Thursday, December 04, 2008

What a 'Carry On'

This post is about my dad who would have been 100 today* but died at the age of 97. He was 50 when I was born so you'd think that he would have been too set in his ways to put up with a screaming baby. However, it was quite the reverse and he absolutely adored me from the word go (unless I've been subjected to a bit of revisionist nostalgia). It's too late to find out from my mum anyway; she died quite a few years before him.

I didn't see much of my dad when I was growing up. He was a successful pianist, band leader and musical arranger and, although he always picked me up from school and that was our special time together, he kept a musician's hours - getting up about 11am and going out to work at about 7pm.

It was expected that I'd have piano lessons - and I did, for about seven years - with the obligatory exams at the Royal College of Music - but I really did not enjoy them and felt quite put upon when urged to practice. My piano teacher was old school which made matters worse; she used to stick pennies on my knuckles whilst I played, to ensure that my hands remained flat - that's probably a chargeable offence these days.

Now, back to my dad - I suppose his best professional era was the forties through to the sixties. Whenever an artiste came over from the USA to delight the British audiences, if they didn't bring their own pianist with them it was usually (well, often) my dad that would be asked to accompany them. He worked with some good people - Bob Hope and Danny Kaye - to name two. Some of his friends and contemporaries went on to become very famous and my mum always felt slightly irked that my dad was happier to remain in the background.

For a little while he had an entertainment agency with an office in Charing Cross Road (central London), but his heart wasn't really in it- nor were his body rhythms - as he didn't enjoy getting up early and being office-bound. I always remember sitting by his office window during school holidays (he overlooked Cambridge Circus, the big crossroads where Charing Cross Road meets Shaftsbury Avenue) and he told me it was very important for me to watch the buses go by and write their number down. It was a good way to keep a little girl quiet, made me feel like I also had a job to do and he would give me a pay packet at the end of each day.

Now, the picture at the top here is a still from the film Carry on up the Khyber. For those of you who aren't British you are unlikely to have heard of this (or am I way off here?). It is quite an iconic comedy film, very silly, with some groaning one-liners and, towards the end of the film, there is quite a funny scene where Sid James and co are having a meal whilst the room is under attack by the enemy (it is a comedy, I promise you). There are some musicians in the corner of the room who valiantly play on, despite being blasted by bits of plaster from the ceiling. It is only when the piano collapses that my dad gives up trying to play.



* it was always a bit of a mystery - my dad's actual birthday - because they forgot to register him when he was a newborn. Sometimes my dad would just pick a suitable day in December - according to his workload.

60 comments:

DJ Kirkby said...

It sounds as if your dad was a real charecter. Of course he adored you, whats not to love?

Henry the Dog said...

How fascinating. Your dad sounds as if he were a truly interesting character. I love the last bit about him picking a suitable day in December. Loved it. Thanks for sharing that FF. After reading the rest of your blog at the weekend it did leave mum and me wanting to know more about your childhood and your parents.

bigbucketgirl said...

Hello! What a wonderful idea to choose a day for your birthday..your dad sounds like a man who would have had lots of stories to tell...

As for the film..i'm sure it will be in the listings for xmas somewhere(we love carry ons!) i'll watch it and be sure to think about your post.

Frankofile said...

Your dad's career was rather special - sounds like he had some fun. Especially with you!

French Fancy said...

DJ - actually I think it was my mum that was more of a character. She was sparkling, witty, fun and a great raconteur and hostess. My dad could tell a story or two but it was my mum's interjections that made everyone crack up. Yes, they had their dynamic working well for them.

Henry - when I was young I thought everyone's dad got to choose their birthday. There was a ritual on the first day of December - he'd go through his diary and the family calendar and say 'I think this year I'll have it on such or such day'.

This weekend I'm going to devote some time to reading all your entries. I thought I'd read them all but the one about the paw (aaahhh) was new to me - as you probably saw:)

bbg - hello there. My dad could be quite quiet sometimes - he really wanted to be a mathematician not a musician. He loved working on algebraic problems - something I have not inherited one iota.

Khyber is always on somewhere Now when you see it you'll think of me - sorry about that.

Frankie - he was a lovely man but I've got my mum's personality (so the rest of the family tell me anyway). He was calm, serene and quite intellectual - I'm a bit jokey, laughy and annoying.

Dumdad said...

Great read.

Carry On blogging like this!

French Fancy said...

p.s. when I said I've been told I'm like my mum I don't want anyone to think that -after having said how fantastic she was - I'm blowing my own trumpet. After all - remember 'self praise is no praise'.

I just meant my dad was the very clever one of the family and my mum was I guess 'the character'.

French Fancy said...

Dumdad - I've missed you. Hope all is well


Does that mean you want nostalgia not memememememe?

Brother Tobias said...

What a fascinating post. I like the picture of you logging the buses as they pass below you (we set ours to doing surveys of traffic in the lane below the garden, from a tent on the bank).

Do you play the piano at all now?

The Carry On team were reportedly great fun. My father was engineer officer of a destroyer that was very badly damaged in the Atlantic. Most of the other officers were killed, but the captain, although receiving bad head and facial injuries, survived. After the war, patched up, he became 'naval advisor' to the Carry On films. They kept him on the payroll for a number that had absolutely no naval content whatsoever, and I believe he had some great times off camera with the cast.

Henry the Dog said...

I still can't stop sniggering about your dad choosing his birthday. That is unique. Someone should use that for a character in a book one day:)

French Fancy said...

BroTob - I remember the bus thing so well. I'd go to his secretary and say 'I must tell my dad that 3 number 24's have gone by - in a row!!!'She'd write it down and leave it on a message pad for him. There he was trying to organise recording deals for people and there was his daughter desperate to let him know the situation of London Transport.

My dad might have seen your dad then - as well as playing the piano in that scene he was also involved with some of the scoring and would regularly hang about watching the shoots.

Henry - when we read it in a best seller one day we'll nod sagely (and metaphorically) to each other and know where they got it from.

French Fancy said...

p.s. - BroTob - you mean you also keep your child quiet by such devious and underhand parental methods? Tut tut.

It might sound trite but I hope your dad was able to move on from that awful event - I don't know how people that go through something like that ever come out unscathed.

My dad was involved with entertaining the troops during the war - although he did have some courtesy title. The most action he saw was behind a piano in a messroom (is that the right word?) somewhere.

Hadriana's Treasures said...

FF. Wonderful and superb post. I agree with Dumdad...more of the same please. I'm chuffed that he was 50 when you were born...my other half is 55 and I hope he's around many, many more years like your Dad so we can both enjoy the children growing up. He adores his two too. As you say...great dads adore their children....I'll look out for that film too. I love "Carry on" films...

French Fancy said...

thank you Hadriana - I've got lots of stories from my parents' past that are quite interesting.

If you look in the index of posts on the right there - under family photos - you'll see a nice photo of my mum and dad

I hope Mr H is also around as long as my dad was - if not longer. I mean 100 is the new 80.

Lane said...

Great post and what a lovely (and interesting) man your dad was!

Do you know, you've sparked a memory I'd forgotten about. My dad used to bring home paperwork on a Thursday evening and do the men's pay packets. It was my job to fill in the time sheets and I was paid for this painstaking task. It was years before I realised I'd been duped. But I loved Thursday evenings:-)

Blu said...

Thanks for sharing that lovely story about your childhood, what a wonderful jewel to store in your memory box. I dont have any like that.

meryl's musings said...

What a great story about your father. Mine has been gone for three years and is missed. Sounds like your father was unique and led an interesting life.

I came across your blog while visiting Henry, the Dog. I'll be back for another visit soon.

willow said...

Oh, yay! I was hoping you would post on your interesting father! So, is this him in your photo at the piano? I must put the Khyber on my Netflix list. This was so much fun. Thanks! :^)

Moannie said...

Terrific post FF. I love your Dad...what a great stroke of genius to have you count the buses, there are so many at that spot.

Up The Kyber: Of course, and I remember the scene at the piano, and the one where the assembled troop of Scots Guard lift their kilts and vanquish the enemy.

justme said...

What a fascinating post! I shall actually WATCH that film now next time it comes around on the telly....it is bound to do so over christmas. And I think its a great idea choosing which day to have your birthday on too!

French Fancy said...

Lane - see, it's all stored away ready to fall out. I only remembered about 3 number 24 buses in a row when I answered Brother Tobias's comment. I could only have been 6 or 7 years old. Now you've dug something out of the spare brain at the back you might find other old things stored behind it pushing to the front. I wonder what your daughter will remember in 30 years time.

Blu - I've got lots of not very nice things stored in there as well, that's the downside, Blu. Let's just say that quite a few friends I had in the wild part of my life did not live to blog today.

Hello Meryl, yes - I thought I recognised your name from dear old Henry's house. I'll be along very soon.
(it's hard losing parents; well, anyone really but you only ever have one lot of parents).

willow - yes, that's him in the blog picture and there is another if you look under the family photo section on the right here. You'll have to skim past the two of me I'm afraid.

Moannie- yes, there were so many buses going along I was kept very busy. I had sheets and sheets to give him at the end of every hard working day. I then went home and bored my mum with my bus-count.

It is a very funny film - Khyber - I think it's probably one of the best Carry-Ons.

hello justme - You can see my dad trying not to laugh when he picks himself up off the floor in that scene. They were so dusty and dirty that they were ordered to drink lots of milk - you'd think milk would be too gloopy, but anyway - that was before all the health and safety stuff that is around today.

Jessica said...

Wonderful post, great to hear about your dad! Sounds like he lived a remarkable life. :)

Mama said...

I really loved reading about your Dad, Khyber was on the tv one Sunday afternoon while I was in the UK, we were all trying to name all the actors (we do this every time, of course), that scene you described is so funny!!!!, I just wish I had known that the piano player was your Dad!!. I liked that he made you a "bus spotter". He certainly hung around with some truly great folks, what precious memories you have :) Kathy.

Ian Lidster said...

What a delightful testimonial to a fascinating man. You were very fortunate.As an aside, Carry on Up the Khyber was one of my mother's favorite films, for whatever reason.

lady jicky said...

I know that movie and I can even remember when I saw it the first time. It was at the drive-ins in the 60's ! So your Dad was in it? How wonderful !!!! I know the Carry On's are cheesey but when one is in the right mood - they are still the best! Did your Dad get to meet Sid James??

nikkicrumpet said...

He sounds like a very interesting man. I love picking a convenient day for a birthday...great idea! Very cool that he was an entertainer. Thanks for sharing this story about your dear dad!

blogthatmama said...

I love that film and next time I watch it I'll be thinking of you! Great post FF.

French Fancy said...

thank you blogthatmama - I've seen it so many times (I wonder why) and it still makes me laugh and then when I see my dear old dad it makes me laugh and cry.

Brother Tobias said...

French - He moved on. But I've probably confused you - it was his skipper, not he, that was injured. And my Godfather and my Dad brought the ship (HMS Escapade)home safely - albeit in a pretty damaged state.

cheshire wife said...

What an interesting post and what an interesting man your father must have been. If you are anything like me, my father was the love of my life until I met my husband.

david mcmahon said...

Great tribute - and I like the ``pick a suitable day'' line!!

Yes, I'm familiar with the Carry On series of movies!

French Fancy said...

BroTob - it's not you, it's me :)

cheshire wife - my dad was a real hero to me - he just seemed to know so much. I'm very glad he was around to know I found Mr FF because I don't think he ever really 'liked' any of those that came before.

David - thanks mate - do you Australians actually say 'mate' as often as we Brits think you do? Although, technically, do you consider yourself to be an Aussie?

lady jicky said...

OMG - I loved Joan Sims! Who wonderful FFancy.

OK - Jicky is one of my favourite perfumes and its by Guerlain. I name all my pets after perfumes. Oscar is after "Oscar de La Renta" and Rosie is after Caron's Rose perfume.
I adore scent as you can see! I wonder what Joan simms wore???

French Fancy said...

LJ- I should have known that because I do like Guerlain. I'm a bit of a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to trying new ones though. I stick to the old boring classics like Chanel No. 5/Guerlain's Mitsoukou/ and Dior's Diorissimo and Miss Dior. My favourite one though is Joy by Jean Patou - this was mmy mum's favourite and no doubt is why it is mine.

Joanie - was such a good actress and kind woman - much under-valued in the world of acting. Another oldie but goodie (to my mind anyway) was Beryl Reid, usually type cast as an old bag). Also Hattie Jacques - the formidable 'matron' figure but ever so glamorous in real life.

lady jicky said...

French Fancy - Jicky is the oldest "modern" perfume in the world- older than any of the ones you wear!
I wear Mitsouko in winter for its too "full on" for our summers.
I think we have the same taste in perfumes FF!! LOL

You MUST try Jicky when you are at a good perfume shop with the full range of Guerlains. I do think you would love it!!!!

French Fancy said...

lady jicky - I bow my head in shame - although it does smell nice.
I've just googled Jicky and it sounds just up my smelly street - anything with Lavender in suits me very well and - on days when I don't want too strong a smell - I pick Roger et Gallet's lavender spray.

Now I'm off to the UK on 14 January (there's an AGM of a company that I need to attend) and I'm going to try and get that duty free. If I can't, then I'll get it online.

thanks for the info - we can be identical smell twins

French Fancy said...

p.s. Jicky turns out to have been the name of Guerlain's childhood sweetheart - sorry if you already knew that.

Elizabeth said...

What a wonderful tribute to your father.
I have seen most of the Carry On films -or did a million years ago.
An icon of my lost youth.
My mother would have been 100 this year 1908 must have been a good vintage.
How fascinating to have a musician for a father.
Piano lessons a disaster with me too.......

lady jicky said...

French Fancy - as I would say to Lee - its getting SPOOKY - I love Roger & Gallet soaps! They are the best in the world.
You must get a bottle of Jicky!!
Yes , it was the nicname of his ENGLISH sweetheart - no , they did not marry.

French Fancy said...

Hi Elizabeth - I bet every Brit can quote at least one line from a Carry On movie. Also some scenes are burnt into one's memory - B. Windsor with her bra bursting off at the campsite comes to mind.

1908 - a great year for newborns

lady jicky - poor long suffering Mr FF has now heard all about 'do you know there is another perfume I must buy' before he has barely been home. Yes, it now top of my To Buy list.

lady jicky said...

Just tell Mr FF that Christmas is coming!
Really girlfriend, you have to get with the programme!
Kisses, Rosie the pug !

P.S. Big "Hi" to Poppy.

French Fancy said...

Well, I've had my present already - back in August. I write all this drivel on a cute little notepad and that was my early Christmas pressie. I'm not complaining though - it's meant that I've been able to blog much more often. Before that I was on a stand-alone machine down in our basement office - I much prefer doing it on the move in our house.

So it'll be me buying jicky :) I'm really looking forward to smelling it. I guess because it rhymes with an English slang word meaning something not very nice - 'icky' - I would never have guessed your name was a perfume name.

lady jicky said...

Oh, I did not know your blog back then FF.
Never mind - Rosie says "go the sad eyes, thats what Oscar and I do alot here! " LOL

I hope you do not find Jicky icky!

Lee said...

Carry on up the Khyber! I hadn't seen or thought about that film for ages.

Thank you for a very enjoyable snapshot of your father; a genuine character by the sounds of it.

Carol and Chris said...

Wonderful post FF!!! I love the story of your Dad picking a different day for his birthday each year and I love the image I have of you sitting taking notes of the buses.

We actually have Carry on up the Khyber on DVD...it's one of my favourites!!

Guess what we're going to watch tonight?? *grins*

C x

French Fancy said...

Lady J - How is Rosie doing? Was the op a success.Misty and Poppy send doggy love to your little R & O.

Hello Lee - thanks a lot :)

Carol - how is all the preparation going? Enjoy the film = it is very funny - but then you know that already. I always think of the kilt-lifting and Joan S saying ' I feel a little plastered'

The Texican said...

First time reader from Authorblog. Congratulations on being on the Post of the Day list. I don't know how David does it. Interesting bit of autobio in your post. I love reading of others' lives. Pappy

The Dotterel said...

Reminds me, that's one of my favourite films. Must update my profile. What a claim to fame, though!

French Fancy said...

Hello Texican - do you wear a big hat? Like JR did? Not that I believe in stereotypes or anything :)

Charlie's dad- hello there. I bet you're almost as word perfect with the cheesy lines as I am.

Hilary said...

Lovely tribute to your Dad. It sounds like he had a wonderful life. Here from David's. :)

Octavine Illustration said...

what a beautiful story. you truly make your father come to life through your memories of him. i especially love that he had you write bus numbers down as busy work. and thanks for the movie recommendation. you are correct, us yanks (or at least this yank) has never heard of it. will check it out. wonderful blog. cheers.

Carol and Chris said...

I've done my addictions - pop over when you get the chance.

C x

French Fancy said...

Hello Hilary - thank you very much. I'll be over soon

Octavine Illustration - oh, I do like your name - also thanks so much. This blogging lark sure drags out the memories; well, not so much drags - they just keep falling out.

Carol - coming right over

Lynne said...

What a lovely story. You must be very proud of your dad, he sounds a wonderful man.
My husband's a big Carry on fan, me, I have to be in the mood.

French Fancy said...

Lynne, you crept in here too. I know what you mean about having to be in the mood for them.

lmerie said...

Wonderful story! That is so cute about his birthday!

Over from David's . . . glad you made the list!

Tomate Farcie said...

I think my Dad's birthday was "picked" as well, for similar reasons. Thanks for your recent visit to my blog. TF

French Fancy said...

lmerie - thanks for coming over. I don't know how David manages to read everyone's blog. He's a wonder

Tomato Farcie (I sometimes make those) - so you had grandparents who lived in a world of their own as well. :)

Leanne Magraith said...

I really enjoyed reading this tribute to your father. What a fascinating story. I remember when I was young I was secretly jealous of others at school whose parents lead interesting lives.

The carry on films occasionaly surface in Australia so I will have to watch out for Carry on up the Kyber!

French Fancy said...

Leanne - thank you for making it 60 comments (well, some of them were me but I always like to talk back to people who bother to pop in)

Well, I used to be quite jealous of kids whose parents were around in the evening. From about 5pm each day my dad was incommunicado whilst he went through his ritual of choosing what music to play at whatever 'do' he was booked for that evening'; Then he'd spend ages in the bathroom and his dressing room getting ready and would reappear in a bit of a rush to go out about 7.30.

Then each morning my mum and I would tiptoe around and whisper to each other until he eventually got up around 11am.
It might seem novel to have parents who are unusual but it can be a bloody pain to live with :)