Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Margaret






Following the death of my writer friend Margaret at the age of 90, last week I attended her funeral in Coventry.

No mean and mumbled half hour at the local crem for Margaret. It was a beautiful hour-long tribute in her local historic church immaculately arranged by Margaret herself some ten years previously (yes, that's how well organised she was!). Embossed invitations arrived through the post as if to a wedding, a heavenly choir sang her favourite hymns and little slips of paper inserted in the order of service booklets requested the contact details of all who attended. Surprising revelations in her son's eulogy about the secret passion for fancy dress and how Margaret was held at gunpoint twice on her travels over the years when venturing to regions where angels fear to tread.

I'm now half expecting a thank you note from Margaret through the post as that's the kind of lady she was!

A sumptuous spread awaited us in the flower-festooned church hall next door afterwards replete with wine waiters. All her photo albums were on tables. I was fascinated as I'd never seen the young Margaret before.

Struck by how lovely some of the photos were (one distinctly regal!) I discreetly snapped my favourites above when the opportunity arose as I knew Margaret wouldn't mind, being a fellow writer and documenter of life. In addition I have often been to funerals and seen at least one special photo I have never seen before and am likely never to see again, but felt it unseemly to bother the grieving loved ones for a copy.

Such was the case with a magical photograph of an ex-boyfriend at his funeral two years ago that I wished I had photographed a copy of. I suppose I am sentimental like that. I like to have a keepsake that makes me smile when thinking about a lost friend or loved one. And actually I prefer a nice photograph to any physical keepsake.

The photos of young Margaret reminded me of a nursing home where I used to visit my Great Aunt. Each doorway had a framed photograph affixed to the wall next to it containing a favourite photograph of the resident when young. This was not just an aide memoire to those residents who were losing their memories and looking for the right bedroom door, but a stark reminder to the mostly young care staff that their clients were also once young and to encourage them to see them as people like them who just happened to have lived longer, and not merely as they were now. It seemed to work. An ethos of respect permeated the home and Great Aunt Alice was well cared for.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Heritage Heroics

 

It has never been cheap or convenient to save the nation's heritage. That is not the point (though personally I would argue that, contrary to developer's claims, it is almost always cheaper to restore what exists than to demolish it and erect something unworthy in its place with little more than a 50 year life expectancy, as the majority of new builds have. Fewer, if they fall out of fashion before that).

But to get back to the point. Once all the battles are finally fought and won to save a historic gem, it is invariably to the gratitude of the local community that the survivor still stands and they discover a new pride at the piece of local history in their midst. 

Such is the fight ahead to save the oldest commercial building in Brighton in the Laines, Tucked away and forgotten behind a modest and somewhat neglected 18th century building housing a branch of Timpsons, Puget's Cottage, which annexed the late Hannington's Department store represents an architectural 'Miss Havisham', virtually untouched for more than 150 years. It is only now that another attempt is to be made to straighten out the squiggly historic charm of the Laines by bulldozing an additional passage through to aid commerce that it (and Timpsons) have found themselves in the wrecking ball's path. 

And fair enough, neither will ever win any beauty contests when compared to, say, the Brighton Pavilion, but they can certainly enjoy an uncovering of charms and add a unique selling point to the Laines which would be lost if the developers were allowed their somewhat unimaginative and brutal way to make it look like just another shopping street.

But this is not an 'either' 'or'. For no.16 North Street next door could easily accommodate a ground floor 'Hannington Lane', preserving not only its upper floors, but the threatened buildings at 15, and offering a much more gentle and true-to-the-spirit of the Laines alternative. Windows or access into the historic courtyard could be built into the passage and the oldest commercial building put back to commercial (or tourism) use. In fact it would be a much cheaper scheme from the developer's point of view. 

Brighton and Hove City Council planning officers recommended rejection of the demolition permission, yet somehow it went through and is now, thanks to the local Brighton and Hove Historic Commission, being appealed through the Home Secretary. Rather disappointingly, not to mention alarmingly, one local heritage group The Regency Society has spoken in favour of demolition of this listed building as its chairman seems to think allowing the scheme through is 'more important' to Brighton. However it is not an 'either' 'or' as previously stated. It is actually a situation where everyone can have their cake and eat it, so what's stopping them?

On a more positive note, and following my previous blog, Save the Hippo! detailing the history of the building and saga, this week came the wonderful news that the Brighton Hippodrome is almost saved! Almost, as it is now in the hands of what we hope will prove a good and sympathetic owner - the Academy Music Group. This is largely thanks to the heroic efforts of local MP Caroline Lucas, Save the Brighton Hippodrome and Our Brighton Hippodrome Facebook campaigns who worked tirelessly to highlight the building's plight and fund raise. A fantastic example of what people power can achieve! All that remains now is to draft a sustainable business plan for the future and carry on pushing until it opens its doors again. However there is no reason to suppose the Brighton Hippodrome cannot be just as successful as its surviving and thriving sister Hippodromes in Birmingham, Bristol and elsewhere.

And what act could fail to be inspired by performing in a building cheered on by the ghosts of Max Miller, Laurel and Hardy and a whole host of old time stars..?

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Margaret Grant-Smith 1924 - 2015

I received some sad news this week. My fellow writer from Earlsdon Writer's Group (when I lived in Coventry in the 1990s), Margaret Grant-Smith, died. Margaret was a retired business studies teacher (orderer of the first computer in Coventry for the Coventry Technical College, apparently) and the politest lady I ever knew.

Exceptionally well-spoken, Margaret combined an old world charm with a mischievous girly giggle which belied her years.She was also surprisingly adventurous, having gone to Africa just after the war and lived and worked there for three glorious years in her early 20s, leaving her with a lifelong love of the continent.

Then her father became ill and Margaret dutifully returned to Coventry, first to help nurse him, and then to live with her mother, getting a job and helping her financially after he died.

Eventually she met Leslie, a Scottish aircraft engineer, who became her husband. They bought a newly-built 50s house in the suburbs and had two children. Leslie developed parts for the landing gear of the newly invented Concorde supersonic jet. The family lived very happily for several years.

Tragically when the children were still young Leslie contracted an aggressive form of cancer and Margaret lost him in 1971 after only 15 years together.

Left to raise the children alone, Margaret asked the Technical College (for whom she was already tutoring a few hours a week) if they could increase her hours. They did, so at least Margaret was able to continue paying the mortgage and they could remain in the family home.

Years later Margaret discovered that Leslie had been among hundreds of military servicemen who had undertaken chemical warfare exercises during their time in National Service. A significant number went on to develop cancers of various kinds and die young, but at the time everyone assumed Margaret's husband had just been unlucky. Certainly the soldiers themselves had been given no reason to suppose that the exercises they were participating in posed any danger to them long-term.

Margaret found widowhood hard, not least the hurtful fact that a number of female friends seemed to avoid her as if worried she was going to pursue their husbands now that she was a widow. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Although she enjoyed a few dates (with single gentlemen) in subsequent years and told me she received a couple of marriage proposals, Margaret was to remain single for the rest of her life - another 43 years - taking the view that no one could match up to her Leslie.

However Margaret didn't let the grass grow under her feet. She was an intrepid traveller, both at home and abroad, took up writing and was an active member of her church and community. She treated herself to a brand new car at 75 and even embarked on a screen writing course at her local university at around the same time. She also doted on her children and grandchildren and was equally cherished in return. Though it was amusing to note her slight consternation at her young grandson taking the informal liberty of christening her 'Nanny Marg'.

Margaret's writing could be unintentionally priceless. A certain drawing room play of hers involved what were supposed to be contemporary teenagers grappling with contemporary issues but they were so proper and correct in their speech and manners, the whole thing came across as a Noel Coward play gone wrong! I was in secret stitches every time Margaret recited a scene and would have loved to have seen it actually staged as it was a unique style! And it's not as if Margaret did not frequent the theatre. She loved the theatre and was open-minded to most artforms, so while she was old fashioned in some ways, she was also lively-minded and in touch in others.

While her home remained a tribute to the 1960s in its decor, it was spacious and comfortable and Margaret loved it, particularly the garden. When I first knew her in the 1990s, she had a rather unlikely canine companion inherited from her adult son. Not a dog Margaret would ever have chosen for herself, she and Suzy became the most devoted of companions. Sometimes Margaret would host Earlsdon Writer's meetings at her home and Suzy became legendary for letting out a pained groan when someone's work wasn't very good, much to Margaret's embarrassment. She turned out to be a surprisingly good literary critic! When Suzy died, Margaret had her portrait painted from a photograph and it took permanent pride of place above her mantelpiece, somewhat incongruously next to her late mother's china cabinet collection.

The last ten years of Margaret's life were a struggle with series of TIA mini strokes leading to a downward decline, much as she kept gracious and proper to the end, if somewhat confused. She had to give up her car at 87 much to her chargrin, and, one by one, most of her other activities though she walked in the nearby park every day for as long as she could. I felt sad that I lived so far away and could not visit more often though she was lucky enough to be surrounded by good neighbours, her church friends and frequent family visitors. Sadly she didn't get her wish to die in her own home as, by the final few months, she needed a nursing home, but she remained stoic throughout, her strong faith seeing her through. RIP Margaret - what a wonderful world it would be if there were more like you.

I will end this tribute with one of Margaret's charming poems from her collection 'The Mixture Varies'

Uncle Jim

Aristocratic Uncle Jim
Impeccable manners, a charmer
No one would have guessed him
To be a practical joker

He visited England frequently
For suits from Savile Row
Took my parents out on the spree
A nightly extravagant show

Returning home to his African farm
He sat on the stoep for sundowners
In the last glow of the evening calm
Next day to join big-game hunters

The calamity had no portent
He would not tell and I was banned
From asking what caused the accident
That robbed him of his right hand

Back to England sooner than planned
To Harley Street of course, A perfect fit
The best artificial hand
I thought him brave to be proud of it

Then he'd delight when meeting people new
To shake them warmly by the hand
But not without undoing the screw
One lady fainted to the ground

But time again, he'd feign surprise
"That damned loose screw!' he'd cry
And profusely apologise
All this before he lost his eye

Monday, 8 June 2015

A Murder In The Family

Recently my partner's mother told us she had just lost her cousin Peter in Canada.
He was a fit and well retired professor in his early 70s who had recently been on a hiking trip when he was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer. Within three months he was dead.

This led to the story of his life.

His mother Trudl (Heidi's aunt) had been one of three sisters. Each sister was blonde and glamorous but Trudl had been blessed with the beauty and luminescence of a film star.

As a young woman in 1930s Germany she worked in a department store and quickly found herself promoted to model for their women's clothing range, her posters all over town and in the newspapers. She caught the eye of a wealthy widowed factory magnate some years her senior. They were married and she had two children, both boys.

The family enjoyed an enviably opulent lifestyle until WWII broke out. Soon after that the factory was bombed and the family lost everything. To make matters worse, shortly after the end of the war Trudls' husband died of a fatal heart attack.

Widowed and broke and with the city in ruins, Trudl decided she needed to find a better life for herself and her boys.

The opportunity came to go to Canada for a modest passage and Trudl seized it.
Still young, she quickly found fashion modelling work again and rented a small apartment in Toronto. Her boys were enrolled into good schools and soon learned English.

Trudl was naturally popular with men and soon found a handsome and charming suitor who purported to be devoted to her.

All was well at first and the family were very happy. Gradually though, Trudl realised how possessive her boyfriend was. He also drank far too much and would be aggressive when drunk. Occasionally he would hit her and they split up several times but he would always apologise profusely, promising to get help for his problems, and she would always take him back. This went on for some years.

Eventually Trudl's relations back home in Germany told her they missed her and begged her to return home now things were better economically. They also knew she was not very happy with her man.

Her boys had now left school and with the eldest at university and the youngest
about to start, Trudl felt she could leave them to finish their education and they could join her in Germany when they had finished if they wished to.
She made the mistake of telling her on/off boyfriend of her plans, no doubt assuming this would be a means of letting him down gently since he knew how much she missed her family back home and they missed her.

Two days later she was found with a bullet through her forehead, her boyfriend dead beside her with a gun in his mouth.

Her boys were devastated but somehow managed to finish their university education and go on to lead successful professional lives, They also both married and had children and grandchildren.

It was obviously some years since Heidi had last thought of her aunt (whom she had only known as a child before her aunt emigrated), but Peter's death had brought it all back.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Visiting Time


When can I go home?
This is your home Mum
How long have I lived here?
Two years Mum
Where’s Dennis?
Dad died Mum
When?
Two years ago Mum. You didn’t want to live on your own, remember?
Where do I live?
You’ve got a nice little flat just down the corridor Mum
I want to go home
This is your home Mum
How long have I lived here?
Two years Mum
Where’s Dennis?
Dad died Mum
When did that happen?
Two years ago Mum.
What did he want to go and do that for?
I dunno. It’s sad isn’t it? Have another piece of cake Mum

Saturday, 25 April 2015

A Recycled Victorian Writes...

I've often joked 'I know I was enormously rich in my last life. Work came as such a shock!
But finding out who I was and what I left myself is another matter!'

Joking aside, the very idea of reincarnation once scared the bejesus out of me. However I have come to warm to it more over the years and wonder what else can explain how very different we all are, even when from the same family with the same parents and background. My sister and I for example are chalk and cheese. Apart from our hair colour, we have absolutely nothing in common. I don't hate her. I just don't know what to say to her when we meet and she is similarly tongue-tied with me. Sad but true.

There are some individuals who literally seem wise beyond their years - 'old souls' whilst others can get to the end of their lives and still not have the sense they were born with or who seemingly never learn a single life lesson, repeating their mistakes over and over again. We've all known examples of each I am sure.

The other day I picked up a remarkable book in a second hand bookshop; 'Through Time Into Healing'. It was by a Yale-educated psychiatrist called  Dr Brian Weiss. Dr Weiss started off as a normal clinical psychiatrist - no interest in or knowledge of reincarnation whatsoever. The subject simply wasn't on his radar. Then a few years into his career a remarkable thing happened. After he sought to help his patients through hypnotherapy, he accidentally regressed one to a time seemingly before her birth and found that she was describing a realm she appeared to be inhabiting between lives. She then went still further back to what sounded like a previous life. Dr Weiss was astounded. Almost as astonishingly, his patient went on to be completely cured of the neurosis she was suffering from, a result Dr Weiss seldom witnessed through standard psychiatric techniques and hypnotism. A good level of improvement in the patient's condition was often the best that could be hoped for.

Intrigued Dr Weiss began (with their consent) experimenting on other patients to find out how far back they could go and a whole new world unfolded  - or to be accurate - many lives.

Women who came to see him with obesity problems often found themselves experiencing a previous life where they had starved to death so were overcompensating in this life. Or they had been sexually abused in either this life or a former life and had subconsciously gained the fat to protect themselves against exploitative men finding them attractive. Trouble was this defensive barrier often kept nice men at bay too and they found themselves lonely as well as suffering health problems as a result of their weight. Again these patients were completely cured once they had had hypnotic access to glimpses of their previous lives and former selves and came to find themselves much more compassionate and understanding to their fellow humanity as a result, where once they might have been somewhat bitter and judgmental.

Those patients with asthma often regressed to lives where they had died in a fire or been suffocated under the contents of an overturned cart for example, those who couldn't stand to have anything round their necks in this life might find that they had been strangled or hanged in a previous life. Birthmarks in this life often indicated fatal bullet or arrow wounds in a previous life. The list went on and on.

One male commerical pilot in this life sought out Dr Weiss to find out why he was so paranoid about constantly checking the right wing of every plane that he flew to make sure it was not falling off.  He subsequently had a vision of himself piloting a WWII fighter plane with the right wing shot off and spiralling to the ground, his last moments spent cursing himself for being the victim of 'friendly fire'.

All Dr Weiss's past life patients found that they left his sessions with a far wider perspective on humanity and life itself, irrespective of their religious persuasion, and impressive results always followed in terms of healing - when they felt they could let go of whatever residual memory or grievance was causing their suffering or symptoms in this life and began to see some kind of pattern or logic attached as to what might have brought them to their current situations and circumstances.

Something Dr Weiss found over the years was that subjects always seemed to return with the same 'soulmate group', though genders and relationships may change - ie a father in one life may become a brother in another and the gender of the subject themselves often changed too. Close friends could also come back as family or significant colleagues or vice versa. Even enemies were often previously known to us and we have to work out our issues with those too. (maybe that explains the school bully who hated me on sight when I started High School but I didn't even know her name until she fought me in the corridor and we both ended up sitting in the Headmaster's office).

We apparently all choose our lives before we are born, choosing the circumstances, our families and what we are intending to learn spiritually to advance us. Free will can vary certain factors but the blueprint is basically there.

This of course can seem hard to swallow when terrible things happen to some people and hard and hurtful times happen to us all, but Dr Weiss doesn't claim to have all of the answers. Except love. He believes that only complete love and complete forgiveness of ourselves and others can free us of any negative patterns and behaviours we may have accrued over our lifetimes (past and present) and therefore heal and smooth the path for our future life and lives.

Dr Weiss regressed himself to a life which appeared to date from Babylonian times in which he was a powerful high priest who had set off with high ideals in his youth and then become corrupted by money, wealth, sex and power in middle age. A subsequent life in mediaeval times found him a prisoner, being beaten to death whilst refusing to recant his religious beliefs, including reincarnation. In his current life he feels he has been given a wider perspective of spirituality and a mission to help others in a different sense - ie to find their own spiritual journey - and healing through it.

Dr Weiss risked much ridicule in medical circles when he first started sharing his findings and publishing his books (many a medical professional has been cast out of the profession for less, so most have a habit of waiting until retirement if they have what others could consider barnpot theories to share), However much to his surprise it didn't take long before people started writing to him to share their theories and stories and he even found eminent peers beginning to take an interest in some quarters. He has even been on the Oprah Winfrey Show - twice! Today he is the 70-year old guru of past life regression and universities all over America have been inspired to begin exploring past life regression and its possible therapeutic potential in the field of psychiatry. 

One particularly interesting part of the book was Dr Weiss's assertion that all the major religions used to embrace reincarnation in their belief systems, but these elements were excised from the Christian and Jewish faiths many centuries ago by high-ranking religious officials who feared that they would have less power over the people if the people were permitted to believe they had more than one life. Moreover they decided to denounce reincarnation as heresy and persecute any stubborn believers, so that one might offend a Christian or a Jew to this day by raising the subject.

As for me, I've always been highly attracted to Victorian times, the architecture, the clothes, the literature, the human advances made during those times. I await Dr Weiss's hypnosis CD through the post with interest to find out if I'm right! And what could be the reason that I've always had such sensitive skin and been terrified of hospitals?

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Four Vitamin B12 Tablets A Day Keep The Grey Away!

Not that red hair goes grey as such. It fades and fades to strawberry blonde, ash blonde and then white.

Mine was beginning to fade at a rate of knots. Then I read that Vitamin B12 was good for hair. I took a couple of tablets a day for six months and noticed my hair was getting darker. I upped it to four a day (like Vitamin C, you cannot overdose on Vitamin B12 as the body exudes what it doesn't need). Now a year later my hair is back to the shade it was when I was a teenager. With the help of Silica and Biotin vitamins, it is growing stronger and thicker again too.

I am not on any sort of retainer from a vitamin supplier for sharing this with you. I merely share it because I am a nice person who likes to share what I find helpful. Similarly I find that Kelp tablets are good for regulating hormones (we have a dire shortage of Iodine in the modern western diet), Iron tablets give me nice rosy lips and enhanced circulation, Vitamin C shortens colds and hastens healing.

Vitamin B complex helps prevent ladies' troubles, Zinc, men's. Biotin can help non-insulin dependent diabetics from deteriorating to injectable diabetes. Vitamin D is good for depression. And bone strength.

All this is from friends' anecdotal evidence as well as personal experience, so of course it counts for nothing in provable terms.

Then again there will never be any in-depth medical research carried out on vitamins as it is impossible to patent them so drug companies are never going to spend millions on food supplements that they cannot own and profit from. Though they obviously perceived vitamins as enough of a potential threat to drug sales to try and get the EU to ban them for public sale more than once and I have signed a slew of petitions against this outrageous infringement of consumer freedom over the years.

Rather it is up to each of us to be our own guinea pigs to see what helps our own body to function at optimum level and what doesn't. And really, unless you are determined to overdose on a substance to a ridiculous degree, you can easily decrease a vitamin dosage if you notice any adverse effects. Indeed there is less risk of side-effects than there is with pharmaceutical drugs, not all of which obey the doctors' Hippocratic oath of 'First, do no harm.' Which isn't to say pharmaceutical drugs do not have their place in treatment and healing, obviously.

I once watched a ridiculous TV debate about the Bristol Cancer Centre where one cancer sufferer had overdosed on carrots to the point that she had assumed an orange hue and was blaming the clinic for her own stupidity (or desperation). However much to my surprise no one challenged her as to whether this was her own personal choice or she was actually following the Clinic's guidelines on how many carrots she should eat (clearly not, judging by the way the show seemed weighted against giving the same debate time to those advocating the use of alternatives, no matter that those trying the alternatives had often exhausted conventional options and were at the end of the line, so any improvement would be tantamount to a miracle).

So there is no regulating for common sense whatever people imbibe, which is the only sure means of guaranteeing safety.

However with natural vitamin content in our food having declined by 45% since WWII owing to intensive and unnatural farming methods, supplements have become an essential item for many of us, no matter how healthily we try to eat. Simultaneously as we age our bodies synthesise what vitamins we consume less effectively meaning we can become even more deficient. For example many men no longer absorb enough zinc to keep their prostate healthy so may need to take a supplement to help. In old age the individual's diet may also narrow in variety which means there are increasing numbers of false/positive tests for dementia when actually the individual is vitamin-deprived.

Personally I am mystified as to why so much attention is devoted to calorific and fat intake when vitamins and minerals are at least as important, yet their levels are seldom listed on foodstuff labels. Indeed if one eats food of low vitamin/mineral content, that is the very time the body creates an artificial hunger to induce one to eat more to compensate. I therefore maintain that if all food were of high vitamin/mineral content and food value, we would automatically eat less of it, so there would be no need for diet foods (not all of which are of high nutritional value, even if they are low-fat).

On a final note, if you want to try the Vitamin B12 as an experiment for yourself, do let me know how you get on. I'd be fascinated to know it if works for you as well. Let's conduct a mass experiment (for humans on humans) here.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Save British Home Stores!

I was sad to hear that retail Tsar, Sir Philip Green, has sold off BHS for £1 to a little-known investor group called Retail Acquisitions as it has been losing out to inferior rivals.

I used to love BHS. It was the best place for funky bathmats, bedding and tops. It also had a great lighting department with attractive functional lights. I even had a business store card with them to keep the Oxford College I then worked for in attractive bedroom lighting,

Where they have gone wrong over the years is that when they get a winning product which sells like hot cakes, they invariably never re-stock it!

Several years ago I fell in love with a new line of brushed cotton duvet sets in attractive grey/white or navy/white checks (ie not covered in flowers or utterly plain like most brushed cotton). I went back at the end of the week to purchase a set and all they had left was the set on the display bed. It took a lot of persuading but they finally sold it to me. Much to my amazement this best selling product was never replenished or even re-released with a new twist.

Last summer I had a similar experience when I noticed a cute white blouse covered in little blue boats in my local BHS. However there were none in my size either in store on online. Again, they were never re-stocked despite their obvious popularity.

I bought my favourite ever pair of trainers in BHS - with the flexible soles that I like - in block silver colour with no horrible logos or clashing colours. They were much admired, but again there were only a few pairs on display and only one pair in my size or I would have happily bought several pairs.

BHS has a tradition of doing nice stuff at reasonable prices. It is unfortunate that so many (largely) cheap and nasty new rivals have sprung up to dazzle consumers (though I'd love to see a wash-by-wash product longevity comparison). My one and only foray into a Primark yielded a pack of socks which did not even last one wash, let alone a season.

Looking to the future, BHS need to do more to cater for those who don't necessarily want to walk around in low-cut spaghetti tops and barely-there skirts.
Where are their fabulous funky maxi dresses with classic straps or even cap or mid sleeves? What has the fashion industry got against sleeves? Not everyone has killer elbows or knees (no matter what their age). Not everyone wants to expose their cleavage at all times either. Where is the classy clothing that you can actually wear to the office as well as to the garden party? No one seems to be catering for this market.

In fact no major store seems to be taking much trouble to find out what its customers actually want rather than trying to continually guess, sometimes with disastrous results, not least in the age of internet competition. I used to live near an ice cream parlour which had a flavour petition - if they had more than 50 requests for a flavour they would make it, and if it sold well it would become a new regular, or even all-year round staple. Not far away in the same city was a restaurant which had the philosophy 'You said, we did' re most of its customer service and food innovations. However visit the website of a major store and you will seldom find a 'Suggest new product' option on the email drop-down list or even a 'Compliment us' option when you want to praise them for a product you particularly like so that they get positive feedback as well as customer complaints. Even Sir Philip Green, for all his retail successes, missed a trick or two on these fronts.

Some have cruelly termed it 'Boring Home Stores', but that is not at all true in my experience and I hope everything will be done to steer this business away from the rocks and into a flagship British store once again.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Sewing Lessons for Buccaneers


 
Is it really over a month since my last blog post? Where does life go?

Maybe I'm waiting for some seamless and erudite narrative to share rather than the few random jottings currently in my head.

However in lieu of any kind of literary opus;

My partner persuaded me to accompany him to his Lewes Bonfire Society AGM this week where I found myself amused by such agenda items as 'Sewing Lessons For Buccaneers' and charity 'Pirate football with Swords' not forgetting the entreaty 'Don't forget to buy my knitted bonfire boys to raise funds' on the way out. We did, for our cat Mr Cheeky to play with. There can't be many AGM's where the use of gunpowder is openly discussed without anti-terrorism squads parachuting in, but in this part of the world, blowing things up is called tradition, notwithstanding the odd extremist who will go as far as taking out a parking meter.

Our first Latest TV show BizBuzz went out on Sunday night, although the first one was simply doing a series of links for the Sussex Business Awards. The next programme is more interesting as we get to interview a series of local businesses. We are producing a programme a month to start with and also writing for Latest TV magazine once a month to tie in.

Things are taking a while to take off with our new business so I have a day job to pay the bills while Oliver works on it full-time and put my other hat on in the evenings and on days off. It is an exhausting life, but luckily I am enjoying both and finding that one role makes me even better in the other and vice versa. Lots of transferable skills in property and PR and both involve a good deal of networking.

On a completely different note, a while ago I met an ex whom I hadn't seen for some years for a drink for old time's sake. He told me that he had lost both his parents the previous year. I sympathised saying how tough that must have been but he didn't seem to want to go into detail. I dismissed this as doubtless being too painful to talk about. The other day, in a rare idle moment, I typed his name into Twitter to see what he was up to and found to my surprise, among the gadget and rugby club tweets, a tweet saying 'Nice 75th birthday lunch at my mum's on Sunday'. Hmmm. 

Monday, 9 February 2015

Mistakes



We live in terror of making mistakes, yet that is the very way in which homo sapiens learn.

A parent can tell a small child not to touch the electric hob plates on the cooker when they are on until they are blue in the face but it is only when the child touches a burning hot plate for themselves once the parent's back is turned that they accept their parent was right and it is a bad idea.

I know. I was that small child. And I've made a million mistakes since,
The only thing I can say in my favour is that I try to learn from my mistakes so I don't make the same mistake twice.

Trouble is there are so many mistakes to make!

Of course there are ways and means of REDUCING the number of mistakes a human being makes, not least by listening to and taking good advice or asking rather than assuming when unsure of something. Or simply by being determined to learn from mistakes and nip any behavioural patterns in the bud (ie if you are repeatedly attracting the wrong partner in your relationships).

When making a major decision, research and planning, or at the very least a list of pro's and cons can be enormously helpful in weighing up the options. On an emotional level, an unwise temptation can often be resolved, if determined to override natural instincts or alarm bells, by asking oneself; 'Does this fit into the 'good ideas' box or the 'bad ideas' box?' If you can't envisage a thing fitting into the 'good ideas' box, you have your answer.

For some people though it seems they use their mistakes to beat themselves up for the rest of their lives and allow regret or remorse to paralyse them from daring to make mistakes or take risks ever again. But what is that in itself but a big mistake? No one learns or progresses through stagnation.

Whatever the mistake, there are normally apologies or amends that can be made and forgiveness (if required) all too anxiously waiting to grant its' plea.

However the biggest stumbling block is forgiving oneself. for no one is a harsher critic than our own ego, whatever its public front of innocence, denial or self-delusion.

This culture of the frustrated perfectionist who has to appear perfect even though they might be falling apart at the seams or inwardly living lives of quiet desperation through not being true to themselves does no one any favours. At the extreme end of the wedge we see a growing number of mental health issues, suicides and even familicides by those who feel their lives have gone so far wrong, there is no way back, no redemption. Even more tragic, many have not even tested the truth of this personal assumption before they take some irreversible action to end their anguish, passing the baton of suffering on to those left behind.

In New Zealand a hundred and twenty individuals nearing the end of their natural lives were asked what their greatest regret was. Almost universally the answer came; 'I wish I'd spent less time worrying.'

Sunday, 1 February 2015

The Dress

As a 5'11" individual with shoulders, which females are not allowed to have, it used to be quite a challenge to buy ladies clothes to fit and I would often end up wearing men's jeans and tops.

In my late 20s I decided to embark on a course of evening classes to learn to dressmake.

Here I am (with a friend) wearing the sum total of three years' weekly night classes at my local Further Ed College, though I also made a somewhat physics-defying brown velvet shoulder bag (not seen here).

I just couldn't think in 3D it seems. My long-suffering tutor Christine did not seem too upset that I decided not to embark on a 4th year.

Luckily female fashion for taller girls has since become a little easier to come by.

I still quite miss my dress though (lost in the mists of various house moves).  Maxi with a capital M and made of canvas a sailor would be proud of. I really can't be doing with all these pathetic spaghetti straps, which are no support to a big girl like me anyway.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

What Have The Super Rich Done For Us?

Whilst most documentaries seek to have us envying the super rich, Jacques Peretti's insightful 2-part BBC2 documentary The Super Rich and Us took a different tack by posing the underlying question; What have the super rich done for us?

The whole idea of encouraging super rich non-domiciles to live in UK with the tax exile carrot of zero income tax or capital gains tax on income earned abroad was the 'trickle down' effect - ie their vast wealth was meant to trickle down to the rest of the economy - a promise made repeatedly by successive British governments.

Over 40 years later this unproven economic theory is shattered by Mr Peretti who demonstrates that the reverse - trickle up - has happened. Wealth has increased among the wealthy and stayed very much in the enclave of the super rich, the prime beneficiaries being the luxury product and holiday providers and the servants and assistants needed to service the super-rich (mostly on lowly incomes themselves). The super rich are not to be found supporting the local pub or cafe or shopping in the local village shop. Meanwhile the middle and working classes have seen their incomes and savings plummet and their bills and outgoings skyrocket. Job security too is a thing of the past with part-time jobs, zero hours contracts and microjobbing now commonplace.

Financial inequality has never been worse with some company CEO's earning several hundred times what their average employee does (whereas once it might have been 10 x times max) and at the other end of the scale people resorting to food banks to eat.

Moreover, among the new super-rich, bankers have found devious ways to manipulate and gamble with our savings and pensions and encourage us to live in perpetual debt to the extent that jobs can be devalued without the threat of us striking as we dare not afford to lose our jobs (if we still have them). A whole industry has been spawned to take advantage of the struggling and desperate through rip-off financial products and gambling outlets.

The  current recession (which never existed for the super rich) is far from over for the rest of us. Our very economy is now in mortal danger by the lifeblood being cut off in so many limbs by the top 1% hogging the vast bulk of the wealth and not circulating it as promised.

Ah well, at least super rich wealth boosts UK economic figures as long as no one enquires too closely as to what their wealth is contributing to the economy, aside from a large black hole in our tax system which public services are now paying dearly for in draconian cuts. Furthermore, though this wasn't mentioned in the programmes;  was there any quality control exercised concerning which super rich were lured to our shores to ensure there were no gun runners, drugs barons or Russian gangsters among them? I am not so sure. They let Robert Maxwell in after all.

A startling fact to emerge in the programme is that up to 80% of the flats in every luxury London block being erected are being snapped up by oversea buyers, some of whom will never even set foot in their new pad - it is purely an investment -  the modern equivalent of gold bars in the bank.

Even Henry Ford recognised that you needed to pay your workers enough to afford the cars they produced or the economy would be adversely affected, hence his brainwave, the Model T Ford. Many companies today have forgotten this basic principle and to ask themselves the pertinent question; Who is going to buy these goods or who will afford these 'affordable' houses?

The top 1% however are not without their worries. Protests are gathering apace and the pitchforks are a-coming if things don't change soon as enlightened early Amazon billionaire Nick Hanauer warns. The world has grown up to be aspirational, not to accept serfdom without protest as we might once have done in darker ages.

A particularly refreshing element of this documentary is that it assumed no obvious political stance, proving that you don't need to be a communist or a socialist to believe that there should be decent economic prospects and civilised living conditions available to all. I was indeed myself a proud marcher in last year's March Against Austerity/Britain Deserves a Pay Rise protest featured in the documentary.

Perhaps Peretti's next documentary can explore how in a so-called western democracy, corporations, not to mention the top 1% super rich, now have more say in how the country/world is run than anybody else and more political muscle than our elected governments.

MatchFit Media

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Save the Hippo!



 
Charlie Chaplain
Laurel and Hardy
George Formby
Gracie Fields
Sandra Bernhardt
Harry Houdini
Buster Keaton
Lillie Langtry
Laurence Olivier
Vivien Leigh
Max Miller
Sammy Davis Jr
The Beatles
The Rolling Stones

are just some of the stars and acts who've graced the 3,000-capacity Brighton Hippodrome in its 118 year history since first being erected in 1897 as an ice rink with the occasional indoor circus before its transformation in 1901 by Frank Matcham into one of the foremost vaudeville and variety theatres in Britain.

Several decades later came the age of television and London-centric shows and nationwide theatre tours which meant variety fell into decline, despite the heroic efforts of local comic legend Max Miller to keep the artform popular. In addition local tastes were no longer catered for.

The Brighton Hippodrome closed its doors in 1965. After a short spell as a film and TV studio in the mid-1960s, followed by a 40-year stint as a Mecca bingo hall, it closed its doors again in 2007 and is now an empty Grade II listed building 'at risk'

Two ambitious plans to turn Brighton Hippodrome first into a live music venue and secondly (and more ruinously to the original Matcham interior) into an 8-screen cinema 'entertainment hub' with internal shops, a public square and a restaurant on a removable floor, have recently come to naught. However there is every chance of this being 'a good thing' as local opinion and feeling for this forgotten gem has been well and truly awakened and is gathering apace. Brightonions have already lost the finest Victorian pier in England (West Pier). It seems denizens are damned if they are going to lose another Victorian gem and potentally golden USP for the city.

Furthermore Brighton boasts the largest arts festival in England the Brighton Fringe, so it seems ironic, not to mention tragic, that a historic premier arts venue finds itself 'at risk' in our city.

As a performance poet myself, I can only imagine the magic of performing on a stage of so much history and in the footsteps of so many stars. I really do hope that one day it can become a reality for myself and many others too young to have had the chance first time round.

My own proposition is that the Brighton Hippodrome should be a crowd-funded and co-operatively owned venture where stage and theatre management schools can use it during the day and variety bills can fill it at night. The circle has revolved once more since the 1960s. We are now bored with TV and hundreds of channels showing the same dross. We want some VARIETY again! Other cities who have had the foresight to retain their Hippodromes are bearing this out by apparently enjoying excellent takings, so there should be no reason why Brighton Hippodrome couldn't.

Not only that but we currently have a demographic of far too many stag and hen parties pounding the streets out of tourist season which needs to be redressed by encouraging a classier clientele of more theatre goers into town (though of course cheaper night time parking would also help).

For more info visit Our Brighton Hippodrome and show your support on Save the Brighton Hippodrome Facebook page

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Dude, where's my tights?

When TV's The Apprentice star Bianca Miller was accused of stealing her skin tone match tights idea from a fellow female entrepreneur, who begged that she be disqualified from the final as a result, Ms Miller gave an extraordinary answer; 'I don't claim to be the first to come up with this idea, but I am the right person to take it to market' - as if that made her conduct legitimate!  Conversely if her rival had not patented or trademarked her idea, it was iffy as to whether she would be able to obtain any kind of legal redress, even if she could have afforded to pursue the matter through the courts. Not that Ms Miller was about to sell a whole stack of tights anyway at £20 a pair (and with no more guarantee of being ladder-free than a cheap pair). To be honest I was surprised she managed to convince Lord Sugar that skin tone tights would be such a big thing as one who has alternated between, black, grey, navy and brown for years. I thought mono-bloc colour and patterned tights were all the rage, though I well remember being laughed at for wearing 'American Tan' tights to school in vivid orange hue, which I somehow convinced my 13-year old mind looked like a bona fide tan! In the event Ms Miller did not win The Apprentice, the final of which had, in any case, already been filmed by the time the allegation hit the press.

Needless to say my partner and I lost no time in trademarking our new company name MatchFit Media, even though we are not claiming to be the first to come with our idea - PR. Luckily for us it's much harder for anyone to patent a whole field rather than one item and what we hope to distinguish ourselves by is the quality and reliability of our PR, rather than the originality of the concept.

Anyway it's been a busy few months getting the branding and the website sorted out and winning the first pitches and this is still just the beginning.

We are excited and terrified in equal measure and have already weathered a number of setbacks. Comfortingly everything we've read and everyone we've spoken to on the subject suggests that the rollercoaster experience is entirely natural to the beginnings of any business venture. Besides which, if one enjoyed instant success from day one, where would the story be in that, ten years hence, when invited to give an industry award thank you speech? Good stories are built on struggle and overcoming adversity.

While my partner has been known to have the odd sleepless night, I try not to waste my energies on worry but rather focus on what we do want - and getting enough sleep to tackle life's growing demands.

Simultaneously however my partner's father has grown very ill and frail and is now in hospital. Things have been hectic to say the least.

I fully intend to carry on blogging though, if somewhat more sporadically than I would like.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Taking A Look At The Internet

Error message from early internet


It was the mid-90s and although I worked at a computer every day and had heard 
of the internet. I had never actually seen it and had only the haziest idea of how 
it might be more useful than my local library.

As was standard practice in 1990s workplaces, internet access had been cut off
lest we employees be tempted to “abuse it for personal use” during work hours.
As for my home computer, this was a lumbering ton of yellow-grey plastic circa 1988,
purchased for £200 from a pensioner in Southampton who was updating to
a wondrous new-fangled PC, half the size.
It could just about handle early Word and the odd game of Solitaire,
but probably would have taken half an hour to connect to a home dial-up,
even if I could have afforded one.
Then one day in the Coventry Evening Telegraph –
I lived in Coventry at the time – I read that a new “internet café” was to
open on Foleshill Road.
Excitedly a student friend from the local Writers’ Group, Miranda,
and I arranged to meet on Saturday morning to “go and have a look at the Internet”.
We fair skipped to the café in our enthusiasm.
It turned out to be a disappointingly run-down converted newsagents.
We were grunted at by the equally scruffy owner who relieved us of our
£2.50’s and indicated some tatty chairs in front of screens.
We found ourselves sitting at the screens staring uncomprehendingly,
having no idea how to “log in”. Eventually we had to plead for help.
The cafe owner duly logged us in. A screen appeared with a
white space at the top. We thought of things we would like to look up,
the BBC perhaps, and typed them in. Error messages came up.
Again and again.
The internet café owner looked at us like we were mad.
“It won’t work,” I complained. “I can’t find the internet.”
“What addresses you got?” asked the owner.
“Pardon?”
“What addresses? You need addresses.”
I typed in my home address and another error message binged.
“Not that kind of address, you need URL address.”
“What?”
“Uniform Resource Locator address.”
“I don’t know what that is. We just want to look up the BBC.”
“Give me address. I find it for you.”
At that point I recall we legged it from Coventry’s first internet café,
half embarrassed by our ignorance, half wondering what all the fuss was about.
Surely this internet lark was never going to take off. Evidently
it was for computer programmers only.
It would be two years before I was re-introduced to the internet by a
sympathetic I.T. Officer at my next workplace.
He talked me through it and allowed me to open my first email account
as well as navigate the world wide web.
To my astonishment, he did not see it as an abuse of work time at all,
but as an aide to work, sparsely populated by useful websites as the
internet was in those days, and requiring knowledge of the full
URL before anything other than an Error 404 page appeared.
Little did I know that more intrepid internet explorers were
exchanging emails with celebrities like Stephen Fry who
made no attempt to hide their contact details in those heady
days and were seemingly thrilled by any fan who sought them out online.
Then again we were all thrilled to receive every email, impossible
as that seems to believe these days!
Much though the internet has transformed our lives out of 
all recognition since then, those early days will always hold 
a touch of nostalgia for me. I am also glad I knew
life pre-internet. In many ways there is much about it that
is to be missed, not least thriving High Streets.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Confessions re Modern Poetry




















In some quarters I could be shot for writing this but maybe it's about time I started living dangerously considering I'm never going to die young of the usual artistic mores...

Confessions of a Reader Who Doesn’t ‘Get’ Modern Poetry

Everyone except me seems to be in the know
About why poems often interrupt themselves mid-flow
Or end a sentence in mid-air
Leaving me to divine some hidden meaning there
They focus in such detail on achieving the abstract
Won’t be pinned down by anything so mundane as a fact
An opinion, a meaning or some thing to get a grip on
It’s like having a mountain to climb without a clampon
Tantalizing and elusive they allude to realms beyond my ken
One day I’ll wake up and understand every word, but when?
Modern poets often claim they don’t know what it’s about themselves
So what chance do I, the reader, have? And do I have room on my shelves?
For all these tomes of complexity, the odd shimmering line here and there
That save them from consignment to Oxfam (and my innermost despair)
Seems to me modern poets delight in making readers like me feel idiotic
Readers who are otherwise quite intelligent, or at worst, quixotic
Of course I can choose the easy life, I can pretend to comprehend
Refuse to invite doubt and speculation as to the vim and vigour
Of my intellectual rigour.
Or share any suspicion that imbibing the clutter of another’s head
Hoarded thoughts seemingly randomly disgorged like a Jackson Pollock said
Am I a whistleblower on the emperor’s new clothes? Should I eat my words?
Should I start a picket for the return of rhythm and rhyme?
Or invent a new sub-genre with sub-titles for each line?
I suppose time will tell which way poetry goes
And which way next the wind blows

                                                                ©LS King 2014

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Writing Cheques Like They're Going Out of Fashion

My smartphone is often to be found surfing the internet without my knowledge or taking photographs of the inside of my bag or pocket.

Why on earth would I trust it to make payments on my behalf?

It would probably go on a wild spending spree and develop an online gambling addiction or connect to my email and respond to the dodgy African scam emails with all my savings.

Mind you I do seem to have bought a dumb phone by mistake!  

I find it extraordinary how today's youth have no such qualms and seem to entirely trust their smart phones to manage their finances and come up with their electronic app bus passes on demand.

While I have possessed an online bank account for over a decade I find the idea of my bank account becoming unaccountable to me or the prospect of having to entrust my life to a clearly untrustworthy gizmo a terrifying proposition. That is why I am truly writing cheques and spending cash like it is going out of fashion. I am the backlash as they try and restrict our choices by banishing both these and cash, ironically in the name of greater convenience and freedom, but in reality I suspect, in the name of greater control over us and our spending habits and bank accounts.

I am already disgusted that the car tax disc has been scrapped but NOT the car tax and insisted on paying at the Post Office and obtaining a receipt (should I now display this in my windscreen?) Not only is it appalling to have to pay £145 for a tax disc and not even receive a circular piece of paper to show for it, there is no instant proof of payment if I am challenged by a Traffic Enforcement Officer whose hand-held scanner is faulty. Furthermore at the same time as this was brought in, the DVLA also hit us with a sneaky measure to prevent anyone selling unused car tax as part of a second hand car deal. If you buy a second hand car now, you cannot merely finish the existing (non-existent) tax disc - you have to shell out for an entirely new non-existent tax disc from scratch!

HMRC Tax Office has not yet succeeded in obtaining their mooted control of our bank accounts, ostensibly in the name of pursuing tax dodgers, but in reality, if HMRC Tax win this power they will be able scoop cash out of anyone's account and they have a horrendous track record of making mistakes and not always being quick to rectify them. Plus HMRC Tax Office as we all know targets the easy targets rather than pursuing the elusive bigger fish who can afford to hide their assets offshore or behind a corporation.

I am writing this on my sinister new laptop which only allows me to use it by signing into my Microsoft account. It is virtually impossible to use offline, which makes it entirely probable that my every keystroke is being monitored by somebody somewhere for nebulous reasons unknown to me. I then had to purchase a sinister version of Microsoft Home Office to install which is no longer a product which is mine for life for the princely sum of £75, but a yearly 'subscription' which presumably locks me out of my own Word documents if I don't permit Microsoft to mug me of £75 from my account on a yearly basis.

This insidious new trend of once-occasional products and services turning into 'subscriptions' which need to be renewed on a yearly basis (or which are automatically renewed if they already have your bank details) for continued use is truly chilling to me, not to mention a rip-off on epic scale even once multiplied in all our lives. I don't even want all the stupid downloads which more often than not tend to impair product function rather than enhance it. 

If I want an upload or enhancement I will search it and then be willing to pay if I do not have it already.

Please government, make auto-renew illegal at least. I may need car insurance and rescue cover every year but I want the freedom to shop around for the best deal, and as we all know no one gets the best deal through loyalty any more.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Not Listening


I like to think I speak clearly but increasingly often I notice that when I say 'no ice' in a pub, my drink will be half-filled with ice cubes. The bar staff have only heard the word 'ice'. Similarly if I am in a cafe ordering a hot chocolate and I specify 'no cream', I will often end up with a third of a cup full of disgusting squirty cream with that slight industrial tang. Again the serving staff have only heard the word 'cream'. It is only when establishments don't pollute hot beverages with cream in the first place that I am safe. But it's not just the food industry. Twice recently I have been sold the wrong rail tickets and found that they had either the date or destination wrong on them, despite telling the clerk more than once what the date and destination was. Today I even had a machine sell me a 'single' rail ticket when I wanted a day card to London, so machines are now joining in the non-listening, with the added bonus that machines cannot rectify a mistake!

Of course none of us are infallible and I make my fair share of mistakes. But what I don't do is plug myself into electronic devices 24/7 and ignore real life and real people. This I suspect is at the heart of setting oneself to 'world wash' and only registering the odd word of everything said to one. Information overload and constant multi-tasking between applications, particularly since one device can now perform a multitude of functions simultaneously has got to have an impact. I also don't dare to work in either a bar or a cafe without a natural talent for being able to memorise a dozen orders at once and get them right.

Ideally I would love to be able to boast total recall and am exploring basic meditation techniques to at least improve my retention. I particularly want to be able to remember books in their entirety when I read them. The late comedian Bob Monkhouse had an extraordinary memory. He would remember everyone, their names, where they lived, what they did, what their spouse was called, what the children were called, what the family dog was called and be fit to ask about the whole family and their lives by name even if two or three years had passed since he had last set eyes on that person (and he obviously encountered many thousands of people in his television and public speaking career.)

My partner is currently having a website built where the guy designing it either doesn't read his emails properly or the information about what his clients want just doesn't sink in owing to symptoms of electronic overload. He is undoubtedly a talented web designer who has produced good sites for other people, but the fact he comes back with something even less like what was requested each time is delaying the launch of the website and thus impacting on other things. It better not affect the final cost though, when he could easily have done this fairly straightforward site (graphics provided) in half the time for a client who actually knows his own mind and could have offered a 5-star review to boot. However the stars are diminishing by the delayed week. And this is the second designer. The first company seemed even more unreliable and unaccountable.

Ultimately listening is respect though, People don't respect the person they are talking to if they don't listen to them, let alone if they surf the net, check their texts or emails or phone another friend in their presence - all pretty crass behaviours. It is disturbing how quickly society has forgotten its manners since the advent of the smart phone or claims never to have known about human etiquette in the first place. If I meet or talk to someone. I expect their undivided attention and I give them mine. It is no surprise to me that loneliness and mental health issues have gone up in commensurate measure to the rise of electronic and social media. At the end of the day people need real human contact and to feel loved and valued by real people, people who listen to them and care about understanding them. Electronica can never replace real life, real time, warm human interaction. And it is only with good mental health that people have enough mental resources to care about those other than themselves, electronica aside.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Brighton and Hove We Nearly Lost

This is Regency Hove. Along with the whole seafront from Kemp Town to Hove, it was almost razed to the ground and replaced in the 1930s by 'New Brighton' (see bottom picture).






New Brighton was the brainchild of Alderman Sir Herbert Carden, a city councillor who also wanted to demolish this...



seeing the Royal Pavilion as a monstrosity and a decadent Royal folly which had had its day. Shockingly he was not alone among the councillors who willed two of Brighton's strongest USP's to oblivion, with not even the picturesque Town Hall safe from his sights.

Alderman Carden was greatly inspired by Embassy Court, the sole modernist building to sneak onto Brighton and Hove seafront in the early 1930s, a leading example of art deco in its own right, albeit 'in the wrong place' as so many have commented over the years.




Luckily before Alderman Carden's dastardly plans to make the whole of Brighton and Hove look like Embassy Court could bear fruit WWII broke out in 1939 and his master plan had to be shelved whilst the war was fought. As fortune would have it in 1941 he died. 

Shortly after the war ended, a group of Hove citizens, determined that the area should never come under such a threat again, formed The Regency Society, which is still going today. A number of regency buildings are now listed and there are 34 conservation areas within Brighton and Hove though there is still a long way to go to protect all buildings of historical interest.

In his love affair with 'progress'. Alderman Carden also wanted to extend Brighton and Hove as far as Worthing into one super city akin to London.

However Alderman Carden also had a surprising side, for he purchased the entire Downs around Brighton and Hove and later sold them back to the council at cost price to protect them and the water supply of Brighton. Had he not done so, there might be no Devils' Dyke today and the Downs may be considerably more spoiled than they have been. It seems an extraordinary contradiction that he cared so much for the preservation of the surrounding countryside, but sought to take a wrecking ball to the special character of Brighton and Hove, much though he instigated many good things in his forty years with the council, such as the city's municipal tram and telephone systems. But this wasn't the only surprising contradiction in Carden's character. He was an immensely wealthy solicitor and local dignitary born to an old Brightonian family yet was a staunch socialist all his life (which possibly explains his contempt for any building alluding to wealth or decadence). 

Less controversially, Carden campaigned for Brighton to found its own university nearly two decades before it did, though he may not have approved of this being plonked on his beloved Downs! 
Today he is largely commemorated in the long and winding road linking nondescript estates at the back of Brighton known as 'Carden Avenue.'

With thanks to Andy Garth, owner of that magical emporium of Brighton history known as  Brighton and Hove Stuff in Western Road, who inspired this posting with his prints and encyclopaedic knowledge of, and enthusiasm for. Brighton.