Once Woe­be­gone, now won­der­ful Wor­thing

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Entertainment -

By Chris Ash­ley, writer and broad­caster Oc­ca­sion­ally Woe­be­gone Wor­thing (my home­town) from my youth gets a bit of sledg­ing from me. In my de­fence, I was your av­er­age dis­con­tented sprog, although, through the mists of time I know we ac­tu­ally had fun, al­beit, in this day and age, it would be con­sid­ered rather quaint. Most of those good times ro­tated around the beach and the pier.

One of the ear­li­est mem­o­ries was a 70-ton dead whale named Jonah be­ing put on dis­play on var­i­ous sea­side re­sort beaches in the 1950s. Did this be­he­moth visit your neck of the woods? Was it only sea­side re­sorts or did it visit the land of 'dark satanic mills' as well? It did pong a tad, but for­tu­nately, we had a very fra­grant end of the pier show called 'Twin­kle' to fight the funk.

It was as camp as a scouts’ jam­boree in Bruno To­nioli's back gar­den. There were co­me­di­ans, jug­glers, singers, dancers, ven­tril­o­quists and var­i­ous other nov­elty acts like dogs jump­ing over mini hur­dles, which would in­evitably end up with the mutts fight­ing or, if I may be so del­i­cate, flir­ta­tiously frol­ick­ing.

Gen­er­ally speak­ing, as this was a gen­teel au­di­ence, there was not too much lar­rikin­ish go­ings-on, un­til, dur­ing a con­jur­ing act in which pi­geons were made to ap­pear from the most un­likely places, a ya­hoo in the front row started chuck­ing bird­seed around. This, as you can imag­ine, ex­cited the birds be­yond be­lief and showed their grat­i­tude in the man­ner only fever­ish feath­ered friends can.

Now, here's a macabre aside. The ne'er-do-well who did the deed was a lo­cal Teddy Boy, who has been men­tioned in pre­vi­ous dis­patches, named Vic­tor Terry. He, with two crim­i­nal as­so­ci­ates, robbed a lo­cal Lloyds Bank shoot­ing dead an em­ployee in the process. Terry was found guilty of the mur­der and was one of the last to be hanged at Wandsworth Prison on May 25,1961.

Wor­thing Pier is where I dis­cov­ered I liked girls. One girl, in par­tic­u­lar, Mary Bartholomew (a dis­tant re­la­tion to Eric More­cambe. I'll have you know). I called around her house for our first date, pray­ing her fa­ther was- n't home. He was. In a qua­ver­ing ade­noidal falsetto whine, I sniv­elled; “Is Mary home please?” Pater bawled up the stairs, “There's a yo­deller here for you Mary.”

This isn't as seedy as it reads. This is not a Bobby Golds­boro 'Sum­mer' (The First Time) sce­nario. 'It was not a hot af­ter­noon, last day of June and the sun was a de­mon.' It was a dull day in De­cem­ber and it was as cold as a di­vorce lawyer's heart. Trust me, faith­ful reader, it was a chaste tryst, but it did make me more in­ter­ested in fol­low­ing girls than Brighton & Hove Al­bion, although both have given me some heartache over the years.

An­other place of in­ter­est for us rap­scal­lions was the 'Wal­dorf But­tery' our lo­cal cof­fee bar. The big mag­nif­i­cent 1952 See­burg LIS­TEN TO CHRIS MON-FRI 9-12 ON BR2 GOLD 91.1 FM TOR­RE­VIEJA OR www.br2fm.co M100C juke­box was jammed full of Amer­i­can rock 'n' roll im­ports the BBC never played.

This is where I first heard Lit­tle Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, and the sainted Gene Vin­cent, who turned out to be noth­ing of the sort.

There was no room for in­sipid cover ver­sions by UK war­blers – yes, I do mean you – Marty, Tommy and Craig, although honourable men­tion to Billy Fury and the very early Cliff, be­fore he started spook­ily lock­ing up 'Liv­ing Dolls' in a trunk, so no big hunk can steal her away.

Back to not so sweet Gene Vin­cent (apolo­gies to Ian Dury) I in­ter­viewed him some years later for the school mag (Wood­ward & Bern­stein, eat your heart out). He was ap­pear­ing in Wor­thing just be­fore he went on tour with Ed­die Cochran – and we know that didn't end well. So there I am with my note­book, quill poised, when Dar­lene, 2nd of Gene's 4 wives caught this cal­low youth’s eye and cap­tured his beat­ing heart.

We chat­ted and be­ing a South­ern belle dop­pel­ganger of Scar­lett O'Hara she just loved my Eng­lish ac­cent (not sure about my wonky teeth, na­tional health specs and zits) It was all very cosy, but bear­ing in mind Eric Bur­don de­scribed Gene as an al­co­holic pis­tol pack­ing pill pop­ping para­noid (who in 1968 shot at Gary Glit­ter be­cause he was get­ting too friendly with the then Mrs Vin­cent) this be­sot­ted, but I like to think, pre­scient wimp made his ex­cuses and left.

Kind re­gards to you Wor­thing from your way­ward woe­be­gone son.

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