Starting to blog…

IF you are reading this on Thursday (March 15, 2012) then I will be at a meeting of editors discussing the future of local newspapers. It is top secret so I can’t tell you much. However, I suspect there is a fair chance we will touch on the thorny subject of social media and how newspapers can embrace it. This mighty organ already has a website (www.thisiskent.co.uk) and its own Facebook page which is jolly good fun. We post lots of funny pictures from Times Towers on it. Most of the reporters also have Twitter accounts, which is fascinating. Friday nights have become essential reading as news editor Liz Crudgington (@freelanceliz) and I (@johnnurden) toil into the night to clear pages for the weekend. Then it is often off to the caekpub for a swift sherbet before wending our weary way home. It is known as the caekpub thanks to the strange world of Twitter. The other night we met a man who was celebrating his birthday. He was a very nice man, who also delivers leaflets, and he offered us a slice of his birthday cake. Delirious with the prospect of food we twittered the good news only for PR Jules Serkin (@julesserkin) to reply: “Cake?” Except that, in her excitement, she typed too quickly and the message ended up as caek. It was such a surprise that we have continued to call the pub by this new name. It gives it a certain Celtic flavour. Now, this social media is all very well but there is another level, that of the world of blogs. This is something completely new to me. I had been aware that others were “blogging” on the internet but I hadn’t given it much thought. However, with today’s meeting looming I decided I had better get up to speed and launch a blog or two. After all, writing a couple of hundred words shouldn’t be too difficult, should it? I settled down late at night (which appears to be when all the best blogs are written) and waited to be inspired. What could I write about? I finally plumped for one of my hobbies, playing guitar with The Wrinklies rock band. But what to call myself? I thought Wrinkly Sex God sounded cool and fun so I signed up with WordPress and started writing. It was only after some very strange people began contacting me that I realised the error of my ways. The first rule of blogging appears to be not to mention the S word unless you want a torrent of abuse or many weird requests, in this case from elderly women with very vivid imaginations. I have since changed it to Wrinkly Rock God which has so far received precisely zero hits. As a last resort, I have now started downloading past columns for the entire planet to inwardly digest and spit out. I have called it Nurden’s Notebook because it does what it says on the tin. Meanwhile, wish me luck for today’s meeting…

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Posted in Blogging, Local newspapers, Twitter | 4 Comments

A tale of two chickens…

Did I tell you I am writing a book? It’s not a thriller or a celebrity kiss-and-tell. And it certainly isn’t my autobiography, so you can rest easy.

No, this literary gem is the true story (honest) of two chickens called Molly and Polly.

So why would a grown man commit pen to paper, or thoughts to hard-drive, over the eggs-citing adventures of two bantam hens?

ctjn230407chicken-1

It is, I’m afraid, the result of becoming a grandparent. Once again Mrs Nurden and I have the task of entertaining two tiny boys.

I have no idea how we managed to control the Creatures of the Night when they were young. Like all parents, that was a full-on operation every day and night of the year.

At least the Boy Childs only arrive on special occasions and can be sent back home to allow us to recharge our batteries. There is a commercial on TV from a well-known holiday firm which shows an elderly couple recovering from one such visitation. It is possibly the best advert ever.

The Boy Childs land as if from nowhere, like a division of the SAS, and split up as they embark on their mission to scour the corridors of Cobweb Castle looking for trouble.

The oldest will make a bee-line for the kitchen where he sets about flinging open all the cupboards in a desperate search for pots and pans to turn into a drum kit.

The other heads straight for the stairs to try to kidnap the petrified cats.

It is as if the Storm of 1987 has struck. There is no hiding place. Suddenly our home has gone back in time like the Tardis to 20-odd years ago.

The sofa is strewn with puppets without strings, a giant flexible Spider Man is on guard in the lounge, there is a tub of plastic balls in the conservatory waiting to be tipped over the floor and a battered basket in the corner is overflowing with toy cars.

Plans for a relaxing read of the papers go straight out the window.

Don’t get me wrong, we wouldn’t swap the experience for the world. But bedtime, for all of us, comes as a relief as the toys are replaced by story books.

And that’s why I am writing my own. There is only so much Hansel and Gretel or Chicken Little an adult can take. And to be honest, some books are so badly written it hurts to read them.

I have to say, it also came as a shock to discover that on re-reading Goldilocks and the Three Bears I was not prepared for the awful truth that the heroine actually gets eaten by the Big Bad Wolf. I must have wiped the ending from my memory, having been traumatised the first time around.

Nowadays everything seems to be sweetness and light. So I sat down to write my own tale about the amazing adventures of Molly and Polly chicken. But that, boys and girls, is a story for another day…

nurdens-notebook-5

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Hi Honey, I’m back!

So, here is my 2017 New Year’s Resolution… to reopen Nurden’s Notebook.
It has been three years since I last shared its pages. Much has happened since then although some things remain the same.
I am still sharing Cobweb Castle with Mrs Nurden, although she has banished me to the West Wing because of my snoring. We still have the Creatures of the Night. One remains with us – we have given him a room in the dungeon – and the other is married with two children who I refer to as the Boy Childs.
That means I have entered the weird new world of grand-parenting. People often joke that the best bit is being able to give the Boy Childs back to their parents. Believe me, this is not a joke.
Although it is always a joy to have our home trashed before our eyes in a matter of seconds, there is something deeply satisfying in being able to hand the whirlwinds of doom back after a session of destruction. It is payback time for all those years of teenage angst.
Meanwhile, I left the cut and thrust world of Her Majesty’s Press and was taken to the bosom of the National Health Service to become a spin doctor. My late mum would have been very proud. She always wanted me get a ‘proper job’, preferably in the medical profession.
Alas, my deep dislike of blood and the inability to fathom out anything remotely scientific swiftly put paid to those ambitions.
The NHS is a completely different world with its own unique vocabulary. Everything comes in initials. There are AQPs, CCGs, MIUs, AOs * and the all-pervasive CQUIN (pronounced sequin) which stands for Commissioning for Quality and Innovation.
I don’t think anyone actually understands what it means although we all knew if we didn’t get it, it was very bad news and cash would be stopped.
There were strange phases I had never encountered before. Bed-blocking (when medically fit patients can’t be sent home because there is no one to look after them) became “delayed discharges” – which always put me in mind of a lazy, seeping wound.
At one stage I thought I’d introduce a new game called Banned Words Bingo to encourage staff to talk in plain English. It didn’t work. They still have “dialogues” instead of talking and refer to important information as “key” – when everyone knows that is a thing to open a door.
I was introduced to a man called Mr Caldicott, who turned out to be my guardian, and I was allowed to walk down “care pathways”. Mrs Nurden knows all about this having worked in the NHS most of her life.
For the first time in nearly 40 years we were able to understand each other. Although no other family members could comprehend what we were saying. Perhaps that’s why the health service has so many acronyms – to keep us all in the dark?
• Any Qualified Provider, Clinical Commissioning Group, Minor Injury Unit, Accountable Officer,

First published in the Faversham News, Herne Bay Gazette, Kentish Gazette and Whitstable Gazette – January 2017 

The new Nurden's Notebook - with cartoon

The new Nurden’s Notebook – with cartoon

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Are school days really the best days of your life?

They say school days are the happiest days of your life. But there were plenty of shocks and horror stories when former pupils of the Sheerness Technical High School for Boys in Kent, England met for a reunion.
Nearly every boy – now a lot older – recalled his fear of the school’s last headmaster William ‘Bill’ Barnett.
They talked of being beaten on the bottom by Mr Barnett’s favourite canes, dubbed Big Jim and Tiny Tim. Both were kept in a glass-fronted bookcase in Mr Barnett’s study at the end of a corridor of doom.
Some boys were given the strap. Others were made to stand on single tiles in the main hall without moving for an entire day.

Hands up: Reunion of the Tech Boys - February 2016

Hands up: Reunion of the Tech Boys – February 2016

One ex-pupil told the stunned gathering at the Criterion Theatre in Blue Town on Thursday night (Feb 25): “I had been sent to Mr Barnett’s office to be caned but when he took the cane out of the bookcase he discovered the end had frayed.
“So he sent me to the woodwork shop to get a saw. He then made me hold the cane across the desk as he sawed the end off. Then I had to return the saw before going back to be caned. I guess the anticipation was worse than the actual act.”
Another quipped: “It is incredible how many people were bonded by a common hatred.”
More than 30 men turned up for the latest in the series of school reunions at the Blue Town Heritage Centre. They came from Sheppey, Sittingbourne, Medway, Whitstable (Gerard Jakimavicius) and beyond. Some had sent apologies, including one chap who had emigrated to Australia.
A few old Tech Boys turned up in crumpled long-lost black and white school ties rescued from the bottom of drawers. One, Malcolm Mason, 68, even took along a rare school cap. Most had been jettisoned on the last day of term. Malcolm now lives in Chatham Historic Dockyard and attended the school between 1959 and 1966.

Moving day: Alan Parr, Trevor Luckhurst and Colin Mills, now an accountant, pack books.

Moving day: Alan Parr, Trevor Luckhurst and Colin Mills, now an accountant, pack books.

But most of the former pupils agreed they held the teachers in high regard.
They looked back fondly at the likes of maths master Jack Ryder, LG Welland, Tony Clenagan, ‘Froggy’ Sayer the French master, geography teacher Jim Hutley and Colin Penny and agreed it wasn’t all bad.
But many retained unhappy memories of PE teacher Terry Spice’s almost legendary cross-country runs across the marshes at Barton’s Point. They began at the school’s sports ground in Seager Road and ended at the White House if you were lucky. If you weren’t, they carried on to the cliffs at the Little Oyster at the end of Minster Leas.

Swimming lessons: always in ice-cold water at the open-air Aquarena

Swimming lessons: always in ice-cold water at the open-air Aquarena

Mr Spice, 71, now lives in Gillingham and is a patron of the heritage centre. Uniquely, he has the dubious distinction of having been both a pupil and a teacher at the school and was able to reveal what life was like for the staff.
He recalled: “There were two staff rooms, one in the old Broadway school and one in the main school. I was never allowed into the Broadway classroom even though the gym was just below it.
“Instead I had to take my breaks in the main school where I sat next to the door. There was a real hierarchy. Staff moved around the classroom in a circular manner depending on their seniority. New teachers sat near the door. Their job was to answer the door, tells boys the master they wanted to speak to wasn’t there, whether he was or not, and to keep the fire alight.
“Many times I had to sneak out of lessons to put more coal on the fire to stop it going out.”
He admitted: “Mr Barnett was not the easiest man to get on with and ruled that school with an iron fist. At times he could be extremely nasty.
“I vividly remember taking a human biology lesson when there was a bang and Mr Barnett burst into the classroom, grabbed a boy by the scruff of the neck and marched him out. Fifteen minutes later he brought the boy back in with tears running down his cheeks.
“I asked the boy what it had all been about and he told me had turned around to borrow a ruler and had ended up with three across the backside. Mr Barnett was vicious with some of the children and sometimes with the staff.”

Science: Robin 'Ginge' Brooks mimics Frankenstein

Science: Robin ‘Ginge’ Brooks mimics Frankenstein

But former Swale Liberal Democrat councillor John Stanford had a different story.
Mr Stanford, a former head boy who lives in Brambledown, was at the school from 1955 to 1962. He said: “I always seemed to get on well with Mr Barnett. But perhaps that was because I was a goody-goody!”
Minster parish council chairman Ken Ingleton, who is also on Swale council, was a former Tech Boy. He videoed the night for the heritage centre’s archives.
The school, which was in Sheerness Broadway, closed in 1970 and pupils were transferred to the new Sheppey Comprehensive. The wonderful, proud-looking building which had dedicated its life to educating the young was demolished in 1975 to make way for Blackburn Lodge old-people’s residential home.
I went to the Tech from 1965 to 1970. My first day, at the age of 11, was quite traumatic. For a start, it was the first time I had to wear long trousers. It felt strange having my knees encased in material.
It was also the first time I had to wear a tie. Like most First Years, I turned up in a jacket several sizes too big. My mother insisted I would “grow into it.”
There was also the ritual of being introduced to the quaint Sheppey dessert of Gypsy Tart at school dinners. You either loved it or hated it. I thought it was disgusting.
Oh, and we all had natty little school caps emblazoned with the Invicta horse of Kent on our heads. Our parents had been instructed that all boys had to wear one. Within minutes we discovered this was not the case as the “bigger boys” took great delight in mocking us. The caps never saw the light of day again.
There was also homework to contend with – the results of which led to our positions in the weekly class mark list. Woe betide anyone who was last.

Sport: below-knee football in the gym

Sport: below-knee football in the gym – I’m in goal and Terry Spice is in charge

Apart from the nightmarish cross-country runs previously mentioned, swimming lessons were also something best avoided. They were held in the nearby Aquarena, a once popular open-air swimming pool filled with seawater. Alas, it was never heated. Our lessons always seemed to be on a Monday morning in the deepest winter.
During my five years there I realised I was useless at metalwork and woodwork. The teachers decided, on my behalf, to make life easier for others by removing me from the French and art classes.
I did, however, discover that I quite liked English. However, the careers master had other ideas when I suggested I wanted to be a journalist.
“Certainly not,” he said. “That’s a far too competitive profession. Besides, all our boys should aspire to proper jobs.”
A couple of weeks later I found myself on a coach visiting the Metal Box factory in Strood where I was told if I worked really hard on my O-levels I might be good enough to get a job there and stand in line with other men turning lumps of metal on lathes. It was not a prospect I looked forward to. A visit to the foul-smelling Bowaters’ paper mill at Sittingbourne the following week did little to convince me that it was an industrial life for me.
However, I still ended up as a marine engineer cadet at Shell Tankers UK for the first year or so of my working life, meeting a great crowd of chaps going to Poplar Technical College in London’s East End and staying at Queen Victoria’s Seamen’ Rest.
But that, as they say, is another story which will be followed by how I finally became a journalist.

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Super Sound Man Rides Again

Summer Show 2015 - 06

As superheroes go, Super Sound Man isn’t quite up there with Superman, Spiderman, Batman or even Robin. In fact, he’s pretty low down on the list, sharing the bottom rung with the likes of Turn-over Tabloid Journalist, Most Promising Politician and Smarmy Solicitor.
It’s not a job for the feint-hearted. No human with a sound mind should agree to mix sound. It’s a thankless task, arriving at the crack of dawn before anyone else to manhandle huge speakers onto a stage and then leave at midnight, packing the van when everyone else has gone home.
But sometimes there comes a knock on the door which is hard to turn down.
It’s a bit like this:
Knock: “You’re in a band/disco and have a sound system, don’t you?”
Super Sound Man: “Er, yes.”
Knock: “Would you mind helping me out with a little show? We’ll make sure you get plenty of cups of tea.”
Super Sound Man: “Of course.”
So that, in a nutshell, is why I spent Sunday at Herne Bay Bandstand perched on the side of the stage and twiddling knobs for Bay crooner Martin Farbrother’s Seaside Special.
“He can twiddle knobs with both hands,” Mr Farbrother announced to the incredulous crowd which was silently shifting into Canterbury City Council deckchairs.

Summer Show 2015 - 04
Mr Farbrother, a sort of jovial, singing Fat Controller, was factually correct. I CAN twiddle knobs with both hands. Unfortunately, neither hand knows what the other is doing.
Mixing is hardly rocket science. The knack is to adjust sound levels so the audience can hear the singer above the backing track or, in the case of a band, everyone else over the drummer.
It should not be above the wit of most people, especially those like me who have A-levels. But it is far more complicated than that, which is why I do it so rarely. There are strange dials and sockets on most mixing desks these days which point to mythical outposts such as Compression Gate, Aux Send, LED clip and the sinister-sounding Sub Group.
Performers are also far too knowledgeable for their own good.
“Can I have bit more top in my bottom monitor?” they demand.
It was half-way through the sound-check that I discovered a most brilliant trick.
“It’s a bit boomy. Can you give me less bottom?” suggested a singer.
I made out I was twiddling one of the many knobs facing me and then looked up from the mixer and gave her my best “Is that OK?” stare.
She smiled back. “Thanks. Perfect!”
Mr Farbrother had provided me with his laptop, a nice-looking model but ruined by Windows 8 (don’t get me started on THAT). Each song was in order. All I had to do was punch the “enter” key on cue. What could go wrong?

Summer Show 2015 - 02
Well, during rehearsals a strange ethereal voice came over the PA when each track stopped. We had a conference and then disengaged a part of i-Tunes which had secretly installed itself while none of us was looking.
Despite this, the performance on stage was perfect. I only played the wrong track twice, which I thought was pretty good going.
The four-hour entertainment was a throw-back to the end-of-the-pier shows of yesteryear although Herne Bay no longer has a pier, more a little stump. The show opened with the three Panini Sisters gyrating through the audience from the back of Makari’s coffee shop to the tune Let’s Dance.
The Crooner opened with Beyond The Sea and then introduced the powerfully voiced Thelma Manville to sing Get The Party Started before she handed over to her pint-sized young daughter Grace, who instantly won the crowd over with her version of Fame.
Baritone Gary Cordes blasted out songs from the shows such as Oh What A Beautiful Morning, Ol’ Man River and You’ll Never Walk Along before the Crooner and the Panini Sisters closed the first half.
Mrs Crooner brought me a cup of tea.
The second half started with the Crooner and his new singing partner Lisa Barrett-Smith bashing out the duet Let’s Face The Music And Dance along with the Panini Sisters. Lisa went on to sing Makin’ Whoopee, I Get A Kick Out Of You and That Old Devil Called Love in a solo spot in a tribute to jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald.
The Crooner rejoined her to sing the Frank and Nancy Sinatra song Something Stupid before blonde singing duo The Blondelles bounced onto the stage with 50s and 60s hits like Dream Lover, Ob La Di, I Like It and Blue Suede Shows.

Summer Show 2015 - 01
There was just time for the Crooner to return with the rest of the cast to close the show with New York, New York. When the crowd called for more, they gave them the old Morecambe and Wise classic Bring Me Sunshine as an encore.
During the proceedings I managed to navigate various comments such as: “turn it up/down”; “the vocals are too loud/soft” and ”can we have more/less of the backing music.” Somehow I survived.
But I also learned that, unlike other Super Heroes, Super Sound Man can never win. If I ever get a knock on my door again, I’m going to be out. And fade…

Photos: Madeleine Cordes and Pete Revell

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You little fibber

What lies have you been telling the kids?
Latest research suggests teenagers tell the most porkies. Does “Everyone else is allowed to go” and “No, I don’t have any homework” sound familiar?
But it should come as no surprise, because most of the youngsters have been taught by the masters. Some of the funniest fibs have been spun by mums and dads to their offspring.
I must confess to two tall tales of my own I told the Creatures of the Night when they were growing up.
The first was about the haggis, which I explained was not a delicacy north of the border but a legendary bird which had one leg shorter than the other to enable it to run round Scottish mountains more quickly.
This terrible untruth spectacularly unraveled one day at primary school when the teacher asked her class what a haggis was. Our eldest boy proudly put up his hand and delighted the rest of the pupils with his version – to their amusement and his abject embarrassment which he still blames me for to this day. (Actually, we weren’t wrong Wild Haggis)
The second was born out of necessity. There is no parent on earth who has not at some time had to work out which of the children were lying.
“He did it,” insists one.
“No, he did it,” replies the other.
But who to believe?
Some reverse psychology is needed here.
I sat them both down and explained the science of protuberance enlargement which they had witnessed in that classic Disney cartoon Pinocchio. You will recall that whenever the little wooden puppet-boy told a lie, its nose grew to enormous proportions.
It was obvious to me, therefore, that this effect could be applied to other parts of the body (wait!). Not being cartoon creatures, I knew there would be no discernible difference to the boys’ own noses.
So I announced that if they lied, their tongues would grow. Whenever we came to an impasse I would demand that the boys showed me their tongues. The one who was guilty would try to make his tongue the smallest. They weren’t stupid. But by default, the one with the tiniest tongue was always to blame.
I am ashamed to say, I created other fibs, including the legendary porridge tree up the road where I would send the boys to pick porridge in buckets.
But there are some things which are sacred. As far as the boys are concerned, Father Christmas still exists. Both are in their 30s.
Over the years there have been “apprentice lies” which have been handed down the generations. Fresh-faced recruits have been sent to collect all manner of fictional objects on their first day of work.
The list includes:
A tin of striped paint (decorators);
A bag of commas (printers).
Other regular work lies include:
“Yes, I finished it last night but the computer crashed so I am doing it all again.”
“Of course I rang him but he wasn’t in.”
“Sorry, I’m really ill so I won’t be coming in today.”
I think my biggest work lie was when I called the office with a ‘sickie’ so I could spend the day auditioning as a presenter for the new Channel 4 music show The Tube. But it was the ruin of me.
I drove to London in my company car and watched open-mouthed as a motley collection of outrageously dressed punks performed their party-pieces in an old church hall. I had thought this was going to be a typical interview for journalists. Alas, my rendition of I Wish I Was A Willy Worm did not win me a place next to Jools Holland or Paula Yates so I dejectedly went back to my badly parked car, only to find it had been taken to the pound, half-way across the capital.
It cost me £113 to retrieve it – a week’s pay in those days. I have never lied since, honest.
Politicians, of course, never lie. They are just economical with the truth.
But parents are still probably the biggest fib-factory.
The list includes these howlers:
1. Frozen out. “My mum told me that when the ice-cream van played music, it meant it had run out of ice-cream.”
2. Big Mother. “Mum hung a portrait of herself looking directly into the camera on the kitchen wall and told us she could see what they were doing, even when she wasn’t in the room. The crime rate of biscuit theft was reduced to zero.”
3. Drafted dog. “When my pet terrier dog Max had to be put down after biting a school friend I was told he had been drafted to Vietnam to help sniff out the Viet Cong. It was years before I learned the awful truth.”
4. Fish fib. “When I was in college we were discussing childhood pets and I told my friends about the goldfish I had won at the fair. It had lived for seven years and could magically change colour like a chameleon. Cue snickering. My parents had been doing the replace-the-goldfish trick for years – and I had completely bought it.”
5. Santa sherry. “My dad said Santa didn’t like milk and would bring extra toys if we left a glass of sherry instead. I was always astounded to see the empty glass the following morning.”
6. Classroom camera: “Our dad told all three of us that the school had installed mini CCTV cameras in all classrooms and provided a live stream to parents. When he saw us looking guilty he would ask: “Well, why did you do THAT in school today?” He never specified what ‘that’ was but we would think ‘He knows’ and had no option but to confess and apologise.”
7. Beefing about: “When I was seven we were at a garage and I asked for a packet of beef jerky. Mum told me you had to be 18 before you could eat it. I never questioned her and when I turned 18 I told my school friends the first thing I was going to do was buy my first packet of beef jerky. I never lived that down.”
8. Suckers. “When I was little I used to suck my thumb like lots of other children. One day in the car my dad asked: ‘Are you still sucking your thumb?’ Me: ‘Yes’. Dad: ‘Aren’t you worried about ending up like those flamingos in the zoo?’ Me: ‘What?’ Dad: ‘Haven’t you noticed they all stand on one leg? They sucked their toes for so long they dissolved. Eventually they sucked their whole leg off.’ I never sucked my thumb again!”
The study of age-related lying From Junior to Senior Pinocchio published in the journal Acta Psychologica (Lying Report) confirmed: “Our research shows that young adults are, overall, the best liars. Lying frequency increased during childhood, peaked into adolescence and then decreased into old age. We also found lying proficiency improved during childhood, excelled in young adulthood and worsened throughout adulthood.”
The study of 1,005 people was conducted by researchers from the universities of Ghent, Vanderbilt, Amsterdam and Maastricht to discover how often we play fast and loose with the truth.
The results showed that, overall, we tell 2.19 lies a day with teenagers in the lead at nearly three lies a day – and some topping five a day. So-called seniors had the lowest daily rate – 1.5 – and 55 per cent said they told no lies at all. But that, of course, might have been a lie itself.
Besides, by the time we get into our dotage we realise we have to be clever enough to remember a lie so we don’t get caught out. Old age often brings memory loss which can seriously hamper the art of fibbing. It can be quite confusing trying to remember what you have told and to whom, or more importantly, who you haven’t told.
Researchers admit that lying is more mentally demanding than simply telling the truth. One theory is that the brain’s frontal lobe, needed for short-term memory, is the often the first to deteriorate as we get older.
My next challenge is to explain to Mrs Nurden why I haven’t finished building the patio. Do you think she will be happy with the explanation that I have been writing this? No, I don’t think so, either.
So, what would you tell her?

Posted in Comedy, Creature of the Night, Lies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Am I the oldest swinger in town?

Still spinning the discs: John Nurden as JR King

Still spinning the discs: John Nurden as JR King

Is your DJ the oldest swinger in town?
Have you noticed something strange happening with mobile discos?
Remember when a spotty teenager would turn up with some gear out of his dad’s car?
Well, now the DJ for your wedding, birthday party or club awards night is more likely to be an OLD MAN.
The teenagers have grown up and, despite their best intentions to quit, are still spinning the discs in their 60s.
Who would have thought DJs would still be entertaining the crowds as they approach their old age pensions?
Veteran jock Tony Blackburn, 72, has proved that age is the new youth as his BBC Radio Two Pick of the Pops show goes from strength to strength, boasting more than two million listeners.
After more than 50 years in broadcasting he admitted: “I can’t do anything else, and I do really love radio. I’ve loved it from when I was a child. I still get a lovely warm feeling going into Radio 2 on a Saturday and a sense of excitement. I love studios. I’d like to live in a studio.”
Perhaps that’s why so many DJs just carry on until that ultimate fade.
This week Adrian Farrow set the cat among the pigeons with a seemingly harmless post on the timeline of the Disco and DJ Help, Set ups, info, playlist Facebook page.
He innocently asked: “I have just turned 50 and have been DJ-ing for more than 30 years. At what age should you hang up your headphones and call it a day?”
He received an avalanche of replies, all telling him to keep going. He even received one from me. I am 61 and still taking bookings for my disco – JR King’s Juggernaut Roadshow – on the sun-kissed Isle of Sheppey in Kent.
Fifty? It is true that when I began DJ-ing in my teens with my mate Steve Fowler we thought we’d be lucky to get three years of work out of this new craze. Before that, people had the choice of a band or a Dansette record-player for their village hall party.
In those days there was no off-the-shelf disco equipment to buy. It was so new we had to build our own amplifiers and convert two Garrard gramophone (lovely old word) SP25 record decks into a twin-deck system using bits of plywood.
Old wooden beer bottle crates were used to transport a collection of 45rpm singles – they fitted perfectly. Three-channel sound-to-light systems with coloured bulbs were also very basic.
The thought of DJs still playing shows in their 30s was laughable.

Early days: John Nurden and Steve Fowler's Juggernaut Roadshow

Early days: John Nurden and Steve Fowler’s Juggernaut Roadshow

But when I reached 30 and was still DJ-ing it no longer seemed weird. In fact, the more experienced I became at ‘reading’ an audience and knowing how to MC a night, be it a wedding, birthday party, village fete or school disco, the more work I was asked to do.
Now I am busier, although the discs are CDs augmented by MP3 files on a laptop. The lights are all automatic. I confess I have no idea how they actually work anymore. Lighting controllers are a bit like modern cars. You no longer need a motor mechanic to carry out a service, you need a computer boffin.

On stage: Juggernaut Roadshow at Sheerness East Club

On stage: Juggernaut Roadshow at Sheerness East Club

I was quietly confident that I was, indeed, the oldest swinger in town. But that was before Adrian’s post. Alas, I now know that I am not. Thanks to his missive, many other not-so-doddering DJs have come out of the woodwork.
Adrian admitted: “I am still getting the work but I am finding the early morning finishes harder than they were 20 years ago.”
Quite. Ian Vincent, 57, chimed in: “I still enjoy DJ-ing but, yeah, the very late nights are a killer.”
Birmingham’s Richard Smith added: “Welcome to the nifty-fifties club. I am 57 and have been doing this for more than 35 years. And I’m still enjoying it. I have my son with me now with the full intention of him taking over the business and disco name to keep it going for years to come.”
Yikes. It makes cool disco sound like a high street greengrocers. But, yes, many sons and daughters are now following in their dad’s (and it is still mainly dads) footsteps.
Peter Garbett, 63, a retired fireman from Coventry who goes by the name of the Disco Doc, advised: “Keep going as long as you can. I now have my grandson DJ-ing with me. And I have bought a stair-climber truck so I don’t have to carry heavy equipment up and down stairs anymore. I still love it.”
John Taghill Wright from Heanor, near Derby, quipped: “I’m 63 and hope to be the DJ at my own wake! Seriously, if you can keep doing it, then keep doing it. Music is the lifeblood of life itself.”
Although he added: “I no longer take upstairs bookings.”
Keiron Woodhouse from Blackpool added this advice: “You are never too old, as long as you keep up to date with the music. Don’t assume that what worked 30 years ago still works today. Also, keep up to date with techniques and be able to mix for jobs which require it.”
Mix for jobs? That’s like teaching your grandma how to suck eggs. Our generation pioneered the use of mixing. I recall at one stage having THREE decks after watching a genius German DJ demonstrate the black art at the now defunct Stage Three night club in Leysdown on the sun-kissed Isle of Sheppey.
The system did, however, require two copies of each single to create a weird but effective echo effect. The fad died out when the cost of records doubled during an oil crisis which hit the price of vinyl.
Simon Elias from Bridgend, Wales, runs Carnival Disco and is 48. He has been club DJ-ing for 30 years. He confirmed: “Oldies are best.”
And Stephen Meffen from Barton-upon-Humber, confessed: “I am 61 and have just started again. I retired after 40-odd years three years ago but started back to help a mate out. Then I got the bug again. If I’m honest I am enjoying the bit I do too much!”
Sheffield disco-daddy Andy Myers is also back on the decks. He said: “I started in 1980. I will be 50 in August and came out of retirement a year ago. I am more choosey about the type of gigs I do now. And my son does most of the gigs now.”
He joked, or I think he joked: “Keep going until you get a slipped disc.”
Brighton bus driver John Day has launched a Blast From The Past Mobile Disco Facebook page. The Northern Soul fan said: “I am 61 and still going.”
So what is it about disco which keeps old men from their slippers and makes them turn out on cold, wet winter nights to entertain crowds young enough to be their grandchildren?
The simple truth is that it keeps us young. First, there is the physical exercise. Anyone who has unloaded a van full of sound and lighting equipment, hauled it onto a stage, and then done the whole thing in reverse at the end of the night when sane people are tucked up in bed will tell you the effort is equivalent to a week’s work-out in a gym.
Some of us are now employing roadies for that part.

Setting up: Juggernaut Roadshow

Setting up: Juggernaut Roadshow

Second, there is the sheer joy of making a party a success and watching everyone have a great time.
But it is not easy. With age comes experience. It teaches you to ‘read’ a crowd and know when to switch to a slow section. Any DJ will tell you of that awful feeling when you slip in the ‘wrong’ record and watch helplessly as the dance floor empties. It has happened to us all at some time.
The ‘punters’ also seem to enjoy having someone ‘mature’ in control of the proceedings; someone who will introduce people; have a joke and remind you when to cut the cake so it is not left uneaten on the table at the end of the night.
Some of us have even dabbled in becoming ‘rock gods’ and joining a band. But that’s another story. Meanwhile, the long-suffering Mrs Nurden is still waiting for me to get a ‘proper’ job…
• JR King’s Juggernaut Roadshow will be at the Sheppey Pirates Festival this Saturday (1 August) at Barton’s Point Coastal Park, Sheerness, for the pirates’ landing and water-bomb fight at 2pm.

Sheppey Pirates: Landing and giant water-bomb fight

Sheppey Pirates: Landing and giant water-bomb fight

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Ben blames it on the boogie

Once upon a time, there was a seven-year-old boy called Ben who dreamed of following in the footsteps of his hero Michael Jackson.
Years later, Ben Bowman is living that dream, touring the UK as Britain’s best Jackson tribute act.
I know Ben of old. I used to watch him when he was a teenager practising at Priory Hill Holiday Park, Leysdown, on the Isle of Sheppey where his mum worked behind the bar and I was the resident DJ.  Indeed, I think I gave him his first big break (!) when I invited him to perform as part of JR King’s Juggernaut Roadshow (https://www.facebook.com/JuggernautRoadshow) at Sheerness East Working Men’s Club for a Rotary Club disco.  He borrowed my microphone and I played a CD of backing tracks. It lasted 15 minutes. I wish I’d taken some photos.
His show these days is nothing short of spectacular. For a start, he stays on stage for virtually the whole of the two-plus hours – except to make lightning-fast costume changes. He is backed by four top dancers (two boys, two girls) and a strikingly tight five-piece backing band.

Ben - British tribute to Michael Jackson

Ben – British tribute to Michael Jackson

It is eerie how the spirit of Michael Jackson seems to come alive. It is as if Jackson is actually performing – although Ben adds his own touches. He has a certain raunchy sexiness (especially when grasping the thighs of one of the girl dancers), which his idol never had.
Ben has also adopted a strange high-pitched Trans-Atlantic accent which I don’t recall him using on Sheppey.
But it’s not just about Ben. Although he commands the stage with a sweat-dripping passion, this is a true ensemble production, tightly choreographed and boasting a brilliantly designed light show with a superbly clear sound system.
There are some stunning production numbers for songs like disco favourite Blame It On The Boogie, the ethereal Earth Song, the thumping Beat It, spooky Thriller and the show-stopping Billie Jean finale.
Quite truthfully, this knocks spots off some productions I’ve seen in London’s West End. By rights, it should be packing in fans in arenas.
Saturday’s show at Maidstone’s Hazlitt Theatre was sold out – I only managed to get a ticket thanks to guitarist’s mum’s friend dropping out!
Afterwards, most of the audience – aged from eight to 80 – stayed behind so Ben, sporting the dark, straggly hair and strange pasty-white face of his musical hero, could autograph their posters, programmes and tour passes. The length of the queue and level of adoration were amazing.

Ben - autograph-signing at Maidstone's Hazlitt Theatre

Ben – autograph-signing at Maidstone’s Hazlitt Theatre

I suppose now the real Jackson is no longer with us, this is the best his fans can hope for.
Ben recalled: “From as far as I can remember, I have always been obsessed with Michael Jackson. Everything about the King of Pop mesmerized and enchanted me.
“I would spend hours poring over album covers, photographs, interviews, videos and anything I could find about Michael. Even my seventh birthday party had a Michael Jackson theme!
“I always loved to dance and began copying Michael’s moves as I dreamed of being a performer just like him.”
Ben’s passion for performing took hold when he discovered open mic nights.
He explained: “Once I began to sing it was clear to me that all I wanted to do was perform on stage and entertain people.
“As I reached my teenage years I began experimenting with hair, make-up and clothes on stage to emulate Michael’s unique style. I began cultivating the whole persona and image of Michael and began to perform at talent shows and school assemblies, dancing and miming to his songs.”
When Ben plucked up the courage to sing live along to backing tracks he discovered he could sound just like Michael. But he admitted: “I still never dreamed I could forge a career doing that.”
However, at 17 he took the plunge and booked a hall for his first Michael Jackson Tribute Show.
He said: “To my amazement, the show sold out and the audience loved it. I was so encouraged I quit my job at the Co-op and worked full-time on improving the show to take it on the road.”
It was a gamble which almost didn’t pay off. The audiences loved Ben’s performances but the huge investment needed to buy his own professional sound system, lights and costumes plunged him into debt.
To make matters worse, at that time Jackson was involved in controversial court cases in the USA where he was accused of child sexual abuse. He was eventually acquitted on all charges but suddenly he was no longer the world’s most popular entertainer. The self-styled King of Pop’s crown was slipping.
Ben admitted: “At that time, Michael was not an especially popular or visible artist, so it was tough going in the early days. But my aim was always to bring the music, dance and charisma of Michael Jackson to the stage rather than make money.
“Thankfully, the audiences were amazing and gave me the confidence to carry on.”
He also met manager and musician James Baker who revamped Ben’s act and using his show business connections turned it into a top event specially tailored for theatres.
Ben has now been slipping his hand into that diamond-encrusted glove for eight successful years and is on his second year of theatre tours. Ironically, since Michael’s death on June 25, 2009, demand for Ben’s shows has boomed.
Ben said: “I still love every minute of it. I have travelled the world, met hundreds of people, worked with some famous acts and picked up some dear friends along the way.”
That includes his live band, team of dancers and dedicated backstage crew who all help the Michael magic come alive.
Ben added: “The buzz and excitement I get every time I go on stage still takes me back to my childhood when I first fell in love with Michael and his music. It has been an amazing honour to work with so many talented individuals in so many areas. I have been extremely lucky to follow my dream.
“I have one person to thank for everything, the person who shaped my life, my career and outlook, the person who made me what I am today – the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.”
With that, he grabbed his crotch, let out a yelp and Moonwalked back home as Michael Jackson’s Ben was playing in the background…

* Ben is back in Kent in January to start his 2015 theatre tour in Margate. For more information visit  http://www.michaeljacksonuk.com/

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