Sunday 25 July 2021

Thamesway, 660 Bath Road Taplow, 1943 the Garden of my Dreams

Thamesway, 660 Bath Road Taplow, UK

When I imagine heaven, I always think of a special corner of the very first garden I ever knew. I can see it in my mind’s eye. It is the corner of the garden where the gravel path of orchard meets the tennis court with a rustic rose-covered arch and a greengage tree, the only tree that I could climb.

Sadly, like most of the buildings of my youth, this garden is long gone, now the heavenly garden is covered by concrete and six rather unattractive houses but for me these do not exist. All I see is the beautiful garden that my grandfather so lovingly tended. It is as fresh in my memory as my garden today and it is worth remembering as a reminder that progress is not always better than what has been replaced.

So now let me the tell you all about this enchanted magical place where I spent the first four years of my life with my mother, her two unmarried sisters, my grandparents, a parrot, a dog and a tortoise and occasionally my two cousins, John and Gillian and their parents. It was known then as Thamesway, Bath Road Taplow and was in a row of rather grand houses that line the Bath Road. Nearby was a cafe, Western Biscuit Factory, a pub, The Mile House, the local telephone exchange and Barr’s Tulip Fields. The rest was farmland. This was my world.

Please note NO father. I did not have a father! I did have one but because of an event known as the Second World  War this more or less essential item did not feature in the first four years of my life and when the  highly desired object did turn up it was a disaster for all of us. This need not concern us here.

Thamesway was the prized possession of my truly remarkable grandfather, Henry Thorpe, the chief accountant and manager of Wembley Stadium. He had managed Wembley Stadium since The 1923 Wembley International Exhibition and he and Sir Arthur Elvin the Managing Director had introduced the world to Speedway, the FA Cup, the dogs and eventually The 1948 Olympic Games. At this time 1943 Pop was still managing Wembley Stadium, travelling by train every weekday via Taplow Station and Paddington, then the tube to Wembley in the morning and back at night in the  blackout.

The most remarkable thing about Henry Thorpe is that far from being educated at Eton and Oxford he was born in the slums of Manchester, Gorton to be precise, one of ten children of a Wagoner, a man who made coal carriages for the railways. To say Pop was poor was an understatement. One can still see pictures of their house by the railway lines a small two up two down Victorian terrace house by the railway into which were crammed 14 souls every night. Not a garden in sight. In fact, for many years I doubt if Pop had ever seen a garden.

By incredible hard work and industry my grandfather had  educated himself through night school from a railway ticket office clerk, to be the first graduate of the London School of Economics, pass in the first 100 of the Civil service Exams to become eventually Governor of the Ceylon Railways and on retirement Manager of Wembley Stadium.

His passion was his garden in Taplow which he managed entirely by himself.

Pop bought Thamesway for his wife and four daughters, Flo, Jo, Tippy & Honey, my mother, in about 1930 when they moved from Dachet as his wife Ma was fed up with the flooding from the Thames that happened each year. The house was not remarkable being rather small for such a large family who just squeezed in but the garden even for 1930 was something else for it was  a double and a half  building plot which allowed for a round drive in and a huge garden. It was also large enough to allow Pop to buy the Indian Exhibit, the Indian Room at the Wembley Exhibition and have it moved and built onto the side of his house. This room has got a a blog entry of its own. The Indian Room. This alone made Thamesway magical.

To make matters even better the garden had been designed. The world is used to designer gardens today but in 1930 this was unusual to say the least although I did not realise it then design is everything.

Here is a ground plan of the garden and the house which as can be seen covers a very small area except for the attached Indian Room which was about 12 meters square. You can see the entrance, the Orchard, the long herbaceous and rose border, kitchen gardens, (not used as such) and tennis court . 

You entered by car through the double gates  from the Bath Road on a yellow gravel path. There was quite a ditch in those day. This road was very busy from 1944 on as all the tanks going to D Dad passed by on the ay out and those that were left back on the way in in 1945. These scared me stiff. The car could sweep around the central flower bed to the porch and front door. This flower bed  was always a mass of flowers. Tulips in Spring and Asters in summer, like a park. The car which was  a Ford V8, DMK 945 was driven by my Auntie Flo, the eldest sister and it was her job to fetch and carry Pop from the station when it rained otherwise Pop walked the short distance to Taplow Station.

Once delivered the car could sweep around the central circle and drive on the gravel road around  to the back of the house to the large garage by the back door. All boundaries were lined with large trees, the front and garage side fir trees, the other side  had deciduous trees like a great weeping willow and all the boundaries had hedges of common  laurel that had to be carefully cut by hand every year. This was down by a jobbing gardener twice a year. Huge job.

Next to the Indian Room there was a bed devoted entirely to  old fashioned roses. This was backed by a rustic trellis covered with climbing roses. In early summer the smell from these flowers was overwhelming.  A rustic arch led through to the orchard and the herbaceous border. 

The orchard which had 45 mature fruiting trees was the main garden and used all summer for picnics on the finely mowed lawn. This lawn was like the finest Aubuson carpet and would put Wimbledon tennis court to shame. Not a weed in sight, beautiful swathe and carefully cut with straight lines like the Wembley Cup Final. Every adult except Ma had to mow the lawn. Pop did it with a motor mower but the daughters had to mow it by hand on occasions. It was always perfect.

There were three cherry trees, one was the variety white heart and these were a treat every summer. The then was a range of plums, Doris, greengage, damson, lots of damson jam and Victoria plums for eating and a great selection of eating apples of which my favourite was  Coxes Orange Pippins. On summer afternoons all during the Second Work WarWar 

When  she was not working at the home office   Auntie Jo made and prepared afternoon tea in the orchard. This was a massive production as if the lawn was not cut she had to do this first by hand with the hand mower. Then she would put all all the deck chairs,  There would always be six at home  but usually many more. Hammock and cushions with a blanket “sur l”herb pour mois!” This also included small tables for Granny and Pop, who was only around at the weekend.  She would take the Polly the parrot out in his cage for an airing ns bring the wind up gramophone and 78s with the latest record for background music.

Then she would make the tea. During the Second World War there was really nothing of interest to eat so the main item was Bread and jam with no butter followed if one was lucky by some sort of cake. However the bread was thinly cut, at that time sliced bread had not been invented. Auntie Jo’s thinly sliced bread was delicious. There was plenty of tea but no sugar. The best Royal Albert tea cups and service were used  along with napkins and appropriate  cutlery and this alone made these out door meals special. At 3.0 pm the gong would sound and everyone would  drop what they were doing descend for tea under the apple trees. It was an unforgettable occasion. This would last 20 minutes at most with Granny serving each cup. Tea in first!

Then as soon as it had started and we had all eaten as much bread and jam as we could manage it was over and Auntie Jo was left to put the whole production paraphernalia away and wash up too. No dishwasher in those days while Granny did what she did best and cooked the dinner.

On Saturday mornings in summer there was a tennis party for the entire neighbourhood as Thamesway was the only house with a tennis court. Occasionally there were serious local competitions but these were always won by the proprietor of the local transport cafe, The Vincents who were top class players. Mrs Vincent made Wimbledon one year but was prevented from going as she was pregnant with her first daughter Pamela  who was to become my best friend and sort of sister. Being an only child I was lucky to have a sort of  sister for the rest of my life. The tennis court had an 8 ft run back and a bank for spectators and was where James the Tortoise lived in a special garden frame. This bank was about a meter high and James was forever falling off and escaping. James hunts were held at least once a week.

The garden was my grandfather’s passion. He adored it and worked in it in his free time. In Spring we had a show of tulips to match any that Holland could muster as Barr’s Tulip farm was just 100 yards away. All the beds were massed with tulips and for get me knots. Mr Barr was a regular visitor and great friend and was the only person my grandfather took to the FA Cup. No females allowed to their game of football as it would be a waste t waste a ticket on a girl. John my male cousin got to go. I found out many years later that Mr Barr was the fourth richest man in England. Maybe that had something to do with why Mr Barr got the tickets!

Pop grew all the flowers himself. Pop was not interested in vegetables, he could have ploughed up the tennis court to help the war effort but refused to do so. He grew the forget knots and pansies for the spring and asters, thousands of them for the summer. The beds were crammed with flowers. And I still love these plantings. I especially loved the pampers grass and the grey lamb’s ear/Stachys the bordered all the edges of the beds. Pop also loved roses. The fruit was useful and after the autumn harvest, the apples were stored in the attic in rows and lasted all through the winter. This fruit was useful for all sorts of pies.

Pop had a small dark garden shed where he stored his poisons and worked on wet days. To discourage me from entering he told me terrifying tales of the huge child-eating spiders that lived there and how I would become entrapped in their webs. I have not recovered yet!

Thamesway made me appreciate a beautifully designed and well cared for garden. I had to leave this heaven in 1947  for the patch of Middlesex clay of the semi-detached in Stanmore where I lived for the next 18 years. Actually, it was quite well designed too but my father ruined by removing the flower beds and turning it into a muddy weed filled lawn but that is another story. I longed to return to Thamsway.

Now this beautiful garden is no more but to me, it still lives in my memory and now thanks to the miracle of the Cloud it can once more live on.


Why I find I relate to the Romantic novels by Danielle Steel


I only discovered the novels of Danielle Steel comparatively recently. I had seen  few of her novels transferred to Hollywood and I was not impressed. Far too formulaic and vulgar for me so I dismissed her as like I did Dorothy L Sayers many years ago, but because of the Covid Pandemic and hours of isolation I became addicted to audio books and I happened upon one entitled The Mistress. I had no idea who had written it but it took me into a world that I knew not of to quote the Bard.

The Mistress tells the story of one of those exotic creatures that become the toys of rich and powerful men who cruise the Mediterranean in luxurious liners. Money being no object.  It tells in detail what happened to this Mistress of three years when she was summarily and unexpectedly dumped one night  by her lover and how she survived without him. The writing had that feeling of verisimilitude that only someone who had known how these rare creatures live could bring so vividly to life. I was impressed.

I listened over the months to many of Ms Steel books and each one surprised me. Steel is is no formulaic writer. Unlike Agatha Christie who gives variations on a theme each of Steele's novels is highly original and well researched.  Zoya a novel based on a Russian Countess and the Diaghilev Ballet was astonishingly accurate. The novels are not about ordinary people but strange elusive heroines who like the rest of us have to find a way through life and have wonderful ups and horrific downs. The ending is not always happy.  

It took a few books for me to take the simple step of looking Danielle Steel up in Wikipedia. I found this author is a exotic as her heroines and she could well be a character in one of her romances. No half measures for her. She has written over 179 books selling 800 million to a resounding lack of critical acclaim. She has 9 children and 5 husbands, one of which she met while he was in jail. She is fabulously wealthy  and so can describe that life style that seems out of reach to many of us. Her heroines run the gamut from rags to riches and back. She knows how the world she describes ticks. Few of us do.

At first I was a bit annoyed at the heroines as I felt that the situations they faced and they way they lurched from fame and fortune to the daily grind of abject poverty unreal but I enjoyed every one. Steel is very good with dialogue and is not afraid to face the realties of life head on. The last book I have listened to was called Remembrance and had the most dramatic description of birth and a murder I have ever come across. Both were alarmingly real and rang very true. 

The question is why do I relate to these unusual creatures? Why do I empathise with them? No one could possibly live like that going from a princess to a refugee and back to a place in the highest society could they? Then it hit me, yes they do. This type of woman is around only unrecognised but Steel being one herself, having known riches to rags and back can write about their lives. Writers write about what they know. Steel can describe this life style in detail for those who would like to understand it but will never experience it for themselves.

Today it struck me that my own life would make a magnificent Steel novel.  My strange life, and believe me it has been strange, is the stuff that Steel novels are made of. I could be a Steel heroine. I think my life is perfectly ordinary like those around me but it isn't.  No wonder I have problems fitting in.

The novel begins with the birth of a daughter in Windsor UK in the middle of the Second World War to a young war bride. The city and surrounds of the Slough trading estate are being heavily bombed.  Because her father is away fighting the Germans in North Africa our heroine called Honey lives with her grandparents in Taplow. Honey's father born into the slums of Manchester where his father made coal wagons rose from a ticket clerk at the age of 13 to becoming the Manager of Wembley Stadium, along the way becoming one of the first working class graduates of the London School of Economics and passing out in the top grade in the British Civil Service Exams. 

After a 22 year stint in Ceylon  Pop returned  in  to run the British Empire Exhibition 1923 -24 for which the Empire Stadium was built. In 1925 Pop tried to buy the empty unwanted Stadium but missed out to a young Jewish entrepreneur who beat hm to i.t Instead of raising the money through the City the young man just went around the working class areas of Wembley knocking on doors and selling shares at £2 each until he raised the £10,000 required to buy the stadium. However the young entrepreneur was wise and asked Pop to join him in running the Stadium. For 2 years they ran it as a scrap metal yard with the pitch piled high with scrap metal but in the next years they gave the world, the FA Cup, Speedway, the Dogs and in 1948 The Olympic Games.

Pop had four beautiful daughters, Honey's mother being the youngest and Honey was brought up in the most beautiful house,

Thamesway which was packed with glorious works of art of the finest quality. One was an exotic Indian Room which Pop bought from at the end of the Empire Exhibition and had  built on to his house.The house had a large designed garden with roses, orchards and tennis court which Pop tended at weekends. Other than the war, the bombs and the tanks outside the gates preparing for D Day one would never guess there was a war on. Honey had three mothers, the three sisters, a grandmother and Pop who stood in for her absent father.

 What happens to this privileged child? Her father returns when she was four, not the man that married her mother but a completely different man who had spent his life burying the dead of the war including the German's dead horses which Honey's father thought was the worst. Her father was demobbed but could get no work. 

Honey was wrested from the comforts and luxury of her grandfather's home and taken to live in an unfurnished semi detached in Stanmore. A house with no furniture, coupons were needed for the very basic items, you could have a dining table but no chairs or a bed but no curtains. There was little food, little money and 1947 was the hardest winter in centuries. There was no coal only bags of wet slake if you could get it. Honey once doted upon by a loving family was left totally alone as was her mother. Her working class neighbour a Mrs Rutter made it clear that her two sons would not be allowed to play with Honey and she and Honey would never be friends. For the next 9 years Mrs Rutter kept her word. Mrs Rutter died of cancer in the next door house separated by a wall. Honey only once se t foot in the house to gt a ball that had landed on the wrong side of the fence!

As you can see  already Honey fits very well into the Steel class of heroines.  So what happens to our heroine, she gets abused by a young nun at her Convent School for 5 years but at the age of 12 is rescued by her father who censing  her lack of education sends her to a London ballet school where she becomes the pet of the ballet at Covent Garden. Her debut is at a Gala Performance in front of The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret.

Because of her attractive speaking voice Honey quickly becomes the voice of Mandy for one of the biggest biscuit firms in UK who exploit her paying just £10 for 5 years of use of her voice on radio and TV.  

Next she meets a famous  supposedly very gay composer who needs her for an opera he has written  and who falls under her spell. She meets  and gets to know members of the Royal Family.this relationship carries on over the course of 5 years with unfortunate consequences for both of them.  Honey wants to direct in the theatre on on TV but although winning the most prestigious prize in UK for this discipline the is rejected by BBC for being a woman. Two years of unemployment follow until  Honey is taken on as a ballet mistress for a London Musical and in a flu epidemic is forced to take over a major role in a  revue. She takes London by storm and is the IT girl of London West End Musicals where she it said to be "The best thing in London" Men love her and women would love to be her. She is enchanting.

She is invited by an Australian aboriginal theatre director to accompany him to Apartheid South Africa. Here again she is treated like a goddess while witnessing the horrors of extreme racism all around her especially her visits to the Catholic Cathedral in Johannesburg, the only place in SA where there is no apartheid  where she is spat upon by the White boar inhabitants for attending Mass. 

Well you get the picture! Honey ends up marrying a brilliant Oxford educated doctor who has mixed race practise in Auckland NZ,  She  runs a small professional opera ballet company in Auckland New Zealand where she becomes a Woman of the Year for her services to The Arts, gives birth to a brilliant daughter who goes on to be a senior scholar at her University, becomes an international Rhythmic gymnast and goes to live in Italy to get away from her mother.  Honey's ballet shows for Children in the school holidays rival audiences for rugby and cricket. 

Meanwhile Honey trains the NZ team which wins a Gold medal at the Commonwealth Games. But her husband dies young and Honey catches a super bug in the local hospital that nearly kills her. Her physical illness is mistaken for grief and the drugs given for depression nearly kill her.  Left alone and with a highly compromised immune system and a cold turkey withdrawal she slowly recovers and  makes and sells DVDs on and now write novels like Danielle Steel. 

The above is a prĂ©cis of my life and is only a tiny part of it. I left out the bit where I escaped being raped by a white  South African policeman by climbing out of a second floor window and inching along an edge to another bedroom and much more. 

My life has been  just as unbelievable as any Steel heroine. I suppose the is why I bond with her heroines as they remind me of me and my life's experience. No wonder I find it hard to fit it. I am the consummate outsider!

DorothyL Sayers and Lord Peter Wimsy reminded me of my husband but Danielle Steel is me! I admire Danielle Steel who wrote The Mistress when in her 70's. The world needs more women like her and dare I say it me who are larger than life, take what life throws at them, struggles against the odds and sometimes, just sometimes succeed!

Saturday 10 July 2021

My Daily Journey to School in Baker Street London in 1956

This YouTube virtual bus trip shows my walk from my ballet school, AES, near Baker Street in London, in 1956 . AES was near Portman Square and I had to walk the length of Baker Stree to get to and from the Baker Street Tube Station where I took 2 Tubes to Stanmore nearly 25 Miles away I was 13 and I did this trip alone for over 2.5 years as a young teenager.
In 1957 this area was still a huge bomb site and nearly all the buildings are post war. London could not function without tubes. I hardly ever used a car in the 14 years I worked in London.

Notice it is raining! I used to get wet. I spent 1d and caught the bus but if dry I walked. I had another long walk at the other end. Selfridges is at the start out of shot. I used it as my dairy for lichees and chocolate violet creams. I could afford just one a day, not both! I was very precocious! Still am on some occasions.

The buses in my time carried far more passengers. I hardly ever got a seat. We were crammed in. After this I did 3 hours of ballet, tap etc. and sometimes after school I would go to work at Covent Garden as my after school activity. Many of us did this.


Friday 13 November 2020

Art theft problems New Zealand 2020

 Logo Beethoven Act 2 Tony Fomison 
© janette miller

I am not the only person to be affected by forgeries and knock offs. The BNZ & Auckland Art galleries have bought or been gifted unauthorised copies of my commissioned artworks both being sold under "buyer beware". 

I had to go to court to find out which was expensive for all the parties concerned. I too was the victim of a forged letter which looks very convincing until you know the address and the signature are incorrect.  My case defence relied on this letter as evidence. 

It seems buyers of NZ art need to be very careful of provenance. Do not buy unless you check the title. Make sure the artwork is signed even though sold by the artist's agent and it is not a commissioned work. Buying of an agent is fraught with dangers of the Sale of Goods Act 1908 I thought I was the only one. There you go!

Friday 27 October 2017

The Student Prince and Janette Miller

Janette Miller in The Student Prince UK National Tour
It is strange to be dragged back into one's youth at the ripe old age of 73. This week I was reminded that I had played Kathie in the Sigmund Romberg musical of the 1920's when I was just 20. It is a period of my life that I have chosen to forget as although I was good at musicals I wanted to produce opera but life is life and one must eat so I was forced to be in them and I did enjoy the camaraderie of the theatre.

I remember getting the job to tour 14 cities in England  in the mid 1960s. In those days there was a career path and I was well on my way. I had risen from tour to London Musical in the chorus. Ruth Madoc and I had very minor roles in the ill fated but fondly remembered House of Cards produced by The Players organisation at the Phoenix and I auditioned for two roles. One was for The Admiral Crichton which I got but the company was procrastinating about when it would begin and the other was for unhappy Princess in The Student Prince which was to star Bryan Johnson who had made such a hit in the European Song contest.

With no sign of the Crichton role materialising I accepted the Princess part in the Student Prince. I knew I could make a good show of this Lady Di part. It had a nice easy to sing number and I was right for it. To get into London in a major role it would be useful to have played a role on tour. The rehearsals were just about to start, I had bought a little second hand red mini minor to drive myself around UK as I had done it by trains and said never again.

Then came the bombshell. The leading lady had had to withdraw at the last moment and I suppose the company was desperate so they offered the role to me. This of course was a huge step up professionally and an honour but I was initially wary. I knew that I was just not right for Kathie who is a Bavarian Innkeepers daughter. I am perceived as middle-class English and even in those days type casting was becoming the norm. They needed a Barbra Windsor who could sing not me. Besides that I have never had a full top C. I have a stunning B in alt but some days I cannot reach a Top C so I told the company this and I was happy to stay where I had been cast. But they were desperate so I said yes but only if they would take the duet down  a semi tone. The employers promised they would and they didn't. I was most unhappy.

So I had days to relearn my part and do the best I could. The only thing I could think of was Giselle.  I should have to play Kathie as Giselle who although  a peasant girl is so young, appealing and virginal that she attracts a genuine Royal suitor. Today royal mistresses get to marry their princes and become Queens but back in 1965 the Lady Di debacle was still to come.

I think I got away with it. Three days before we opened in Oxford the Crichton Company wanted me to break my contract and go with them. I was unhappy and should have loved to have had a year in London's West End in a decent role that suited but I couldn't do it morally so I had to see this through.

I had little direction or time to research. NO internet in those days. My hair was too short for a plat and the company refused to buy me a wig so I knew my hair was all wrong and there was nothing I could do. My make up to begin with was a disaster but Bryan Jonson had a wonderful make up artist friend who came down, sorted out my make up by virtually removing it all and I have lived with her advise successfully ever since. The top C's were a nightly problem but I have a recording of myself, the only one I have with an orchestra and in fact I sound quite acceptable, in fact I sound rather good but after that I always refused to sing Top C's.

But the experience was so valuable. 14 UK cities in a row certainly does things to your voice.  Bryan had the most enormous  Wagnerian voice and I was straight out of singing in rooms at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. There was no vocal enhancement in those days. This made me push my voice too hard and it was only in later life when I started to record using Garageband and hear myself sing that I began to like the sound of my voice.

My speaking voice was just too cultured and if I had had a director he would have stopped me and made me roughen up but then I should not have been me and as the stage is the mirror of the soul I don't think I should have been so convincing. It is emotionally draining making an audience cry their eyes out every night and at the end of 14 weeks of this one becomes cynical.

We ended in Wolverhampton. I was moving on to The Windsor Pantomime. It was the first time I had seen the last curtain come down and not think I might never see it go up again. I had played Bournemouth the week before and rehearsed Windsor! That is a feat I suggest nobody tries!

I was glad to say Goodbye to Kathie.  I did not return when the tour resumed.

Strangely I had another encounter with The Student Prince. I had made a success in The Desert Song playing the comedy lead Susan, a part that did suit me down to the ground and John Hanson asked me to play Gretchen  which again needs a young Barbara Windsor. Even though it meant a year in London I could not face it. I was wrong to begin and I had played and sung Kathie and I needed to escape the clutches of The Red Shadow. I asked if I could play The Princess, I was right for that but Hanson could not see me as a singer only as a comedian and dancer. He was wrong. I am a singer.

Now in the wake of Lady Di The Student Prince is no longer relevant and musicals and I moved on but the old 1920's musicals still have an appeal and a structure that is hard to beat. I and the world have consigned them to memory. I have fortunately never had to produce one!

Wednesday 3 September 2014

How to answer the BBC in 1988

Dance Tales Story Ballets Janette Heffernan

In 1988 I was honoured by a commission from the BBC Children's Department for my Dance Tales story ballets series. This was the first and only time TVNZ had actually had an entertainment programme concept accepted so it was important that everything went well. I was the first woman independent director into the bargain as their boys would not take directions from me! I was informed. It was the 1980s!

Sad to say my experience with this BBC department was a nightmare. The BBC felt they were dealing with colonials and colonials needed to be kept in their place. They made life impossible. They insisted on having the choice of ballets. I sent 60 possibles and the BBC chose five, one The Little Match Girl for their Christmas programmes. The BBC insisted on choice of voice for voice overs and although audition tapes were sent three months before production refused to say if the voices I had chosen were acceptable. Even after many letters and eventually expensive toll calls I never received an answer.

I just went ahead! The male narrator had a soft East Enders accent and I had the received English. It was and still is a good choice especially as in hindsight the BBC of those days is now rather over the top. The BBC was furious and wanted me to rerecord. On my budget this was out of the question so I stood up for my actor. Fortunately the BBC liked my voice!

All through production I received the most hostile epistles. My commercial half hour productions relied heavily on expensive after effects which again are  essential today but the BBC insisted that in the 15 minute versions not one effect was in sight. This was because in those days the BBC could not afford the effects and if the British children were introduced to them they would insist on them all their programmes. The BBC went to great lengths to see that this did not happen.

The programme  sample VHS were delivered on time but were not shown at Christmas and it was not until Easter that they were put into the schedule. Easter Week has just three days so two programmes were not wanted and the BBC decided not to pay for these.  They did not tell me this but just said two of the programmes were not up to standard and not required.  This was very serious for me as I relied on this payment.

The BBC were adamant and turned nasty. They cancelled all five. I too was furious  and hurt as I felt that the programmes which were good enough to be finalists for the LA Monitor Awards for  technical excellence were worth broadcasting by the BBC and they had chosen them.

I went straight to the top. I wrote a long letter to the Director General complaining of the treatment that had been metered out to my small professional opera/ballet company and asked him to have a look. A few days later I got a call from the BBC Children's Television telling me that the BBC had found they could use the programmes after all. Victory!

BUT there was still the sting in the BBC's tail. When we sent the final finished tapes I received this telegram in Auckland New Zealand dated 20 April 1988:

Re: Dance Tales 



London to Auckland and back  is 22 thousand miles and the tapes had already cost a fortune to send by airmail as they were so heavy. I was not happy. I rang my wonderful Executive Producer at Vidcom.

Bill Harman who had the most delightful cockney voice ever and who voiced  The Carpenter in Walrus and Carpenter was  up to the BBC and wrote them a letter. A letter of such brilliance I wish I had composed it myself. It summed up all the BBC silliness in a few simple phrases.

Vidcom  Ltd, Auckland, NZ 

20 April 1988

Dear Ms Duggan
Re Dance Tales 
As the production house that produced these programmes, we have been informed by Janette Heffernan that you have rejected the programmes due to the tapes being wound onto small plastic "G" spools which can spin.

We do not encounter this problem as we use up-to-date Ampex VPR 3 machines, but would suggest is your VTR's are not compatible that you re-spool the tapes onto reels which will function correctly for you rather than send them back to us (in NZ) to put onto metal spools.

If this is not possible, please contact me so that I can arrange for an independent production house in London to re-spool them for you to save an inordinate amount of time and unnecessary freighting.

Yours sincerely
Bill Harman
Executive Producer

We never heard another word. The programmes were a great success all over the world but the BBC Children's Department did not survive the year and I am not surprised.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Hugh Miller Golf Ball Manufacturer The Professional Golfer June 1924

I thought I knew about my grandfather's early life until I found this article in The Professional Golfer June 1924 Page 4. Just shows you how wrong one's family can be on occasions.

Our readers will have no difficulty in recognising the familiar features of Hugh Miller whose picture appears in this issue. Hugh is rather bashful where autobiography is concerned, but I have managed to extract from him a few particulars concerning his own career which will doubtless interest the "boys".

Hugh is of course a Caledonian.His school days, however were all spent in the U.S.A. These over , he returned to Scotland and entered the firm of his late uncle, Mr. Hugh Miller (Messrs. Miller and Taylor) as an employee. In 1904 Hugh assisted his uncle in experimenting in the manufacture of rubber-cores, and when the firm put their first ball on the market ( The "Reliance") Hugh started to travel among the professionals, covering practically the whole of the British Isles. As time went on the firm decided it would be more convenient if Hugh made his headquarters in London, and he accordingly moved south as their London agent. This was in 1910.

The firm was located at 10 Dyer's Buildings Holborn, and Hugh carried on here until he joined the forces, serving in the Mechanical Transport. On his demobilisation in 1919 he joined Messrs. Miller and Taylor and remained with them until February 1922 when he left the golf trade - as he thought, for good. But three months were as long as he could stay away from the "boys," and in May of the same year he started out in business for himself, from the old address of 10 Dyer's Building which he had taken over.

Many a joke was cracked over his venture in being the pioneer in taking round his goods in a "tin lizzie" and no one enjoyed them more than "the victim", but all good things come to an end, and on selling his business in April to Mr. D.M. Stocks, son of the well known caddie bag maker of Edinburgh, Hugh joined the firm of Messrs. Game-Balls Co.Ltd. of Brentford, Middlesex as golf ball sales Manager.

To use his own words, Hugh is "convinced that his firm has the goods." while we, for our part, wish him every possible fortune in  his new venture. At any rate his heart is in the golf trade: he will be in his element in his new and responsible post and success must come.

It did!  Grand Father Miller knew success and failure. He made and lost three fortunes.  The first loss was when his uncle Hugh Miller who had relied on his nephew running the firm since 1904 died having promised the firm. Instead in 1922 it seems, uncle Hugh left his firm and fortune to Hugh's younger twin sisters Martha and Mary Miller remarking in the will that Hugh Miller was a young man and well able to make his way in the world. My grandfather left with an  inscribed silver plate and nothing else.

The Harlequin Golf Ball of 1924, The Magic Performer from Tee to Green, was manufactured by the Game Balls Co. and cost 2/6. One was sold by Christies in 1996 for £1000.

He made another fortune with the multi coloured golf umbrella which we all know today.