts News/Sports & Music Archive, and listen out for my Golden Team references throughout the show.

  1. ALSO SPRACH ZARATHUSTRA (GT 1: 2001 A Space Odyssey film 1968 release)

Elvis Presley used this tune to herald the start of his concerts after he returned to the singing stage following his 68 Comeback Special. Here’s a song from that TV broadcast

  1. ELVIS PRESLEY with IF I CAN DREAM (GT2: Elvis 68 Comeback Special)

Evocative lyrics sung at a time of racial conflict and inequality in the USA when Elvis’s nation was embroiled in the Vietnam War. Back here the Race Equality Act was invoked and the Dagenham Women walked out demanding equal pay rights. Considering the tensions in our society today and seeing people still fighting for equal pay NOT A LOT SEEMS TO HAVE CHANGED.  But something that did change for Elvis in 68 was he became a father for the first and only time, when his daughter was born on February 1st. Thanks to modern technology our Golden Team member Lisa Marie sings alongside her Dad:

Rarity Record of the Week: 3. ELVIS PRESLEY/LISA-MARIE PRESLEY with WHERE NO ONE STANDS ALONE (GT3: Lisa-Marie born Feb 1st 1968)

The loneliest people over Christmas 68 were the crew of Apollo 8 who became the first humans to see the dark side of the moon and to witness how beautiful and fragile planet Earth was. Just 7 months after Apollo 8 paved the way to the moon Neil Armstrong took his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” when Apollo 11 went to/ Eagle landed on the moon in July 69

  1. CLIFF RICHARD with FROM A DISTANCE (GT4: Apollo 8 over Xmas 68 became the first manned space flight to leave low earth orbit and travel to the moon)

Extra audio from Stewart: Countdown & “Houston The Eagle Has Landed” announcement

Another man taking a giant leap that summer was James Bond when he got married to Tracy in the film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Who can forget George Lazenby in his only Bond film being widowed in a drive-by shooting on the way to his honeymoon?

  1. LOUIS ARMSTRONG with WE HAVE ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD

I mentioned James Bond because Daniel Craig the 6th actor to play the role was born in Chester on March 2nd 1968. So Daniel is another Golden Team member/ GT5. Somehow I don’t think his parents would have dreamed their son would grow up to play such an iconic film role, or be called upon as Bond to escort the Queen to the 2012 Olympics.

I’m reminded when I think of the 2012 London Olympics of the many events that have brought a tear to the eyes, such as military conflicts which have been seen on a wide scale throughout the worlds regions. In the sporting world football has had its share of tragedy since 1968 with fans perishing on the terraces of Ibrox in 71, Hillsborough in 89 and Bradford & Heysel in 85, and of course the Munich massacre of Israeli athletes in 72 deeply affected the Olympics that year. Our vulnerability has been particularly exposed when Mother Nature has vented her wrath through volcanoes, earthquakes, famine, flash floods and wild fires. Human error was behind disasters such as the Piper Alpha fire in 88, the Exonn Valdez in 89 and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. But it has been human malice that has caused the most devastation with bombings during the troubles, Lockerbie in 88, the Manchester Ariana Grande concert and Westminster Bridge both in 2017, the World Trade Centre in 2001 and the London bombings in July 2005 the day after the city was awarded the Olympics. A small moving tribute to that dark time was included in the opening ceremony in 2012 and I think the hymn is a fitting memorial in acknowledgement to all those lost:

  1. EMELIE SANDE with ABIDE WITH ME

Of course it’s sad to think of those no longer with us but I think it helps to remember the joy and love those people brought into our lives. Celebrity alumni of the November 14th birthday club certainly live on through their achievements and include artist Claude Monet born 1840, US composer Aaron Copeland 1900, first Prime Minister of India Nehru 1889, discoverer of insulin Frederick Banting in 1891, and former first lady Mamie Eisenhower 1896.

There are tears of joy as well as sadness and during 2012 I didn’t half well up at times. Never in decades of watching gymnastics or the Tour de France did I think I’d witness Great Britain achieve the ultimate success in these activities. Bradley Wiggins became the first British winner of the Tour in 2012, since then Chris Froome is a four time winner and Geraint Thomas won the 2018 Tour de France. British Gymnastics Olympic success that began in 2012 has rolled on unabated to my utter delight. Other happy British sporting moments I recall from Leighton’s 50 years include boxing world champions Jim Watt, Alan Minter, Barry McGuigan, Frank Bruno. Olympic success for Torvill & Dean in 84 and a young rower Steve Redgrave won his first Olympic gold in rowing that summer. He went on to win 4 more golds in the following 4 summer games. I think Sir Steve’s 5 Golds from 5 games surpasses Sir Chris Hoy’s 6 Golds from 3 games for cycling. Lewis Hamilton won his fifth Formula One Drivers Championship this year. In 1985 Boris Becker become the first unseeded and youngest player to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon. And Dennis Taylor won the World Snooker Championship 18-17 frames with the last ball in the last frame, defeating Steve Davis. A good song to summarise the effort and emotion behind all these sporting achievements is:

  1. WHITNEY HOUSTON with ONE MOMENT IN TIME

The birth of a baby is a special moment in time and Radio Leighton shares its special day with French cyclist Bernard Hinault 64, former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice 64, the Prince of Wales 70, British actor Russell Tovey 37 and Apollo 13 astronaut Fred Haise 85 and reporter Katy Kay 54.

Through medical innovation parenthood became a greater possibility in 1978 when the first test-tube baby Louise Brown was born. The lyrics from my next song I feel sums up parent love of a child very well.

  1. ANASTACIA with YOU’LL NEVER BE ALONE (GT6: Anastacia 50 on September 17th)

Another famous birth of 1978 changed the land of soap drama forever when the Ewing’s and Barnes entered our homes in the American soap Dallas:

  1. DALLAS THEME TUNE

Yes JR, Bobby, Miss Ellie & Co became household celebrities and The Who Shot JR saga made the national evening news headlines. Until JR and Southfork came along most people would have probably associated the city of Dallas with the assassination of John F Kennedy on November 22nd 1963. He was elected the 35th President of the United States in 1960 and was the youngest to reach that office. He later declared that man would go to the moon by the end of the Sixties. Alas, Kennedy never lived to see his vision fulfilled and the days of “Camelot” with Jack and Jackie ended. Another American couple who captured the world’s imagination were Danny & Sandy from the 1978 film Grease:

  1. JOHN TRAVOLTA & OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN with YOU’RE THE ONE THAT I WANT

40 years after Grease, it wasn’t Danny & Sandy making headlines but Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle when they married at St George’s Chapel Windsor. Here is a song from the wedding ceremony:

  1. THE KINGDOM CHOIR with STAND BY ME

Another “Get Together” that got people talking in 2018 was the impromptu appearance of Jason Donovan alongside Kylie Minogue during Proms in the Park. There little dance on the stage had the crowd ecstatic. You know both Jason and Kylie turned 50 this year, as did the musical Joseph:

Linking Lyrics Theme GOLDEN 50 YEAR OLDS (all show)/ Artist of the Week JASON DONOVAN

  1. JASON DONOVAN & KYLIE MINOGUE with ESPECIALLY FOR YOU (GT7 Kylie born May 28th& GT8 Jason Donovan born June 1st 68 both 50) [Note: I said Especially For You the third best selling single of 1988, it was actually fourth. I forgot Kylie’s I Should Be So Lucky was third, Yazz & The Plastic Population with The Only Way Is Up was second and Cliff Richard with Mistletoe & Wine was the top seller of 1988]
  2. JASON DONOVAN with ANY DREAM WILL DO (GT9: Joseph & His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat performed in its embryonic form Easter 68 thus aged 50)

Extra audio from Stewart-HRL birthday greeting from Alan Harding & the wedding song for Scott & Charlene Robinson in Neighbours. Almost 19.6 million UK viewers tuned in to see this TV soap spectacle in 1988.

  1. ANGRY ANDERSON with SUDDENLY

The Marine Broadcasting Offences Bill 1967 changed radio history. The act was brought into being in the hope of killing off the pirate radio broadcasts that competed with the BBC services by playing pop music for a younger generation. The BBC decided to bring in Radio 1 to play pop music, whilst Radio 2 would update the Light Programme, Radio 3 would be similar to the Third Programme and Radio 4 the Home Service. Eight regional BBC centres would also be established including a Radio Stoke-on-Trent which began transmissions in March 1968 (GT10). The 1970 elected Conservative government of Heath allowed the concept of commercial radio to begin, and so the transformation of our national radio service was complete.

  1. RAY STEVENS with TURN YOU RADIO ON

Back in 67/68 when radio was being revolutionised an unknown horse that would become a household name began his racing career. As a two year-old Red Rum took to the flat circuit at Aintree in 1967, the day before Foinavon became the luckiest Grand National winner at 100-1 after a melee at the 23rd fence. After a year of flat racing Red Rum took to the fences instead and became a champion steeplechaser becoming the most prolific horse to run the Grand National. Rummy won in 1973, 74 & 77 coming second in 75 & 76. Here’s a little known fact, in retirement Red Rum was the first horse ever ridden by comedian Lee Mack who turned 50 on 4th August (GT11). Lee became a stable boy as a teenager because he had the idea of becoming a jockey.  A song that came out a few months before Red Rum’s first National victory was:

  1. THE OSMONDS with CRAZY HORSES

One of the most heart warming stories from the Grand National is that of Aldaniti and Bob Champion in 1981. The jockey had been given months to live after being diagnosed with cancer and Aldaniti had been treated for tendon trouble and a fractured hock bone.  By winning the event in 81 having overcome such life threatening hurdles proved that both man and beast had triumphed over the odds. Britain that year won the Eurovision Song Contest with:

  1. BUCKS FIZZ with MAKING YOUR MIND UP

1981 saw a young 19 year old by the name of Lady Diana Spencer making her mind up to accept the marriage proposal of Prince Charles. The happy couple married in St Paul’s Cathedral on July 29th 1981. The birth of two sons Prince William in 1982 and Prince harry in 1984 seemed to complete the fairytale story. Sadly their marriage did not survive and they divorced. On August 31st 1997 Diana Princess of Wales was tragically killed in a traffic accident, and the world mourned her loss.

  1. PAUL ANKA with DIANA

Extra audio from Stewart-Anthea & Shirley singing Happy Birthday

A hit in 1957 the year the Treaty of Rome established the Common Market (EEC, EU) with members Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands. The UK came to the party late becoming a member on the 1st January 1973. Unlike Radio Leighton there will be no 50th birthday celebration of EU membership for the UK as the nation is on the brink of withdrawal.

  1. EUROPE with THE FINAL COUNTDOWN

I’ve heard concern over Brexit with regard to the Eurovision Song Contest and football’s European Cup participation. An odd priority in my opinion, but fear not, because we took part in these long before 1973. In 1968 the year Radio Leighton was conceived, Man Utd became European Champions and Cliff Richard with Congratulations came second in Eurovision just one point behind Spain’s entry La La La sung by Massiel. No one probably heard of the Spanish contestant again. At least when Scot Fitzgerald sang Go for the UK in 1988 and suffered the indignity of losing by a point to Switzerland, the young winner Celine Dion became a world-wide sensation.

  1. SCOT FITZGERALD with GO

Extra audio from Stewart-the 1988 UK Eurovision song & Lets Party from Bob

Celine turned 50 on March 30th and sings a song with lyrics we can all relate to in today’s unsettling and turbulent world:

  1. CELINE DION with A WORLD TO BELIEVE IN (GT12: Celine 50 on March 30th)

Extra audio from Stewart-birthday greetings from Leighton Hospital Chief Executive Tracy Bullock

It’s time for me to sign off now and I hope you’ve enjoyed my nostalgic trip down memory lane celebrating some of the highs and lows over Radio Leighton’s 50 years of broadcasting. My Allsorts show tonight began with a 1968 film tune and I end with one here

  1. BARBARA STREISAND with DON’T RAIN ON MY PARADE (GT13: Funny Girl 1968 film release)

Good night and Congratulations Hospital Radio Leighton for 50 wonderful years.

  23. CLIFF RICHARD with CONGRATULATIONS (GT14: UK Eurovision entry 50 years   ago!)

Downtrodden Towns Depressing

Look along any high street In Britain, especially after the 5.30pm closing time for most UK retail stores and the view is largely bleak. There is a “sameness” involved in the types of big name shops you see and a similar amount of dereliction as well. Sadly many properties are closed permanently and boarded up; there is a plethora of charity and coffee shops and small independent stores are a rare commodity to find. Pubs if they have managed to survive high business rates and rents tend to be open for business.

Recent news of the difficulties House of Fraser and Debenhams have endured has sent shock waves through the retail sector. John Lewis has admitted a reduction in their profits as well. With such big department stores “feeling the pinch” it’s a worrying time for the little shop on the corner (if such a thing exists anymore).

Say what you like about McDonalds and Wetherspoons pubs, but they can offer a ray of light on the high street. They offer a reliable, quick, consistent menu and usually dependable service wherever you go, and are normally open quite late into the night. Take them away and a place like Crewe town centre is immediately “dead”.  Look along the main road in Stoke after 5.30pm on a week day and you see boarded up premises, charity shops closed for business, some takeaways not yet open, a bingo/games arcade and the Wetherspoons pub lights shining brightly, offering a refuge from the bitter winter weather. In nearby Hanley, the main thoroughfare between the bus station and the relatively new cinema/restaurant development behind the Potteries Shopping Centre is closed for evening business. The exceptions are McDonalds, Wetherspoons and some other smaller pubs. There are a few places to eat dotted randomly around in the direction of the theatre, if you know where they are. Many of these establishments have opened in various guises only to close fairly quickly. It’s quite a walk from the bus station to the cinema/food court and then onto the theatre. So the well known fast food chain and pub both situated closer to the bus station and theatre, offer the only quick way of getting an “easy on the pocket” meal before a show.

The bus station in Crewe town centre is in a somewhat dilapidated state and all the shops backing onto it have closed. Even charity shops with 25/30 years of business in the area have gone. The desolate air isn’t helped by the reduction of buses using it after shop closing times due to outlying areas suffering transport cuts. The whole site has been subject to redevelopment speculation for years, and I think work was finally due to begin this summer. The promise I believe is a big retail/multi cinema/restaurant complex, but of course nothing has happened yet! In January 2018 the Wetherspoons pub closed and McDonalds was gone by Easter. Suddenly my late night refuge after doing hospital radio shifts (pub), and reliable eating joints before/after events were gone. Having tried three different places to eat at various times of the week and day, I know how bad things are in Crewe. During a shopping trip on a weekday afternoon my lunch order was forgotten, and I was sitting beside the till! In two other places I did get fed eventually, but almost missed a football match and theatre meet and greet, despite ordering 2.5 hours before the event. Having spoken to other theatre goers they had experienced similar problems around the area in different establishments. The Lyceum theatre does have a small restaurant inside, but the catering isn’t always available for performances. So the whole area is desolate once the big coffee shops and Subway close (by 6.30pm), with only some pubs and Asda open late. People have no doubt already changed their shopping patterns since shops like BHS folded and M&S moved to a retail park, and it will take a lot to bring them back into the town centre. I’m not sure if the new development (if it happens) will be enough of an incentive.

It’s much the same scenario around the country, with more and more shops either relocating to out of town retail parks or simply closing altogether. Of course this means that the choice people have is vastly reduced, as shopping options are minimised and access to a car becomes a necessity. Inevitably this does mean that towns will develop that downtrodden look and air of desolation. Perhaps if more people actually LIVED within the vicinity of the high street things could be improved.

In saying that however, a report out on November 2nd suggested that “unhealthy high streets” can reduce life expectancy by about 2.5 years! Stoke-on-Trent ranked fourth worst in the areas surveyed (70), which I’m not surprised about, but I think Crewe is far worse. Libraries, pharmacies, health food outlets, coffee shops and pubs (for sense of community) gave a higher ranking, whilst betting shops, tanning salons and fast food outlets gave lower scores. Again not surprising, yet a distinct sense of wealth or lack of it comes into play here. When you look at the highest ranked areas Edinburgh comes out top, with Canterbury, York, Brighton & Hove and Cambridge all in the top ten. Many have a thriving tourist industry and/or are university cities. Knowing some of these top areas have quite impoverished districts makes the report somewhat skewed. So not everything is quite as it may seem, but what is indisputable is that the British High Street is down at heel and in need of help.