OPINION: Happy memories of the swinging 60s as life spins at 78rpm

 Yarmouth press colleagues  Dick Watts, Keith Skipper, David Wakefield and Dick Meadows

Shades of Carnaby Street meets seaside entertainment in the mid-1960s. The fashionable Four on an office outing to the old-tyme music hall at Gorleston are (left to right) Yarmouth press colleagues Dick Watts, Keith Skipper, David Wakefield and Dick Meadows - Credit: Les Gould

Yes, there is life after a rousing fanfare from 76 Trombones and a relaxing tuxedo-clad session under lights at 77, Sunset Strip.

I’ve just got up to speed and taken a spin at 78rpm -that’s restorations per month - on my old wind=up gramophone dedicated to proper warblers and musicians from earliest fireside singalong sessions with Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Slim Whitman and The Ink Spots.

David Whitfield, Jelly Roll Morton. Michael Holliday, Doris Day and Al Bowlly sent their apologies for absence but it still turned out to be an uplifting birthday celebration with family, friends and fond memories.

I appreciate growing old is compulsory if you hang about well after claiming the Biblical quota of three score years and ten. But growing up is entirely optional and therefore encourages a fair amount of paddling, in yesterday’s waters with trousers turned up.

I have yet to encounter gentle probing in the guise of a plaintive little voice asking: “Grandad, what did you do in the war?.” Even so, my obvious venerability lends itself easily towards reflecting on certain eras and events mainly wrapped in my constant message to our sons when they were growing up; “Yes, the old days were the best.”

The fact they still quote that text at any form of get-together tells me they were listening, albeit amid stifled giggles, sideways glances at each other and exaggerated nods of mutual agreement. Main topic to get us all going these days is how I shaped up on leaving school and heading for a wonderful chance to read, write and talk for a living.

It’s almost 60 years since I exchanged farms and fields for factories and forests, Norfolk village naivety colliding with London overspill on the march in one of the country’s fastest-growing towns. From agricultural Beeston to booming Thetford with all my worldly goods crammed into a battered old suitcase bouncing in the back of Uncle Cyril’s butcher’s van

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Hardly the most auspicious trailer for my contributions to the Swinging Sixties. I made some amends for so underwhelming an entry by purchasing a pair of purple winkle-pickers a few weeks into my Thetford press reporting career. I hid them away after being told by a Breckland maiden at a social event I was covering that it looked as if I had badly bruised feet. So she gave me a bruised ego to match them.

I didn’t so much swing as manage the occasional sway during rest of a decade it became fashionable to forget if you were there. My two left feet reached their dancing peak at the Sunshine Floor in East Dereham one Saturday night and in a packed club during an Ibiza break destined to make me feel very old for my age.

On both embarrassing occasions my artistic lurching and frantic use of a pretend microphone left potential partners running for cover without so much as a farewell peck.

Nor were they anywhere to be seen when I savoured my hour in the spotlight as lead singer with Captain Boyton’s Benefit Band. I got the job because, unlike rest of my local newspaper colleagues on parade, I couldn’t play a musical instrument.

A return to the local drama stage with Rackheath Players too often betrayed reliance on ad-libbing to make me an automatic choice for leading roles. I was much more at home-as freewheeling chairman of old-tyme music hall sessions. The odd free half of bitter soothed the larynx and sharpened the brain for a few long adjectives and cheeky asides.

My stints as budding scribe in contrasting offices at Thetford, Dereham and Yarmouth embraced most of the 1960s before I moved to Norwich and specialised in sports journalism, culminating in covering Norwich City fortunes for several seasons. Hard man Ron Saunders didn’t appreciate my sense of humour but his successor as manager, the colourful John Bond, loved to compare notes on life’s most cheerful escapades during the Swinging Sixties,

Like Ken Brown, his Carrow Road back-up man and long-time colleague on and off the field, Bond relished the slower pace of Norfolk life along with its special character and understated sense of humour. He often picked up local words and expressions and asked me for translations. It took a while to convince him “rum ole dew” had nothing to do with the weather or state of the pitch

He wasn’t too flattered when a Canary supporter told him he talked “a load of squit” about certain players or results .I softened the blow by informing the loquacious Bond I was often accused of doing the same thing in print with my match reports and thought pieces.

Whenever Ken Brown offered me snatches of Chas & Dave anthems in his capital brogue I countered with poignant renditions of The Singing Postman’s Hev Yew Gotta Loight, Boy?, I’d come a fair way since hearing strange accents in a Norfolk town undergoing radical change as I left school in 1962 and became Beeston’s first missionary into overspill territory.

I remember knocking on the door of a house on a new estate to ask if they were Thetford & Watton Times readers. A bare-chested Alf Garnett soundalike greeted my query with a thundering: “Leave it owt mate .. we ‘ave the East ‘Am Gazette round ‘ere!.”

After that I should have been ready for six decades of fresh challenges to test dear old Norfolk.