RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: September 2014

The National Trust Back to Backs, Birmingham

In early September we decided to treat ourselves to a visit to the National Trust Back to Backs. I remember when the conservation team was working on this project years ago, but have never wondered about its Birmingham location. Funnily enough, this wonderful treasure is something I had stood by a few times whilst gawping into the window of a traditional sweet shop. How funny that I had never known it was there.

Tickets have to be pre-booked and you are taken on a fascinating tour! Once inside the little National Trust Shop, you are taken around the corner and through a locked gate  into a courtyard that did not seem to exist until that very moment.

Inside are a row the back to back houses, a wash room and out house and each of the 3 homes your enter is set in a different period. As well as the period set up, they have also researched some of the interesting people who used to live there. From a Jewish clock maker to a man who made glass eyes for taxidermists and people! You can even find an air raid shelter in the first property and also take a glimpse into how the original state of the place before they set to work.

I learnt a huge amount I never knew, such as how arsenic was once used as a green dye for wallpaper, candles and even icing flowers.

Photography is not allowed at the Back to Backs, other than the courtyard area, and there are steep and winding staircases that have to be climbed and descended in each of the properties. Unfortunately my camera ran out of juice before I got to the tailor’s establishment, which was really wonderful. A tailor that set up business in the 1970’s retired in 2001. When he went, he literally left everything, from patterns to bolts of fabric and finished items…it is all still there!

Here are some of the photos I took of this mesmerising place. I will post more when I can. Thank you once again to all the staff who made this visit such a pleasure!

Back to Backs Courtyard

Back to Backs Courtyard

Back to Backs Birmingham Glass Eyes

Glass Eyes!

Stencilled Walls at the Back to Backs

Stencilled Walls

national trust back to backs flooring

Original flooring in one of the bedrooms!

national trust taxidermy mouse

Taxidermy Mouse ‘Le Eeek’

national trust back to backs birmingham

Original state

Air Raid Shelter Back to Backs

The Air Raid Shelter Basement

Goodwood Revival 2014 Photos

So another Goodwood Revival has come and gone! I have never seen so many people there as I did this year, it was an epic show. It was wonderful to catch up with familiar faces although I didn’t get my annual Lord March shoulder pat, which was most disappointing…

This years celebrities were the petite and gorgeous Geri Halliwell and the ever grump-tastic Rowan Atkinson who I still adore despite his true Blackadder personality (this was even before he crashed his car, so no excuses!). If you know of more then let me know!

I was looked after beautifully yet again by Sue and the team, who never fail to impress me with their organisational skills and spirit.

Less talk and more pictures! I have more that I will add later! Enjoy!

jackie stewart goodwood revival 2014

Jackie Stewart and Kitten von Mew

sue and kitten goodwood 2014

Sue and Kitten with the cheeky grid girls!

pinup kitten the goodwood revival

1954 Beechcraft BE50 Twin Bonanza called Eve with a ‘My Oregon Lady’ noseart

goodwood 2014

kitten von mew pinup noseart

raf benevolent fund

Heard of Benny and the Jets? Meet Kitten and the Vets! These two fabulous gents were signing books at the RAF Benevolent Fund tent. So much hilarity, we went back the next day for more…and a sing song!


This replica First World War Bi-Plane is part of a project being funded by the famous director Peter Jackson. He is such a massive fan of the aircraft, he had a cameo appearance in one for his film adaption of King Kong.

ww2 vehicles goodwood revival 2014

Amazing track moment on Sunday. I took all these from the Start Line Grandstand. It was the most wonderful moving exhibit of vintage vehicles I have ever seen! And the 2 Lancaster Bombers were incredible moving!

track moment 4 WEB track moment 6 web track moment vets WEB track-moment 2 WEB

jackie stewart goodwood revival 2014

Jackie Stewart and Kitten von Mew. He was one cheeky chappie! Glad some things never change!

WW2 Songs and their Origins

Well last time I brought you songs of the First World War and today I bring you a few facts of the origins of these Second World War songs! I was going to go with quite a few quirky ones, but you would be amazed at how many are actually from a lot earlier. Take Quartermaster’s Stores for example…This is actually from the Civil War! So I have brought you some that are definitely WW2 and hope you enjoy the selection…
Now, as soon as I mention White Cliffs of Dover, you may be forgiven of instantly thinking of Vera Lynn, but there is 1 major flaw of the song that reminds us that the lyrics were written by an American…’Bluebirds’. These are not native to England and do not resemble Swallows or the like either. Imagine a Robin that has accidentally taken a bird bath in a pot of electric blue ink. That is a Bluebird. Nat Burner wouldn’t have known this as he had never ventured to these shores, but was forgiven as his beautiful lyrical imagery was so strong. Not only that, Swallows (which are navy blue) had been a symbol of love and loyalty for many, many years in Britain. It was a sign that spring when you saw that this delightful bird had arrived and they would always fly back every year. It also felt as if Nat’s Bluebirds were being used as a symbol of the RAF coming back home too.
White Cliffs of Dover Sheet music

White Cliffs of Dover Sheet Music from

Written in 1941 (before America even joined into the fight), White Cliffs of Dover was created to boost morale on British soil. The musical composer was Jewish American Walter Kent who also composed the stunning festive song ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas.’ Nat was actually born Nat Schwartz, but changed his Germanesque surname to something less so. Nat had been writing songs for stage and screen, including ‘When the Roses Bloom Again’, which you may recognise the likes of Johnny Cash covering.
blood on the risers lyrics
Original 1943 lyrics to Blood on the Risers

Next is one I remember singing around a Brownie campfire; Blood on the Risers. This song has had so many lyric changes since the original American Paratrooper version. Most of us know the chorus lyrics as “Glory, glory what a hell of a way to die, suspended by your braces when you’re learning how to fly. Glory, glory what a hell of a way to die and he ain’t gonna jump no more!” but in fact the originals were “Gory, gory what a hell of a way to die (x3), he ain’t gonna jump no more!” The “Glory glory” confusion comes in because the tune is for a completely different song (The Battle Hymn of the Republic), in which you would have sung those words. The “Gory gory” version is a funny play on these, which seem to have gotten lost in the campfire versions. There was also a different lyric to the “…suspended by your braces” part that went “With a rifle on his back as he’s falling through the sky.”
Although each of the different versions tell the same basic story of a man falling to his death, the original is of a poor Airborne paratrooper that let out his parachute, only for the silk to wrap around his legs, the cord to coil around his neck and the connectors to wallop him over the head. This can also be heard in Episode 9 of Band of Brothers. No one knows who wrote this song, but I like to think that as the rest of the troop were singing “Glory glory Hallelujah!”, there was some cheeky sod at the back making up his own lyrics to make people laugh. Well if that is true, it certainly did the trick and is still sung religiously by the American Airborne troops to this day!
a nightingale sang in berkley square

A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square sheet music cover.

Recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Rod Stewart (hey, wait! Where you going?!), Harry Connick Junior, Nat King Cole, Glenn Miller and Vera Lynn, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square is a beautifully sentimental song. The lyrics spark images of romance, London’s elegant Mayfair district and birdsong…but did you know it was actually written and first performed in France?! This famous ‘English’ song was in fact written in a small fishing village in Le Lavandou, just before the outbreak of war. Eric Maschwitz (born in Edgbaston, Birmingham) wrote the lyrics and Manning Sherwen wrote the melody. Later the same year, Eric became part of MI-6’s sabotage section and even briefly established a resistance organisation in Yorkshire in 1940 before getting posted to New York and then back to London. He was most famous for co-writing the 1937 adaptation of Goodbye Mr. Chips (one of my favourite MGM classics!), of which he was nominated for an Academy Award. Manning on the other hand was American and moved to England in 1938. He wrote many wartime musicals, who’s casts delivered between 235 and 680 performances per play throughout the 40’s.
So back to the song…Imagine a small, insignificant bar with Manning at the piano, a resident saxophone player and Eric holding a glass of plonk singing the words. You would be blown away right? Well no one was that fussed to be honest. Well as soon as the Brits heard it in 1940 on New Faces (sung by Judy Campbell), we went crazy for the song and its references to London. It was of course Dame Vera Lynn that really saw sales and heart soar for this song.
So there you have it. 3 exceptional songs of WW2 and I could bring you more, but then I would have nowt to write about when I am stuck for ideas! I will bring you others at a later date I promise, but hope you have found this interesting and enlightening!

Ice Bucket Challenge

Yup, I finally did it, in support of Macmillan Cancer Research. I nominated my 2 friends Trampy and Stephanie. I would say it is passing on the love, but I now know what this feels like! All those people who wimped out and just used tepid water…pfff…