Saturday, 29 August 2015

The Kray Twins and Others I've Met

It is now early 1960-ish

I've moved on from Arthur Horton's bookie office and gone to Albert Cook and Son, 801 Wandsworth Road, then  later into betting shop work. 

Along the way I met quite a few 'interesting' characters, the most famous, or infamous, being Reggie and Ronnie Kray, known by most simply as 'The Twins'. 
I'll start with these two chaps; it was some time around the early to mid sixties.

A Croydon bookie, 'Beat Chapman' was a lady whom  I worked for her in  Tamworth Road betting shop for a while.  I was the only male working in her office; a first for me, sadly.  
Beatie asked me if I'd help her son-in-law, Brian, to learn the betting game. I agreed.

Met Brian and his aim was to add another string to his bow, he being a used car trader at the time. He thought betting shops were a licence to print money. Not always true, but 'the bookie always wins' was burned into his brain I think.

Firstly we had to find premises. He bought a corner café in Purley Way Croydon, with many factories just opposite. Looked a good site to me. 
Applied for a bookmakers licence and it was, surprisingly, approved. Set about gutting the café and turning it into a plain and simple betting shop, complete with Extel broadcasting installed. 
I was the 'settler/manager' with two girls as counter-hands. They took  the betting slips and paid out any winnings. I  settled the bets and kept control of things. Brian often helped out during the afternoon.

At about 1.30 one afternoon I was sorting through the early morning slips with my back to the counter. Brian came to my desk and sat on the corner, looking a bit 
 He whispered : "Get on the blower and tell Charlie and Bomber to get here now! The Twins have just come in." 
I went to look round; Brian hissed "Don't turn round, just get on the blower now!" 
He was obviously very tense. I made the call.  I  said: "Brian wants you now - the Twins have turned up." The line went dead.

Four minutes later the door bursts open and four of Brian's 'acquaintances' came striding in. 
I knew Chas and Bomber, but not the other two. I was now able to witness what all this kerfuffle was about. 
Very smartly dressed in blue mohair tailored suits; pristine collar and ties and expensive looking shoes - that was the Krays. Their Mum would have been proud of them, which, as we all know, she was!

Chas went straight over to Reggie Kray, hand extended and they shook hands - as did Bomber, and then Brian joined the mob. There was much back-slapping and "How you doing?" small talk.

Chas asked Ronnie: "Wotcha doing round these parts then? Bit out of your way, innit?"

He answered: "We're on our way to Brighton but we're gonna miss the first race or two. Just wanted to have a couple of bets, that's all."

Brian's face regained some colour; he'd gone quite pale. 
There was a bit more general chit-chat and the Krays, plus their  associates, left and went on their way.  Chas, Bomber and the other two heavies also departed.

Brian was obviously relieved when they'd all gone. 
He told me  he'd been convinced the Krays were coming to 'protect'  his new shop! 
The Krays knew Brian  and his Dad as they'd  often supplied cars for them.
 That's all I knew about his dealings with them.  That was all I wanted to know too. My business was to look after the betting shop; any other business was nothing to do with me, and that's the way I liked it.

The Twins laid out about £50 on a couple of bets. They lost. No doubt they could afford it! 
I met them on a couple of other occasions, when I went to a couple of boxing events in London with my next bookie employer, John Parry of Streatham. 
The Twins were great boxing fans  and were once very well thought of as boxers themselves.

They also liked to contribute to 'good causes' - donating plenty of cash, often in a very public way. 
One evening at a boxing match in Shoreditch town hall there was a 'charity auction' of a few things from the ring. 
Tommy Trinder, a well-known comedian (You Lucky People being his catchphrase) was the auctioneer. 
The Krays bid for everything, often bumping the bids up between them! 
The final item was a huge bouquet of flowers. The Krays were again the highest bidders. 
After the applause died down, they passed the bouquet back to Trinder and said: "Give this to the nurses home, with our compliments".

Yes, they were villains. They terrified their victims.  Not the kind of people one would want to associate with normally. 
However, in many people's eyes they were generous 'businessmen', running clubs, giving to charity and doing good things generally. 
They were no angels, but there were and still are worse people in this wicked world.

Next time I'll write a bit about my time with a Streatham bookie who started life as a sort of 'minder' for a London crook...

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Beautiful Woman, Wonderful Voice.

Lara Fabian.  A vision of beauty.  Beyond compare.

This is something I posted a few years ago and think another outing and listen is due. 

The song is highly emotional.  Not to watch if you're in a sad mood, unless you're very brave.

At one point she sings with NO orchestral backing and if you don't have a tear in your eye as she takes the huge applause then you're stronger than I.

Watch in full screen if you can.

Lara is emotionally drained at the end of this powerful song.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Blame it on Fram Actual

That's a strange title, what the heck does it mean?

Well, seeing as it's you, I'll explain.  Fram Actual, one of the few Bloggers I keep an eye out for.  He's a darn good writer which, I suppose, is because of his profession. 

Always has such an interesting and stylish way about him. And he usually includes a song or two as a 'bonus' at the end of his article.

In his current posting he writes about a sort of 'lost love', a girl he knew.  This struck a chord with me.  And I doubt that I am alone in this kind of memory.

Thus it's HIS fault that I'm writing this odd piece, and why I am including two of my favourite 'oldies' courtesy of Youtube.

I wrote a letter of goodbye to my very first love.  I really did love her then and, in a way, still do - even though we shall never meet or speak or write to each other again. It's impossible.

So, my first song is Billy Eckstine singing 'I Apologize'

The second song makes me think of the recurring dream I kept having for many years after I left her.  Her name: Stella.  No, it's not Stella by Starlight, although I love that song too.

My dream was always the same.  I'm walking along Croydon High Road, passing my favourite store, Kennards.  Stella is walking towards me, wearing her dark green coat.  She comes close to me but just walks past me, not even glancing at me. She melts into the people as she disappears.  I can see this now, so clearly.

The second song is, of course, Passing Strangers, a duet by Billy Eckstine and the wonderful Sarah Vaughn.


Sunday, 16 August 2015

George Cole 1925-2015

So sad to learn that the wonderful George Cole is no longer with us.

He died on 5th August 2015 and I cannot understand why I did not hear of this before today, some 11 days after his death. Today I discovered it because I recently heard Dennis Waterman say something that indicated George Cole was no more and decided to check on Google.

George Cole was one of my favourite actors.  He was born in Tooting, South London, not far from my home town of Croydon.  He left school at age 14, (same as I did). At age 18 he joined the RAF, again as did I.  He even seemed to speak a bit like me at times!

He is best remembered as Arfur Daley, the wheeler dealer dodgy car bloke in "Minder", along with Dennis Waterman as Terry, the 'minder'. 

But he was a great character actor in many other roles and he was befriended by the comedic actor Alastair Sim and his wife Naomi after appearing in the film "Cottage to Let". Cole played a cheeky young Cockney evacuee in this film and lived with the Sims in their Oxfordshire house during the Blitz. He would have been about 15 when he played this part.

75 years as an actor, a highly respected one too, for a lad who left school with no qualifications, is what makes him one of the greatest, in MY book.

He leaves behind his wife, Penny Morrel, (aka 'Er indoors), whom he married in 1967.

R.I.P. dear chap, and thanks for all the laughter you gave us over the years.


Monday, 3 August 2015

Charitry Wing Walking at Wickenby Airfield

Sunday 2nd August 20.15
A pleasant day, lots of cumulus clouds but nice and dry. Great, especially for the adventurous who are visiting Wickenby to try wing walking!
Many of the visitors to this ex-RAF Wickenby aerodrome have come to help raise funds for St. Andrew's Hospice in Grimsby. It was sad to see so many with pink tee-shirts with a picture of a lost one, one whose last days were cared for in this hospice.
My amateur videoing of this event starts with a view of the café frontage where my Pat is chatting with a visitor. Then the first to wing walk is a young lady, mid-40s perhaps, who had never before tried this exhilarating mode of travel. She will be attempting some sky-diving next year! Then a few shots of a gallant man who said he was terrified but was going to go up anyway. He had to lose about two stone in weight to qualify for this flight. Perhaps he was the bravest of them all? Who knows. Finally a brief visit to the museum and then off for a coffee before heading home, by car, not on the wings of a vintage American open cockpit bi-plane, the Stearman, a much bigger cousin to the British Tigermoth.
Oh, were I ten years younger and three stone lighter ... Dream on!