Tuesday, 14 February 2017


Blackpool, 1973.  I'm sat on a deckchair next to my parents in the
Sun Lounge of the famous North Pier, half-listening to the organist,
RAYMOND WALLBANK, and reading the above paperback, when all
of a sudden a high-pitched screech pierces the air:  "Elsie...ELSIE!  Over
here...OVER HERE!  Cooooo-eeeee...ELSIE!"  The voice belonged to
an elderly lady sat next to a companion, who was frantically flapping her
handkerchief in an attempt to attract the attention of the aforementioned
Elsie, who had just arrived.  Thankfully, Elsie heard her friend (as did
residents on the far side of Blackpool, I would imagine) and soon
took up the designated place beside her.

"I'm so glad you found Elsie!", quipped Raymond, good-naturedly,
at the end of his tune.  Even I, as an uncouth 14 year-old, recognized
the woman's bad manners in interrupting the performance to hail her
pal, but I soon re-immersed myself in my book.  True, technically, I was
perhaps likewise disrespectful in not paying full attention to Raymond,
but at least I was unlikely to disturb anyone else's enjoyment while
indulging in the object of my literary preoccupation.

Anyway, today I took possession of a replacement of the very
book I read 44 years ago, as a 14 year old youth on Blackpool Pier.
I obtained it from AMAZON for a mere penny - 39 pence short of what
the book cost brand-new four decades back.  True, I paid £2.80 for post
and packing, but I'd probably still have had to pay that if the book had
cost me a tenner, so let's not get bogged down in mere details.
(Even if I started it.)

If I recall rightly, I'd been to see LIVE LET DIE not too
long before our visit to the famous seaside resort, so the film was
still fresh in my mind.  Also, the day before our departure, I'd acquired
the 2nd edition CORGI TOYS ASTON MARTIN DB5 diecast spy-car,
which I took with me on holiday.  I'd purchased it in one of my local R.S.
McCOLL's, and although it was 1973, it was the original, '68 model in
the blister pack instead of a box.  (Must've been old stock, I guess.
And, yes - I managed to replace it some time back.)

The difference between the newer version of the car and the
original 1965 gold-coloured model was that, unlike its predecessor,
it was an actual DB5.  The previous incarnation had been rushed into
production at the last minute, so existing moulds of a DB4 were swiftly
modified and pressed into production.  In 1967/'68, Corgi Toys created
completely new tooling, and, as well as being a slightly larger scale, the
new car was the correct silver birch colour and sported revolving
number-plates and rear tyre-slashers, as well as all three of the
original features on the earlier release.

But I digress.  Returning to the book, there are still bits I recall
even after all these years:  Roger chipping a tooth and requiring root
canal work;  having to shoot the wedding/motorboat scene again due to
a steering mishap;  the sign 'TRESPASSERS WILL BE EATEN' being
the actual sign of the crocodile farm, and not an invention of the film-
makers.  I'm not sure if the book was ever republished, but the copy I
received today is a first-printing and in extremely good condition.
Not bad for one 'new' penny, eh?

So, here's to that long-ago holiday in Blackpool, and all the
comicbooks purchased back then;  the Aston Martin, Roger's book,
Elsie and her pals - and last but not least - the cool-as-a-cucumber Mr.
Raymond Wallbank, who sadly died in 2010.  He played on the North
Pier from 1965 to 1995, a period of 30 years in all.  When I eventually get
around to re-reading the book, you can bet your boots I'll have another
hearty chuckle at the memory of Raymond's humorous and gentle
'remonstrance' on that sunny July afternoon back in 1973.


Incidentally, prior to that day on the North Pier, I'd thought that
the cry of "Cooooo-eeeee!" was a word only ever used in films or
comics, not in real life.  After all, it wasn't actually a 'real' word used by
'real' people, was it?  Or so I'd thought until that June or July day in Black-
pool back in 1973.  As far as I can recall, that was the first, last and only
time I've ever heard it being used  - outside, that is, of someone
perhaps using it in an affected manner for humorous effect.


We returned to Blackpool on holiday the next year, 1974, and
that was the last holiday I ever had - never been away since.  My
parents returned several times over the decades, and may well have
sat on the North Pier listening to Raymond again on quite a few occa-
sions, but I did so only once.  Odd to think that the initial shared family
experience was likely repeated, but without my presence.  Strange
what passes through one's mind while reminiscing, eh?

In memory of Raymond Wallbank - born August 8th, 1932,
  died February 16th, 2010.


Philip Guest said...

Vividly remember back in the day seeing Roger Moore's book on the shelves of our local bookshop.

I flipped it over - the photo of Rog having a refreshing drink as the ship explodes behind him was the coolest thing I'd ever seen...

Kid said...

Big Rog is quite a cool guy. I enjoyed his Bond movies. And it's nice to see the book back on my shelf, PG.

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