Fascinating People in a Fascinating World | Burial | Funeral

Fascinating People in a Fascinating World Stories of my miss spent youth The difficulty really is thinking back to specific things

. I have covered many generations, covering horse and carts thru to the modern world of computers and a faster life style. Filled with various time saving gadgets. But what do you do with all the time you have saved? Put it in a box and wait until the reaper comes saying times up! Just to put it off by buying extra seconds or minutes, with those ‘time saving’ gadgets? Back in my childhood, I was brought up in an air of mystery and secrecy. My father working for the government was never allowed to tell anyone what his job was. Close relations and family also had to keep this secret. My maternal grandmother was always scared of his job and would sometimes cover her ears so that she could not hear any details that would frighten her more, when mum and dad discussed what was happening next, or where we would go next. I owe my love of the bizarre and strange to my father Thomas. Even during the war he would be the one to go to places he should not, purely to see things that a white man is not supposed to see. Often times he would regale visitors with tales of these sighting, whether it be houduns creating zombie field workers, or hiding in Sikh temples, watching the priests. One of my fondest memories is seeing my father sitting on a bench in Blackpool England, speaking perfect Gurgeratti; to a Hindu he had met 35 years earlier in Calcutta!
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It does seem that strange jobs run in the family: My grandfather owned a gold and diamond mine in South Africa My uncle was bodyguard to the king. His party trick was to bend a florin in his fingers, or to smash a coconut with flexing his biceps. My other uncle was a stunt double for Ronald Coleman, the actor. Until falling off a train, which proceeded to run over him, he lost both legs. So in many senses I took on the strange or unusual as my normality. At birth, like my mother, I had been born wearing a veil. This is a flap of skin covering the face, quite rare in this day and age. Folk belief being that a person so born can see through the mortal veil to the other side. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but from a young age I can remember seeing people, which ‘weren’t there’. I suppose most people would say ‘imaginary friends’ They would show me things, sometimes like a postcard or picture, sometimes I would hear them tell me names or such like, other times I would feel what they were trying to give me, or even sometimes taste the exact thing they were describing. Often time’s people would come to visit my dad and I would tell them things that ‘my friend’ would say or tell them about the things they had shown me. Always they would look totally astounded. I think it was this look of astonishment and a box of David Nixon magic that took me along the magicians’ pathway. My own spirit guide I have been told on numerous occasions by different mediums throughout the world looks like a druid but had something to do with medicine ‘a medieval doctor’ Maybe it was due to this that I first sought out a career in medicine. Maybe I just wanted a good wage!
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Starting school, I found easy, because I would know the answers to the questions, this did lead into all kinds of trouble, being blamed as an exceptional child, or being blamed as a cheat. I soon progressed and gained qualifications by the shed load! It didn’t give me personal satisfaction. That is where the magic started. I learned about Harry Houdini. His fascination with locks and mechanics and found myself drawn down similar pathways. Even into de-bunking mediums! I still now today, find sometimes there are conflicts between the two sides. My rational self, trying to come to a logical explanation of the things I say and do. My inner self, screaming out what Houdini was told many times: Believe. Even now, I always question myself, as to where the information I give people has come from. When I describe a person, that has passed, did I see their photo? That wouldn’t give me their name though. And sometimes asking questions, only leads too many more questions. Just like any other person, I have had joy in this life and sorrow. There have been many ups and downs. Here are a few of the more remarkable people and events that have added a colour to my monochrome existence. I hope they can do the same for you

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TALES OF A FUNNY WORLD Dynamite Dave Working on the Gala scene are many weird and wonderful people all with true hearts of gold. One man who raised millions of pounds for charity in his career was Dynamite Dave. His act consisted on wearing a boiler suit, and a crash helmet, being placed into a wooden coffin with about thirty pounds of explosive, and being blown up! I had asked him the secret. Did he sneak out of the box, or was it double lined, to protect him from the blast. No, none of these. He simply turned over so that he faced down. His weight keeping the bottom of the coffin on the floor, and the air around him pushing the walls and roof off! The crash helmet, simply, to protect his hearing. The first time he had used a mannequin from a local tailors, to test it without the helmet its head had sailed into the air about two hundred feet and been really badly damaged when he had retrieved it so next time on went the helmet and the dummy seemed fine, so he took the dummies place! At one particular gala field the legendary Russell Harty was filming him for live television. The month previous the local paper had run a competition, the winner having the dubious joy of pressing the handle that would ignite the explosive, and send this man to his eternity. In his very own coffin! Dave was placed into the coffin; the viewers saw the explosives being put inside the coffin with him.

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The wire trailing away some hundred yards to the ignition box and the winner of the competition, now with sweating palms as there five minutes of fame approached quickly. Then the big countdown from ten to zero. Down went the ignition plunger. BANG up went the box, debris flying everywhere! Smoke, and as the smoke began to lift standing, where seconds before the coffin had been in the middle of the field. Dynamite Dave! The crowd went wild, cheering clapping, and shouting. Amongst this entire clamour Russell Harty the intrepid reporter ran forward saying, “How do you feel? Tell the viewers how you feel after being blown up.” Grabbing the mike in still shaking hands, smoke billowing from his boiler suit, covered in grime and dirt. He shouted those immortal words. “Desperate… FU****G desperate!” After many years of travelling the world with this act, many bookers decided that their audience had seen it so the bookings began to dry up. Then came phase two. Our hero bought a human cannon ball act. This consisted of a cannon fitted onto the back of a truck. The performer would slide down the barrel, then would be fired about fifty feet into a waiting net! A definite crowd puller and crowd pleaser. The publicity was printed and off it went for a few seasons more. The only problem was this had been made for a lady, a slim lady. Of about five feet two and approximately ten stone maximum. Our hero was over six foot and approaching eighteen stone! At nearly every show ground he went to it started great. Setting the net,
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marking out distances etc. and sometimes a trial run of putting a sack inside and shooting it at the net. Then. Calamity. Oh dear! Something is wrong with the firing mechanism, its not working. Off he would go to the show organizers, and woefully inform them that he would not be able to perform this death-defying feat! Panic. What were the bookers going to do now; they had spent a small fortune in advertising, on radio in the paper etc. Well, so as to avoid disappointment, and the crowd going home disappointed. It just so happens that the old act of the exploding coffin is still in the van! Maybe he could rig the explosives from the cannon into this. Just an idea. The numbers of thankful committeemen that now were in attendance. What a remarkable man what a great idea. Thanks to our hero, their gala was saved. Funny how this happened again and again, for over three seasons!

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Punch and Judy A dear friend of mine decided that he too would start performing Punch and Judy shows. So J being J saw a vending machine inside of which had some rubber figures of Punch, Judy the policeman, the baby and of course the famous sausages. Instead of paying hundreds of pounds for a carved set of figures. The machine disappeared, being found at a later stage without its figures! Next it was time to find a booth. After looking around and driving for a few miles. He found that British Telecom where fixing a local telephone junction box, so whilst the engineer worked on the lines. Our trainee professor worked at removing the booth. He succeeded. After a little practice he was ready for his first performance. Offering his services to a shopping centre (Mall) as a clown, complete with indoor comedy car (this was in fact one of the earlier type motorised wheelchairs, for invalids) He went about the booking, after driving around the centre and collecting a decent sized crowd, almost like the pied piper of Hamlin he commenced the Punch show. First the sides of the booth where placed onto the wheelchair. Whilst he began to pull out the rubber puppets and place them on his lap. To perform he simply had to raise the puppets over his head and say the script. In theory pretty simple, nothing to go wrong. As he got to the part where the sausages come in. the tale takes a turn. Reaching for the said sausages, they had become tangled around the control joystick of the wheel chair. As they where lifted into view, the booth began to slowly revolve, with children now standing and walking
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around as if reciting the ‘mulberry bush’ slowly at first, until picking up momentum the sides began to shake, from there clips, until falling over it now appeared like a helicopter. The drive mechanism was now jammed, the puppets being rubber and the heat from his hand, had sweated, and making it impossible to remove them. Faster and faster it began to spin; now looking like an amusement park attraction!! The clown panicking and screaming “stop this F*****g thing” “Get me some help!” Most parents taking their children away from this rather abusive entertainer. The centre staff was called, but unfortunately couldn’t get close enough to the contraption to help so all they could do was cordon off the area, and wait for a further three hours; until the batteries lost there power and it came to a halt. So to did his career as a Punch and Judy Professor! He instead turned his hand to that of God. But of course there by hangs yet another story.

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Punch & Judy II Punch and Judy is a timeless classic of entertainment. It has entertained generations and is always popular, with all ages and all classes. At a gala performance, The Harrier jump jet was being shown off, and going through its paces, to enthral the crowds. The organisers had in their wisdom thought it a good idea to provide a children’s entertainer, and what better than a Punch and Judy show to keep them entertained. Whilst halfway through the programme, the pilot decided to let the plane drift a little, showing that it could manoeuvre sideways and backwards at the same time whilst holding a specific height, only about twenty feet from the ground. It was at this stage that we had a conflict. The noise from the Harrier became louder until the children couldn’t hear the script. Then has it hovered directly above the booth, WHOOSH. Off came the cloth, up went the frame, straight thru the jets, shattering the booth into matchwood, and leaving this poor professor stood in the middle of a field with his hands above his head, with no puppets in sight, and by now no audience either!

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Super glue Whilst partnering my wife in her fakir act, I use a very sharp machete, to slice an apple in two whilst she is lying across a bed of nails. At one particular show for the military, I had an accident, receiving a rather deep cut. A medical officer came to my aid with the simple remark “That’s nothing son in Vietnam we got bigger cuts shaving.” He produced this little tube, sprinkled a couple of drops into the cut, pressed it together firmly, within seconds, no more bleeding. This was my introduction to what we now commonly refer to as super glue. He went on to tell me that they the American army had developed this so that if a soldier had his guts blown out he could stick them back in and glue everything together. He did lecture me about its uses for about an hour and at the end of which, I must admit I felt a little sick.

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The sky is blue and the grass is green Whilst working on an air force base, one of the pilots asked if I was into speed, seeing at that time I was driving a Porsche. I said that yes I did like a little adrenalin rush, now and then. He invited me for a flight in an F16. I was suited up in the gravity suit and led to the plane. All the time the pilot kept saying to me remember “The sky is blue the grass is green” I kept repeating this, all the time I was being fastened in and even during take off. Away we went. Fantastic up into the air, unlike any kind of take off in a charter or passenger plane. Up to about fifty thousand feet in less than a second! After a while he said remember what you were told. I said, yes, the sky is blue, the grass is green. To my surprise, it wasn’t we had been travelling upside down for five minutes, I hadn’t even noticed! Then he started putting this plane through its paces. Spins, climbs, fall. The roller coaster of the skies! I asked him if they had windscreen wipers on these jets. He said No, why? Simply if there isn’t, you’re going to need one on the inside of this cockpit. I didn’t know up from down left or right. We returned to the airfield. He climbed out. I couldn’t move! It took four ground workers to lift me out. My legs were jelly, but what a ride!

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Going thru a stage Working as a professional magician, I was asked to perform at one of the piers in Blackpool. It does sound grand to say that you’re in summer season at Britain’s best-loved resort but the practicality of these shows…. It is simply a nightmare, if you drive there; there is no parking on the prom. You can’t take a vehicle onto the pier itself, so unloading is an absolute nightmare. Then so to is the long walk down the pier to the theatre at the end, twice a day. At this particular show, I was doing a patter act (speaking to the audience, instead of performing with background music) this was in the days of ‘dots’ (Sheet music played by musicians instead of backing tracks) Whilst performing a trick known as ‘professor’s nightmare’ where visibly three lengths of rope, all different sizes, grow to an identical length, finishing by joining together into one long length! Standing on stage I noticed that the orchestra pit was covered over, extending the stage another ten-fifteen feet nearer to the audience. The boards were painted shiny black, and matched the stage. I thought it a good idea to get closer to the audience, to build what is commonly called ‘the bridge’. I didn’t know the true reason was that the boards that form the pier had rotted away, and were being replaced. This was hard board tacked to the stage on one end and the pit rail at the other, to stop the wind raising from the sea below, up into the theatre. Interpid as ever. I sallied forth, in mid performance, stepping over the footlights, getting nearer to the crowd.

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As I took that first step, from the wings (side of the stage) I heard the stage manager say “Get Off!” Thinking he may be talking to someone else I ventured further. Louder this time” Get OFF!” In the back of mind I started thinking, well everything seems to be going OK; I’m getting laughs in the right places, applause where it should be. I’m going well here. Stuff him. If he wants me off he’ll have to drag me off (Ken Dodd School of performing!) Another step and this time the whole auditorium heard “For F***’s sake GET OFF!” Too late! The board snapped and whoosh down I went. All I could see was the darkness of the theatre then white light, bits of pier, girders. Then Splash! Water. Sinking. I was in the Bloody Sea! Believe me, what a shock to your system that is! I started walking, up hill; towards the prom. Coming out of the water it really must have been a picture. Bloke in full tail suit, clutching three bits of rope, with a face like thunder. People just stopped and stared, open-mouthed. I walked from the beach, along the prom down the pier to the door of the theatre. It was locked. It always is during a performance. So, back around and into the main entrance of the theatre. Down through the aisle towards the stage. All the time going squelch, squelch the compere had returned onto stage and every time he looked at the hole just began to laugh. Literally people were rolling in the aisles, clutching their sides. To them it must have looked hilarious!

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I got back on stage, picked the mike from his hands, put it into the stand and simply said, “I’ll finish this trick… Even if it kills me!” Bernard Delfont and Mecca management, the people who owned the theatre, wanted to keep me there for the season. As long as I kept this as part of the act. I told them “Ok, as long as you can make certain the tide is in every time I fall”

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Is it a Ghost? One night in the pub the circus hands were telling each other various tale of their lives, things they had seen etc. The topic turned to ghosts and it was explained in no uncertain terms that there was in deed such a thing as ghosts as everyone there present had at some time seen something that they could only explain as being a ghost. It was time to go back home to their respective trailers (caravans) as two of the hands walked through the dark and gloom of the disused airfield, the nearest lighting being about half a mile away, in the distance they could see a whitish shape, moving from unit to unit, (caravan trailers used for the hotdogs generators etc) With the previous conversation of spectres and ghosts, paranormal activity was rife within their minds. Both giving each other courage decided that there were no such things as ghost; ergo it must be a burglar! They armed themselves with tent staves (metal bars approximately four feet long used to hold down the big top ropes, to the ground) they split up, one going around the units, to meet his adversary face on. The other sneaking up behind the burglar to give him a headache he would remember for some time. The white shape moved on, slowly, almost aimlessly shambling from one thing to another. Our heroes were now in place, and as the burglar rounded a unit, they raised their clubs, about to strike in the dark. They were faced with a nine and half feet snarling Polar Bear! It had learned how to pull back the bolt and unlatch its cage, and had simply gone in search of some friendship and food.
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I do often wonder who would have got the biggest shock, if those blows had ever landed.

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5 Gallons of calamine lotion Working on the holiday camps you meet many people from all walks of life at one of these centres a typical ‘Arthur Daley’ type turned up and between him and the entertainments manager a deal was struck that ended up with the entertainments manager keeping a five gallon drum of calamine lotion. After keeping this for a month and trying to find some way of making money from it a grand plan came to mind. Without further ado the entertainments team were rounded up and given extra duties. Every day early morning, there would now be a children’s ramble, through the local fields, and woods, a kind of nature trail. Off went the respective coats with their teams of eager children. After walking about three miles, the children were becoming bored, so it was time to return to camp, for swimming and football. The first child back would win a prize. Seeing the camp in the distance off set the children, straight through the farmer’s field, and hedges. Who was to know that the field was full of stinging nettles! Ouch. The first child back got their prize, a FREE bottle of calamine lotion. The rest were charged a pound a bottle. The entertainments manager made enough from the five gallons to buy himself a brand new car and a holiday for himself and wife to Marbella.

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Two coloured chalk In the Northern working men’s clubs many acts died, many went on to greatness. The clubs themselves were a meat market, you would perform at an audition and the concert secretaries would come along with a diary and pencil they would book you on the spot for their club and you would negotiate a fee. Which usually ended up with the concert secretary saying “How Much! We didn’t pay that for Matt Monroe!” “I’ll tell you what son. (Everyone male or female was referred to as ‘owd son) “I’ll give you thirty bob, and you can have two coloured chalk!” This was indeed an honour. Instead of you name being written on the board in plain white school chalk, you would get an extra colour too! Many an artist had gone from working theatres, when variety and music hall began to close to these workingmen’s clubs. Some would try to work as they had within theatre, with music and lighting plots. Many a club has said “How do you want your lights? On or Off!”

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At a recently renovated club in Wales. I was to be the first act to work there after the refurbishment. I duly arrived at the club and started to set up. It was an L shaped club. The concert secretary was so proud of what they had done, and the money they had spent. I set my props, and noticed that I couldn’t see any speakers. In these days most clubs would have two rather large about 200 watts speakers, situated either side of the stage pointing towards the back of the club. In the centre of the stage was a shiny new microphone, on a single stand. They MUST have a PA somewhere. Thinking that I could find it myself, I simply followed the mike lead, across the stage, to the stage door down three steps, into the dressing room. Again, most clubs housed their PA in the dressing room. Following the mike lead across the dressing room to the wall, it ended in a 13amp plug! Like the one on the back of your TV or kettle! I must have made a mistake. So back onto the stage, again following the lead, again it ended with the plug! I found the concert secretary and asked him about his PA. His reply was. “The man in the shop said that is the best mike you can get, there’s no finer. He said that with that, you don’t need anything else. So we got that mike.” I decided to get my own PA and use that… I wonder what happened to the second act in that club!

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Peeing contest Working in a club in Armley, near Leeds, it had been a rather good night. Packing my gear away I had to use the metal fire escape at the rear of this club. Up and down I had gone, several times. On my final trip to the top of this staircase. It was filled with four rather large drunken gentlemen. And a lady. They were betting a tenner each. In these days, ten pounds was a decent amount of money. The bet? Who could urinate furthest down the metal steps! The money was taken and all contestants prepared. The lady added a stipulation. That hands couldn’t be used, as she obviously wasn’t. It was agreed, it did seem fair, as the men could cheat by using their hands and flicking it further. One of the men went first; he managed to trickle over the top couple of steps. The second and third faired a little better, maybe getting a couple of yards. The fourth man came up to the top, brimming with confidence, and bitter beer. He could afford to be confidant; he definitely didn’t need to use hands. Very proud, he began to pee, a trickle at first then squirt! Easily ten or twelve feet. It seemed he would be going home a lot better off. Up stepped the lady, lifting her skirt she bent over, and began. The jet that issued forth went over the steps, half way across the car park and baptised the secretary’s car. She won Hands down.

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The sword box A magician friend and I watched a very famous magician Hans Moretti.His famous illusion was to be bound with chains, and placed into a small cardboard box, and then his assistant would push swords through the box, and seemingly through her partner! When the swords were removed, Hans would leap unscathed from the box, dressed and made up like a clown, with a whole farmyard of animals, including chickens etc. Very spectacular. My friend decided that he would duplicate this feat, but without the animals. He set to making a box that he could use. He went out and bought thirty cavalry swords, to use. He spent weeks sharpening them, and his mum helped him into the box, where he could mark the entry points end exit points of the swords. The basic secret being that if he sat on the left side, he could guide the swords, slightly to the right, giving him just enough room to fit the swords around his body. Off he went to work a summer season at a local holiday camp. On the first night of this, he was given a girl to work as his assistant. The girl, having just left school, didn’t have any experience, of what to do. On stage can be a frightening experience, for anyone. Even experienced performers, get stage fright. Having lots of things to think about our hero climbed into the box, sitting in the opposite side, which he had marked! First mistake. The girl did as she had been instructed. Got a big bloke from the audience to ram the first sword through. He did, pinning his shirt to the other side of the box. Next sword went straight under his
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throat, he couldn’t move, or now even speak. Faster and faster the swords were coming, panic set in also the blood and adrenalin pumping started to kick in. eventually all the swords were through the box. The gentleman from the audience was thanked and applauded, as he made his way back to his seat. The girl assistant now simply stood centre stage, with the box full of swords, waiting. The audience waited, the music came to a stop, and there were no signs of anything happening! After ten minutes, the entertainments manager realized that something must be amiss. Going onto the stage and listening to the side of the box he could heard in almost an inaudible whisper “get me out” He started to rip out the swords. This caused yet more slashes. When the last sword came out of the box, so to did our hero. Picking the box off its stand he smashed it into the floor, jumping on it until there wasn’t a stick left. The audience must have thought ‘what a strange act’ But the Great Morretti, could sleep nights, no one was going to steal his act.

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Queen’s theatre Burslem Sometimes circus shows would take to the stage as a variety show. Still keeping the same format, but instead of a ringmaster there would be a linkman, a compere. His or her job being to keep the show flowing without any hitch. This would usually be running backstage between acts, making sure that the next act was ready, props set. Previous act was off, props struck (removed from the performance area) At this particular theatre, we were raising funds for a local Hospital, so luckily there was a strong medical presence. I walked out onto the stage to introduce the show, and welcome everyone to the theatre. Whilst doing this, behind me the stage curtains a voice spoke “Ask for a doctor, see if there is a doctor in the house” Not knowing the why’s or wherefores, I duly asked that if there was a doctor in attendance, could he come to the stage door. I continued by introducing the first act, and left the stage. It appeared that someone was having an epileptic fit! The doctor turned up and started to sort them out I was back on to take off this act and introduce the next artist, filling in whilst the stage props were changed. I began to introduce the next act to again hear those words” Ask for a doctor…. Again” I did. Introducing the next act I went into the wings to find out what was going on. Another epileptic fit! Third act on was my illusion act, a battle of magic between a witch and wizard, where eventually the witch flies (levitates) over the stage on her broomstick! Halfway through this number I knew that something was not right. I couldn’t quiet think what it was until with a
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resounding crash she fell to the floor. I had to carry on as if nothing was wrong. When my assistant got up, I could see from the position of her arm, that something was wrong. (She had sheared the bone from her elbow. Clean off and had to have pins put in to replace the joint!) Off she went, the tabs (curtains) closed and I now proceeded to introduce the next act. Yes you guessed it, halfway through the intro, the voice said yet again” ask if there’s a doctor in the house” It had now become a running gag! As luck would have it, the first doctor worked at the local hospital orthopaedic department, so volunteered to take her there. Whilst his friend doctor number 2 was still there. The act that was now on was a trampoline act, and every time he tried to jump onto it he was thrown away, off into the wings, or towards the audience. It was funny watching his frustration getting the better of him, until he finally decided to quit. I went on to introduce the interval. It was now that we noticed the cause of most of the problems so far. It was a raked stage (sloping), normally the rake goes towards the audience. This went sideways! Whilst getting changed during the intermission, one of the stagehands came into the dressing room “have you got a plaster for this!” He showed us his hand; every bone in it seemed to be broken. As the curtain had been coming down, he had reached for something on the floor, only to let the safety curtain (about 5 tons) fall onto his hand! We phoned for an ambulance whilst Doctor 2administed to him. The theatre was now becoming like the set to casualty or A&E. I went on stage, to introduce the second half. In the front row a man seemed to be having difficulty. His eyes
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bulged; he was gasping for breath, and struggling to loosen his tie. He was a bluish colour. He was having a heart attack! The ambulance that had come for the stagehand now had to give this poor fellow a jumpstart in the aisle! The people in the balcony where hanging over to watch them defibrillate this man. I half expected one of them to fall over; It was about the only thing left! The show was over; no one could carry on through this. I went back to the dressing room, and started to pack my things. A voice, “do you think that doctor is still here?” “Why?” I asked. One of the dancers, had been coming down the steps, slipped and fell, cutting her forehead. It took seven stitches! Now the fun really began. I had to find the hospital. There were four different ones! Every casualty department asks the same questions, how did this accident occur? The reply: I was dressed as a witch and fell off my broomstick! When I found the right hospital the doctor asked me “when are you next here?” “Next week, why?” I replied “Well, I’m taking a holiday. It’s my day off today, and I never worked as hard, since med school!”

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Stoke police gala Being booked to appear at the Police show in Stroke, it appeared the field we were to use was directly behind the police station. We turned the corner and onto the field. Three youths were in the middle of the field. Fastly approaching us. As we stopped one of these youths said” do you want a jacket? Here” and threw the jacket towards us they then carried on running. Followed by about half of the Midlands police force. There were police officers, dogs, mounted police and motorcycles. At this point the police helicopter decided to land. The youths were surrounded on all sides, even up! They had stolen the detective police superintendent’s coat from his car, whilst he had parked outside the police station. First mistake. Second mistake was to try to escape across the local fields, especially today as nearly every policeman in gods kingdom was in attendance, either on duty, special duty or helping out with friends and relations! I wonder what the other criminals said to them when they where in jail!

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Jerome’s Irish cow In Ireland when the circus came to town, it did just that, taking over the entire place. Sometimes the field was too small for the tent and all the wagons to be put on so no problem, the tent would be pitched across the road, traffic etc would have to go around. Sometimes even the ring would be on the road, great to work to a yellow line! In these days, you would erect the show, get the animals out fed and watered and then groomed. Next you would have to go to the next venue with the posters for the show and do the billing, returning you would perform in two or three shows, then dismantle the show, pack it away and drive thru to the next venue and start the procedure all over again, if you were lucky you might manage and hours sleep. After working at this breakneck speed for over three months, a certain person was driving thru the night along winding country lanes, probably going a little too fast and being tired didn’t help matters. Whistling around a corner there was a thud, and the vehicle stopped. In the headlights a shape could be seen. He’d hit a cow! The road being very narrow, the cow would have to be moved. I bet you have never tried to move a living cow, never mind a dead one! Grunting sweating and swearing profusely, he managed to get it to the side, near a low dry stonewall. Miraculously another person appeared and asked if he needed a hand. Between them they struggled and managed to get the cow, back over the wall, and off the road. “Thanks mate! Here’s a £20. For helping me out”
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“To be sure that’s very kind of you sir,” the helper replied “very kind indeed!” accepting the money. “Now, there’s just one more thing; I’m the farmer and that’s MY cow. She’s worth £300 so I think I should be seeing your money now!”

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Talent Contest At a holiday centre I had three children on stage. The first girl sang a song, and received polite applause from the audience, and well deserved vocal support from her family. The next boy did a Michael Jackson impression, complete with moonwalk, again well received applause. The third boy about eight years old simply took hold of the mike and said” what do you call a man with a blue willy?” He was very confidant. So I took back the mike and answered” I don’t know. What do you call a man with a blue willy?” Grabbing the mike again he answered loudly “A tight fisted wanker!” The place erupted! His dad who was just having a sip of his beer spit it everywhere!

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Mr & Mrs At a pub a Mr. & Mrs contest was under way, the couple were doing well and was down to the last question. This being. “What is the worst place you have had sex?” The husband had replied, having sex with his wife on the grass, and getting grass stains on his knees, and his mother in law asking him, how he’d got his pants dirty. His wife was brought back on stage, and the husband returned to the bar for a drink. The lady was doing fine answering all the questions until it came to this the last question. “What is the worst place you have had sex?” “I’m not answering that!” she exclaimed, “It’s rude” “Go on tell them,” shouted the husband from the bar “They know already, I’ve told them” The lady began to blush. Very red “oh, well!” Looking down towards the floor, wishing it would just open up and swallow her. The worst place you have had sex? Everyone waited, this now to win £500 She replied “Up my bum! It F***ing hurt” The place fell about. She got the £500.For the laughter it created, and her husband now embarrassed discomfort.

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Death and the breathing tent On a circus the tent is a very strange thing, and it represents many things to many people. To some it simply their workplace to some it’s their home. To others it sometimes seems a burden, to many performers, it is a place where they can simply go into to think, contemplate, almost like a church or cathedral! On one show we had a clown who had a number of spots of his own and would fill in. in between acts, so that the ring could be dressed (got ready for the next act) During one of these fill ins, he would get a cigarette paper. And folding the ends over into a shallow box shape would place it on his finger and by moving forward the paper would revolve like a propeller! He would run around the ring, finishing by sitting on top of the back of a chair, the paper still revolving. One particular day in the middle of a glorious summer, a strange atmosphere seemed to invade the usual cheery and jocular air of the show. At this show he went through all the motions, until sitting on the chair. The propeller spinning fervently, then beginning to slow, the atmosphere inside the tent seemed to be getting slightly colder, slower, and the light seemed to be fading, almost dusk like. Until the paper propeller stopped. Silence! There was no rustling of paper, not even bird song. Just total silence! I could see from my position in the ring doors that the clowns eyes were
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shutting, it was as if he was going to sleep, and the whole circus was joining him. Then the paper fell fluttering to the sawdust ring at his feet. Then his head slumped forward. The clown was dead! We ran in and carried him off, laying him in the outer ring doors, (where the artists would enter, and wait for their cue, before going into the ring) The wallings of the tent began to billow, yet there was no wind, as if the whole tent was breathing, in and out, maybe his last breaths. Even though another act had by now gone on and begun their performance (the show must go on) there was stillness and the whole tent seemed to glow, then as he let out his last gasps. The tent stopped, the music stopped, the lights went out and so to did this clowns soul. It was the soul of the circus, born into show business, a life that had lived all its life giving laughter to many, advice from a life of performing, now gone to a better place. To the big top in the sky where ALL the acts are top of the bill.

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Clown burial It came time for the burial. This man had numerous romantic liaisons throughout his life, and about twenty children some of whom, did not get on with the others because of family feuds. A truce was called whilst their father was buried. The simple logistics of the funeral was a nightmare, getting people from all over the globe together in one place at one particular time. Well the service went well, until the actual burial. As the coffin had been lowered down the grave, and the eldest son came forward to make his last respect, by placing the soil on the lid, he simply said, “That’s not my Dad” The undertaker, quite professionally said, “I know son, everyone says that, but.” He was cut short. “Look it’s not grief, that’s not my dad. My dads name was E*** that plaque says Fred Smith!” Now everyone crowded around the hole to check. What a hullabaloo! The coffin had to be removed, and taken around the back of the church whilst the lid was removed, so the body could be identified! It was not the right man! Who is it? None of these mourners new. So a hundred mile trip was now on back to the undertakers, to see if the body was there. It was not. So now the undertaker had to check the other funerals from that day. Eventually he was found and brought back to his proper place. In the mean time of course one brother had blamed the other for the cock up and a fight had now broken out. The other brother, to stop them had gone to his car and took out a bullwhip; the other brother went for his throwing knives. And the original fighter not to be out done went for his
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fire eating torches and fuel. Of course the respective girlfriends and wives had to join in on their partners behalf’s! And so when we returned it was a circus fight. Just a melee of bodies! The body was interred, and everyone went to the wake, in the circus ring. I’m sure that somewhere up on a cloud above sat a funny little angel, in clown make up, laughing at a predicament that only HE could have caused. Still making us laugh from beyond the grave.

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Coffin Illusion Jacqueline Ricardo In mid Wales a lovely lady visited the show after which she came to see me. “I liked your magic act” she said “I have an illusion back at the farm, if you want it, you can have it, here’s my number, give me a call if you want to come around for it.” “What is it?” I asked. “The coffin of Cagliostro” was the reply. I racked my brains and couldn’t think of a manufactured illusion of that name. I presumed it had been private built for some performer. She went to talk to the owner of the show about various things, before she went I was able to ask her when would be convenient. We made arrangements and off she went. I arrived at her farm the following week, and we proceeded to the barn, there was this beautiful coffin, rich blue satin lined it and approximately 40 swords where with it, the effect was simply. Someone was placed into this genuine coffin and the swords were thrust through the holes, and victim. Eventually these were removed and the victim returned unharmed. Looked very good, in fact too good to be for free. I asked if there was any history with it. The lady’s husband had bought it from someone, she did not know who. They had practiced it for a few weeks. Then whilst performing their act she had fallen from the cord a lisse, breaking her neck. Due to the engagements for the rest of the year a replacement had been found, and the coffin would have to be used…

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After a month of touring with the coffin and three vehicles having broken down her husband had a heart attack and died! She felt that it had bad memories so just wanted to get rid. I loaded the coffin and off we went. The first time we performed it, the generator packed in and the whole show was plunged in to darkness. The second time the girl inside the box started screaming. I opened the lid and three of the biggest rats you have ever seen ran out. The third time we performed this. The girl fell out of the box at the end of the trick, streaming with blood and missing her costume! It was decided that we would not use it again, so it was stored in the back of one of the wagons. It was then that the show started running into difficulties, the crowds were dwindling, the route that had been booked started to cancel, we started to not have enough money to pay the rent or the people working. The coffin became branded as a Jonah! We decided to get rid of it. So unceremoniously it was dumped over a wall in the middle of the night. Two days later it was back in the wagon! Two visiting magicians came to the show, so I gave them this unwanted, surplus to requirements prop. They were over the moon, as they had just landed a season on a cruise ship and wanted to use an illusion. A month into there season, the ship sank they escaped, and were rescued, clinging to the coffin, adrift in the ocean. They were landed into the USA, and taken to a fantastic hotel. One of the magicians wanted to get rid of this
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grisly relic, the other wanted to keep it. One week on he died with a massive coronary. The hotel that they were staying in stored the now famous life saving coffin and displayed it in the foyer to visitors. A week later the hotel was burned to the ground, however the fire crew were able to rescue the coffin; it appeared completely unharmed, not even smoke damaged! So if you are ever offered completely free gratis a coffin…. Please think before accepting it.

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Sitting in a lay-by eating plumbs and catching ducks After one disastrous summer season touring with a circus. The show hadn’t made any money; we the artists had not been paid. I found myself sharing a caravan with a fellow performer. Neither of us having enough for fuel we simply parked in a lay-by at the side of a main road. Various truckers would park along side of us and we would chat. They became aware of our situation and would leave us sandwiches and flasks of tea or coffee, picking them up on their way back or on their next visit. If it hadn’t have been for their generosity we would have starved. Early one morning we were sitting around our camp fire staring at the embers, when unexpectedly we heard a quack! I stared into my companions eyes and it was like a scene from a cartoon. I could see an image of this duck, skewered and roasting over the flames of our fire. FOOD! We instantly stood up and looked over the bushes into the adjoining field. Yes there was the duck in a pond of water, gently paddling. We set off through the hedges. The duck must have sensed this and headed to the opposite shore. We followed as we got closed the duck began to hurry, waddeling, faster and faster. The distance between us and our quarry was diminishing by the second. We had trailed our prospective meal through field bushes etc at a fast waddle, again in front of us was a pond. The duck swam to the centre, and seemed to be relaxed. My
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friend went to one side and I was heading straight in, we had surrounded it. We dove at the duck, and it seemed to take off straight up into the sky! It was like a rocket lifting off! UP it soared higher and higher, we sat and looked skyward as the demon duck levelled off its flight looking down at us sitting in the mud it began to circle, quacking in delight at our misfortune, as now not only were we hungry we were also cold fed up and dirty!! For days this damned duck seemed to haunt us as we sat by the roadside we could hear it mocking us with distant quacks. Now I relish the sight on a restraunte menu of duck Ala orange…. It may be the same DUCK!

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German Drivers On one particular show we had a tremendous act that was German, he was a great person, however his driving was atrocious, every time we moved from one town to another, he would always have some kind of accident. He blamed the terrible English roads and even worse the more terrible English drivers! It became a ritual that every time he hit something we would paint a small swastika on his drivers’ door with a caption of what he had hit. Dog, cat tree person bike etc. We went through one town which had a simple cross roads, all he had to do was drive through the lights, we don’t know how he managed it but he demolished the traffic lights at all four junctions! Arriving at a beautiful park the grass had been cut, it was like a billiard table, there was a tiny white wooden fence surrounding the park, it really was picturesque. All the vehicles lined up along the road waiting to enter. We went to Fritz’s truck to see what new dent or scrape he had got. We were amazed to find it was unmarked! He leapt from the vehicle shouting “You English no good... We Germans the best drivers in the world. I am the good, No dents, No scrapes. Perfecto!!!” We were truly amazed. The whistle blew, telling us to move on in, so one after another we climbed back into our vehicles to drive into this perfect park each individually one at a time pulling away from the kerb out into the street to swing through the gates drive to our spot then to unload and set up. Fritz jumped gleefully into his truck. Started the engine, pulled forward CRUNCH! There was a terrific noise he stopped
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instantly climbed out we all looked to see what the problem was. A tree branch had gone through the front of the Luton cab and was sticking through the top of his truck! Everyone else had missed it! I learned many German swear words, that day.

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Over the bridge since the war Working on a circus whether you have a valid license or not your are expected to help with the vehicles.. So as a young and defiantly NOT qualified driver I was taking an old ex army truck, complete with gun tower sticking out of the cab roof with two forty foot loads on the back of it through Italy. As we approached, somewhere towards the Alps. We had to turn off the main road and start heading towards a village. The road grew narrower and narrower until the trees and bushes where scrapping the sides of the units, Some locals were standing looking on in amazement and pointing. They shouted and waved as I steered this colossus through this country lane towards their village. Suddenly the bushes stopped. There was a ravine. With a small bridge spanning it. I looked from the gun tower to see this ravine was possible a couple of hundred feet deep! The bushes behind me had seemed to close up sealing any though of retreat. Even if I could have reversed a hundred foot load backwards through narrow winding lane. So onwards. The bridge was eight inches narrower than the truck! I had half of the wheels on the bridge. It began to creak and groan as the truck and this load started to go forward. I could hear shouting. On the other side of the bridge, people began to appear. As the truck moved inch by inch over the bridge, more people came to witness the sight of some lunatic driver trying to kill himself on their bridge. We were now on the bridge, truck, load and me. Creak, groan rumble, the bridge started to crumble. I just thought of the bricks falling a hundred feet or so, I wondered if the truck would make a big splash or if the
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bridge would make more of a noise falling down on top of me! Slowly forward it seemed that we were going slightly up hill! The people began to make way I could hear them cheer! We had done it. They told me that no vehicle had come into their village since before the Second World War! I wasn’t surprised really. Even the Nazis were not that stupid. Needless to say that venue did not need much in the way of publicity. Every man woman and child had seen us enter they welcomed us with open arms, their generosity and warmth was phenomenal.

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Dragged by horse over welsh national showground The horse was called beauty a grey welsh cob with the temperament of a demon, she would kick and bite at the slightest thing. For some reason only known to herself she seemed to like me and would come and nuzzle up to me and let me stroke her, so seeing that we had some kind of rapport I ended up with the job of looking after her. On most circuses, the animals are the last to be loaded and the first to be un-loaded. On this particular jump from town to town we were at the Welsh National showground, as the name implies a beautiful ground in the fantastic welsh countryside. It was like a green dish, flat and then across the main road the mountains rose gently at first until they reached their majestic heights in the distance. A fantastic backdrop to our show. Picturesque to say the very least. Beauty was a strong little horse so when she was tethered out we had to use a quite heavy duty chain and a ground stake (this is a two inch thick iron bar approximately three to four feet long.) It was time for us to load up the animals. I went out and loosened the stake, calling beauty to me she came along nicely as I began to gather in the chain, about forty feet of it, I held onto her bridle and started to walk her towards to awaiting truck. It was dark and very overcast and looked like a storm was brewing. But being in the mountains, you do kind of expect it to be a little like that. I could feel the first drops of rain I noticed that beauty’s nostrils where beginning to flare, her ears began to twitch, I tried to talk steady and calmly, reassuring her that everything was alright. She
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seemed to be stamping her feet as she walked. She began to shy away slightly. Then Bang a clap of thunder and she reared, whoosh off she went me running along side trying to slow her down and calm her, she just got faster and faster. I’m not exactly built for speed and even if I were I doubt if I could keep up with an ever increasing galloping horse. I thought to hell with this, and dropped the stake and chain; Crack the bloody stake hit me at the back of my knees, bringing me down, the chain wrapping itself around my legs. Knocking me flat on my back and knocking the wind out of me. Off we went her galloping along, me cursing and swearing as I was dragged along, over the grass, along the town streets through a field, bush and onwards towards the mountains. She went faster I struggled trying to free myself from the chain, whilst being scratched with bracken, twigs, sheep shit, water, as we went through streams etc. Off we went up the mountainside. Eventually I managed to free myself, to be able to see beauty gleefully galloping along higher into the mountains. For me I had to scramble down the way we had come up. An hour later I returned to the start point of all this, to find my colleagues in gales of laughter. After sorting out the other animals, we returned to try to collect beauty. We had to hire six farmers with quads to track her and then try to corral her, it took nearly a month, but eventually she was back with us, and me, her rather bruised, disgruntled family.
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Lil and Pete Pete was a giant of a man, and the only person I have ever seen who could swear incessantly making a sentence of profanity that was completely understandable. Very hardworking and could turn his hand to anything. A constant smoker, with a beard and a bald head. I was the only person ever to get away with saying to him it looked as if his head had been put on upside down. He had made his money making motorways in Britain. A hard job but he was certainly a hard enough man to do it. Lil was a lovely ‘Brummy’ lady who loved and looked after her man and family. Both had been married several times before, and had children by their respective spouses, so when it was a family time, Christmas or funerals, it was like a meeting of the United Nations. However they had Henry Kissinger, to pacify and sort out problems. This family’s feud was lefty to me. To get free drinks in the pub Pete would challenge everyone to knock a tent stake into the ground faster than he could. He would do two at a time, using two sledge hammers, one in each hand, usually swing twice, the stake would be into the ground at least two to three feet, on tarmac he would need three swings, to achieve the same result. A truly Herculean feat.

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Banned for 500 year old bar Pete’s brother in law was a man called Griff. Much smaller than Pete but more cunning than a fox! Every bar bet or con, this man had worked or known at one time or another. We became drinking buddies and every bar across Britain and Wales we drank in. His two favourite tricks to get a drink for free were the egg trick and the matchbox. Egg Trick: He would ask to borrow a schooner glass or sherry glass and a fresh egg. The egg was placed round side uppermost in the glass (this wasn’t made obvious but was crucial for the trick to work) Then a punter was asked to turn the egg over, without touching either the egg or the glass. Also you couldn’t ask someone else to do it for you. Most would try with beer mats or a straw, but of course that’s touching it. Everyone would eventually give up and after buying him a drink, the explanation was given. Simply by blowing (very hard) over the top of the egg, downwards towards the glass, the egg would spin over, somersaulting into the glass Voila!! Matchbox Trick: A new box of matches is placed on the bar or table and this time the challenge is to make it move by itself! The draw of the box would be opened to show that it was indeed full of matches, nothing added or taken away. Everything replaced (the matchbox is put down with the draw facing downwards and slightly open) WHAM! Hit the box hard and sharp. The matches inside ignite, the

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smoke from them billows from the slight aperture and sends the box scooting along, under its own propulsion! This is truly an amazing feat to see. Whilst in a beautiful bar Griff performed this stunt. As the matchbox scudded along at a great rate of knots, there was silence, not the usual wows. As the smoke cleared we could see a long dark line of burned wood along the bar, some 5 -8feet long. “My Bar” exclaimed the owner; it had burned into his 500 year old bar, the pride of the establishment, which Cromwell had drunk on. “You’re Barred” I can still ear those words echoing through time. Regardless to say we didn’t get to drink in there again.

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Big dick and the camel As you will appreciate with any circus, the animals always come first, there well being is what keeps the show afloat, obviously the cost of purchase vets fees feeding etc. Because of Lils love of animals, we had an eclectic menagerie of animals. Including a shire horse, that was too old to work, a beautiful creature called Dick, Big Dick. Lil was prone to riding him into town for her shopping, or after the show simply taking him down to the pub where both he the horse and she would have a few glasses. Then she could drape herself over him, knowing he would return her safely to her caravan. At one very picturesque village, in the early hours of the morning. We put the horses and other assorted creatures out in the field opposite a beautiful old village inn. We managed to get a couple of hours sleep before the hard work of erecting the tent began. As the early morning mist had cleared, and the beautiful summer sun had begun to rise, as only it can in England. The clatter of metal poles people shouting and sweating, slowly ceased as a man began to stand from below a camel, his eyes red from the beer of the night before, never leaving the gaze into the camels eyes. Slowly he stood as this beautiful Bactrian towered above him, gently munching a mouth full of grass. He stood in awe simply looking into the face of something he must have had no comprehension of what so ever. The camel belched a terrible noise and even worse smell! “ F*** Me !” he exclaimed spinning and running at the same time to go head long into the back end of the shire horse which could only be like running head long into a brick wall. He again stood up saying “That’s it! I’m not touching another drop”
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Strangely enough we didn’t see him in the pub whilst we were there. A couple of nights later, Lil had gone to the pub with dick, who in the course of the night had simply walked back across the road to the circus. It was closing time and Lil exited the pub, the horse had gone! “Where’s Dick?” “I want big Dick!” There were several blokes who offered!

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Cal Calini I met Cal Calini in Blackpool; he was working in a large amusement arcade, the Coral Island performing escapes and magic. He was a great guy to talk to, a true pro with lots of tales and gossip. We got on well. I watched his acts on numerous occasions. Working in the amusement arcade was terrible work the noise from the machines, people passing through wanting to play, not stop and watch and be entertained. Mainly the audience consisted of young teens; boys wanting to impress their new found girlfriends by being know it alls. Cal used this to his advantage; He had a large boa constrictor snake, scorpions and tarantulas! At various stages these would be introduced throughout the day bringing out screams from the shock value, this also would entice the audience. Cal would use the snake, in his sack escape, supposedly to escape from the tied sack, before the deadly reptile could crush his bones. He also had a large glass coffin which he would lie, sometimes handcuffed or tied, the scorpions would be placed on his eyes and he usually ended up with the tarantula in his mouth! Not for the squeamish. People believe that a tarantula’s bite is deadly. Not so, the poison in its venom attacks the retina of the human eye, and causes it to become detached. At this time there was no known cure or surgical procedure to rectify this. Over the years Cal had indeed been bitten a few times. Indeed the spiders spit had begun to work. Whilst in Ireland working on Duffy Brothers Circus, Cal had become ill. I got the call from Ireland by the circus proprietor “What can you do with spiders?” he asked
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“Hit them over the head with a spade” was my reply. They were desperate for someone to replace the act as the posters had been produced depicting this particular dice with death. Daily I was phoned, every time, they increased the price they would pay until it got to £1,000 a week just for the coffin stunt. My dear friend Cal had been on wages of just £75 for performing this for them and the usual work of grafting, putting up the tent tickets, billing etc.

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Midget drivers There is a big difference between a dwarf and a midget. A fantastic performer we had on the show was Paul his head and chest where perfectly normal; he just had short legs and arms. He drove a long wheel base twin wheel ford transit which usually towed his lovely 30 foot trailer. On one occasion, he was following me to our next site, when he got stopped by the Police. This was at traffic lights. I had driven through and parked at the other side, waiting for him. The Police officer was at the drivers’ side window, staring at Paul, “Get out of your vehicle, Sir, Id like to show you a problem” With that the Police officer walked around the front of the van, onto the pavement. Paul dutifully undid his seat belt, opened the door and walked around. Standing on the kerb, he was level with the Policeman’s waist. The officer looked around couldn’t see anyone. Getting annoyed shouted “I’m waiting!” “I’m here” Paul replied looking around he still couldn’t see him then like a scene from the show, he tugged at the officers’ jacket, looking down he saw this small man. The look of shock on his face. “Have YOU been driving this?” he questioned, in sheer astonishment. “Well it’s automatic, but I do have to be here...” was the witty reply. “ Now officer what can I do for you?” Totally flabbergasted the policeman simply pushed his hat backwards and said “err well, you’ve got a back light out” “OK I’ll fix it as soon as we get to the next show” with that he climbed back into his vehicle, the Policeman still

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standing on the kerb, trying to mentally come to grips as to how a man so small could drive a thing so big. I guess you could say size doesn’t matter.

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I drove Patten in the war Our ‘helicopter’ Punch and Judy man( from earlier) had numerous stories to tell, including a fascinating story about how when he joined the British army they gave him the job of driving General Patton around in the war, to visit his troops. He also ended the war by being flown over Germany and parachuted behind enemy lines, with thousands of dollars to give to the troops that where captured to enable them to facilitate their escape! However he was indeed captured by the Japanese troops and tortured. After the escapade with the P&J booth he decided to buy a church. He began by renovating the building, whilst living in a caravan besides the place. After about eighteen months it was a good job, and was restored to its former glory. Then he began to advertise for a congregation. On the opening a full house was in attendance. He drove the ill fated mobility car down the centre isle, hymns playing and congregation in full voice. Approaching the alter he stopped, turned the vehicle as the music stopped so to did he, climbing out and standing erect to the audience he shouted. “Behold!” “A miracle. I can walk!” “Well! Clap you f***ing heathens. CLAP!”

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Fred’s Tale A true account, given to me by an old friend. Standing outside the Tivoli bar having a cigarette. Fred saw a similar aged gentleman quietly finishing off his drink. “Are you on holiday?” he enquired “Yes we got a caravan, its only £80 for the week!” was the reply “Is that a Manchester accent?” Fred asked “Well Bury?” “It is! I was stationed at bury barracks for twenty years Are you from there? ” Was the astonished reply from the visitor. “No, but my brother was stationed there.” Responded Fred “When did he get out?” continued the visitor “He didn’t,” was the sad reply “He died in Germany, when his tank exploded.” The visitor was visibly shaken, and began to turn an ashen white. “I’ve never met you before have I?” he now asked, a strange tone in his voice. “No, Why?” Fred replied. “Is your brothers name Allitt?” he asked “Yes, how did you know that?” Fred asked, feeling really puzzled. “Well son I was his sergeant, he died in my arms in that tank!” was the incredible reply. The conversation now continued. After more than forty years, trying to find out about his brother, and the circumstances of his untimely demise.
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Here was a man that had travelled from one side of the country to the opposite, found a pub, for a quiet drink and had randomly met upon a stranger, who had been so close to the answers for all these years. The next couple of days were spent exchanging photos and details, even the old commanding officer got in touch to present the medal, etc that the brother had won posthumously.

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A Christmas Tale: Bill and Shell had been married for nearly 40 years, it was just another Christmas. Because of rising costs and a dwindling pension Shell had started working as a bank nurse, filling in a couple of times a week when other nurses were off sick, on holiday etc, it helped to pay the bills. Unfortunately it was usually at times when no one else wanted to work, weekends and holiday times. It was Christmas Eve. The shift started at 9pm so at eight Bill woke shell she had a cup of tea and some toast they got in the car and he drove her to the hospital, the roads were quiet that night, although it was early yet, the party goers were not out yet. They kissed and Bill again told her good night and “I love you” and he did nearly forty years on she still was the girl of his dreams. “I’ll be here for you at seven” He watched her as she went through the doors, she stopped turned waved and blew him a kiss. Off he went to go home. 7am Shell left the building Christmas Morn. It was cold and a heavy frost covered the floor, it might be slippy, but as yet the snow hadn’t fallen. There was Bill in the exact spot he said he’d be. Regular and totally reliable was Bill. As she approached the car he leant over the seat, opening the door from inside. She stepped in and could feel the warmth of the car heater. She gave him a kiss. And off they went towards home. Crossing the roundabout they headed down the road, in the distance they could see a recovery truck, Shell said “Oh look there’s been an accident!” As they drove past she could see the wreckage of a car being loaded onto a tow truck,
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it had collided with a street lamp. “It’s the same as our car” she remarked. Bill just smiled and carried on. They got home. Bill went to the kitchen, he knew the drill by now, and made Shell a cup of tea, Shell went straight for the shower. After she had dried herself off she came into the living room and quietly began to sip her tea, The presents laid under the tree, she would have a couple of hours sleep and then they would open the Christmas gifts. Bill must have gone back to bed. She sat quietly for a few minutes, and then there was a knock at the door. She opened the door. Two uniformed Police men stood there. “Can we come in?” The younger officer asked. “Yes of course” “What can I do for you” Shell asked “We have some bad news, I’m sorry, but your husband was involved in a road accident this morning” he continued” I’m afraid that he died” “I don’t think so” she said, Walking to the bedroom “Bill! Come here a minute will you” There was no reply. She walked in no one was there. “I’m sorry madam” the officer continued, “but if you feel OK can we take you to identify your husband’s body” As she was hearing the words she looked over his shoulder, towards the drive. There was no car there! Had she dozed off? Looking at the clock not five minutes had elapsed, her tea was still warm, and how could this be? The car she had seen on the way from work had indeed been theirs. That morning on his way to pick up his lovely wife he had a massive heart attack and lost control of the vehicle.
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Regular and totally reliable was Bill. If he promised, he would deliver. RIP a good man.

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So that for now dear reader is the end. I hope that some of these shared tales of extraordinary people in extraordinary times, has helped you to forget about your daily woes, for a while, and brought a glimmer of nostalgic sunshine. Until we meet again. May you have luck and meet some even more fascinating people, with whom you too can share some time.

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