August 2011

26th August 2011

Claims to Fame

Do you remember those times at school, when to be somebody was to know somebody? This, of course, is pre the glut of attainable goods that children are now swamped with and which seem to dictate that to be somebody is to own the maximum amount of things possible..(grrr!) Gone are the days when we used to walk to The Offie on a Saturday night with enough money for a coke and a bag of crisps (those twisty ones – salt and vinegar were my faves), and Saturday afternoons spent in the local record shop.

I seem to have digressed a litte, but what I am trying to say is that our own sense of who we were was, in part, dictated by who we knew – often by association rather than personal experience – and not by what we had. This got me thinking that our personal ‘claims to fame’ are quite revealing, offering snippets of an individual’s past. My own childhood ‘claims to fame’ would give an outsider quite a few interesting (I think) snippets of info about me, my family and our past, and help build a somewhat abstract picture.

So here we go, here they are, my ‘claims to fame’, my snippets!

  • My uncle was in the same class at school as Jerry Dammers (remember the one from The Specials, with an absence of front teeth? Him.)
  • One of my school friends was the neice of writer Joe Orton.
  • A friend at college went out with Lemmy from Motorhead (Oh yes she did!)
  • My mum once danced with Larry Grayson (Ooooh yes she did!)
  • My dad used to mend Showaddywaddy’s cars.
  • My brother’s best friend was related to one of Showaddywaddy (Oh, I know that’s vague, but it was so long ago!)
  • My Grandad (Dad’s dad) was the Secretary of the Coventry Variety Artists’ Association and booked lots of well-known acts (including Larry Grayson – do you see the connection?) and was a singer.
  • I stood a few feet from Princess Diana and Richard Attenborough on their visit to Leicester to open the Space Centre.
  • My aunt sat across the aisle from Brian Ferry on a trip to Corsica a few years ago (swoon.)
  • TV vet Keith Leonard (Vets in Practice) removed half of our old springer spaniel’s teeth (they DID need removing, he wasn’t being mean or anything.)
  • My mum was kissed by Dickie Valentine, who was something of a heartthrob in my mum’s day. Apparently (so she tells me) she was so overcome with the heat and the excitement of seeing him that she fainted. Good old Dickie came to my mum’s aid, asked her if she was okay as she came to, and kissed her. Luckily, she was well over the fainting thing at this point, so didn’t keel over again. Her friends were all pretty miffed though and probably never forgave her for it.

There are two more, my personal favourites, which I’ve saved till last.

  • I have a record, signed by John Peel and saying: ‘Dear Abi, A present! John Peel’. I won it for writing four pages of nonsense in answer to ‘a question that hasn’t been asked’. As a huge, enormous fan of Peely (he got me through my teenage angst) it is a highly treasured possession.

And last but not least,

  • in 1994 I entered a poetry competition and was invited to the ‘do’. All three of my poems were commended by the judges and I received a round of applause from them. One of these judges was Aeronwy Thomas, Dylan Thomas’s daughter. A wonderful moment, full of pink cheeked-ness, but one that I’ll always treasure.

I do like the bizarre and random nature of these moments. I don’t know if such things matter to children now, but I hope they do in a way because these moments tell a story and capture a few little pieces of history.

Your Comments

Emma Pass says: I have a few slightly tenuous claims to fame. I am very, very distantly related to Virginia Woolf (by marriage, not blood!), my dad has worked with Ranulph Fiennes (once), my sister used to work at the Royal Opera House and met Dawn French, and I’ve seen David Bellamy give a talk and got his autograph. Oh, and I saw Paul Weller out Christmas shopping once! Told you they were tenuous.

Wow! Thanks Emma. These are great. The Virginia Woolf connection is a good one, and as for seeing Paul Weller out shopping – that takes some beating… I wonder if he was buying jam (uh-hum!)

I would love to hear your claims to fame, however weird and wonderful they may be, so if you have any, please contact me via the Contact Me link above and I will put your responses up on this page. Many thanks.


19th August 2011


Summer Sundae, 14th August, Leicester

Summer Sundae is a three day long festival that you may or may not have heard of, mainly music, some comedy (especially if you have had one too many visits to the beer tent), and takes place in Leicester every August. It’s now in its eleventh year and my brother and sister in law are what can only be called Summer Sundae veterans. For me and my daughter, our Summer Sundae, on Sunday, was a new experience, and it was a good ‘un. After recent events in the news which have filled me, and I’m sure many of you, with sadness and trepidation, I can’t tell you how uplifting it has been to be immersed in such a positive, happy vibe and to see people at their best, en masse, singing, boogying and just plain enjoying themselves.

The event takes up most of the beautiful Victoria Park and De Montfort Gardens, with areas set aside for campers and with indoor performances in DeMontfort Hall, taking me back to previous visits there many years ago to see Duran Duran (oh yes!), The Boomtown Rats (even bigger oh yes!) and fab comedy such as Victoria Wood and Eddie Izzard. I saw Ben Elton there, many moons ago, and I don’t think I have laughed as much since… (it brought a whole new meaning to those lady products used by women of a certain age)… but enough musing – that was then, and this is now.

There were some great performances. Joel Owen and The Antoine Band, from Leicester and performing on the Musician Stage, (seen here in piccie), completely captured the mood and had everyone up on their feet boogying. Joel has a voice like sticky toffee pudding (honestly), one of those voices you could listen to all day. The Young Knives really gave it some welly on the main stage and could be heard across the campus. But for me, the highlight was a band called The Black Atlantic (www.theblackatlantic.com) from The Netherlands. I love discovering new bands, new to me that is. These guys have been together since 2006 and released ‘Reverence for Fallen Trees’ as a free digital download in 2009, but I had neither seen nor heard of them before. They’re an acoustic four piece who make a lot of beautiful noise, with gorgeous vocals from Geert van der Velde, clever compositions, and harmonies that just magically fall into place. Somehow, in the space between their performance and the beer tent (replete with fantasticly named and incredibly palatable beers such as 99 Red Baboons) I happened to come upon a tent selling ‘Reverence for Fallen Trees’, in vinyl and cd, and now have my very own copy! It’s serene and understated, with less of the raw energy of their live performance, but is quite stunning. I don’t really like to compare bands, but if you like Sigur Ros (and I do) you’ll like these. I thought they were great. In fact, I spotted them on walk about some time later and chased after them in order to tell them so (u-hum!) Oh well, somebody had to do it!

The greatness of the day was inflated even more by a hugely entertaining performance by The Cuban Brothers, made even more entertaining by an underwear incident which I probably shouldn’t repeat here, and which I’m sure has caused permanent damage to my daughter’s eyesight. Add to this a rocking finale by McFly, who did, it has to be said, a stonking performance of Tinie Tempah’s ‘Pass Out’ and shot t-shirts into the crowd, and yes, you have it – pure rock and roll!

At the end of a long day we were shattered, our feet were cold, and we were weighed down by enough free yogurts to see us into the next millenium (don’t ask!), but we didn’t care. We had a fab time and I would definitely recommend it as something to put on your ‘to do’ list.


Many thanks to Simon & Lisa for sharing the experience and for providing the fab Joel Owen photo.

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