Tag Archives: The Beatles

Age of Innocence -1969, Man Lands on the Moon and the end of Innocence

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”                                       

The Apollo 11 space flight seemingly fulfilled US President John F. Kennedy’s aspiration of reaching the Moon before the Soviet Union by the end of the 1960s, which he had expressed during a 1961 speech before the United States Congress.

But not everyone was convinced and almost immediately some theorists began to produce evidence that disputed the Moon landings claim.

Different Moon landing conspiracy theories claim that some or all elements of the Apollo Project and the Moon landings were falsifications staged by NASA and that the landings were faked in some giant hoax.  Some of the more notable of these various claims include allegations that the Apollo astronauts did not set foot on the Moon at all but instead NASA and others intentionally deceived the public into believing the landings did occur by manufacturing, destroying, or tampering with evidence, including photos, telemetry tapes, transmissions, and rock samples.

SHADO Moonbase

The most predominant theory is that the entire human landing program was a complete hoax from start to finish. Some claim that the technology to send men to the Moon was insufficient or that the Van Allen radiation belts, solar flares, solar wind, coronal mass ejections and cosmic rays made such a trip impossible with a success rate calculated at only 0.017%.  Others argue that because The United States could not allow itself to be seen to fail to achieve Kennedy’s aspiration, the obsession with beating the USSR and the huge sums of money involved (US$ 30 billion) had to be justified, that the hoax was unavoidable.

As the theories gathered momentum it seemed that rather than being filmed on the Moon all of the action actually took place on a film lot and in the middle of the Nevada desert.

For a while I must confess to having been taken in by these conspiracy theories but when I think about it the size and complexity of the alleged conspiracy theory scenarios makes it wholly unlikely.  The most compelling reason of all is the fact that more than four hundred thousand people worked on the Apollo project for nearly ten years and all of these people, including astronauts, scientists, engineers, technicians, and skilled labourers, would have had to keep the secret ever since and that, I suggest, would be completely impossible.

Hoax Moon Landing

In the final year of the 1960s other things were changing as well; pop music for example.  At a Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California, a fan was stabbed to death by Hells Angels, a biker gang that had been hired to provide security for the event and in retrospect, some commentators have concluded that the violence signaled the end of the ‘hippie’ movement, which espoused an ethos of free love and peace.

In 1969 the Beatles began the process of an acrimonious split and it was a shock to discover that Lennon and McCartney were not best buddies at all and John was preparing to leave the band.  First he released his own solo single ‘Give Peace a Chance’, staged his ‘bed-in’ with Yoko and at the end of the year returned his MBE in protest at the British Government’s support for the United States in the Vietnam war.  Even rock stars weren’t what they were previously thought to be and John Lennon was evidently going mad!

John Lennon

In between misbehaving at school I used to hang about with a gang of pals making a nuisance of ourselves in a way that would be called anti-social behaviour these days and when we weren’t hanging around shop fronts or on street corners frightening the old folk we had an old barn to meet in.  It was in David Newman’s back garden next to the canal and we decorated it, filled it with old furniture, hung posters on the walls and listened to loud rock music on an old record player while drinking cider and puffing on Woodbine cigarettes that David had stolen from his dad.  We called it the ‘Doski’ because it was half disco and half doss house and I spent most of my evenings and weekends there but even this was about to change.

After going to see the film ‘Helga’ and with hormones in overdrive we voted to allow girls into the Doski and naturally enough we started to pair off.  My ‘girlfriend’, in the loosest sense of the term, was Elizabeth and one night in November she suggested that we leave early and go back to her place because her parents were out for the evening at a bonfire night party.  I took some persuading because I liked being with my pals and couldn’t understand why she would want to leave.  Eventually however we left and about half an hour later in Elizabeth’s front room I said goodbye for ever to my age of innocence.

I don’t know how well the bonfire party went but in Elizabeth’s front room it was as just though someone had dropped a match in a box of fireworks and they had all gone off together at the same time!  This bought a whole new meaning to ‘light up the sky with Standard Fireworks, and I never went to the Doski again but I did spend every available weekend at Elizabeth’s house every time her parents went out drinking to the Working Men’s Club in Deerings Road and from then I had to allocate some of my paper round money for contraceptives.

Age of Innocence – 1963, End of the Railways and The French Language

Train_at_Rugby_Central_station

In the United Kingdom 1963 was a bad year for railways and the Beeching report in March proposed that out of Britain’s then twenty-nine thousand kilometres of railway, nearly ten thousand of mostly rural branch and cross-country lines should be closed.

The name derives from the main author of the report ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’, Dr. Richard Beeching, and although this report also proposed the development of new modes of freight service and the modernisation of trunk passenger routes, it is best remembered for recommending the wholesale closure of what it considered to be little-used and unprofitable railway lines, the removal of stopping passenger trains and closure of  many local stations on other lines which remained open.

The report was a reaction to the significant losses which had begun in the 1950s as the expansion in road transport began to transfer significant passenger and goods traffic away from the tracks and British Railways continued making increasingly large losses despite the introduction of the railway modernisation plan of 1955.

M1 Motorway

Beeching proposed that only drastic action would save the railways from increasing losses in the future.  Thousands of kilometres of railway track were removed and hundreds of stations were closed in the decade following the report and many other rail lines lost their passenger services and were retained only for freight.

This was significant for us because the Beeching Axe closed the Great Central Railway that ran from London Marylebone to Manchester Piccadilly but rather critically for us connected Rugby to Leicester and my grandparents.  Every other Saturday we used to use the steam train to Leicester via Lutterworth, Ashby Magna and Whetstone to Leicester Central and then a bus to Narborough Road (if we were lucky, Dad preferred to save the money and make us walk) to visit the folks.

With no convenient alternative route available to visit them, or to get to the football matches, this must have been an important factor in dad’s decision to learn to drive and join the motoring age.

Vauxhall Viva

In 1963 President Charles de Gaulle denied the United Kingdom access to the Common Market.  Membership applications by the United Kingdom to join the European Economic Community were refused in 1963 and 1967 because de Gaulle said that he doubted Britain’s political will and commitment so really quite prophetic.

It is generally agreed however that his real fear was that English would become the common language of the community and replace French.  Britain was not admitted to the EEC until 1973, three years after the ungrateful, pompous and stubborn old farts death.

And the French are still precious about their language even today but their reluctance to communicate in or even simply acknowledge English gives me the opportunity to demonstrate my fluency in everyday essentials and I have to use all of that knowledge on my occasional visits there:

‘Vin blanc sil vous plait’

‘Vin rouge sil vous plait’

‘bier grande sil vous plait’

‘bier grande vite’.  And so on.  As Ricky Gervais advises if they don’t understand you, talk louder, if they still don’t understand you, then trash the place!

France Restaurant Language Difficulties

1963 was the year of the Great Train Robbery when Ronnie Biggs and his gang stopped a train in an audaciously simple sting and stole £2,631,784 from a mail train in Buckinghamshire, that is the equivalent of about forty million pounds at today’s values so was a fairly important event.

On a black note Myra Hindley and Ian Brady began their campaign of abduction and murder of young people in the United Kingdom and in the United States the notorious San Francisco jail of Alcatraz was closed and the prisoners dispersed to more hospitable establishments.

The world finally came to its senses and realised that a nuclear war would most probably destroy the entire world and everyone in it, including those who dropped the bomb, and the United States, the USSR and bizarrely the United Kingdom (this must have been a recognition of former greatness) signed the partial nuclear test ban treaty which banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater and in space, sadly however, neither France nor China, signed the treaty and continued with the dangerous practice of exploding nuclear devices.

Popular music was becoming increasingly culturally important in the world and in 1963 the Beatles released their first long playing record ‘Please Please Me’ and Beatle mania followed almost immediately.  I never understood this; I was a Rolling Stones man and always considered the Beatles to be overrated, which was a shame because I had a lot years without enjoying their music.  My personal conversion came in 2003 when I bought ‘Let it Be, Naked’ and the penny finally dropped.  Since then I have bought the entire back collection and kick myself for not having appreciated it the first and original time around.

On November 22nd 1963 President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas…

Kennedys Riding in Dallas Motorcade

… More about this next time.

Age of Innocence – 1963, US ZIP Codes and X-RAY Specs

As a teenager I used to read American superhero comics like DC and Marvel and I was always tempted to respond to the full page advertisements for such things as a complete two hundred piece civil war army for $1.49, a miniature secret camera for only $1.00 or a free Charles Atlas body building course.

What prevented me filling in the order form and sending off the cash was not the rather critical fact that I had no idea how to exchange my paper round money into dollars but rather the fact that I didn’t know what a ZIP code was.  I concluded that it was some sort of secret code that prevented overseas orders from being processed and so never had the pleasure of sending off my order form for those intriguing items.

As it turned out there is nothing secret about it at all.  The ZIP code is the system of postal codes used by the US Postal Service. The letters ZIP are an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan and were chosen to suggest that the mail travels more efficiently, and therefore more quickly, when people sending post use it.

ZIP codes of the USA

By the early 1960s improvements were needed in the postal service due to increasing volumes and on 1st July 1963 ZIP codes were announced for the whole country.  This might not sound like a really really big news item but I mention it because for many years I had a lot of difficulty understanding what a ZIP code was as post codes were not introduced to the whole of the United Kingdom until 1974 and then no one really used it for at least the next twenty years or so.  (Post codes were introduced in Australia in 1967 and in Canada in 1971 although here Trade Union opposition held up full implementation until 1974).

  

Most of all I wanted a pair of X-ray specs, mostly because the advert seemed to suggest that whilst it might be fun to be able to see the bones in your hand, it would be a whole lot more fun to be able to see through clothing and there was always a curvy girl in the advert that suggested that this was a real possibility.

But, let’s think about it for a minute.  This is how my science dictionary explains X-rays:

‘X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths of around 10-10 metres.  When X-rays are being produced, a thin metallic sheet is placed between the emitter and the target, effectively filtering out the lower energy (soft) X-rays.  This is often placed close to the window of the X-ray tube.  The resultant X-ray is said to be hard. Soft X-rays overlap the range of extreme ultraviolet.  The frequency of hard X-rays is higher than that of soft X-rays, and the wavelength is shorter.  During an X-ray the electrons decelerate upon colliding with the target and if enough energy is contained within the electron it is able to knock out an electron from the inner shell of the metal atom and as a result electrons from higher energy levels then fill up the vacancy and X-ray photons are emitted.’

Well, that all sounds rather complicated to me, and X-ray machines costs many thousands of pounds so thinking back it seems highly unlikely that a pair of cardboard specs costing a mere $1.00 was going to be able to deliver the sort of  advanced level of technical process that would enable me to see through girls’ clothing.

Actually the lenses consisted of two layers of cardboard with a small hole punched through both layers.  A feather was embedded between the layers of each lens and the vanes of the feathers were so close together that light was diffracted, causing the user to receive two slightly offset images. Where the images overlapped, a darker image was obtained, supposedly giving the illusion that one is seeing an X-ray image of dark and light.  I know now of course that this isn’t a real X-ray machine at all and I would never have been able to see through girls’ clothing after all and I am retro spec tively glad that I never sent off my money and purchased a pair.

 

Age of Innocence – 1960, Lego and Lady Chatterley

1960! And so the famous decade began, pop music, mods and rockers, flower power and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, or CND for short.  The 1950s had been a steady decade not so different from those that had gone before but the 1960s were about to change the world forever and there would definitely be no going back.

In 1960 there was an event which I suppose stimulated this part of my story.  In November John F Kennedy was elected the thirty-fifth President of the United States, the youngest ever at forty-three and the first Roman Catholic.

He didn’t become President in 1960 because America has a curious system whereby the winner has to wait two months before officially taking office, that is two months being paid for doing absolutely nothing but I suppose this at least gives time for the outgoing Chief Executive to clear his personal possessions out of the White House.

Also in politics it was in 1960 that the British Prime Minister, Harold MacMillan gave his “Wind of Change speech” to the Parliament of South Africa, on 3 February 1960 in Cape Town at the end of a month spent in Africa visiting a number of British colonies, as they were at the time.

The speech sent a clear signal that the British Government intended to decolonise and most of the British possessions in Africa subsequently became independent nations in the 1960s.  The South Africans, sensing a loss of white supremacy, didn’t approve of this and the speech led directly from their withdrawal from the Commonwealth and their continuing support for the apartheid system.

Another significant event of 1960 that was to have far reaching consequencies was the formation of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.  This was an event that would leave the west dependent on the Middle East for its oil and has resulted in a succession of international difficulties in the region.

1960 saw the introduction to Britain of two new must have toys:

The first was the Etch-a-Sketch, which was a big bag of aluminium dust behind a plastic screen that you scraped doodles into, like you would on the window of a steamed-up car.  But rather than use your finger you had to demonstrate enormous amounts of patience and dexterity and twiddle two knobs which was an action that required almost impossible eye to hand co-ordination.  Etch-a-Sketch was invented by a man by the name of Arthur Granjean who developed L’Ecran Magique, The Magic Screen, in his garage.  After several years of being ignored as a load of magnetic rubbish L’Ecran Magique was eventually bought up by an American toy firm and renamed Etch-a-Sketch.

Actually Etch-a-Sketch was really hopeless and it was impossible to draw anything really creative.  The box suggested all sorts of drawing possibilities but in reality although it was alright for houses or anything else with straight lines beyond that it was excruciatingly frustrating to draw anything that anyone would be able to meaningfully identify.

Much more important was the introduction of Lego which was seen at the Brighton Toy Fair for the first time in 1960.  Lego is a Danish company and the name comes from the Danish words ‘LEg GOdt’ meaning ‘play well’.  Now this just has to be one of the best toys ever and when it was first introduced the brightly coloured bricks sold by the bucketful.  Pre-Lego I had a construction set called Bako, which was a set of bakerlite bricks and metal wires that could be used to construct different styles of houses but nothing more inspired than that.  Lego changed everything and the only restrictions on creativity thereafter were the number of bricks in the toy box and our imagination!

BAYKO

Others agree with me about the importance of Lego and the British Association of Toy Retailers named Lego the toy of the century.

From Lego to leg over because 1960 was a big year for literature when the book ‘Lady Chatterleys Lover’ was published by Penguin books and whipped up a legal storm.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ is a novel by D. H. Lawrence that was written in 1928 and printed at that time privately in Florence.  The publication of the book caused a scandal due to its explicit sex scenes, including the use of previously banned four letter words.  When it was published in Britain in 1960, the trial of the publishers, Penguin Books, under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959 was a major public event and a test of the new obscenity law.

The 1959 Act had made it possible for publishers to escape conviction if they could show that a work was of literary merit and Penguin books took up the challenge.  At the trial various academic critics, were called as witnesses, and the verdict, delivered on November 2, 1960, was not guilty.  This resulted in a far greater degree of freedom for publishing explicit material in the United Kingdom.

A nice story about the trial which illustrates just how big a watershed 1960 was in terms of changing social attitudes was when  the chief prosecutor, Mervyn Griffith-Jones, asked the jury if it were the kind of book “you would wish your wife or servants to read“.

Much later than 1960 I found a copy of ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ on the top of my dad’s wardrobe and was able to go immediately to the offending chapter because the book fell naturally open at exactly the right spot.

I suspect most of it had not been read at all but the few pages of dirty words were well thumbed and dog-eared and over the next few weeks I contributed to this by sharing it with all of mates whenever they came around to the house when my parents were out.  It made a change from looking up rude words in the dictionary.  This all stopped when one day when the book had gone from the top of the wardrobe and although nothing was ever said I knew that I’d been rumbled.

Lady Chatterley's Lover

One final thing about 1960 is that John, Paul, George and Ringo became the Beatles and the world of popular music would never be the same again and Russ Conway never had another number one hit!

Facts about 1960:

Best Film Oscar – The Apartment

FA Cup Winners – Wolverhampton Wanderers

Miss World Winner – Norma Gladys Cappalgi from Argentina

World Motor Racing Champion – Jack Brabham ofAustralia

World Series Champions – Pittsburg Pirates

Eurovision Song Contest Winner – Jacqueline Boyer, France

A Life in a Year – 24th January, The Death of Winston Churchill

I have mentioned before that, in his memory box, dad kept the front pages of three newspapers: 7th February 1958, the Munich air disaster, 23rd November 1963, the Kennedy assassination and finally the Daily Mail of 25th January 1965 which reported the death of Sir Winston Churchill.

I think that few would argue that Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was probably the greatest Briton of all time.  I know that I can say this with some confidence because in 2002 the BBC conducted a nationwide poll to identify who the public thought this was.  The result was a foregone conclusion and Churchill topped the poll with 28% of the votes.  The BBC project first identified the top one hundred candidates and the final vote was between the top ten.  Second in the poll was the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel who received nearly 25% of the votes.  These two I fully agreed with but in third place, and goodness knows what the public must have been thinking, was Princess Diana!

Now, the only thing that I can see that Princess Diana ever did was to whine a lot about having to live in Palaces, wear expensive jewellery and eat gourmet food and try to undermine and destroy the Royal Family.  Not so long ago you could have your head cut off for that sort of thing but by some bizarre twist the British have turned her into a heroine.  As low down as number twenty-seven was Emily Pankhurst who fought for women’s suffrage and much further down the list at number fifty-two was Florence Nightingale and in my opinion these two women’s personal legacy to the development of Great Britain as a nation is much, much greater than that of Princess Diana.

Churchill Funeral Message from the Queen

There were other anomalies on the list as well.  There were eleven Kings and Queens and eleven politicians, ten military heroes, eight inventors and seven scientists.  This is what I would expect but then there were eight pop musicians including Boy George!  Now, surely there must be dozens of people who could be more appropriately included on the list than that.  Even if you do accept that pop stars are great Britons what is even more unbelievable is that Boy George beat Sir Cliff Richard by seven places!  John, Paul and George were included in the eight but there was no place for Ringo, which doesn’t seem very fair.  Enoch Powell was one of the politicians and he was a raging racist.  Richard III is in but not Henry VII.  There is an issue of equality because of the one hundred only thirteen were women and I can’t help feeling that there must be more than that.  Here are some suggestions of mine; the prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry, the philanthroprist Octavia Hill, the pioneering aviator, Amy Johnson, the nineteenth century gardener, Gertrude Jeckyl and the very embodiment of Britishness, Britannia herself.  John Churchill the 1st Duke of Marlborough, military genius and ancestor of the great Sir Winston didn’t even make the list.

In fact Winston Churchill was so great that he was awarded a State Funeral and that doesn’t happen very often because this requires a motion or vote in Parliament and the personal approval of the Monarch.  A State Funeral consists of a military procession using a gun carriage from a private resting chapel to Westminster Hall, where the body usually lies in state for three days.  The honour of a State Funeral is usually reserved for the Sovereign as Head of State and the current or past Queen Consort.  Very few other people have had them:  Sir Philip Sydney in 1586, Horatio Nelson in 1806, the 1st Duke of Wellington, 1852, Viscount Palmerston in 1865, William Gladstone, 1898, the 1st Earl Roberts of Kandahar, 1914, Baron Carson in 1935 and Sir Winston Churchill.   So this is a very small list indeed although it might have included one more but Benjamin Disraeli, the Queen’s favourite Prime Minister, who was offered the honour of a State Funeral refused it in his will.  We might have to wait a very long time for the next one because I really can’t imagine that it is going to be Boy George.

1969, Man Lands on the Moon and the end of Innocence

“I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”                                       

The Apollo 11 space flight seemingly fulfilled US President John F. Kennedy’s aspiration of reaching the Moon before the Soviet Union by the end of the 1960s, which he had expressed during a 1961 speech before the United States Congress.

But not everyone was convinced and almost immediately some theorists began to produce evidence that disputed the Moon landings claim.

Different Moon landing conspiracy theories claim that some or all elements of the Apollo Project and the Moon landings were falsifications staged by NASA and that the landings were faked in some giant hoax.  Some of the more notable of these various claims include allegations that the Apollo astronauts did not set foot on the Moon at all but instead NASA and others intentionally deceived the public into believing the landings did occur by manufacturing, destroying, or tampering with evidence, including photos, telemetry tapes, transmissions, and rock samples.

The most predominant theory is that the entire human landing program was a complete hoax from start to finish. Some claim that the technology to send men to the Moon was insufficient or that the Van Allen radiation belts, solar flares, solar wind, coronal mass ejections and cosmic rays made such a trip impossible with a success rate calculated at only 0.017%.  Others argue that because The United States could not allow itself to be seen to fail to achieve Kennedy’s aspiration, the obsession with beating the USSR and the huge sums of money involved (US$ 30 billion) had to be justified, that the hoax was unavoidable.

As the theories gathered momentum it seemed that rather than being filmed on the Moon all of the action actually took place on a film lot and in the middle of the Nevada desert.  For a while I must confess to having been taken in by these conspiracy theories but when I think about it the size and complexity of the alleged conspiracy theory scenarios makes it wholly unlikely.  The most compelling reason of all is the fact that more than four hundred thousand people worked on the Apollo project for nearly ten years and all of these people, including astronauts, scientists, engineers, technicians, and skilled labourers, would have had to keep the secret ever since and that, I suggest, would be completely impossible.

In the final year of the 1960s other things were changing as well; pop music for example.  At a Rolling Stones concert in Altamont, California, a fan was stabbed to death by Hells Angels, a biker gang that had been hired to provide security for the event and in retrospect, some commentators have concluded that the violence signaled the end of the ‘hippie’ movement, which espoused an ethos of free love and peace.

In 1969 the Beatles began the process of an acrimonious split and it was a shock to discover that Lennon and McCartney were not best buddies at all and John was preparing to leave the band.  First he released his own solo single ‘Give Peace a Chance’, staged his ‘bed-in’ with Yoko and at the end of the year returned his MBE in protest at the British Government’s support for the United States in the Vietnam war.  Even rock stars weren’t what they were previously thought to be and John Lennon was going mad!

In between misbehaving at school I used to hang about with a gang of pals making a nuisance of ourselves in a way that would be called anti-social behaviour these days and when we weren’t hanging around shop fronts or on street corners frightening the old folk we had an old barn to meet in.  It was in David Newman’s back garden next to the canal and we decorated it, filled it with old furniture, hung posters on the walls and listened to loud rock music on an old record player while drinking cider and puffing on cigarettes.  We called it the ‘Doski’ because it was half disco and half doss house and I spent most of my evenings and weekends there but even this was about to change.

After going to see the film ‘Helga’ and with hormones in overdrive we voted to allow girls into the Doski and naturally enough we started to pair off.  My ‘girlfriend’, in the loosest sense of the term, was Elizabeth and one night in November she suggested that we leave early and go back to her place because her parents were out for the evening at a bonfire night party.  I took some persuading because I liked being with my pals and couldn’t understand why she would want to leave.  Eventually however we left and about half an hour later in Elizabeth’s front room I said goodbye for ever to my age of innocence.

I don’t know how well the bonfire party went but in Elizabeth’s front room it was as just though someone had dropped a match in a box of fireworks and they had all gone off together at the same time!  This bought a whole new meaning to ‘light up the sky with Standard Fireworks, and I never went to the Doski again but I did spend every available weekend at Elizabeth’s house every time her parents went out drinking to the Working Men’s Club in Deerings Road and from then I had to allocate some of my paper round money for contraceptives.

1963 – X-Ray Specs, Dr Beeching and JFK

The ZIP code is the system of postal codes used by the US Postal Service. The letters ZIP are an acronym for Zone Improvement Plan and were chosen to suggest that the mail travels more efficiently, and therefore more quickly, when people sending post use it.

By the early 1960s improvements were needed in the postal service due to increasing volumes and on 1st July 1963 ZIP codes were announced for the whole country.  This might not sound like a really really big news item but I mention it because for many years I had a lot of difficulty understanding what a ZIP code was as post codes were not introduced to the whole of the United Kingdom until 1974.

As a teenager I used to read American superhero comics like DC and Marvel and I was always tempted to respond to the full page advertisements for such things as a complete two hundred piece civil war army for $1.49, a miniature secret camera for only $1.00 or a free Charles Atlas body building course.  What stopped me filling in the order form and sending off the cash was not the rather critical fact that I had no idea how to exchange my paper round money into dollars but rather the fact that I had no idea what a ZIP code was.  I concluded that it was some sort of secret code that prevented overseas orders from being processed and so never had the pleasure of sending off my order form for those intriguing items.

Most of all I wanted a pair of X-ray specs, mostly because the advert seemed to suggest that whilst it might be fun to be able to see the bones in your hand, it would be a whole lot more fun to be able to see through girls clothing and there was always a curvy girl in the advert that suggested that this was a real possibility.  But, let’s think about it for a minute.  This is how my science dictionary explains X-rays:

‘X-rays are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths of around 10-10 metres.  When X-rays are being produced, a thin metallic sheet is placed between the emitter and the target, effectively filtering out the lower energy (soft) X-rays.  This is often placed close to the window of the X-ray tube.  The resultant X-ray is said to be hard. Soft X-rays overlap the range of extreme ultraviolet.  The frequency of hard X-rays is higher than that of soft X-rays, and the wavelength is shorter.  During an X-ray the electrons decelerate upon colliding with the target and if enough energy is contained within the electron it is able to knock out an electron from the inner shell of the metal atom and as a result electrons from higher energy levels then fill up the vacancy and X-ray photons are emitted.’

Well, that all sounds rather complicated to me, and X-ray machines costs many thousands of pounds so thinking back it seems highly unlikely that a pair of cardboard specs costing a mere $1.00 was going to be able to deliver the sort of  advanced level of technical process that would enable me to see through girl’s clothing.

Actually the lenses consisted of two layers of cardboard with a small hole punched through both layers.  A feather was embedded between the layers of each lens and the vanes of the feathers were so close together that light was diffracted, causing the user to receive two slightly offset images. Where the images overlapped, a darker image was obtained, supposedly giving the illusion that one is seeing an X-ray image of dark and light.  I know now of course that this isn’t a real X-ray machine at all and I would never have been able to see through girls clothing after all and I am retro spec tively glad that I never sent off my money and purchase a pair.

1963 was a bad year for railways and the Beeching report in March proposed that out of Britain’s then twenty-nine thousand kilometres of railway, nearly ten thousand of mostly rural branch and cross-country lines should be closed.  The name derives from the main author of the report ‘The Reshaping of British Railways’, Dr. Richard Beeching, and although this report also proposed the development of new modes of freight service and the modernisation of trunk passenger routes, it is best remembered for recommending the wholesale closure of what it considered to be little-used and unprofitable railway lines, the removal of stopping passenger trains and closure of  many local stations on other lines which remained open.

The report was a reaction to the significant losses which had begun in the 1950s as the expansion in road transport began to transfer significant passenger and goods traffic away from the tracks and British Railways continued making increasingly large losses despite the introduction of the railway modernisation plan of 1955.  Beeching proposed that only drastic action would save the railways from increasing losses in the future.  Thousands of kilometres of railway track were removed and hundreds of stations were closed in the decade following the report and many other rail lines lost their passenger services and were retained only for freight.

This was significant for us because the Beeching Axe closed the Great Central Railway that ran from London Marylebone to Manchester Piccadilly but rather critically for us connected Rugby to Leicester and my grandparents.  Every other Saturday we used to use the steam train to Leicester via Lutterworth, Ashby Magna and Whetstone to Leicester Central and then a bus to Narborough Road (if we were lucky) to visit the folks.  With no convenient alternative route available to visit them, or to get to the football matches, this must have been an important factor in dad’s decision to learn to drive and join the motoring age.

 

In 1963 President Charles de Gaulle denied the United Kingdom access to the Common Market.  Membership applications by the United Kingdom to join the European Economic Community were refused in 1963 and 1967 because de Gaulle said that he doubted Britain’s political will and commitment so really quite prophetic.

It is generally agreed however that his real fear was that English would become the common language of the community and replace French.  Britain was not admitted to the EEC until 1973, three years after the pompous stubborn old farts death.  And the French are still precious about their language even today but their reluctance to communicate in or even simply acknowledge English gives me the opportunity to demonstrate my fluency in everyday essentials and I have to use all of that knowledge on my occasional visits there:

‘Vin blanc sil vous plait’

‘Vin rouge sil vous plait’

‘bier grande sil vous plait’

‘bier grande vite’.  And so on.  As Ricky Gervais advises if they don’t understand you, talk louder, if they still don’t understand you, then trash the place!

This was the year of the Great Train Robbery when Ronnie Biggs and his gang stopped a train in an audaciously simple sting and stole £2,631,784 from a mail train in Buckinghamshire, that is the equivalent of about forty million pounds at today’s values so was a fairly important event.

On a black note Myra Hindley and Ian Brady began their campaign of abduction and murder of young people in the United Kingdom and in the United States the notorious San Francisco jail of Alcatraz was closed and the prisoners dispersed to more hospitable establishments.

The world finally came to its senses and realised that a nuclear war would most probably destroy the entire world and everyone in it, including those who dropped the bomb, and the United States, the USSR and bizarrely the United Kingdom (this must have been a recognition of former greatness) signed the partial nuclear test ban treaty which banned nuclear tests in the atmosphere, underwater and in space, sadly however, neither France nor China, signed the treaty and continued with the dangerous practice of exploding nuclear devices.

Popular music was becoming increasingly culturally important in the world and in 1963 the Beatles released their first long playing record ‘Please Please Me’ and Beatle mania followed almost immediately.  I never understood this; I was a Rolling Stones man and always considered the Beatles to be overrated, which was a shame because I had a lot years without enjoying their music.  My personal conversion came in 2003 when I bought ‘Let it Be, Naked’ and the penny finally dropped.  Since then I have bought the entire back collection and kick myself for not having appreciated it the first and original time around.

On November 22nd 1963 President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas…

Death of a President