Time Warp

Today it is August 2016 but this afternoon it was the 1950s. I have lived in Denbigh for the past 10 years and have spent 41 of my 46 years living in the Vale Of Clwyd. I consider myself to be interested in history, having been Head Custodian at Denbigh Castle in the early 1990s. I am also quite proud of my little corner of the Principality and am a keen supporter of local businesses and the like.

When I was a Custodian at Denbigh Castle, The North Wales Hospital was still open. It’s close proximity to the Castle meant we were a magnet to the suicidal escapees and would often have phone calls asking us to look out for people. The residents of Denbigh had free entry to the Castle and it became a magnet for young people and a few disturbed individuals. As the Custodian I was a captive audience and all kinds of individuals came to while away their days talking to me.

On the other side of The hospital was a farmstead called Cae Dai. This was the home of Sparrow Harrison, grandson of two Generals and educated privately where he met and became best friends with the much missed DJ John Peel. So different to myself the daughter of a bus driver and a caretaker. But similar to me Sparrow found that people used to visit Cae Dai from the hospital too.

I subsequently became a Social Worker. Sparrow also became a Social Worker of sorts. He set up the Cae Dai Trust to offer support and a second chance to the former patients of the North Wales Hospital.

Alongside this venture Sparrow set up a 1950s museum which houses all kinds of memorabilia from the era. It was to this museum we went today.

Cae Dai is on the Nantglyn road just outside the Medieval Market Town of Denbigh in North Wales. It sits in the shadow of the North Wales Hospital. You follow a steep dirt track down to the farm and park your car outside a non description modern building. This is a TARDIS. It houses so much more on the inside than it seems on the outside and it is most definitely a time machine.

From the moment you step over the threshold everything is of the 50s and 60s. There is a cafe area complete with a Jukebox in the corner and mannequins dressed in colourful teddy boy jackets. Film idols adorn the walls. It looks like the kids have just left. There is a display of Coronation memorabilia and a cabinet full of photographic equipment. Books, typewriters, toys even a Punch and Judy Booth complete with puppets. A small area is given over to kitchen equipment and various irons and every available space has old bottles packages and tins. It is all encompassing and you can’t shake the feeling that the people have only just left and if you wait a little they will return.

In the next room there is a bar in the corner a posh cocktail bar. Round the corner there is a 1950s living room set up complete with a programme on Churchills resignation that plays on an unbelievably small Television in a large wooden cabinet. Books and magazines are on the coffe table and a radiogramme sits quietly in the corner. This fascinates me as my parents bought a radiogramme in the 1980s which became our hi fi of the time and led to my lifelong obsession with 78rpm records.

Then in the next room is an area dedicated to radios, reel to reel tape players, record players and radiogrammes. The radios are explained with neatly typed information and you can almost hear and smell the valves as you walk around.

There ar vehicles too. The Ford Fiesta once owned by Christine Keeler from the Profumo Scandal a beautiful pink Cadilac and much more. There is a whole shop set up and also a a fabulous tobacco and smoking section with an impressive collection of lighters donated to the museum by other collectors.

The 1050s Museum is a gem that cannot be taken in on one visit and the informative guided tour by Sparrow Harrison is a delight. He regains you with tales of the 50s and his work at the Kray Tepwins Night Club and his prized possession the Lordy used in The Great Train Robbery.

We left the museum after a couple of hours and returned to the 21st Century. But I know I will be back, there is so much to see, so much to experience.

The 1950s Museum, Cae Dai, Nantglyn Road, Denbigh

Open 11-4   Admission £5       http://www.50smuseum.uk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It’s the little things

On this, the bank holiday that precedes my birthday me and my partner Sarah have enjoyed a flurry of activity in the entertainment arena.

On Thursday last week we ventured over the hills and far away to the teeming metropolis that is Manchester. The venue was The Bridgewater Hall, the artist was the mighty Bonnie Raitt and her band ably supported by Jarrod Dickenson.

Bonnie Raitt has been on the music scene for many decades but only came on to my radar when my partner Sarah introduced me to her via her Jazz and Blues show. Her rendition of Feels Lke Home has become part of the soundtrack of our relationship and has made it to the top of the ‘songs we must have at our wedding’ list.

Having scoured you tube for Bonnie Raitt recordings and listened to new and old tracks I can safely say that Bonnie is one artist you will want to see live. With an energy and a sassiness that makes a mockery of her 66 years and the powerhouse of a voice that xplodes from her tiny flame haired frame Bonnie Raitt owned that stage that evening. This lady sure gets better with age. Like a fine wine she is rich and seductive, as she effortlessly rides over the band with stunning vocals. But she can also sing ballads. And can she sing them? Hell yeah. The effortless range and the emotion in the singing can make you believe that she’s singing from experience as she conveys the heart of the song with pure simplicity. Her live version of I Can’t Make You Love Me was mesmerising as she pulled the song about in rituendos and rubato that only a skilled musician can do.Bonnie made me love her that evening, for being herself in a world of fakery. She is the real deal.

Some artists disappoint live, but not Bonnie Raitt, she thrived in the live atmosphere and I for one will treasure the memory for a long time.

 

 

 

 

 

Power To The People

Last night it was my privelige to go to a fundraiser for refugee support arranged by a friend in the lovely rural community of Cwm Penmachno in North Wales. There was good food and good company. Nestled in the hills and dramatic landscape of a former quarrying village musicians poets and stand up comedians gathered together to have a good time and raise money to help others.

We decided to attend this event on a whim. Our plans to attend a comedy night in nearby Ruthin had changed and we were interested to go exploring in a place we hadn’t really been before.

We set off in Bridget our little car with a full tank of petrol and pointed her in the general direction of the hills. We drove across wild country in dramatic weather heading higher and higher up on to the desolate Denbigh moors with only sheep and Radio2 for company. The road was deserted, the landscape desolate as we pushed forward towards our evenings entertainment. We dropped down from the dramatic landscape of the Denbigh moors and joined the A5 at Penterfoels. This was announced by a brown heritage sign to be a historic route. I couldn’t help but imagine the myriad stage coaches of old that travelled this road in the past.

We pushed on along the road towards Betws Y Coed. We turned off the A5 and ventured again up into the hills. The road was narrow and we suddenly came across a small village seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The road became peppered with buildings in dark imposing stone. A village that had obviously been very busy in the past now almost asleep. This was Penmachno. We had not, however, reached our destination as our goal lay three miles to the west in Cwm Penmachno.

As I was driving I was reminded of a former visit to this area in another time. I remembered the geography, half remembered my former visit. After what seemed like an age we found our goal. A converted chapel which had now become a community centre.

Parking was at a premium and we nestled our little car next to a hedge. We walked over to the community centre and sat outside surveying the scene in front of us. Facing the chapel was a great big hill dotted with sheep and lambs. The wind spoke to us as it poured over the mountains and we watched as the lambs held wacky races on the hillside. It was beautiful. Desolate beautiful and like stepping back in time. This was what the North Wales heartlands looked and sounded like.

We  then went in. We were met with the smells of barbecue and hot dogs with onions as above us we could hear the faint sounds of the night entertainment. There was a brass band, a ukulele choir a story teller and a dulcimer player. The audience was kind and generous. Children played in the centre and adults enjoyed the food and the alcoholic beverages the had brought with them to enhance the night.

It felt like being at an exclusive house party with small gaggles of people chatting and enjoying the evening. Right here in this small rural ex quarrying community they came together to raise money for the Syrian Refugees a small community reaching out to another community a world away. It was an honour to be there and reminded me so much of village life when I was growing up when the community would come together in the Village Hall to entertain each other. Heck we even had our own sound engineer when I was growing up a farmer whe as a sideline provided pa equipment and microphones for all the village events.

i am proud to say over £700 was raised in Cwm Penmachno last night from this event. Real people doing their bit for other people. It was a perfect antidote to the insular nature of current society blaming refugees for our problems. The people of North Wales did their bit and I was so proud to be a part of it. In the words of Wolfie Smith POWER TO THE PEOPLE!!!!! because it’s the people who know best…….those in charge are so corrupt the can never be trusted