Autobiography of Beer Drinking & Life in a Suitcase



Spiffing BeerNB !! ... john p ... beer drinker, student, saxophone player ... general whippersnapper and twerp ... worn out but still learning ...

We only kept these somewhat desultory 'notes' on our interweb so we didn't lose them ... they were just a few bits of prosaic prose for fun & forgetfulness ... so ... just remember they were never not meant to be actually read by anyone ... and any resemblance to relevance may be coincidental ... just a jumble of our own unanswered questions?

Opening Gambit!    Wot Ales Us?

I need new words, the leaping kind

which ought to make a difference

and bring transition from old to new,

making what is unclear clear,

what is compromised impeccable,

what is half felt whole hearted

and what is shameful peaceful,

so those who hope and trust

are not disappointed or disgraced. 

                                                           Our long time school friend Jim Dening, poet, 2003.

NerdTo help us to find our way around this clutter of muddle, mess & confusion we concocted 33 untidy bullet points ... which desperately awaited the attention our editors ...   

 Grandkids Stories  Managing Overseas Complexity
 The Convivial Pint  The Meister & The Goshawk
 Beer Drinking  Warrington Factory
 Cricket @ The Prince Rupert Hotel  Global Technology Transfer
 Distractions & Diversions  
 The Gutters of Sauchiehall Street  Retirement
 Crossbatters Cricket  Thursday Nites @ The Goshawk
 Chester Beer & Jazz  The Old Soaps & Tavern Talks
 Chester Boughton Hall Cricket Club  Knee Jerk Hystericals
 Chester Hockey Club  Swinging the Blues
 Issues for Adults @ The Golden Lion  The Paul Cup
   The Boot Kelsall
 Life in a Suitcase  1pm @ The Goshawk CH3 8AJ
 Port Sunlight Preliminaries  A Village Rally 
 Unilever Overseas Circuit  Blame Games & Personal Responsibility
 Underneath the Soap Pans in Apapa  Beer Saved the World
 Mpingwe Hill Limbe  Job Done
 London Interludes  
... here we go ...




Unfinished Business   

CurmudgeonThese notes started (we don't suppose they will ever be finished!) as a rough draft of some of our very own gleanings & reflections assembled intermittently, and often embarrassingly, late on, after we had reached our biblical ration. Just casual yarns & anecdotes from our personal ruminations & introspections ... our very own worms in our head ... excited by beer & friends and peppered with fearless & triumphant Darwinian insights. Such musings contained many misinterpretations, inaccuracies, errors & omissions ... it was the omissions that worried us most as they were regrettable discourtesies to family & friends ... and all accomplices, advisers, aides, allies, buddies, chums, coaches, cohorts, colleagues, companions, confidants, counselors, cronies, guides, mentors, pals, partners, sidekicks, teachers, tutors ... wot ever they were all trusted helpers who smiled ... and infected our head with nous & humour.

This was no grand odyssey of proper style and we knew the words didn't make much sense ... they certainly wouldn't have been understood when we were your age but we wrote them down so we didn't have to waste time rethinking them ... and time was short now we were 70 and more. We didn't write for others to read, our personal musings were of no interest to others, we wrote for a bit of fun. We discovered that there was a rhythm to writing ... as for saxophone playing ... so we tried both but no one said it was easy. Of course most memories could never be written down 'cos they had already been forgotten ... if you follow our drift ... but other bits were joyously revealed once again when other mindful folk helpfully prodded the dusty depths ... then, for sure, at the end of the day, there were just a few yarns, just for fun. We remembered that we were dyslectic and separating fact from fiction always took far too long to figure out ... some said our memories were hallucinations ... and yes ... they were probably right. The more we delved the more we questioned whether our memory was a myth? ... and as for facts ... 'Gordon Bennett!' ... who on earth knew? Don't even think about that!

There was a funny happening that happened ... when joints started to creak and minds misted over, we noticed that as old urges waned, new ones emerged ... an urge to tell tales lest we forgot. But almost inevitably it was too late ... happenings had moved on and day by day there were fewer & fewer folk around to ask about our very own particular memories and 'know how' ... no matter perhaps some things, like beer drinking, were best forgotten? ... but somehow we felt compelled to tell a yarn or two for our great grandchildren's children ... just in case they ever ask, 'who was Great Great Grandpa?'

They now had a clue ... Great Great Grandpa was a beer drinker and saxophone player !

Our view of life through the bottom of a beer glass was hardly ever distorted by disappointments ... our glass was half full never half empty. 

... we had a different data set, we were Anglo Saxons with a rich culture of irreverence, rustic revelry, music, song & dance, beer & tea drinking ... and story telling.  

:drink    back to first round    


Grandkids Stories

Grand KidsWe knew a lot of stories ... some of them were even fun.

We knew a bit about - the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics ... Beer Drinking & Searches for Convivial Pints ... Voting with Your Feet & Clubs of Your Choice ... Cricket & Opening Doors ... The Prince Rupert Hotel & Friends ... Distractions & Diversions ... Sauchiehall Street Gutters & Gilmore Hill Ghosts ... Crossbatters Cricket & BHCC ... Newton Lane Hockey Heroics & Mud ... Chester Jazz & Clemences Magic ... Golden Lions & Hatcheries ... Underneath the Soap Pans in Apapa & Opportunities ... Aba Here & Apapa There ... Smiling Malawi & Climbing out of Poverty ... Unilever Overseas & Fiefdoms ... R&D & Snake Oil ... Hindustan Lever & Specialised Scale ... Warrington Manufactory & Investment Excellence ... Retirement & Goshawks ... Open University & Lifetime Learning ... Books & Torts, Trade & Technology ... Bishops, Princes, Generals & Bureaucrats ... Saxophones & Hard Work ... Girls, Family & Honesty ... Rainy Day Funds & Theft ...

but, like everyone else, we were short on certainty ...

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be. We were young once, but we weren't very good at it, we seemed to forget how to read & write and often went backwards rather than forwards and only remembered fragments of irrelevances about the early times like Farex (& Farley's Rusks & Treacle on Toast), Orange Gas Masks (& Air Raid Sirens & GIs with 'chuddy'), Camphorated Oil (& Vicks Vapo Rub & TCP), Ministry of Food concentrated Orange Juice (& Cod Liver Oil & condensed milk), Ration Books (& Mrs Pownall's Pear Drops & Keegans Shop on Castle), Biro Minors (& pencil boxes & school caps), Tizer (& Vimto & Dandilion 'n' Burdock), New Looks (& perms & Nylons with seams), Dick Barton (& Snowy & Jock), Rudge Bikes (& Black Flash & Red Flash), Picture Post @3d (& Black & White Newspapers & Beanos & Dandys), Biggles (& Algy & Ginger), Trafficators (& starting handles & running boards), Spangles (& spearmint chews & aniseed balls), Brylcream (& Dennis Compton & slicked hair), R C Robertson-Glasgow (& Raymond Glendenning & Rex Alston) ... and then Jiving (& drainpipes & windjammers) ... and, of course, lots of play things like Playfair Cricket Annuals (& Harrow bats & Chingford corkies) ... and wot about 'Mrs Dale's Diary' on steam radio and the music shows, 'Music While You Work' ... and for some unfathomable reason we remembered the Bristol Brabazon ... and Reg Harris & Al Read ... work that one out.

... and our 'Nanny' used to talk funny but we always understood what she meant ...

'ow'do', 'al'reet', 'looking yonder', 'moving bowels', 'siding tables', 'don't mither', 'medicinal Burgundy', 'well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs', 'meddlers & lame ducks', 'you'll come a cropper', 'a dime a dozen', 'a pig in a poke', 'fiddlesticks', 'I can't be doing with it' & 'Claps pears'

... and from the get go without doubt we remembered the exciting good times & fun and forgot all the harrowing doom & gloom.

Burnside ProductionWe started off at Burnside, Little Leigh, in the heart of rural Cheshire, a new house built in 1934 with money from the ICI Bank, special for the productive marriage of George & Eda ... production started with Gill in 1936 ... everything, but everything orchestrated by Ancient Eda (1907-2011) who ensured all the family enjoyed the ordinariness of wanting for nothing ... but it was from George Birchall (1907-85) that we learned special things about -

the magic of property - meagre pocket money had to be 'saved for a rainy day' & expensive cricket bats lovingly 'oiled' with special sweet smelling linseed & meticulously 'knocked in' with seamless 'corkies' for hours & hours  

productivity agreements in manufactories - these deals were all about productive cooperation ... 'co-operative synergies of specialisation & scale' ... there was never a mention of the 'zero sum of compromise', nor the them & us conflicts which everybody else seemed to talk about as they missed the whole point of synergies   

cricket at the club - 'opened doors' which were closed to nerdy peers who succumbed to obesity, sloth, stress & insomnia

beer at the pub - was another name for 'fun' & 'friends'  

... and above all George helped with the family & domestics, not command & control but rather he was an intimate part of it, 'pitching in' & 'doling out' which even included some culinary delights like overnight porridge with added salt, golden syrup & cream off the top of the milk, Bramley apple pies, soggy cheese & tomato sarnies and suet apple dumplings dripping with coagulating fatty sweetness (an extravagance which powered our ball games & gave Eda a rest and time to do all the darning, smocking, possing & mangling).

Sure we remembered umpteen happenings and most were fun, so why did we always yearn for something better for our own kids? We felt that nobody should live in the past ... a place full of strange, mysterious occurrences ... so many words for strange -

aberrant, abnormal, amazing, astounding, astonishing, atypical, awful, awe-inspiring, bizarre, creepy, curious, different, dreadful, eccentric, eerie, erratic, exceptional, extraordinary, fantastic, far-out, fearful, freaky, funky, funny, ghastly, ghostly, grotesque, haunting, horrific, idiosyncratic, ignorant, inexperienced, inscrutable, irregular, kinky, magical, marvelous, mysterious, mystifying, new, newfangled, odd, oddball, off, offbeat, ominous, out-of-the-way, outlandish, peculiar, perplexing, quaint, queer, rare, remarkable, secret, singular, spooky, supernatural, unaccountable, unaccustomed, uncanny, uncommon, unearthly, unheard of, unnatural, unseasoned, unusual, weird, wonderful ... 

In the past ... our mum used to darn socks ... love in every stitch ... and our first house was a cosy home but it didn't even have a telephone, never mind a telly ... and iPads were not even a dream ... how did that happen?

Tuning the BrainWe knew the past was of no interest to grandchildren, they were too busy tuning their brains during an unstoppable mission of their very own ... an exciting trajectory into the future ... but this trajectory was all about 'proper rocket science' ... a constantly updated journey through a garden of forking paths as 'know how' accumulated through learning. This was not some lucky genetic predetermined path but rather the continuous adjustments of improvement just like the space rockets.

It was 'know how' & learning that inspired our brains and adjusted our motors and our maps ...  

Of course, inevitably, grandkids never ever, asked about the ancient times and never ever even grudgingly, admitted -

'there were no flies on Grandpa ... Grandpa lived in the past'

The big trouble was that it was in the past where Grandpa had spent most of his time ... working hard, hoping for fun, playing cricket & saxophones, drinking beer with friends and trying to put a crumb on the table for the family who always surprised us with their voracious appetites for cash.

There was no doubt Grandpa always took his fun seriously, you gotta work hard at fun, no one said it was easy, like cricket & science it always took some time before it was fun, some called it 'investment' or 'saving for a rainy day', others said it took 10,000 hours to get anyplace ... 'crunching' and instant gratification was easy but fleeting, 'savoring' was much more like lasting fun, it was never a treadmill of boredom ... you had to learn how to have fun and some said learning lasted a lifetime ... 

listen_laugh_learnThis learning rigmarole was worth a ponder?

Just like all parental & grandparental entreaties, the ominous threats of -

'learn or else'

'blood on the moon'

... never worked with grandchildren ... or anyone else for that matter ... however ... telling stories was fun.

Concocting yarns had long been a neglected therapy for old curmudgeons, and other deprived folk like us, who loved the ancient palliatives of warm beer with a lively head, proper cricket on the green, old jazz on scratchy records, steam radio with fade & hiss, landlines with operators & dialing tones and savings accounts which earned real interest.

It didn't take a genius to realise that fables had always been cultural necessities to help with the overwhelming priority for all of us -

'tuning the brains of the youngsters'

 ... it was as if brains thought stories because stories captured imaginations and stories were remembered ... stories had staying power ... stories were more than utterances ... stories had meanings ... listen to words, smile at meanings but learn from outcomes ... listen, laugh & learn.

We all learn from outcomes by remembering ... and glibly we remember only 10% of what we read but we remember 20% of what we hear? ... and it gets better ... we remember 70% of what sparks & inspires our interest & interaction ... but then to teach & communicate effectively to others we must understand 90% of our passion ... and know it inside out & upside down & every which way.

Entangled Bank We reckoned Charlie Darwin told the greatest story of all, we were impressed big time, and so were many others, even some of the Bishops agreed it was best to search for nuggets of gold beneath our feet rather than above our head. After all Darwin's 'entangled bank' included in all of us folk ... we were an integral, intimate, interconnected part of this whole entanglement ... descendants of the great ape in the tree and builders of the Boeing 747 in the sky.

The question for the youngsters was -

Who was in charge of the design of this wonderful whole shebang & caboodle brimming with complexity, change, conflict & scarcity?

For sure it was almost nowt to do with Grandpa although he did try to make a contribution. Grandpa had just been donated a random sample from the Homo Sapiens gene pool, and a modicum of existing know how and was just passing through ... soon to make some space for the grandkids!

And there was more ... we soon discovered that re-telling yarns was positively therapeutic for us wrinkles ... a sort of cathartic outpouring of emotional rants which emptied the mind of the stuff which was instantly available but only possibly worth remembering ... but who was to judge?

As emotions flip flopped between fear & excitement it seemed we 'thought through' narratives as we tried to make some sense of the complexity, change, conflict & scarcity which were all over the place ... and undeniable ... it seemed to us that stories were good survival aides? But thinking through was terrible hard for plodding scribes and the recursive minds of us mortals had great difficulty cottoning on to more than a few iterations ... ask Carole with an 'e' what she knows -

'she knows for one that I know myself that she knows that I know that she knows that this is true'

In this way getting inside the minds of other folk was persistently mesmerising ... getting to know folk was real confusing ... but we had a go and lo & behold, we eventually discovered that the power of empathy was both frightening & exciting but always rewarding ... work that one out? 

Empathy was something special.

Edward PassportOne of our very own and our most exciting story was about Great Grandfather Edward. Edward Hindley's escapades touched all the dramatic economic happenings in Cheshire which led to, and were consequences of, the great Agricultural & Industrial Revolutions. His story was all about discovering & accumulating business nous and the synergies of specialisation & scale ... mass production in manufactories. Such nous was something special which intrigued many folk and particularly puzzled evolutionary economists? 

We told bits of the story to Josh who immediately claimed Edward as his Great Great Great Grandfather, but Daniel wasn't convinced and asked for proof? But the past was not easy to uncover and we had to search into the ever deepening depths of 'Google' and even new fangled 'DNA analysis' ... but we couldn't find a search string which revealed the secret of Edward's empathy & nous. However we knew, for sure, Edward was smart and earned a shilling or two for his kids ... because we were still spending it! We discovered his special 'know how' involved the refining of rotting Cheshire Cows ... he transmogrified bits & pieces of dead cow into useful things and built, from scratch and with his mates, The Weaver Refining Company at Acton Bridge. Edward's dad was a shoemaker, no run of the mill tradesman but rather a brilliant Cordwainer ... but ordinary ... and Edward's ordinariness told us of amazing possibilities ... nothing, but nothing, from the dead cow was ever wasted ... except the eyelashes ... what to do with the eyelashes? And then there were other creatures ... 'Smokey' & 'Streaky' were wholesome hogs, who not only brought home the bacon & black puddings but also, with Edward's help thru hard work, honesty & thrift, they managed to find value in almost everything they made and grew ... everything, except their squeals, was useful?

To help find your way around all this malarkey ... which in Edward's case was beer free as he was strictly teetotal ... here's a summary guide to get you into the deep story of Birchall DNA

We know you won't find the time to read, but remember the ancients nailed the value of stories, which were always all the better for being written down -

'We hear and often forget, we see and sometimes remember but we read & write and hope to understand' ...

and Xenophanes was no slouch either -

‘The Gods did not reveal, from the beginning, all things to us, but in the course of time through seeking we may learn & know things better. But as for certain truth no man knows it, nor shall he know it, neither of the Gods nor yet of all things that I speak. For even if by chance he were to utter The Final Truth, he would himself not know it: for all is but a woven web of guesses.’ 

DNAhmmm ... 'through seeking we may learn & know things better' ... today we know about the explanatory pervasiveness of Darwin's natural selection ... and we guessed that idea had staying power ... the process which constructed everything we see, and many things we can't see, including little brains ... and learning ... and there was more ... little brains got bigger and turned out to be extravagantly creative ... it was all a very simple process of copy/vary/select which involved trials & the elimination of errors. In this way more & more 'know how' was discovered & accumulated ... 'know how'? ... but where to look?

It was Georgia May our one & only ... but guaranteed the best ... who wondered why?

Georgia May reveled in obtuse questions and conundrums ... very early on, she quizzed a gob smacked Grandpa -

     'where does the flame of the candle go,

when you blow it out, I want to know'?

Georgia May was on the right track.

Darwin himself had claimed  -

     'I got there by wondering why?'

CuriosityCuriosity uncovered 'know how', and 'know how' was the treasure which seemed to underpin everything that was useful ... and this was proved regularly by some of our mates who 'knew how' to turn ordinary beer into convivial pints? 'Hecky Nora', how on earth did they do that? It seemed 'instructions' for the production of convivial pints was an oxymoron ... we were toying with a big challenge here ... we were factory buffs like Edward Hindley, we knew about production, but how could anyone invest in the production of convivial pints? ... we thought about it? But thinking was hard work and we soon hit overload, there always seemed to be more to do and less time to do it ... unlike the grandkids the future was more of a problem for us Wrinklies ... we were under time pressure. As great gran Alice used to say,

 'old age? ... there's no future in it' 

So how could we help the great great grandkids to learn about the production & consumption of convivial pints and other glories?

Perhaps all they had to do was to be 'enthusiastic, courteous and happy' ... just like Jake's first report from The Grange School? We thought it was all about hard work, honesty & thrift ... may be they were just different words for the same thing ... funny that? 

So we urged Georgia May to continue to always be curious ... always ask questions ... question everything! ... Why?

Yarns Ancient & Modern

Ask questions !We mulled it all over & pondered about learning ... and stories. We were excited by learning from empirical science and our own personal experience, but our own nous was a meagre snippet of survival know how from the 20th century ... that was easy bit. But we realised the big learn came from vicarious experience ... such was learning from the minds & imaginations of other folk, mostly long dead. First we had to get inside the minds of different others and then have our own strategy for sorting out the wheat from the chaff ... con men were around ... empathy & trust were difficult ... what was fake noos? ... what was a myth, magic & mirrors? ... what was truth & reality? Early on Xenophanes warned of difficulties -

'if by chance he were to utter The Final Truth, he would himself not know it: for all is but a woven web of guesses'.

This was heady stuff.

Some of the really ancient yarns were real difficult to understand, some were not only older than grandpa but even older than Charlie Darwin & great great great grandpa Edward. But some of the old stories had staying power otherwise they wouldn't be remembered ... would they?

We re-remembered one of the old yarns on Friday 20 September 2019 when young Daniel, barely into double figures, was asked to go on 'strike' with his mates and join the protest against climate change outside the Town Hall? Wot fun? Was this intriguing suggestion all about enjoying a car ride to Chester and having some fun with your mates ... or was it about skiving off from the incomprehensible 'Mendeleev Periodic Table' and abandoning boring rote learning at school for a day so he could learn what went on in Council Chambers ... and perhaps enjoy a luscious Magnum ice cream while in town?

Long ago we had learned about photosynthesis and urged 'plant a tree in '73' and planted with gusto ... but wot did we know about climate change? We were only saxophone players. Hmmm ... ?

On the very same day as young Daniel's strike, Friday 20 September 2019, there was a more potent message as The Financial Times delivered some dire news from 2050 via a brilliant video ... but wot would the young grandkids make of all this horrific terror?

Was there a better, perhaps a more engaging story worth telling to the youngsters instead ... perhaps about fantastical opportunities? ... 'cos it you didn't laugh you'd cry ... and crying just didn't help ... did it?

Four HorsemenFour Horsemen of the Apocalypse

John of Patmos, a long long time ago, told a horrendous tale about Four Horsemen, Seven Seals and Armageddon ... about evangelical fibril fervour ... conquest & pestilence, famine & disease, war & violence, death, wrath, catastrophe ... and ruinous happenings (festering, putrid, bloody, scorched, dark & parched).

Were we scared? ... or were we motivated?

'Project Fear', 'the wrath of Gods' & 'scaring folk to death' were abject social abominations, just like like craven curses and poisonous polarising plagues. Fear triggered only evil emotions which smothered both respect & resolution ... fear was a fast track to bloody violence?

Much better to chat & mull over all the seemingly hopeless happenings during a scrumptious family meal with mum & dad ... and surely with friends and a convivial beer? No doubt all future happenings were complex, changing, conflicting & scarce, the laws of nature saw to that and blaming others for bad behaviour was a cul-de-sac? Much better to be contented than apocalyptic ... your choice?  

Ponder about personal responsibility for good behaviour ... wot about the exciting fantastical opportunities for the hard work, honesty & thrift of empirical science? ... was it sensible to ‘pass the buck’ to others who arrogantly claimed some alternative, privileged access to 'know how' about the future? ... and then, lo, a double whammy ... not only passing the buck to others but also folk began to vilify others, the 'authorities', the 'powers that be', for their inevitable fiascos & failures? 'Project Fear' & 'Blame Games' inexorably led to hatreds, which would never inspire the youngsters to get up & at it ... such sloth couldn't even break out of a paper bag ... and 'hoping & praying' didn't seem to be the sharpest chisels in the pack either ... perhaps hard work was needed.

In the old days our Gran’s friends devoutly prayed - they honestly believed there was ‘a God behind every tree’ who performed miracles ... 
... but there was never any evidence ... it was just a good yarn? 

Then our Mum’s friends naively hoped for the best - they honestly believed Bishops, Princes, Generals & Bureaucrats possessed some privileged access 'know how' and could ‘do something about it’ ... but such leaders, just like Xenophanes suggested, were confronted by a 'woven web of guesses' and a dearth of know how ...
... there was never any evidence ... it was just a good yarn? 

Some of our younger friends actively protested - they honestly believed a protest vote for the ‘Greens’ was a ‘good idea’ and everyone agreed good ideas were worth a try? ... but others always had different good ideas and ‘tied our shoelaces together’ so they themselves could go for broke?  
... there was never any evidence ... it was just a good yarn?  

Eventually some of our very own friends proclaimed they were 'designers' - they honestly believed that Darwin's 'differential survival of random variants' could never ever possibly explain the Boeing 747 ... 'something else' must be going on ...
... but there was never any evidence ... it was just a good yarn?

So ... in 1859 it was Charlie Darwin (& in 1975 it was Richard Dawkins) who explained how the watchmaker (& the Boeing 747 maker) turned out to be blind, there was no evidence that 'something else' was going on ... Darwin played the only game in town?

But wot an awe inspiring game!

So don’t despair, everyone was different but everyone could always learn. And that’s wot grandchildren were very good at!

Grandkids everywhere had read The Hitch Hikers Guide and knew for sure, that the answer was 42 ... until they asked why?! 

Science ExperimentsPerhaps the only good way to learn was with the help of friends through science - observation, maths theory, testable hypotheses, validating experiments & peer review - and understanding these five steps of science was helped by reading about the historical hard work of some of those long dead ... Isaac Newton? Charlie Darwin? Jimmy Watt? Albert Einstein? Bill Gates? ... the kids were not alone and they were not starting from scratch ... much heavy lifting had already been done!

Some one said a piccie was worth thousands of words but we weren't sure the kids knew what a 'hypothesis' was ... we certainly didn't know when we were young, we were far too busy putting our 10,000 hours into cricket, where we soon learned about 'observation' and watching the ball and testing out experiments.  

Later we became confident that if you worked hard and tried again -

a double blind randomised control experiment in Scunthorpe which was repeated in the Antipodes 17½ nights later with the same peer reviewed results ... such was meaningful evidence not tittle tattle

... and everyone could discover evidence and accumulate 'know how' ... there were no restrictions on learning, there was no privileged access to 'know how' ... even though 'know how' was always diverse, dispersed, tacit & incomplete?  

A best bet was to grow science in the heads of the youngsters rather than let fear and hatred of differences take hold?
... after all optimism & the 'Lamb of God' and the 'Gospels' & 'good news' did put in an appearance in the ancient stories ... wot was all that about? ... just sayin'?

To finish off our yarns, which we naively believed were stimulating & thought-provoking, but which others believed were boring & irrelevant, we must add that our piano player was adamant if not sceptical - 

'if you do anything in Scunthorpe you've only got yourself to blame'!

and our saxophone player also chipped in - 

'for every complex problem there existed a solution which was easy, simple, clear ... and wrong'!

Naturally our imaginative grandchildren always came up with alternative ingenious ideas ... that's wot grandkids did ... they loved wheezes ... easy, simple, clear -

I'll run away from home ?

I'll get an Irish Passport ?

stop the world I want to get off ?

there's no point in chemistry, its boring ... why practice?

All brilliant ideas to try! We'd been there, seen it & bought the T-shirt ... then somewhere along the line we had learned that many many brilliant ideas just didn't work? Hitting sixes off every ball just didn't work? That's why scientists did a lot of experiments ... to find out what worked ... to learn! We tried to suggest to Jake that the last time we checked, happenings were a tad more complicated than he supposed ... you can't just pass the buck to others and such nonsense was an outrageous cop out from personal responsibility for your own good behaviour ... personal responsibility for a contribution, and putting in your 10,000 hours of learning ... of course, this time round it was the kids who we learning not the wrinklies!

Perhaps, just perhaps, Darwin's dice of evolution & natural selection were loaded ... may be -

bad behaviour tended to die out in populations because there were no productive synergies involved ... so it was a risky ploy to imitate parasites & predators

good behaviour tended to thrive in populations because of the multitudinous productive synergies ... so as bubbles inevitably burst, synergistic phoenixes rose from the ashes ... an arms race ... think about it?

Of course the ploy of promoting science & synergies didn't work, 'cos few believed good behaviour would win ... there was just too much evil around ... grandpa was losing it ... the grandkids had to work it out for themselves.

But there was hope ... busy seemed to be good, and busy was experimenting & trying ... and Jake was on the ball, he said he didn't believe in myth & magic and the mumbo jumbo of the scriptures ... he politely said no thank you and announced he was going to be a scientist ... wonderful ... and this was not a case of 'quick look busy Jesus is coming' nor 'back seat driving' ... this was being in the driving seat of life. Jake was different and needed no encouragement from grandpa ... although one Christmas early on we did try to teach him the lessons from the story of the maverick Rudolph - dare to be different!

RudolphRudolph the red nosed reindeer had a very shiny nose
and it you ever saw it you would even say it glows
all of the other reindeer used to laugh & call him names
they never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games
then one foggy Christmas Eve Santa came to say
Rudolph with your nose so bright will you pull my sleigh tonite
then how the reindeer loved him as they shouted out with glee
Rudolph the red nosed reindeer you'll go down in his-tor-y'

It was also good that some his friends were different and some even studied history and from the earliest of times it was clear that oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals & corrupt Bureaucrats were seldom maverick & sceptical scientists and they perpetually offered the easy, simple, clear wheezes as solutions to complicated problems which always seemed to put the costs up and the production down. History was constantly bent to suit. Folk couldn't out run history it always caught up with you. The fascination of history was like trying to solve the equation when the answer was already known. We knew history didn't repeat itself but it did rhyme. We learned from history ... if we chose to? 

Daniel was good on Greek History & Mythology and he avidly read all about the Gods, Homer and the age old yarns about tragedies and fickle fate -

Hercules at the Crossroads - the temptation of the easy route which avoided hard work, honesty & thrift.  Matthew, 7:12 -

'In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Laws. Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the way that leads to life, and only a few find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves'.

Pythagorean Y - the same temptation -

'The Pythagoric Letter two ways spread, showing the two paths in which man’s life is led.
The right hand track to sacred virtue tends, though steep and rough at first, in rest it ends.
The other broad and smooth, but from its crown, on rocks the traveller is tumbled down.
He who to virtue by harsh toils aspires, subduing pains, worth and renown acquires.
But who seeks slothful luxury, and flies, the labor of great acts, dishonored dies'.

Prometheus the Titan - shackled by the Gods for stealing fire (which was not patented) but unbound by Hercules and freed to do his bit to save the human race (with innovation & technology)

Siren voices - the mythical Sirens were famed for their seductive eloquence and musical enchantment as they lured the distracted sailors off their compass course only to wreck their ships on rocks.  

'Pass the buck to someone else', 'someone else will pay the bills' ... 'just soak the rich until the pips squeak' ... easy, simple, clear? ... but wrong ... learning was a hard message about personal responsibility for good behaviour and unsurprisingly 'someone else will pay' often fell on stony ground, 'someone else' whoever they were, often politely said, 'no thank you' ... just like Jake ... and then wot?

Gran often grumbled & mumbled about 'hard work, honesty & thrift' ... and 10,000 hours ... but was gran like grandpa just a wrinklie and boring? 

However Harry Potter, now he was really exciting.

Indubitably J K Rowling was far better at telling stories than grandpa and she thrillingly described the challenges facing the youngsters in her fantastic yarn about 'The Order of the Phoenix' -

Harry Potter's OrderAdolescent Harry Potter learned first hand that Dementors were a real insidious threat and that the bureaucracy in The Ministry of Magic was in denial about Voldemort's evil parasitic & predatory intent.
Harry set about and joined Dumbledore's Army, a likely club of like minded friends ... he took some personal responsibility for the defence of good behaviour ... and felt some obligation to protect the gorgeous Cho Chang.
The Fudges in the Ministry vainly tried to bolster their failed quest for peace & tranquility by appointing Umbridge with more new assistant bureaucrats and more & more new rules & regulations. But this turned out to be kluge which stifled & sapped most of their energy into stagnant impotence.
Meanwhile Harry, with help from his go getting friends, was hell bent on hard work, honesty & thrift as they took matters into their own hands through the Floo Network ... evil must be confronted ... and at the end of the long tortuous struggle ... Harry & Co were triumphant ... 'love for family & friends was the power that the Dark Lord knew not' ... now that was real magic!

We all wondered whether Emeric Switch's Transfiguration could help with Grandpa's stupendous puzzle about how to turn ordinary beer into a convivial pint?

Creating something out of nothing was at the heart Gamp's Law of Elemental Transfiguration but worryingly there were 5 exceptions. The first exception was food, this was pretty clear to everyone, but the other exceptions were not yet known although studies indicated that 'real money' could not be created out of nothing because hoards of very clever folk were still constantly trying ... and continually failing.

On the other hand we guessed that the Elemental Transfiguration of ordinary beer into a convivial pint was a genuine Transfiguration because we had witnessed the real phenomena every week at 'Mucky Beer Time' @ The Goshawk CH3 8AJ. There and then the nature of ordinary beer completely changed so that it actually tasted better! But was such an Elemental Transfiguration approved by the chemist Mendeleev?
The kids insisted Prof McGonagall did not throw any light on our beer mystery and in any case it wasn't very interesting ... and in any other case all beer was mucky and tasted 'orrible. Yes but ... we concurred with the Prof's teachings that there was still much to learn about Transfiguration, it was very hard work, very difficult and you had to be firm & decisive to get it exactly right. Transfiguration was more like 'scientific' magic but it still had a vast array of restrictions placed upon it, both natural laws and legal regulations, so there was a large potential for things to go disastrously wrong ... even for the experts like Hermione Granger and The Banjo Player?

It all boiled down to hard work, honesty & thrift ... but don't take grandpa's word for it, he's a wrinklie ... try this trio of serendipitous truths - 

if you don't work you won't eat

if you aren't honest you won't have trusted friends to help   

if you don't invest you won't grow

These behavioural bedrocks may have started with Daniel Whelan's Greek Geeks but we think they were around from the get go and will be with us for the duration. It was not easy, why were the Gods always so unfair with their legacy of four rampant evils -

complexity ... and getting worse

change ... and getting faster

conflict ... and getting bloody

scarcity ... and getting real expensive?   

With all this all pervading intrigue & machination about no wonder learning was so difficult? We were never sure how we managed to find time to put a crumb on the table and nurture family & friends, home & garden, enjoy most sports & indulge in the cacophony of blues music and drink beer? How were we to protect our independence, autonomy & freedom to try hard and experiment when experiments themselves ... especially beer drinking ... always seemed to be under threat from others who tied our shoelaces together.

Smart AlecYou've met 'em - 

'bumptious know-alls', 'smart arse clever Dicks', 'hotshot smart alecks', 'bull shitters', 'busy bodies', 'piss artists' & 'prancers' ... and all the legions of oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals & corrupt Bureaucrats ...

Yeah ... there were plenty of 'doom & gloom merchants', talking heads with furrowed brows who all claimed privileged access to 'know how' and a 'right' to rewrite 'the tablets of stone' ... just listen to them trolling ... and wonder why all that bureaucratic kluge?

such petty party politicos persistently peddled personal possibilities about an unknowable future - typically pontificating, ranting, fulminating and vilifying others with abusive blame which inexorably led to hatreds and meaningless 'labels' & fake 'identities'?

contrast Empirical Scientists who discovered & accumulated effective evidence about the rigours of reality - typically engaging with others in reasonable debate about constantly emerging experimental evidence and meaningful 'maths' & 'logic'? 

So whenever the talking heads disturb your peace & tranquility in the beer garden and mess with your mind just remember it all started with a few random mutations ... they couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery and proved it every day ... but perhaps we should thank them for trying ... because we learn from failure?  

Talking heads were seldom Scientists ... but funny peculiar, they were often beer drinkers? However it must have been ordinary beer ... there was little sign of conviviality amongst such petty adversaries ... strange that ... wot was going on and wonder why?

So there we have it, happenings were often bad enough without disgruntled folk trying to convert the mavericks into clones ... and if we were not careful all this pontificating 'tittle tattle' meant that there was no time to walk to our local for beer supping with friends.

To us there were only two questions that mattered -

was the beer glass half full or half empty?

was it convivial beer or just ordinary beer?

... we were optimists we glimpsed possible answers and seized the fantastical opportunities with our friends ... hic ! 

... we used our imagination and focused our excitement on helping & inspiring the polished craftsmen of their trade to build the whole tapestry of cooperative synergies where 2+2=5! 

Fantastical Opportunities !!

Half FullFantastical Opportunities ... not Project Fear, doom & gloom, cliff edges, abysses and problems but doing verbs and opportunities -

activating - accepting - advocating - advancing - advising - agreeing - aiding - approving - arguing for - assisting - authorising - backing - bettering - blessing - boosting - calling for - campaigning - championing  - consenting - contributing - cultivating - defending - developing - encouragement - endorsement - ennobling - espousing - exalting - facilitating - forwarding - fostering - favoring - fuelling - furthering - justifying - learning - licensing - nurturing - permitting - pleading - preferring - pressing - progressing - propagating - proposing - promoting - pushing - recommending - reinforcing - selling - sponsoring - stimulating - strengthening - succoring - supporting - upholding - urging ...   

An unabashed plea for the Empirical Science of Beer Drinking  ... so where do we start this eclectic story?

What exactly was a convivial pint?

:drink    back to first round    


In search of The Convivial Pint.

Spiffing It seemed from way back that the convivial pint had always been valuable not only to us but also to our friends. It became clear that all our best pals were giants who had one thing in common; the miraculous knack of turning ordinary beer into convivial pints.

But what exactly was a convivial pint? Who, where, when & how did we find such conviviality in a pint pot filled with golden liquor? Was it just a fortunate stroke of serendipity if & when we discovered this phenomenal elixir which made us hilarious? We certainly felt it was no fluke, but then it was not part of our plans either ... at the time of discovery those with foresight didn't have any hindsight to help? The convivial pint just pitched up, and when it did it was instantly recognisable ... but it still remained a bit of a mystery.

Transforming barley into ale was good news. Ale was not only refreshing, nutritious & wholesome but also it didn't go rotten ... invasive beasties found it was lethal. The old sages suggested it purified water. Bad water was the pain of dysentery and an early demise but ale was safe. It was rumoured in the olden days that local water was often so contaminated with strife that even the kids had to be protected by the medicinal effects of 'small beer'. Small beer was brewed at home by doting parents; it possessed a distinctive taste, had a low 1% alcohol content and was safe. 

Ale was beautifully easy. If you waited a few weeks for the fungi to grow the golden potion arrived all by itself from bits of barley and lots of water and what's more it remained in great condition for months. It was all an accident of course, the transmogrification of sugars into alcohol via yeast was unknown then ... and still unknown to many now. The brew was instantly available whenever wits were overtaken by thirst or hunger ... requiring no preparation or cooking, just a straw to get at the action. It was the very first convenience food, sharing was easy and sharing was fun ... social interaction always seemed to be somewhat smoother when folk were a bit canned and liberated from mundane monotony. Life had a purpose after all.  

Ale or beer, what's in a name? Pedants said ale was original and beer was bitter, but who cared ... as long as it tasted good?

Health & Happiness

RemediesSo long long ago the supping of ale became the heart of sociability & civilisation ... and, like tea, ale was a loyal friend ... it was bug less sustenance for clean living ... a reliable remedy for many a common ill ... cheers to good health.  

There was ale in Mesopotamia 7,000 years ago and the Egyptians, Babylonians & Persians were no slouches either. Throughout civilisation ale was so effective a promoter of health and happiness that it was almost invariably confiscated by the Gods for the control of their flock. Noah had ale on the Ark and had not Paul in the 1st Epistle to Timothy suggested - 

'Drink no longer water, but use a little ale for thy stomach's sake'?

 Wine always maintained a close association with Rome and The Pope and, needless to say, the Monasteries also became the spiritual home of ale as well as wine. It was the Monks who honed their brewing skills, and went for tight control over their potion of magic ... in the interests of their parishioners of course. But such magic had no chance as a secret and the good news spread faster than the Gospels. It seemed Bacchus was worshipped everywhere ... in one form or another. The Encyclicals were clear & sophisticated; beer was the work of God, but drunkenness & debauchery were the work of the Devil ... and, of course, it was the delights of beer that kept the monks in the monasteries and away from wicked temptation. We never really understood how the Muslims and the Methodists prolonged their temperance under competitive assault from the Eucharist?    

It was not clear when the magic liquor was first imbibed in England but around 2000 BC 'The Beaker People' left evidence in their graves. For these warriors the booze was so important that their pot beer mugs were buried with them. Remains found on Orkney indicated that the beakers had contained a beer like drink with residues of wheat, meadowsweet, hemlock & deadly nightshade for added kick. Then for sure as the Roman came & conquered, Julius Caesar himself declared - 

'Ale is a high & mighty liquor'.

The Romans built their Taverns along the Watling Streets & Kingsways and made the precious luxury wines from Gaul readily available for refreshment of the troops ... but it was a safe bet that ale was also around for the Celts. The grape was not inclined to root in the North but the grain was prolific in Britannia ... beer had an edge.

Mead HallsWhen the wine loving Romans left our island, the Anglo Saxons from North Germany arrived and lit up the Dark Ages with ale. Ale or 'Ealu' became embedded in our culture.

The Anglo Saxons built their social centre around the Mead Hall; ask Beowulf where he planned the downfall of Grendel? We were Anglo Saxon and the social enlightenment associated with ale was deeply rooted. The dearth of hifalutin written history was explained as the bladdered serfs had no yen to write as they emptied & refilled their drinking horns at every meal bent on merriment & fun.

The Anglo Saxon Ale Houses that left an indelible mark on our culture.

Everywhere anytime there was always ale, universal and embedded, but it was the front parlour Ale Houses that became local community centres. This was long before ale became 'beer' and Taverns became Inns to resuscitate travellers and change the coach horses ... thankfully the confusion of ale & beer and taverns & inns became irrelevant as bitter in pubs became our norm.  

The Normans and the upper crust stuck to the imported luxury of wine ... they would do that wouldn't they?  

Even the French who enjoyed wine with their pain, managed to understand Napoleon's quip,

'On victory, you deserve beer, in defeat, you need it'

Undeterred English ale had been made for yonks from fermented barley malt, it was strong, sweet, thick, wholesome ... and intoxicating. Maybe gruit herbs like gale, mugwort, yarrow, heather, rosemary & thyme, were added to the thick mix. Some said it was proper food so who wanted bread? We can't know for sure how heavy the old ale was but it must have been heady stuff as 'beer and beef made the Brits'.

But then in the 15th century, from The Netherlands, came the bitter bevvy as hops were added to the eclectic mix to produce beer proper ... and things never looked back. The hops worked like a magic double whammy, both flavour & preservative. Hops helped prolong the shelf life of the brew so lethal alcohol levels could be reduced ... and pints could be consumed without getting addled. Conviviality was secured without incapacity ... cheers.

When Harry smashed the monasteries there was a tsunami of traditional ale. Interestingly, try as he did, Harry could do nothing to halt the march of hops. Although the Protestants of Holland favoured hops which avoided the dreaded tax on gruit, Harry called it 'a pernicious weed' adulterating traditional English ale.   

Everybody continued brewing their own pet boozes ... some delicious, others abject. Then just as ale had become beer, beer became 'porter' when 'mixes' became popular poisons ... different varieties of yeasts, malts and hops, all processed in different ways, all added their distinctive characteristics ... and the monks themselves had learned yonks ago that even the Lord's weather imparted its own foibles to the dark art of brewing. No one understood what was going on, it was a hit and miss affair, but the hits sure tasted good.

Porter became the London brew of choice. Thick, brown with roasted malts, creamy and heavy with hops for safe keeping. Strong porter became 'stout' as variants surged with the enterprise of stalwarts like Arthur Guinness in Dublin ... 'ta Arthur we owe you one'. But still no clue about when ordinary beer became a convivial pint?

It was in the 18th century that the industrial revolution led to thirst and parched palates. Thermometers, hygrometers & filters made the brewing process more understandable & reliable. Sam Whitbread started 'commercial' brewing in bulk in 1742 in London with water from the Thames and help from Pasteur.  But Trent water from deep wells became fashionable and probably cleaner? Did Burton water possess a remarkable ability to excite taste buds? More likely political shenanigans, economies of scale and tax began to kill off all but the big brewers ... wotever Bass, Worthinton & Allsopps established a brewers magnet in Burton-on-Trent and the porter of London had competition from the paler filtered ales of Burton ... then soon the railways opened up the country as brewers went national.

In English life bread & ale were inseparable and played an ongoing and vital survival role which inevitably attracted help from the powers that be ... The Assize of Bread & Ale was a 13th century statute from 1266 which regulated the price, weight & quality of the bread & beer manufactured and sold in towns, villages and hamlets. Famed as the first law in British history to regulate the production and sale of food. No wonder ale became know as 'liquid bread'. The result was arbitrary recurring licensing fees, fines and punishments ... such costs and price controls had their usual insidious effects which reduced competition and did nothing for the output and quality of bread and ale ... good bread and good ale were on a roll ... inferior fare just didn't sell and there was crowd trouble ... as we all knew every imbiber became a quality control inspector ... ask our mates to sup bad ale and watch reactions! 

1266 became an illuminating milestone in our search for conviviality ... were the powers that be trying to turn ordinary beer into convivial pints by statute? It seemed folk up there were bent on legislating good behaviour? Just look at the barrage of words describing their folly -

statute, act, assize, bill, canon, code, command, constitution, decree, demand, dictat, directive, edict, enactment, fiat, guide, injunction, invocation, law, license, mandate, measure, order, ordinance, precept, prescription, proclamation, regulation, resolution, rule, standard, civil law, common law, criminal law, penal law, canon law ... golden rules   

We were convinced that the specification for the convivial pint was not to be found in any laws in any land.

Cliff's SarnieOur mate Cliff Harper knew all about good bread & good ale and needed no help from the powers that be, he was a discerning operator even though he was a bass player ... and he always had beer with his bread ... hear this -  

Cliff's Sarnie - 'Today I invented a sandwich - not yer ordinary tin-pot, ten-a-penny sandwich - but a prince of sandwiches - a World Champeen - a meal in itself which, I confess readily, was inspired by one Mr Schlotzsky, whose sandwich bars adorn many an otherwise dull cluster of shops and businesses in the peachy State of Georgia.
Here we go. First lightly toast two slices of wholemeal bread, spread them with butter or even better an acceptable healthier substitute (sunflower spread is nice, if you have it). Spread one slice also with crunchy peanut butter (must be crunchy to make the taste buds work), and on that spread a layer of lemon or lime marmalade. Sprinkle with black pepper. Overlay the citrus layer with four or five pieces of thinly sliced roasted chicken, a little salt to taste (not too much), on top of that place four or five slices of cured ham. Drizzle honey over the ham and sprinkle with a little more black pepper. On top of that, place an appropriate amount of thinly-sliced, very mature Cheddar cheese - English Cheddar is preferred - the real stuff, with lots of bite, not the rather tame plastic version and certainly not Monterey Jack. New Zealand Cheddar is an acceptable substitute, but it must be very mature - pungent, even. Saxophone players often suggest a mature Cheshire is by far the best but it must have a punch. Add mustard to taste, English preferably, but Dijon will do at a pinch - or wotever you can steal from the local supermarket.
That is the basic sandwich - but variations are recommended, almost compulsory, including the addition of various pickles, crispy Gems lettuce, fresh tomato, cruncky cucumber, raw cabbage or carrot, radishes, sliced onion, beetroot - wotever takes yer fancy - suitable accompaniments could be piping hot tea, made the usual way, or black coffee or chilled Cola, but preferably ... a nourishing pint of warm beer with a creamy head ... none o' yer pale iced stuff!
Thassit! Betcha won't be able to eat two of 'em. Moderation for all! Away to the kitchen this very minute and try it out!'

Trouble int' Gin

Gin Traditional English ale had been made for yonks from fermented barley malt, but then in the 15th century, from The Netherlands, came the bitter bevvy as hops were added to the eclectic mix to produce beer ... and things never looked back.

Then after the Glorious Revolution of 1688 the Dutch struck again. Poor quality grain which was deemed unfit for brewing auspicious beer could still be fermented and then distilled to 45% proof to pack a real punch ... and this liquor was almost palatable when flavoured with juniper berries. Then suddenly the Gin Palaces were on the scene; urban, glitzy, sparking & mirrored, glass topped & modern miseries ... the Gin Palaces of London were different, therein were binges of consequence as folk drowned their sorrows and became legless.

By 1700 ardent spirituous liquors were around masquerading as effective medicines & prophylactics for all manner of psychosomatic ailments and perhaps helping as a relish to make monotonous food palatable. Long before pepper & penicillin there was gin. But gin upset the apple cart.

By 1830 the ill effects of boozing preoccupied both religious and political consciences; the Methodists, Rechabites and their like spied evil ... and the 'powers that be' spied radical dissent, moral decay ... and tax revenues. Happenings in England became so drunken that the Beer Houses came on the scene in an attempt to stop gin, ruination and degradation. Beer was sold by enterprising folk from their front parlours in an attempt to sober up the soaks; after all beer was harmless & wholesome but gin was the pits. Hogarth's Beer Street was elegant orderliness but Gin Lane was indebted debauchery. The temperance movements missed a trick when they failed to welcome beer as the nourishing alternative to evil gin. Nevertheless beer and the Beer Houses were an unparalleled success, institutions which became embedded in our culture ... and in our imaginations.

In 1854 the Broad Street cholera outbreak spread death & destruction around London but John Snow stopped the rampage in its track when he spotted the immunity of the beer drinkers at the Poland Street brewery ... science had confirmed beer as preeminent!

By 1869, as was usual with successes, regulation & licensing & taxation continued apace as if to undermine the ordinary beer pleasures of ordinary folk doing their ordinary business. In the interests of protecting debauchees from themselves and the ubiquitous catch all of 'elf 'n' safety, these were the excuses proffered to justify 'control' the cherished Beer Houses as they became restrictive Public Houses ... the 'pub' was born as thirsty folk paid for regulation & bureaucracy as well as their beer.

Ale & the Fabric of Life

Pub GrubIt seemed to us that beer was always more than a nourishing drink; it was our way of life; beer dissolved social angst, emboldened folk for experiments and it let business rip ... it was our cup of tea.

For us Teuts, or were we Celts ... wotever, the Englishman's home was always his castle. We were essentially home loving folk. Yet why, slowly did we exercise considerable zeal in creating new spaces in addition to our home for life & fun? This was emphatically the case for the Londoners who led the way as they perfected their taverns & inns as a new species for public sociability. Sure there was competition around for social lubrication ... from 1650 the coffee-houses ... then chocolate made an appearance in 1657 and tea in 1660 ... all enjoyed with bug free boiled water ... then the bookshops ... and the sports stadiums ... and the dance halls ... and the clubs ... and other exciting 'extensions' of the home ... a veritable social extravaganza.

And don't forget the Chop Houses, they were another great British tradition from way back. A little up market they were originally meeting places with much more than just beer to drink. They were places where businessmen gathered to conducted their affairs, hatching deals over hearty platters of traditionally cooked meats, often grilled and always washed down by fine well kept local ales. And always for the discerning palates a cheeseboard for choice ... and one for the road. Like the taverns, inns, alehouses, coffee houses, bookshops, sports stadiums, dance halls, clubs & others, the chophouse was flavoured British, an institution dating back to the origins of modern commercial trading in the sixteenth century. Succulent social chops outside of his castle was good news for everyone and as an accompaniment to ale some said it was even better than a pie & a pint. Legion public spaces for social intimacy, immersed in passions of choice with friends of choice. And when the 'disrupters' came along with incredible scale & reach offering interwebs & social media, enterprising Joe seized & relished these as new opportunities. Amazon & iPhones followed wireless & movies ... but the new opportunities did not kill off the convivial pint, the new opportunities added to & enhanced the intimate & exciting joys of face to face chemistry ... 'Netflix' never stood a chance in our day we went to the movies to sit on the back row not to watch the film ... and somehow or other 'Alexa' rubbed us up the wrong way.

Every village boasted a church and a tavern ... or two. The church provided solace but the taverns provided the meaning of life.  Taverns were the centres of buzzing social interaction where amenable public space was sold to folk eager for work & play. There were places of elegant luxury or cheap & cheerful alternatives and even some mean & nasty places to give the misfits a chance. Everyone was included in ... affluent, paupers, locals & travellers ... all gathered together to celebrate & commiserate as deals were done; commerce & entertainment ... everything in the taverns revolved around sociability. Business or pleasure the deals were the same, started and finished with a hand shake ... or maybe more if you were on the pull ... but always ritualised with beer which always made things so much easier.

When push came to shove it seemed the discussions & deals were all about costs & benefits ... of folk and for folk ... both matters of strange individual perceptions which nobody pinned down ... difficult choices about incalculable costs & impenetrable values ... so folk talked a bit about it, hoped for inspiration and had a pint ... or two. Folk were searching for, and constantly discovering, mutual benefits from their interactions in the pub ... in the pub stuff happened and in this way, without doubt, the wheels of commerce were lubricated with beer as folk did their deals ... oblivious to the impositions of oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals & corrupt Bureaucrats.

The Bishops said the world was put to rights by the word of God in the churches ... the Princes claimed they had a 'divine right' to do it all by themselves ... the Generals had the guns and they did it by brawn ... and some enlightened folk were beginning to hope that the world was put to rights in the representative parliaments? Alas neither the churches, kings, armies nor parliaments never ever had a monopoly on good ideas ... but the taverns were always agog with ideas hatched over a pint ... some good some bad ... but the good ones always looked even better if you were pie-eyed ... our beer glass was always half full not half empty.  

Doing Deals & 'putting the world to rights'

'There is a Tavern in the Town'

Doing DealsWhere were the best deals to be done? Over a beer in the local!

The Taverns thrived; some rural, quaint, cosy & warm, woody & stressed, with inglenooks & booths, welcoming spaces for contemplations and escapes from the rigours of reality.

We were sure the dry pontificating parliaments where humour was scarce sucked all the good out of good ideas and the decaying remains left the way open for nonsense ... as our Gran confided,

'meddlers the lot o' 'em, they're up to no good'! 

We were always meticulous over our choice of watering holes ... good ideas needed to be nurtured & developed with friends in comfortable surroundings if they were to fly ... and they only flew when synergies and mutual benefits were agreed 'down here' rather than 'up there'. Many more good deals were done over a pint than over a monopolised dispatch box ... we all agreed on that. In any case 'putting the world to rights' was a bit of a stretcher for Darwinians like us, we didn't see much wrong with the world as it was 'cos we were all survivors ... and as long as the beer was good we were still learning.

The taverns and the private, but rarely secret clubs were often just an excuse for more fun and more booze which lubricated the happenings. The landlords of the pubs loved the clubs, maybe they were one and the same? Most agreed that the clubs sprouted from the taverns and provided added depth & diversity to discussion ... Edmund Burke & Dr Johnson indulged avidly in the tavern & club culture ... who would believe a Tory and a Whig were friends over a pint? ... and up in Edinburgh Adam the Smith & David Hulme were also at it ... and so too all in the coffee houses which were always fine, stimulating, places for business ... but they lacked beer and squeaked a bit ... there were some who suggested coffee was a better beverage than beer to maintain the tick of the brain but we found it a tad less creative ... but don't get it wrong, coffee was an essential accoutrement ... especially when we were bladdered.   

Stratification of like minded folk seemed to follow, not by order nor conspiracy but by choice, as the participants became bound together by shared deals & fun, not only because of their special trades but sometimes because their choice of beer & fun. Strangers with offerings were always welcomed, as long as they bought their rounds they were in ... and exclusive became inclusive. This way there were no incompatible agendas which divided the company, just a universal problem with ignorance. Because everybody was guessing, the great social trick of the taverns & booze was to dull the divisions and enhance the empathies. There were no barriers in the pubs ... Catholics or Protestants, Socialists or Conservatives, Gay or Straight, ordinary or erudite, plebs or elites, cricket or croquet, tap room or lounge bar, pie or cordon bleu, Manchester United or Liverpool ... your choice ... your friends ... your customers ... or your girl ... everyone interacted for mutual benefit ... or not at all ... in the taverns the ball was always in your court ... so folk had a go and joined the queue for a pint.

Consensus and domination were impossible in the pub because everyone was different, cooperation was the essential characteristic if rounds were to be bought. But in the taverns it was us folk who decided ... not the Pope nor the King nor the warriors nor the bureaucrats ... our slogans were 'live & let live', 'mind your own business', 'vote with your feet' and 'join the club of your choice'. For those of us who were increasingly reminded of our status as subordinate to 'the powers that be', beer & the tavern culture offered an independent social paradise where club members set the behavioural rules.

Taverns were fiercely independent, free spaces for outrageous interactions and thought experiments ... or not as the case may be ... and then maybe, occasionally, some of the better thought experiments were actually tried out in the hard rigour of reality. Benjamin Franklin concurred -

'beer did not improve skills but it did enabled execution, productivity always required social lubrication'!

So were the taverns a sifting house for value? Did beer & taverns inculcate shared values? Or did they threaten attempts at control by the powers that be? Did the taverns sustain the traditional or initiate change ... or both?

Across the Pond

Beer in AmericaThe 'Mayflower' itself made an early landing at Plymouth because 'the beere was spent'. And after thanks giving the English & Dutch cultural legacies of beer drinking were establish across the Atlantic and flowed into America through the hum drum of daily life. The culture complemented nicely, or contradicted perversely, the utterances of the founding fathers and the sacred history as was writ as the multitudes, including the travelling strangers, became embroiled in this rich fabric of life ... as the world was put to rights. In this way the taverns were not the result of the law of the land, but rather the natural laws of the land were bettered in the taverns. The name of the game was to make existing happenings more effective and not to create new law ... ex nihilo ... folk mulled it all over ... over a pint.

The flow of beer overseas not only touched the new world but also the Antipodes, India & Africa with the same unstoppable force ... and even China enjoyed 'Tsingtao'.

The tavern legacies started from the demand for services to travellers and their horses, but soon others wanted to get in on the act ... there were benefits to be had from fraternising, and 'Dutch courage' could only help rather than interfere with lucrative trade. Beer and eggs for a healthy breakfast became deeply embedded in local cultures ... but so too drinking became a refuge for the wretched and a temptress for those hoping to escape drudgery and drive care away. Slowly crooked thinking blamed ale, & especially the ardent spirits, as cause & effect for poverty, beggars, starving kids & crime. The powers that be continued the efforts from Medieval times and the regulation of booze became rampant. The great & the good meddled with licenses, standards, prices, quality, numbers, opening hours, locations, qualifications, criteria, class exclusions, linger hours and segregations of establishments - taverns, inns, bars, alehouses, pubs, ordinaries, locals, saloons, cafes, grogshops, tippling houses, barrel houses, dramshops, speakeasies, hostelries, joints & dives ... and later hotels ... all became the focus of an avalanche of dirigisme, restrictive practices & tinkering.

But how could the law stop the dead drunk when folk were free to choose? Was intoxication a proper defence for bad behaviour? The preaching from the pulpit had failed to put decorum on show? Gouging landlords had established that price was a less than effective tool when credit, bailouts and compassion were readily available? And the debtors prisons never seemed to work? As the basket cases proliferated, ire was turned onto the tavern owners as the soft option ... inevitably ending up with the biggest folly of all ... prohibition ... and with the bathwater out went the baby.

So, did drinking cause poverty or did poverty cause drinking? Clearly neither regulation nor outright prohibition eradicated evil but both certainly curtailed the good behaviour of the innocent ... we were appalled at all the petty restrictions on our productive deals ... licensing hours ... wot the Dickens ... jeez. As pious manipulation of human behaviour failed, it seemed to us that all regulation of booze was much to do with tax revenues ... meanwhile evil got off scot free. We ended up with one tavern for every 100 residents but was that a balance between dry throats, excise revenues and drunkenness ... or wot? An unholy muddle?

Dead Drunk ... there was a rub.

Beer AbuseWe agreed that the real evil was bad behaviour not good beer. We all agreed folk were free to choose but no one was free to harm others ... there was a golden rule ... 'do unto others'.

The ASBO was needed, but why the focus on crack ... and why ban the knife that the Boy Scouts always carried to be prepared? There was much to be said for instant justice but our plea for the nurturing of the convivial pint went nowhere. The convivial pint became the innocent victim of the enormous effort which went into the curtailment of tippling, in the vain hope of curtailing bad behaviour. And as the enormous effort turned into a bureaucratic nightmare it was clear to the hapless victims that drunkenness remained as prevalent as ever ... and the bureaucrats themselves became victims of their own stupidity as they hopelessly failed to define the crime -

'Not drunk is he who from the floor, can rise again and still drink more.

But drunk is he who prostrate lies, without the power to drink or rise.'

As with gin in London, it was rum in New England that put the cat amongst the pigeons. Addiction and speed to incapacity were the big issues with the potent distillates. Don't miss the story of Sir Richard Rum of Punch Hall and the despoiling of many good folk in America.

In this way the social lubricant for the deals from agreeable companionship was confronted by the beastly vice of turbulent intemperance. And there were complicating horrors. Everyone was well aware that some of the convivial deals in the taverns seemed to involve stuff that had fallen off the back of a wagon and even, horrors ... six shooters for self defence were traded ... and to add to the mess we suspected many a toxic conspiracy was first muttered in the tavern? How to sift the good from the bad in the land of the free? Was morality really a matter for 'the powers that be'? And in any case, 'who guards the guardians'? The guardians themselves knew that lewd was lewd but the alluring Jessica was different and quite refined and pretty? Who did the judging?

Beer was from God but sloppy drunkards were the Devil. The problem was that simple sober conviviality easily degenerated into debauchery and treachery. For every 'ordinary' house there seemed to be a 'disorderly' house.

Dead Drunk BluesCare was needed and saxophone players knew, for sure, that too much beer never made The Blues sound better ... slurring your notes ruined The Blues just as slurring your words ruined conviviality ... and we understood the double negatives in Ma Rainey's words -

'Say I'm gonna get drunk just one more time,

daddy, I'm gonna get drunk just one more time,

'cos when I'm drunk nothin' don't worry my mind'

 So we had no truck with incapacity, we had to remain sharp to learn to play The Blues proper ... the hard way ... it was fun that banished worry, not booze ... and contrary to popular belief The Blues proper were fun. 

In America the competition for the custom of the travellers was fierce and the customers themselves proved adept at sorting out the good service bargains and the con men ... the travellers wished for safe lodgings, food for self & horse, hospitality and  entertainment to pass the evening, with gossip and conversation for the exploration of ideas ... and perhaps some aspired to a private bed with clean sheets. As discriminating customers they proved adept at spotting value for their money. Bad deals were bad mouthed and there were no return visits. The good taverns thrived by word of mouth and the taverns that didn't cut the mustard went bankrupt ... the lost lamented sifting process, now forgotten, as zombies proliferate?

So much for the theory but the regulators never missed a trick as they seized on the opportunity to 'protect' travellers and their horses to justify their license fee ... and, at the same time, they chose to 'protect' local residents from competition from the strange itinerants with strange proclivities ... and money. The remarkable intrusions into which or what services could be offered to which or what folk at which or what hostelries stank of excuses for revenues and such efforts undoubtedly reduced the choices everywhere for ordinary Joe the beer drinker. The detail and the variety of the wheezes was amazing ... but were 'clean sheets for travellers' a regulation or a competitive promotion to attract customers? And how many lucrative deals were scuppered by this explosion of restrictions and costs on the social interactions of ordinary folk? Neither the travelling salesman nor the local residents were happy bunnies. Discrimination was rife, there was even discrimination in the days of the week, in spite of the 1st Amendment the Sabbath was a no no for booze ... and this was in the land of the free?

It seemed discriminatory legislation to combat drunkenness, brawling and prostitution reinforced class distinctions? The rich used booze to seal lucrative deals but it was booze that dove the poor into destitution? Why such perversity? Two universal consistencies were apparent; firstly the authorities attempted to control human behaviour and secondly they failed ignominiously.

There were baffling anomalies and a tension between stated intent and the fickle reality of the moment. Defining what was 'allowed' or what was 'banned' by the 'regulation' immediately identified the loophole ... and inevitably the tipplers went straight for the loophole. It seemed legislating temperance was no more effective than legislating wealth ... or were they both the same thing?

Girls on Top ... as usual 

Tavern LifeAmongst all this discrimination the girls had an intriguing tendency to win out. In the Middle Ages after the Black Death the country was flooded with household brewing by the 'alewives' ... which we think was a much more attractive name than 'brewesses'?

It was the girls who brewed and sold most of the ale drunk in 'Merry Olde England'. Before the first 'public houses' the ladies brewed their beer in the back and served the nourishing elixir from their own front parlours ... not only to friends and guests but also to paying customers whenever the quality was irresistible. 

Later widows often featured as licensees of the 'public houses' ... some said this was a ploy to keep them off the Poor Law. In this way, perhaps, it was unsurprising that a number of tavern operators wore petticoats ... nevertheless it was often considered that only a macho man could cope with the rules of regulation and control the drunken brawling.

However we knew that ever since the fall in the Garden of Eden the girls had learned how to manipulate all the men ... especially when they were drunk ... doubtless 'an attractive girl was economically valuable ... they welcomed customers, plied them with liquor and kept them happy with smiles, kisses and sometimes even more intimate favours'.

Throughout the decline into debauchery and the slow subsequent progress to conviviality, the world's oldest profession continued unabated as a few of the girls who didn't secure a good husband found the wherewithal for survival elsewhere ... and we suspected that any public humiliation of the ladies of pleasure merely became useful advertising?  

But the girls didn't have it all their own way, rank bad behaviour was always a temptation but never a route to happy families ... nor convivial beer.

Beer MuskUs respectable fellas always knew that the girls were in the driving seat as they mercilessly manipulated their candidates with their explosive pheromones and 'beer musk' ... but of course the fellas always loved it ... after all it was all for the sake of the kids. And then sometime or other, slowly or quickly the Babychamps and port & lemons dwindled and the chicks started to savour the real McCoy. As customers it was the girls who always decided between the tap room or the lounge bar? If the ladies preferred carpets to sawdust the beer soaks always followed ... like magic ... on their best behaviour.

However bad behaviour persisted. The local intemperate Indians, the scurvy ridden mariners and the freed black slaves were targets for the masses of discriminatory laws which piled responsibility for bad behaviour and agony on the suppliers of the nectar ... the proprietors, landlords, publicans, keepers, tapsters & money lenders ... rather than on the delinquents who failed to distinguish between good and bad behaviour regardless of contracts & debts. It was the Captain of the ship who had to cope with the drunkard in charge of a halyard not the bureaucrats who tried to legislate good behaviour. It was in the best interests of the proprietors, especially the girls, to ensure that customers behaved themselves ... everybody resented cheats. But the 'convivial drinkers' and the 'free houses' were caught between a rock & a hard place ... between 'restraints on trade' and 'restrictive practices'. Others suggested all the regulation was a misguided class conspiracy to 'protect the well to do from the drunkenness of the lower class' ... but we soon learned that we shared convivial pints with both sides of such inept classifications. 

In this way taverns were easily diverted from accommodating travellers and promoting sociability ... many inevitably descended into decadence.

As was to be expected in this messy intrigue, the license itself became a 'valuable' asset owned by the tavern keepers and inevitably bribery & corruption crept in as the Selectmen and bureaucrats smelt a back hander as well as a fee in return for their favours. As far as the travellers & socialites were concerned the taverns had been usurped by the regulators & the local debauchees ... wot a mucky mess. 

No one was fooled by the conflicting objectives and unintended consequences of lubricating social intercourse, curtailing evil and raising revenue ... such was madness ... less drinking, less trade, less revenues. And to cap the lot in 1647 The Rhode Island leaders recommended 'archery' to deflect the weak from idle temptation and to prevent the resultant poverty. The honest truth. Wot a muddle without rhyme nor reason.

We concluded that the tavern culture was impervious to control by the powers that be and the taverns had a life of their own, where folk did of their own choosing ... some did great things and some debauched big time ... but everyone did their own things with their mates ... and became paralytic ... if they wished. 

Good & Bad were hatched in the Taverns  

Taverns of the RevolutionBenjamin Franklin in 1737 published 'The Drinker’s Dictionary' which contained more than two hundred expressions for boozing. Forty years later booze sowed the seeds of The American Revolution. Adrian Covert pitched for the Sunset Nobles in the Pacific Coast Hardball League, San Francisco, and could well have been one of Josh Birchall's history teachers. In 2016 he explained everything in his book 'Taverns of the American Revolution'. It was a good read; while boozing in the historic watering holes of America the great revolution was conceived. The pubs were the magnetic meeting places for the Founding Fathers ... George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams were all brewers! ... and it was in the taverns where the great boozer Benjamin Franklin, cooked up the struggle for independence from the evils of far away alien taxes ... cheers!

In 1862 during the American civil war the confederates were in cahoots with cotton broker Fraser Trenholm Company of Liverpool. Liverpool was doing good business in some 60% of Confederacy cotton at the time. British neutrality law made it illegal to build a ship of war so the protagonists met secretly in the taverns of Wirral to concoct the funding and the construction of the 'Alabama' at Camel Lairds of Birkenhead. On its maiden voyage 'hull number 290' steamed up the Mersey with all the local dignitaries basking in the show and only later did the mystery hull sail into international waters to be armed and commissioned off Terceira Island in the Azores on 24th August 1862 ... was this intrigue 'sanctions busting' or 'God helps those who help themselves'? Wotever the war ship was immensely successful before it was sunk by Union action in 1864. After the war The Alabama story became a running sore for 50% of Anglo-American relations ... the other 50% were grateful for help in time of need because all claimed  'God was on their side' ... in matters of heart & minds voting never ever helped? Many insisted that the plots in the taverns in the back streets of Birkenhead could easily have been banned by the pontificating bureaucrats in London. But we knew from delightful experience that the 'plots in the taverns' were 'plots in the mind' and impossible to stop ... and furthermore enlightened philosophers were likely to conclude that it was in the taverns that many inspirational ideas were mulled. 

The taverns were the ubiquitous backdrop to important changes everywhere ... folk loved them and they waxed something rotten. No wonder so many adjectives coloured communications when miscreants succumbed to inebriation or intoxication -

addled, befuddled, bladdered, blitzed, blotto, bombed, boozed, Brahms & Liszt, canned, crapulent, drunk, flying, grogified, half cut, hammered, high, leathered, loaded, loopy, merry, oiled, paralytic, pie eyed, pickled, pifflicated, pissed, plastered, sloshed, smashed, sodden, soused, spiffed, squiffy, stewed, stoned, tight, tipsy, wasted, wankered, wrecked, zonked ...

Following the industrial revolution and the middle class bulge, the infamous alehouse began to lose its reputation for evil as many of the tramping poor managed jobs and cleaner living ... and the beer drinking bandwagon went from strength to strength as there was more and more prosperity to celebrate. The industrial revolution depended on commercial success and there was little doubt that in the taverns deals were done which fostered much of the commercial success. Adam the Smith suggested that the leaders embraced universal moral sentiments ... or ... did universal moral sentiments produce the leaders? Whatever it was clear to us that slowly the new middle classes had learned that good behaviour not only brought home the bacon but was also associated with tolerance and temperance in the taverns. It was very difficult to close a good deal with a drunkard. Polite good manners were on the march ... and our Gran always said they came from the Almighty.

It was as if bad behaviour solved itself slowly ... folk who behaved badly missed out, they didn't hold down a job, they didn't pull the girls and they had fewer surviving children? ... think about it? In this way it was the girls who were organising social progress in the taverns ... it was in the taverns where the well behaved did their business ... and met their wives. And it was in the taverns where some of the others followed their crooked path to sin and met the girls of ill repute ... and their nemesis?

The costs & benefits of booze were perplexing and things became no clearer in befuggled old age.

The problem for the powers that be was that good ideas were hatched in the pubs whilst ideas from the dispatch box were merely promises about an unknowable future.

The problem for good ideas was that the taverns were also rife with bad ideas.

Prohibition & an assault on the very foundations of American freedoms  

The Beer WarIn 1920, in America, 'the land of the free' and the 10th Amendment, happenings took a dramatic turn for the worse ... a full frontal attack on beer and the social pleasures of life in the taverns ... was the 'pursuit of happiness' no longer on? Or had the powers that be got their knickers in a twist?

In the name of liberty, how on earth did that happen?

It was as if the lessons of the civil war had faded from memories, the federal state was flexing muscles again ... muscles which Tommy Jeffers vainly hoped had been impaired by the separation of powers, checks & balances and the installation of a bog standard 'yeoman farmer' with skin in the game as leader of the pack.

As for the civil war? In 1861 Evolutionary Economists didn't exist and were not available for inspiration ... but at the time it looked like the Southern States were destined for bankruptcy ... crowd trouble and the high costs of slavery made the cotton plantations unsustainable ... it was free men earning honest wages up north who delivered massive productivity gains through industrialisation. Willie Wiberforce explained the folly in the south ... Willie, of course, appealed to 'Religion, Justice & Humanity', and he was right, but Adam the Smith was a moral philosopher and the great man peddled his 'moral sentiments' which underpinned human behaviour ... and human behaviour was intensely economic.

Would inevitable bankruptcy have been quicker and less gruesome than a sickening war ... 4 years of carnage as 1,030,000 souls were lost? ... no one was around to do the cost benefit analysis ... but for sure the genes were already on it!

Too many folk were meddling ... we should have left it to the girls and had another pint ... a bootlegged pint? Ruminate ... the girls would never have sacrificed so many potential dads? 

Prohibition was a nation wide constitutional ban, the 18th amendment, blatant top down hubris ... who did they think they were? Everyone knew alcohol was a poison, and that great grief always followed abuse of the siren liquor ... but what about the convivial pint? Why was this treasure not spared from the barrage of restrictive statutes? And few mentioned the greater grief and terror which was experienced as the wholesome contents of tuns, butts, hogsheads, barrels, kilderkins, firkins, pins & gallons of ale were forcibly consigned to the drains ... without the courtesy of passing the ale through the body first.

Good intentions always begat unintended consequences. The attempt to stop the rot in human behaviour bred crime and wastes of time & money as more and more convivial pints were turned into ordinary beer by edict. Al Capone made his mark and belatedly, some suggested that jazz & the blues were the unlikely beneficiaries as they derived an income from the action in the speakeasies and the dives?

As the powers that be seized the moral high ground in a vain attempt to mollycoddle folk into behaving proper, there was instead endless kerfuffle, palaver and social disruption. But bad behaviour was the problem not beer, and the 18th amendment proved incapable of arresting the pleasurable consumption of ale and cheers reverberated around the taverns as the good life roared on ... and further smiles turned into sustained merriment when it became clear that it was impossible to legislate away bad behaviour ... good behaviour had to be learned. And, of course, it was impossible to tax the illegal consumption of beer ... touché.


Hydes OriginalRight from the start the travellers wished to quench their thirst, nourish their body, indulge in fun entertainment, relive their feats, engage in inspiring conversations ... or just relax ... and chill out. And that just about sums it all up ... and we followed suit. Beer and tittle tattle, gossip & flibbertigibbets  ... and even crass attempts at erudite discussion ... were the order of the day and they were important parts of the legacy as we went for the pursuit of happiness. Everybody had their own ideas about conviviality but most agreed that booze unbent the mind and generated a social temper for the challenging interactions. Moderate liquor endowed the inarticulate bumbler with fluency and warmth ... he understood clearly even if the others didn't. We chose our friends carefully and enjoyed a plethora of excuses ... we remembered past exploits but only the good ones, we ritually toasted good fortune & many happy returns and we drank to the absent girls and congratulated them on being different ... and such always invoked another round.

Beer it seemed had attitude; our beer glass was always half full but other folk who drowned their sorrows took ardent spirits. Beer was for men who slaved in the bletch of the dark satanic mills and recovered in the pub ... those who played and did their deals with anyone who would buy their round. Beer was not for those macho bohemians who claimed a different identity and embraced bravado, rebellion, masculinity and cynicism with a large dose of scepticism about deals & privileged success. Rather beer was emollient, it straddled social strata and bridled optimism. Water was necessary, wine was given but beer was shared and beer almost guaranteed inseparable betterment & fun ... conviviality.

Smiles made conviviality, so what was the cost of a smile? Now that was an interesting question ... cheers! ... quite simply money can't buy me love and it seemed it was quite impossible to buy a convivial pint ... it all depended ... in fact there was no such 'thing' as a convivial pint ... yet we knew it existed ... we had downed many many ...

We had no exclusive access to conviviality ... our local was a pub ... and bevvies came in many varieties to all suit tastes.    

Free to Choose  

Family, friends, neighbours, companions, locals, regulars, patrons, travellers, strangers ... all discovered the benefits of convivial beer; the malted barley brew which spawned many guises ... booze was the catch all for all the legions of pleasures ... but there were big decisions to be made, was it to be ale or lager?

Was Ale for the honest English Yeoman enjoying a convivial pint with his mates surrounded by idyllic hop fields, acres of freshly mowed barley and smiling serving wenches? The warmer, faster process of ale brewing retained many more subtle flavours and often transported folk to the far side of bliss. However the colder slower process produced lager often resulted in a cleaner, crisper flavour. But some lagers can have all the character of the flip side of a camel trader’s welcome mat.

All this variety was designed for conviviality to complement food & pies, beds & lodgings, warmth & shelter, music & dance, diversions & amusements, games & shows, recitals & lectures, exhibitions & curiosities, meetings with folk, play with girls ... talk, discussion, debate, argument, news, gossips, deals, exchanges, ventures, plots, losts & founds, sales & wants ... trades plied, services rendered ... business & pleasure ... and while waiting for action there was more fun; bowling, billiards, pool, backgammon, dice, cards, all-fours, bridge ... and for the serious with money, cock fighting, and for the affluent, horse racing.

Some suggested that the way to make ordinary beer convivial was to ban all talk about sex, religion & politics, such old chestnuts always seemed to turn convivial beer sour ... but we knew these were the very subjects which inspired the mind and drove elegant conversations ... ban was a word we wished to exclude from all discussions and we were certain that as soon as anything, but anything, was interfered with by the powers that be, conviviality went out of the window and they messed up ... everybody was different and everybody was different for the same Darwinian reason.

GreenallsBeer was always unfathomable stuff, it came in all shapes and sizes and colours ... and costs. We were weaned on Greenall Whitleys. Greenalls was 'Local Bitter' and all the better for that ... folk walked to their local. The brew we remembered was invariably a convivial pint ... otherwise we refused to partake ... we argued endlessly about 'the head' ... was it an indicator of, the quality of the beer or the quantity of the publican's bank account ... which was best? ... we quickly concluded the best was the next ... but the saxophone player insisted it had to be in a 'straight glass' ... otherwise it didn't taste proper ... nobody agreed and the forfeit was another round.   

But what about the cost of a convivial pint? We noticed as 18 year olds ... or may be before ... that the convivial pint cost no more than an ordinary pint. This was a shattering observation for naive youngsters who had heard of supply & demand but didn't understand it. We were still on pocket money so with our limited incomes and no price differential we vowed to wallow in the luxury of convivial pints and avoid ordinary beer.

Supply & DemandWe mulled things over ... if there was a big demand for conviviality why didn't the convivial pint cost more? Was the best thing in life really really actually free? Was the convivial pint an unfair luxury only available to a few? Furthermore if the cost of conviviality could be reduced ... wouldn't that benefit everybody?

We were factory men and we knew that the beer production process was well tried & tested ... but was it good value? In any case production was a small part of the total cost. We investigated the costs - only 10% of the cost was barley malt, hops, enzymes, casks & brewery production; 5% was distribution & marketing; a whopping 50% went on the pub ... 'atmosphere',  bar maids, house rents, operating costs, license & regulation costs; 30% duties & sin taxes ... hmmmmm ... as we suspected the punters were buying the public space in the tavern not the beer ... folk could sup cheap beer at home but to buy a convivial pint folk went to their 'local'; their own tavern!

Taxes & Sin

Sin TaxesWe were also business economists and were daft enough to suggest that specialisation and economies of scale in production & distribution & marketing made beer cost less but licensing, regulation & sin taxes made it cost more. We never quibbled about the tavern costs because we always voted with our feet! But however hard we tried it proved impossible to avoid sin taxes ... so go figure?

We were beer drinkers and new well that convivial pints were not sinful, especially when honestly paid for with hard earned cash, were 'independently correct', far from 'politically correct', we had no truck with those who twisted our morals ... beer had become a target for heinous taxes, to be wasted on grandiose ungentlemanly schemes which did nothing to improve the quality of the beer and everything to increase its cost ... and, of course, we confirmed every time we went to the pub that the only popular taxes were the ones paid by other people ... usually the saxophone player!      

Perhaps taxes were an inevitable part of bureaucratic chicanery 'cos the only sin we could see was flat beer. We voted to tax ordinary beer but no way would we tax convivial beer. Conviviality made the world go round, so why on earth was conviviality taxed? Was the convivial pint taxed to reduce consumption? Why should anyone want to reduce conviviality & fun? Was it just the envy & greed of the sad?

Conviviality was no sin, we were sure of that.

And what about those anti social licensing hours ... who did they think they were? Masters of the Universe or servants of the people?

Beer seemed to occupy a very special place in everyone's consciousness. But everyone was different and it seemed that one half couldn't get enough of the stuff and the other half worried that the first half were having too much of it. It seemed beer could make bad folk bader ... but it could also make good folk gooder ... it seemed to us that there was no problem with good folk nor good beer ... the problem was bad folk and bad beer!

We all knew what we liked and we thought we never had a preference for what other folk drank; why should we care about what other folk drank? ... but it was very strange, we did care!

We liked to share and buy our rounds but it was the convivial pint we cared about ... and there were many intriguing questions about the convivial pint that were perplexing?

Was conviviality a characteristic of beer quality and did it have to be a pint?

Folk went out for a 'pint' at the 'local'. And it was beer they were after, we never heard of anyone going out for a litre of lager. Was it possible to share a convivial pint with folk drinking a litres of lager?

Cool Ambience

BarmaidAnd why did the taste of beer improve with the quality of the welcoming smiles of the serving wenches and the atmosphere in the tavern which felt like homespun? We knew the chemistry didn't change, nor the flavour of the hops but we also knew a convivial pint tasted better than an ordinary beer? A pie & a pint tasted good but in our minds a convivial pint was the best. And then some wag remembered the happenings on Mount Sinai ... we were scientists we knew the water didn't change into ethyl alcohol, we had learned our chemistry ... but the good authority recorded that it certainly tasted good ... perhaps as good as wine? If ever there was a case supporting our suggestion of ordinary beer miraculously becoming a convivial pint this was the recorded precedent?

And what about the folk who still believed the world was flat; was their pint convivial? ... and why did we worry about sharing a convivial pint with a Manchester United supporter?

And what about the girls sipping port & lemon? Surely that was convivial? For sure ... but it wasn't a convivial pint, was it?

Wot on earth was going on? 

We were never a group of protesting grumps putting the world to rights to suit ourselves; we were all different, searching for those elusive synergies over a convivial pint ... that's what teams did ...  and we always worked & played in teams ... didn't we?

Darwin made folk different for a good reason; no differences, no adaptations, no 'progress' ... think about it?

So folk had different ideas, at different times, in different places ... and different trades and different incomes ... and different boozes ... and that was cool?


FigmentIn our neck of the woods we knew about soap ... was beer any different? For us it seemed that there were gross similarities ... different folk, at different times, in different places, with different circumstances seemed to prefer different washing tackle. So folk did their deals without harm others in an attempt to suit themselves ... and to try to suit the others ... which seemed to be the whole point of conviviality. No point in upsetting folk they may get tetchy ... so from ordinary soap to figments of imaginations ... everyone could be happy ... otherwise, they didn't do their deals ... and so with beer?

So was our beer and our soap a figment? There was more than one way of getting clean and we had researched cleanliness at great length; upside down and inside out. Lux was not just any old ordinary soap, Lux was different ... and Lux was exciting customers all over the globe. So what were folk spending their hard earned moolah on? ... excitement or cleanliness? ... delectable perfumes or a promise to impress the Joneses? Was Lux a luxury? Luxuries were fashionable & expensive, but were they alternatives or aspirations? Were they functional or fantasies? Were they better? Everybody liked an enticing aroma, and smelling good was like looking good ... and woad and lipstick had been around since for ever ... and 'Persil Mum' loved the kids and it showed. The first Lord Leverhulme knew his stuff, he knew that half his advertising spend was wasted, the trouble was he didn't know which half. 

Guinness GoodnessWe knew our soap ... and we knew our beer ... 'Guinness is good for you 1928' ... 'refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach 1973' ... 'I bet he drinks Carling Black Label 1989' ...

Of course selling figments for 'profit' was a ball game many didn't want to play ... and good for them, they had other ways of paying their bills ... but infuriatingly many folk wanted to ban other folk from chasing harmless figments ... and aspirations ... we had many words for such arrogant mollycoddlement -

uber alles, we know bestry, command, control, direct, discipline, harass, harm, hurt, injure, molest, neglect, oppress, outrage, overlook, persecute, restrain, slight, torment, torture, victimize,  violate ...

... and it almost became PC to hate folk who chased their very own inspirational figments ... they became 'deplorables' even though everybody had their own very different figments and chased them all at different times, at different places, with different folk?

So even though cleanliness was next to Godliness and conviviality was the fabric of life this 'inspirational value of figments' thing complicated far more important things than simple soap ... and it certainly complicated our distinctive beer? The beer experience was a figment; an opportunity to get in touch with your feelings; imaginary associations with fun, relaxation, opportunities, friends, strangers ...  but in our heads figments were real, the convivial pint was real ... the beer did taste better ... honest ... just like playing The Blues we were not drowning our sorrows but rather we were chasing our rainbows ... or were they both the same thing? Whatever we loved a Greenalls pint with our mates and we didn't care if it was a figment or real ... we just loved it ... and came back for more!

And there was more, many said we were 'lucky'. What about a posh education at The King's School, was that functional or fantasy? Was an expensive education better than an ordinary education? Surely Copernicus and Galileo had sussed out education years ago; they were certain it was what was learned that determined quality rather than its cost. Not much point in learning that the world was flat ... was there? And there was more more, the quality of what was learned depended much more on our mates than on those who taught us their stubborn prejudices? And for sure the harder we worked the luckier we got ... and for sure sure we learned most over a convivial pint in the taverns rather than over blotting paper in dour classrooms.

Vodka is Vodka

Vodka is VodkaAnd then there was vodka ... a more potent potion?

Vodka was always a most popular distilled spirit, it was found in cocktails and all manner of mixed drinks and was an essential condiment in every bar ... and it was even found lurking in beer bars. It required no aging and was ready to drink right away, though it was cut with water from still strength to a bottling proof, which was typically 80 proof or 40% alcohol by volume. Its popularity came from the general characteristic that it had no discernible or distinct flavor nor smell and was colourless clear, in this way it allowed other ingredients of the drink mix to be the focal point ... er? After distillation, vodka was filtered through charcoal to remove all traces of ... what? A drink with no taste? Did Vodka's neutral taste rely on the proofing water? Or was the neutrality more subtle ... was it a figment? ... a con trick, a rip off even?

So all vodka was vodka was vodka but some vodka was deemed better than other vodka ... ?

Was product differentiation a matter of price?

There was a story, no doubt apocryphal, about an alarmed 'Smirnoff' Brand Manager -

'Crisis! The competition have just lowered their prices 15%'.

But the Chief Executive Officer knew his vodka and his canny business acumen -

'Raise our prices 15%! ... and run the advertising copy; 'there's no rubbish in our cocktail cabinet'!

Determining value had always been a tad complicated ... and the last time we checked everybody was still different & still disagreed as folk joined different clubs ... and drank different tastes.

It seemed to us that there was often little relationship between price & value, or price & quality, or quality & value ... certainly not for the things we knew about; washing, education, vodka ... and beer!

It all depended? We did get our knickers in a twist ...

But in our club we reckoned vodka was lethal and we stuck to ale.

So what about the convivial pint? Who was the guy who determined the value of a convivial pint? How did you make an ordinary pint into a convivial pint and could you charge more for a convivial pint, and if you could would it still be convivial?

We always got to the bottom of our pints well before we got to the bottom of the conundrum. Was bad beer watery, flavourless or cheap? Was good beer strong, bitter & expensive? There was no British Standard Specification, no user manual and no Retail Price Maintenance.

The big breweries were interesting, they made oceans of beer but they could never guarantee the conviviality of their pints.

In the mad scramble for conviviality was there a lot of waste? Was there too much micro brewing and too much choice?

Bullshit, Bad Press & Fake News  

FalstaffThere was much more grist for the mill. Some folk endlessly calculated how much damage ordinary beer cost 'society' in terms of the NHS, liver disease, cancer, obesity and all manner of ailments ... there were over a million alcohol related hospital admissions in 2013 ... no wonder the NHS was bankrupt ... and then there was also social destruction, policing costs, crime & road deaths and personal distress & ghastly matrimonial bust ups ... the same folk were silent about relieving the stress of rampant poverty, abject unemployment, dreary jobs, depressive lifestyles, family breakdown & rocky marriages ... which were all rescued by the convivial pint in the local at the end of a hard day ... maybe the convivial pint could rescue the NHS from bankruptcy? Did it all depend on who did the calculations? After all there was 'no such thing as society' everybody was different.

But don't get it wrong ... our doctors told us alcohol was a poison and no one argued ... and we all learned the hard way that the lechery and the ordinary beer that Falstaff quaffed was obnoxious stuff ... the girls hated the putrid stench of decay as livers were destroyed, vile desires were provoked and woeful performances dulled ... there was no doubt ordinary beer was lethal stuff. 

We questioned our doctor ... we suggested that the human gene pool could only move as fast as the weakest alleles, and when the pool was stressed, it was the weakest that failed to survive and were killed off first. But this natural selection was beneficial for the survival of gene pool as a whole, because the survival prospects of the whole group kept improving by the regular killing off of the weakest members. Perhaps in exactly the same way, the human brain could only function as efficiently as the slowest of the neural networks. Excessive intake of alcohol, as our doctor suggested, was a poison and killed brain cells. But, naturally, it attacked the slowest and weakest brain networks first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminated the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient system.

Is that why we always feel smarter after a few beers? We were twisting reality and sacrificing our livers?

Of course we didn't resolve the matter, we never did ... but we noted that although everybody was different there was an intriguing consensus that dishwater beer, extortionate prices, foul tastes, cloudy beer or too much beer couldn't possibly be convivial. But we also knew by inspecting our interactions how convivial beer brought relaxed stress free pleasures to existences that would otherwise be dark lonely boredoms and quite intolerable.

We were no bloated guzzlers, we savoured our ale and walked to the pub. Strangely after several convivial pints some things became much clearer, time and again we reconfirmed that it was bad behaviour that was the problem and it was bad behaviour that should be taxed ... pour encourager les autres ... the knickers had become twisted again ... it was perfectly acceptable to get decently drunk occasionally ... perhaps when wetting the baby's head, or when accounting for the cost of a daughter's marriage ... or even at the wake of a best friend ... convivial beer was unimpeachable.

And strangest of all ... we slowly became certain that the price & quality of the beer never affected the convivial pint and you could never have too many convivial pints. This astonishing conclusion resulted from our experience that as soon as price & quality became matters of emotional concern ... and as soon as anyone had had one over the eight ... the pint immediately ceased to be convivial ... these monstrous defects were all associated with ordinary beer!

In the end we agreed the convivial pint was just better and that was that ... although it was about the only thing we did agree on.

So there we were. Convivial pints were never advertised and didn't have brand names. The convivial pint had a mind of its own, not to be messed with, on pain of transmogrifying into an ordinary pint. You could down a convivial pint but not up it. You could have too few convivial pints but not too many. You could enjoy a convivial pint with friends but not with foes. You could love a convivial pint but not hate it. You could nurse it but not neglect it. You could savour, sup & swallow it but not quaff, guzzle or slurp it. The convivial pint was always half full but never half empty ... and funny strangely it was right impossible to drink a convivial pint on your own ... not many people know that.

In August 2018 we consulted our mentor; Robin Dunbar, Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford ... he knew all about convivial pints ... and proved it to our gross satisfaction with endorphins. In the coal pit of life some breathing space was secured when touch, laughter, dance and stories were turbocharged by a drop or two of alcohol.   

Decline & Fall?

Beer GirlsSome clever statisticians reckoned that beer intake per capita started to rise from a around our birthday in 1939 and our dad said we won the war on ale? But the chatter was all about beer drinking in decline?

Around the millennium something like 42billion barrels of ale were consumed world wide each year ... gulp!

By 2015 the girls were well into pints and some things seemed to perk up ... but there were a lot of folk who had reluctantly concluded that the convivial pint was in its death throes.

A 2015 survey by the Campaign for Real Ale, showed that 38 per cent of British adults 'never' visited the pub and 36 per cent of pub goers visited the pub less often than last year. Beer consumption in Merry England had dropped by a 3rd in the last decade ... as pubs moved from pints to plates.

In 1902 there were 99,000 pubs in England, in 1969 it was down to 75,000, by 1982 there were only 67,800, in 2015 the grand total was 53,000 and in 2019 we may hit 50,000 and falling at 27 per week. 

In Staffordshire the average price of a pint was £2.95 but in posh Cheshire we had to take out a mortgage to drink @£3.16 a pint. We can ignore London @£3.60 a pint, in any case, they were all drinking wine. This travesty of sociability was blamed by many on the French wine drinking virus which had pushed beer consumption in the UK down to a miserable 99 liters per head per annum ... lower than the Austrians @ 108 lph, Australians @ 110 lph, Germans @ 116 lph, Irish @ 131 and Czechs @ 157 lph.

But we all thought that this time, for a change, it was not a French plot ... it was unintended consequences of the dreaded tax, self inflicted retribution ... we concurred; 'Axe the tax'.  

Axe the Tax

Axe the TaxThe convivial pint had long been ravaged by potent forces of evil. Convivial folk knew the tied trade was a medieval restrictive practice and had been lethal for the pubs of England and if you noticed the bus you were about to board was occupied by the local licensing inspector on a quality control mission, it was often a good idea to wait for the next one. On it went, rotten regulation, not only sin taxes but also the insidious drink driving laws ... both driving the wretched punter from the single disaster of liver failure to the multiple destructor of health ... obesity. This blatant bribery & corruption manifested itself latterly as pubs became restaurants and supermarkets sold cheap & cheerful 'loss leaders' ... the sixpacks.

The push from social conviviality to slothful obesity became shove ... as there was also, Sky home entertainment, sweet & fatty fast food, delectable restaurants, CAMRA choices, property prices, beer ties, minimum wages ... all undermining the cost structure of the convivial pint as obesity was established as the new terror.

And more, there were always those damned opportunity costs and vodka ... and, perhaps, more than anything else, the foul 'n' fractious 'elf 'n' safety lobby which counted points and checked for liver enzymes, completely oblivious to the truth which held that the destructive villain of peace & tranquility was an excess of ordinary beer ... and junk food ... and nothing whatsoever to do with the convivial pint ... what were they trying to do?

It seemed to us that the powers that be were claiming some moral authority to change the behaviour of folk? ... they were intent on the destruction of conviviality ... don't vote it will only encourage them? 

Others said it was the likes of us Evolutionary Economists, who had fiddled costs and turned the convivial pint into ordinary beer? But in defence of all Evolutionary Economists they never claimed to know much about beer ... nor economics ... nor anything else for that matter ... they were only guessing about the future ... wot else can you do about the future? Us Evolutionary Economists had faith that most problems were soluble in alcohol ... and became opportunities ... we suspected that the fear of economic reality was an illusion caused by a lack of exciting beer! After all it was economists who made astrologer look good.

We did a literature search, hoping for help. Could 2+2 make 5 after all?

Social History of Beer & Fun   

Social History of Beer Connoisseurs of conviviality had always been confronted by legions of 'restraints of trade' and 'restrictive practices' as history unfolded - 

ale = warm top fermented roasted malts, up to 24 centigrade fruity, sweet & creamy maybe > 7% alcohol only later bittered with gruit or hops and became beer

small beer = for kids, <2.8% alcohol but healthy 

959 Edgar the Peaceful tried to standardise measures = 'the pint' was born? He also promoted peg tankards which had a vertical row of pegs inside the body which measured the amount of alcohol consumed as folk went 'down a peg or two'

997 Aethelred II issued more law codes concerned with breaches of the peace and trouble in ale-houses

1060 Edward the Confessor decreed that mein host in the Ale House became responsible for bad behaviour of 'guests' who stayed in the tavern for more than 3 days '3 nighters' 

1102 Bishop Anslem had a go 'let no priests go to drinking bouts, nor drink to pegs

1188 Henry 2 introduces the first tax on malt liquor to finance his war against Saladin

1189 City Councils were about fire hazards, 'all alehouses be forbidden except those which shall be licensed by the Common Council of the City at Guildhall. And that no ale-wife brew by night ... regulation in the name of 'elf 'n' Safety

1215 Magna Carta article no. 35 another go at standard measures

1266 Assize of Ale & Corn, the first government attempt to regulate ale prices and peg them to the price of corn ... price control starts with the staples

1276/7 Assize, 'a gallon of ale to be sold for three farthings and another for a penny and no dearer. Two grades of ale at different prices could be sold to the public. And that no brewster henceforth sell except by true measures, the gallon, the pottle [half gallon] and the quart. And that they be marked by the seal of the Alderman, and that the tun be of 150 gallons and sealed by the Alderman' ... first statutory reference to proper stamped measures for selling quantities of ale'.

1283 subsequent royal ordinance set the price for better-quality ale at 1d. a gallon

1285 by the Statuta Civitatis London, 'taverns forbidden to remain open after curfew' ... licensing hours rear their ugly heads

1300 London pop 35.000 = 345 Taverns & 1,330 Brewhouses

1393 Tax & Regulation = Ale House displayed signs and tasters 'controlled' quality

1496 Official Licensing = to 'control vagabonds & beggars'

1577 Survey = pop 3.4 million = 17,595 - 86% Ale Houses. 12% Inns & 2% Taverns

1606 Act = repression of the odious & loathsome Sin of Drunkenness

1643 Excise Duty = temporary 'to pay for war against the King'

1700 Industrial Revolution = Constantinople, Peking, Tokyo, London gin city.   

1800 50% home brewed 1900 0% home brewed.

1830-1869 Beerhouse Act. For the price of two guineas anyone can set up a Beerhouse, free from any control. The reason was to counter the increase in spirit-drinking by encouraging beer drinking. 50% more pubs. ‘The new Act has begun its operations. Everyone is drunk. Those who are not singing are sprawling'. First Temperance Societies in England, with a Pledge of abstinence in the use of malted liquors.

bitter beer = better preservation of the brew when hops were added, grown in England from 1524

porter & mild = variants, less hops, darker malts & sweetish, 3.5%   

stout = the stoutest porter; 1759 Guinness Dublin 

larger = pioneered by the ancient Bavarian monks of the 15th century. The monks sussed out that unseen yeast caused bubbling fermentation in a thick head at the top of their vats ... and some of this magic foam always seeded the next batch as they went for consistency. But the froth at the top was always prone to contamination and evil which knackered perfection. Experiments revealed cooler fermentation in the caves produced more reliable brews as the cooler yeasts sank to the bottom and continued the production, more slowly but uncontaminated ... 'Lagers' (to store) were a winter tipple ... clean and reliable ... one specification, no choice, Munich loved it.     

pale ale = pale malts were higher yielding & cheaper, malt dried with 'clean' coke.
Bass & Allsopps started branding to keep the riff raff out. 
1777 William Bass in Burton-upon-Trent. The main brand was Bass Pale Ale; bright, clean & filtered ... by 1877 Bass had become the largest brewery in the world, with an annual output of one million barrels. William Worthington started in Burton in 1760 and was bought by Bass 1927
1807 Samuel Allsopp was also in Burton and in 1840 cashed in with IPA special brew for India. Merged with Ind Coope in 1934     

pilsener = 1842 Germans of Pilsen cashed in on the stable, cool bottom fermented lagers but used air dried malts which produced the light amber nectar we all know ... you could actually see through a glass of it ... there was a gold rush ... but expensive 7-9 degrees C low temperatures and long storage ... but it travelled well and refrigeration, filtration & pasteurization all helped.

brown ale = lightly hopped & sweetish; Manns Brown Ale was revived in the 1920s in bottles with added caramel, Newcastle Brown Ale tended to be stronger, malty & nutty - bottled beer was reliable & expensive but drinking out of the bottle .... jeez ... that ruined the exquisite aroma kick from the 'head' and led boorishly to uncouth & unpleasant belching - 'Double Diamond Works Wonders' but not for aficionados

heavy = Glasgow's own, darkish & sweetish; Scotland had their own  bevvies to complement the wee drams ... originally the Picts brewed heather ale but in our time the tipples of choice were light, heavy & export as strength increased ... McEwans, Youngers & Tennents excelled ...  

lager = clean, light, cool air dried malts bottom fermented, 10 centigrade, golden see through lagers in glasses   

Carlsberg 1847 Copenhagen & Heinekan 1864 Amsterdam = spread the popular lagers round UK and the globe, only 20% of brewing ended up as beer as the Brits began to bask in self indulgent elitism. - 'refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach 1973'

1877 decline started under temperance stress; the pledge, taxation, licensing mein host, pubs & hours, Sunday closing

1886 Guinness went 'public' - Ind Coope (1886), Allsopp (1888), Whitbread (1888) & Courage (1889) followed and went big & bought pubs

1907 Liberals ban 'barmaids' and even 'the long pull' = young Churchill 'measures of plunder to satisfice political spite', but the War was to be won in the factories not on the battlefields and the workers ran on beer ... nothing worked ... not even prohibition. Temperance politised beer as Lloyd George got on the wrong side of the curve.

1914-8 armies demanded beer supplies for marching & for morale but exchequers needed taxes to pay the bills the inevitable result alcohol levels tanked down to 3%.

1920 Prohibition 1929 folk couldn't afford to drink and the alternatives - hobbies, music, bridge, radio, movies, football, automobiles, gardening

1928 'Guinness is good for you'

1960s breweries became property owners tied pubs became sales outlets

Kegs = pasteurized, filtered, dead beer CO2 pressurised delivery cashed in on mass production of reliable but commoditised brews ... and proper beer went into decline

Watneys Red Barrel = best selling keg beer by 1961 following consolidation as breweries were purchased because of the tied pubs for economies of scale for the reliable technology - 'What We Want is Watneys'  

Davenports Beer at Home = Highgate Brewery started the dark 'mild' Birmingham brews for the workers from 1899, rumoured to originate from 1739. 'Beer at Home means Davenports' was from the 1960s but it didn't work ... a pint always found it difficult to be convivial at home. Inevitably acquired by Greenall Whitley, who else, in 1986

1970s beer declines as larger zooms

1927 Carling Black Label = originally from the monks of Munich, Eddie Taylor (1901-) was a huge freak from Ottawa who worked hard at reading Balance Sheets in a tin pot brewery and bet prohibition wouldn't last. Taylor bought up bankrupt brewers with equity and developed mass production of keepable light refreshing largers during prohibition which swept into Canada, UK & Oz. Beer had won the war but complacency lost the peace to national brands. Watneys Red Barrel was crap but Caring Black label was for the Brits - 'I bet he drinks Carling Black Label 1989' 

1958 the Big 6 buy ups started = Allied Breweries (Ind Coope, Tetley Walker, Ansells), Courage, Watney Mann & Truman, Scottish & Newcastle, Whitbreads & E P Taylor's Bass Charrington in 1966

1967 breathalyser = 'nough said 

1971 CAMRA = backed real ale in real flavoured wood casks, live ale with ongoing fermentation and conditioning pull pumped up from the cellar

1986 M&MC - the big 6 - guest beers, sale of properties to the banks, Punch Taverns, Wetherspoons and homogenisation as big 6 went into leisure, entertainment and Bingo ... and the pubs themselves housed restaurants, juke boxes and tellies 

Sunday opening - jeez ...

Distruptors - Six Packs, Supermarkets, loss leaders, wine, Sky, drink drive, no smoking

Oz Fosters & Castlemain XXXX

Stella Atois = Beligium go for French 'luxury' and expense

1991 Temperance Association disbanded ... gentle bladderment & conviviality with boys & girls had become an established cultural asset and the local pub  provided home comforts and the excitement of getting out more where stuff happened ...  

There were many other tipples to tickle fancies which competed with beer - 

cider (fermented apples) 

mead (fermented honey) 

wine (fermented grapes)

sack (fortified wine) 

all sorts of distilled spirits ... whiskey, bourbon, gin, rum, vodka, brandy ... but and it was a big but, none of these impostors were available as convivial pints ...

punches, toddies, slingers ... on it went

History was fraught but everyone was different and almost everyone loved doing fun deals ... and if it wasn't fun, folk stopped doing deals and stopped buying rounds ... and left. We looked around and saw more & more fun folk doing deals everywhere ... and more & more deals & exchanges ... synergies ... the benefits were mutual otherwise folk stayed at home and festered.

Hecky Nora, this was no canard and it certainly wasn't 'luck' ... we all knew, especially saxophone players, that the harder we worked the luckier we got ... and all our mates insisted that everybody, apart from cheats with con tricks, had something to trade ... everyone had smiles & friendships to trade ... and it was smiles & friendships which guaranteed fun and made the world go round ... made the beer taste better ... and there ain't no app for that!

It all boiled down to the fun of hard work, honesty & thrift ... hard work, honesty & thrift fun? ... give us a break!

So we agreed humour was the most splendid accoutrement when boozing ... taste buds went ecstatic ... we investigated how it came about that humour, not faff, created waves and waves were -

self-generated flows, sweeping changes, strong, free, wild, shifting, challenging, unstoppable, upheaval produced from within, motor & memetic responses to opportunities, teamwork.

Resisting waves was futile, the power overwhelmed. Sentient folk communicated & interacted best thru fun, smiling with folk not at folk; asap before your teeth fall out.

We came to understand more clearly that 'serious' endeavour was suspect whether in the pub, pulling the girls, at home or at work, so why did so many newspapers, broadcasts, musicians or writers claim to qualify as 'serious'? This way differences just polarised opinions to justify viewpoints. Even 'serious' questions about science, prime numbers, natural harmonics, hydrothermal vents & replicating molecules often ended up with offensive compromise. But our own experiments in empirical science were fun ... exciting serendipity from shared cooperation.  We were bursting, all work and social interactions must be fun. 'Get a grip' 'macho management' was taboo, the girls didn't like it ... folk had to lighten up. Some assumed that we had to be serious to be respected ... jeez ... may be the opposite was true? More productive interactions involved humour, and we needed more. Aspire to become a 'magnet' (of unwavering good cheer) not a 'sniper' (edgy, sarcastic and nuanced), winner takes all competition always seemed to fail when the going got tough. Complex adaptive systems didn't respond to force fitting, one sized fits all didn't work ... such led to alienation, disillusionment, cheating and stress.

We NB'ed Aristotle's mind sets - ethos (empathy), pathos (humour) and logos (logic) and experimented with all three.

So we concocted experiments, we tried for 2+2=5 ... we exaggerated, went over the top, shouted louder, ridiculed ourselves, recalled the historical excitement of 'smiles' but not the fear of 'executions' ... we detailed gross irreverence and unmentionables like sex, health, popes & conspiracies ... we told it as it we felt it, we luved all the happenings we were supposed to hate ... The Daily Mail, Radio Luxembourg, decadent jazz, Billy Cotton, Geoffrey Boycott, political incorrectness, tax loopholes, Manchester City supporters, the filthy rich, referees & umpires ... but we never -

talked about folk who were not there to defend themselves

repeated ourselves ... our fun was allocated a number to save our breath -

No 23  'don't tell him your name Pike'

No 27  'Mr Preview played all the right notes but not necessarily in the right order' 

No 37  '4 candles? no, fork 'andles!'

No 56  'knock knock who's there'? ... 'Nicholas' ... 'Nicholas who?' - 'Nicholas girls shouldn't climb trees'  

 Get a life and thank 'goodness'! ... another pint?


Beer is not the answerDifferent DifferencesWe got there in the end. The furrowed brows of the doom merchants never had it all their own way. There were always others like the inhabitants of The Goshawk, our local in rural Mouldsworth. These stalwarts shared our enthusiasm for conviviality. Fear could 'freeze the world' but everyone knew what excitement could do? 

Welcoming 'locals', were not just locals for locals, not places to get legless but rather social centers, spaces to relax, meet friends, interact and buy your round.

And above all, although convivial pints became more costly and less profitable than the fodder plates which added grossly to indulgent obesity & sloth, ... 'the local' retained an unimpeachable 'healthy option' - 

 we walked to our local which helped to fight the flab and the stress.

The Licensing Act 2003 opened up the pubs twenty four seven ... and in 2016 the 400-year-old tie which forced pub tenants to buy beer from their landlords was finally severed ... at last some deregulation ... it was only a start but perhaps well behaved folk who didn't harm others were now at last able to choose to access public spaces ... where? when? with whom? and what brew? ... cheers!

Your choice, my round!

We got it! The convivial pint was not something we bought but something we did.  

Nouns & Verbs  

Nouns & VerbsThe fog lifted a bit more at Jimbo Riley's Christening on the 16th of June 2013 at Sandon Church in Staffordshire. Over a beer with the Rev Dick Sargeant ... or was it a cup of tea? It must have been tea, 'cos we were driving and he was preaching ... maybe it just tasted like a convivial pint? ... wotever we discussed his sermon and the relative merits of nouns & verbs.

Dick was a genial fellow with a happy face and a spritely mind, untarnished after 90 odd years of toil ... his words were captivating, there was no one else was pontificating, so we listened to the chimes ... all about nouns & verbs ... 

How much time have we got? Although it was never ever not time we needed, it was understanding. It was easy & quick to hear what folk said but the difficult bit was to know what they meant.
We had voted with our feet and joined a club of our choice. We welcomed young Jimbo into our club to try to give him a better chance. The was not a conspiracy, we were here to help. 
Important happenings in life were never ever not 'things' that we possessed or owned or bought or exchanged. We always tried to make happenings happen but we didn’t just offer, nor accept, a 'package', done & dusted.
We were doing things not just exchanging gifts. We had to think Verbs not Nouns.
The hard work, honesty & thrift involved in doing things brought momentous rewards ... busy was good ... and we can prove it by evidence ... just look at all those kids and grandkids! After all, remember, we exchanged marriage vows but we did love.
Lucky us? Funny ... but it was never ever not luck 'cos the harder we tried the luckier we got.
So thank you all, not so much for any nice parcel nor kind words, but thanks for doing things with us!
Perhaps Jimbo Riley chose his parents & friends well ...

Vote with Your Feet and Join a Club of Your Choice ...

FunFun folk with the Smiling Eyes joined the club of their choice and enjoyed 'fairness of shares' & deals that were fun ... of course they were 'resentful of cheats', that was certain,
... it seemed to us that fun folk did things, they did verbs -

they accumulated lots of smiling friends to do deals with and then

they discovered that when friendships were exchanged the taste of the beer did really really get better.
Synergy was fun 2+2=5. Fun friends were deep ... and their beer glasses were always half full ...
Good behaviour was fun & the tops ... some said it was common sense & should be rewarded ...
'happenings' became exciting opportunities and fun deals 
Smiles & 'convivial pints' led to 'free lunches' ... 
Fun folk were not always all Pollyannas ... last time we checked happenings were a tad more complicated than that ... excitement & fear were 'designed' to flip flop ... due diligence & caveat emptor were universal

SadSad folk with the Furrowed Brows joined another club (although our club was always open to all if they bought their round). For sure they still wanted 'fairness of shares' & a cut of the pie but 'cos they were sad they didn't do many fun deals ... of course they were also 'resentful of cheats', that was certain,
... it seemed sad folk wanted things, they did nouns  -

they believed they had no thing to exchange and

they believed they had no one to exchange with and so many became cheats and drank too much ordinary beer.
Cheating was sad 2-2=0. Sad friends weren't friends at all ... and their beer glasses were always half empty ...

Bad behaviour was sad & the pits ... some said it was illegal & should be banned ...
'happenings' became fearful problems and con tricks. 
Gravitas, 'I know bestry' & 'uber alles' led directly to comeuppance ... 
Sad Folk were not always all Curmudgeons ... last time we checked happenings were a tad more complicated than that ... excitement & fear were 'designed' to flip flop ... fairness of shares & resentment of cheats were universal  

Everybody had worms in their heads and monkeys on their shoulders but most coped 'cos the alternative was unimaginable, but some had chipped shoulders and needed help & understanding. Learn by doing but remember learning curves were steep ... the 2nd Law saw to that ... this was hard ... we thought we'd got it ... but nope we had to try again ... help ... that's a bit better ... nope something's still wrong ... back to square one ... all hit & miss ... have another go ... we've plateaued ... after 10,000 hours ... maybe we got it!?

Experiment don't procrastinate ... so while procrastinators procrastinated we experimented ...  and we bet that beer was food for experimenters.

The convivial pint may not the best but it was much better than the ordinary alternative ... a pint?

:drink... cheers ...

:drink    back to first round    


Beer Drinking  

George & SonWe guessed that all this beer drinking malarkey was inherited from our Dad ... after all we possessed 50% of his genes. Where else could such strange but inspiring behaviour have come from? We spent the whole of the 1940s learning how to live from Mum & Dad ... and no doubt a little bit of 'know how' also came from Mrs Perry's infants school, although they thought we were a tad backward. Dad taught us the fine art of cricket in endless hours of practice and entreaties to 'stay sideways on and wait for the ball' ... but beer drinking was different, we never heard of anyone being taught about drinking beer ... it just happened?

Although nobody talked about it, especially when the Barnton Methodists and Rechabites were around, beer was woven into the fabric of Birchall life ... our Dad, George Birchall, was a beer drinker. We did find the occasional photo of Mum & Dad without beer ... even during our wedding year! And there was more ... the census of 1901 confirmed that our granddad George W Birchall was a publican; he was mien host at The Newton Brewery Inn, Middlewich. And The Kelly's Directory of 1906 recorded his tenure at The Crown Inn, Lewin Street, Middlewich ... all this was before Dad was born ... so the question was ... was beer imprinted in our paternal genes?

Although son Jonathan started off on wine it was very clear, very soon, that beer was entrenched in his psyche and he always insisted it contributed immensely to his social acumen ... he even dressed for drinking ... his mates suggested that this sartorial elegance was a ploy to pull the girls ... but whatever, only one thing was certain about his glad rags ... whenever he wore this natty attire it invariably had an uncanny effect on his general health & deportment the following morning ... all this, of course, had nothing to do with his father who denied responsibility, he had merely contributed a few genes.  

Chester Northgate Brewery  

Northgate BreweryNorthgate AlesLooking back, it was obvious that by the early 1950s the slow beer assimilation process was already underway. Every day, often several times a day, at the King's School, Chester, the reprobates would troop up Northgate Street from the school precincts around the Abbey Gateway to the Blue Coat School, just on the far side of the city Northgate. The short journey was necessary as The Blue Coat hosted Orry's art, Jammy's general science ... and furthermore both Spider Roberts & Gomer Davies had their shrines to science up Northgate Street by the old debtors prison ... and more more we also hiked northwards to partake of Mrs Griffith's lunch fest. The dark green boiled cabbage, spuds & the chew of the day and were invariably finished off with semolina & red jam, all served, with the help of 'Jacko', from the palatial kitchens in the heart of the Blue Coat pad.

The starting gun for this ordeal was often mumbled by duty masters who were eager to get the pious pleadings over with and get on to the Pied Bull -  

'Benedictus Benedicat for Christ sake sit down'.

In 2014 superb virtual walks around Chester were instantly available on the interweb for those wishing to revisit these old haunts ... this time with blessed relief; there were no compulsory school caps, straight on with parted hair ... however the real significance of our own slogs north in those days was the proximity of the Northgate Brewery.

Northgate ScammellsThis celebrated manufactory was founded in 1760 at The Golden Falcon Inn, on Northgate Street. The Falcon Inn was Chester's finest coaching inn, bang on the busy main route to Ireland and renowned for its hospitality as well as its beer ... there was a story that in 1741 Handel himself vouched for the excellence of the beer if not the excellence of the music! The wonderful ales were delivered to watering holes on the ancient Scammells and quenched the thirst of hoards of grateful Cestrians. In 1949 the brewery was inevitably bought by Greenall Whitley, the big Warrington Brewers who it seemed to us owned most of the county. In the end an act of vandalism sorrowfully closed the Northgate Brewery in 1969.

But in 1952 from those dark dank buildings, just behind the Blue Bell Inn & Fire Station, the rich aromas of the brewers art continuously wafted across our path as we trekked north. The smells of barley malt, mash, wort, hops, yeasts and ferment were at once both intriguing & enticing ... we can still feel those heavy layers of gross atmosphere which emanated from that ancient manufactory. We were curious youngsters and we must have devoured such experiences with excited anticipation.

Tom 2018We remembered Tom Bateman way back from those early days at School ... you always remember folk who were older than you and Tom was ancient... but in fairness to Tom he never aged ... he looked exactly the same when we met him in The Peacock at 80 as he did when he was 18!

Tom was our revered fast fast bowler. Years later our mate 'Edley Simms confided that it was Tom who put the shits up the City Grammar School lads during our annual confrontations on the green square. But Tom was something else ... Tom was a brewer ... he had actually worked at the Northgate Brewery ... for money! We hung onto his every word, not only had he alchemied the nectar which we had only smelled ... but he had also tasted it!

Tom smiling wife Barbara had an uncle who was the Company Secretary at the brewery and during a six week summer break he organised a bag carrying job for Tom amongst the vats & rats and those heavy vapours. The hallowed secret of the Northgate brew and the stronger small beer, 'Chester Beer', was mysteriously reported to be all about the careful measures of town water and well water 'to blend the brew'. The Head Brewer was a guy called Loader, originally from a furniture shop south of the Watford Gap. But he loved his beer and was a golfer when not orchestrating the malts & worts and the coopers in the yard below. (Significantly sport and beer always seemed to be inextricably linked ... and Tom wondered why?)

The workers homes were in the adjacent terraced houses close by. Such proximity was a godsend because life was tough in that hot bed of booze. To fight fatigue and the stifling humidity there was a beer 'allowance' of a jar (two pints) every morning. But when the job called for entry into the 'mash tun', an extra jar was available in the afternoons ... and if the job was finished early and to satisfaction there was the attractive possibility of an hour off, drinking your fill and a nap on the barleys bags with the rats. But whatever those guys did it was good ... although Tom insisted he didn't drink very much in those days and often gave his allowance away. His mate calculated that some of those heavy sweats were consuming 14 pints a day. No wonder their beds were close by in Water Tower Street. Even the hopeful visitors who toured the brewery were generously entertained in the 'tasting' room just below the steaming wort ... and inevitably all were legless well before carriages.

Yet there was much more to Tom's friendship than beer. We habitually used his pad at 'Ingleton', Norley Road in a vain attempt to sober up before we embarked on the treacherous journey back home to The Briars in distant Northwich. Barbara's black coffee was always piping and superb ... and it was Tom who claimed credit for cementing for ever our affections for a young Chester Carole with an 'e'.

After one memorable night in the Riverside Bar at The Boathouse, just for once, Carole agreed to try a black coffee at Tom's and somehow managed to escape unnoticed from her enthusiastic chaperone; brother Colin. Distraught at losing his charge, Colin's detective skills soon ascertained that his sister had last been seen in Norley Road with King's School boys ... wot horror! Colin panicked and was soon banging on Tom's door at 'Ingleton' and demanding access to his sister. Tom's skills involved hiding the love struck reprobate concerned behind his sofa while he placated the dutiful brother ... inevitably by plying him with an additional beer ration ... a herculean effort which smoothed the way ahead for two young lovers who were forever in his debt ... and this proved what we had long suspected, that the finest emollient for true love ... was beer!

Back at Kings, way before these shenanigans, we all learned that the imbibing of beer was an old established tradition, well woven into the fabric of the school. After all, our dad was fastidious about selecting a 'good' school for his issue ... and he was a beer drinker. And even the cricketers had been exposed to English Literature by the great Jack Hetherington ... although most of his teachings forgotten well before the exam, we did remember, with shameless delight, the tales of the drunken Falstaff. Perhaps, more importantly, at 'O' level Jack introduced us to Swift and the Bard with the set books 'Gulliver's Travels' and 'The Merchant of Venice'.

At the time we failed pathetically to understand the pettiness of party politics, and the wasteful enmity of national rivalries between France & England ... 'with big enders & little enders' / 'low heels & high heels' ... and the uselessness of legal definitions to settle disputes about 'a pound of flesh without the blood' ... we learned the quotations -

'I cannot but conclude the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth'

'What news on the Rialto?'

... but only later, as evolutionary economists, did we cotton on to meaning and the overwhelming priority of moral sentiments & synergies and when guessing about the future ... think about it!

Wot a mucky mess was youth; if only we'd known then what we know now ... ?

Harry 8Then there were the stories of Harry himself. Our heroic founder of the King's School was a noted imbiber and famed for his manipulation of the Pope. With the dissolution of the monasteries went the wine making preeminence of the grape and left the Brits free to indulge in honest ale. In 1519 in his arrogance Harry tried to better his bitter by banning hops from his royal beer; he failed. Although he described hops as 'a wicked & pernicious weed', hops continued to impart their distinctive flavour to English beer for the duration ... cheers.

Clearly the English beer legacy was more powerful than the Pope's encyclicals!

However, in fairness, we always suggested to all the macho men of system that the Pope was not defeated by Harry's whims but rather by Anne Boleyn's enticing smile ... and we'd read the signs, times over. 

So there was little doubt that we followed in the foot steps of our founder who drank his beer with the ladies ... but perhaps such were not convivial pints, it seemed, that maybe, Harry didn't drink, he quaffed, and we never quaffed in front of the ladies ... there was a serious difference.

In this way we were about to be gripped by a social culture which always seemed to be lubricated by beer and made our world spin round ... we learned that nothing was achieved without the help of others ... and we learned the fine art of ... what would you call it?

... alliance, association, coalition, collaboration, camaraderie, cooperation, contribution, complement, courtesy, empathy, fellowship, harmony, helpfulness, honesty, integrity, loyalty, manners, ministration, obligation, participation, partnership, respect, reciprocity, responsibility, responsiveness, service, sharing, succour, symbiosis, synergism, trust, understanding ... was so many different words used for the same team effort ... playing ball ... family & friends ... even the French had some words; 'esprit de corps' ... and strangely strangers always managed the benefit of any doubt ... 'pleased to meet you, Sir, shake on it, thanks, mine's a pint'.

Of course our rich environment was not limited to the Kings Chester and its founder ... family & friends were to be found everywhere ... if we looked ...

Fun with Flook    

FlookFor years we had shocked many folk by smiling at the fun and entertainment in 'The Daily Mail'.

It all began 1949 as we avidly absorbed social history through the cartoon adventures of Rufus & his dreamland pal Flook. We came to know Bodger the crook, Sir Montague Ffolly from the established elite, social climber Scoop & his wife Prudence and George Jabb & his 'fake noos' journalism ... these vagabonds & thieves proved to be far more efficacious teachers than the dour school textbooks which, for reasons unknown, seemed to be all about the dates of Kings? And then serendipity ... there were big bonuses ... we learned that 'news' and the foibles of folk was not all doom & gloom ... 'news' could be fun as Flook led the way, enticingly, to Wally Fawkes, clarinets, Humph and our passion for jazz.

Two long time heroes of ours 'Humph' & 'Trog' for jazz and Flook in the Daily Mail!

'Humph' RIP April 25th 2008 - thanks for everything - Bad Penny Blues

Wally 'Trog' Fawkes RIP March 2023

Many others read 'serious' newspapers, studied opinions and followed the heated 'hatreds' & 'arrogant follies' in the Parliaments & Bureaucracies. But as they became embroiled in the unfolding Apocalypse as Armageddon was declared ... we revved up with the fun in 'The Mail'.

Of course, the 'fake news' fed our prejudices as each day the banner headlines bent emotions and entertained outrage. The Mail wasn't 'cool' ... but then neither we were we ... we were into Flook and Jazz and rapidly becoming mavericks in the footsteps of Humph, our hero. 

Humph & Flook'Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness' became our creed and by words for Darwin's 'Survival, Autonomy & Serendipity' ... if you didn't laugh you'd cry and, if you looked, there were always 'fun issues' and smiles around to provoke & entertain.

Without gravitas 'The Mail' plundered 'issues' which were just a different slant on all the other 'furrowed brow' problems in the 'serious newspapers' ... in any case we guessed that all such 'issues of the day' were editorial concoctions to sell newspapers.

Chris Hughes exposed The Daily Mirror as concerned only with sales as they influenced appetites for the profusions of Princess Diana and her fascinating lifestyle and delightful shape ... folk flocked to read about the trysts and ogle the candy?

We also rumbled the local Manchester Guardian as 'fake noos', even before it changed its name. We remembered 'you've never had it so good' in the 1950s was not for the 'serious' Guardian which focused on the war & the holocaust ... we stopped buying 'seriousness' it upset our demeanour ... perhaps, not only because there was no fun, but because it seemed to us like the infamous misprints & spellings infiltrated all meaning. This was the 1950s at a time when we were trying to learn about wot on earth was going on in the world ... in our abject misery of seriousness we simply failed to understand all the stories about strange evil behaviours & suspect economics. It just didn't make sense.

Ban Jazz Then there was more as the 'balanced' BBC also spoiled the fun and became infra dig as a pernicious perpetrator of blatant opposition to jazz ... our other favourite newspaper of the 1950s, The Melody Maker, exposed the fraudulent license fee in 1948 ... 'No jazz before 12 noon!' 

Who did they think they were?!

Although it must be said we did cling onto the BBC a little longer than the Guardian 'cos it enjoyed a monopoly of 'home news' when we were underneath the soap pans in Apapa.

The Beeb, it must be said, also broadcast the hilarious fun of 'The Goon Show', 'Morecombe & Wise', ''Ello 'Ello', 'Steptoe & Son', 'Fawlty Towers', 'Dad's Army', 'Monty Python', 'Only Fools & Horses', 'Yes Minister' ... wot a track record!

Perhaps, even the serious newspapers had to pay their bills ... and perhaps again, such 'serious' issues were  -

big problems for the sad ... with the 'top down' views of the News Editors blaming others in their ivory towers for the inconveniences ...   

... but the very same 'issues' were - 

big opportunities for us fun loving others ... who stuck to the 'bottom up' knitting at the coal face and searched for successful fun deals with mates involving hard work, honesty & thrift ... and beer! 

Our glass contained beer which was always half full ... we weren't in the blame game, especially when folk weren't around to defend themselves, and we were optimistic about opportunities and always looked forward to that next 'delicious half' ... as Stubby, the sage of Northwich Cricket Club, used to say.  

So as banner headlines raged and continued to tell their stories about the bureaucratic circuses, we hunkered down with Rip Kirby and the ingenious creation of Wally Fawkes our favourite clarinet player ... and if you didn't like Flook ... there was all the excitement of the sports coverage on the back page which was always fun; 'cos that's wot sport was; fun ... especially, the MCC, the Long Room at Lords, St Legers at Doncaster, Ryder Cups, Etihad Main Road, Twickers, Wimbledon ... and all the level playing fields in abundance ... except we did suspect that Anfield sloped down towards The Kop? 

The Power of the PubOn 7th Jan 2013 the Mail told about the power of the pub and proved to be still on our pulse ... it seemed to us that there was a plethora of opportunities even though we were up against the sin taxes & tied houses which remained stubbornly permanent ... and painful as clearly they were monstrosities which funded wasteful waste. But whatever your cup of tea ... and we knew tastes were many & varied 'cos many of our friends enthusiastically read serious newspapers ... vive la difference ... in the end when push came to shove we agreed it wasn't Newspapers, Religion or Politics that impoverished everyone but rather all the 'restraints on trade' & 'restrictive practices' that discouraged autonomous folk from beer and fun deals ... such were not Evolutionary Stable Strategies ... and we had read the book.

From 1859 we all should have learned that diversity was the feedstock for evolutionary change as Darwin suggested ... and there was no alternative sort of change that anyone knew about?

Then as paper & ink Newspapers became expensive unsustainable sources of 'fake news' and YouTube became a torrent. The Mail went online and provided instant & 'free fake news' for millions at the touch of a button ... and we were back where we started ... 'fake news' was easily come by ... so why pay for it?

A crunch came when broken parliaments started to 'fact check' by referring 'lies about the future' to a politicised Supreme Court for adjudication ... there must be a better way? There was no wished for consensus anywhere to be seen, many saw happenings that others ignored. We were careful what we wished for. Diversity not consensus, was essential for natural selection.

Spoon-fed 'editorial implants' were lethal time thieves, as rampant 'YouTube' diversity became your very own personal survival aid ... sometime somewhere amongst the dross ... there was a golden nugget?

MailOnlineThe MailOnLine abandoned news and went balls down for entertainment. But this new manifestation of fun apparently concurred that science was not just another opinion, there was evidence involved ... empirical science was fun! Empirical science was 'know how', 'know how' which was unavailable in 'ivory towers' and had to be discovered & accumulated at the coalface in the hubbub of 'market squares'. We Darwinites learned before the great ape investigations at Stockholm University, that 'plans can be made without thinking'. We knew that our arrogant, plausible, deliberate, rational, purposeful, intentional plans to buy a convivial pints was fraught ... 'plans' were not what they seemed to be ... the evidence indicated that convivial pints were impossible to buy at any price. 

77 BrigadeThe MailOnLine, somewhat unexpectedly during Covid, was yet again on the ball ... or was it on the pulse? ... when the inscrutable rag exposed the antics of the 77 Brigade. This unit of HM Army became embroiled in misinformation & woke censorship, when there was an attempt to 'cancel' one of the very very few scientists in our broken parliament ... for asking questions of science ... wot! ... jeez ... no wonder we read newspapers for entertainment not for news?  

Of course the best truth of empirical science was very expensive, it required hard work, honesty & thrift ... not easily come by -

a double blind randomised control experiment in Scunthorpe which was repeated in the Antipodes 17½ nights later with the same peer reviewed results was meaningful evidence ... 

Science was concerned with evidence of the The Laws of Nature ... now that was power? ... science had a remarkable capacity to resolve differences of opinion and convince juries ... in Scunthorpe and the Antipodes.

But again we must add caution, our mate Colin was adamant -  

'Whatever you do in Scunthorpe you've only got yourself to blame'!

Differences were to be celebrated, preferably with a convivial pint, they were impossible to eradicate, that’s why girls danced backwards and we voted with our feet and joined a club of our choice?

So early on we had learned a bit about fun ... but yet not much about beer.

Beerless Peers at King's 

Biggles 1949Of course, for the most part, life at King's was without the ancient golden elixirs which were later to besot. Such was the interactive fun with our pals at The King's School that we never mused about how much better it may have been if lubricated with beer ... it was serious good fun in abstinence ... unassailable.   

Later we reflected ... our secretly dyslexic tendencies were a tad debilitating and perhaps we thrived only because of cricket, football & conviviality with friends ... fun which lasted a lifetime. The persistent inability to read was insidious and traumatic but we coped knowing that we could escape to the sports field ... we certainly tried hard to read and had some meager success as worried parents bribed us with 'Biggles' books. But the King's School was different ... at the gun Doggie Lysons was in charge of 'Remove A' and the 'set book' for the reading challenge was Erskine Childers’ 1903 novel 'The Riddle of the Sands' ... we honestly, diligently, 'read' every single word, sentence & paragraph of that dense book and never understood nor remembered one iota ... we still ponder such a waste of time ... but the herculean effort was, in a strange sort of way, prescient and exciting ... maybe next time every single paragraph would be interesting? ... were we beginning to learn about hard work, honesty & time investment ... forget the embarrassment of failure and 'if at first you don't succeed try & try again'?

In the end we did learn to read and eventually our library became established as a treasure, an inspired happening of choice.  

Our pious Grandma Brocklehurst, strictly teetotal to the end, insisted that our pinnacle of achievement at King's was not our academic learning nor our social gallivanting but the daunting task of reading the lesson in Chester Cathedral. We remembered the first ordeal ... Isaiah 40-6 -

'A voice said, cry, and another asks, what shall I cry?
That all mankind is grass, they last no longer than a flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
when the breath of the Lord blows upon them,
the grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God endures for evermore'.

We never claimed to understand our religious indoctrinations and were mystified when many of our mates were 'confirmed', but we came eventually to a sort of an epiphany ... not the conjuring trick with bones which was the 'resurrection' ... but how many of our genes themselves might just 'endure for evermore'?

Holy SmokesMama tried hard with the 'Holy Smokes' in 1947 but to no avail.

But we did read Honest to God when we were 17 and it did sceptically chime.

From 1956 we remembered just one seminal moment of academic fun ... we won no prizes, scholarships nor accolades ... sure we passed exams but didn't remember much ... guys like Tony Bowen were far better bets at teaching than the formal science lessons from Gomer & Spid ... such we could never really understand. Although Spid did rise in our estimation when he wrote A Year with Nature, a book with lasting appeal in our household which became packed full of environmentalists ... we concluded Spid was the first of such species we had met. Perhaps he unwittingly inspired the wild life garden at The Meister with hides for the hedgehogs & fish ponds for the herons? But perhaps not, by the time of these happenings we were pinned under the considerable influence of Carole with an 'e'.  

The Suez Crisis

DictatorsAt Kings Chester in 1956 there was one happening of academic fun that was indelible; we were up front in a school debate on The Suez Crisis.

Maybe this was just adolescence? Maybe the first signs that we were our own man, not to be pushed around by others? This independent streak seemed to stay with us for the duration.

We had learned about the Feudal Lords, the big 3 autocrats, Stalin, Hitler & Mao and we weren't too pleased about Napoleon's dictats & then a guy called Colonel Nasser came along.

From 1956 onwards after Nasser 'nationalised' the Suez Canal our gut became emphatically wary of all dictating dictators.
Whose property was it that they were thieving? It usually turned out to be ours ... even though at the time all we owned was a special cricket bat and one slightly torn 'Penny Black'. That's it we abhorred all dictatorial hierarchical authorities, we seemed to be allergic to 'group think' and became suspicious of 'conventional wisdom' and naive cow towing without moral confrontation.

Had a broad education from diverse peers made us comfortable in a minority? We were 17, we were still learning, but determined, inspired and autonomous, going for longevity our very own particular way ... working it all out for ourselves ... personal responsibility?

CensorshipWe also became wary of any censorship which attempted to force us into submissive silence with threats of various sorts of violence ... we were not going be pushed about by oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals or corrupt Bureaucrats ... we were at home with family & friends and a moral urgency ... were did that come from? ... just ordinary folk, who always seemed to be under the cosh with threats from all manner of bureaucratic kluge - parasites & predators, tyranny & oppression, bribery & corruption, ignorance & arrogance and chaos & confusion?  

We learned that in war, and all other altercations for that matter, God and the moral high ground was always claimed by both sides simultaneously, so who was the the attacker? ... who was the defender? ... who was to judge? We reflected that defensive bullets didn't come with a label. In the same way we later learned that convivial pints were unbranded ... but we could tell they were different by the taste.

We began to enjoy the cut and thrust of debating fractious issues and when, in English class, Jack Hetherington provoked us into thinking about The Suez Crisis, we lapped it up. We were appalled when class mates almost unanimously sided with the dictator Colonel Nasser who stole private property. Wot?

But wot was evil intention? Wot was intention? Although it was not clear at the time, we did realise that ignorance was rampant, and the only way to learn was by trial & error ... and liberal democracies made more errors faster than dictatorships ... and learned first & faster? Funny that?

Failure and human error were the expected norms, it was no good blaming folk, such was akin to blaming gravity for a fall!

Consider the LiliesIn all the messy chaos of 'intentions' & war it was George Moreton Hodgson, at the back of the class, who sowed the seeds of revelation in our mind - 

'consider the lilies how they grow, Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these' 

Was this a first glimpse of Darwin' entangled bank? It was a tad too misty for a cricketer to see clearly when we were 17.

During the Suez debate we began to be confident in a minority, nobody liked the forced fit of 'my size fits you' ... surely?

Of course we were on the side of action ... with Tom Clamp our hero ... and Edmund Burke & Winston Churchill ... wot about personal responsibility -  

'I'd be there with my barrow'

'It only takes good men to do nothing for evil to triumph'

'Liberal Democracy was not the best organising system, it was just better than the alternatives which have been tried from time to time' 

Perhaps we were learning all about Mum's admonition -

'Use your imagination! Grow up!'

Personal responsibility to stick to your own knitting and learn ... and above all confront doom & gloom of the blame game and go for synergies. Thieving private property didn't seem right and that narrow strip of water not only kept European recovery going but also ... the canal was the route to synergies in India?

Sure, in our ignorance, individual responsibility to choose was very risky, but all experiments were risky, it just worked out better in the end. We were learning to confront any upstart macho males claiming Uber Alles ... and we were also learning that the girls seemed to have known all along about the dangers of testosterone.

So the 'Suez Debate' heralded the beginning of the end of adolescence ... as all around us emotions were boiling over and knickers were getting twisted, but we were learning as we tried for longevity -

everyone was different 'vote with your feet' and 'join the club of your choice'

'stay above the fray, not my circus, not my monkeys' and 'a helicopter view of the world' ...  
'look at the big picture and all was revealed'

We borrowed, unwittingly, from the bard, the greatest suggestion of all -

'There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy'

and from Cromwell -

'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken'

And from Luke 12:27 -

'consider the lilies ...

Only later did we study 'opportunity costs' and built bottom up from the bedrock of Darwin's insight ... a seminal moment ... some happenings were clear, simple & wrong -

'last time I checked happenings were a tad more complex than that, look at the big picture, the big patterns'  

G L S Shackle -

'We are ignorant of what it is we do not know even though we know more than we can ever say'

Weeding Out FailuresIn The Great Scheme of Things it became clear that King Canute was on the ball and power was all about weeding out failures -

'Let all men know how empty and powerless is the power of kings. For there is none worthy of the name but God, whom heaven, earth and sea obey'

Such was the only bit of history from Doggie Lysons that we remembered ... but to be fair he did also tell us about Xenophanes -

‘The Gods did not reveal, from the beginning, all things to us, but in the course of time through seeking we may learn & know things better. But as for certain truth no man knows it, nor shall he know it, neither of the Gods nor yet of all things that I speak. For even if by chance he were to utter The Final Truth, he would himself not know it: for all is but a woven web of guesses.’

Such a viewpoint -

frame of reference, bigger picture, on the whole, all things considered, across the board  

... developed into a significant tool for our understanding of all predicaments for our stretch of life ... and for effective action ... a splendid precursor for Darwinism?

We could never pronounce weltanschauung and certainly couldn't spell it ... but we liked the idea! An idea reinforced later by the best we met in business, like MJC, Ram Charam & Derek Holdsworth & Ted Levitt's marketing myopia and many other heroes ... all who stuck to their knitting and stayed above the fraying trivia, tittle tattle & gossip and got on with the job ... we were fertile ground for Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and Charles Darwin -Darwin's Origins  

'Darwinism was a theory of random mutation plus non-random cumulative natural selection pushing towards adaptation and improvement. Every generation has its many failures but every individual was descended only from the previous generation successful minorities. Why, we wonder, was it so hard for even sophisticated scientists to grasp this simple point' ... hmmm ... natural selection ... successful minorities?


'Some individuals were better able than others to draw the right conclusions about the world about them and act accordingly. These individuals will be more likely to survive and reproduce so their pattern of behaviour and thought will become dominant'

The Science of History was Cultural Evolution and the mathematics of weeding out failures

There was no right or wrong just some alternatives which worked out better than others. Our voice was heard above the emotional hubbub of that one avid debate. Was it all an emotional tirade against Empire building and war mongering, apple pie and motherhood? Or was there an insidious problem about dictatorships, nationalisation of private property and privatisation of production ... of course our paltry efforts convinced no one but ourselves ... but unwittingly around 1956 we absorbed two very personal nuggets of enlightenment - 

ethical matters were not adjudications of mythical Gods, oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals & corrupt Bureaucrats ... nor school teachers ... they were matters for individual folk and their mates to work out ... we were on a mission ... as Darwin first explained giraffes long necks ... then economics & the price of beer ... and then, eventually, the moral sentiments of Adam the Smith

different viewpoints were both legion and necessary as the feedstock of evolution and natural selection ... differences were to be celebrated .... reconciled, in the end, only by the survival of successful minorities ... and the evolving successes of empirical science.

Kings SportSo as we left the old Abbey Square school in 1958 there were not many irksome questions; we were replete, we had had a ball. But did time consuming sport lead to missed opportunities elsewhere? Every decision to invest our time was also a decision not to do some alternative ... only much later did we learn the significance in economic theory of 'opportunity costs' and the intriguing different between 'hard work, honesty & thrift' and 'jacks of all trades masters of none' ... did cricket & cricketers at school embed our belief in fun & friends and our aversion to 'sprinkling the desert with a teaspoon'?  ... for sure intrusive time hung around everywhere ... hiking to Greenbank Station, slow steam trains to Chester Northgate, the trek up Delamere Street and down Northgate Street to school, omnibuses to Cliveden Road before the exhausting last crawl to Lache Lane ... endless hours travelling ... we had some fun investigating the current facilities at Kings Wrexham Road and mused ... no wonder there was little of our time left for the Army Cadet Force, Gilbert & Sullivan Operas, Continental trips and Abersoch Summer Camps? ... and even the stunning Janet from The Queen's School, fell by the shameful wayside? ... nevertheless we guessed that investment in sport saved us from the ingress of our terrifying & debilitating affliction; a serious inability to read ... in the end 1950s King's Chester was real good fun.

In the 1950s we tried but we hadn't a clue, we groped & guessed, but we learned from the mistakes of the past, lived to the full in the present and built for rainy days in the future ... if only we'd known then what we know now? We were almost educated in cricket & science at King's and passed a few exams ... but our passions for beer (& jazz music) were extra curricular and only just beginning to infect our psyche.   

:drink    back to first round    


Cricket @ Prince Rupert Hotel  

Cricket Tour 1957The serious stuff may have all started at The Prince Rupert Hotel, Shrewsbury in 1955 ... inspired by our new sports master Pat Garnett, The King's School Chester Cricket Team embarked on a tour of Shrewsbury & Worcester ... the cricketing details of the these memorable happenings were recorded in The Kings School Magazine ... a copy had been fortuitously preserved by Malcolm Brewis and unearthed in Anglesey in 2015 after surviving yet another of Malcolm's umpteen house moves ... alas there was no official record of the beer drinking happenings, however we can imagine how many sorrows were drowned ... the magazine recorded john p's batting average to two places of decimals at 8.45 runs per innings!

In 2015 Graeme Guthrie remembered the upstairs lounge in The Prince Rupert Hotel. He was adamant that the tendency of cricketers to lurch across this room late at night was nothing whatsoever to do with their increasing intake of beer. Graeme was to be a bacteriologist but he had already sussed out Newton’s Laws of Motion,

'in the Prince Rupert Hotel, we used to clear the lounge area of chairs for a musical session, the lounge was on the first floor overlooking the street outside. The floor actually sloped down towards the window, so much so that if you placed a cricket ball on the opposite side it would roll down the floor all the way to the window'

... anyway most folk insisted we were too young to drink beer?

A couple of years later in 1957 the first photo of the gang was taken by Noel John Roy - Barnaby Lathom-Sharp, Charlie Pritchard, Ian Speechley, John Fleming, Pat Garnett, Malcolm Brewis, John Birchall, Graeme Guthrie, Alf Owen, John Reidford, Alan Williams ... and on the floor Mike Burdekin and Brian Dawbarn. Charlie Pritchard, who wore a tie for the occasion, claimed confirmation rights that the year was 1957 because that was the one and only cricket tour he enjoyed ... but there was a stupendous puzzle?

What was Mike Burdekin doing on the floor in 1957 when he had left school in 1956 to become an employee defending Her Majesty?

 The matter was eventually explained by a mixture of introspection, nous and wit. The quality of the beer at The Prince Rupert (& the quality of the cricket afterwards!) had been so excellent in 1955 and 1956 that our erstwhile captain had returned to sample more! The evidence was clear when the image of his demeanor in the photo was examined at high resolution.

But there were rumblings of intent at The King's School much earlier than 1955 ...

1952 Under 14s1952 - pictured at Lache Lane, the Holy Land, the under 14s cricket team (we think this was the under 14s cricket team ... 'cos it was scribbled on the back). We were too young for beer but all the reprobates were assembled and ready for action - Tom Bateman, Martin Wheeler, Martin Roberts, Mike Gledhill, Malcolm Brewis, John Fleming, Martin Astill, Bill Willetts, Graeme Guthrie, Graham Hartley, Brian Dawbarn, John Birchall.

A year later in 1953 Tom Clamp had put together an under 15s soccer team with a formidable half back line which greeted Mr T C P Garnett, Sports Master, on his arrival at Kings - right half 'driving from midfield' Graham Hartley, centre half john p, and left half 'on me 'ead' Brian 'Creaky' Dawbarn; we used to take it in turns to be captain. But we were in trouble ... we were following in the footsteps of giants ... in 1952/3 The King's School under 15s won The Laybourne Cup.

(The apparitions in the murky photo were - coaches at the back – Mr Roberts who was not with us for long, Sergeant Major Tom Clamp, by repute one of the last soldiers off the beach at Dunkirk - back row – Martin Davies, Martin Roberts, Brian Underwood, Bugsey Ward - front row – Tom Bateman, Bill Willetts, Les Slawson, Malcolm Brewis, Martin Astill, Teddy Egan, John Fleming).

The Laybourne Cup was the Chester secondary schools under 15s soccer competition. John H Laybourne, from Liverpool, was the Chief Constable of the City Police for 22 years, he retired in 1920, and in 1934 as a member of the City Council he became mayor. He organised a cup competition for all the local schools - King's, City Grammar, Chester College, Overleigh, Tarporley, Love Street ... no doubt intending to keep the youngsters off the streets and into healthy pursuits? ... Malcolm Brewis reminded us of the date of that memorable final, May 27th 1953, King's School 4 v. Chester College 1 ...

These skills had been honed by the great John Hudson at Arnold House.

(Mike Thornton, ?? Baxendale, Martin Wheeler, J M Forstel, ?? Chisholm, Pete Cottrell, Billy Bouch, ?? Dean, Ian Speechley, Les Slawson, Malcolm Brewis, Mickey Roberts, Brian Dawbarn).

Malcolm noted that John Hudson was not only a very good head master at Arnold House but an inspirational football coach. His appearance on the touch line at Lache Lane, even when they were in the 1st XI, was always worth a goal or two. Unfortunately we never made it to Arnold House but, of course, we well remembered JLH as an enthusiastic Vice President and player with the Chester Crossbatters C C ... more of that extravaganza later.

While we're on footballers ... and they also drank beer, we must record that our to efforts teach grandchildren the finer arts of soccer repeatedly involved some stories about the football legends from King's Chester -

Les SlawsonBill WillettsBill Willetts & balance - anybody who attempted to tackle Bill always seemed to fall over in a heap ... meanwhile swift & compact he and the ball had immaculately gone ... my Dad said balance in sport was everything?

Les Slawson & ball control - Les moved his body deftly between opponents and ball and then majestically went off with the ball stuck to the end of his boot ... John Hudson said he used glue but we didn't believe him?

(with Les in the photo were Adam, Colchester, Hindley, Harrison, Reade, Stanyer, Guthrie, Foulkes, Eaton, & Speechley)

Malcolm Brewis & both feet & his head - Malcolm was a right footer but with power & guile throughout ... Joe Cox used to say he dominated the middle of the park every time he played?

(with Malcolm in the photo were Milroy, Guthrie, Fleming, Birchall, Donaghy, Pattison, Reidford, Hindley, Foulkes, Dawbarn, Roberts & Underwood).

In 1953 this trio, as well as winning The Laybourne Cup, were all well established members of the Chester Schoolboys under 15 soccer team run by Tom Elwood, the headmaster of St Bedes Catholic Secondary Modern, a great friend of Mr Willetts and Bill. Les & Bill also played for The Rest of Merseyside against Liverpool Schoolboys in a game to celebrate Liverpool winning the England Schools Cup. In the Liverpool Schools team was Jimmy Melia, later of Liverpool, Southampton and England, and later still Manager of Southampton. Bill noted that perhaps this had something to do with the fact that the Rest of Merseyside lost!

After Chester Schoolboys Malcolm went on to play for Merseyside Grammar Schools and also Lancashire & Cheshire Grammar Schools - LCGSFA. One of the LCGS matches was against Bolton School where a future son-in-law of MSB was playing in goal. Brian Labone was also in the LCGS team and he went on to play centre half for Everton & England in the early 1960s.

Tom Ellwood was also a key member of Chester Nomads AFC and was their regular referee. He was trusted to keep an eye on 16/17 year old Bill during some of the early Nomads Easter Tours.

A year later Tom Clamp & Tom Ellwood pushed john p into action to play one solitary game for Chester Schoolboys at Flint. We remember it well, we met at Delamere Street Bus Station with polished kit and boots carefully packed in a bag. All the other established players adopted the fashion of the day which was to carry their boots with laces tied together round their necks ... we felt like a spare prick at a weddin' and the embarrassment escalated as the team sheet demanded Birchall at left half ... as many remember, john p's left foot was merely decorative ... we only played one game but wot fun, there were even lots of folk watching and some of them clapping! There was no beer afterwards ... we were 'in training' ... and perhaps too young ... nevertheless we later often celebrated our solitary appearance for Chester Schoolboys. Our soccer skills never matched the giants of 1953, Willetts, Slawson and Brewis ... but they taught us a lot about soccer ... and friendships.   

1953 Coronation CorporalIn 1952/3 the third form gang had a 'coronation form corporal' ... but all that was also way before beer ... at that time the highlight of the day was not beer but a lunch time dash down Princess Street to Quinns where the quaint geezer there sold the most scrumptious and delectable cream buns ... 2d each and if you saved up you might stretch to 3d for a jam doughnut ... and that was 'd' pennies not 'p' pence! Dave Russell also recalled Quinns was on route to The Queens School and advertised on a sandwich board 'Hot Crumpets for Sale'. The older boys at every opportunity, breaks & lunch hours, played tennis ball football in the hard school yard. Frank Elsley of Bookland fame was like perpetual motion with that little ball and if you were lucky you were inveigled into doing 'the Quinns run' so the action did not stop. You ran to get the buns for your elders and 'got one free' for your trouble. J J Quinn and Sons, Princess Street.

(with john p in the photo were John Evans, Robin Dyke, Oscar Price, John Bramall, Tony Bowen, A St G Walsh, Mike Gledhill, Dave Hailey, Barnaby Lathom-Sharp, Mark Dickinson, Dave Russell, Brian Wheeldon, John Ashcroft, Jaap Souvery, Brian Stanyer, David Hewitt, Mike Clifford, John Allen, Ian Bale, Mort Hodgson, Roger Vincent, Graham Hampson, Eddie Walley, Noel Roy, Chris Bisson, Philip Given & Peter Gooding)

It was Johnny Walsh's tradition to photograph the 3rd form as the aging scholars and sportsmen passed through his hands. The photographs were pinned to the wall outside Room C, the 3rd form class room, for all to ogle. In MSB's year 1951/2, some of the lads even looked happy.

(with MSB were Bouch, Cottrell, Nicholls, Brownie, Mills, Deakin, ????, Barton, Baxendale, G A Wiliiams, Fleming, MSB, Lane, Johnny Walsh, Cotgreave, Abbott, Beatty, Dawbarn, Willetts, Swash, Coffee, Roberts, Patterson, Raw, ????, Jackson)

1954 - the photo of the cricket gang of 1954 suggested that the selectors had ignored some of the pretenders but Graeme 'Grog' Guthrie had made it!

Grog went on to great things and he remembered much when we caught up with him in Mayo in 2015 ... he had sobered up by then and was able to claim memory rights over the 'drinking photo' and picked the year 1955 -

John, delighted to hear from you. It is time some certainty be restored to the goings on of sixty years ago. We only stayed in the Prince Rupert Hotel in Shrewsbury on two occasions - 1955 and 1956. I am almost certain that the photograph was taken in 1955 and even if I am out by a year it would explain why the legendary Mike Burdekin was present, always remember
   'he is not drunk who from the floor can raise himself and drink some more,
   but he is drunk who prostrate lies and cannot drink and cannot rise'
As regards my selection for the English Schools Cricket Association, this followed a match against Worcester Grammar School in 1957, the Worcester Cricket teacher/umpire was a selector for the ESCA and I was lucky enough to have scored good runs against Worcester GS in 1956 and again in 1957 but I remember Pat Garnett (who I think was more delighted than I was) telling me that what really clinched my selection was my fielding! We were staying in a Hotel in Worcester after the game so the explanation of a celebration in the Prince Rupert is not factual.
However with the passage of time the precise details don't seem to matter all that much any more, we can continue to warm our ageing hands on the embers of the memories and friendships of sixty years or more ago ...
I trust you are all in good health and enjoying your end of life experience, I spend my time gardening and acting as taxi driver to my grand children, the West of Ireland is a great place to live, for how much longer - who knows?
Enough for now, I will revert with more comments if the memory mud clears!
Very best wishes,
Grog (My nickname mercifully didn’t cross the Irish Sea)

However Grog's memory proved less agile than his batting ... young Charlie Pritchard, clearly seen in the photo (with a borrowed tie for the occasion), had hardly been born in 1955, and he insisted that the one and only tour he managed as a 12th man was in 1957 ... we concurred, but the year didn't matter, the memory did ...

We did confirm from Dad's Diary that 'Grog played for English Schools XI v. Lancs II on August 1st 1957 and scored 7'.

Charlie PritchardWe noted Charlie Pritchard not only confirmed the date of our photo but was also a good egg and a perpetual enthusiast ... although he always denied it he was also good with the bat ... he often reminded us that he was only 12th man but we insisted he was much better than the 13th man ... and deserved his place in the fun. We kept in regular contact with Charlie at the CAOKS annual dinners and at BHCC Filkins Lane where he continued his affair with cricket. We were still drinking beer (or was it wine?) with him in 2019.

RIP Charles Pritchard April 2020 - died after a short illness in the Hospice of the Good Shepherd near Chester receiving palliative care for pancreatic cancer. Esteemed CAOKS President 1995-6 and one of the founders of the King's School Chester Tudor Society for legacy givers.

Long before The Kings School we also remembered Grog from the very early days when we had learned our cricket alongside Angus M & Graeme S Guthrie. In those days George & Eda and Edna & Alec were inseparable friends and cricket aficionados. Angus Guthrie (1937-48) taught us about 'spin' bowling but not about beer drinking as he died tragically young in 1948 of meningitis, a strange terrifying affliction ... only 11 years old ... we were devastated but didn't understand such a tragedy. In 2015 Malcolm Brewis also remembered Angus,

'He was by far the best cricketer from Northwich that I ever knew'!

We owed much to Grog, although we remembered his switch to Guinness in 1959 caused some consternation to the barmaids in Bollands. As youngsters we played cricket together for hours and hours in farmers fields and back gardens, way before the triumphs of Lache Lane. Once we remembered being taught the arts of Yorkshire League cricket by George Taylor who was the boss Groundsman at The Winnington Park Recreation Club. George was in charge of the new 26 acre sporting development at Moss Farm, Northwich started in 1949. There he took time off his daily grind and encouraged us kids to play in the nets 'till dark while he bowled & bowled at us so that practice & practice made some semblance of improvement ... under his guidance we 'got across and behind the ball' and 'stayed sideways on and waited for the ball' ... he also demonstrated the devious art of swing bowling, which was a miracle to us youngsters ... and he also described the infamous techniques of ball tampering with 'suitably modified' coins ... but he was clear that this was taboo and there was no substitute for practice.

Of no interest to George was the fact that Grog was left handed at everything ... except for batting ... we remember asking why? Why bat right handed? Grog, unabashed, suggested,

'I just copied my dad and it seemed to work'!

Wot perspicacity ... Graeme Guthrie’s selection to play for the English Schools Cricket Association team against Lancashire Second XI in 1957 was the proof that it had indeed 'worked'. His dad, Alec Guthrie, went in No 3 for Winnington Park Cricket Club and pushed a mean willow ... we used to watch ... with sharpened pencils, rubbers and scorebooks ... and we remembered the names Jack Powell, Alec Pimblott, Alec Guthrie, Bernard Woodcock, Jim Wilkinson, Alf & Joe Dale, Lance Drayton ...   

At Trinity College, Dublin, Graeme was captain of cricket and he continued to play in Ireland after University with The Railway Union ... active cricket went way on until around 2015 when all the runs he had accumulated took their toll and knackered his knees which required replacement for his continuing athleticism in his Mayo garden.

In 1955 two years after his arrival at Kings, Pat Garnett couldn't contain his excitement any longer and he organised some seminal cricket tours for the parched reprobates. 

Fifth FormThe years of trekking past the Northgate Brewery seemed to mingle into the memory mists ... but for sure we were not drinking beer ... the reprobates we were still in training ... the school years went something like this -

1949/50 last year at The Grange School

1950/51 Remove A - Mr L S 'Doggie' Lysons

1951/52 Upper Shell - Mr E  'EY' Yates

1952/53 Upper Third - Mr A St G 'Johnny' Walsh

1953/54 Upper Fourth - Mr A T 'Aty' Owen

1954/55 Lower Fifth 'A' Science = 'O' levels - Mr K A 'Ken' Hart - Maths, Physics, Chemistry, English, French, Architecture.

 ... in the photo; John Milroy, Dave Haley, John Birchall, Jaap Sovere, Brian Stanyer, Derek Norton, Roger Vincent, Dave Russell, John Ascroft, Morton Hodgson, Graham Hampson, D L Williams, Les Slawson, Tim Wheeler, Brian Japes, Robin Dyke, Tony Bowen, John Allen, Brian Wheeldon, Mark Dickinson, Ian Jolley, Noel Roy, Chris Bisson, Ken Rhys-Maitland, Eddie Whalley, Ken Hart, Mike Clifford, Ian Bale, Peter Gooding, Fred Riley ... (where was Philip Given? ... we did the split into 'science' & 'arts'?)

1955/56 Upper Fifth 'A' = Mr J E 'Spid' Roberts

1956/57 Sixth = 'A' levels - Maths, Physics, Chemistry

1957/58 3rd year Sixth - stayed on for more cricket !

Mike Burdekin1955 - Mike Burdekin led the offensive in 1955, his 4th year in the 1st XI, and the first match of the first cricket tour at Shrewsbury Priory School a guy called Tipton took 120 not out off Burdekin & Reidford; unheard of ... and he was sober. And at Wolverhampton Grammar School there was a rout by Grout, a quickie who was too quick for most of us. The King's School were all out for 26. Grout claimed 6 wickets for 7 runs. Pat Garnett was deeply disappointed ... we'd never seen anything like this at Lache Lane. The next day at Worcester Royal Grammar School, at last, somebody at The King's School scored a fifty but we still lost ... Martin Wheeler must have been the only one drinking, he managed the unforgettable fifty and Pat threw half a crown to him across the dressing room as a reward for his efforts ... amongst the palpable distress at the performance of the rest of us. Jack Hetherington, our young English master, also came along to keep the peace and proved to be a good egg. Jack, or 'Butch', was still going strong in 1996 when we met at the CAOKS annual dinner ... although he did abscond to Sir John Dean's Grammar School in 19?? ...

The Kings School Magazine carried the following report of the 1955 cricket tour -

'The next day, after the staff match, a party of 13 boys and two masters arrived at the General Station at 9.15am. For the first time in its history, the Club was going on tour. The tour lasted a week, during which time, five matches were played. Of these one was won, one drawn and three lost. The two centres were Shrewsbury (two nights) and Worcester (four nights). That we were playing in an entirely different class of cricket is shown by the fact that, during term time, no team scored 100 runs, whilst in the first match of the tour one boy scored 100 runs and his team scored over 200 runs against us. Also, three boys from the teams we met have played for an England schoolboys' eleven.
The spirit of the Touring Party was excellent at all times. All the cricketers are to be congratulated on this, as things did not always go as well as they might. We only hope the boys enjoyed themselves and that they consider the venture worth while and worth repeating'.

The 13 pioneering boys + 2 masters were - Burdekin, Bateman, Birchall, Brewis, Garnett, Guthrie, Hetherington, Hindley, Japes, Male, Reidford, Roberts, Stanyer, Wheeler & Willetts ... proof of identities survived ... during the 1955 tour John Reidford celebrated his 15th birthday and our pocket money was diverted from beer to the purchase of Keith Miller's book 'Cricket Typhoon', a gripping yarn about the 1954/5 Ashes tour in Oz with, Len Hutton our first professional captain, and Typhoon Tyson our secret weapon. This was a pressie for John and signed by all the gang in the King's School tour party.

John recalled his infatuation with an sign spotted in downtown Worcester advertising '?? ??' which was carefully concealed under his coat and eventually preserved triumphantly for posterity in the Prefects Room at Abbey Square. Did this blurred photo of a blowout in the prefects room feature the infamous sign?

We stayed at The Prince Rupert in Shrewsbury and The Loch Ryan Hotel in Worcester, we ate at The Lobster Pot and drank everywhere.

Prince RupertThe Prince Rupert was still going strong in 2020 when the evil Covid struck a book revived some happier memories.

Everybody remembered the water fight on the Severn at Worcester and that was before we'd been to the pub ... and after relaxing at The Dingle, Shrewsbury; Graeme Guthrie, David Hindley, John Birchall, Mike Burdekin, Brian Male, John Reidford ... but where were the others? ... the chances were that they were already in the pub?

By the end of the school year in 1955 Tom Bateman, Martin Wheeler, Brian Male, John Evetts, Jeff Stanyer had had enough excitement and left. Meanwhile john p on May 23rd took his frightening French oral, he was convinced he had failed but in the end on July 20th 1955 six 'O' levels launched a belated academic career - Maths, Physics, Chemistry, English, French and ... Architecture ... we surprised ourselves ... forgoing the obvious genetic connections with woodwork and the masterly constructions of model aircraft and canoes we plumped for Architecture? With hindsight it was propitious, the Architecture 'O' level introduced us to a lifelong fascination with the interpretation of history, which we didn't get from EYs history lessons. Folk constantly bent history to suit but when they left their comments in stone, the evidence survived, unlike words which were never very reliable in the first place and  then aged something rotten. Perhaps not as important as cricket and beer ... but building / constructing lasting value was a moment of serendipity.  

john p 17 years1956 - Old Rhubarbians. Mike Burdekin, Head Boy, and captain of cricket.

Mike summed up the antics involved during that memorable season of 1956 when just one match was lost and we all learned a lot about teamwork ... and  life ...

'During the 1956 tour there was a lot of banter about the Goon Show with people muttering 'Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb' all the time. The team spirit was so good that I christened the team the Old Rhubarbians and I made an illuminated script of the names of the team that I kept at home. I like your sentiment about the good old times and still remember them as a great platform for the rest of life.'

There were only 3 matches on the 1956 tour Shrewsbury School, Wroxeter & Uppington and RAF Shawbury. A three day tour started on Wednesday July 25th.

Against Shrewsbury School Creaky Dawbarn batted for a 'Bailey' like hour for 5 not out to save the game as Malcolm Brewis got an 'excellent' 40 ... that was after we had collapsed to 9 for 5 ... some were still celebrating this miracle in 2015! (Dawbarn, Hindley, Stanyer, Speechley, Slawson & Harrison) 

Some remembered on Thursday July 26th an innocent john p, just 17 years old, managed to score 88 not out at Wroxeter but he was too knackered & shocked for beer ... but he did get his 1st XI colours ... and at least our mum and Bill Willetts remembered

'I should not omit mention that a certain JPB in 1956 scored the highest score in my memory at The Kings School and almost certainly the highest score ever to that date - 88 not out against Wroxeter!' ...

However bowling was our strength in 1956; Mike Burdekin with 56 wickets and young John Reidford still only 16 with 61 wickets! We lost only one match during the year against the fully fledged men of RAF Shawbury.

Our class mate and team mate Mike Gledhill was on the '56 tour and in 2015 he also remembered all the fun and hilarity which built a foundation for the future ... even though he became a Tax Inspector! Mike was a good friend and we remembered the help he gave when we were sinking into the abyss of unfathomable French 'dictée' and the inappropriate use of 'qui' and 'que'. An enthusiastic sportsman and a good skin.

Mike Gledhill RIP January 2022.

The School Magazine reported on the cricket ... but why no mention of the beer? Statistics never lie and Bill Willetts kept them in his safe deposit box ... 1956 ... some said it was before beer and girls were invented ... but wot a year!

This was probably the year that Mike B called on john p to join him as an opening partner. No one argued with Mike. It was like a lamb to the slaughter ... but Grog was our run machine and he didn't need any protection from the shine. There was a note about yet another intrusion into our depleted beer funds as the team scrounged around and gathered enough of the readies to purchase a pair of pads for our departing skipper ... an inadequate recognition of our very own school boy cricketing legend.

Stalwarts Burdekin & Willetts left the King's School fray for alternative employment after the 1956 season ... National Service and then, as Bill later reminded us, off to Uni to learn how to learn.

In 2016 Mike B assembled an article about the Old Rhubarbians for the CAOKS Newsletter which placed in the school archives an indelible record of some of the inspirational school activities from the late 1950s. 

At the start of the next school year, on 13th November 1956, Dad announced that he was feeling much better after six months off work with nervous hell ... and he recorded an entry in his diary -

 'John was made a Prefect'

 ... this breakthrough had little to do with the Headmaster and his perspicacity and everything to do with Sergeant Major Clamp and Head Boy Mike Burdekin who were rewarded for their generosity with copious beer ... john p's reward was a luxurious dinner jacket for £19 ... specially arranged to impress the girls during the winter season at the Fourways Ballroom, Delamere ... these grand 'dances' were organised by the old girls from the Grange School and proved to be surprisingly exciting for 17 year old cricketers who knew a bit about holding a bat but nothing about holding a girl. 

1957 - Roger Mills, Head Boy; Malcolm Brewis, Captain of School. Thursday July 18th we played at Old Trafford ... admittedly on the practice ground but Roy Collins was playing ... it was somewhat ignominious. On the annual cricket tour on July 31st john p made 56 @  RAF Shawbury but can't remember what beer was drunk ... it must have been good. Young Reidford excelled ... yet again! 9 for 17 against Shrewsbury School. And Malcolm Brewis crafted a 53 against Sir Thomas Ritches.

The School Magazine again reported on the cricket and on the perpetual prowess of Guthrie and Reidford. 

The same year there was a comical limited over match in the evening against the Old Boys ... the wiles of old man Reg Stockton with John Hudson behind the stumps took their toll and many of youngsters proved incapable of running ... somehow john p managed 29 ... but in the end the Old Boys were no match for Reidford and Speechley. Hilarious fun but not cricket?

The King's School coaching crew, who were trying to keep everyone sober, posed for a photo in 1957.

Many good men left for University including our future brother-in-law ... but nobody knew at the time how the cookie would crumble ... remarkably john p stayed on at school for another year of cricket and soccer. TV arrived at The Briars and on June 17th 1957 Dad was 50 ... on the 29th of June George played for the parents against the school and got 5 runs - Parents 50 - School 200 (john p 75). On July 1st john p was 18 ... August 17th john p 'A' levels Maths, Physics, Chemistry and played with Winnington 3rd XI under skipper Uncle Sam (66*) ... and on 'the post' at Christmas.

John Reidford1958 - last year at school Graeme Guthrie was skipper and John Reidford vice captain. john p opened the batting with Abe Taylor, who was a good skin and could bat a bit; 50 not out against Wolverhampton Grammar School ... john p managed 62 at Malvern ... and remembered nothing ...  was it the beer again?

Unlike everyone else David Hindley remembered all ... The School Magazine reported on the tour  –

'The Fourth Annual Tour of the Midlands was accompanied by Messrs Garnett and Owen. The results were not particularly impressive - this was because the class of cricket we met was far higher than that of the rest of the season.
In the reports of the seven matches the names mentioned were Reidford, Birchall, Taylor, Williams, Guthrie and Hindley' ...

JIR, the new skipper for 1959, tried honest obfuscation in his report when he mentioned unmentionables -

'Of course, late nights and other joys of a cricket tour do not help the standard of play. But these are an integral part of the tour'.

Graeme Guthrie amassed 444 runs during the season ... that was serious run collecting.

Dave Hindley and Alan Williams achieved stardom and got their 'colours'! Alan Williams had taken over the Burdekin left arm spinner role with 6 for 19 against Bromsgrove.

There was no doubt that the cricket tours generated much camaraderie and esprit de corps .. it was a no brainer ... after National Service and other interruptions ... cricket and beer drinking must continue.

Chester Cross BattersOn Tuesday 24th March 1959 there was an epoch making meeting in the Prefects room at The King’s School just off Abbey Square when some of the reprobates vowed to continue their cricketing and beer drinking exploits disguised as an old boys cricket team.

The wag Willetts coined an appropriate team name associated with The Cross at Chester; ‘The Chester Cross Batters’ ... 'not many people know that'!

And Grog Guthrie volunteered to put together some enticing fixtures ... provided we batted first ... but it became clear that the oppositions he recruited were reluctant to accept such provisos. As fixture secretary Graeme remembered arranging some Sunday fixtures in North Wales ... but in those days the pubs remained closed on Sundays in many areas so he had to be particularly alert to the licensing laws before finalising the games.

Doggie Lysons was not known for his cricket but he was known for his enthusiasm. He lived opposite to Tom Bateman in Well Lane and it was rumoured that he continuously cajoled Tom into thinking about an old boys team to sustain the fun.

We were fortunate to have in our gang Bill Willetts who not only had his very own unique perspective on our cricket from behind the stumps but he also had a phenomenal memory. As Malcolm Brewis noted -

'Bill Willetts is a marvel, he's on something we all need to know about!'

But Malcolm had rich memories himself which were confirmed by a fine array of old photographs.

And there was more ... both Bill & Malcolm were also very adept at turning ordinary beer into the more valuable convivial pints! 

After our investigations into our beer drinking photo only two unknowns remained ... we managed to trace everyone with the sole exceptions of photographer Noel J Roy and spinner Alan Williams ... ? 

:drink    back to first round    


Distractions & Summer Diversions 

St Anne's 1948We got it, we never saw the point of wasting time. Busy was good.

Surprise surprise, life was not exclusively beer & cricket, but it was nearly so. It must be said that 'holidays' and 'a change is as good as a rest' never really cut the mustard with us maverick independents. We didn't want a rest, we claimed to be fit and 'in training' ... and we didn't wish for change, we were enthusiastically happy playing cricket, joking in English and drinking beer with our mates ... 'I got Rhythm ... who could ask for anything more'? 

Hot weather and new environs meant little ... and the commute to Benidorm was almost horrific and certainly time wasting in queues & traffic ... but cricket was played on the village green usually within sight of the local. We dressed for the weather and we actively & routinely wiggled our niche environment to suit ... the grass was never greener on the other side of the hedge there was more excitement to discover on our side ... so we avoided especially the cancerous sun, deck chair concentration camps and gritty sand under foreskins ... and we always preferred a T-bone steak to 'yams' & 'draw soup' ... 'feijoada' was tempting but then that was available in Soho ... and 'Prosecco' was never a thirst quencher for cricketers, nor scientists for that matter. Travel hours & miles with picnics on obnoxious motorways and dehydration in cramped economy class just wasted time and tired us out ... and as economists we always dwelled on the ginormous opportunity costs. With our dyslexic inability to learn to read English fluently, new languages were not at all attractive. Later everyone we met around Unilever seemed to be hell bent on learning English, so we were not shocked and we smiled when our Chairman was transferred to Buenos Aires proclaiming, 'if they don't understand me I'll shout louder'?

Of course we did learn our economics under the soap pans in Apapa and wouldn't have missed it for the world ... it was serious fun ... but it was no 'holiday', we earned big bucks while we dripped blood for the family and earned our spurs ... busy was good. 

Camping was fun but not 'to get away from it all' but rather to 'do more of it all' and intensify social skills and cement camaraderie and under canvass we saved money for beer.

Greenall Whitleys always seemed to taste much better than Tequila. A taste we constantly checked just to make sure.

So why 'holidays'? 

Life was never about collecting new sights, sounds, tastes, feels & smells just in case they were better than the ones we were dealt. Claiming bragging rights wasted more time ... life was not a rehearsal for a later performance for others but an opportunity for our very selves to learn about excitement ... now now ... while we still had time ...

In January 1945 Dad succumbed to the dreaded 'undulant fever' which descended on Burnside, Little Leigh ... or was it 'typhoid'. Dad sweated it out in his cricket sweater with Dr Booth's M&Bs (sulfapyridine; all that was available in those days?) Tuesday May 8th was VE day after 6 years of war. How did we all survive?

'Holidays' were never even mentioned during the war ... we had a bike and a ball and doting grand parents with fields and orchards just next door ... David Hindley and Janette Carter from just across the road were always up for it and within easy reach. 

1946 dutiful parents worked on our education and carted us off to Mrs Blacklock at Lytham St Annes where we were introduced to beach donkeys, dressed for the occasion in school cap & tie, and the freezing cold but we did have a ball. The Blackpool Tower Circus also featured in the learning program, complete with smelly elephants and an horrendous tattooed man ... which was all very interesting but such extravagance interrupted our endeavours to emulate our soon to be budding heroes, Stanley Mathews and Denis Compton.

This was Three before Four ... and then on October 19th 1946 Kathryn Ann was born and surprised us.

1947 August 28th £31-0-0 was paid to Uncle Edward and Auntie May's for hols at their boarding house in St Anne's. April 26th 1947 Charlton 1 v Burnley 0 FA Cup Final after extra time. And our long lost 'scrapbook' started to become a collectors item. We also made it in Womans Pictorial.

Their Finest YearGone to the Test Match1948 memories were certainly clearer. Bradman's Oz giants were at the Old Trafford Test Match on Saturday July 10th. We were part of a massive crowd and the gates were closed early. We saw Arthur Morris in the nets and Dick Pollard at his best. Also in August another massive crowd for Cyril Washbrook's benefit, we were agog sitting on the grass boundary. He accumulated £14,000 which was big big money in those days and sensibly invested in 'Alec Watson & Mitchell Ltd, Piccadilly, Manchester' the supplier of my cricket balls. On 28th August 1948 @ Bloomfield Road - Blackpool 1 v. Aston Villa 0.

At 8 & 9 we remembered 1948 in detail, culminating on November 24th when The Briars was purchased for £2,500 ... seven bedrooms and a sink room and an alcove ... jeez ... did it break the bank?  Then in the snow January 1949 we moved into The Briars, 143A Chester Road, Greenbank, Northwich. The aptly named house soon became an ample home and always remained a focal attraction until sold for riches at a peak in 2006 ... we said goodbye but we hung on to the memories they were not for sale.

The first job was leveling the scrub at the bottom of the garden for a 'cricket pitch'.

 Walter Hadlee's New Zealanders tour and a booklet with all the details for my birthday from our splendid new neighbour & family friend; solicitor Mark Fletcher. 1948-9 Northwich Vics enjoyed 'Their Finest Year' ... and after the season, in 1950, the Northwich Guardian published a celebratory booklet ... probably the result of the enthusiasm of stalwart sports reporter Mike Talbot-Butler who later helped us with our failing memory ... sadly our copy of this treasure was lost together with all our collectable bits of memorabilia when aging parents cleared out the untidy remnants of their fledglings who had long left the nest. 

We were glum for a while at the loss of our treasures ... but nobody could rubbish our memories which were burnished regularly and remained bright for the duration.

Eagle1950 On Friday April 14th 'Eagle' was delivered to The Briars by our Newsagent Mr Bowden. We had pestered concerned parentals to allow us to indulge in this weekly dose of excitement at 3d a go. We were somewhat surprised at this luxury ... perhaps 'an educational comic edited by the Rev Marcus Morris' could help with a wayward education and keep their first born son off the booze? We joined the Eagle Club but never made the accolade 'Mug of the Month' but we did sport a gold 'Eagle Badge and star'. On Feb 13th telephone Northwich 4087. Was the year spent finding a suitable secondary school for us? Saturday April 1st King's 'entrance exam' ... Friday June 23rd 'through to King's' ... Monday Sept 4th 'free place at Sir John Deans'. But Wednesday Sept 13th we started at King's as enthusiastic parents splashed out in hope. Regretfully we don't remember thanking the parentals for this opportunity ... but we tried not to let them down. We were happy & grateful to avoid a cheap boarding school somewhere in North Wales ... so was Mrs Perry who applauded the King's School as a move to continue her good work.

1951 Monday July 30th train from Chester to Llaneillian and in Peter Hardman's bungalow we were in the garden shed ... wonderful weather. Saturday 22nd September we were selected for King's U13s footy.

1952 Monday Jan 28th dad's Driving Test and his 1st works car a Vauxhall ... Wednesday June 4th Clare's Wedding. Llaneillian again Monday July 28th visited the Amlych Factory. Befriended Brian, rowed and played 'fives', and fished for conger eels with John Hardman ... rain but new friends were positively therapeutic.

The early 1950s were chocka full of all manner of busy preludes to our lifelong passions for family, sport ... and beer.

Later luck was on side when we discovered our very own '1952 Eagle Diary' which was still decipherable and jogged the memory with written evidence of joys ... it seemed our attention span was not dominated by Dan Dare, we also experimented.

Demon Wonder BoxIn 1952, after an inspiring Christmas gift of a 'box of magic' from 'Gamages', we fancied a go as a Conjurer.

Was learning to con gullibles part of adolescence, a sort of mischievous complement to experimental rebellion against parental mantra? We tried tricks, first with words, although we were dyslectic and couldn't read or spell, we could still hear and laugh - 

A B C D goldfish
M N O goldfish
S D R goldfish
R D L goldfish

... and our outrageous & hilarious dyslectic alphabet ... toying with sounds ... a prelude to saxophone playing?

 Conjuring tricks from specialists 'Davenports' became a fascinating obsession. We devoured the catalogues and desperately saved our meager pocket money and managed to accumulate twenty five shillings, the price tag for a Davenports most famous Demon Wonder Box ... 25/- was a massive amount of dosh in those days ... we were off Mars Bars for months. But in the end we secured an enduring prize, a  ... the Trick of the Century ...  and a fantabulous Christmas Show for the whole family at Heathside in 1953. 

In the cold winters of the 1950s we played school soccer on Saturday mornings and in the afternoons we watched Northwich Vics at The Drill Field although later our allegiances switched to ICI Alkali at close by Moss Farm.

We were also into 'hobbies', fun play things in our 'top floor' bedroom, not a 'man shed' but a comfortable space we could call our own ... most memorably with Hornby OO model trains, aero modeling, stamp collecting, model aircraft, construction of wood & canvass kayaks and our fascinating conjuring tricks ... but no beer we were only 13. 

Stamp Collecting1953 was the year we discovered an ancient folio of strange and exotic postage stamps in the Heathside archives? We still wonder who on earth started this stamp collection in that old red album? We never asked who, why and when? We were too preoccupied wth the stories of the stamps. Reg Whittick, one of Dads work colleagues, helped us out at enormous expense with an original 1840 'penny black' and some shining stamp tweezers! 

Another diary, a 'Collins Diary', was recovered from 1954 which suggested we were training for our future beer drinking entrée ... ballroom dancing lessons with Kitty Oaks and Breezy Len with the Grange School girls ... and we recorded that we were rather pleased with Gill's boyfriend, Colin Brown, who could drink and play cricket! A less salubrious entry reminded us that poor Rick had pneumonia! 

1954 August 28th c/o Mrs H E Williams, Benllech ... a not very good Boarding House for a week ... but Traeth Bychan was good. Doris married Tuesday August 3rd and rural fun in Bosley starts.

1955 March 31st grandpa 'Pops' 80th birthday ... why do we remember that? August 13th c/o Mrs Jones, Gors Eilian, Llaneilian, Amlwch for a 'lovely cottage' holiday ... we had a treasured unplayable 'saxophone' part from Uncle Bill and we devoured a tutor book instead of the sun ... alas the ancient instrument was only half there and proved impossible for Boosey & Hawkes to resuscitate ... suspiciously they offered 37/6 for it; we reluctantly accepted ... but aspirations became firmly embedded ... we had been bitten and were to revisit saxophones in the future.

In 1956 there was a break after the cricket tour, but there was no escape from beer, as six mariners sought solace on the yacht 'Lapwing' on the Norfolk Broads ... there was beer & dancing at Horsey ... and rain for Barnaby Lathom-Sharp (left arm accurate), john p, Mark Dickinson (left arm wily) & Mort Hodgson (800m whizz kid even after a fag)!

In 2017 we enjoyed a lucky break; Brian Wheeldon was in town and Brian's memory of bygone days proved awesome -

Norfolk BroadsI noted somewhere on your beer and cricket recollections a mention of the Norfolk Broads. This was supposed to be a celebration of our school days. Regrettably none of us had much idea of cooking and were not in the eating out twice a day brigade. I do remember on the last evening having a lot of canned fruit and I think some other items left and it was decided we would put them all together for our final meal. To accommodate the volume from the tins we emptied them all into the plastic washing up bowl and then it was washed down with much beer. You recall our evening at the village dance. What I remember most of the evenings events was trying to find our boat rowing back at midnight. I cannot remember how many boats we came alongside before we were back at our temporary home. Our boat was called Lapwing.
The two crews were Hodgson, Dickinson and Wheeldon in 'Lapwing' - Clifford, Birchall and Lathom-Sharp in ... wot was the name of our boat?
Attached two photos - we didn't have a timed shutter camera!
I am still in touch with Mike Clifford (having said I was not in touch with anyone!). He and his wife Pam came to stay with us in Cornwall and again in our new Wiltshire home last year. He hasn't changed much, like the rest if us, he just got older!

Barnaby L-S was one of the few in our year who contrived to serve Her Majesty in National Service ... and we remembered that his story of promotion to 2nd Lt in charge of a tank earned him a beer.

Morton Hodgson had excellent taste and settled in a fine house in Acton Bridge close to great granddad Edward's place on the Weaver ... but is most famous for accompanying us on our first expedition to purchase real ale with our own money ... in 1957 at 18 ... in Sam Smith's shrine 'The Boot', Chester.

RIP Mort 22nd March 2016.  

Mark Dickinson turned into an academic and settled in Hull, but was always remembered as the trumpet player with the Dee Delta Jazzmen, a schoolboy band in Shotton ... although 'Baines' was accomplished they never made The Cavern Club nor the Hit Parade but they did have fun.

Fred's JagAfter all these prescient reminders of the summer hols, all still seemed to coagulate into a misty mess in the 1950s ... so much was going on in those days ... that was our excuse. There were camping trips to Borth-y-Gest (1957), Conway (1958) and Abersoch ... we recalled being stranded by the vicious flood tide on the bar at Borth in a small GP 14 and eventually managing to scramble ashore on Harlech Sands ... one memorable escapade involved old steam 'push' bikes ... on Sunday 7th September 1958 we extended the pleasures of our 'beer holiday' in Conway by one day ... the strategy was masterful ... instead of wasting a day travelling we peddled back to Chester during the night ... we started out on the dot of midnite and saw the dawn at Flint ... strange wot fun was remembered when you're old and funny peculiar that we never thought Daniel was 'deprived' of such pleasures.

It was not quite all cricket and in 1959 as we also contrived to organise a great canoeing holiday down the River Wye ... john p, Wheeldon, Clifford & Rhys-Maitland with Fred Riley called in to do the chauffeuring of boats and personnel.

In 2017 Mike Clifford recalled the heroic trip down the River Wye in self built kayaks during the summer of 1956 -

Kayak'Nice to hear from you. You have lots of King’s School nostalgia in your epistle. You are quite right that I am not really into beer but yes, I remember building and flying 'The Walthew', and my uncle climbing a large tree to retrieve it. I also recall both of us building canoes, mine was a PBK 20 kit using Parana pine stringers and yours a Tyne Folding Boats design ... you had to saw the lengths from a plank, which impressed me. I think the Wye expedition was Rhys-Maitland, Wheeldon, Birchall and Clifford, with Fred Riley doing the transport using Ken’s old Bentley, but I have no idea which year it was. I suppose we need a photo with a date on it.

john p's memories of the Norfolk Broads and the River Wye were now a little clearer and he bet on 1956 for the Norfolk Broads ... miraculously confirmed in Dad's Diary, 'john to The Broads September 1st 1956 returning to The Briars Sept 8th'!

A splendid photo of Mike in the dinghy reminded me of the GP 14 pleasures on the Winsford flashes and the trauma of the flood tide off Harlech Sands ...

MadcapWith Mike we were also constructing and flying our balsa wood & tissue sailplanes first 'The Walthew' and then 'The Last Straw' ... and then we went all sophisticated with 2' wing span 0.75cc Albion diesel powered plane Madcap ... detailed plans purged from the monthly copy of 'Aeromodeller' ... it flew well and in our mind's eye we can still see the maiden flight in the garden at 'Lambay', the home of the Cliffords in The Grange, Hartford. 'Lambay' was also the scene of embarrassment when we flew our 'control line' model 'The Gnat' and the circular tethered flights put us dizzily on our backside. 

Perhaps we should interject at this point that distractions from beer drinking were many & varied and started long before we had tasted the golden elixir. Following on from the captivating epochs of Parana pine and balsa wood & tissue there always seemed to be a series of 'construction projects' on the go ... alternatives to beer & cricket and real good therapeutic fun ... we enjoyed building as well as beer.

Perhaps it all started with the enthusiastic help of 'cabinet maker' granddad Birchall who purchased the wood for our model railway project when we were 11 -

Hornby Dublo twin track layout in 1950 ... exciting property which we fanatically kept & treasured for future children & grandchildren ... but when the time came they had their own personal passions, 'Action Men' and 'iPads', which in interesting way pleased us ... our issue were excitingly & independently different!

Model Aircraft, sailplanes first, then Jetex & Albion 0.75 cc diesel powered beauties 

Canoe and trailer, from Tyne Folding Boats and an old 'pram', always stored up in the rafters of the back passage at The Briars and the garage at The Meister, christened on the Wye in 1959

Bookcase for our bottom draw with sparkling smooth sliding glass and lovingly dowelled & Ronsealed

Tropical Fish tank and wall unit at 71 Latham Avenue in 1965 

Refrigerator for the kitchen which worked well and was sold for real cash when Mrs J donated a de lux version

2nd bathroom at The Meister in Avocado Green in 1984 

Garden Folly at The Meister completed with frog, owl and time capsule on retirement finito in 1994   

Millennium celebration, heliochronometer, plaque & Champagne  

Tree House for Josh and Jake with concrete foundations laid in 2005 and vino on completion 

and latterly when 'family history' became interesting we constructed a Rogues Gallery ... for fun! 

But was it 1959 for the River Wye adventure? Not that the year mattered as much as the fun. Dad's Diary to the rescue with the date - September 19th 1959,

'John home from the Wye Valley with Brian Wheeldon and Mike Clifford'.

Brian Riley was also a reliable chronologist, authenticated by his enduring status as our brother-in-law. In 1959 Brian owned a splendid? Jaguar Saloon re-sprayed British Racing Green and complete with bumpers, running boards, magnificent P100 headlights ... and a roof rack. This was the vehicle that transported two canoes, two tents and four paddlers to Glasbury-on-Wye in September 1959.

JBW also remembered bits of Wye adventure ...

paddling bow with Mike behind me as we approached Symonds Yat Rapids, as we went through the white water I called out the powerful paddling instructions and used all my strength to keep us on course. We thankfully emerged unscathed but to my horror found Mike had held his paddle above his head all the and simply trusted to the Almighty to guide us. I now to understand that I was trusting my life to a homemade canoe?? Actually it performed very well !!

I really don't recall being chauffeured around in a Bentley. Did it have a roof rack? I don't think I have ever seen a Bentley with a roof rack!

john p recalled that apart from the Symonds Yat Rapids the lasting memory of the Wye spectacular was not the beer but the tree stump that broke through our rubberised canvas hull ... just a minute or so after launch! The accident was certainly not driver error ... we were off the beer and in the wilderness.

Brian Rileyjohn p was also sure the Bentley was not involved, he remembered that Fred Riley had a fine old Jaguar, confirmed by Fred in 2017. But we also recalled the Rhys Bentley ... a renovation undertaken by Rhys during dentistry studies in Glasgow ... in a garage somewhere on Byers Road  ... the engineering work was funded by an interest free load from john p who had accumulated a little surplus on his grant by backing 3 year old favourites on the flat ... but this was not the summer of 1959 ... the car renovation work was going on in the autumn of 1961 when john p was digging in Woodlands Road and poet & author Jim Dening was our financial broker who arranged the loan.

Once upon time the very same Jim, in the very same canoe, made a remarkable trip down the industrialised River Weaver from Winsford to Northwich with portages round the Vale Royal and Hunts Locks ... 'remarkable' because a generation earlier Jim's dad had enjoyed the very same water sport on the very same river with the very same transport mode.

However it was not Jim's kayak skills nor his beer drinking skills that we remembered most ... but his books ... F Scott Fitzgerald familiarised us with 'the jazz age' & 'intense physical affairs' in This Side of Paradise ... and then the entreaties in Most Likely to Succeed from John Dos Passos , a young erstwhile Communist who became a thoughtful Libertarian,

'there was a library in Des Moines and Jed read it' &

'Jefferson's decentralized American democracy'

One Deningism that was always remembered,

'progress is stuck at the traffic lights, and we can't see round the corner' ...    

We're still at it 60 years later ... 'stuck in a sepia photograph' ... in between beers!

Jim DeningJim reappeared from his bolt hole in Ledbury in 2018 as several old friends emerged from the woodwork in response to fund raising efforts at our old school. With Jim we enjoyed some more of the same old banter from the 1950s ... this time we were on Hydes Original at The Goshawk ... the beer was excellent and the memories vivid as we picked up the conversations from where we left them 60 years ago ... the fun was still up front and the happenings had had no obvious deleterious effects on body & soul ... in fact they seemed to have been positively therapeutic ... what more can we say, the perfect sentiments were generously and gratefully offered to posterity -

 Ode to a Pint Pot
A newly discovered sonnet by John Keats, found in a dustbin by Jim Dening in 2018

Oh thou much ravish’d bride of drunkenness,
now serve us also a convivial drink
of Cheshire bitter, which may make us think
of quiet friendship instead of loud excess.
When old age shall this generation waste,
a few companions will recall the taste
and share another pint or two of beer
to seize the present moment of good cheer.

Most like a straight, but some prefer a handle –
wrong shape can turn into a tasting scandal.
Oh pot, once moulded out of sand and fire,
formed solely with the aim to quench desire,
remind us of the truth and beauty in thy glow,
and this today is all we need to know.

Yes ... 'truth & beauty in thy glow' ... we loved it. Jim's poem was complemented by a photo of his inspiring plaque which he donated to The Prince of Wales, Ledbury, the haunt of the Ledbury lowlife in need of encouragement.

During these years transport was a serious problem for folk in the Northwich outback ... john p and Grog became intrepid 'hitch hikers' ...  Mike Clifford had a posh motor bike ... but john p had to wait until after his 19th birthday before independence and mobility, from then on the Chester and North Wales mileage was regularly clocked up on a Vespa scooter which ran on beer.

Brian WheeldonBrian Wheeldon impressed us all when, on his 17th birthday, he managed to secure regular access to 'Annie', an impressive Ford Anglia Saloon, from then onwards chauffeured lifts into Chester kept Brian on free ale as eager passengers paid in pints. We kept in touch with Brian at his wedding in 1962 at Whitegate Church and beer afterwards at The Woodpecker in Leftwich ... then it was our own wedding bash in Norley in 1965 ... and on Saturday October 3rd 1987 a lavish silver wedding shindig at Watersmeet, Brian and Pat's palatial hostel in Mortehoe, Woolacombe, Devon ... and yet again in 2018 when Brian pestered a few of the gang from the class of 1958 to a reunion at the new King's School ... built on Milroy's Wrexham Road Farm just after we'd left. There we shared a drink with Brian but this time it wasn't beer ... the pubs were shut!

The 2018 Kings Reunion was a sobering leap into the past ... the new school, vintage 1960, was a foreign and faceless place, it seemed strange and new fangled to all the decrepit old men who crawled out of the woodwork for the event ... the only memory we could relate to was the splendid window which had been rescued from the old school in the Bishop's Palace aka Barclays Bank. But it was great to see many of the best of the reprobates who made the trip ... Wheeldon   Birchall   Walley   Allen   Eaton   Dening   Hewitt   Stanyer   Vincent   Speechley   Siddorn   Russell   Hindley   Clifford ... but where were all the others?

The reunion of the class of 1958 inspired Roger Vincent to provide a wealth of memorabilia rescued from the milieu of the 1950s. Roger was our old mate from Remove A (1950/1) was always full of fun & yarns (even in the absence of beer) and he reminded us of an auspicious event from 1957 ... the Curzon Park Cricket Club Dance ... everybody who was anyone was there. All with ambitious intents of infiltrating The Queen School social scene. Roger uncovered a photo of Mike Colledge tripping the light fantastic at the do in the Sarl Williams Hall in 1957. This goes a long way to explaining our choice of a reliable best man ... Mike had the extraordinary ability to dance coherently with the girls after a pint ... we remember attending the same dance but missed the photo opportunity, & the girls, as we were in the bar ... or may be still in the pub, with Senoj. Also uncovered were the identities of the fabulous cricket team which proved to be of significant social and sporting importance ...  Tony Bowen, ?, ?, ?, Dave Haley, Mike Colledge, Alan Bowen, Roger Vincent, Chris Bisson, ?, Chris Roberts.

Fun & friends ... unfinished business.

Choose your Friends & Choose your Life

Kings School SelectionLiberating choice was a bit of a dog's breakfast, full of failed efforts and resounding successes and everybody knew that the convivial pint was something to do with choosing your friends as well as your brew? There were many words -

bonding, brotherhood, cheer, camaraderie, esprit de corps, fellowship, jollity, loyalty, morale, rapport, solidarity, sociability, synergy, team spirit ...  

We were steeped in team building from the very early days 'cos we had always grappled with batting & bowling ... forwards & defenders ... selection was a nightmare as there were only 11 holes to fill and two goalkeepers and no striker would guarantee defeat. What did you say to the 12th man who always bought his round? Was it about square pegs and round holes? Or was he better off growing tomatoes?

... and it certainly wasn't luck and the 12th man was always better than the 13th man ... and the 13th man was always a good friend who also bought his round.  

So although choices were sometimes forced upon us at gun point ... all was not lost ... selection was a 'social hard' but it certainly wasn't a 'legal harm' ... the restrictions on choices were to be questioned ... but they were not insidious impositions like the onerous tax on convivial beer.

FriendsAlthough our old Headmaster, Canon L F Harvey, had tried to teach us about calculus and changing rates of complexity, there was only one pearl of wisdom that we remembered when he set us free from our incarceration in our ancient school in the cathedral precincts in Chester. LFH urged us to avoid all 'restrictive practices' & 'restraints of trade' and to -

'choose your friends carefully'
'don't be chosen, friends are to learn with'

This was sound advice as we confronted a world where everyone everywhere seemed to be tying our shoe laces together. But like Pooh we never had any difficulty in choosing good friends. We started early and our gang always agreed that today was the best day of the week ... as it was our round?    

We had only just started learning at school and we were a tad inadequate at it ... there was a long way to go ... and the bits we did learn came mostly from peers like Tony Bowen rather than The Canon and his rather sour & boring science teachers. Tony remained on our gratitude list throughout.

It was later apparent that our erstwhile Headmaster hadn't warned us that it was the girls who always did the choosing? For sure we soon concluded that it was the girls who drove us to drink ... but we admitted we often forgot to thank them!

SmileThe girls knew all along how ordinary beer was turned into a convivial pint ... but they deliberately confused things ... they had other things on their minds ... they possessed almost infinite skills ... after all the girls not only always danced backwards but with a twitch of a smile in their eyes they could move the moon ... without thinking. 

Our friends performed similar miracles with beer, occasionally without even smiling ... but we knew deep down in the skull that conviviality was no 'Machiavellian Plot' ... it was real?

We took on board the Canon's advice and chose our very own friends very diligently, not by their precocious abilities at the sciences & humanities but rather by their more subtle enjoyments of beer and fun ... or were they the same things? 

 But let's be clear, beer itself was no big thing, just an experiment in the garden of forking paths, as we voted with our feet and went with the flow bent on learning what. where and who was fun. Then slowly we felt sure we had joined a splendid club, a beer drinking tradition which had been around for yonks ... a comfortable place where we chose like minded folk who were having fun in the taverns ... doing deals ... we could learn from them ... together. Everyone was different ... but everybody could do deals and have fun ... come to think of it ... if everyone was the same they couldn't do deals and have fun ... could they? ... think about it?

Happenings became a little clearer when we left the nest and moved on up to frozen Glasgow and joined some carefully chosen clubs and met unlikely serendipity ... the ghosts of Adam the Smith and Jimmy Watt.

:drink    back to first round    


The Gutters of Sauchiehall Street    

Vote with Your Feet & Join a Club of Your Choice

Beer or LargerSo God said and we agreed with him -

'All the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off'. Exodus 20-18. 

We saw the gravitas, the furrowed brows and the 'serious' dispositions as emotions grated ... but although 'removing' and getting away from all the fear was a bit of a trauma, for us fleeing the nest was exciting ... although some 'Designers' we knew were perplexed -

'Shouldn't we report travesties to the 'authorities'? After all the oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals & corrupt Bureaucrats, arrogantly claimed they could solve they problems, they had privileged access to 'know how' unavailable to us poor undergraduates'?

Evolutionary economists had rumbled them and we voted with our feet and joined a club of our own choice. We got our finger out and, just as we had chosen our parents well, we also chose to experiment & learn. We followed in the footsteps of great men like Adam the Smith, Jimmy Watt, Charlie Darwin & Dickie Dawkins who suggested we were all different but we all enjoyed the same universal uncanny curiosities. We joined a club of our choice ... we thought, to start with, we were following guidance from mama, but later we realised all nous came from our ancestral Homo Sapiens who were survivors and helped each of us to seize new exciting opportunities as deep down in the depths of our sculls a sort of strange social order emerged ... gut instincts, compeling good behaviour, moral urgency of conscience, inner lights ... it seemed to us as we left home we took with us the big three we inherited ... there was no user manual or textbook, all were survival aids but where did they come from? - 

moral sentiments = friendships were necessary for cooperative synergies of specialisation & scale ,,, peculiar emotional  perceptions  

fairness of shares = good behaviour ... empathy with others even strangers ... was this endorphic pleasure? 

 resentment of cheats = defences were necessary against parasites & predators (wherever there are stocks there were thieves) = bad behaviour ... was this serotonin justice?

The Banjo Player said these were just worms in his head and had another pint ... he joined several clubs of his choice and seemed to cope quite well ... but we pestered him ... where did these 'worms' come from? ... we agreed they were real even when we were sober!

Sussed it OutWe were certainly suspicious of any instruction manual from the oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals & corrupt Bureaucrats.  We tried to explain these happenings to folk who weren't members of our club but words always became muddled & messy, it was very difficult.

The girls had sussed it out long ago and were often already in the club ... but us men had another beer and mulled it all over ... we still reckoned there were only two sorts of folk; fun folk and sad folk ... it seemed to us that fun folk did things, they did verbs but sad folk wanted things, they did nouns.

That’s wot it was ... not something we have but something we do ... action men! 

The trouble was that the very same folk flip flopped between the two!

Wot on earth was going on?

Soooo in 1958 we abandoned all convention and 'did' an enormous club on Gilmore Hill ... and met the ghosts of Adam the Smith and Jimmie Watt.

Gilmore Hill & Heavy at Littlejohns

Glasgow UniIn September 1958 we moved up North as students of Natural Philosophy with the Scottish Engineers at James Watt's place ...

At King's we had only learned a bit about cricket & science and we were in awe of our intellectual mates who possessed an uncanny capacity to pass exams with distinction. Jim Dening went to Oxford, Tony Bowen went to Cambridge ... we went to Glasgow to try engineering but although we didn't know it at the time, once we were out of the examination hall we failed miserably to retain most, some said all, of our indoctrination into Chemical Engineering ...

However we did stumble across a couple of spirits who infected our brains with their miraculous treasures of 'know how' ... Adam the Smith and Jimmie Watt ... these guys were something else! They began to show us a way out of our frightening pickle. 

McEwan's HeavyUp there in the cold dark on Gilmore Hill, we learned how to drink 'heavy'... and we met lots of other good skins although we never mastered Jimmy Jordan's Glasgow twang.

The opportunities at University were legion; The Students Union at the foot of the hill, The Glasgow Rhythm Club with Norrie McSwan & Humph, The University Jazz Club and The Wanderers Hockey Team at Bearsden, St Andrews & Edinburgh. Social interaction & influence was focused around jazz, hockey ... and heavy. 

Everyone north of the border was drinking 'heavy' ... McEwan's Heavy 3.5%-4% alcohol ... it went down well ... and we soon mastered the graduations from 'light' to 'heavy' to 'export' ... and to the 'wee half' chasers. Although we did notice the unfortunate, if not distasteful, proclivity of many of the locals for ordinary beverages ... and 'excess'.

Dad, of course was a hockey player. Our soccer endeavors at school had been cut short as failing eyesight added to a general one footed incompetence but hockey at University was a great wheeze as we met new friends and traveled around the environs. Although we never sussed out the local vernacular we enjoyed superb all weather pitches where balls didn't get lost in the mud and you could learn strange stick skills ... and get very fit!

Hockey Club coloursParticipation in the 'University Athletic Club' was good news, and such activity was respectfully marked with a garish scarf and recognised as a social good ... particularly by mother who fretted about beer and pouring money down the throat.

 Such sartorial elegance, although beer stained, was still in one piece in 2023.

We loved 'centre half' soccer and remembered we could 'head' heavy leather balls and had a 'right foot' that worked but eyesight 'sans glasses' was a disaster ... we proudly & actively joined another club of our choice; 'hockey'.

It worked, we were never wizards with a stick and certainly missed out on the spoils enjoyed by Bill & Creaky at Chester Nomads.

But hockey was great fun on the pitches up north and later with Tom Bateman et al at Newton Lane ... although the mud took its toll at Newton Lane, the beer and the company were consistently good everywhere.  

Our old class mate Vijay Bhalla helped the convivial flow of heavy.

Vijay BhallaVijay was also new to 'heavy', he had been weaned on Watney's Red Barrel at Highgate School in North London. With Vijay during engineering classes and in the Student's Union bar we learned much about unfamiliar happenings in far away India ... and in the sport of fencing ... and we even learned more about North London where Vijay claimed the bright lights were more than a match for Chester ... and we began to commiserate about dull dank Glasgow. 

 Unwittingly our scholarly adventures together at our ancient university led us to Adam the Smith who wrote his ‘Theory of Moral Sentiments’ which underpinned all our subsequent embroilment in Economic Science.

Although he sometimes tried to hide it Vijay was well up to speed with moral sentiments!

Vijay came from an august Sikh family from the Punjab and ... may be ... unbeknown to both of us at the time ... perhaps Vijay's dad although a very temperate man (unlike his son!) contributed to our conversations and education?

Vijay's father Brigadier B I S Bhalla (MRCP, DTM&H) born in Punjab served with distinction in the Indian Army from 1936 to 1964 and retired as the Deputy Director Medical Services.

He held various senior staff appointments including serving as Medical Advisor in the Indian High Commission in London from 1954- 1956.

ColonelAfter this distinguished military career Brigadier Bhalla retired from the Army Medical Corps and took to spiritualism and spent his later years in the Radha Soami Ashram in Beas about 40 km from Amritsar.   

Later we read about Radha Soami Satsang of Beas -

The science & spirituality of the soul seeks the truth.
The search starts from within each & every one of us through the simplicity of introspection & learning about the economics of the golden rule, 'do unto others' ... rather than the embellishments of rules & rituals imposed from without.
(Love, respect, compassion, patience, tolerance, moderation & humble humility were all baked in).

Such sentiments fitted beautifully with our understanding, not only of Adam the Smith, the moral philosopher of the Scottish Enlightenment, but also of the Quaker roots of our own family ancestors and the active worms that inhabited the depths of our very own skulls ... such spirits were regularly revealed by our Banjo Player ... particularly after a convivial pint! ... in vino veritas? 

We managed to find a superb photo of Brigadier (then Colonel) Bhalla in uniform? ... perhaps our hidden mentor? Somehow or other India always enjoyed a soft comfortable spot in our psyche and since those early days we have always maintained a fascinating interest in the fortunes of Indian culture and particularly Hindustan Lever Limited.

Glasgow was too cold, dark, damp & decrepit for Vijay and he pointed out that the most 'modern' of the trams had been 'retired' from the Liverpool Corporation 10 years previously.  These restless rickety trams ran down the Great Western Road to our digs at the Lovett's pad at No 1051. Glasgow was at least ten years behind the times, London was the place to be!

Amongst all the chaos & angst we began to glimpse a sliver of order as our beer glass always appeared to be half full ... 

1051 Great Western Road, our first digs. Ted & Joan Lovett were a homely couple who welcomed us into their family home so that they could earn a crumb to make ends meet. With food, shelter & chores all taken care of we were 'free' to explore life on Gilmore Hill and learn all about Natural Philosophy and McEwan's Heavy. Ted was a clerk in the railway office and regularly entertained a rum set of friends who were all ex Communist Party members with unbelievable beliefs. Whenever we were willing we were rolled in as bait at late evening discussions and tea drinking sessions. We were left with two abiding impressions; one of simmering class hatred and another of them & us divisiveness with no feel for any of mutual benefits of social cooperation regardless of tribal affinities. Without any personal animosity the problems were all to do with 'the system' run by 'the powers that be'; an elitist conspiracy. Our protestations about evolutionary outcomes came to naught, then and never since! We were somewhat naive but we held our own. But strangely we learned just as much about life from Ted and his mates of revolutionary fervour than from the dour equations of thermodynamics.

During the late 1950s The Glasgow Students Union earned a fine reputation for political debate and we were enthusiastic listeners but never participants ... too busy with greasy engineering, music and beer perhaps? But the truth was that we were just starting to learn and there were massively competent debaters around at that time; John Smith & Donald Dewar, who intrigued us with their passionate support of managed economies, managed clubs and managed morals which seemed to clash with our own instinctive resonance with Adam Smith's 'moral sentiments', 'wealth of nations' and his exposé of 'the men of system'. It seemed as if Adam the Smith was misunderstood within his own University? We recalled the best man of political substance at Adam Smith's place was 'conservative' Len Turpie who explained that universal 'moral sentiments' were the key to making life 'work' ...  & Jimmy Gordon was a superb debated and chimed with anti monopoly Distributism ... however these two were grotesquely outnumbered by 'the men of system'.

Nevertheless the open free thinking and beer in the 'Beer Bar' at the students union were refreshing tonics ... clearly real life was about new friends, music, girls and beer drinking ... not equations! We always remembered Pat, one of our more reliable girl friends, who quite clearly established the ground rules -

 'listen, I'm not one of your beloved equations'

Of course Pat was right, and we learned way before we heard the Darwinian explanations that the girls were in the driving seat and command & control of human activity was a real conundrum for us boys.

Apart from music, hockey, friends and beer we seemed to have little time left for 'Natural Philosophy', 'Daft Friday' and 'The Squeezey' ... and strangely the lovely girls from St Margaret's Union, Anniesland Teachers Training College and the Gorbals never seemed to match the talent at The Queens School in Chester ... amongst all the helter skelter of student life we seemed to miss out on the fascinations of the Scottish ladies.

The 1958 Christmas break started on December 13th with work at the GPO on the 17th at 7am with the delectable Dorothy at the Northwich Sorting Office! There was partying at The Grey Parrot in Northwich with Maureen, the Wall City Jazz Club and Bollands with the lads and Clem's with Senoj from The Queen's School and The Cheshire County Training College at Alsager. And Dad did great turns with the chauffeuring and fixed up my summer vacation work up at Stanlow. But on December 30th we were on our own and cycled home from Chester in the pouring rain. Wot a ball ... then back to Glasgow on Jan 6th.

Christmas 1959 was a blast. Vijay's spirit was always in London and it was therein, after sister Gill's wedding on December 30th 1959, that he entertained us with considerable panache throughout the beery New Year's Eve celebrations in Trafalgar Square and through into 1960. We didn't dance in the fountains, we had another round instead and prepared ourselves for The Casino de Paris and Alma Cadallac the following day.

At some stage in 1960 we also spent a break with Vijay in London and slept in his digs in Gerrards Cross, he had abandoned Electrical Engineering for the actuarial profession. Of course we were in love with the ladies at the time and told stories of passion & pleasure ... and as usual, some of it was true. We can't remember where we drank?

Sometime in 1959 or 60 Vijay also enjoyed a beery visit to The Briars and we somehow remembered beer at 'The Fox & Barrel' Cotebrook ... recklessly organised on our Vespa scooter & pillion ... wot a riot!  

Kerala Snake Boat Vijay visited us in Mouldsworth in 2005 ... wot a ball ... we revisited the same bedroom at The Briars and the same Fox & Barrel tavern but this time we enjoyed Tabasco at The Goshawk with Carole with an 'e' and received with glee a model Kerala Snake boat.

The history and culture of the Sub Continent, India and Kerala, sparked initially by Vijay's stories remained a fascination throughout. It was the boat building skills of Kerala that opened up the Mediterranean spice trade with the east way before the synergies of trade degenerated into war canoes and violence over the spoils of trade?

Vijay had the distinction of becoming the oldest friend on our Christmas card list ... greetings and news every year since 1958! Beat that anyone?

By 2022 Vijay was still going strong in New Delhi ... still the longest surviving member of our Christmas card list ...

Glasgow Rhythm Club

Triple ExposureBack over Shap to Glasgow Central in the new year and on Wednesday February 24th 1960 there was excitement in town; The Lyttelton Band were at The Students Union.

The first things we had done on arrival at Gilmore Hill was to seek out opportunities for our passions for sport, music and beer. Hockey and The Students Union were straight forward and sign posted but jazz at the Glasgow Rhythm Club was a little arcane. Jimmy Jordan was a wily local student with a penchant for the electric guitar of Barney Kessel ... and a regular at the record recital club. There he introduced us to avid listening and eclectic jazz ... and to Norrie McSwan, a local surgeon, President of the Club and devoted discographer for the Lyttelton Band. We learned more than thermodynamics during our first two years at Glasgow.

Tony Coe Joe Temperley with HumphThe day following the Students Union gig Humph was to play at Norrie McSwan's Ruchill Hospital. We recalled travelling to the hospital gig on the back of John McCurley's scooter. And what a party afterwards ... and then a second party for The Rhythm Club guys ... unbelievable ... the band had just recorded 'Triple Exposure', an ambitious album which Ian Armitt described as a bit 'edgy' (and, yes, it was edgy); Humph, Tony Coe, Johnny Pickard, Jimmy Skidmore, Joe Temperley, Ian Armitt, Tommy Taylor ... they could play a bit and they could really drink ... we were only students. For the Students Union dance, the band were smartly turned out in blue uniforms ... apart from Johnny Pickard. It seemed the band had been drinking in the student bar before the gig and it was reported that Johnny had found himself too close to a 'jazz critic' ... Glasgow students in those days often had a struggle with Carlsberg Specials ...  the trombonist had to quickly change back into his civvies, he appeared sheepishly as the only bandsman in a brown suit.

We remembered Tony Coe's miraculous ear, Ian Armitt's wish for a Hammond organ, Jimmy Skidmore's snores, Humph's admiration for Hilton Jefferson, Norrie's whiskey and the dawn ... magical stuff.

Much later at a concert at The Liverpool Phil we reminded Humph of Norrie's scotch ... and received a warm smile as well as a CD.

Roger at Chepstow At the end of our 2nd year in 1960 we were elected President of the 'University Jazz Club' which boasted the largest membership of all the clubs in the Union and thus some associated 'political kudos'. But a never to be forgotten opportunity for enlightenment and fun flowed from our friendship with Roger Rae. Roger not only talked jazz like the rest of us he actually played the trombone in proper jazz bands ... and what a player ... and musician ... and beer drinker & friend ... he 'graduated' from George Penman's Jazzmen, to Dick Charlesworth & his City Gents, to Terry Lightfoot, to The BBC Scottish Radio Orchestra, to Syd Lawrence Orcestra, to Nick Ross Orchestra and the Glen Miller sound and included impresario work in the Birmingam night clubs with the wonderful American Song Book. 

When Roger joined Dick Charlesworth we were in awe and it couldn't have happened to a better bloke ... but perhaps a pinnacle was reached in ???? when Roger recorded a fantastical video with The Syd Lawrence Orchestra - South Rampart Street Parade - this video was taken from The Band Plays On, a Syd Lawrence Orchestra DVD recorded at The Palace Theatre, Manchester ...

RIP Roger 2009.  

Back in Northwich, on June 18th 1960, George proudly managed a new car, an Austin A55; 244 GTU. In September 1960 we were laid low with violent excruciating tonsillitis and neglected to sit the 2nd year exams and engineered a sabbatical. An enthralling interlude started; supply teaching in Barnton & Hartford ... Noel Coward's 'Blyth Spirit' and the mysterious & lovely lady Di, then on to Christmas 1960 ... a year of fun and experience in work and play ... if only we'd known then what we know now?

September 1961 found us initially in dreary digs on Woodlands Roads close to the Students Union but they lasted only a few days before we were rescued by the Chem Eng gang and our august mate Colin M Bell, a mean golfer, ladies man & wag from Chester-le-Street who shared with us his palatial accommodation; a flat of our very own with Mrs Murray at 38 Athole Gardens, just off Byers Road. We tried but failed to keep up to date with C M Bell and his later adventures ... we remember we were invited to his wedding ... we wonder if this was our man?

Littlejohn's, West End, Glasgow somewhere opposite the Locarno was a favourite hole in 1961/2 ... drinking 'heavy' with Colin from the winter of 1961 every Friday at 5pm ... a great relax after a week wresting with distillation columns and heat engines.

Christmas 1961? A blank ... 'Edley thought it might have been the Christmas of Anita & Di ...

Westfield WorksFor 1962/3 were were in the capable hands of Mrs McMaster, 12 Clouston Street, Glasgow NW ... still with C M Bell and still drinking ... and beginning to learn some Chemical Engineering with the help of Jost Wendt and Alistair Lindsay.

December 3rd-14th 1962, with Colin M Bell in tow we managed a break from theory and Littlejohns but not from 'heavy' when we moved to Westfield, Ballingry, Fife for a project at the Scottish Gas Board ... and we got paid! Wot a breakthrough ... we could pay for our own warm & comforting beer as we experienced 'fun' in the freezing grime of Fifeshire. We were learning how to learn.

Westfield Works was a brand spanking new Lurgi high pressure coal gasification plant opened by The Queen on June 27th 1961 ... we were pioneering the latest technology ... production only lasted for 10 years prior to the switch to natural gas in 1974. But in the fullness of time we realised Ballingry's lasting fame was not its coal (Westfield was closed in 19??) nor its beer, but rather its proximity to Adam Smith at Kirkcaldy ... and Lochgelly, where straps were made for errant school boys. It was freezing in Ballingry but duffle coats and gas rings in our homely digs kept us warm. Memory often played tricks on us but two things we do remember ... our first industrial accident as a column full of stinking condensate disgorged itself onto to our protective duffle coat which then became a major hand washing project back in our digs ... and our delectable lunches in the works canteen which invariably involved ice cream topped with molten chocolate ... then there was more & better beer and girls ... or was that our imagination?

Christmas 1962 was memorable for running out of petrol with Rick and having to walk home from Tarvin, arrived at 4.30am ... and Christmas Day was for football; we didn't arrive back at The Briars until 4pm ... we can only imagine what Mama thought ... and the turkey was cold?!

We claimed in those days that the only way to learn was with the help of your drinking mates ... we certainly learned more from friends like Jost Wendt than any of the arcane lecturers in fluid mechanics! We had endless fun dissecting the intrigue of Eastern European politics and grappling with the concept of the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics even as we explored the Trossachs in Alistair Lindsey's car! And we recalled discussions continued after graduation when Jost stayed with us at The Briars in Northwich ... happy days ... still learning. Celebrating after exams also involved our first venture into the air ... a DC3 flight from old Renfrew to Ringway ... wot excitement. Jost got a first, of course this surprised nobody and he went on to be great in combustion in Arizona. We also remembered that much later Jost was quick to point out that the insights of economic science followed quite naturally from thermodynamics ... and Denbigh ... indispensible, an enlightening book which was much much smarter than the lecturers!

There was a similar story at King's where the influence and teaching skills of peers was much stronger than teachers.

Ancient Slide RuleIn Glasgow, with the Colin M Bell in tow, we developed an absorption system which involved securing a full set of lecture notes (even if they were only carbon copies,   they were prized) and then we worked through the mysterious contents together late at night when there were no distractions. The strategy was based on two heads being better than one and learning at the start of the term was a mugs game because by exam time we had forgotten it all. The execution of this strategy was only possible if we started work after midnight when things had quieted down ... before midnight there were alternatives to the swot ... plenty of films with our heroes; Sean Connery, Lawrence Harvey, Robert Mitcham ... plenty of concerts with the Gods from America, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, George Lewis ... plenty of jiggin' 'n' boppin' at the Union dances ... and plenty of heavy ...

 We became night owls, bed before 3am was a no no ... carefully building to a peak of virile knowledge for the day of the exam ... for one day only we remembered the intricacies of thermodynamics ... we even knew about 'Foot Poundals' and our ancient slide rule drove smoothly for many miles without servicing ... everything was fine until the first exam ... which was scheduled for 9 am ... the middle of the night for us!

In the end our success was deemed incomprehensible by our more conventional colleagues ... we managed a 2.1 ... and we had learned to live a little and manage risk. This was a strange awakening ... after a dyslectic life dominated by cricket, beer & girls we had learned how to understand a few additional bits and pieces ... this was after the trauma of being unable to read at 11 ... our personalised annotated notes and our slide rule became treasured possessions for our tenure ... unsoiled since the exams but still with us ... just in case?

Our 'notes' were memory aids, punchy conversational jottings with personalised artwork, such like became execution tools which also helped later in Unilever when they were disguised as strategies & tactics which had been harvested during social interaction at the coffee break or in the beer bar ... and even later still in retirement with more 'notes' on a PC for the cultivation of global families & friendships and even music. Jotting down personalised 'bullet points' to aid memory became an ingrained habit which helped to improve visibility in our brain addled existence. Very useful on the occasions when beer didn't pentrate the fog.

Stirling EngineLooking back at our time on Gilmore Hill we were most grateful for our introduction to Adam the Smith and Jimmy Watt ... we remembered these Glasgow twins long term ... and together with Charlie Darwin they guided a lifetime of decision making.

Perhaps the bedrock of our learning was our long grapple with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics ... without this notion nothing made sense to our sceptical minds.

We even tried to introduce The Stirling Engine to the grand kids but they were more interested in how the '.gif' worked than how the engine worked!

To paraphrase Archimedes, 'give me a temperature gradient and I can make the world'

It must be admitted that our ancient notes on the intricacies of the the Stirling Cycle were not as beautiful as the superb precision engineering of our model engine ... now they may look like hieroglyphics but at the time we thought we understood them?

Mum & Dad joined us for Graduation Day on June 22nd 1963 ... at Moore's Hotel, India Street ... for the first time we drank serious whisky with a proud Dad, quite remarkable because we were both beer drinkers really ... Dad's diary recorded, 'Had a long chat with john in the bar' ... 'we remembered it well' (the only other time we drank serious whiskey with Dad was when eldest son Jonathan was born in 1968 ... but we never really fathomed 'scotch' and always found that with this elixir there was never any warning of impending disaster).

No graduation photo? Alistair Lindsay promised to send a 'snap', but we were so overcome by the serendipity that our cup was already overflowing without the need for photographic evidence ... but we think the parentals were a bit miffed!

At Glasgow we discovered we were quite good at learning to pass exams ... and we actually enjoyed understanding a little bit about what was going on ... we were keen to continue the bonanza as a 'professional student' especially as we felt it would be a smart way to enjoy cricket, girls and beer. We forgot the employment 'milk round' and seriously planned an 'Operational Research' MSc at Birmingham ... if we could get a grant?

During university years we never lost touch with the magic of Chester. All the engineering students at Glasgow were expected to grease their hands and graft during extended summer breaks and we engineered jobs in Chester. In this way we managed to learn some engineering practice & forgot the theory ... and, of some significance ... spend the cricket season in Chester with Queen's School girls ... we also earned a little lucre to go towards the bar bills!

In Glasgow we learned something about Chester rootedness.

:drink    back to first round    


Crossbatters Cricket     

Phil CampeyCrossbatters Cricket was special, some of the beer drinkers from the King's School cricket tours of 1955/6/7 & 8 got a hold of the esprit de corps by the scruff of the neck and made things happen. 

Just before he died our lifelong friend and social secretary, Phil Campey (1934-2008) rescued all his old Crossbatters files and scorebooks from the imminent tip. Remarkably Phil had carefully preserved minutes of meetings, six old scorebooks from 1961-68 and all sorts of odd bits of paraphernalia ... and even a club 'constitution'.

We guessed he just couldn't bring himself to throw happy memories into a skip? His solution to this 'safe keeping' dilemma was to deposit the treasures into our garage in Mouldsworth as a safer alternative? ... there they continued to await the grim reaper ... buried in dust ... 

In 2009, feeling a little ambitious, or perhaps guilty, we tried to organise a 50th birthday celebration for the Chester Crossbatters. We failed miserably to locate many of the reprobates concerned as most had disappeared into corners all over the globe. In the end four lonely ex cricketers did manage to arrange a beer at Boughton Hall during a Chester v. Macclesfield match ... Mike Burdekin, John Reidford, Alan Robinson & john p ... and we also had a small table at the CAOKS annual dinner in the same year ... this time including Charlie Pritchard, Mickey Moore , Robin Jones and John Evans.

We also discovered some ancient photos which had somehow managed to survive in our own dusty archive. These faded specimens immediately posed the questions of where and when and even who? We started by trying to date a splendid beer drinking photo from one of the school cricket tours. This caused general consternation as memory proved to be the second thing to go ... eventually a consensus almost emerged; 1957 The Prince Rupert Hotel, Shrewsbury!

Cricket & BeerHappy memories of the Crossbatters Cricket era seemed to be widespread amongst the those we did manage to contact and this spurred us into action; scanning some of the memorabilia and in a vain attempt at preservation. There after we started jotting down some ‘notes’ and since then it just 'grow'd & grow'd like Topsy, don't think nobody never made it' ... back into schooldays at Lache Lane and the days before the Wrexham Road splendour ... and forward into 'life in a suitcase' ...

... notes for a sort of ‘Autobiography of Beer Drinking’!

No doubt we will be too busy to compile such an opus and, in any case ... too forgetful to remember ...

However some bits did stick ...

In 1959 The Chester Crossbatters played their first games.

1959 - after our 1st year at Uni there was some 'practical work' during the summer at the Shell Oil Refinery, Stanlow. Engineers at Glasgow were expected to get their hands dirty and get stuck in during the long summer breaks ... such physical exertion seemed to feed our thirst and there was much drinking with Len Kirkham, famed hooker with The Old Birkonians, but a perilous driver of my Vespa Scooter.

VesperThe Vespa, an exemplar of Italian fashion & engineering, was an risky 18th birthday pressie from the parentals. It was rumoured around Chester that the 2 stroke motor scooter ran on ale? Grog Guthrie and David Hindley spent many hours on the pillion as the motor thrived on the ferry trade between Northwich and Chester. However the Vespa was not renowned for its reliability and we were continually resorting to hitch hiking along that well trodden Chester to Northwich A54/A556 ... we knew every inch of that road ... which on one occasion involved intimate contact with my elbow and right hip when the Vespa headlight quenched and a battery driven cycle light was hopefully strapped to the handle bars. Needless to say the ploy failed to sufficiently illuminate the road ahead as we sped through Vicars Cross to Northwich. We reluctantly left the lightless contraption behind a hedge to be retrieved the next day.

Transportation problems loomed large for Northwich travellers. The last train for Northwich left Chester Northgate at 8.35pm, and the last bus emerged from Delamere Street at 9.15pm ... leaving little scope for enterprise.

North Western BusAs rural reclusives with urges we had always suffered from travel restrictions so we remembered all the big breakthroughs in our quest for independent mobility ... first access to school & sport then later access to convivial pints & the entertaining company of the ladies ... all seemed to depend overwhelmingly on the wherewithal to get to Northwich and Chester -

1943 - George purchased 'Pip Squeak' autocycle for £15 on January 11th. On Sept 24th 'Pip Squeak' plus £15 was swapped for a magnificent 'probe' a Velocette 250cc two stroke ... wot a mean machine, we did many stiff miles on the pillion. 

1944 - School at Miss Austins was on Castle in Northwich and we became regular users of the North Western Bus Company and their journey down Barnton Hill (only single deckers 'cos of the precipitous bend) to the Northwich Terminus.

1947 - a brand new sparkling 'Rudge Black Flash' bike offered some local independence from the pillion & bus fares.

Cheshire Lines Railway1951 - School at Kings was a travel nightmare but we remember the joy of Cheshire Lines Railway with lots of affection and an opportunity to do some homework?

1953 - Dad wangles a company car; a Vauxhall ... but one driver only! Then March 2nd 1953 an Austin A40 saloon 'NLM ...'

1956 - on Jan 12th George was awarded a new Ford Consul 'WMA 988' which should have relieved the pain of 'anxiety neurosis'.

1957 - john p learned the skillful methods of 'hitch hiking' and 'thumbing' along the Northwich / Chester Road ... which sometimes worked.

1959 - March 17th 1959 a engineering miracle, a Vespa Scooter, delivered ready for work at Stanlow on April 13th. As noted by in Dad's diary the 'L plates' disappeared on July 9th 1959 as john p passed his test.

1962 - Feb 10th £582-16 to Clifford Eden for a spanking new Green Austin 7 Mini '201 UMA'. Mama at the grand old age of 55 learned to drive and john p was gifted access having passed his test in the Glasgow go slow in March '62

1963 - an Austin A35 van on the 'never never' paid for from real Unilever earnings ... real independence at 24?  

The social Sunday matches in 1959 involved both cricket & beer and we think they were enjoyed immensely ... but at the moment memories of these games have been lost in alcoholic mists. Some vague dates and locations were recalled in old diaries - May 17th St Asaph, May 18th Davenham, May 31st Rolls Royce, July 5th Associated Ethyl, July 12th Shawbury, July 19th Shell, July 26th Park Hall Garrison, August 9th Hawarden Park, August 16th Oswestry, September 27th Cholmondeley ... such give a flavour of the venues ... but the records were missing and nobody remembered ...

This enterprising effort at social cricket was continued with some formal glue at a memorable meeting on the 22nd September 1959, Chaired by 'Hebrew Birchall' ... where did that name come from? Through the haze it was not clear whether the meeting was held at the Willetts house & home as arranged or in the riverside bar at The Boathouse Inn? 

And at the end of 1959 many of the troops who had been away at Uni reassembled in Chester for a Christmas beer ... or two. In 2015 Bill Willetts posed the question -

'Do you remember when the Crossbatters won Chester Nomads 6-a-side competition with David James guesting as goalkeeper? I remember Graeme Guthrie getting a hatful of goals that day and JPB by then a hockey player at Uni charging thru the mud to thwart the opposition. And a game at Winsford when Mike Burdekin was in goal'.

It was 7 a side and the date was Monday December 28th ... the team?? - Willetts, Foulkes, Guthrie, Birchall, G A Williams, ?? and David James in goal ?? ... and confirmation of this unlikely success of cricketers playing soccer followed when we found the evidence; a trophy at the bottom of an old tea chest ... a splendid silver cup! The other game against the Nomads at Winsford was on Jan 9th 1960 but we still await the forgotten details.

And there was also golf at Hawarden in 1959 or 60? ... and Vicars Cross, with Bill Willetts & Martin Roberts and more? We remember Vicars Cross because john p played almost the whole round with his favourite 'spoon' ... ? 

Crossbatters C C1960 - In 1960 Her Majesty confirmed that we were no longer required to defend the home land as National Service was abandoned. After our 2nd year at Uni practical work during the summer was in the Metallurgy Lab at ICI Winnington. We were in awe of this august company where dad's mate Hoot Gibson discovered polythene in 1933.

Chester Crossbatters & away fixtures & wining & dining were in full swing in 1960 and the original reprobates had been joined by the young turks ... Charlie Combes, Martin Evans, Iggy Jones, Keith Patterson, Cibby Smith & Abe Taylor, Neil Tranter.

In 2022 Charlie Combes turned up in Bewdley where he had been successfully hiding at King Charles School Kidderminster and Bewdley Cricket Club and still contributing to the game after he had reached his biblical ration -

Good morning John, what a pleasant surprise and yes I have very happy memories of Kings and playing cricket for Crossbatters. I moved to Worcestershire after Durham University and have lived in Bewdley ever since. I taught at King Charles School Kidderminster, ended up as. Head of Sixth Form before retiring in 2001.
I have enjoyed playing cricket for Kidderminster and Bewdley and finished by being a member of Worcestershire over 70s!! I also help with Bewdley C C. My youngest son is is Chairman and my wife runs the junior section. 
I remember looking up to you, Brewis, Guthrie, Reidford at Lache Lane and have very happy memories of cricket both there and later at the new school and of course for Crossbatters not forgetting Liverpool Competition matches between Neston and CBH.

King's 1959Charlie discovered a super photo of the 1959 King's 1st eleven -

Clive Hulme - Charlie Combes - Neil Tranter - Robin Jones - Chris Chorlton - Abe Taylor - Martin Evans - Iggy Jones - Dave Hindley - John Reidford - Keith Pattison - Cibby Smith

Every one starred for the Crossbatters and have a fun story or two to tell.

Charlie opened up some interesting speculation ... how did this team stack up against the undefeated 1956 ... John Reidford scored a ton at Ruthin School, Abe Taylor one at Shrewsbury Priory. Lovely situation between IGY and John when they opened the bowling together, John off his long run and IGY of two paces. John used to complain that he hadn't had time to get down to long leg, let alone recover from his efforts before it was time to bowl another over? We wonder?

 Both Charlie Combes and Abe Taylor starred for the Crossbatters but both, inexplicably, ended up playing for arch rivals Neston ... the beer was always good at Parkgate but then so was Cec's brew at Filkins Lane?

By 1960 thanks to Noel John Roy, our 'Official Scorer & Reporter', we now had posh records ... John Reidford averaged 64.25, and John P 50.29, and Malcolm Brewis 42.83, ... and, of course, Bateman 33, Burdekin 24 and Reidford 16, got all the wickets.

On July 24th at Park Hall, Oswestry John Reidford bagged a ton ... the first ton for the Crossbatters!

NB Most of the time Grog Guthrie was away at Trinity College, Dublin drinking Guinness. But in 1960 his presence was demanded to assist the Crossbatters in the Boughton Hall Knockout Competition. He flew, bat in hand, from Dublin to help us out but as he later reminded us,

'mercifully we lost the match as I did not have the funds for the first trip so a second round would have been disastrous'.

 Undeterred by this setback by 1963 Grog had found time to captain the University cricket team.

On July 31st 1960 Mike Burdekin played his last game for the Crossbatters as a local resident, it was against Tunnel Cement at Hope; he bought us all a drink!

On August 21st at Winnington Park 85 not out was recorded by john p for the Crossbatters against a team skippered by our old mate Colin Barnes, Northwich Victoria's solid right half back ... we remember the real run total was considerably higher but the scorers couldn't keep up with the action! Later as good mates do, Colin was known to retell this story in return for beer ...

On September 24th 1960 an annual general meeting was held at 23 Belgrave Road, the imposing abode of our Treasurer, Martin W Roberts. The delightful Maureen did the cakes and grand plans for a constitution and a booze up were tabled ... and approved.

We also had a Crossbatters tie ... very smart, even when beer soaked.

From the start there was great support from the school - a Vice President was John L Hudson, the coach & motivator from Arnold House who inspired many King's School sportsmen and a player who was far too young to die in 19??.

Tom & Vera Clamp were at every match with their barrow, 'Tom Clamp was everybody's best friend' ... it was a pleasure to drink with him. RIP Tom Clamp (1919-88) 20th March 1988.

In 1960 Dad's dairy recorded a remarkable July weekend - Friday July 1st John 21 years old - Saturday July 2nd Old Boys against the King's School John 55, Ricky 19 not out - Sunday July 3rd Crossbatters against AEC (Knockaloe) John 60 not out!

And then in September a disastrously timed 'bout of tonsillitis resulted in a father's letter to the University Registrar and exam re-sits the following March. This educational interregnum offered some thrilling unanticipated pleasures. The winter 1960/61 was spent earning some beer money whilst enjoying a supply teaching sabbatical at Rudheath, Barnton & Hartford ... and drinking in Bollands, the watering hole at the pinnacle of social activity at the time.

1961 - Malcolm Brewis, captain. By August 1960 Mike Burdekin had gone AWOL, left the district and was immediately demoted to vice-captain.

Engineering work was in the Fuel Lab at ICI Winnington during the summer and drinking was at The Thatched Tavern, in Northwich with Archie Elsby, a fine dribbler with ICI Alkali in The Mid Cheshire League; a hero from our schooldays when we watched soccer at Moss Farm.

On July 23rd 1961 at The Octel Sports Club, Plumley, john p managed 109 not out against the reputable bowling of a big mate of ours, George Williams ... but some said he was throwing buns. When the opposition finally got round to batting young Willetts managed ... not 1, not 2 but 3 stumpings in their short innings ... we used to call him 'Speedy Willetts' but this was ridiculous!

On Friday December 22nd 1961 Quaintways was ablaze with passion and beer at a Christmas Dance, the irresistible Heather was there and all the reprobates bar none.


Creaky Dawbarn made his mark at school as our wicket keeper until that fateful day when he was hit in his unprotected delicates and Willetts claimed the stumps.

Creaky was doing National Service from 1957-9 and then away in London and Scotland for most of 1960-61 so his auspicious contributions didn't really start until 1962. This return to Chester was a good move, we'd missed his performances 'behind the stumps' ... and he was back in plenty of time for our weddin' ... he continued to remind at every opportunity that he was always our first choice keeper and had only been displaced by Bill when his nuts had been savaged during an absent minded moment when he 'forgot' his treasure box. From then on remembering protection was second only to remembering money for a pint! 

1962 - Malcolm Brewis, was captain. Who was vice-captain?

In 1962 work was at Associated Octel, we started on April 30th 1962 with John Tiplady, who also played cricket at Boughton Hall, Alan 'anemometer' Knight from Weaverham ... and a gorgeous young librarian at EP. For the whole long summer we drank Tetleys at The Octel Club, just across from the works, with George Williams and Jack Ashley. Jack was Alf Ashley's brother, Alf was a star midfielder at Witton Albion F C. This amiable club was where, the previous year, on the adjacent cricket pitch ... between rounds ... lots of runs had been scored ... it seemed cricket & beer went well together ... my dad was a good teacher and he never slurred his words -

'stay sideways on and wait for the ball'!

Our skipper Malcolm Brewis was from that hot bed of sporting acumen, Chester Road, Northwich, with Chris Chorlton next door, Graeme Guthrie next next door, john p across the road and Cibby Smith just up the road in Sandiway, and David Hindley just across the river in Barnton ... Malcolm not only excelled at soccer & cricket and always bought his round, but he also had a car. As early as the 1956 school cricket tour, MSB and his car were invaluable. We will never forget the journey home from Worcester when Burdekin, Guthrie, Reidford and Birchall all crammed into Malcolm's Standard Eight for, what was then, a long chug!

We celebrated with Malcolm at his wedding on April 2nd in the spring of 1961. He married a fine Queen's School girl HB and the Queen's School magazine of July 1963 recorded the Brewis move to Bristol -

'We were very sad to lose Mrs Brewis at Christmas, when her husband had to move to Bristol'.

MSB left for Bristol after the 1962 season ... it was rumoured at the time that he had swapped beer for cider at The Taunton Cider Company ... then in 2015 he reappeared in Anglesey, 78 not out and taking a fresh guard!

Cricket was not our only sport in 1962, and egged on by Max Faulker and 'Edley Simms we became students of the turf and forever remembered the riches won at the Doncaster St leger on 'Hethersett' ... and tennis at Glan Aber, greyhounds at Sealand Road and fun at The Dale.

1963 - John P, captain. Tom Bateman, vice-captain.

Work started at Unilever where we talked cricket with Roy Davies of Glamorgan C C and George Robinson of Rock Ferry and enjoyed the needle matches against 'marketing' at the magnificent cricket ground at Shepperton by the Thames, where there was a memorable surplus of beer, hospitality and cricket. It was Roy Davies who secured our first job in 'production' in the Port Sunlight Factory. Perhaps we have to thank our shared our love of cricket for our escape from the theory of snake oil into the hairy arsed practice in manufactories?

Dad always said cricket and beer opened doors? Confirming evidence came in 1979 in a newspaper report about an old left arm spinner from Kings  ... after the school cricket tours of 1956/7 Barnaby Lathom-Sharp's love of cricket enabled him to secure a breakthrough order with Barclays Bank involving the sale of 30 Olivetti TES 401 electronic daisywheel printer-based word processing machines ... the price included a cricket match on the lawns of Radbrook Hall!

In 1963 Tom Bateman bowled and took wickets, 40 of them. Martin Evans was the star of the batting, 15 knocks, 367 runs.

Martin Evans was still in short pants when we were at school but later over the years we played a lot of cricket with Martin. He was a reliable friend and his claim to fame was as a fellow Chemical Engineer. He was much more conventional than we were and went into a proper job with Shell, in the oil business in Aberdeen. 

RIP Martin Evans May 2018.

Noel Barlow only played 4 times in 1963 but averaged 73 ... what a prospect, what a tragedy he died so young.

Captain john p only had 9 knocks, he must have been down the order resting ... and preparing for Max Faulkner's 21st birthday bash at The Stafford Hotel, City Road where he met a smile.

1964 - Tom Bateman, captain. Cibby Smith, vice-captain. The club had another successful year. The Chester Chronicle reported -

'The main feature of the year has been the excellent batting of John Birchall, who scored almost 750 runs'

Our ScorerWe guessed that the newspaper reports were edited by our mum ... but we were not surprised by the run glut; john p was trying to impress our new scorer, Carole Margaret Jackson.

Carole with an 'e' had been recruited on September 28th 1963 at Max Faulker's 21st birthday booze up at The Stafford Hotel, City Road. This happening had nothing to do with Max's excellent beer and everything to do with Carole's remarkable and enduring skills. 

1964 was also the year that our future skipper Chris Chorlton started to star with bat & gloves & ball. 1964 was also the year Clive Hume made his indelible mark on our club ... and a fast & furious Robin Jones and a guileful Mickey Moore left school and became serious cricketers & beer drinkers ...

The Crossbatters team fielded in the Boughton Hall Knockout in 1964 against Brymbo was impressive but nobody can remember who won.

1965 - John P, captain, Creaky, vice-captain. 1965 was Clive Hulme's year he scored 446 runs and took 53 wickets. Abe Taylor 406, Martin Evans 364 contributed some serious run accumulations ... john p mustered only a miserly 284 ... he was away with the fairies preparing for October 23rd when he married a smile.

The Chester Chronicle reported - 'Tom Bateman was the mainstay of the bowling' ...

Another Crossbatters team entered the Boughton Hall Knockout in 1965 against Barrow ... the depth of talent was amazing but the result remained a mystery? 

1966 - Chris Chorlton, captain, Cibby Smith, vice-captain. john p played in only 9 matches ... did marital shenanigans finally overtake cricket? Pat Garnett left Chester for greater things at Canberra Grammar School.

In 1965/6/7 our President was one of our most enthusiastic supporters Mr G C T Bowen Esq who was CC's guest at our Annual Dinner at The Oaklands Hotel in Hoole Road,

In May 1966 a match at Warrington featured two esteemed newcomers, Alan Coleman & Alan Robinson, neither of the 'two Alans' were from The King's School but both could play cricket and drink beer with the best!

AR, captain of cricket at Manchester Uni, tells the story of how John Reidford met the two Alans who helped him out and later combined to stiffen up the Crossbatters cricket & fun during the later half of the 1960s. We remember well the day at Birkenhead Park when John introduced the first Alan to Chester cricket.

Alan Coleman's first night out in Chester was at john p's stag party in October 1965; drinking beer at The Customs House. Beer drinking credentials were established there & then and Alan C went on to prove his cricketing prowess. Alan scored 120 at Bangor in June 1966. This was the start of a remarkable run scoring spate for the Crossbatters as he secured his reputation as a remarkable wellier and purveyor of convivial pints.

Alan Robinson also remembered what batting for the Crossbatters was all about ... fun. And how the search for beer was often fraught but fun was forever!

Chris Chorlton1967 - Chris Chorlton, captain, Cibby Smith, vice-captain. Coleman wellied two more tons in 1967, against Birkenhead Grasshoppers in July and at Ince Blundell in August.

A splendid description of the social cricket of the time was skillfully provided by our captain of repute Chris Chorlton ... read his book! In 2017 Chris was writing again for the CAOKS ... hilarious!

We were lucky to have Chris Chorlton in our midst until 1969, he then escaped and generously donated his excellence to Canada, producing two children, four grandchildren and lots of runs. In 2015, by now a famous author, he delved into his memories of convivial pints and cricket and added more reminiscences and ramblings to the Crossbatters 'story' ... beer & occifers and some triumphant reflections and a solicitation -

'Rather than be sad that it came to an end we should wonder and be grateful that it ever happened at all' ...

1968 - Phil Campey, captain, Martin Evans, vice-captain. Yet another ton for AHC at Neston in May ... and he brought a round ... or two.

By the end of the 1968 season it had become more and more difficult to field eleven cricketers from the pool of Kings School old boys. Several of the original reprobates had inevitably left the district and john p was now involved in the arduous task of educating his first born in the art of ball catching. At the time this was deemed to be a more important skill for the youngsters than beer drinking, a task which was delegated to Nogs and mates at Ellesmere College.

 By the end of the 1960s Crossbatters life had been prolonged only by an influx of stars from Boughton Hall Cricket Club. Much to the chagrin of Tom Bateman who was determined to sire his very own Kings School eleven, the inevitable came to pass ... Chester Crossbatters retained a name and legacy of social cricket & beer and transformed into the Boughton Hall Sunday team ...

The 1968 agm in October in The Blossoms Hotel was decisive. John Birchall & Alan Coleman drew up a proposal which was approved by those eminent sages present by an enthusiastic 10 to 1 ... confirmed in the minutes and cheered at a subsequent meeting.

The last fling of the independent Crossbatters was at The Oaklands, Hoole on the 20th of September 1968 where we welcomed in a new era of Crossbatters Cricket at BHCC ...

The club entered the 1969 season with aplomb, Robin Jones as skipper and Alan Coleman vice captain ... the king was dead, long live the king.

Mickey MooreMickey Moore donated endless hours and countless wickets to the cause as his enthusiasm drove the integration of the Crossbatters social cricket into BHCC. In 2017 Mick's memory was up to scratch -

Mick recalled that he joined the general committee of BHCC as the Crossbatters representative to ensure Crossbatters cricket flourished as indeed it did for quite some years until the advent of the various Cheshire, Liverpool Echo & National KOs. Then the demand on the better players was such that there was simply no time for friendly social cricket. However he remained either as a committee member & then a director until 2004 when the opening of the new clubhouse ushered in a new era. He felt new blood was needed to take the Club on ... this has been done with considerable success. And Mickey also remembered the fun. Robin Jones' 21st birthday coincided with a Crossbatters match at Davenham after which all played 'Cardinal Puff' the well known drinking game. Mickey thought he drove Robin home afterwards and was sure the car had to be stopped at regular intervals for internal relief. On another occasion Mick had skippered the Crossbatters when they won the Mid Cheshire KO at Northwich ... we topped up the cup with various alcoholic concoctions and ever loving wife Jane was elected to drive an over loaded car of Crossbatters back to Chester. Unfortunately Jane lost her bearings, but not her nous, in Northwich town centre and went down a no-entry ... only to meet an inevitable police car. Bravely taking the advice of all the delirious passengers, the car drove off as fast as possible leaving the law somewhere in the wake. Happy days, Mick. PS Crossbatters still have fixtures at BHCC and these are mainly used to bring along youngsters!

Crossbatters CupIn August 1972 the back to back wins of the Northwich Knock Outs with Mickey et al was probably a pinnacle of achievement for social Chester Crossbatters cricket ... wot epic glory & fun ... tragically & embarrassingly, by this time, we were AWOL, hiding underneath the soap pans in Apapa and unable to buy a round ... well done lads!

Alan Robinson in his history of Boughton Hall C C described the merging of the two clubs -

 'Under an arrangement negotiated during 1968, the Chester Crossbatters C C merged with Boughton Hall to assure the continuance of Sunday Cricket at the Club. The Crossbatters had been formed in the late 1950s by Old Boys of the King's School, as a nomadic team playing Sunday Cricket. They had gained a good reputation and a strong fixture list, but since many members were also members of Boughton Hall, difficulties had arisen when Sunday Cricket was reinstated at Boughton Hall. By an amicable arrangement, therefore, Crossbatters became the Boughton Hall Sunday Xl. Thus Boughton Hall acquired a ready made fixture list, and extra members, while the Crossbatters found a home and a source of players. As was hoped, Sunday Cricket has flourished at the club since the move, and the Crossbatters are firmly established in the top rank of Sunday teams, having a good name both on the field and off. They have won the Mid Cheshire Knockout at Northwich, three times in the last five years. Such was the influx of members, to which the Crossbatters and the Junior Section contributed in no small part, that many extra fixtures were arranged'.

Alan Coleman (1943-95) spent his first night in Chester at our stag party at The Customs House in 1965. We played endless games of cricket together and enjoyed many more convivial pints ... we remembered drinking beer together at his 50th birthday party only a couple of years before he died ...

Alan was Captain of the Crossbatters in 197? and went on and on enjoying his cricket at BHCC until in 199?. Such longevity afforded Alan the pleasure of playing cricket and buying beer for our son Jonathan ...

In Alan Robinson we were lucky to find an good friend who had an excellent memory and his reflections on the other Alan were masterful ...

RIP ... Alan Coleman 19th May 1995. 

In 2008 Phil Campey died; Phil was the power behind the long lasting tsunami of social cricket that was The Chester Crossbatters. Phil had also carefully preserved the old Crossbatters files and records ... Brian Gresty summarised a great effort ...

RIP ... Phil Campey January 25th 2008.

Pat Garnett Brian DawbarnIn 2012 Creaky met up with Pat and reminisced ... and we sent Pat a thank you email on the 27th of November 2012 ... good effort.

RIP ... Pat Garnett March 9th 2013.

Pat probably never really knew what he had started; wheels were in motion!? 

In 2009 there was a frantic failure to organise a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the formation of Chester Crossbatters Cricket Team ... but most of the reprobates had successfully disappeared without trace. Four lonely ex cricketers, John Birchall, Mike Burdekin, John Reidford and Alan Robinson reminisced at Boughton Hall Cricket Club watching Chester BHCC v. Macclesfield and drinking beer ...

In 2015 we caught up again with Tom Bateman, who we'd never lost ... a local Headmaster and Governor of our hospital in Chester. Tom's claim the fame was the ferocious pace of his bowling which terrorised Hedley Simms at The Grammar School (see below), he was also legendary for his beer drinking skills and his tale telling -

'Hedley Simms Senior was a class act, a pro who helped out the village team in Barrow. He was matched by Peter Greenwood, a fine Lancashire off spinner who was a regular at Hoole. Peter, unavailable for a needle match between Hoole & Barrow, called in Tom to save the day and gave him his instructions. Hedley will want to get after you, two straight full length balls then a third short on the leg side and he will hook early, set your field for the catch. It came to pass. Later Peter mercilessly ribbed Hedley about the dismissal, and Tom had an excuse for another drink.

Chris Chorlton's story about his altercation with the law 'Occifer' (see above) was both confirmed and elaborated by Tom. Tom was the fourth passenger in the back of the car which had so recklessly overtaken the police car along, Mount Road, after a Crossbatters match at Oxton. Tom honestly tried help our hapless driver and explained to the investigating Occifer that Chris did indeed have a real life stammer and that his demeanor was nothing to do with the amount of beer he had consumed. Tom was convinced that the Occifer was himself a beer drinking cricketer which explained their miraculous escape.

 Iggy Jones had a throw that was faster than Tom's bowling. We never worked out how on earth he managed to throw a cricket ball with such ferocity? Much younger than most of the old soaks in the Crossbatters, Iggy's dad had specifically requested and entrusted the care of his impressionable son to Messrs Bateman, Birchall & Guthrie. Dad was so confident in this arrangement that Iggy was allowed to borrow the family car. Unfortunately, returning from a match at Oswestry with a precious cargo of drunken cricketers, the car completely lost its way along the alien roads which all seemed to have identical distinguishing characteristics. Much to the mirth of the passengers a resolute Iggy solved the problem by telephoning his dad in the early hours of the morning for instructions.      

Occasionally the Crossbatters outstayed their welcome. At Hightown, where matches and hospitality were always a joy, the gang were still ensconced in their Tetleys when the home team retired defeated to their beds. The steward, on his last legs, donated the club house keys to Captain Bateman with instructions to lock everything up when they left ... '

CAOKS NewsletterBut the last word on the Crossbatters, and many other happenings, came from Chris Chorlton -

'rather than be sad that it came to an end we should wonder and be grateful that it ever happened at all' ...

In 2016 Mike Burdekin retold the story of the Chester Crossbatters and guaranteed a place for the reprobates in the King's School Archives. The guest article appeared in the CAOKS Newsletter October 2016 - Celebrating 150 years of Camaraderie and Friendship!

:drink    back to first round    


Chester Beer & Jazz   

ClemsPerhaps the best thing about The King's School was The Queen's School but The City of Chester was a thriving social magnet which ticked all our boxes, a centre of excellence outshining our dull dormitories in Northwich & Glasgow ... Northwich had roots & salt, Glasgow had legacies & ghosts ... but Chester had everything.   

Amongst the beers there was always music ... and popular music in Chester, just like everywhere else, was closely associated with the beer trade. Right from the start jazz and beer were inextricably linked in the bars, dance dives and speakeasies in America as Chester Sociologist Helen Southall noted in her splendid thesis on the Chester Dance Band scene -

'The first five decades of its existence in America jazz was played largely in bars, night clubs and dance halls, places where the money to support the enterprise came mostly from the sale of alcohol'.

... and jazz continued its close association with beer in Chester.

The Music Industry around Chester during the war and afterwards into the 1950s when we met the intoxicating sounds was ... fantastic!   

However for all of us there was music to imbibe years before the beers. It was the 'wireless' that had access to our ears. Much later we realised that our mum was a 'flapper' and, with dad, the pair were immersed in the intimate excitement of the British Dance Bands during the 1920s and 30s ... Jack Hylton, Henry Hall, Ambrose, Lew Stone and the rhythmic American songs they danced to at the Winnington 'rec' were in the air and on the air in our house and home all the time. Without any intention these sounds were unconsciously ingrained for future recall and pleasure.

It always irritated us to recall the abject failure of the BBC to broadcast American jazz. The only light relief we had from monotony in the early days was 'Itma' & Colonel Chinstrap, and all the music we got in the early 1950s was 'Music While You Work' & Billy Cotton at Sunday lunch time. However we certainly remembered the steam wireless, and the BBC did reluctantly broadcast American influenced dance band music. But our excitement was really stirred in 1954 when Radio Luxembourg floated across the airwaves ... on 208m medium wave 'Your Station of the Stars' announced that 'the makers of Stayblonde and Brunitex Shampoo bring to you Top 20' ... sheet music sales at 11pm on a Sunday night for the countdown ... with interruptions from irrepressible jingles ... 'H Samuel's watches and Big Ben now agree it's exactly ten' ... and Horace Batchelor's money making 'treble chance' scheme from Keynsham that's k-e-y-n-s-h-a-m. We remembered 'Rudolph' in 1950, 'Mockin' Bird Hill' with Les Paul & Mary Ford in 1951, and perhaps a bit more sophisticated was Jo Stafford with 'Shrimp Boats' 1951 & 'You Belong to Me' 1952, Eddie Calvert 'Oh Mein Papa' 1954 was different ... and then a wake up call and a wow, Bill Hayley 'Rock Around the Clock' and Johnnie Ray 'Walking in the Rain' 1956 ... unfortunately we also remembered Dinah Shore 'Buttons & Bows' (1948), Donald Peers 'In a Shady Nook By a Babbling Brook' (1949), Teresa Brewer 'The Bell Bottom Blues' (1953) & Patti Page 'Changing Partners' (1953) ... insipid stuff that left us a bit limp.

Peter Oliver 

Peter Oliver 1949Perhaps, jazz started with a bit of fun in 1955 (or was it 56?) when we went to a concert in Manchester with Peter Oliver to hear Guy Mitchell (aka Al Cernik from Detroit (1927-99)). Al had been pushed by Mitch Miller into recording some rocked up novelty songs under his new name ... the result was a series of rhythm hits ... 'The Roving Kind' 1950, 'My Truly Truly Fair' 1951, 'Sparrow in the Tree Top' 1951, 'Pittsburgh Pennsylvania' 1952, 'She Wears Red Feathers' 1953, 'Chick a Boom' 1954, and then in 1956 'Singin' the Blues' ... Singing the Blues was different, real American music, a sort of rhythm ballad with voice and whistle complements. We had always listened to steam radio and started listening to Radio Luxemburg in 1954 but we loved the live concert so much we looked up the who of the next American visitor ... we discovered it was a black guy called Count Basie ... the Count meant nothing to us at the time ... but soon we were hooked.

Peter was a great friend from very early days at The Grange School, Hartford. Eventually three generations of Birchalls learned their nous at this fine establishment ... but we were not being primed for beer. A June 1949 photo revealed two pals on the back row, one looking a bit grumpy ... probably 'cos cricket had been interrupted for a photo opportunity with the girls.

John PAt The Grange we had been proud members of Peter's formidable gang ... of course, we were not beer drinkers then but we still managed to terrorise the girls in the playground with our exclamations & athleticism ... but this outrageous gender bias at school was soon nipped in the bud when we fell in love with Alice, the delectable star of Miss Taylor's production of the Lewis Carroll classic; Alice in Wonderland ... with a grand finale Friday July 21st 1950. Although we didn't know it at the time this extravaganza left lasting, indelible, deep down, effects on our psyche - 

'I'm not strange, weird, off nor crazy, my reality is just different than yours'

Although we couldn't sing we wished that this spectacular entertainment were a musical and ruminated that the seeds of such affection had been sown some years earlier when Judy Garland & Dorothy Gale captured our hearts with 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' from Harold Arlen's The Wizard of Oz, the first movie we ever saw.

Years later in 2017, Pat and Brian Wheeldon recovered a treasured reminder of our first and only adventure on the other side of the footlights ... Pat (née The March Hare) and many other names from the past emerged from this yellowing relic ... we remembered them all, the names and the faces ... we were only 10 and far too young for beer but we did have fun ... and even earlier we had been perplexed at the excitement of 'Postman's Knock' which intrigued us long before we tasted our first delicious half?

How did that happen?

We always insisted dad taught us cricket throughout the hours & hours of barrowing loads of marl to build our magnificent 'cricket pitch' at the bottom of the long garden at The Briars ... and then hours & hours of 'on the spot' bowling to quench our irrepressible desire to bat.

The DonHowever around 1949 Peter Oliver lent a hand in the quest for proficiency ... he saved up his precious pocket money to purchase, @ two & sixpence, our special birthday pressie - 'How to Play Cricket' by Don Bradman - the words of the master became imprinted ... we still have this treasure in our bookcase!

The message was practice, practice, practice, as for any accomplishment invest your 10,000 hours ... no one argued with hard work, honesty & thrift ... not luck, not easy and don't blame others, blame soon leads to hatreds ... you can't pass the buck.  

So before King's we spent a lot of time with Peter, and then we both managed to secure Hornby Dublo three rail model train sets for passing our 11 plus exams ... Peter bagged Sir Nigel Gresley, and john p had The Duchess of Atholl; a die cast loco which was the centre of enduring layout constructions and dreams. We also built dams in the streams in the woods ... and Jetex model air craft were carefully constructed from balsa wood & tissue ... and we played all & every sport we could find.

Both our dads were team mates and beer drinkers at Winnington Park Hockey Club

A friendship which culminated on Easter Sunday March 29th 1964 as we managed to execute the best man duties when Peter married the lovely Lorna in Aberdare.

Peter & LornaOur interest in jazz & beer certainly matured in Chester but perhaps the seeds may have been sown much earlier ... with our mate Peter at The Grange ... my birthday party at The Briars in 1950 didn't serve beer ... nevertheless the gang seemed to be enjoying themselves ... Robert Cann, Richard Atherton, john p, Peter Oliver, John Alcock ... where did they end up?

We kept in sporadic contact with Peter and notably celebrated our 50th birthday with the Olivers at The Meister in 1990 ... no photos only memories of our ancient 'gang leader' at The Grange who later excelled as a school master and father. 

Then in 2021, out of the blue mists of the past Richard Atherton pitched up, fully fledged and chortling quietly over our musings. 

'I’ve been chortling quietly over your musings for a year or two now and was vacillating whether or not to try to discover if we had any common ground to explore, when an unforeseen discovery made the decision for me.
My daughter and family visited last weekend to cook a Fathers Day lunch,
during the course of which the conversation turned to the renovation of reel to reel tape recorders (naturally!). This led to an exploration of the junk in the loft for an example of the marque, which my son-in-law duly found. He also unearthed a crude model of a steamship, which I remembered making under the tutelage of a Mr Webb at Mrs Perry’s school about 1948, in the company of Nicholas Perkins and a competent ship builder, one John Birchall. I wonder if your version of the model still exists? I think we were in the same class at the time, swotting up for the dreaded 11+ ...
Forgive me if I have got it wrong. 83 clocks up in September!'

Crickey not 'the' Richard Atherton?

Richard AthertonNot seen or heard for 71 years!

We remembered how impressed we were at the time when Richard confirmed he had constructed a ‘crystal set’ ... at the age of 10? ... we bet our grand kids didn’t even know what a crystal set was!

We guessed RA ended up as an engineer and constructed a large family? Then on 16 Aug 2021 over a beer at Chris Kelly's place The White Barn, Cuddington we were gobsmacked to discovered how similar our post Grange School trajectories had been - 

After our preliminaries The Grange -
john p - almost educated in science & cricket @ Kings & Chester playgrounds
RA - M/P/C ‘A’ levels @ SJDGS
john p - grasped bits of the intricacies of thermodynamics & jazz music @ Gilmore Hill & the gutters of Sauchiehall Street
RA - UMIST, Applied Chemistry
john p - Unilever @ Port Sunlight plant commissioning
RA - ICI Dyestuffs @ Blackley then plant commissioning
john p - tried hard to get a grip of business management & African trading @ Unilever & underneath the soap pans in Apapa
RA - plant management @ ICI Wilton, Burn Hall, Runcorn ... and Widnes ... Castner Kellner
john p - married 1965, a girl & a boy
RA - married 1966, a girl & a boy
john p - retired 1994 eventually learned of the unfathomable complexities of evolution & economics @ The Open University & York & Bath
RA - retired 1994 taught Technical Training Enterprise @ West Cheshire College
john p - finally indulged in genetic inheritances & saxophone playing ... 40 years @ The Meister & The Goshawk, rural Mouldsworth
RA - stayed with radio, passed all the amateur exams, forte morse code & restored an MGB ... 50 years @ rural Whitegate
Recent books -
john p - ‘Terra Incognita’ - ‘Darwin’s Dangerous Idea’ - ‘The Young Louis Armstrong on Record’ - ‘Capital & Innovation at Arley Hall’
... no novels ... no TV ... just the FT & YouTube from the cloud!
RA - 'Colossus' (Jack Copeland) - 'The Year 1000' (Robert Lacey) - 'The Unreturning Army' (Huntly Gordon)
... YouTube - 'Tally Ho' restoration of a 1910 gaff rigged cutter!

Looks like Mr Webb's tutelage worked out well ... but why saxophone playing?! ... where did that come from?

Music was permanently in the air at home as the 'wireless' was always on and Mum & Dad were Dance Band aficionados. But our shared interest in Jazz with Peter Oliver followed from the Guy Mitchell concert and led to studies and more dreams associated with the book Jazz by Rex Harris ... a book we both purchased which retold the exciting story of jazz and blues in New Orleans. This propelled us towards the excitement of Humph's Parlophones on 78 rpm shellac. We bought a Garrard SP25 and 'The Fish Seller' backed by 'The Glory of Love' was our first prized purchase ... this platter didn't break or get lost, it wore out.

In 1957 there was a musical graduation as we took out a monthly subscription to Jazz Journal, a weekly Melody Maker and a daily dose of Willis Conover on the VOA Jazz Hour ... gripping steam radio stuff which fared & faded through the ether and the hiss of the airwaves even when ears were clamped to loudspeakers, often under bed clothes ... then things looked up when Ted Heath secured a Light Programme spot on a Monday night. We never sprinkled the dessert with a teaspoon, the deeper we went the more intense the satisfactions ... always.

Heady stuff ... but there was also some awesome music close at hand in Chester ...


BollandsBollands Buttery was a licensed restaurant, The Grosvenor Oyster Bar approached downstairs from The Rows next to Brown's of Chester. After the war Bollands was well established as a premier social centre and in 1945 dancing & music were rocking the Chester hot spots ... Quaintways and the music of the armed forces gymnasiums at the Castle and College ... Al Powell and his Rhythm Aces built their reputation.  

The 1950s gang used to go to Bollands for a pint, then across the road to The Boot and on to Clems on Northgate Street. It was extraordinary. Every Thursday & Saturday there was a hot seething market where you met a lady in Bollands and then gallantly accompanied her to the slow drag at Clemences Resaurant for after midnight music & play ... a ritual ... some folk went to the 'River Park Ballroom' for fun but The Queen School girls went to Clems.

Bollands was the focus of our social activity for five glorious years from 1958-63 ... everyone who was anyone in Chester was in Bollands ... including real doughty mates.   

Mike ColledgeMike J Colledge who ended up on lager in Oz ... but reappeared, out of the blue in 2017 ... just the same young Mike that we remembered from 52 years earlier ... and miraculously we were still on beer. In 1965 we had agreed that onerous best man duties required a 'reliable' choice ... someone who could be guaranteed to get you back home when you were face down in your curry ... in our case a 'reliable' friend was the one who always bought his round.

Picking up conversations where they were left them 52 years ago was easy, memories were just about up to it, and what we didn't remember we guessed and concurred.

Great fun ... and we were on 'Hydes Original' at The Goshawk.

John P Milroy was a regular at Bollands and drank so much beer that he qualified for official ushering duties at our weddin' ... he was charged with the task of controlling the flow of ale ... but he had some help from our best man. John P was from farming stock and wore a hat to match. He was a real hard full back at school and a Liverpool trained vet, who memorably attempted to drink Glasgow dry with us in 1959. He became a wizard with animals and established the John Milroy Veterinary Practice in Castlebar, County Mayo. Happily JPM retired to rural pursuits in Mayo and became an aficionado in avifauna and messed in boats on Lough Conn ... not doubt he would have been appalled with the lack of opportunities on his old Wrexham Road Farm in Chester which turned foe and became a Business Park.

John 'Max' Faulker was the third of our pressganged weddin' helpers was who was also still enjoying his beer in 2015 ... unrepentant and much wiser entrepreneur of note. 

This motley trio from 1965 had things in common ... they were all beer drinkers who could turn ordinary beer into convivial pints!


Dennis Williams QuintetBefore the war Clems was hosting 'proper' ballroom dancing lessons and Wilf Field and his Collegians were playing the rhythms for big occasions; The County Officers F C Dance. By 1940 there were regular weekly dances at Clems, on a Tuesday with Wilf Field and a Saturday with Al Hartley ... such steamy clinches were loved by the youngsters right up until the doors closed in 1963? ... when guitar music had taken over.

On Jan 24th 1948 The Melody Maker made a fantastical announcement -

'Placed fourth in the Melody Maker All Britain Final Contest in 1946, Al Powell and his Band are still operating around the Chester and North Wales area. The end of this month marks a very busy time for Al and the boys, for during the week commencing January 26 he is to present the band on the stage for one week at The Odeon Theatre, Chester.

Under the pianist Al will be - Ray Uckeridge, Syd Lawrence, 'Rip' Parkinson (trumpets) - George Knight (trombone) - Ralph Wilkes, George Taylor and Dennis Williams (altos) - Ray Johnson and Eddie Eastham (tenors) - Ken Morgan (guitar), Keith Kennerley (bass), Harold Jones (drums) and vocalist Doreen Parkinson.

On January 24 a sextet installed by Al Powell commences at Clemences Restaurant, Chester which will include Syd Lawrence, Dennis Williams, Ken Morgan, Keith Kennerley, Harold Jones and pianist Jimmy Chadburn.

Several of these boys, of course, were members of the Al Powell Quintet which appeared in the North Western Area Final at Blackpool last year. This group had a regular week end berth at the Four Ways Country Club Sandiway, Cheshire which it lost due to the basic cut'.

On Saturday 24th January 1948 the Cheshire Observer reported a dramatic coup as Clems engaged the Al Powell Quintette! By September 4th this unit became the Al Powell Sextet directed by Syd Lawrence ...

Soon this group was to become the quintet we met in 1957 ...

The Dennis Williams Quintet

Al Powell QuintetteClems was the residential home of the superb Dennis Williams Quintet with the talented guitarist Frank Jeffes, drummer Don Morris and in the early days ... Syd Lawrence (1923- 98) on trumpet.

Syd Lawrence was something else ... our man from Shotton playing our dance music ...

Tony Faulker remembered Clems, just at the time we also became intoxicated with the place ...

Hi John, Wow, happy memories indeed! The guitarist in the band was Frank Jeffes who, according to a pianist friend, is still around in Chester. I don't know whether he's still active, he's probably in his late 80s by now.
(RIP Frank Jeffes Jan 8th 2016, 93 years old).
The rest of the band were Dennis, of course, on alto sax, Jimmy Chadburn on piano, Ces Davies on bass and Harold Jones then Don Morris on drums, sadly all now deceased. In addition, I'm sure you'll remember that Syd Lawrence used to join the quintet at Clems whenever he wasn't busy with the BBC Northern Radio Orchestra and long before he organised his own orchestra. As far as I'm aware the quintet never recorded commercially although there may be some private recordings somewhere. I wish I knew where!
(some live recordings were unearthed in 2016).
The drummer in the contest winning quintet was Harold Jones. If memory serves me correctly the personnel was as I listed except for Don Morris. I remember seeing Harold a few times depping for Don and at first being disappointed because Don wasn't there. That was until I heard Harold play with brushes. It's almost a lost art these days but Harold was about the best brush player I ever heard. I worked with Jimmy Chadburn and Ces Davies at the Plantation Inn on Liverpool Road, this was October/November 1963, Clemences had closed by then. During that residency I borrowed a tape recorder and recorded a dozen songs we played, a treasured memory for me, working as I was with two of Chester's finest musicians. best wishes - Tony ... Try Tony's website ...

Leigh Jeffes, Frank's son remembered his dad -

'From 1948 to 1960 (apart from two years spent in Canada 1953-55), Frank Jeffes was a member of the highly successful Dennis Williams Quintet, the resident band at Clemences restaurant in Northgate Street. The Quintet won the Melody Maker’s National Dance Band Championships in 1949 & 1950, with Frank receiving the individual award for best guitarist in both years. The band, originally under Al Powell’s name also featured Syd Lawrence.
In 1958, Frank Jeffes joined two other members of the Quintet, Jimmy Chadburn (piano) and Cec Davies (bass) to form the Jimmy Chadburn Trio. The group recorded a series of radio broadcasts for the BBC in Manchester under such titles as 'Cocktails for Three' and 'In a Mellow Mood' and appeared on Granada TV’s People and Places programme. They were later joined by Don Morris, on drums, who had replaced Harold Jones in the Williams Quintet.
Frank continued to make music well into his 80s, which included a long association, from 1982, with the Hywel Williams band.
Previous collaborations included the Brian Jones Big Band, the Deeside Dance Orchestra, led by Ron Lovelady, and the Ron Bartlett, Wilf Field and Ken Binns bands, as well as residencies at Quaintways and the Grosvenor Hotel.
Frank worked as an accountant for the Associated Octel Company, at Stanlow, retiring in 1987.

It was rumoured that Dennis Williams had a day job in the 50s working in the Architects Department at The Northgate Brewery ... Clems was dry and we always wondered how the quintet managed their arpeggios without beer?

Bill Willetts remembered the cricket and the nostalgia that was Clems -

'memories were stirred and inevitably a bout of nostalgia for the golden days of our carefree youth, when our only troubles were the failure to secure the latest feminine attractions of our aspirations or our inability to win our last match, the latter pleasantly a very rare event in 1956. We were lucky to belong to a generation who could still dance (after a fashion) to live music and doubly fortunate that Dennis Williams and the Wall City were such good bands. So much better than listening to a DJ putting out plastic music'.

Bill was also sure Dennis Williams recorded in the 1950s, maybe at Clems, maybe a radio programme ... there's a reward for anyone who can locate it! (in 2016 Frank Jeffes' son Leigh rescued our memories).

There was no beer at Clems but the music was spectacular ... we traced our infatuation with the saxophone back to those magical days in Clems and the jazzy tones of Dennis Williams and the melodic trajectories of Frank Jeffes ... we particularly remembered being introduced to The Continental, not Nat Gonella and Lew Stone, but the Williams alto ... and also 'Sentimental Journey' with the ravishing Helen Jones singing the descending semitones ... in our heads we still heard those dulcet sounds 60 years later!

So popular was the venue that 'The Inters'; the Chester inter-schools dance was held there ... we were the Kings School representative on the committee ... but of course we were there for the music & the girls not the beer ... we think ... but we remember little ... wot about Mary & Cathy?

We didn't appreciate it at the time but the Chester area was a active hub for wonderful dance band music, embracing the strong influences from the proximate American Forces bases during the war. Helen Southall did all the research on the Chester Dance Bands of the 1950s, admirably summarised in her project chart and her YouTube presentation.

Shortly after Frank Jeffes died in 2016, there was a moment of serendipity and to the delight of eager listeners, Frank's son, Leigh, rescued some real live recordings of The Dennis Williams Quintet at Clemences. Leigh also was the proud owner of an Al Powell 78 rpm shellac?

The Wall City Jazzmen

Wall City JazzmenThe Wall City Jazzmen started their enterprise on the 18th January 1954 at the Clemences restaurant in Northgate Street, Chester. They played Dixieland jazz and the youngsters flocked to hear, see & jive with them; included were most of the reprobates from The King's School.

The original band was the Stan Roberts Dance Band with Stan Roberts on piano, Tom Jones trumpet, Ian Ashworth trombone (a cousin of Bruce Jones). John Nuttall bass, Alan Lewis drums & Paul Blake clarinet were added to make the traditional line up.

Later in 1954 Gordon Vickers booked them for the residency at The Wall City Jazz Club at Quaintways almost next door to Clems. Fabulous enterprise a few years before our addiction included Freddie Randall, the Merseysippi and the Saints !

At The Wall City Jazz Club 16 year old Pete Wright from the City Grammar School joined the band as a featured 'Skiffle' singer and guitarist. In 1958 15 year old Pat (Trish) Fields was added as vocal prodigy. Trish later turned professional and won the TV New Faces with a band called Whiskey Mac. The Wall City Jazzmen and Trish Fields have their names in bricks at Liverpool's Cavern Club. We were 'regulars' around this time and were there when Billy Buck abandoned his sausages in the Chester Market for some new priorities with his drum skins ... with The Wall City Jazzmen.  


JiveQuaintways was a  music venue on Northgate Street was owned by entrepreneur Gordon Vickers, who was also the power behind The Mill Hotel where the Wall City Jazzmen were still playing in 2015. During the rocker days of the 1960s, Quaintways was all the rage as The Wall City Jazzmen, Kenny Baker, Syd Lawrence and later rock bands like Fleetwood Mac plied their trade.

Check out Jazz News in 1962 for Jazz in Chester ... 

Years later when we retired in 1994 and started playing saxophones we rediscovered The Wall City Jazzmen still going strong in Chester. In 1990 trumpeter Tommy Jones re-formed the Wall City Jazz men along with Trish Fields on vocals, to play at the Mill Hotel Chester. 'The Mill Hotel and Spa. Milton Street' Chester was a Gordon Vickers enterprise which provided splendid accommodation and entertainment with Monday night jazz ... 'be there don't forget Jazz at The Mill is free to come in and free to go out'.  We were regular Monday night attendees at The Mill as we drank the beer and tried to fathom out what these guys were playing. Tom Jones trumpet, Paul Blake clarinet, Dave Renton trombone, Billy Buck drums, Malcolm on bass and the vet on the piano, and Trish Fields still belting out 'Salty Dog'. Trish Fields retired in 2005. Tommy Jones retired in 2008 but Paul Blake continued to lead the band still strong in 2015. And they were joined on occasions by our very own 'bone player!

In 2018 Gordon Vickers sold The Mill and 90 year old Paul Blake retired from regular gigs ... the last of the old band we knew and loved ... thanks for the fun!

Try the Jazz NorthWest website ... and sadly at the end of 2019 vocalist Irene Martin announced the disbanding of the group and their last gig. Only drummer & sausage maker Billy Buck from the original band ... remained to the end.

RIP Wall City Jazzmen December 3rd 2019.

During the 1950s there were two busy coffee shops in Chester which attracted the youngsters for social intercourse; The Caprice (an espresso bar we called 'The Groth') in Werburgh Street and The Kardomah (The KD) in Eastgate Street. They were hopeless for sobering up as they closed before the pubs. After throwing out time the only chance of a coffee was at The General Railway Station with a platform ticket!

Cheers & BeersThe Commercial Hotel, Northgate Ale

Pete SmithThe 'Snug' at The Commercial, St Peters Courtyard was a shrine to conviviality.

In 1962 with my mate 'Edley and Pete Smith and J R Hughes and Bas ... all was mirth and beer. 

 In the early 1960s Pete Smith had reliably bought his rounds at The Commercial Hotel on Monday nights and in 2015 he remembered those beer drinking rituals with mirth and affection over 50 years later! Such pleasures, of course, were before the drink drive laws & the girls curtailed our habits ... 

We returned to The Commercial with Pete Smith in 2018 to try and recreate the taste of Northgate ale from 1962? Catastrophe ... our old watering hole in a prime spot on The Cross at Chester was boarded up and the doors closed to all comers. We managed a photo of two lonely & bewildered beer drinkers ready to break down the barriers to get at a pint! But the sad demise of The Commercial didn't stop the fun; we retired to The Vic across the courtyard and enjoyed a couple of pints of Deuchars ... and wondered why the youth Chester had neglected our cherished tavern of old?

Pete Smith was not only a hockey player and a beer drinker of old ... but also a drummer ... we used to think drummers were around to make a noise ... but Pete was a musical connoisseur who studied the dots at 'O' level, 'A' level and at college ... and he could actually sing the circle of 5ths and those shifts 'the other way' to the 'b's ... we were impressed big time. We remember him running off after he had bought his round at the hockey club ... frit that he would miss his Saturday evening gig.

The Cavern ClubFamously Pete, in his prime, was strutting his stuff with the Liverpool University Jazz Band at The Cavern Club. And there was evidence his grandeur at the Wigan Little Theatre on 21 May 1958. At the time we were severely handicapped with cloth ears and shortage of time but we remembered Pete's adventures and were secretly envious of his stories recounted over Northgate beers - 

Mersey Beat - 1958 was OK for me up until that summer. Ralph Whatmough's band's line-up had some very familiar names in it as you can see from the Wigan Theatre programme. Hugh Potter and I started at Calday Grange GS together in 1947 and I would have classed him as my oldest friend (He was my son Chris's godfather) Hugh died in January 2017. His bass playing was in a higher league than my drumming's and in his time he played and depped in many well-known bands. Dave Ellis (see Wigan programme) graduated in law but went on to play in Bob Sharples ATV Show Band. The accordionist and salesman Arthur Price will probably not have his name in the Echo as his domain as far as I remember was Cammell Lairds Social Club in Tranmere. The Howell Williams band played mainly in our area and Harry Worsley, his tenor player, (who had a tone like yours and Coleman Hawkins!) I knew quite well as he lived near us. I certainly remember 'Pennies from Heaven' and it had some wonderfully mimed tunes in it. If you're feeling a little bit masochistic try Googling 'The Fallen Archers Chuck Penman', Chuck is Charlie, the inimitable uke player and bovine waste merchant.

Pete was still at it in the 1970s depping with the Howell Williams and Arthur Price bands and he even tinkered on piano as a budding 'musical director' at Cammell Lairds Social Club, Tranmere. He also played at those other hotbeds of dancin' & pullin', The Spinning Wheel, Broughton and The Cornist Hall, Flint. Perhaps his musical pinnacle was the regular gigs with the Saratoga Jazz Band (never 'eard of 'em) in the early nineties at Telford's Warehouse, Old Orleans, Chester and Rainhill Ex-serviceman's Club ...

  ... for 60 years Pete had played in dance bands and clubs and in 2016 was able to decipher many of the ancient cassette recordings of The Dennis Williams Quintet from Clems ... amazingly he put names to toons which were almost inaudible through the noise of the old technology.

We were always secretly envious of all this musical nous but only became awestruck many years later when we ourselves tried the dance band toons we loved with The Smithy Lane Stompers.

Pete eventually retired to The Fallen Arches and in 2010 was heard by the world plying his trade on Dirty Old Town on YouTube ... wot fun!

'EdleyHedley Simms wrote good fiction and took up our beer story with his customary dash and unwarranted gross embellishment!

'At school my saving grace was cricket. My Father was a wonderful cricket coach, he had played along with Sir Learie Constantine, Alf Martindale and many great West Indian Test players in exhibition matches during the war. At least once a week, homework permitting, I accompanied my father to the indoor nets at Barrow, where an enterprising cricket-mad farmer had converted an old redundant chicken-shed into a state of the art indoor cricket net. My father got paid by two cricket clubs for his coaching services – Barrow C C and Browns of Chester C C. The standard of the latter club was pretty poor but the money was pretty good! I was Captain of the School Cricket team and member of the tennis team. I had to give a match report on Monday mornings in the School Assembly; we won every match except our Waterloo against our arch enemies – the King’s School, Chester. This was a devastating experience; the Kings School team had names like Burdekin, Brewis, Birchall and Guthrie and the ferocious pace of Bateman who put the shits up us all. I remember little of the match except that we were hammered by a better team.
My college pal, Pete Smith, who hailed from Irby, a village on the Wirral, became a Monday night boozing companion. Along with other old soaks like John Birchall and Mike Colledge we would meet up in the back bar/snug of the ‘Commercial’ in Upper Bridge Street, Chester. The attraction was supposed to be Birchall's passion for the Wall City Jazz Club at Quaintways which was more or less opposite the ‘Commercial’. Friends of both Pete and myself would appear on a regular basis and we would collectively listen to the ramifications of each others love lives. For me it was a great joy to sink about 6 pints, maybe 4, of Chester Northgate bitter and then motorcycle home on empty roads. My Father would stay awake until I returned, not because of safety reasons but in the off chance that I had brought some mates home to play poker. If voices could be heard, he was up in a flash, dressing gown on, with a pack of cards in his hand and the whisky cabinet open!
Around this time I became big mates with a few Kings School Old Boys. John Birchall was a very special friend; he, like me, didn’t engineer a great deal of time nor luck with the opposite sex and always fancied himself as a bit of a philosopher, which he still is to this day. But sport was the priority. One day he decided we would go to the Manchester November Handicap meeting; in fact I think it was the very final meeting on this race course. We took along a very bright Maths graduate called Max Faulkner who had a host of mathematical theories connected with gambling. The day out for me was more significant for the evening festivities which involved a pit stop at Belle Vue Amusement Centre. John was fired up with the thought of ‘pulling’ a bird, as it is popularly referred to today. We all got hopelessly drunk and I very nearly killed myself on a monster whirligig by not strapping myself in properly and finding myself suspended about 50 feet upside down with my protective belt unbuckled! (JF recalled Hedley’s piece on the Manchester November Handicap was pretty accurate but missed out the fact that in between the races and the Belle Vue dance hall we managed a visit to the stock car racing. Never miss an opportunity!)
John Milroy was another Kings School character who lived on a farm on the Chester Wrexham Road. As a 15-16 year old we would go shooting together across his stepfather’s fields. I always admired his gorgeous sister. John was as mad as a hatter when he left school and found great solace in alcohol. He went to Liverpool University Vet school and took about 7 years to get his degree. He eventually disappeared to Ireland and became a vet; if he is still alive which would be a miracle, I can see him now drinking his way through endless pints of the ‘black stuff’. A fine lad, nevertheless. (In 2015 JPM was alive and kicking in Castlebar, County Mayo, having retired from his practice, 'John Milroy Veterinary Practice'. We had an email from JPM Christmas 2015 - 'On your head Johnnie. Keep 'em out. Can I borrow your canoe? Fancy a trip to Newton Puddieford for a pint of scrumpy in a Fiesta. All this due to Graeme Guthrie the dashing forward. He has turned up after 57 years living 12 miles from me. Enjoy the festive season').
Dances on a Saturday night regularly took place at ‘Clemences’, on the periphery of the Chester Market Square. These dances were a bit of a cattle market. The top totty of Chester, mainly ex-Queens School and City High School girls were admired from a distance by the likes of John Birchall, John Milroy and myself. Arriving at Clemences at 10pm with 6, maybe 4, pints of bitter inside one was not conducive to romance. The only dance that mattered was the last waltz and by that time only wallflowers of both sexes remained. We were nearly always wallflowers. Time was short and life was too enjoyable to need a regular girlfriend.
One Christmas, John Birchall and I decided we would make a 2 prong concerted effort with two lively young ladies, Di and Anita. We met at the Rugby Club and had a fair skinful there. Afterwards we all went to Handbridge Village Community Centre where the girls were in charge of entertainment. Very soon after sitting on an ice cream cone Birchall and I became the entertainment being assaulted by hordes of 5/6 year old monsters! I did continue a very half-hearted liaison with Di as her father kept The Queens Head pub in Foregate Street. I think John was out of his depth with his captivating bird.
Trying to be a mature responsible member of the teaching profession came hard to me. My wild days at Leeds University and Alsager College have always tended to return and haunt me. After a wild Christmas 1962, spent mainly with my arch compatriot, John Birchall, I really had to contemplate my future. Probably the biggest accolade I ever received was an invitation, in writing I think, to the Chester City Hospital Annual Nurses Xmas party at the Nurses home. We went along, with high expectations but left eventually slightly more piddled than when we arrived. I remember chucking Birchall’s car keys out through a window, possibly in the hope that we might have to stay the night at this hot spot of salaciousness.
1963 proved to be a big year for me. I began to think that I could play rugby (a big delusion) and had great fun trying to drink the Chester pubs dry along with my big mate John Birchall. The Whit holiday 1963 was the turning point. Once again the school had booked a party at the Holiday Fellowship Camp, N E Yorkshire. I agreed to be involved and arrived at John Street school not knowing which members of Staff were going. They turned out to be Cec Brown and his wife Trixie, Em James, the P E  master and his wife Anne, Carol Davies the music mistress and Christine Wright, the new Home Economics teacher. The coach was to be driven by Tom, a merry, rotund gentleman who immediately took a shine to Carol, possibly because they were both of similar physical proportions. I got a fairly cold reception from Miss Wright, possibly because she had not forgiven me for borrowing and subsequently ruining her green flash plimsolls ... but the rest as they say was history ...
Life is what you make it or is life more serendipity than anything else? Burning ambition arrived in my late twenties. This was preceded by wildness, irresponsibility, recklessness and youthful arrogance; certainly in my case! It was terribly important to do well and I was satiated by becoming a Headmaster of a large school. This achievement gave me a glow of serenity, contentment that my life on earth was not wasted.
As a young teacher I had to learn the craft of teaching the hard way and it was several years after qualification that I could begin to think of myself as being an effective teacher! My move to the inner sanctums of the City of Birmingham in 1968 was a major turning-point and proved to be a very valuable experience. But my eventual appearance as a middle-school teacher was pure serendipity ... I found great inner satisfaction from effective teaching.
However changes brought about by the dominance of political forces, like the introduction of the so-called ‘national curriculum’, have caused Head teachers and Staff enormous trauma. Hurriedly produced documents literally arrived by the van-load day after day. What a phenomenal waste of paper! The Maths teacher had to have a copy of the new Music National curriculum and vice-versa. I foolishly decided to take the new beautifully-bound documents to the teachers myself and it was very interesting watching their facial expressions as they received their instructions!
One of the greatest joys of teaching in the 60’s was the camaraderie between Staff. The kids were tough but teaching was what you made of it. Generally it was fun! The Staff room resembled the public bar at a railway station, it was all part of life’s rich pattern, a place where virtually all teachers had a fag. The Staff room was a place of joy and merriment – a haven of relief, away from the kids who all knew about the fun.
Now, the situation is very different. I am a governor at the local Primary school and it appears that a black cloud has descended on the haven of peace. Teachers are overworked and overwrought as these craftsmen (and women) are pushed to follow detailed instructions from the politicos. The removal of many sanctions against unruly children has had a very damaging effect on morale. The very word ‘Ofsted’ strikes fear into many teachers, young & old, and has been the cause of multiple stress-related illnesses and premature retirements. Teachers no longer joke, wouldn’t dare to play bridge or ‘shove-ha’penny’ in their break times; everything has become deadly serious and tension is on the increase! Many teachers now retire early and take reduced pensions.
So today life is different. Massive mortgage debts, the ‘have-now, pay later’ way of life has taken over and young couples or should I say ‘partners’ have to have everything in advance and then wonder why life becomes a struggle. Divorce rates are soaring. It seems all too easy to throw in the towel when things become a little too difficult. Working at relationships seems to be a thing of the past and the norm is to opt out and move on. I have helped pay the bill for five weddings for our three boys.
On the plus side we have 6 grandchildren, four girls and two boys. The joys of grandparenthood are incalculable ... our two grandsons, Rocky and Rambo are great characters and great fun!'

RIP ... David Hedley Simms May 6th 2015.

Chester LadiesAs the Chester Beer and Jazz scene went from strength to strength two young Chester ladies began to occupy their own special space in our schedules and one of these ladies was a sportswoman ... and, as we soon discovered, she had a twinkle in her eyes ... a incredible ability to smile with her eyes ... work that one out ...

Superb Christmas presents and the enthusiastic encouragement of our motley trio soon led to a splendid splice on October 23rd 1965 followed by an eventful honeymoon in The Drunken Duck at Barngates ... we remembered the beer was terrific ... but the bride was perfect.

And after the Siberian winter of 1965 in a cheap and drafty rent in Capenhurst we moved into our very first pad, 71 Latham Avenue, just off Primrose Lane in Helsby ... this smart bungalow was a snip at £3,000 ... a gamble paid for by The Woolwich Building Society which proved to be a winner. Eventually sold to Unilever by our tame solicitor Robin Jones in June 1981 for a potent £26,500

Then in a flash, with little ado but much excitement, and with no help from beer whatsoever, on September 17th 1968 and July 15th 1970  Niblets & Star started their triumphant journeys ... ecstatically recorded by their loving mama in her notebook ...

In 2018 our neighbour, The Busker, hiked past 71 Latham Avenue and took a nostalgic photo of that memorable abode where we learned all about married life which, to our surprise, was not nourished by beer but by something far more potent and satisfying.

From 1963 Bollands slowly petered out ... and even Clemences seemed to lose its lustre ... as busy schedules also had to accommodate working for crumbs ... and endless hours of cricket ...

:drink    back to first round    


BHCCChester Boughton Hall Cricket Club 1960-71

BHCC HistoryIn 1959, after a social extravaganza but a miserable cricket season and run drought at Christleton Cricket Club with Sid Dandy & Ted Kirk, we upgraded and joined two old mentors Cec Dutton and Reg Stockton at Chester Boughton Hall Cricket Club. There it was rumoured that a Jones & Hack dynasty controlled all the arcane happenings ... however the club proved to be an endless source of convivial pints, lasting friendships and quality Liverpool Competition cricket ... where we played cricket with Bob Barber, Ken Cranston, Kenny Snellgrove, Harry Pilling, Ken Shuttleworth ... and drank beer with everyone ... at Birkenhead Park, Bootle, Formby, Hightown, Huyton, Liverpool, Neston, New Brighton, Northern, Ormskirk, Oxton, Sefton, Southport, St Helens and Wallasey ... 

We were introduced to Boughton Hall while still at School in 1958. The BHCC 1st XI were one short at the last minute during the holiday season and they called the school for emergency cover. We recalled generous & gushing welcomes from the Joneses & Stocktons as we prepared for action in the old decrepit pavilion ... more appropriately described as a broken down wooded shack? Our contribution was meagre, batting number 11, our leg stump was immediately removed by the prodigious speed of Birkenhead Park's Norman Hassall without a run on the board ... but Bruce Jones later recalled that we did field well!

Bradman RevisitedThis early introduction into BHCC 1st eleven cricket was rewarding because the pleasures of the Liverpool Competition involved not only the high standard of club cricket but also the small numbers of clubs involved which resulted in lasting friendships over beer after the matches. Everybody knew everyone else and strengths & weaknesses were hotly debated! We remembered Norman Hassall's opening bowler partner was Tony Shillinglaw ... one of the best. Later we still enjoyed talking cricket with Tony and his erudition resulted in a superb book about Don Bradman - 'Bradman Revisited: The Legacy of Sir Donald Bradman by A L Shillinglaw. Read it.

It was a pity we couldn't access this book until we were well past our sell by date but it did reinforce the messages in Peter Oliver's gift from 1949, 'How to Play Cricket' by Don Bradman!  

During the 1960s on uncovered wickets playing serious competitive cricket our batting lacked luster and we were somewhat embarrassed ... wotever happened to the youthful promise of 1956? We remembered some class acts who passed through the club John Page, Brian Bradley, Richard Lawry, Simon Hodgson, Wilf Samuel ... and some old athletes who still enjoyed enviable reputations, Reg Stockton, Brian Jones, Jimmy & Ken Powell, Mick Plant, and we heard all about legendary Walter Spicer from Alf Snape. We bowled a bit and enjoyed sharp fielding in the gully ... but most of the time runs & wickets eluded us ... the one memorable achievement was in 196? when we won the very first 'L N Jones Memorial Prize' for the most improved young cricketer ... a pair of batting gloves ... whatever happened to the L N Jones Memorial Prize?

Liverpool CompetitionFrom 1960 to 1970 we enjoyed a decade of fun in the Liverpool Competition playing quality club cricket with friends. Some wonderful memories were recorded in a work of erudite passion by Sandy Tittershill and Nicko Williams. Good effort chaps.

Alan Robinson's contribution summed it all up in one succinct headline Making Friends and Having Fun!

From 1960 to 1970 Bruce Jones was our regular opening partner, a beer drinker and a gentleman ... in 1960 Bruce was the first to welcome us into the club -

 'Hello, new member? I'm Bruce Jones have a pint!'

and he was still at it in August 1967 - 

'I'm 40 today let's celebrate, have a pint!'.

On January 24th 1989, Bruce was there at The Red Lion, Pickmere when we celebrated the 80th birthday of Stubby (Cyril Stubbs 1909-92) and enjoyed several 'delicious halves'. The talk was of great cricket at a great club, Northwich Cricket Club; of opening partnerships with George Birchall, of Everton Weeks (1925-) hitting six after six off the back foot into the railway sidings, of Alf 'Manny' Martindale (1909-72) who was instructed by his skipper to nurse Sid Griffiths, the home captain, to his century ... but those balls had a life of their own -

 'I'm tryin' boss but they just kept bendin'' ...

When Bruce stopped 1st team cricket he devoted his time to skippering the second team and bringing on the youngsters. We can report that Jonathan also benefited from Bruce's enthusiasm for cricket at BHCC.

Bruce was always there helping and inspiring ... and was Club President in 1994.

RIP ... Bruce S Jones February 9th 2012.

Our Finest YearPerhaps our proudest moment was when Jonathan established himself as a better cricketer than his dad (and certainly a better beer drinker) ... BHCC won't forget the triumphs of 1994 ... winners Liverpool Competition, Liverpool Competition Knockout, Cheshire Knockout ...

In 1994 the young Chris Fleet was skipper and was enormously influential in nurturing JJ's triple armory for future family defences -

cricket skills ... which opened doors ... our old club with its ancient wooden hut full of half a team of Jones & Hacks with a hogshead tapped in an drafty outbuilding was transformed into a modern sports & social club ...    

beer drinking skills ... which cemented friendships ... funding this habit was one less onerous paternal responsibility ... as was a Dale Street pad within crawling distance of the Club bar ... 

investment skills ... which grew wherewithal ... shrewd awareness of cognitive bias as 'losses loom larger than logic' guided investment strategies ... illogical gambling on a coin toss with the visitors' tea money was not on ... but avoiding loss out weighed the opportunity to win double the amount ... the ancient preoccupation with 'sunk costs ... why?!

And when the time came for JJ to move to a new job in Head Office in London, it was Chris who urged him to seize the opportunity even though BHCC would lose a significant player and future captain ... we recalled our own move overseas in 1972 when old man Fleet encouraged us to stay and cosy down in the warmth at BHCC and Chester,

'they tried to get me to move to Warrington once, but I turned it down'!

Three Generation at BHCCFor us return visits to BHCC were always enjoyable .... the beer never went off. The facilities now catered for an exploding membership of youth, age and gender with the novelties for the new age like brick built pavilions, school boys, girls, covered wickets, helmets, PJ kit, County facilities, electronic score boards, all weather nets, white balls ... and Curtly Ambrose & The Nomads AFC ... and endless social intercourse ... with bars that never seemed to close!

Inevitably as things changed as there were fewer and fewer folk that we knew and even the game itself changed as the 'red ball' tradition that we loved changed into a new fangled 'white ball' bash & thump. Nevertheless in 2018 we secretly hoped for three generations of Birchalls at Filkins Lane. Josh was keen to explore the mysterious connect between baseball and cricket ... and beer ... and Georgia May was happy anywhere where there were friends. 

In 1973 a superb History of Boughton Hall Cricket Club was written by Alan Robinson ... if you pay attention and read between the lines, during the decade of the 1960s BHCC was a most splendid social club ... our jovial club leader was Cec behind the bar ... we also played cricket ... our last full season at BHCC was 1970 just before SJ interrupted our tranquil routine in Helsby and we swapped cricket bats for suitcases and ventured overseas and started to play golf and squash ... which turned out to be fun but no more successful than our undernourished batting and bowling potential. 

In 2015 we were still drinking beer and reminiscing about this and that with Alan Robinson ... we tried to persuade him to update his history of Boughton Hall Cricket Club ... but he, quite rightly, suggested it was someone else's turn to write and it was his turn to buy the next round ...

Looking back on our own cricket in the 1960s and the current new game of bash & thump it was clear the fun we remembered was Crossbatters Cricket ... cricket on the green ...with deep friends and warm beer.

Cricket on The Green'Cricket on the Green' by R S Young was a well thumbed Christmas pressie from Uncle Bill from 1951 ... the prose & pictures encapsulated the aura of social cricket which inspired & satisfied our apatite for fun & friends through the unbeaten School Eleven of 1956 to the glimpse of dad's social cricket of his later years at Arley Cricket Club and on to the fun of the Crossbatters ...

The idyllic shrine which was Arley Cricket Ground was where George Birchall completed his career after 'competitive' cricket with Northwich C C in the Manchester Association. He found it impossible to resist the invitation to continue to be embroiled in the joys of the game with Dr Peter Love and his cohort of enthusiasts ... and Arley was where young john p occasionally played with the adults as a school boy and, perhaps, became fascinated by, if not yet addicted to ... social cricket ... where long hours of bat versus ball competition often failed to result in victory and draws could often be honourable.

And there was more, long hours of competition on the field always seemed to be accompanied by long hours of discussion in the bar afterwards.

This was proper 'Cricket on the Green' ... and from the book we recalled Chapter 6 'Reflections on the Game' which described how cricket was much more than a game ... it was a way of life ... strange behaviour with its own language ... where you can 'drop' a 'catch' ... where 'wickets' were not 'stumps' ... where you were 'out' after you had been 'in' ... where 'runs' could be counted without moving from the 'crease' ... of 'short, square, long & fine legs' ... of 'silly mid ons' ... and 'balls' that we not round but had 'seams' and were both 'new' then 'old' after a few 'overs' ... where bats that had to be 'oiled' and 'knocked in' ... and where the last man 'in' was often 'out' first ball ... where 'mowing the wickets' and 'setting the field' determined results when the game had stopped ... then there were 'declarations' and 'winning the toss' which often won the game ... and to cap the lot most bowlers during the game 'bowled a maiden over' ... where simple words have different meanings ... appeal, ashes, bail, box, block, bouncer, boundary, break, bye, Chinaman, cover, cut, delivery, dismiss, dolly, drive, duck, edge, extra, follow on, full toss, glance, gully, hook, night watchman, off, on, over, pitch, pull, shot, slip, stroke, sweep, swing, wide, yorker ? 

Hambledon 1777The Spirit of Cricket was further cemented in our own psyche when George Birchall retired in 1972 after a life time successful hard work based on the 'lessons learned' from the cricket club. His parting gift to the managers mess at 'Octel' was a superb painting of cricket at Hambledon 1777.

However our proudest and most emphatic endorsement of the 'Spirit of Cricket' came in 1987 when Sir Leonard Hutton presented The Henry Grierson Trophy to J Birchall captain of Ellesmere College 1st XI.

The Forty Club Trophy, originally The Henry Grierson Trophy, was awarded to the school that was adjudged not only to be good at cricket but just as importantly, well turned out, had the highest standards of behaviour both on and off the field, was well led by their captain and played to the highest standards of sportsmanship.
The school which was doing most in the area to promote both cricket and the spirit of cricket.

In 1987 The Times of London reported -

Captain of Ellesmere CollegeSir Leonard Hutton, President of the Forty Club, presided at the annual dinner held last night at the Hilton International hotel, Park Lane. The other speakers were the Hon Colin Moynihan, Minister of Sport, Mr H G H Doggart, Treasurer of the MCC, Mr Michael Parkinson and Mr C S Davies. Sir Leonard presented the Henry Grierson Trophy to J J Birchall, Captain of Cricket at Ellesmere College.

In the late 1990s, two distinguished MCC members (and ex England captains), Ted Dexter and Lord Colin Cowdrey, sought to enshrine 'The Spirit of Cricket' in the game's Law.
The Dexter/Cowdrey initiative proved successful. When the 2000 Code of Laws was introduced, it included, for the first time, a Preamble on 'The Spirit of Cricket' -  

Spirit of CricketThe Spirit of Cricket 
Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. Any action seen to abuse this Spirit caused injury to the game itself.

The 'Laws of the Game' defined the game but the 'Spirit of Cricket' was a way of life for the competitive club of your choice based on your personal responsibility to respect others captains, team mates, opposition, coaches and umpires.
Play to win fairly, to secure synergies with your team mates.
Enjoy success and congratulate others on theirs.
Respect = the golden rule = do unto others
Respect dictionary -
- admiration felt or shown for someone or something that you believe has good ideas or qualities
- politeness, honour, and care shown towards someone or something that is considered important
- feelings that something is right or important and you should not attempt to change it or harm it
- feelings you show when you accept that different customs or cultures are different from your own and behave towards them in a way that would not cause offence

 The major responsibility for ensuring fair play rests with the captains, but extends to all players, match officials and, especially in junior cricket, teachers, coaches and parents.
Respect is central to the Spirit of Cricket.
Respect your captain, team-mates, opponents and the authority of the umpires.
Play hard and play fair.
Accept the umpire’s decision.
Create a positive atmosphere by your own conduct, and encourage others to do likewise.
Show self-discipline, even when things go against you.
Congratulate the opposition on their successes, and enjoy those of your own team.
Thank the officials and your opposition at the end of the match, whatever the result.
Cricket is an exciting game that encourages leadership, friendship and teamwork, which brings together people from different nationalities, cultures and religions, especially when played within the Spirit of Cricket.

A reminder to players of their personal responsibility to ensure that cricket is always played in a truly sportsmanlike manner.

Then came ball apartheid, tampering, crooked umpires, sledging, bash & thump ... and white balls ... ?

We discovered there was no cricket in West Africa and we retired into our memories ... the game and the culture we loved rather quickly seemed to disappear or perhaps transmogrified ... as pajamas and white balls appeared and as International Cavaliers, Kerry Packer and the IPA led the way to oblivion.

:drink    back to first round    


Chester Hockey Club, Newton Lane 1963-71

John Evans1963 - after graduation an MSc in Operational Research at Birmingham was by-passed and work started at Lever Brothers and play started at Newton Lane.

Everything happened. Monday September 30th 1963 a grey Austin A35 van was purchased from Clifford Eden of Wilmslow for £325; £100 down and £7-15 per month for 3 years! Tuesday October 1st was the first day at Levers, October 21st a first pay day. On Thursday November 7th 1963 Dad's dairy recorded,

'John introduced us to Carole'

 ... a lovely girl who eventually learned to like our A35 van!

Many of the soccer players from Kings went on to drink their beer at Chester Nomads AFC but our cloudy eyes were well established and soccer with spectacles was not on, and without spectacles it was guesswork ... however hockey was a splendid alternative, and my dad was a hockey player ... and in any case Tom Bateman, our old sparring partner from Kings & Crossbatters, insisted there was good beer at Newton Lane. Inveigled by Tom the game was to play hockey and drink beer at the Cheshire County Officers Hockey Club at Newton Lane, Hoole with some of the best old soaks in Chester ...

We had learned our winter hockey at Uni on the all weather pitches in Scotland and in 1963 this was swapped for beer and mud in Chester. Unfortunately there was almost as much mud as beer at the CCO Club and this was a particular problem for soccer players who had been converted to hockey via the true & fast pitches up north. We must admit we never mastered the mud at Newton Lane as both hockey skills and fitness were eroded by beer.

Chester Hockey Club was built on enthusiasm, just like the Crossbatters. Way back in 1948 a group of men from the Council plus a renowned publican had the wit & nous to build their own hockey team ... and the rest, as they say, was history.

It was a riot and with the assistance of two youngsters from Alsager College, John Kidley and John Mellor, we managed to have some success and endless fun amongst all the mud, pasties & beans, lost balls on the railway line ... and lots of pints. 

Feet FirstWe also excelled in beer and sticks at The Annual Blackpool Easter Hockey Festivals held in Stanley Park. We were entertained at The Limes by Bloomfield Road and in 1969 a young JJ was in tow ... we often wondered whether he learned his beer drinking skills at this fine hostelry? We were handed a pass for beers at Brian London's infamous downtown 'Night Club' ... and we triumphantly revisited 'Feet First' and Bloomfield Road where on 28th August 1948 dad had treated us to the vision of our tangerine heroes Stanley Mathews & Stan Mortensen beating Aston Villa 1-0 .... we still saw in our mind's eye Mortenson's 'low headed' goal ... and Harry Johnston, George Farm & Eddie Shinwell ... and shamefully we remembered a green apple at half time which resulted in an embarrassing early exit. We worked out that this family holiday was at Uncle Edward's place in 1948. We also remembered a year earlier we stayed at Lytham St Anne's at Mrs Blacklock's boarding house and found ourselves at the Tower Circus only to be alarmed at the strange foul stench of the elephant troupe and an obscene 'tattooed man' ... funny peculiar how vivid were some memories. 

Man CityOf course we never lost our enthusiasm for soccer as allegiances moved from Blackpool to Man City when two local lads appeared in the light blue strips at Main Road; Alan Oaks (1958-76) from Verdin Grammar School, Winsford and Glyn Pardoe (1962-75) from Northwich. We were hooked we might even have played against Alan Oaks?

Frank Swift & Bert Trautman were never to be forgotten but Joe Mercer & Malcolm Allison were our maverick heroes in the halcyon 1960s. Then in 2008 we were delighted when City emerged from pathos, ceased to be a plaything of the nouveax riche and became a long term sustainable business. Abu Dhabi United Group were for real ... putting sustainable trade before political rigmarole!

The Case for Business became clearer thru the fog of our beer celebrations after the double whammy in 2017/18. ADUG built on the red hot technology trail blazed by Sky telly satellites ... the Premier League was a global brand ... and wot a brand.

The stars of the beer drinkers from Newton Lane were John Evans, Dave Russell, Tom Bateman & Dave Castle. This trio continued the tradition regularly at the CAOKS Annual Dinners ... we were there at The Grosvenor on our first leave after an 18 month tour in Nigeria and again in 1976 just before moving to Malawi  ... and in 1986 when Denis Compton was our guest ... we hardly missed a year ... 

John EvansJohn Evo, a student of the turf, was an important player in our Beer Drinking Stakes. When the time came to leave Newton Lane for life in a suitcase overseas, John quietly purchased a glass of Glenfiddich to help our last pint go down. He reasoned that when our annual leave came round we would find the same folk, in the same positions at the bar, telling the same stories and maybe even drinking the same convivial pints. There were rumours that many of the Chester old soaks had refused jobs in Warrington because of their attachment to these immaculate surroundings at Newton Lane and the associated convivial pints. We were planning journeys a tad further afield. However John wished us well on our excursions overseas and suggested that Glenfiddich was much more appropriate than yet another farewell pint. Convivial pints were 10 a penny and common as muck around these parts ... he insisted, quite rightly, that we would remember the scotch with relish ... and in any case he was sure convivial pints would also be available overseas as he knew we would play our cards right. Wot a star.

We left Chester Hockey Club after the 1971/72 season but we were always there in spirit as the fun & games continued ... not in the mud at Newton Lane but on immaculate all weather pitches at the new sports club at Mannings Lane.

Hockey 1980By 1980 JRE was established as 5th team captain where he rapidly recruited & enthused most of the rich beery reprobates regardless of stick work proficiency. He established a strict 'team bonding' regime which involved compulsory alcoholic fortification prior to the match ... young wannabes flocked to the beer pots & fun until concerned mothers, partners & girl friends raised the issue of temperance at the AGM. We were recruited on 15th October 1980 during home leave but escaped censure due to extra terrestrial commitments overseas.  

In 1984 John Evo and his entourage had new ambitions ... an adventurous the quest for Beaujolais Nouveau. Beaujolais was not beer but we were always willing to experiment at CHC. At the time of this escapade we had left town but we claim part ownership of the story 'cos we were sure we would have been there participating if Unilever had not intervened. Evo claimed that his rich & beery crew were the envy of the club ... evidenced when an over enthusiastic member had somehow or other managed to secure an air pilot's licence and was keen to demonstrate his prowess to his disbelieving mates. Luckily photographic evidence survived to suggest this was no ordinary prank.

The eventful trip started with beers and Dutch courage prior to take off and finished the next day with Beaujolais instead of oranges at half time during the Saturday hockey match. Much to the grief of Air Traffic Controllers, several airport 'slots' were missed as there were unfortunately several unscheduled take offs and landings. These were required to manage the very necessary urinary reliefs ... and safety checks on open doors which had threatened instant access to the fields below.

Eventually a young Alan Turner bagged the spoils. The Beaujolais went down well but the beer after the match was even better. After repeated requests in 2017 nobody recalled the match result but everybody recalled the fun ... we approved.

Dave RussellDave Russell was another great mate at Newton Lane and played a mean game of hockey. He arrived at Newton Lane with Pete Smith when at Brookhirst Switchgear went belly up ... Dave was from way back in Remove A at school ... and there was more, Pete Smith, his accomplice, was not only a renowned beer drinker at The Commercial Hotel but was also a drummer ... and somewhat confusingly he was also a musician ... not many people knew that.

Dave was a club member in the thick of it for yonks, not only a half back ace in the mud at Newton Lane but he also wrote match 'reports' for the local rag and then more as he became the indispensable umpire with the whistle and with a capacity to keep up to date with ever changing rules ... we remembered 'roll ins', 'sticks' and 'bully offs'. He reminded us later that many of the fun fixtures seemed to be around South Manchester ... Brooklands, Bowden, Sale ... always outrageous hospitality ... and delicious beer ... and even doubtful limericks ... 

        On the breasts of a barmaid from Sale 
Were tattooed the prices of ale
And on her behind
For the sake of the blind
Was the same information in braille
      There once was a girl named Anheuser
Who said that no man could surprise her
Pabst tried with a rant
found Schlitz in her pants
and now she is sadder Budweiser

Chester Hockey Club survived in fine fettle into 2000s as we continued to support the now private enterprise with copious funds which we happily poured into the 100 Club.

:drink    back to first round    


Issues for Adults @ The Golden Lion      

The Golden Lion, FroshamA J Robinson, A H Coleman, J P H Campey and J P Birchall.

In 1967 three young graduates and a school master who all shared a love of cricket & beer were drinking their way into adulthood and inevitably there were issues to get to grips with on a Monday night in Frodsham ... half way between Chester & St Helens.

The great J P H Campey was a sportsman, a mentor and our social secretary, Coleman was wrestling with the foibles of the Merseyside transport system and coincidentally Robinson & Birchall were both embarking on business management careers in two remarkable consumer orientated companies with much in common to contrast and compare. Alan Robinson tells the story.

For the most part we seemed to remember the beer drinkers from the past as they seemed to be our good friends from the past ... if you follow our thinks. Although we regularly attended the CAOKS annual reunion dinners since the Crossbatters days we all had little scope for renewing old friendships from school. Chester could never be resting place for most King's School alumni ... the world was their oyster and our friends jumped on their charges and rode off in all directions. Friends always drank convivial pints but we all took different routes to different locals ... 

In fact we want to remember old friends just as they were in those dream days. That way even when we grow old they don't! Funny that.

Looking back we mused about the sort of life our very early friends had had ... many had inevitably been lost from the radar ... we wondered what became of the dazzling Helen 'Alice' Godfrey from The Grange School ... and Richard Atherton who excited us with his self assembled crystal set ... which worked ... not seen since 1950? ... until 71 years later in 2021! Wot a tale to tell.

Things always moved on ... folk were in a hurry ... but during the 1960s we became fully fledged and learned to 'speak truth to authority' ... respectfully ... we stuck to our guns -

'stick to the knitting' - 'mind your own business' - 'get on with the job with empirical science'  

We were on a roll ... fending for ourselves. 

In 1967 we had to get serious about provisioning a wife & family.

Power & Influence, Puppet on a String 

Puppet on a StringWe enjoyed strutting with Sandie Shaw's 'Puppet on a String' but way before then we were convinced that there was no omnipotent with the know how, nous or capacity to effectively pull any of our strings and design our lives. We had to do it ourselves, there was no free lunch. We seemed to have developed a pathological antipathy to imposition from authority above ... of course we followed Mum as a child, that was a survival necessity ... but by adolescence we rebelled something rotten ... nobody could answer our questions ... even doting nannies full of goodwill and intention were hopeless with all our whys? and hows? and were reduced to quoting inane platitudes -

'Whys and wherefores and crutches for lame ducks'

... such talk didn't cut the mustard.   

 Throughout adolescence countless good folk continuously tried to manipulate the puppet ... nannies tried bribery with mint imperials in the Baptist Chapel, machos tried sticks & stones when words failed, headmasters tried rules with hair partings to be hidden by caps, academics tried with 3 hour early morning examinations and decadent girls even tried to gain access our genes partings to be hidden by caps, academics tried with 3 hour early morning examinations and decadent girls even tried to gain access our genes ...

The manipulation list of power tactics was endless ... and we had read in the history books about the profusion of futile attempts to quench independent spirits perpetrated by oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals & corrupt Bureaucrats ... it seemed the folly had been going on for some time. 

Blame the ScapegoatWe concluded all those 'up there' who were manipulating & imposing, were 'in office but not in power' ... from then on the word we used for this mythical phenomena was 'titular' ... power in name only ... we guessed the buck stopped with personal responsibility, we couldn't and shouldn't pass the buck up to others particularly to the titular gods ... and certainly not to saxophone players! It was personal responsibility that stopped the rot!

We had to get serious about provisioning a wife & family.

There were many words for titular to help us all to get it -

alleged, apparent, as advertised, assumed, ceremonial, formal, given, honorary, in name only, mentioned,  named, nominal, ostensible, paper, phantom, presumed, pretended, professed, puppet, purported, putative, seeming, self-styled, simple, so-called, stated, suggested, supposed, token,  theoretical, virtual ...

Our gran used to say -

'sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never help me'

For sure there were umpteen and more very 'intelligent designers' but in the end the one and only thing they could design were their own experiments to test against the rigours of reality. After all Albert Einstein himself explained that he just guessed and followed the maths which best explained the observations. 

Of course, the ultimate confirmation came from the girls ... they had no truck with strings ...  they knew how just a smile could be awesomely effective 'power'.

We thought that the power to design of the future was impossible and that the watchmaker was blind ... the Laws of Nature saw to that. So we smiled at all the naive attempts to orchestrate outcomes through 'power' and carried on our own experimenting.

We wondered about the source of 'power'? We knew about 'influence' but 'power' was an oxymoron.

 Although we had to admit that Carole with an 'e' possessed some uncanny abilities ... perhaps 'power' and 'influence' were the same thing. Sure we thought power was a tad distasteful but we could all be influenced and we could all learn about good behaviour, smiles and convivial pints which did seem to have a persistent positive effect on the future. 

Yet again it was all revealed on Gilmore Hill when we studied Thermodynamics ... power was remarkably simple so why did it cause so much angst?

y = ex ... 'x' was the power   

and to find properties of 'x'  logarithms to the base 'e' did the trick -

logarithms unlock access to power!  

key to compound interest is the power not the principle!    

maths by rote doesn't deliver understanding!  

Horse Powerpower = quantity of energy transfer or activity (rate of doing work)
power (watt) = work (joule) per second
useful synergistic sources -

know how, skill, aptitude - personal responsibility

empathy, love, friendship - priceless gifts

purchases, rewards, wages - commercial exchanges

titular zero sum 'sources' weren't sources at all -

coercion, slavery, taxes - distractions which never worked!

Power so important so much abused and misunderstood ... parasite and predators were on a hiding to nothing the dice were loaded?

suss it all outSooo ... by 1967 we thought we had sussed it all out ... we tried to get two things straight from the start even before the first pint -  

normal was the fear of decadence, decay, doom & gloom ... which was dictated by the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics ... and infuriatingly, as Daniel Kahneman pointed out, 'losses loom large in the human psyche' and inconveniently we all had to stay alive if we were to learn. 

exceptional was the excitement of inspiring opportunities for fun ... which required the hard work of creating some order out of chaos ... and infuriatingly, as George Shackle pointed out, 'we are ignorant of what it is we do not know' and inconveniently we had to discover & accumulate 'know how'. 

So as the 'furrowed brows' of the 'project fear' wallahs complained about the 'power' of the 'ivory tower' merchants to control puppet strings we suggested that the English language was superb in teasing out the ‘meaning’ of words. Not only was there a Big difference between compromise and cooperation there was also a Big difference between power and influence -    

Then later in 1967 we guessed it was all a bit fraught ... the English language was nuanced, words and meanings were slippery, nuanced, subtle, delicate, implied, implicit, inferred, insinuated, suggested & tacit ... a semantic mess ... if only we could weave meaning from words - 

Power or Influence power was threatening and evoked fear and could change physicals & actions
with a gun at your head you could hand over money ...
a zero sum game played by parasites & predators - Machiavellian myths of grasping power from Cash, Votes & Muscle

Power was fear & coercion ... but could not change beliefs & ideas & the worms in the head     
the only alternative to compliance was incarceration or a bullet.
The Supreme Court was concerned with power to incarcerate as a compassionate alternative to violence.

Power Paradox influence was empathetic and evoked excitement and could change beliefs & ideas & the worms in the head     
with love in your heart you could exchange marriage vows ...
a positive sum game played by social species discovering & accumulating synergy of specialisation & scale - awe & wonder of free exchange of empathy, moral sentiments & social intelligence     

Influence was persuasion & evidence ... and could change beliefs
an attempt to change other people's perceptions.  
Unilever was concerned with influence through advertising and brand strategy.
But there was no 'power' that could conjure up better mousetraps ... innovation and iced 'Magnums' were essential to avoid bankruptcy ... you choose your Laws of the Land and we will choose to where to invest our savings ... or not?
We soon learned that better mousetraps inevitably produced inequality 'cos PZ and P&G suffered until they produced better better mouse traps ... such was the basics of innovation and economic growth, an evolutionary arms race.

We interchanged such words regularly but could never change meanings.

As Will himself said -

'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet'

Conviviality Some said we were diffident & self-effacing ... sure we were different but nothing special ... but then so were all folk. But by 1967 we had taken some propitious decisions ... we had chosen to learn about science & cricket, to study engineering, to work in manufactories and to make a home with a delightful lady ... although Carole with an 'e' always knew it was her decision that was final. We had emphatically chosen to accompany all life's trials & tribulations with some delicious convivial pints ... all that remained was to pass on our successful genetic material to the next generation.

In 2016 to help the strugglers who were calling for tugs The Daily Mail announced that there was 'too much choice' ... jeez ... rivers of 'craft beers' were flowing from 1,692 'micro breweries', a new one every 3 days ... beer just like our very own Weetwoods from Kelsall ... our friends and aficionados could feel the taste ... Jonathan claimed he travelled all the way from California for Weetwoods at The Goshawk ... wonderful ... and by 2018 Hydes Bitter was even better ... and then J W Lees bitter in 2019 ... but then our first love Local Greenalls was no slouch either ... all this was a tad confusing as it was not lost on us that our convivial pints were masquerading under different brand names ... so we smiled and had another one!

Rather than be sadAnd if ever we get too old for beer ... we should remember that the last word came, not from The Daily Mail but from a far more influential source ...

Our erstwhile Captain of Cricket & mate Chris Chorlton  -

'Rather than be sad that it came to an end we should wonder and be grateful that it ever happened at all' ...

... unforgettable wisdom ...

...   hic !   ...   in moderation   ...    :drink  ...   cheers !!   ...  

:drink    back to first round    


        The Lion & The Unicorn in AfricaAndrew KnoxPrakash TandonCrosfields          Charles WilsonUnilever OverseasBusiness Driven R&DRenewing Unilever

Life in a Suitcase 

Unilever viewed through the Bottom of a Beer Glass    

UnileverWhenever we bothered to stop & look at our view of Unilever the serendipity was shattering ... not only empirical science but also survival 'know how' itself ... 'production & protection' in global manufactories, commercial business & Balance Sheets, economic & social history ... the whole shebang & caboodle. As the noted British historian G M Trevelyan observed -

'without social history, economic history is barren and political history is unintelligible'

In 1971 when a job at Rahim Yar Khan was on offer we absorbed the autobiographies of Prakash Tandon, one of India's great business leaders, hailed as important works of social history in The Times Literary Supplement - Beyond Punjab (1971) - 

'everyone interested in factors which shaped India today should read this book' 

But first we enjoyed long lasting stench of bureaucracy ...

:drink    back to first round    

Port Sunlight Preliminaries 1963-71

SunlightIn 1963 we had our own Copernican Revolution; we left Chester and joined Unilever to experiment and experience the working world. Peripatetic life within the warm global embrace of the long tentacles of Unilever didn't really start until 1971. Early that year the family decided to forgo the hum drum and choose excitement; we embarked on life as international traders ... well that's what we told grandma.

One of the great advantages of engineering courses at Glasgow was the opportunity during the summers to indulge in some paid work which provided both company experience and cricket in Chester ... and funds for beer bar bills. Nevertheless those initial six years of working life at Port Sunlight were an eye opener. We were in at the deep end with real responsibility for major plant commissioning and a strange cultural phenomena which was called 'shift work' ... and a never to be forgotten early taste of Max Weber's bureaucratic kluge.

After graduating with a satisfying & unexpected 2.1 honours degree in 1963 we had abandoned our student dream of eternal study and an MSc in 'Operational Research' at Birmingham in favour of the ready cash rewards available for the commissioning of a shining new all singing all dancing Ballestra Spray Drying Plant at Port Sunlight. Chemical Engineering was not so much our burning ambition but rather a propitious gamble which seemed like a good idea at the time as we rather fancied it kept our future options open. Early on we had toyed with ambitions of becoming a Stanford drop out but in the end followed respectable convention wisdom: Chemical Engineering at Glasgow proved an excellent safe bet which unlocked the satisfactions of Unilever Factories ... and some of the readies helpful for social intercourse. 

Production MattersLooking back we felt we got the job Lever Brothers Port Sunlight Ltd because of our rather decisive sounding objectives rather than a polished interview technique. We had purposefully moved away from further academic study, avoided the usual crowded 'milk round' recruitment system and had become clear about factory management fascinations ... and opportunities for overseas travel ... our globe was exciting. Working for a world wide production business seemed to be a good way to pay the bills and put a few crumbs on the table ... and we guessed 'production really mattered' and that understanding how the other half lived seemed to be essential for global business effectiveness.

Perhaps our yen to travel was illuminating. We had discovered grass routes as cricket had taken us down to Shropshire & Gloucestershire and all over Cheshire, Wirral, North Wales and Merseyside ... we also knew well the bars & gutters of Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and even the pits of Fife ... but we felt that there was another half, not to 'see' as swathes of sheep like tourists tried to keep up with the Joneses in Benidorm, such was a tad infra dig, but rather as traveller with intents ... we now had a 2.1 in thermodynamics to trade and a scientific curiosity for opportunities ...

Quiet confidence as 'different' worked with Dr David Roberts, Development Director, and he offered to cut our teeth on chemical plant commissioning at an extravagant salary of £850 pa.

Dr Roberts was one of the respected old hands at 'Levers' who, with admirable foresight, offered job experience with a commissioning team on a major capital project as a prelude to a career in Factory Management. We were well pleased with the quality of our 'sponsor' although our ongoing interaction was minimal ... it was David Roberts who opened the door. We had worked in factories during our time out at university and knew that that was where things happened; that was where the action was. That first commissioning job also taught us that Factory Managers needed friends who kept the wheels going round and, above all, it was the engineers who became our first choice to befriend if ever shipwrecked on that desert island ... Don Newton, Mal Davies, Harry Parr, John McMillan, Percy Furlonger, John Ellis, David Crawford, Ron Stirzaker, Vernon Hockley, Andy Cole ... doers all ... and beer drinkers. It seemed to us as Factory Managers that it was the chemists from afar in their ivory towers who had the knack of getting us into trouble ... but it was the engineers at the coal face who delivered and put boxes on lorries ... but then the folk in marketing always insisted we were biased ... and they were right ... Unilever's expertise was in marketing ... and propitious acquisitions ... we soon learned to love and respect the marketeers & business accountants.

Our first naive presentation at our first Management Training Course in 1965 focused on Chemical Engineering as an antidote to bureaucratic kluge ... we identified a problem but not a solution ... the problem was complex corporate sprawl the solution was not thermodynamics ...  

So the big learn from our plant commissioning job was how easily efficiency, priorities and deadlines were eroded by the baleful influence of the bureaucracy. The demonstrative engineer from our Italian suppliers got excited - 

'listen, I move my hat from this table to my head, easy, but at Levers we need a committee meeting to arrange it!'

Initially we were in awe of the analysis paralysis and the cast of thousands at Port Sunlight, every trade in the world appeared out of the woodwork, all inspiringly expert ... but all getting in the way of one another. In the same way we were tickled as we learned more about the extensive mass of smaller ships that made up the great Unilever flotilla. Unilever had a finger in every pie, opportunities galore for Factory Managers ... but there was no sign of the knitting.

And there was another enlightening moment ... our plant commissioning involved the delights of shift work and 'nights'. At night the factory took on a completely different guise ... after 5 o'clock the bureaucratic nightmare subsided and we survived on our own wits & relaxed enthusiasm with our team of sharp doers ... there was the fear & excitement of being thrown in at the deep end ... but we found new friends at the coalface ... and even had a beer with them at the end of the week. We were beginning to realise we could be cultural misfits in the bureaucratic morass?

Post commissioning we became stranded with a seriously incompetent boss in this bureaucratic morass. A short wasted moment, an interregnum enlightened only by commiseration with a mate Les Rome ... what ever happened to Les Rome? ... he very sensibly jumped ship ... our Ballestra spray drying 'expertise' accumulated on the night shift saved our bacon and we slotted in with a brilliant new boss ... Roy Davies.       

Mal Davies During this period of discovery about the arcane ways of bureaucracies and technology we were impressed by the energetic 'know how' of a young budding engineer, Mal Davies.

Mal was not only a happy lad but also a doer who actually made things happen ... a shining light amongst the idle dross that was one of his sidekicks and sometimes the norm in 'Works Development' ... we had begun to think 'Works Development' was a depository for the slothful idle and we never forgot the complete boorish incompetence of our first boss. Mal even got excited by the quality of our 'H / Phi Chart ... and he was a great beer drinker ... ginger beer ... but that never adversely affected his demeanor.

Mal was one of two youngsters who worked for us at the time, recruited from the quality lab and still at technical school acquiring their credentials. We recalled the trauma of the 'annual performance appraisal' and the responsibility to discriminate between our two aspirants. Personnel Department, the makers of peace & tranquility, insisted that 'ratings' had to be scrupulously fair & honest and the usual cop out that 'everyone in my department was rated at least a 3 out of 5' was just not on. Fairness & honesty was best for everyone and meant that the better performers had to be 'encouraged & motivated' and the poorer ones - 

'had talents which were far better suited to other companies' ...

'many good round pegs could not be accommodated in Unilever's square holes' 

This adage was the learned outcome of our first confrontation with the Unilever appraisal system as we wrestled with fairness & honesty with both Mal & his less able colleague. A learning which stayed with us for the continuance.

For this and much more we were indebted to our new boss, cricketer Roy Davies ... Roy was a 'people person' who could sort the wheat from the chaff, a fully paid up member of the human race, not only a cricketer but also a beer drinker ... totally unlike another boss hencho we recalled who seemed to think that technology could be passed on to folk by posting packages of instructions.

Ballestra Commissioning ReportWith Roy we completed the commissioning of The Ballestra Spray Drying Plant & wrote up the acclaimed report ... we then explored the processing of K462, a ternary active washing powder which ended up like demerara sugar until we managed to hydrate some phosphate and turn it into Persil Automatic ... a cause for much celebration and beer.

Mal reminded us of the vagaries of the Experimental Tower where we learned how to spray dry these nasty powder formulations. Such an apparently simple process needed much 'patience', an attribute that was never mentioned in the instruction manuals, and we would have been totally lost without the deep familiarity of the effects of heat & water on interactions that resided in the fulsome experience of Mal's 'Process Operators'. It was the likes of Jeff Perry (back right), Billy Middleton, Arthur Russell and Mike Higgins who helped us out of many a hole and it was Jeff Perry who taught us how to drive the drying towers, rather than some incoherent user manual ... we met some of crew on the cricket field in the annual match 'Technical v. Marketing' where they proved to be just as adept at beer drinking after cricket as at spray drying.

We met up again Mal in 2018 and had a beer and recalled the fun.

Transforming marketing expertise into quality products often required sophisticated technological 'know how'. Our exasperated Marketing Manager was clear -

'I know it's only soap but we can't sell crap, customers don't like it'.

Edgar WoollattWe soon learned about the power of the marketeers ... as technical youngsters we learned about ... bleachable fancy, top white, crutchers, SAFE bleaching, McBain phase diagrams, Wigner's Rule, nigres, fitting, theoretical washes, sulphonation, DOBS055, NDOM, NSD, STP, optical bleaches, pitot tubes, twaddells ... and more ... but that was the easy bit ... it was all in the text books. It was the foibles of folk that was the problem.

Perhaps Roy Davies' lasting legacy, which we immediately noticed and eventually noted, imitated and exploited as future baggage, was his 'network' of friends, buddies, chums, cronies, mates, muckers, oppos & pals ... who were all steeped in helpful hints & expertise. For Roy everyone who was anyone was on the end of a telephone and willing to help. To us youngsters Roy's social network was miraculous ... he was always on the phone ... who was he talking to? ... we lapped it up, Roy was everyone's best friend, typically modest and he always bought his round -

'experts don't know it all, experts know who to ask'

We left 'Development' on a high, the world came to ask us about NSD spray drying technology, we had commissioned the plant and written the report!

Roy Davies was the man we needed to impress ... and it was Roy who turned up trumps and helped to light a fire under our ambition and our first job in 'production' ... Section Manager, Soap Drying, No 4 Soapery. At this time we felt we had 'made it' ... and our old mentor, Dr David Roberts was pleased ... real hairy arsed big plant commissioning as an intro into real factory management ... our bets were paying off. Dr Roberts was an inspiration, we will never forget the day he stopped us in the corridor a few years after recruitment and he asked how we were getting on, and had we made 'factory management' yet? He remembered the face and the ambition and was interested ... we supposed Dr Roberts was our first mentor and we always tried to follow such 'people' orientation. 

Most of the 'alternative' technical jobs at the time appeared to us to be real scary and unpalatable ... specialised cul-de-sacs into the bottom of test tubes, such were the usual fare for most young science graduates at the time. As The Busker said many years later - 

'too many were working at science instead of making science work for them'

 Wot of the other pretenders in the intriguing Unilever marketing extravaganza who had grabbed our imagination?

The popular route to stardom was through the sponsorship of the Unilever Companies Management Development Scheme; a fast track into marketing & general management ... but that train had already left the station. The UCMDS was a powerful 'corporate' sponsorship scheme for new graduates but did it risk becoming an elitist club and missing many of the personal relationships and networks we came to value? ... did the scheme reinforce the bureaucracy and 'miss the mavericks' who could break through the kluge?   

Once in 'production' we were immediately faced with hairy factory problems, often basic but always challenging ... and often in the middle of the night ... we had to learn fast ... we were incompetently drying soap and musing -

'they can put a man on the moon but we can't even dry soap'?

Bernard Moses was our big wig boss in No 4 Toilet Soaps, a helpful fellow who had been there, seen it all & bought the T shirt. But Jack Hopwood was running the show, he was a 'Charge Hand', we were 'only managers', he knew how to make such esoteric SKUs as 'E shaving' and 'Remillers Chips'. We felt guilty, he had the enthusiasm & nous ... and he ran & legged it everywhere in his desperation to improve efficiency ... but many of the tools we gave him did not pass muster ... our soap turned rancid yellow and stank on a whim of the weather ... and nous was never ever no match for the weather.

We soon moved to grander work with Fred Hall on Liquids & Hard Soaps. Fred taught us the importance of concentrating on getting 'the vital few' 'right first time' if you wanted to enjoy your beer ... and in Miscellaneous Products Division we certainly enjoyed our beer. The DLO-58-Glycerol Extraction scripts were useful but it was the bureaucratic kluge that hindered execution and diverted attention from the vital few ... a truth which was exposed by an analysis from a young commercial trainee, we even remembered his name, Zvi Eiref ... we learned the way to grow efficiency ... and change things -  

 'don't sprinkle the dessert with a teaspoon' 

In the 'production' gang there was another big cricketing mate, George Robinson. George was a special friend, sponsor and a general good egg ... and a beer drinker. George told hilarious stories about joining Fred and high flyer Mike Cowan as one of the 'Shadow Board' members who met weekly to correct the errors of Unilever ... over a few pints. But his great contribution was as a team leader not a technical buff, and George and Fred built smaller teams around them ... we even changed the name 'Supervisor' to 'Team Leader' ... and when we were all pulling on the same rope, the Shop Steward often made the best Team Leader -

''know how' was not passed down from above on tablets of stone it was grown at the coalface in teams of beer drinkers'

Strange ... but looking back on our naive years before before that ... the three 'Shadow Board Members'; George, Fred and Mike enjoyed a prolonged place in our affections ... they were not only beer drinkers and good skins ... they had nous, wit and friendships to trade ... these guys were mavericks willing and able to help us through the bureaucratic terrors ... thanks guys.

Fred Hall was still going strong in 2014, 91 years old and climbing the Great Wall ... and still at it at 93 ... a good innings ...

RIP Fred Hall January 9th 2018.

We learned that the way through the bureaucracy was to work within the tent and piss out. We started to build networks & enthusiasm for experiments with friends who drank beer ... and ruthlessly by pass or cut out the obsolete & dead wood of clutter. Even the great wonders of the past from Christopher Thomas of Bristol like Puritan Household Soap had a sell by date when costed properly. We managed the end game for Puritan and saw the last production of 'framed soap' at Port Sunlight ... and so developed an enduring belief that 'miscellaneous products' were an unexciting distraction and did not fit well within the Unilever business.

In this way, we made an early attempt to cut to the chase and focus on the technology ... we were biased of course, thermodynamics was our subject ... we still have a copy of our naive presentation on the merits Chemical Engineering to an early Management Training caucus ... we failed ... but we soon realised that everybody learned from failure ... so we got used to it! The first rule with Unilever training was buy your round ... so we got used to that as well!  

In 1968 we upgraded when we achieved fame managing the prestigious production of Lux Toilet Soap ... there we smacked up against the snake oil merchants from R&D, in the rush to promise beauty for film stars, technical 'know how' had been by passed - 

Mush - waste & technology - luxurious superfatted creamy lather from R&D chemistry was processed by our hot plodders into gooey 'mush' which was used for sticking soap tablets to washing basins ... we hadn't a clue

Black Specs - pollution & technology - oxidation of environmental polythene pollution from tallow renderers appeared in our whiter than white toilet soap as 'black specks' ... which were unseen in the R&D labs and only after trauma and displeasure did we remove the ingress by the simple practice of filtration at a lower temperature

Moisture Control - quality & technology - double whammy of powder flow & phosphate degradation, well understood in R&D but required the absent automatic adaptive control which did not appear until 20 years later

Weight Control - technology & technology - R&D solutions seeking problems, a 'cost saving opportunity' which increased the cost per wash for the consumer  

We also smacked up against 'staff' functions especially the planners who never understood continuous production, and personnel who never understood -

Bull Whips - the bane of life for factory managers

Hawthorn Experiments - not job descriptions & appraisals but the way to get things done

The message was clear and long remembered -

'technology solved intractable problems not entreaties for diligence' ... the question was 'how to get a grip of productivity'

After years of trying to understand the arcane mysteries of Port Sunlight, we repeatedly found that all the issues in our in tray, were not about our specialisation in thermodynamics, but were about ... the foibles of folk.

Bill ValeAn enormous influence was William R F Vale, a splendid character who inspired by example. Out of the blue from his son Roger came this great photo of Bill in typical pose, but with white wine and a mystery lady on this occasion.

It was Bill Vale who goaded us into coaxing the best out of the old dears on the twilight shift who mixed tablets of coloured soap into cardboard boxes. We soon realised that these ladies knew far more about the factory operations than we did. Bill was a giant beer drinker and after the pint pot he also pointed us to courses at Four Acres ... and 'The Human Side of Enterprise' by Douglas McGregor, we read it ... and we loved it ... we naively conjured up some words of approval/disapproval which stayed with us throughout -

Theory X or Theory Y = macho managers or people persons - arrogant or empathetic, gung ho or reflective, bureaucratic or networking, competitive or cooperative, Confucius or Democritus, efficient or effective, expedient or investment, militaristic or polite, overconfident or magnanimous, P&G or Unilever, loud or quiet, narcissistic or synergistic, self interested or performance orientated, expert or leader, ruthless or courteous, tactical or strategic, short term or long term, bravado or modesty, get a grip or team work, conceited or diffident, big headed or self effacing, bull shit or reason, pontificating prancers or smiling friends ...
... you get the picture but maybe you need both at the same time to survive rather like fear & excitement ... or even boys & girls ... and testosterone & estrogen?

The Human Side of EnterpriseWe reckoned that knowledge of McGregor's 'Theory Y' was essential reading for all embryonic Factory Managers and Bill with the help of Douglas McGregor illuminated our way through the dark corridors of the Port Sunlight bureaucracy in the 1960s. So much so that when we checked out the wider UK job market, offerings were made for our knowledge about the foibles of folk rather than text book thermodynamics. The good news was that we confirmed that the opportunities within Unilever dwarfed all outside alternatives ... so we got on with it. 

And as we moved on Bill Vale offered more sage advice - 

‘Be nice to folk as you go up ‘cos you’ll meet the same folk as you come down ... and be careful when you choose who's coat tails to hang on to’

'Stick to the knitting. Unilever doesn't know how to make money out of miscellaneous products' ...

Perhaps the one thing we did learn very rapidly was that we were up against the exorbitant costs of bureaucracy and pussy footing around. Willie Vale's chat rang in our ears, we were busting with anticipation, and clear that chemical engineering was merely an entrée into enterprise. It was not very subtle but angling decisively for a job overseas was a way of standing out from the crowd of clones in grey suits who seemed to be intent on hiding themselves in the cosy warmth of boxes within the bureaucracy.

We left 'Production' at Port Sunlight on a high, we had learned how to help the folk at the coal face in a factory to by pass the bureaucracy and let the blood flow, we operated a tight happy ship!

Ken RoboThere was one further learning experience at Port Sunlight which proved rather important in breaking out of the bureaucratic kluge where sclerosis of the cast of thousands brought most of the enthusiastics to their knees. We were 'promoted' into a 'staff function' concerned with cradle to grave Total Quality. We were a bit miffed at moving out of the factory and we embarked upon further studies at The Institute of Works Managers to keep our hand in.

In Quality Department in 1970 we were with Fred Hall again ... and we unearthed a couple of stalwarts, Ken Robo & a young Turk J Mike Shaw (more of this character later) ... both were saltmen who taught us the importance of social networking. We were housed in a communal work shop of beer drinkers ... Ken Robo was a rugby player and later reminded us that we spent most of our time swapping stories about bits of reality around the beer bars and coffee machines ... that was where most of the work was always done ... the coffee machine was the most important bit of apparatus in the lab ... and in the beer bars at lunch time we solved all the knotty problems.

When we met up with Ken Robo years later we were on doctors orders to avoid beer and we were both back on black coffee.

Drinking TimeBack in the days of Quality Department a lunch time beer was normality and many local pubs provided sustenance ... The Brown Cow, The Three Stags, The Bridge Inn, The Wellington ... Ken carried on this fun tradition after we left until his new mate turned traitor and left the beer & bureaucracy of Port Sunlight for Wine Bars & entrepreneurship in Chester & Heswall.

In between, and during, beer and coffee we did our bit to try and streamline the bureaucracy ... we tried to get everybody to pull on the same rope and get it 'right first time' ... this was the only way to avoid the blame game and enjoy our beer.

In 1970 we put together a slick presentation to the Board in an attempt to justify our elevated 'job class'. The ideas were imaginative & creditable and we earned applause from the Directors ... and beer afterwards ... but how the devil could another fiefdom in the bureaucracy help anybody?

Our QA procedures pushed what were strange notions to many. We suggested that dotting 'i's and crossing 't's in the specifications could never replace loyal cooperation with trusted suppliers who knew far more about their own products than we did ... our 'specifications' were simple 'your product must run on our machines'! We also tried to break other myths ... no one can 'inspect' quality back into a product ... and most inspection was best done in the supermarkets where the customers chose ... we called it 'Field Inspection'. We also questioned expensive weight control systems were were not about cost reduction and did nothing for customer value of cost per wash! QA was focused on delivering to the consumer promises of Zero Defects ... such promises were always best delivered by technology to avoid finger trouble. Techniques, or 'flavours of the month' as we called them, included Management by Objectives, Value Analysis, Zero Budgeting & Greenfielding ... and more ... such were not invented in Port Sunlight bureaucracy but could be useful tactics for all managers ... and like 5 year plans, the benefits came from questioning & curiosity about improvement ... they were nothing more than goads for more experiments seeking continuous improvement.

But, and there was a big 'but', such 'techniques' were for line managers to exploit ... but they were never an expertise base for the growth of new fiefdoms ... the philosophies had to be owned by the production networks ... otherwise they were destroyed by the 'Not Invented Here' syndrome of the fighting fiefdoms. They were not to be peddled like snake oil as 'cure alls' to justify the excessive indirect charges imposed on the factories ... such charges could easily let in local competitors if the Factory Managers didn't get a grip and get their act together ... not as macho men inventing their own solutions but feeding on the social networks and sticking to the knitting ... interesting times ... and needles to say we were restless in a 'staff function' ... it was production that paid the bills.

We left 'Quality' at Port Sunlight on a high, we had learned all about supply chains and complex interconnected, interactive fiefdom systems, bureaucratic kluge and finding a way through the mess by investing in technology and sorting out priorities with discussions at the coffee machine!

Len HardyIn this way the Port Sunlight learning process involved a few big hits which stayed with us for the continuance -

Bureaucratic Kluge blurred the focus on the profitable projects & innovation - we learned to understand Weber's bureaucratic analysis and its stifling effect on innovation. Port Sunlight was an expensive bureaucracy, a cast of thousands with analysis paralysis which was sclerotic and just grew & grew ... there were sail makers, engravers, heavy gangs, demarcations, mates, assistants & clerks for the Empire all getting in the way of the knitting ... so many words -

kluge, self sustaining life of its own, paper mountains, stifling innovations, stagnate, staid, fine print, out of date instruction manuals, unspecifiable specifications, inspection of errors, analysis paralysis, inhibiting job descriptions, monkeys on every shoulder, clocking on for boring rote, unknowable tomorrows, problem queues, opportunities lost, management by objectives ... but in a world of complexity, change, conflict & scarcity 'technology solved problems'  

Marketing Called the Shots Unilever was a Global Marketing Company - Chemical Engineering & Port Sunlight were not at the centre of the universe and we were increasingly fascinated by the real arcane workings of global businesses ... and the opportunities they provided for the kids ... to put crumbs on the table the bills had to be paid and the wherewithall came from satisfied customers ... it was satisfied customers who enjoyed a 'square deal' who were the focus of business endeavour  

Square Deal SurfQuality Cradle to Grave was a 'line' not a 'staff' function, feuding fiefdoms & flavours of the month didn't solve problems, technology solved problems ... and technology breakthroughs always came after the molecular activity discovered in the R&D labs

Mergers & Acquisitions in the Unilever Accounts Manual was almost an inspired read - revenue was generated from 'innovations' but costs were accumulated in 'indirects' & 'bureaucratic kluge' ... Mergers & Acquisitions and bankruptcy led the sifting process ... we learned about The Royal Niger Company and listened to Ram Charan at Four Acres ... The 1st Lord purchased many innovations but had to be rescued by D'Arcy Cooper who authored the manual ... and we remembered the snake oil from R&D

Restraints of Trade and the dead hand of Nanny Regulation - Douglas Jay, of old old Labour, on the marketing of plastic tulips -

‘housewives on the whole cannot be trusted to buy all the right things’ ...

a far cry from Samuel Smiles 'self help' and the reminiscences of Len Hardy on innovation

Restrictive Practices and the dead hand of Trade Unions - Dan Gowler, on 'Determinants of the Supply of Labour to the Firm' -

'the ghost of economic man still haunts the corridors of many managerial suites, and his baleful influence manifests itself particularly on those occasions when the problem of labour productivity and mobility is being discussed'

We didn't learn much else ... but we had fun learning ... and our CV 1971  was as good as it gets ... so we had a pint or two to celebrate ... but it was time to move on.

We hadn't a clue, but we had unwittingly hatched a scheme ... we saw a way out of our pickle.  

Factory Management in Unilever turned out to be a ticket to ride; exploring the nitty gritty of the world with the world's sixth largest company? ... we began to see Unilever through the bottom of a beer glass ... and wot a view ... bottoms up!

We didn't go cold into Unilever and we had chosen well. Dad was in industry and we talked & mulled and we read a bit of history. Charles Wilson told a fascinating story of business and diversity. As Chemical Engineers we also read about Joseph Crosfield & Sons, and the Quakers with A E Musson who significantly, didn't write about chemistry but about enterprise. It was almost stimulating ... so we bought another round. 

Thus although we joined Unilever, Port Sunlight as greenhorns on October 1st 1963 we had our minds fixed on getting our hands dirty exploring the real life of manufactories and wallowing in some overseas adventures. Such excitement seemed like a natural fix for the fit & restless and there were rumours that overseas with Unilever you could retire at 55 and have a second bite at life. And there was more, it transpired that life overseas also helped to quench the voracious cash appetite of our maverick kids who both turned out, for very different reasons, to be totally unsuitable and incompatible with the deplorable performance of state systems in the UK -

Comprehensive State Education ... everybody seemed to love it but the system didn't help our kids to learn 

National Health Service ... everybody seemed to love it but the system didn't help our kids to avoid a lifestyle of obesity, sloth, stress and sleep deprivation ...  

This, perhaps, proved they had inherited at least some of their dad's genes  

:drink    back to first round    


Unilever Overseas Circuit 1971 Introductions & Indoctrinations

Quality BeerBy 1971 young risk takers with the flapping wings, nous and enthusiasm who had accumulated some meagre stripes were just what the Overseas Committee of Unilever were looking for. There was a job offering in the Rahim Yar Khan factory in Pakistan and our bluff was called. We said yes ... but the post was filled by an existing technical man on the 'circuit'; Bruce Madge. Bruce turned up later in our story and we drank Star beer with him in Aba and talked about the factory culture at Rahim Yar Khan ... and later we tried, unsuccessfully, to lure him out of retirement to help us with the pan room in Limbe.

The next opportunity was in Apapa ... many folks at home thought we were mad, nobody wanted to go to work in the stifling chaos of Nigeria ... but we said 'yes!' ... and went for it ...

Unilever Overseas ... Nigeria? ... overwhelmingly at the time the young wannabes around Port Sunlight saw multitudinous problems, we saw fantastical opportunities ... and so did MJC and Ross Peterson and Derek Holdsworth ... wot a party. Nigeria was on the move, into oil with 80 million teeming folk and a place to add some spice & excitement to life.    

We got the job.   

We left 'Quality Department' for the tropical paradise, complete with a pewter beer tankard as a leaving pressie which young Mike Shaw later swore he had paid for himself (he didn't think we were worth a silver one). As we prepared we were assailed with Mike's stories about West Africa. Yarns about Sapele timber, boarding schools and being hit by oven hot oppressive disembarkations.

Mike was an old hand who had set up the lab Ghana in 1968 for their new spray drying tower ... he was the guy who shattered our innocence about life in the white man's grave with the ravenous West Coast mosquitoes? His parents had worked in the Sapele plywood factory from 1948-70 prior to an interesting period in a factory in the Forest of Dean, purposed to keep manufacturing expertise in the country just in case more Mosquito bombers were ever needed ... the airplanes, that is, not the ridiculously ineffective insecticides!

Mike told it like it was; a potent mixture of excited anticipation & horror. As his parents were wrestling with the mad dogs and midday sun in Sapele, Mike was dumped in a boarding school 87 miles from home, it was the cheapest to be found! Unilever didn't pay school fees nor fly children out for school holidays in those days. So widowed grandmother in Port Sunlight provided a temperate shelter. Grandma was a woman of little humour but, to be fair, she didn't have a lot to smile about and when he was 13 Mike was packed off for a holiday adventure in Nigeria where he discovered what sunshine was really about. In 1948 Unilever paid for overseas staff to go to Fortnam & Mason's to get kitted out with protection ... thankfully there was no such extravagance for Mike ... he remembered his dad had dressed up in his pith helmet and knee high snake proof boots ... wot a laughing stock for the old coasters when he arrived in the sweltering swamp for the first time. Forewarned was forearmed and in 1972 when the OSC urged us to indulge ourselves at Fortnam & Mason's we resisted naive notions and just purchased a sparkling white dinner jacket for the beer fest ... this ended up as a sparkling white dinner jacket without a beer stain in sight ... it was far too hot for adornment and provided zero protection from the invading mossies. 

We soaked up Mike's instructions, most notably when drinking beer in the tropics you need two beer matts. One goes underneath as usual to collect the drips but another goes on top to keep the flies from your elixir. New arrivals don't know about this trick. The first week, when you find a fly in your beer you throw the beer away and call for another. The second week you fish out the fly and drink the refreshing beer anyway. The third week you wring out the fly before drinking the beer so as not to waste any.

We listened to Mike's stories but like his dad we didn't really learn until we were out on the west coast and met the Nigerian witch-doctors ... probably the same guys who had offered some magic to Mike's dad that was guaranteed to alter mind or body, but not both -

Witch-doctor: 'Here's the deal, a better memory or more beer & girls?'
Mike: 'Which did you choose?'
Dad: 'I can't remember.'

But first, before Africa, there was more 'training' in the diverse technologies and more 'testing' as we were introduced to the all important social networks which were to be found in every nook & cranny of Unilever. The firm believed in human capital and spent as much on training as on R&D, and training was 'Unileverisation', a ritual indoctrination into the Unilever family ties. Involved was a massive diversity of marketing nous and product & process technology glued together by a deep ingrained social culture ... and such was almost inevitably cemented in place by convivial pints!

The Dash CupWe learned early on that the pinnacle of such sociability was an annual booze up; 'the oh be joyful' ... and a close second was the overseas Golf Competition; The Dash Cup ... both were underpinned by the consumption of more convivial pints. We noted the origins of The Dash Cup and the development of social bonds ... this was not great golf but it was great fun -

'The object was that the competition should take place between people who would be known to each other and it was thus a convention that the teams should be selected from amongst senior members of companies overseas and from amongst those at home who had had contact with senior overseas men'.

As we were immersed in these networks from 1971/72 it became clearer & clearer that the reality of our 'training' was a crash course in social beer drinking ... the technologies were the easy bits, it was getting things done with folk that mattered ... cooperating with others ... synergies.

It seemed wherever we traveled all over the globe, the convivial pint awaited ... Unilever proved, again and again, to be an awesome 'social club' ... and successful to boot.

It all seemed to confirm a good idea and career strategy ... Unilever factories and travel were a much better bet than more studenting in thermodynamics?

Four Acres

Four AcresPerhaps the main centre of social activity in the Unilever Club was Four Acres, a palatial pad in Surrey where the beer was outstanding. It was here as early as 1968 that appetites had been wetted as the grand old gentleman Andrew Knox regaled the assembled recruits with the satisfactions and joys of Unilever Overseas ... we were hooked, our suspicions were confirmed.

Andrew M Knox (1903-??) was a Unilever Director & Overseas Committee Member of note ... and he had laboured for the 'Old Man', the first Lord himself ...

Lasting notions from this eminent sage came over beer at Four Acres -

'after the 1967 devaluation the assembled Board of Directors of Unilever enjoyed a deeper understanding of the Terms of Trade and the impact on commercial business than all the gaggle of MPs in our Parliament'!

Business economics became interesting.

On the same occasion he recounted that he was asked when under pressure from some bureaucratic despot -

'How on earth does The Overseas Committee cope with such complexity, change, conflict & scarcity'?

 His one word reply and an addendum told the big story -


'hard work, honesty & thrift'!

From that moment on bureaucratic kluge and social interactions became vitally interesting and personal responsibility for contributions essential.

Later, when sweating under the soap pans in Apapa, we began to understand Andrew Knox's perspicacity which was written up in 1976 in Coming Clean; with Unilever Overseas some able young men were given the inestimable advantage of learning the hard way !

Back at Four Acres in 1975 some of the able young men confirmed their partiality for several convivial pints. We drank beer with Ram Charan, an insightful business strategist from Northwestern University, who brought with him pivotal stories about American acumen. Ram's case studies were captivating. He told us which questions to ask ... but, of course, the answers were up to us to discover ... it was during one of these sessions that we debated the seemingly overwhelming importance of the 'social club' to the Unilever culture.

The Andrew Knox philosophy proved to be spot on. Our ancient mentor from Glasgow, Adam the Smith, with his wariness of 'men of system' and his understanding of social animals & moral sentiments would have been well pleased. We were convinced the Overseas Committee were on the right track ... there existed a strong viable Unilever 'culture' which worked ... and the Overseas Committee even had its own membership badge; a club tie. We seemed to be an ideal 'cultural fit' for the Unilever Overseas Committee.  

But as Adam the Smith and Andrew Knox set out their tempting stalls, there was constant anti business bickering from the sidelines ... to some of our hosts Unilever overseas was part of an evil multinational company? What about the involvement in the slave trade? What about the bloody violence and the Empire? What about colonial exploitation? There was, however, another piece of the jigsaw embedded in the Unilever culture which was beautifully summarised by Sir Frederick Pedler in The Lion & the Unicorn in Africa in 1974. We enjoyed the lessons of this history book which were absorbed as part of our overseas job training; trade involved mutual benefits, synergies, it was win win and not a 'them v. us' confrontation ... but of course we had learned all this when we were at University at Adam Smith's place -

The Lion & The Unicorn were welcomed on the West Coast of Africa where there were mutual benefits to be had from trade; palm oil was plentiful in the rain forests and the European goodies offered in exchange were minor miracles.
Traders generally were not favorably disposed towards colonial governments which they regarded them as expensive and interfering. But the colonial system of administration was founded on the recognition of the principles that the encouragement of trade & commerce and the development of the colonies were of first consideration. One and the same thing.

In this way our hearts were 'overseas' from the early rounds ... it was an enlightened choice as the later business growth confirmed. Perhaps rather belatedly, Unilever recognised that it was not a European Company; the jewels in the crown were India (Hindustan Lever), Brazil (Gessy Lever), South Africa, Nigeria, Indonesia and later ... China ... the growth in Unilever's customer base, the middle classes, was moving out of Europe into Asia Pacific.

But it was never plain sailing overseas, the risks were enormous and there were infuriating niggles from European fiefdoms which had a nasty habit of turning violent as home markets went ex growth and they couldn't afford a pint. 

Charles Wilson suggested in 1954/68 that Lord Cole got most things right but there were also some ominous clouds -

'There is only one thing that would really put the breeze up us here - the prospect of the general standard of living standing still or declining'.

'Was research an overflowing well of invention or a bottomless pit of expense'?

'All power was strictly conditional upon practical success & reputation earned in the opinions of consumers, investors, workers & government'.

One of the biggest threats to Unilever business overseas was national government mess ups ... including the almost inevitable tax on beer.

David Fieldhouse outlined the overseas business strategy from the Edgar Graham era in 1978; the geographical spread of new product & process technology for mutual benefit -

'Diversification overseas was seen as the way of breaking through limitations imposed by the capacity of markets in which Unilever was already dominant to expand turnover and maximise profits. The means consisted of making, in each suitable overseas company, any of the new range of products available in Europe - convenience foods, synthetic detergents, animal feeds, chemicals, toilet preparations, packaging materials. The most rewarding markets were in branded products which sold on consumer preference and could therefore command a premium. Most important the multinational could put in a team of men trained in the same business who had the full support of the home company'.

'The relationship between a multinational and a host government was not a zero sum game. Marxists, as a whole, believe that in a capitalist system the distribution of rewards was a zero sum game in which all profits go to the owner of the capital. The underlying reality was that the profitability of Unilever subsidiaries was determined less by efficiency than by government policy and the way it was implemented by the bureaucracy'.

Sustainable long term investments in big brands & technologies together with the indigenisation policy were answers to host government political intrigue -

'Important was the value of the training Unilever subsidiaries could and did offer to local people. The principle of maximum localisation had been adopted in the early 1950s and it moved very rapidly, both at home and abroad. Unilever subsidiaries normally made significantly higher profits than competing locally owned but much time and effort had to be spent in dealing with government regulations. While local managements naturally took full advantage of legal opportunities and might press their case on ministers and officials as hard as possible, they clearly accepted that their best interests lay in cooperation rather than evasion and obstruction. Unilever was not more efficient merely because it specialised in a particular range of products and has chosen to operate in many countries in order that it can continue to specialise beyond the capacity of the home country to consume all its potential products. Its stock in trade is quality control'. 

'The profitability of Unilever subsidiaries overseas was determined less by efficiency than by government policy and the way it was implemented by the local bureaucracy'.

 It was easy to forget that local government shenanigans often had a greater influence on investment and growth than the quality of Unilever's big brand marketing & technology.

'There was a strong latent tension between central control and local autonomy. A balance was struck by 1965. Provided the subsidiary demonstrated reasonable progress the local management were allowed a great deal of independence'.

Sustainability of Unilever's business overseas was largely based on recruitment of competent managers into long term membership of the social club. A club which was sensitive to the business strategy and the Fieldhouse conclusion ... most happenings engineered by Government Officials involved not 'market development' but 'market distortions' for personal enrichment.

Geoffrey Jones in 2005 confirmed what was obvious, that after 1973 Unilever faced a dramatic deterioration in its European business; inflation & recession in mature commoditised markets, the rise of the supermarkets and inflexible labour markets ... and there was more ... Unilever was a laughing stock in P&G's North American home market. Unilever was 'living on the OSC & UAC' ... and the 'Overseas Club'  - 

'During the 1970s the overseas markets became extraordinarily profitable. Unilever's Overseas business was a success story'.

'Corporate culture involved beliefs in integrity, local autonomy & human relationships. Unilever recruited people from similar backgrounds, and then passed them through a series of rituals and shared experiences creating widespread fellowship & goodwill. Unilever's corporate culture enable a diverse business to operate effectively and to high standards of professional management and integrity. No bending of the rules, relentlessly social'.

But the social Management Groups or 'fiefdoms' within such a large company were inevitably competitive -

 'A debate rumbled on as to the extent to which Coordination should be extended to the Overseas countries. The Foods business tended to support the motion as it might have encouraged a greater search for new opportunities in foods. The OSC maintained that there was more of a need for country specific knowledge and the high level of profitability provided no incentive to change. Then at Marlow in 1984 core competences & strategic thinking moved from geography to products. But Detergents Coordination wanted a more centralised organisation. And when ever there was an opening somewhere they would try to get their people appointed. At times this was a subculture which bordered on arrogance. The Special Committee remained committed to the view that Unilever's strength was being close to local markets. By 1990 Unilever may have retained the characteristics of a club, but being a Unilever manager could not be fairly characterised as a gentlemanly occupation'.

Geoffrey Jones suggested that by 1990 the social club had not completely solved the problem of competing fiefdoms, things were getting nasty?

The biggest threat to the Unilever social club were the arrogant competing fiefdoms at the centre. But -

'The Special Committee remained committed to the view that Unilever's strength was being close to local markets'.

One by one the fiefdoms were succumbing? and the club was intact?

The Decentralised Global Club   

Unilever DecentralisedIn 2008 Ben Wubs developed an historical perspective on the merits of a decentralised 'Global Club' with local autonomy in the context of the process of adaptation and the centralised Nazi confiscations & controls during WW2 - 

'During the war the company became a decentralised conglomerate, with great autonomy for the national companies. This enabled them to adapt to different institutional, organisational and industrial conditions in various countries. It was possible to draw the conclusion that Unilever’s corporate governance structure was in fact appropriate for the war situation; it proved it could adapt to different national institutions. Its organisational structure helped Unilever to survive World War II'.

Darwin would have loved it ... decentralisation, diversity, innovation and survival.

Central strategy but local execution autonomy was embedded in Unilever's business culture and social club ... see -

Charles Wilson (1954/68) of Cambridge, Douglas McGregor of MIT (1960), A E Musson (1965) of Manchester, David Fieldhouse (1978) of Oxford, Geoffrey Jones (2005) of Harvard and Ben Wubs (2008) of Utrecht ... the researchers ...

Frederick Pedler (1974), Andrew Knox (1976), Frank Martin (1999) and Ashok Ganguly (1999) ... of Unilever ...

So there we had it, viewpoints from the academics and some of the interns; a sort of geographic spread of innovative brands which aroused universal excitement ... almost invariably the outcome of propitious M&A deals ... a sort of profitable folk wisdom hatched over beer?

So what was 'the Unilever overseas circuit'?

Merry WivesThe overseas circuit was the social club we triumphantly joined in 1971.

Unilever companies overseas were not the purveyors of snake oil as some cynics suggested ... they were into dependable quality and 'bundles of promises' as our mate Dick Stevens, Overseas Technical Officer, used to teach ... but running a business overseas had to be fun otherwise dysthymia and bankruptcy beckoned ... overseas was the real McCoy.

Overseas the girls were always included in ... we were all in it together. In this way overseas businesses were much akin to The Garter Inn with Mine Host at the tiller ... everybody could empathise with this local hangout of fun which was frequented by The Merry Wives of Windsor ... a smile was the answer to adversity ... no point in futile gravitas ... was there?

The Garter Inn was a house of reliable fun where you met your mates and had a beer. It was not a seedy joint, as many were, but then it was not exactly one of the most palatial of establishments for the girls and the family ... the technology was often a bit backward but for sure, there was always work to be done. Real life was hard down at the nitty gritty coal face and business had to be business, there were bills to be paid ... The Garter Inn thrived because Mein Host pandered to the whims of his customers ... sometimes they demanded the bog standard to get the job done but most often they wanted a bit of excitement and The Garter Inn was in the business of supplying the 'bundles of exciting promises' ... just as Dick Stevens had suggested.

The assembled folk all seemed to have a pretty good handle on human nature. The foibles of macho men, just like the coyness of the girls, were well understood as there were familiar universals whatever or wherever the local culture ... but all the positioning, posturing, bantering and grooming had to be seen in context of the mutual benefits to be had from all the frantic social interaction around the bar.

The Bard was brilliant at exposing the reality beneath the superficial trivia and tittle tattle.

Nothing worked without a smile and after all the subterfuge & intrigue was over, the girls, who always took the decisions, summed it all up and mused -

'Heaven give you many, many merry days!
    Good husband, let us every one go home,
        And laugh this sport o'er by a country fire' ...

For sure, most of us on the overseas circuit felt this way ... 'laugh this sport o'er'. If you didn't laugh you'd cry. The grandiose schemes and Machiavellian plots of the 'men of system' always tended to collapse into heaps of rubble but always there were pockets of successful reality to be discovered and nurtured ... and always there was fun ... the beer was good ... and we bought our round ... we didn't want to let the side down ... no one said it was easy but we had a good deal and we'd walk through walls for the OSC.

To us the OSC was Unilever's premier league club where the girls were included in. It was the Merry Wives and esprit de corps that made the circuit work ... it was the 'animal spirits' of John Maynard Keynes that mattered ... just like the football clubs and it wasn't money, technical skill nor the management egos ... it was team work ... we were all in this together.

Welcome aboard 'the Overseas Circuit'

The FairmileIn 1971 there were no flies on Alf Coathup, he had earned his spurs on The Burma Road and in The Belgium Congo. This gentleman & scholar had been there, seen it and bought the T-shirt; he co-wrote the first 'Blue Book' spray drying process specification. Alf was a friend and 'straight down the middle'.

In 1976 it was Alf who courteously & confidently directed us to Unilever's heart; the decentralised local autonomy of the 'overseas circuit' -

'mark my words the overseas business will go from strength to strength ... welcome aboard'.

This memorable occasion was during an evening meal with Alf when he proposed the Technical Director's job in Malawi. We were gruntled, a Unilever Senior Manager at 36. We met at Alf's family pad in Esher and at the time his young lad, David, was training in the hotel business. David was called upon to practice his trade and he served, immaculately, our aperitif before we went for a pint and a pie. David's practice bore fruit as he went on to run CIS Ltd, a successful tourist business in St Lucia. The restaurant for the evening was a splendid hostelry located just outside Esher on the A307 to Cobham 'The Fairmile' ... it was an unforgettable banquet rather than a pie & a pint ... we can still taste the luxurious steak ... and the convivial pint!

We didn't bask in any glory. Underneath the soap pans in Apapa we had learned that achieving success overseas with Unilever had to be a team effort ... weak links broke. This was a meritocracy sustained on beer ... and smiles ... we were well aware the clinching selection interview for our job on the board in Limbe was a private 10 - 15 minute meeting of minds after a dinner party in Dakar Road when Alf coaxed Carol with an 'e' into an encouraging 'yes please'. 

'It don't get much better than this!'

John Kerr MarshallJim Marshall, was probably one of the very last recruits to 'the overseas circuit'. We followed into this prestigious club year or so later and Jim propped us up on parts of an initial familiarisation tour of the 'Unilever Social Club' ...

'we didn't know much but we knew some men who did'

We 'learnt the trade' and met 'the people that mattered' ... we shared countless convivial pints and Jim told the story in his own inimitable way.

In 2016 we caught up with John Kerr and over a pint of Guinness in the Hinderton Arms, Neston where we confirmed Marshall and Birchall were the last of a breed of technical managers who tore up their return tickets and joined the Unilever Overseas Circuit ... we were soon to learn that the invitations into this august ensemble of excellence were to lose all significance as reorganisations, centralisations, decentralisations, indiginisations and all manner of other fiefdom fights destroyed all the meaning and significance of the Overseas Circuit.

We were a bit sad but once again we remembered the revered words of our Captain -

'rather than be sad that it came to an end we should wonder and be grateful that it ever happened at all' ...

We had another beer and reflected ... we had no desire to rewrite history, remembering fun was fun ... so we raised a glass to a legendary trio; Bill Vale, Dick Stevens and Alf Coathup ... and JK added Ken Durham and john p added Derek Holdsworth ... we thanked them all for being mavericks and for their friendships ... they don't make 'em like that any more as the gray clones proliferate. 

 We both remembered that, way back in 1971/2, after 'Unileverisation' we were brim full of confidence and positive ... ready for the action ... this was how it worked ... we were plugged into a vital network of social & technical contacts ... we were 'suckers', not, we hasten to add, because we had left the cosy warmth of a 'home base' but because we were 'sucking' expertise from the network; building social capital, custodians of the access routes to 'know how' and spreading this business 'know how' ... out of Europe ... all over the globe ... an impossible task without the indispensible help of convivial pints.

Four Acres SingaporeThings changed, of course, but in 2013 the importance of the Unilever 'social glue' seemed to be emphasised with the opening of 'Four Acres Singapore'. We were long retired but we imagined that in the global Unilever, the social club, and the convivial pints were still at the very roots of business success? 

The Unilever CEO -

'Four Acres Singapore will be used to support Unilever’s efforts to develop tomorrow’s business leaders with a ‘purpose-driven’ approach to business. This is in keeping with the stance Unilever has taken throughout its history, where it has strongly advocated for corporations and corporate leaders to actively support the broader needs of society.

In an increasingly volatile and uncertain world, a new type of leader was being called for – both in Unilever and society as a whole. These leaders must be guided by values and understand the responsibility of leadership for the 21st century. We will actively seek and develop these leaders through Four Acres.

Four Acres London has set the standard in leadership development since it was established over 60 years ago, underpinning our commitment to nurturing world class talent. The launch of Four Acres Singapore will continue this tradition, further lifting our capacity and underlining our commitment to Asia – as an increasingly important hub for talent.

They say that we have three friends in life: 'Friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime ... for myself and for Unilever, we will always be true friends for a lifetime ...' 

He didn't mention convivial pints but we knew what he meant ...

:drink    back to first round    


'Good evening ladies & gentlemen, Captain John Philips and his crew welcome you aboard this BOAC flight 139, VC 10 service to Lagos. Our flight time to Ikeja this evening will be 6 hours and 45 minutes, cruising at an altitude of 34,000 feet. We wish you a pleasant flight. Please extinguish all cigarettes, fasten your seat belts and prepare for take off'.

The Overseas Committee insisted Senior Managers traveled 1st Class so they would hit the ground running and be fully refreshed on arrival. In the older days it was a leisurely ocean cruise but in 1972 it was almost a pampered erotic seduction and in the 747s ... we even arrived before the pilot ... a far cry from the burgeoning Benidorm bun run.

In 1972 the Lever Brothers business in Nigerian was a basket case but full of potential from oil wealth and 80 million hungry folk. The OSC turned full on to the Nigerian 'problem business' and replaced most of the expatriate management team ... production and quality were the targets and in came a new Chairman, Technical Director, Marketing Director, Chief Accountant ... and a new position of General Technical Manager ... we set off from The Briars full of naive excitement ... and our Paludrine ...

The day we were due to fly into the Apapa chaos, Alf Coathup (OSC) and Billy Mitchell (ex Apapa TD) were in the middle of a long technical harangue in the factory ... but they found time to enthusiastically journey to the airport to personally greet ... or perhaps commiserate ... or perhaps warn ... or perhaps instruct their new hope ... unfortunately Birchall failed to show up.  

The previous day BOAC had contrived to miss our connection from Manchester Ringway and we returned, like pricked balloons, to The Briars for another night in England and another try the following morning ... in those days we had to dispatch an apologetic telegram. Jonathan was unperturbed and announced to his worried Grandma, 'I's bin to 'Igeria'. We eventually made it the next day and arrived in steaming Lagos late and with chicken pox. We were met at Ikeja Airport by a smiling Norman Jones and were immediately introduced to the go slow down the teeming tatty Ikorodu Road ... this was going to be interesting ...

Talking over the Apapa chaos with Alf & Dick much later we reflected on the task at hand in 1972. From the s-h-one-t in the oil reception tanks to the fat trap losses there was no alternative to a slow thorough build from the bottom up by the enthusiastic local sparks we found already in situ ... ready, willing and able. It was not 'macho management' that we remembered but rather unintended consequences ... we had read The Groundnut Affair and saw first hand the grandiose 'solution' to the Lagos 'go slow' ... not more roads and more cars but a 50% reduction in the traffic by decree; cars with even number plate digits ending in even digits were banned on a Monday, Wednesday & Friday, and odd digit endings on Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday ... and the police were armed. We chewed over the chaos with Iriah and a cool Star. Iriah was a smart cookie from out of town and recounted the story of the Lagos entrepreneurs who set up thriving businesses in new car number plates, most had fallen off the back off a lorry ... the rich, of course, simply purchased a second car and forgot about idle capital.

So we smiled at the chaos, planned our experiments, had another beer and got on with the job.

Dakar Road was oven hot and without water & power but, with Augustine to look after the kids, Apapa turned out to be one long party ... at the Apapa Club, Apapa Boat Club, The Safari, Ciro's, 21 Club, The Flying Ant, Club Bagatelle, Lagos Yacht Club, Ikoyi Club, Midland Hotel, Ikoyi Hotel, Federal Palace, Antoine's, Cathay, The Bacchus on the Awolowo Road, Afrika Shrine & Tarkwa Beach ... where everyone had their ice boxes filled with Star beer. There were also pleasures at The Hill Station, Jos and The Blue Elephant Club, Abeokuta ... and unforgettable adventures 'up the creek' ... with the help of 'automatic canoes' and the ice box this was an awesome experience ... ask John Lowry, Stan Idell, Mike Cowan, Trevor Creech, Fritz Weiser, Ulrich Kurth, Harry Parr, Norman Jones, Allan Dow, Pat Keown ... wot fun.

Augustine, our 'small boy', was ace with the kids, a real gem, 18 years old and reliable, we owed him a lot although we did pay for his college course in secretarial administration ... he was swotting when we were out on the town.

Our first night in Apapa we were invited out to The Club Bagatelle with the boss Bill Caruthers. Bill was an old hand from Brazil who had helped to ingest Gessy into the Unilever fold ... 'everything over $3 a litre from the soap mixer was profit' ... Gessy didn't need the Unilever Accounts Manual it was full of business nous ... but they still had to learn ... critically about inflation and global brands.

The Bagatelle was a fire trap at the top of an old Otis lift shaft with no escape route. We could see the 'Omo' sign on the factory roof on the other side of the Lagos lagoon. If the company results were good Bill always insisted on Baked Alaska & Champagne. We could set our watches by the volume of the music ... but after midnight, relief came with the hot smooch which was preferred to chatter which, in any case, had become incoherent at that stage. But we still managed to look quite polished ... considering?

John Bamidele of the glorious gardens was house trained, and Theresa of cooking and seeing with new glasses was trained by Carole with an 'e' ... these stalwarts didn't drink but they managed conviviality no problem ... and Francis pushed a mean crumb to complement the convivial pints ... and at The Afrika Shrine up the Ikorodu Road, Fela Ransome-Kuti (1938-97) played his steaming Afrobeat music, including chants and massive repetitive grooves which were strangely familiar ... Fela didn't play Buddy Bolden's Blues but his roots were legitimate.

The house and garden were a joy and work on 5 year plans and factory expansions was exciting ... and we were home every night for Clockwork Rabbit stories under the mosquito net.

In between beers there was the enjoyable task of educating youngsters in the fine arts. At Dakar Road there was a cricket pitch which doubled as a cycle track ... and test matches ... Dennis Lillee and Geoff Thomson, were up against the English stars, Boycott, Edrich, Greig & Knott ... although the ball spent most of its time in the drain it was always retrieved by a young Jonathan who was under Doctor's orders to build up his immunity to the alien bugs asap ... by immersion? Meanwhile Sally enjoyed a more sensible education at nursery and at Corona School and tended to her dear 'Pipin', a prolific chuckle chicken which somehow managed to escape the pot ... and escaped the photographer in this photo.

Star beer, iced from the fridge, was the lubricant for conversations and the lasting friendships of the Dakar Road gang ...

The Birchalls were at 6B and at 6A were Stan & Vera. Stan Idell was Chief Accountant and a pea man from Batchelors; inevitably he was a Sheffield United supporter but we never held it against him. He was the power behind the local beer & banter and a skillful & ingenious organiser. Nothing less was expected from Chiefs? Top of his in tray was the annual Dash Cup which was played at The Ikoyi Golf Club and continued in the bar afterwards. However he also had time to wrestle with the foibles of the fiat Naira which had a mind of its own and always seemed to be reluctant to leave the country for the safe deposit box in The NatWest, Northwich. There were endless examples of his penchant for stories which always seemed to be better if taken with a Star or two -

The Power of Beer & Deep Thinking. What deep thinkers we beer drinkers are ... after heavy lawn mowing I sat down and had a beer. The day was beautiful, and the drink started some deep thinking. My wife joined me and asked me what I was doing. I said 'nothing'. I didn't say 'just thinking' because she would have said 'about what'. At that point I would have had to explain that men are deep thinkers about various topics which would then lead to other questions far more taxing than lawn mowing.
So I just thought some more about an age old question: Is giving birth more painful than getting kicked in the nuts?
Women always maintain that giving birth is way more painful than a guy getting kicked in the nuts.
Well, after another beer, and some more thinking, I arrived at an answer to that question.
Getting kicked in the nuts is clearly more painful than having a baby; and the reason for my conclusion?
A year or so after giving birth, a woman will often say, 'It might be nice to have another child'.
On the other hand, you never hear a guy say, 'You know, I think I'd like another kick in the nuts'.
I rest my case. Time for another beer?
But beer was not always instantly available.
Occasionally shortages of Star caused apoplexy in Dakar Road which could be alleviated only by 'the most important man in Apapa’. He was the store manager at the Kingsway Stores. When beer was in short supply, it was he who determined who got beer and who went dry. You also had to return a crate with 12 empty bottles to get your supply. I remember when anyone was leaving there was a always a market in empty beer bottles and crates!  

The 'tours' in those days were a long 18 months and it was from Stan's office overlooking the Lagos Lagoon that every six weeks we could spy the MV Aureol birthing at the Apapa Wharf. This legendary Elder Dempster passenger liner was our real live link to Chester and refreshing Greenalls. We booked our passage for our first home leave early, ready for a break from toil & beer, the combined effects of which tended to produce giant carbuncles on sensitive body parts. The ships doctor was up to the task of remedial action. We fed at the doctors table. Dr Lloyd Davies was a fine fellow and also provided a hilarious entertainment ritual in his cabin which involved the ceremonial burning of sugar and rum ... he insisted this was not part of the carbuncle treatment ... but was it a contributing factor? Meanwhile the kids were creched & fed with consummate ease. We 'sailed' off from Apapa in October 1973 for Southampton ... via all the infamous West Coast ports of pleasure and commerce ... every name drenched in history ... as we hugged the coast northwards we thought of Vasco da Gama & the Portuguese navigators coming down the coast and the consternation they must have experienced as the pole star disappeared below the horizon ... Cotonou, Lome, Tema, Accra, Abidjan, Monrovia, Freetown, Conakry, Bissau, Bathurst, Dakar ... and then Las Palmas ... and a storm in the Bay of Biscay, before wobbling ashore unable to understand why the London shops were heaving, making walking precarious ... surely Harrods could afford stabilisers?

The Idells left 6B for more excitement in The Philippines in 1974 and then Kenya in 1977 and finally Financial Division in 1981 ... there Stan could keep an eye on our beer tab from the dizzy heights of Head Office ... we did, of course, remind him about local autonomy.

In 1994 Stan retired to Surbiton Golf Club where he excelled as resident Quiz Master after 15 minutes of fame when in 2002 he won an edition of 15 to 1 and got sufficient points to make the grand final. There were rumours that he also had a handicap and in 1997 was a formidable Club Captain and became Captain of Surrey Captains in 2014.

At 4B were Birgitte & Fritz Weiser. They had swanned into Lagos from Unilever Export in sunny St Lucia! 

Fritz started Unilever life in Export and in those days the promotion ladder was into the OSC. He was hoping for a post in Malawi but was called in by Edgar Graham and offered Zaire. Fritz never understood why he accepted? Alf Coathup was not TD in Zaire when the Weisers were there; on seat was Julien Bischoff who briefly came to Lagos around 1976. But all was not lost as in Zaire Fritz met Birgitte and they married in Denmark during their first leave. They transferred to Brazil for 2 years and had a ball; Catarina was born there and NeNe (Karin) was born in Denmark during leave just before arriving in Nigeria in December 1972. Fritz & Birgitte produced a couple of charming daughters, who were, no doubt, led astray by our two wags ... although there was some attempt at coeducation underneath the stairs at 6B. Son Christopher was born in Lagos town and later went on to Ellesmere College following Jonathan by a few years.

Fritz always said that golf helped survival in Nigeria and certainly when he returned to the West Coast later with Tate & Lyle he was on his own and golf took up all his spare time.

After Apapa there was a 'wasted' year spent in Tehran with nothing doing ... a hard rock to crack. Next was Marketing Division in London before moving to Manchester where UAC, having kept Unilever afloat for a time in the past, was slipping fast.

The last time we saw the Weisers was in 1989 when we shared a beer watching the cricket on the college square at Ellesmere. Fritz & Birgitte seemed to be everywhere all at once, back to Nigeria, with his own Consultancy at 'Graylands', 43 Strines Road, Marple, then a move to Strines House in Marple and then Birch Vale and then off to France. Birgitte had worked for the Danish Red Cross in Zaire (and not 'Medecins sans Frontieres' as we errored) and as a Practice Nurse at a GP's in Wilmslow for many years. We wondered if they were still drinking beer when they moved to France or maybe they had succumbed to the wine?

We caught up with Fritz again in 2015 and he reckoned our memories of Apapa were not only clearer than his but also dearer, but he succinctly summed up his time in Nigeria where there was a great esprit de corps amongst friends -

Whilst with Tate & Lyle in Lagos I visited Levers on business. On leaving the compound a message arrived at the gatepost; would I wait for a certain German engineer. I did so. There followed a conversation –
Are you Mr Weiser? Yes.
Were you with Lever in the early 1970s? Yes.
Did you live in Dakar Road? Yes.
I am so happy to meet you. Every Sunday we are served a special salad, Mrs Weiser’s salad, by your old steward. He speaks of you and your family constantly.
It was for me what made Nigeria different from all the other countries I have worked in.

Catarina told us the tragic news, Birgitte died 7 years ago now. Still hard to believe. She had breast cancer. So so sorry to hear. We had no idea. We last saw her at Ellesmere College 26 years ago. They moved to France together and both just loved it out there. So they stayed! A great girl always full of fun. We were sad. RIP Birgitte 2008.

The Parrs from Brazil were at 4A. Harry was our reliable engineer, trained in the jungle in steamy Manaus, a guy who refused to be defeated by the failing domestic water supply and intermittent electricity from the National Electric Power Authority (No Electric Power Again!). His first wheeze was to lower the height of the water storage tank in an attempt to gain some extra drops. There was some respite until everybody else followed suit! The next stage involved excavating and positioning the tank below ground level ... which only resulted in deeper & deeper holes. There was a borehole at the factory so the first capital proposal we wrote on arrival in Apapa was for a water bowser to truck the water of life from the factory to parched Dakar Road. We Christened the new bowser with a few pints.

Nepa was a tougher nut to crack and stand by generators were slow to the scene ... but what a party we had when they arrived.

Around 1982 Harry went on to stamp his mark on the new Warrington Factory and on the bar at The Patten Arms. Marks we recognised when we went to Warrington in 1984.

Allan & Hilary Dow arrived at 4A when the Parrs left in 19??. Allan was a refugee from Dunlop and our reliable chauffeur in his air-conditioned Volvo and our beer drinking partner at The Apapa Club. Our Ford Taunus was left at home so the girls could get to their Bridge parties. Hilary was the gem who corralled Carole into her passion for bridge. Bridge, the narcotic which has addicted for a lifetime, was sown & nurtured in Dakar Road ... in between power cuts. Long after we had all left Dakar Road The Dows of Darker Road remembered lots of the fun, food and festivities which was exactly as should be ... the stifling smells couldn't be photographed and were best forgotten.

RIP Allan Dow 2014.

Pat & Kate Keown from Malaysia were welcomed into the gang a little later and proved a constant source of fun & friendship ... particularly as Pat was a source valuable expertise on the 'yellow fats' which we perversely called 'Blue Band', manufactured on temperamental machines called 'votators' all was beyond our ken even after a couple of Stars ... and Kate, an ex-nurse, had know how & medical sense to help confront the evil bugs whenever 'Milton', 'Guanamycine' and 'Paludrine' failed ... which, in Jonathan's case, was often after retrieving his cricket ball from the Dakar Road drains. We recall the company doctor suggested the solution to the battle against the bugs was to throw JJ back into the drains to build up his natural immunity?    

John LowryThe Lowrys were 'foreigners' from Marine Road & UAC but they were strong fun friends. John & Jean were major Mahjong players and squash & tennis stars; well fit for the Premier League. We had weekly, never to be missed sessions, where we explored the mysteries of Mahjong in between ice cold Stars. Late nights were common, 'the boys' were expert at getting the kids off to school in the mornings ... we'll never forget one late dark night when a ferocious tropical storm hit Marine Road just as we started to stumble home behind the wheel of our reliable Ford Taunus. African storms were proper storms and we have a lasting vision of a bow wave breaking over the car bonnet onto the wind screen ... the engine with foot down kept going ... maybe it was rocket power that got us back to Dakar Road ... but inevitably as we reached home there was a power cut.

There was good squash at the Apapa Flour Mills and we were fit in those days in spite of the beers. At the Yacht Club John was a keen GP14 helmsman who polished his bottom during the off season as he searched for fame. We helped with the crewing and the beer afterwards. Only once did we end up in the Lagos Lagoon and we had to taxi back to the club in disgrace. We can't remember whether we had a consolation beer that day but we do remember that the wreck of a taxi which we commandeered to get back to the Yacht Club had no floor!

Friday night at The Apapa Club was a no brainer; end of the week, dusty throats and guilt free beer as the girls joined us later in time for the regular film show for the kids.

Unilever UAC in those days were remarkable opportunists and made money hand over fist during the oil boom. John kept the wheels turning at Bordpak Premier Packaging who were next door on Dockyard Road and conveniently supplied all our packaging needs ... another part of UAC supplied all our beer, with a little help from Heineken. We recalled a business opportunity for the UAC plastics factory in Ibadan which involved buying up all the competitive plastic packaging boxes for beer and using them as 'raw material' for 'higher value' plastic mouldings ... wot!    

John, was an escaped Industrial Engineer from the Port Sunlight bureaucracy and loved his freedom in the sun and seized the opportunity for a permanent life with Unilever in Oz, where he played a blinder ... retiring as Chief Engineer at the Balmain Factory.

The hilarious and many conversations were continued by email years later as folk distributed themselves around the globe ... the adhesive properties of the convivial pint were amazing!

'Aba Here' 1974

The Aba Factory In 1974 we were on our own, and asked to confront a crisis in the Aba Factory, we were given just one line of insightful and trusted advice from the Technical Director ... which we never forgot and often repeated ... we were excited not fearful - 

'don't compromise yourself, don't let your best friends down, you won't be able to point fingers to avoid personal responsibility'!

Was MJC talking about standards of behaviour with the local girls or the standards of behaviour in the local factory? There was no doubt in our minds ... it was both ... they were after all one and the same thing?!

The sojourn at 'Aba Here' provided an invigorating contrast to Apapa. There was 'trouble in't mill' as our beer drinking mate, MJC, recalled in 2008 when we swapped reminiscences -

'I remember you going to hold the fort at Aba in an emergency, and the murder that greeted your arrival ... quite like Colonial times and a story for your grandchildren!

It was certainly fun ... and well worth telling to our grandchildren ... but Grandpa's stories couldn't compete with the Jedi Epics of Star Wars.

Aba was a rural retreat where things mostly worked and folk smiled. Just recovering from the devastating civil war we managed to turn the factory into a buzz of exciting activity; tidy, smart with quality products produced by an enthusiastic workforce. We loved them all, from the Nursing sister who looked after the kids, to the stewards in the director's pad and the managers, operators, drivers, engineers, storemen, office staff and chemists, all competent and willing ... a wonderful atmosphere ... the Aba Factory had a very different culture to the Apapa maelstrom ... and it worked. Rather like the Ajegunle Market ... in the Aba Factory there was evidence for all but the blind to see ... some complex systems did 'work well' in the appallingly chaotic environment of Nigeria ... the bits that worked needed nurture not neglect.

We were not surprised to hear their stories about how this band of Unilever staff kept the factory going in the bush during the war ... not only producing soap in the wild but also checking %TFM quality in a mobile laboratory.

 In 1972 the drive from Port Harcourt up to Aba was horrific. The road had been heavily bombed during the war and there were regular forced detours into the bush quagmire to avoid the craters. The popular cars at the time Peugots 404 were up to it but there were endless delays and dig outs ... and the inevitable refreshing Stars after the effort.

The family loved the life in Aba, Carole was organised with an air conditioned Volvo & full time independence to safely explore the town and teach Sally how to swim at the Aba Club pool ... we played golf on the yet to be reclaimed golf course ... and we were invited to the opening of a spanking new palm oil mill in Calabar, and honoured guests at two weddings. Dr Nhubia kept the bugs at bay and was also an invaluable part of the social scene ... he was a beer drinker and insisted beer did a superior job to antibiotics.

Aba Factory CultureNeedless to say the convivial pints flowed to keep up with the output. There were parties for every occasion ... we even had a Christening ceremony for the Nursing Sister's new car ... some skeptics thought it was a waste of premium Champagne ... but we were OK we stuck to Star!

Our concerned Personnel Manager Philip Obi, was a joy; competent and a gentleman, he went to great lengths to dissuade us from prospecting for the new factory via a helicopter. It seemed the last helicopter flying over Aba was shot down during the civil war! For the aerial photos of the Aba Factory we located an oil industry 'copter in Port Harcourt and enjoyed a spectacular flight up to Aba following the railway line. We picked up the local photographer in Aba and soared above the factory for a series of photos and spottings ... it was only the subsequent invoice that was troublesome ... the camera man had charged a 50% 'danger money' premium.

'It don't get much better than this!'

The kids were subjected to the odd trauma. Early one morning, their adopted pet chickens were prepared for plucking and the pot with blood curdling skill. There was no question of a vegetarian bent as the resulting stew was a magnificence of delectable spices and palm oil. However the following week there was no repetition of this culinary delight as a 3ft monitor lizard was cornered in the compound and prepared in a similar way for digestion in the stewards quarters only. The mangoes, bananas, plantains, coconuts and avocados proved very acceptable, although the stalks of unripe mangoes caused unwanted disruptions to Jonathan's lips and mouth ... of course, he tried to forego teeth scrubbing for the duration ... it didn't work, even though Fluoride tablets we part of the daily fare.

Uduowena, Bruce OnobrakpeyaThe return trip to Apapa involved a luxurious chauffeur driven safari in the air-conditioned company Range Rover. An opportunity to explore the country and the countryside, away from the Lagos go slow. The Niger Delta, and the bombed out River Niger Bridge crossing at Onitsha and on to the ancient craft skills of the Benin Bronzes of Benin City ... perhaps on this trip we acquired a taste for the local musical skills of Fela Ransome-Kuti (1938-97) and the artistic skills of Bruce Onobrakpeya (1932-). Our Onobrakpeya 'investment' proved to be lucrative! 'Uduowena' was a deep etching on metal foil and plastocast. A recollection of the images of the Ake shrine in a Benin village famous for its craftsmen. The shrine has mud sculptures which were visible as one walked through a dark grove usually held sacred for the gods. Onobrakpeyer's Foil Deep Etching technique involved a plastograph print in which aluminium foil was used to draw the engraved images. The thin foil was cut and placed on an engraved plate and then the embossed sheet removed, turned over and filled with resin to stabilise the relief. The resin filled foil was then laminated on plywood or no any other surface. Metal Foil Relief Print was a three dimensional metal foil print drawn on a plastocast plate. A fairly thick foil was cut and placed over a plate and hand pressed to transfer the shape of the picture on the plate. The foil was then removed and filled from behind. It was then laminated onto a plywood and coloured in the same way as the metal foil deep etching print process. Note that while the metal foil deep etching print was drawn from plastograph plates, the metal foil relief print was hand embossed on a plastograph plate. Carole did all the haggling for our master piece in 1983, can't remember the final 'best  price' but 'Uduowena' was later worth a fortune (Euro $2,000) ... no wonder it had pride of place in our living room!

Aba Workers UnionWe were overwhelmed at the end of our tour in Aba to received a remarkable gift from The Lever Brothers Workers Union. Not many Factory Managers receive such accolades from the Trade Unions and unsurprisingly we still keep this treasure, polished and pristine, in a proud location in our living room. The inscription reads -

'Presented by Lever Brothers Workers Union Aba to Mr J P Birchall on the occasion of his transfer to Apapa 29.5.74'

We did a brilliant job at the Aba Factory not because of our nous & wit but because of the encouragement & trust of MJC and the enthusiasm & effort of Philip Obi, Sam Ikenzie & friends who were all 'on board' and did all the hard work.

The Aba soap factory gang received their just rewards when we proposed that a new NSD factory should be located at Aba.

Invest in success, chase profits and cut losses; grow the good bits! Aba here was a good bit.

The new Aba factory involved prodigious capital expenditure, regular commuting between Ikeja and Heathrow and endless convivial pints ... it was big bucks ... but then this was the oil boom and factories in Nigeria were being built as if on conveyor belts.

'It don't get much better than this!'

As the capital expenditure was expended there was a stream of Unilever visitors; 'we're from Head Office, we're here to help' ... underneath the soap pans in Apapa we certainly needed help ... but 'help' from Head Office required careful sifting. Most 'helpers' we selected on their track record as paid up members of the club who downed their convivial pints and earned their keep. Such stalwarts; enthusiastic, vigorous, knowledgeable, willing even brave & courageous and we made sure we welcomed them at the airport and we were happy to carry their bags for them ... folk like 'Gordon' were bent on progress and helped enormously. You were never alone with Unilever overseas. But there were other charlatans who just wanted to get in on the act and get stroked, such like 'Arthur' were fostered upon us without approval; a distraction occupying valuable time. As they announced their intended arrival somehow the associated telex was mysteriously lost! My seven year old daughter was still learning and yet she was up to speed and could easily criticise and tell us that parts of our factory were untidy and management should 'get a grip' ... jeez ... that was not the kind of help we needed ... why else had we removed to retirement the guy who was making the factory environment worse ... the permanent and expensive sweeper upperer of filth?

WGJBOne regular visitor was Joe Griffiths who was revered not so much for his spray drying expertise but for the contents of his suitcase. Early in 1972 therein was a cassette tape of The World's Greatest Jazz Band with 'Yank Lawson & Bob Haggart' which was generously left at Dakar Road 'a gift from URL' ... not snake oil but a magical inspiration for exhausted expatriates ... from then on, for the stretch, the Birchall beer parties always commenced with the invigorating strains of Love is Blue ... to set the mood for cool Stars ... other exquisite jazz followed; I'm Prayin' Humble ... the motivating toon for Humph's 'Bad Penny Blues' ... and more ... It Must Be Him, Feelin' Groovy, Alfie, Wolverine Blues, What the World Needs Now Is Love, Savoy Blues, Wichita Lineman, Do You Know the Way to San Jose, The Windmills of Your Mind, South Rampart Street Parade ... my 'new' mate from Lagos, Ernst Koster (1924-2007) especially loved this music and always came back for more ... thank you Joe ... and thank you Ernst for sharing the fun.

Sure in Apapa the bugs were big and the stenches were ripe, there were power cuts, armed robberies, bribery & corruption and thievery & squalor everywhere ... and just outside of the Lagos Lagoon was a 'concrete city' of moribund ships all waiting in vain for a birth or a dash before their cement cargoes painfully solidified and perished ... and for the factory managers there were some more ominous problems.

When we first arrived in the Apapa Factory we were greeted with the news a horrendous death by drowning (or suffocating?) of a poor soul in the fat trap. Our Unilever training had suggested that the fat trap was the first port of call for any new manager. Welcome to Apapa John.

There was a second priority and a second sobering death; factory security. Our attempts to improve and calm the flow of vehicles and loot into and out of the factory involved the installation of a traffic security chain. Queuing was not the norm in town and one over ambitious driver had tested the chain & Hook's Law and the subsequent 'snap' and recoil had fatally injured a dutiful security guard. Experiments often went wrong.

 Then there was the murder within the Aba Factory precincts which provided an inauspicious start to our tour in the east. The local police were forensically trained but often blinded by the West African 'dash'. Mike Cowan suggested that such heinous behaviour was a trauma that most factory managers never had to confront and was a sobering story to tell to our grandchildren.

But perhaps our nadir was an anonymous telephoned threat of violence to our young family. This followed a particularly intense quest for improvement from our planned cessation of the inhumane and inefficient system of exploiting 'casual' labour from the queue at the factory gates. This threat to our family spurred us into redoubling our education & training efforts and our 'heresy' about the necessity for profit and efficient factories to fund future investment. We were pilloried for our 'profit'. Profit was never ever 'a dirty word' it was an outcome of a successful business ... a 'surplus' for investment rather than exploitation of developing economies. Backed by the Chairman and our mentors we spent many hours on our training mission ... change & improvement had to become hum drum. The case for business had to be made ... the technology we promoted followed hand in hand ... the bills had to be paid.    

But no one said it was easy and there were exciting business opportunities for investment in the future ... a personal spur for us at the time came from RWA our OSC 'member' ... we recalled a confidential aside delivered over a beer at a dinner party -

'Continue to polish the Nigerian jewel, John, and stay close to MJC and DH'

Probably the only time we had heard Nigeria described as a 'jewel' ... but we knew what he meant!

Of course the girls didn't pretend to enjoy the living conditions in Nigeria in 1972, and Carole with an 'e' still instists she bears the scars, but they all certainly wallowed in the social life and the friendships that were sealed which lasted a lifetime.

The Overseas Club always welcomed the girls (Mesdames Idell, Archer, Birchall & Weiser) who were always included in and for our own senior job interviews it was Carole who was put through her paces, on the spot ... Alf Coathup asked others to leave the room as he gave her a happiness & health check ... it seemed functioning families were a prerequisite for effective Club membership overseas ... and Carole with an 'e' was an impeccable cultural fit?

We worked hard and played hard and later we reminisced with MJC - 

'It was a lot of fun John, and I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated your company. Goodness knows not everything done was right, but the majority was! I think we worked overseas for Unilever during the company's best years and were lucky for that. It used to be like a bright cruise liner when we joined but now is a gray battleship - but at least it's still afloat! I didn't want to be Research Director in Europe. Had they asked me to be an OSC director I'd have jumped at it. We were in business not in industry'.

It was a lot of fun and 'The Overseas Circuit' was a club which earned its spurs.

RIP Mike Cowan April 20th 2015.

Our discussions with MJC over cold Stars and raw life were seminal and his distinction between 'business' and 'industry' opened up our understanding and sparked again our essential fascination with economics. The technology was the easy bit, we always knew who to ask about the technology but the real issue underneath the soap pans in Apapa was execution. Execution was difficult but profitable in emerging markets ... and we learned the hard way ... nothing was ever achieved by intentions; everything was achieved with interaction and help from other folk. 

InflationThe Unilever Overseas Club gang that we rubbed along with in Apapa were friends with nous and wit ... and they were leaders and teachers ... particularly, we were taught by four giants, confidants and socialisers ... if not beer drinkers ... Andrew Knox, Ronnie Archer, Derek Holdsworth and Mike Cowan ... all were businessmen and teachers - 

understanding inflation and 'a money measurement system'

working overseas required functioning families with social nous. Families owning debt & houses in the UK and the business during the 1970s had to understand inflation to survive; 'subsidies distorted markets'

inefficient factories raised costs and lowered profits (a revenue effect) but also raised investment requirements (a capital effect); 'a double whammy'

DCF capital proposals were meticulously transparent, tax was a cost which reduced output; 'costs reduced real wage growth'  

OSC in Brazil pioneered inflation accounting and learned how to stop cash hemorrhaging out of the business; 'price on replacement costs'

managers back at PS in the 1970s struggled to distinguish between profitless growth from inflation which created shortages of STP & poor quality and economic growth from innovation & efficiency; 'animal spirits distorted expectations' and 'price fixing produced gluts or queues'

businesses were forced to get to grips with an inflating measurement system ... and we did ... we learned from the Unilever Accounts Manual & Brazil and in 1974 we became members of the Institute of Economic Affairs, a non-political research & educational trust, and we have subscribed to this august charity every year ever since ... and we're still learning ... about inflation, comparative advantage, total factor productivity ... and Balance Sheets.
In 1975 we noted with horror that the RPI peaked at 27% after the arrogance of Tony Barber & the 'dash for growth', Aubrey Jones & the 'National Board for Prices & Income ' and Ted Heath & 'The Price Commission' ... we also recalled, unheard above the hubbub, a wistful cry ... 'thank God for the IEA'.
During the 1970s & 80s the IEA was the supreme shining light, coaxing us into our alternative deeper understanding of what the hell was going on ... the strange behaviour of folk and the economic synergies of specialisation & scale.
The IEA Hobart Papers became a lifeline and consistently propitious & prescient. Thanks IEA you made us laff at bumptious boffins and encouraged us the take a helicopter view of the swirling reality of complexity, change, conflict and scarcity.

Perhaps the bottom line was if we were in the shoes of AMK, RA, DH or MJC we would want john p in the team!

The big learning experience followed Ronnie Archer's request for the company to produce a 5 year plan ... it was a lot of work but had a galvanising effect on the business ... we all had to think and question ... which of course was the whole idea of a business plan ... together with the inevitable increased intake of convivial pints as we chewed over the cud.

Of course it was messy and descriptions always sounded a bit glib & trite ... execution; focus on & invest in successful innovation, grow the good bits, chase profits and cut losses ... but happenings meant different things to different folk?

At the start of the day all we ever tried to do was to solve a few problems so we could sell more promises of excitement.

We had learned wot worked and wot didn't, we had intimately experienced the different factory cultures at Aba and Apapa ... and invested Unilever's money to by pass the blockages and let the blood flow to grow the good bits. An experience we remembered when we later met the different cultures in Malawi ... Rhodesia worked Zambia didn't ... and finally when we were at Warrington ... the Warrington Factory worked, Port Sunlight was a shambles ... happily our final fling was to be investing the latest technology into the Warrington jewel! 

After MJC left for Coordination & DH left for Argentina, we were asked to stay on for the planning and commercial justification for the 'considerable' investment in expansion of production and the building of a spanking new manufactory in Aba. The giant (23.2 million Naira in 1976!) Capital Proposal was a culminating bit of excitement as we waited patiently for our due 'rewards' elsewhere overseas ... Smiling Malawi ...

However there occurred an interesting and somewhat distressing interregnum and more lessons to be learned. A stopgap 'temporary' TD and a new Chief Executive (and new expatriate deputies) had to acclimatise and relearn all the lessons of the management of chaos & complexity and the potential for backsliding.

OSC - winning strategies

'by pass the blockages and let the blood flow to grow the good bits'

Nigeria was difficult, no doubt about that, the operations were chaotic and corruption rife ... but amongst all the beer and fun there was a way through the mess ... there was a way out of our pickle ... underneath the soap pans in Apapa we learned our trade ... The Apapa Factory Manufacturing Strategy ... was all about 'growing the good bits' and not about macho management and top down 'orchestration from above' ... but rather more momentous than that - 'by pass the blockages' ...  

There were several strings to the bow of the OSC as they mobilised rapid quality investment from an extensive supportive network of beer drinkers. There was great depth to the help that the local operating companies could call upon from the global concern. this was admirably demonstrated by Derek Holdsworth who suggested that it was no answer to aggressively confront and moan about the impossible corruption, chaos & complexity in Lagos, There was a job to be done - 

motivated and inspired human capital - the people were upfront ... 'don't suffer fools gladly and delegate' -

select the promising men for the jobs -

approve their 5-year-plan -

competitive CP approvals supply the flow of 'blood' for growth.

raw materials and energy - without raw materials and electric power no factory in the world could produce. The unbelievable supply chaos in the Apapa Port was effectively by passed by chartering the Lagos Palm directly to the renovated LBN jetty in the factory precincts. The 'blockages' in the NEPA (no electric power again?) electrical supply, couldn't be by passed easily but the Apapa Generators project did receive instant attention.

Early during our first tour we recalled a conversation with John Somerville in response to his provocative question,

'How long do you think it will take you to sort out Nigeria?'

We were clear that technology transfer was not a package to be handed over but rather a continuous ongoing process.

John Somerville would have been unimpressed with some of the macho expatriates who possessed a two year work permit and were on a mission to make an impact and then leave before their fragile edifice collapsed. We sensed such folk were preoccupied with complaining about the white man's grave or getting back to comfortable Europe ... they seldom had time for a convivial pint? Continuity of successful business execution was a serious problem for Unilever Overseas as managers passed through the companies far too quickly. Some expatriates were keen to move on to the next promotion and Unilever trained indigenes commanded a high price in the local job market. And such was the reputation of Lagos for corruption, chaos & complexity that too many budding expatriates refused appointments at the outset and too many indigenes succumbed. MOO was also in town around this time and his work was in the political quagmire ... was it possible to make anything happen without a self defeating 'dash'? A reliable supply of soap was a splendid antidote to the politics of pending crowd trouble? Not compromise but co-operation and there was a big difference.

Social CultureThere was a second string to the bow which was the undercover cultural mantra ... 'Unileverise the indigenes for continuity of business strategy'. The Unilever culture had to be nurtured and was the means of securing successful business continuity; a culture grown from the roots to the blossom. Culture was glue, it was all about social interactions and synergies between the like minded folk inside the organization ... global roots with local blossoms ... posh words but really simple; like minded folk, didn't compromise but cooperated ... and bought their rounds!

We enjoyed a period with a new Chairman as we had already bought the T-shirt and we saw how easily backsliding and discontinuity could destroy progress; continuity of strategic effort was fraught as everyone worth their salt had their own pet ideas about the battle of the basket case ... the most meaningless of all was the catch all apple pie ... 'all we needed was good management' ... jeez. 

During this period we learned that companies, organizations, bureaucracies have no memory ... it was folk who had memories ... and those folk had gone went ...

At this time we also fleetingly enjoyed the company of a splendid TD, the wonderful Pancho Jimenez, a great character who taught us two vital lifetime skills -

the enjoyment of delectable Chilean wines which rivaled beer as an inspiration for convivial intercourse and

the catastrophe of government intervention in commercial business which was always predatory and never enhancing.

Stafford BeerProject Cybersyn was a Chilean project from 1971–1973 during the socialist Allende years aimed at constructing a 'distributed decision support system' to aid the management of the national economy. An alternative to imposing a Soviet style Gosplan system of top down command & control ... do away with bureaucracy in Chile using computers rather than markets? 

The project was conceived as the solution to the economic calculation problem; in the absence of markets for values, real prices & money, how does a socialist economy perform the necessary economic calculations. The Stafford Beer proposal was to calculate in terms of natural physical units so that resource allocation, production and distribution were technical matters undertaken by engineers, technical specialists & computers ... data dependent decisions?

Pancho went ballistic -

'I can do sums and my times tables and I know for sure, productivity in the Santiago factory became enmeshed in sculduggery, a cloggy web of complexity, change, conflict and scarcity ... unresponsive to hilarious, nay, pathetic, instructions from aliens who possess telex machines ... and guns ... but no nous'.

Pancho insisted Unilever needed to understand what went on in Chile during the Allende years and the arrant destruction their property. He wrote papers & recorded his first hand experiences of the Unilever factory in Santiago during this disastrous Allende period ... he was quick to add between beers ... it was not that Pinochet was good but rather that Allende was bad ... and then there was Stafford Beer.

Stafford Beer's foray into Chile was an example of a massively ambitious grandiose scheme which he outlined in Brain of the Firm. The outcome reminded us of the forgotten lessons of the groundnut affair ... whatever happened to the entrepreneurs & innovations which were the heart of Unilever?  

Pancho got excited as he exposed Stafford Beer as a dangerous freak and passionately regaled all and everyone who didn't 'get it' over pints of 'proper' beer -

Projects of astronomical size failed as hubris overtook nous

Big Brother systems were always destroyed by competitive internal fiefdoms and interest group infighting

Top Down impositions of political beliefs and vanity projects always conflicted with bottom up satisfactions of evolved human souls

Unclear consumer preferences were ignored; the computer said no

Procurement economies of scale sacrificed small innovations as macho buyers eclipsed supplier developments

Small businessmen & entrepreneurs went on strike 

Systems ThinkingLater in 1996 we remembered the Cybersyn Project and The Groundnut Affair when we studied 'Systems Thinking' at the Open University with the luminary, provocateur, friend and general good egg; Peter Checkland. Reality was all about the diversity & the failures of natural selection which secured progress, progress from one funeral after another, where sunk costs were irrelevant millstones.

Back home in Chile the Jimenez family vineyard produced their wines and Pancho himself taught us much about Chile and helped us understand how Unilever exploited their experience & expertise to run successful businesses. The biggest problem for Unilever overseas was government interference in business synergies ... Allende hadn't a clue ... but it was the synergies which were both good for Unilever and good for host countries.

We remembered MJC had described him as a restless ferret, always on the go, Pancho's mantra was -

'Bottom Up systems evolved over time automatically build an independent autonomy & an immunity from treachery ... otherwise they wouldn't survive'.

Pancho echoed the David Fieldhouse conclusion.

All this at a time when LBN was majority nationalised at a P/E ratio of 1½!

The management ethos within the Overseas Club at the time had some merit ... lessons learned from the ghosts of the past -

care over the appointment of senior managers - hard work & honesty

delegation within agreed 'annual estimates' and 'five year plans' - focus on the knitting

prior agreement for all capital expenditure - thrift & long term sustainable investment

... and no restrictions on convivial pints ... of course, very occasionally we had too many ... but the 'Star' beer in Apapa was so good we brought some back to be sampled by Dad.

We'd learned a lot by the end of our stint in Nigeria and most of it culled over cold Stars with MJC & DH ... we learned that progress was possible but only the mavericks seemed to learn ... we knew about the perspicacity of mavericks like MJC & DH and Alf & Dick and Iriah & Obi ...

We also knew all about Go Slows and Ground Nut Affairs ... and Apapa Generators ... and the incentives for Rat Massacres which proved to be remarkably similar to the Lagos number plate scam of 1972.  

On leave in the sheltered warmth of Unilever House we cornered Maurice Jones, an ex Apapa TD, and asked him why he hadn't warned us about the chaos ... his reply,

'but John, you would never have believed me'!

We also talked to Bill Vale about the chaos ... his reply,

'yes John, let's have another pint'!

We learned a lot underneath the soap pans in Apapa, problems were opportunities, and for sure, you don't miss out on on health, happiness and a social life ... work was our social life ... thanks guys, bottoms up!

On July 1st 1974 john p was 35 years old and half way through his biblical ration ... and really motoring, and although we say it ourselves a master of his factory trades ... and he recalled an urge to write ... and again in 1981 when Auntie Doris died ... funny that ... but we had no time for writing we were on a surge we'd learned about running factories & building new ones and now was the time to lead our own show.

We left 'Nigeria' on a high, we had absorbed the Unilever 'overseas culture' and seen its effectiveness in a 'turn around' situation ... against all the odds! We were paid up members of the Unilever Network ...

:drink    back to first round    


Mpingwe Hill, Limbe, Malawi 1776

In 1976 we triumphantly severed connections with Detergents Coordination, tore up our return ticket and accepted an invitation to join the 'overseas circuit' of the Overseas Committee.

'It don't get much better than this!'

In 1947 Unilever purchased The Citrona Soap Company in Blantyre owned by the father in law of the great beer drinker and character C J Van Jarsveld. In 1951 the Limbe factory was built a new. We soon learned that C J, almost single handedly, had built successful businesses in Rhodesia, Nyasaland and South Africa. His legacy was unable to stop the Mugabe circus from ruining Zimbabwe but his spirit left a good little business in Malawi and importantly for Unilever a jewel in South Africa. Our view from Malawi about post apartheid South Africa naturally credited the successful retention of the business to the great beer drinker C J Van Jarsveldt. His contribution to the Unilever, Nelson Mandela & Clem Sunter (Anglo American Corporation), 'solution' was immense ... no doubt with help from Nigel Clayton. One of the joys of working in Malawi was the close relationship with the Unilever businesses in South Africa ... we recalled RA's comment that South Africa was 'a jewel in the Unilever crown' ... which contrasted alarmingly with the chaos in East Africa Industries and the absence of quality staff ... although the 'Tusker' beer did provide much conviviality.

We arrived thirsty at Chileka Airport in 1976 and were immediately whisked off to a Peter Batchelor booze up where the business of business was done. Carlsberg Greens were discovered at all sorts of places - The Limbe Club, The Blantyre Club, The Mount Soche, Ku Chawe Inn, Zomba Plateau, Nkopola Lodge, Club Makakola, Kasungu Park, Lilongwe, Lengwe, Mulange Cedar, Shire Highlands, Thyolo Tea, Nkhata Bay & with Lake Malawi Chambo at Maldeko Fisheries ... the kids loved the picnics at the Drive-In cinema where they didn't serve beer but we took our own Greens in an ice box.

Greens were also transported to the Lake Cottage where they had to compete with Malawi Gin and the MGTs were made with freshly cut lemons off the garden trees. It was at the Lake Cottage where we went first footing with the Brookers on January 1st 1977 ...

In December 2012 Bob & Toni Brooker reported back to us about their latest binges ... it seemed that maybe life in Holland had interrupted beer for gin!?

'Of course we still remember the fish eagles and a host of other wonderful recollections of our time in Africa. Apart from the Crawfords, who visited us once in our place in Spain and with whom we still exchange Christmas cards, the only other members of the Malawi gang we remain in contact are Robert and Rafaela McGinty. We are in fact due to meet up with them shortly for a pub lunch. Our other ongoing African friendships are with people from our earlier time in Zambia.
Toni and I are good and I will face my 70th next April. Toni will be 67 in January.
I retired in 2001 having spent the last 12 years of my working life in Holland. We stayed on in Holland for the first year of my retirement while I satisfied a long term ambition and had a boat built. It's a steel 'gin palace' sort of vessel, 45 feet long with a single engine and, although she is certified for coastal waters, I only use her on the Dutch inland waterways. She is my 'indulgence' and, like all boats, just a hole in the water into which you throw money. Luckily that wonderful Unilever pension enables me to do this with minimal loss of sleep! Before leaving Holland we also bought a small apartment in the old centre of The Hague so you might say we are enjoying a somewhat nomadic lifestyle moving around a triangle comprising Holland, Spain, and the UK. As you might deduce from my email address, we live in Haslemere on the Surrey/West Sussex border in a 1930's house, which we have owned for more than 30 years.
We are glad to know you and Carole are still enjoying life, although I do not know exactly how 'ancient' you are. Nevertheless, assuming God grants us a while yet, I would be delighted to exchange the odd email from time to time.
With all good wishes to you and Carole for the festive season and beyond, Bob.

 RIP Bob Brooker January 4th 2016.

In the Malawi mix were Alf Coathup, Dick Stevens, David Parsons, David Crawford, Bob Brooker, Robert McGinty, Frank Sawyer ... and Peter Batchelor who hosted some awesome beer parties ...

Our Chairman Peter ran a convivial ship, no doubt acquiring his business acumen from 'Aunty Ella'. He handled the vital relationships with government through the Admarc Holding with gentlemanly integrity, sticking to pricing strategies in the face of incomprehensible price controls ... and, once he saw that the Limbe Factory operations were in safe hands, he left his Technical Director to deliver the promises!

David CrawfordDavid Crawford was our Chief who kept pristine order in the Factory and always had a fridge full of Greens next door to us on Mpingwe Hill. David and Bob shared a sailing dinghy up at the Lake Cottage and the tranquil beats and gybes were fine sport in between beers. David did the rounds of John Mac's overseas circuit; after 7 years in Malawi (1975-82), Zimbabwe (1982-6), Worksop (1987), Ashford (1988-92), Port Sunlight (1992-96), Egypt (1996), Israel (1996-2000) ... before well earned retirement in 2000 ... and at 56 seized the opportunity for a second bite at  life. David & Sue were still tripping the globe when we caught up with them in 2016.

Limbe Factory projects also cashed in on conviviality in Nairobi, Kenya; Lusaka, Zambia; Johannesburg, South Africa ... and the 'overseas circuit' gave us ready access to the extension of 'the club' in The United Africa Company ... we had sunflowers to grow in Nigeria and macadamia nuts between the tea in Malawi ... and in Limbe my old jazz mate Frank Sawyer ran a factory for UAC which concocted chewing tobacco ... he ran an incredible operation making healthy narcotics and his customers loved it! Frank was good friend who told stories of UAC, jazz & music and also organised an almost constant stream of beer and entertainment ... 'John, if you're free why don't you join us for 'Sundowners' ... tonight, about 6 o'clock?'

We also remember a long week end away from the factory with Dick Stevens ... after we had cheered on the annual football match for the coveted 'Stevens Cup' ... we escaped the oils & fats and took a leisurely drive to Lake Malawi, just the two of us ... we drank Greens and ate Chambo at Nkopola Lodge and chewed the cud over Unilever Overseas ... Dick had his feet firmly on the ground, there were no flies on Dick Stevens ... we concluded we both had immensely satisfying jobs and the opportunities in the future were legion ... Unilever Overseas was the bees knees ... thank you Dick.  

When Jonathan was seven we pushed him off to boarding school so he could learn some proper cricket with the big boys ... unsurprisingly it seemed Nogs & his mates also taught him about beer drinking ... we were quietly proud to say he ended up better than us at both cricket & beer drinking !

Sally's education was handled by Mr Johnson at Hillview School with help from Andrew Lloyd Weber's Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat and Suzanna McGinty ... and horse riding at Thyolo. Sally's bedroom was a library and she read it. Having little time to tidy up ... but, for the sharp eyed, why a bottle of green ? Later in 1982 schooling was expertly polished by Antonia Sara ... Head Girl at The Grange School, Hartford.

The BluesIn between beer & bridge parties we indulged in some jazz and David Crawford recalled how the dulcet, or was it mangled, tones of my soprano saxophone echoed across the valley from our garden to his palace through the trees, just up from our palace on Mpingwe Hill ... we even tried to coax SJ into singing some Glen Miller songs ...

Soooo ... Autumn 1976 JJ went to Prestfelde and we bought a Scimitar and moved to Malawi.

Summer leave 1977 just after the wonderful Dick Stevens visit, john p lands in the UK Aug 1st ... then golf, test match, cricket at Chris & Dave’s new house, trip to Yorkshire, stay at Thirsk, a week in Anglesey. JJ plays model aero planes and enjoys the canoe. We see Bobby & Alan Sutton and meet our new engineer Pendlebury.

2nd Malawi leave July 1978 Carole with an 'e' left for UK with ‘Fleur’ on July 7th john p followed via Nairobi on July 28th ... we see old friends – Chris & Dave, Max & Sandy, George & Eunice, Fritz & Birgitte ... JJ & SJ don’t really remember Catarina and NeNe ... we bought a Selmer soprano saxophone in the Tottenham Court Road at vast expense.

Back on Mpingwe Hill the front garden at Mpingwe Hill boasted a great attraction; a running track, 30 times round the big circular driveway was a mile and just before our 40th birthday when we left this paradise were we well trained and managed a mile in under 8 minutes ... 6 times a week = Dr Cooper's 30 aerobic points a week!

Everybody thought we were quite mad and eroding valuable drinking time. But such was a ruse to protect the body from alcohol poisoning from convivial Greens ... whatever, we didn't care what people thought ... we'd never been fitter! And Robert McGinty had a go as well!

Our best minutes per a mile came down steadily each week - 10.53 - 9.99 - 9.95 - 9.80 - 9.80 - 9.33 - 8.9 - 8.80 - 8.58 - 8.58 - 8.56 - 8.56 - 8.24 - 8.24 - 8.24 - 8.24 - 8.24 - 8.22 - 8.22 - 8.22 - 8.16 - 8.16 - 8.16 (after 23 weeks training 7 weeks leave) - 8.26 - 8.26 - 8.14 - 8.04 - 8.04 - 7.99 - 7.90 - 7.90 - 7.90 - 7.89 - 7.89 - 7.89 - 7.89 - 7.89 - 7.89 - 7.89 - 7.89 - 7.89 - 7.86 - 7.86 -7.86 - 7.85 (52 weeks training!) 

AerobicsSuch training became enjoyable and continued as exercise had become a fun lifestyle which complemented beer drinking admirably.

We always 'walked' around our factories, just as we had always walked down the long, long Great Western Road to our digs in Glasgow ... we had to be fit for hockey if we were to make The Wanderers, 2nd XI team. And see below, we walked round London. There were lunch time walks at URL and lengths of the swimming pool every night at The Ikoyi Club and dog walking round the block every day at The Meister ... our mongrel hound forced us round that well worn 1.5 mile block every day at six o'clock dead by her forceful gaze in irresistible longing eyes ... our daily trek had become a unbreakable habit to be continued after the hounds demise ... RIP 'Penny' March 24th 1998 ...

We had learned early on that understanding what was really going on came from walking round our factories to listen to the real talk of the folk and listen to the machines. We got to know folk by walking around with them. Walking around was the way we freed ourself from the bullshiter positions and got at the real McCoy of everyday life. It went back a long way there was even a name for it ... 'management by walking about' ... walking along the dirt roads without climbing into the ivory towers. Sitting and reading about it was an elitist plot, a conspiracy to wash the brain. Walking was always the best way of keeping our feet on the ground ... walking was democratic, liberating, healthy, footloose & fancy free, whimsical and at the heart of the notion of 'psychogeography' (Google it?). We walked and were jolted into a new awareness of folk and the places they inhabited. Above all wandering freely & continuously in pursuit of inspiration was inspirational! We 'drifted' around the London West End during our interregnum in 1979. We were not in suburbia but in the city and felt the pulse of the capital ... slowly, we were allowed to feel the experience a place rather than just pass through it, subtle regional differences. Young people always seemed to want to move away from the places of their youth ... to compare & contrast ... but the best way to get to know Adam the Smith, and what was going on, was over a convivial pint with David Hulme in their home town ... or the next best thing! We retired to the Old Soaps walks and during our Mouldsworth hikes we 'encountered' the village crack, not at the pontificating at the Parish Council Meetings, but at the coal face. Driving cars and on the bus or train folk didn't talk to each other much and found it hard to discover what was really going on ... and crucially 'the real what' was not available on the apps on your iPhone it was likely fake noos ... but we get ahead of ourselves ... 

Technical Director MalawiLooking back, we left Malawi and the Limbe Factory and our lads on a high, the decade of the 1970s was a peak for the Birchalls,

'we had voted with our feet and joined a club of our choice'

There existed an awesome 'cultural & personal fit' with Unilever Overseas. We had reached escape velocity from bureaucratic kluge and understood the business of business!?

We avoided alcoholism through exercise, sorted out 'proper' jobs, educated the kids, excelled at bridge, and started to make a house a home and grow a garden ... only saxophone playing had to wait until later!

 ... and to cap the lot during the 1970s the Unilever overseas businesses proved their worth and kept the whole shebang in grog as Europe & North America succumbed to missiles from P&G ... overseas we scaled the heights and avoided the croppers ... we were heavily involved in directing a profitable business, investing in future developments and leading a factory operation involved in sophisticated technology and a gang of enthusiastic people who we understood and we were happy to call our fiends. Wot more could we want!?      

ScimitarWe were paid well and had a weakness for indulgences as we splashed out on a Reliant Scimitar 3 litre V-6 sports car, just like Princess Anne. Then in 1980 a superior family pad in rural Mouldsworth caught our eye and became our 'family home'.

We also managed a clever investment in a riverside cottage for holidays in the UK.

No 9 Warrington Road on the River Weaver, was part of our great grandpa's Weaver Refining Company in 1900 and provided some protection from the great inflation of the 1970s for our Overseas Bonus? In 1974 this little homestead cost £3,000, and after the council had paid us for a spanking new bathroom, toilet & kitchen, we sold it in 1999 for £45,000. 450% gravy, real estate was king!

And there was more ... the more the politicos taxed, borrowed and printed the dollars in a vain attempt to keep the peace, the more & more asset price rose ... like clockwork ... funny that?

We also placed a meagre 'some' of our hard earned savings into gold & diamonds ... and the Selmer Mark VI Soprano Saxophone ... rash? or stoopid? or inspirational? ... we'll never know ... funny that?

Cmpound InterestAs Einstein noted some folk understood compound interest and earned it, the 8th wonder of the world, those that didn't paid the price!

But throughout the 1970s it was the convivial pints we remembered ... they were everywhere and seemed to get cheaper and more easily found for a host of reliable friends ... time and time again we found we could pick up conversations left unfinished years & years ago ... with deeper & deeper friends.

 And we confirmed that one of the big pluses of the 'overseas circuit' was the depth of the friendships ... not only the expatriates, but also the Head Office smarts ... and the local indigenes who, more often than not, were good skins and seemingly grateful for our help ... and invited us for beer.     

We did a brilliant job at the Limbe Factory and on the Board, not because of our nous & wit but because of the encouragement & trust of Peter Batchelor, Alf Coathup & Dick Stevens and the OSC ... and the enthusiasm & effort of Fred Katimba, David Crawford & friends who were all 'on board' and did all the hard work.

We left 'Malawi' on a high, on the Board of a successful overseas business!  

:drink    back to first round    


London Interludes     

1979-82 Interregnum with the Overseas Committee

Unilever HouseCentral London in the late 1970s was splendid place to park and wait for the next job.

The Overseas Committee pad in Unilever House had always been a hub of sociability with beer drinking friends ... but it proved to be impossible to locate the central hub of the network we had joined back in 1971 ... such a focal point did not exist ... the operational expertise, the 'know how' of our network was -

- diverse, dispersed, tacit & incomplete

- complex, changing, conflicting & scarce

'know how' involved future unintended consequences & responses , all unknowable parts of a complex adaptive system ... we were just passing through ... !

But things had changed on the 4th floor. The OSC we enjoyed on our last leave was full of friends & mentors but it appeared to us that the hallowed space was now occupied by strangers & tormentors. On some other floors at HQ they knew how to spend the money that we had earned in the OSC. They spent it on bureaucracy ... a massive 12% of NSV ... insidious costs ominously labeled 'indirects'.

Back from Malawi, on the crest of a wave and on the 'B list', sponsored by MJC, DH, RWA, Peter & Jim, AC & Dick (all of whom had inconveniently disappeared) ... we went headlong into the battles of the competing fiefdoms ... DW had an unemployed Technical Director on his hands and a problem ... 'Birchall? Who's Birchall? Is he black?' ... JL & EG had previously proposed a job in the OSC as an Overseas Technical Officer ... enthusiastically great! ... but the OSC was being infiltrated by strangers on a mission ... and now there was no sign of our friends in the OSC Department.

There were new masters on seat ... and as our friends Frank Martin & Willie Vale suggested -

 'strange happenings, events which could not have been predicted in a month of Sundays'  

Out of the blue there was an alternative opportunity suggested at Vinyl Products, Carshalton; an alien domain. It didn't materialise ... some said we were self effacing & diffident? Was this because our old beer drinking friends were always around with appetising alternatives? ... like Bill Fulton in Foods Coordination and Abidogun, now Chairman of UAC, who tempted us back to join Liptons in Apapa ... but the JFP personnel system refused to contemplate such a 'waste' and sent us on a beer fest at Four Acres instead - Senior Engineering, Technical & Production Managers Course - May 29th - June 8th 1979 ... this was brilliant as we renewed friendships with many old soaks ... and we caught up with Ram Charan again.

We had some great fun explaining what Unilever looked like through the bottom of a beer glass as we explored Unilever's strengths & weaknesses - 

  M&A strength - financial expertise which funded the purchase of successful innovations

  R&D weakness - 'bottomless pit of expense' rather than 'an overflowing well of invention'. 

Many were unconvinced by 'speaking the truth to power' but they managed to laugh and buy more beer.

We settled into our temporary parking slot at our riverside cottage, No 9 Warrington Road, and started commuting Mondays & Fridays to Unilever House from Acton Bridge Station ... and waited. 'Personnel', the makers of peace and tranquility were faffing about and couldn't say boo to a goose and it appeared the best that the 'new' OSC could do was to ask the 'new' Chairman in Malawi, Paul St John Wilson, if john p could remain in his current position for another year! This was after the appointment of our successor, the mighty George Mungwira, had already been confirmed and was 'on seat'. George had been well groomed by Bill Vale in Unilever Export and was well ensconced on the job. What a mess.

David BruceThe great David Bruce was a refugee from Thailand and was 'waiting' in the OSC at the same time ... as he suggested we were in 'limboland' like so many before ... and after us ... but wot a thrash we had as we were housed at The Waldorf ... this was John de Soyres' favourite hotel, before he sheepishly moved us on to The Drury Lane Hotel where the parking fee was much reduced. Then there was beer in the Senior Manager's mess at St Bridget's House. Our old mate from the days of 'Miscellaneous Products Division' at Port Sunlight, W R F 'Willie' Vale came up trumps and we received a coveted invitation to join the biggest boozers in Unilever House ... what bliss ... we had really made it and at last could sort Unilever out over a pint ... with Willie, Ruth M, Margaret S, John Mac, Frank & John Kerr ... and the beer was superb. 

There was further excitement with the girls when we had a moonlit thrash on the Thames aboard The Silver Barracuda with whoever was in London at the time ... the OSC were making big money ... we deserved a celebration & a beer ... or two.

Amongst the festivities there was some farcical time spent at an empty desk in TIS and more farcical time in a corridor in ORAC ... but there were yet more convivial pints as the 'Overseas Club' survived reorganisation, even if the Overseas Committee didn't.

At the time the OSC was wilting under an onslaught from alien fiefdoms bent on arrogant ego trips & power grabs.

Frank Martin Frank Martin summed it all up - 

'1976 was a year of changes within the OSC, and of strange happenings, events which could not have been predicted in a month of Sundays'.

Wot an abject mess ... wot a pretty pickle.

Our timing was impeccable, Alf & Dick had passed on and Frank & Willie were the only guys around who remembered us and they continued to befriend, guide and mentor ... the view of Unilever from the bottom of a beer glass was 20/20 ... we remained convinced that all these knotty questions were best viewed this way ... most of the fractious issues of folk were soluble in alcohol ... and Frank & Willie always bought their rounds.

The profits from overseas success had attracted the predators from Europe ... someone suggested we should abandon the risky 'overseas circuit' and opt for reintegration back into the Detergents Coordination bureaucracy and the cuddly warmth of Head Office and partake of a share in Unilever's astronomical '12% indirects' ... the official 'advice' was to disassociate oneself from foods, edible fats and toilet preps and 'other hapless fish washed up on the beach gasping' and start 'massaging for rewards' the brown upstarts in DC ... and the salt was that the 'job class' back in the stultifying bureaucracy in Europe was actually lower than in the profitable environment overseas ... and we knew at the time that the perpetrator of this heresy had been 'black balled' by the true grit of our real friends. The new OSC line remained indigenisation but with zero expatriates without a home base and 'return ticket' ... and our bureaucracy was deemed to be DC. The profitable productive ties of friendships and beer were not so easily broken ... so we had another round ... or two with Willie, the Bruce, John Kerr and Frank ... we noted also that EWLW had fretted about problems with 'the lack of broad experience in Europe for some of the OSC jobs'?

In our time TIS was a technical bag carrying service for Senior Managers ... a paper processing unit which was used to provided bright young wannabes with a taste of the Head Office bureaucracy ... and kluge.

ORAC was new and grew out of an intimate and friendly 'Overseas Section' which gave overseas Technical Directors direct access to research scientists. Technology was sucked out of R&D to solve local problems. But unfortunately ORAC became embroiled in the overseas power grab and the eternal internal battles between OSC, Coordination and Unilever Research ... things got real messy ... the networking synergies had been sidelined and the arrogant impositions started ... plenty of angst but no sign of any beer? We were particularly appalled by the attempted arrogant imposition of doubtful technology on a successful overseas TD in one of our brightest emerging markets, Indonesia ... wot on earth was going on? We needed two rounds to cope.

MJC always insisted that Technical Directors were business men and not bureaucrats and should be carefully selected networking executives ... and AG wrote insightfully on business driven R&D.

OSC TDs wrestled with the 'R&D problem' ... what were the overseas TDs getting for their 12% indirect charge? ... surely not snake oil? Were the successful business TDs providing useful input for the R&D programme?

We remembered discussing the seething issue with OSC Director JL at one of our business reviews - 

'somehow such a large 12% indirect charge must deliver some real value for companies in terms of quality & innovations ... it was not a tax'!

... we recalled that this conversation was rather important as it was continued in the gents loo after some beer!

Some time later our discussions & conclusions were relayed to HQ when ORAC was trying to be meaningful ... we suggested any potential 'way in' for R&D overseas must give some coherence to the diverse realities of the overseas TDs. Some local TDs may well have welcomed some direct support with Quality Assurance of the total supply chain for Unilever Global Brands overseas ... if such was to be 'sucked' out of central research rather than 'imposed' from an arrogant central bureaucracy. Confusion and atrophy prevailed, it was the local environments that were diverse not the empirical science ... underneath the soap pans in Apapa two things were clear:

technology solved problems 

problems queued up

... so let's have a beer and get on with the job! ... or as our favourite networkers used to say, pick up the telephone and get on with the job!

This was the strategy we had developed with Jim Louden in Malawi and were later to learn from Ken Durham as outlined in his Unilever as a multi local multi national ... unfortunately the timing was all wrong and such suggestions were unwanted contributions for desperate Fiefs and were contemptuously dismissed without discussion ... as the fiefdoms fought on ... so we had another pint ... and regrouped.

In this way the 2 year wait in TIS & ORAC turned out to be unexciting parking lots ... for sure we looked at the alternatives outside Unilever during this interregnum but should we 'go with the flow' or 'fight the folly'? ... the only strategy from a diminutive base in the corridor of the URL bureaucracy was both! ... we were in the tent pissing rather than outside the tent pissing in ... the problem was the perceived arrogance of DC by many overseas Technical Directors which was interestingly described by Geoffrey Jones -

'The RDAU was specifically charged with transferring and applying fully developed product and process technology to operating companies, then ORAC was set up to provide specialised resources for overseas markets. It was assumed that there was a ready consumer market for products based on the developed technologies ... and they hardly felt the need to seek views'.

It was assumed there was a business market for the innovative R&D Detergent goodies ... and the Technical Directors who smelt 'snake oil', were assassinated.

Nigel Clayton hit nails on the head - 

'Detergents Coordination wanted a more centralised organisation. And when ever there was an opening somewhere they would try to get their people appointed. At times this was a subculture which bordered on arrogance'. See Geoffrey Jones 2005.

Frank Martin,  suggested -

'The young managers on the International Management Seminars were much too keen to establish themselves in their own companies in their own countries to contemplate the challenge of going overseas'.

The other Product Coordinations didn't seem to behave this way, they drank beer. Regretfully we never managed to have a pint with Nigel Clayton but our local beer drinking mate Dr Morton enjoyed friendship with this oracle.

The great Frank Martin and David Bruce had often pointed out to us over our convivial pints that the successful history of Unilever's innovations had always relied heavily on acquisitions ... in fact acquiring innovative products and technology was perhaps the most enduring of Unilever's a long established 'core competences'.

Unilever was a great company, always close to the customer. Was Unilever better at propitious acquisitions than R&D?

In 1972 the McKinsey look see into URL had merely confirmed that R&D was a major 'investment' and needed focus and the wraps taken off academia. There was no answer to the Charles Wilson question; was R&D a 'bottomless pit of expense' or an 'overflowing well of invention'? An ongoing problem, addressed by Ashok Ganguly's Business Driven R&D in 1999 ... how best to secure value for money from R&D? A mad scramble was evident ... umpteen 'technology transfer units' desperately attempted to deliver some business goodies from R&D in return for the 12% indirect charge?

How did all this square with local autonomy, close to the customers and networking Technical Directors. Were the overseas executive & networking Technical Directors to become mere 'receptors' of 'specifications' or were they 'suckers' of 'know how' for their more autonomous businesses ... the difference was chalk or cheese ... snake oil or innovation .... fear or excitement ... loss or profit?

We had plenty of friends and support from the overseas world ... and a clear vision ... after all we had learned underneath the soap pans in Apapa and secured a 'B' management potential listing in Limbe? And once again it was our friends from the 'overseas circuit' who guaranteed fun and a smile ... so we had another beer and regrouped.

One investment area at this time, South America was a delight, we didn't speak the language and just pretended to shout louder, but it didn't seem to matter as friendships thrived in any language and all good 'suckers' were desperate to speak Unilever English as it was a possible solution to their problems ... networking was in English but execution was whatever ... but over a convivial pint or two language didn't matter a jot.

Guayaquil FilthAnd then there was Guayaquil and an opportunity to buy another tea shirt from Unilever Overseas. Guayaquil was without a Unilever factory and the arse hole of the world.

In 1980 we became embroiled in how folk really washed their clothes & dishes in foreign countries where happenings were very different amongst the filth of cholera, typhoid and hepatitis. Although customers the world over may have wanted clean clothes, product cost effectiveness varied with different habits and cultures ... and the Unilever business opportunity was different ... products were to be tailored to the locals.

We had to learn and understand these differences. It was the local environment that were diverse not the empirical science.   

Every wannabe tourist who indulged in 'traveling the world' and dared to brag about their cosmopolitan credentials should have Guayaquil on their bucket list. Holidays in The Benidorm Hyatt feeding on fish, chips & mushy peas was great fun but added little to the real benefits of understanding different cultures.

But those who wanted fun and exercise to avoid slouching on the couch were better off walking to the pub than visiting Guayaquil!

Unilever Accounting ManualDuring our interregnum we mulled things over something rotten.

We never lost the plot and reassuringly we had much more success later with the fraught problem of technology transfer when in 1986 we set up the 'Master Projects' ... the local executive Technical Director, 'the customer', in the Chair.

We knew working in risky Unilever Zone 'A' tropical countries provided an opportunity for able young men to learn about Unilever and business ... and save some rainy day funds for the family and at the same time enjoy an exciting & challenging joy ride and drink some beer. Unilever grew businesses overseas because there were rewards for risk & enterprise if governments didn't get in the way. But, of course, governments did get in the way. Perhaps through envy and greed, or maybe simple misunderstanding we were constantly plagued by the 'lock him up he's rich' brigade. Furthermore rewards for risk were also resented by those who stayed at home and put up with obsolete mature markets ... and in our case inefficient education and health services for the kids. As far as our kids were concerned Nanny State didn't know best. Nanny was both incompetent & suffocating with its futile attempts to reduce risk and orchestrate conformity. We had other ideas and voted with our feet and joined a club of our choice.

 We managed to convince David Bruce to see the light and there were stark lessons for businesses ... especially overseas ... the bills had to be honestly paid ... and corruption rooted out. Following David's perspicacious understanding of the value of propitious acquisitions ... and after we had sunk our convivial pints ... his second claim to fame & friendship was based on his erudite tax teachings and moral compass which we enjoyed long before we studied evolutionary economics -

'I have instructed my MP that it is every citizen’s moral duty to avoid tax to the maximum extent legally possible in order to deprive worthless & cash strapped party politicos of the where-with-all to squander our hard earned rainy day funds on bribes to voting interest groups via their own immoral grandiose ego trips. Our rainy day funds are wealth that they, the politicos, have proved incapable of creating themselves. They Sir, have a moral duty to avoid inefficient complexity and make tax simple, easy to collect & to understand and to spend such funds prudently & wisely'!

The difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion was the thickness of a prison wall which was wearing thin. We global traders working in countries for mutual benefits spent almost as much time & effort trying to understand tax systems as working on brands & technology. As we studied the unimpeachable Unilever Accounts Manual we knew that it was all nous; tax was a cost and all investment proposals calculated project DCFs after taxes.

The irrepressible case against waste & inefficiency was summarised later during our studies of evolutionary economics at The Open University -

'There was always an immoral clamour for more & more tax revenues to be wasted on more & more ego trips. This kerfuffle was only demolished by the moral imperative to spend other people's means wisely on innovation & diversity that customers wanted ... as Darwin had taught'.

A position supported by Adam the Smith with his simple, easy & understandable taxes and Lord Clyde's judgment -

‘No man in this country is under the smallest obligation, moral or otherwise, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or his property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest shovel into his stores. The tax payer is entitled to be astute to prevent, so far as he honestly can, the depletion of his means by the Inland Revenue’

Such judgments were easily forgotten and instead there was the GAAR - 'General Anti Abuse Regulation' where 'reasonable' folk, may 'reasonably' ask what was 'reasonable'? ... but the reality was that everybody seemed to be emotionally repulsed by the immoral spending of tax revenues on waste and grandiose schemes ... the squandering our very own rainy day funds was not on ... we remembered the conclusion of David Fieldhouse -

'The profitability of Unilever subsidiaries overseas was determined less by efficiency than by government policy and the way it was implemented by the local bureaucracy'.

Unbelievable ... did we really spend time over a convivial pint discussing taxation with the Bruce? Maybe we did, but we certainly had some fun ... and some beer. We drank each night in the Senior Managers mess in St Bridget's House and organised a nite out on the town each week ... we enjoyed some classics; 'Alien' and 'Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat' and more ... and on Unilever expenses, we ate at The Leicester Square Steak House and many many fine restaurants ... and in an effort to neutralise the effects of the beer we walked everywhere and knew every nook and cranny of the West End and the City around Blackfriars Head Office ... we absorbed the different and diverse cultures of Soho, Drury Lane, Covent Garden, Smithfield, Billingsgate, Fleet Street... and the attractions of The Strand, Holborn, Tottenham Court Road, Oxford Street, Park Lane and Piccadilly and all in between ... and we even went south of the river to encompass the delights of UAC on Blackfriars Road and Engineering Division at Brandon House ... and of course the various runs up to Euston Station for the trains to Crewe via the British Museum and The Bloomsbury Bookshop! One memorable night was spent at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club on Frith Street in Soho where we drank beer during a long wait at a front row table before eventually Dizzy Birks Gillespie appeared and played unbelievable jazz.

In 2018 it was tough and so very sad, we lost a mate ... but we only remembered the good times and the fun. 'The Bruce' was a 'brick', a true reliable friend and a beer drinker ... we thought the same way ... years and years later he still remembered all the fun and started writing up his memories of fun ... typical, only the fun ... thanks for sharing times ... together we discovered convivial pints in every pub in Fleet Street ... remember that time we had a beer with a young journalist and 'wound him up' about making Unilever customers happy with gifts of plastic tulips as he held companies must never be allowed to go bankrupt 'cos jobs were lost ... fun, endless fun ... thanks again and now we look forward to meeting again in the celestial tavern in the sky and hearing those enticing words, ‘thanks The Bruce and mine’s a pint!’ ...  ?

RIP David G Bruce January 15th 2018.

In 1982 after two years embroiled in the battles of the fiefdoms we returned to Unilever overseas for sustenance ... a factory had run amuck and desperately needed sorting out ... such was the stuff of our pie.  

We were a tad miffed that this opportunity was an uncanny repetition of the OSC strategy for 'the Nigerian problem' from Alf Coathup & Co in 1972 ... companies don't learn, it was the folk that learned and the folk that learned had gone went ...

It seemed we were 'available' but there were new kids on the block with a new brief ... the good news was we enjoyed massive switched on contributions from stalwarts Malcolm Duns and Ron Stirzaker ... let's go this was going to be fun. 

:drink    back to first round    


Managing Overseas Complexity, Change, Conflict & Scarcity

1982-84 Ademola Street, Ikoyi

Ikoyi Survival KitThe Unilever Information Bulletin was used to announce all Senior Management appointments in those days and in January 1982 the bulletin promptly announced the new challenge.

Back on the West Coast it was almost 10 years to the day after our first sweltering trip down the Ikorodu Road ... but this time was different. The kids were at school in the UK swanning it at Ellesmere College and The Grange School when we took the new Tin Can Island Expressway and this time chose the posh side of town and the Ikoyi Club for our passions. We hit the ground running, our Ikoyi Survival Kit was renowned throughout the expatriate community ... bridge every day, 20 lengths of the pool every evening and to cap it off and quell the stench & stifling dust of Dockyard Road ... ice cold 'Stars' ... always complemented by a ravishing 'Club Sandwich' which was a meal in itself ... although Carole with an 'e' insisted it was all a lottery with local hygiene ... 99 out of 100 were scrumptious but the one always 'gotcha'. This was our favorite pic of CM ... sacrifice with a smile.

The Ademola Street 'apartments' were fully air-conditioned with 'standby' generators, boasted doubled security and enjoyed easy access to luscious Lebanese food readily available close by ... and we guaranteed ample bottles of beer for friends ... it was almost cosy adequacy. The go slows were by passed by an automatic canoe which skipped across the Lagos lagoon in a minute to the factory jetty ... and our reliable personal driver Chris Uzoigwe with his cool Peejot Saloon was always waiting on hand ... Chris topped our recruitment effort, a smiling if not devout Catholic, who relished his job of 'protecting Madam' from the hostile environment ... often perhaps apologetically questioning, 'why don't white men jump queue like everybody else? ... we're still learning Madam'? We gave him a 'v.g. plus' and a pay rise. But many happenings were still ridiculously corrupt, stubbornly chaotic, infuriatingly unresponsive and made worse by the oppressive heat and fecundity of the pathogens ... we reckoned we earned in spades our Tropical Zone A Bonus and Overseas Pension. But for sure we couldn't have survived without our deep friendships which developed and thrived over the cool beers.    

We drank with Malcolm Duns, Bertie Piera, Baron Steen von Irgens-Bergh, Ron Stirzaker, Julien Fierens, Ernst Koster and Chris Weeks ... wot a gang ... we didn't sort out the business but the factories were on a roll. Aba and Agbara brand new and Apapa simplified with quality up and costs down but it must be said that Chris Weeks could never understand why we had to wash the Lagos Lagoon twice a week.

How to stabilise and secure improvements for the longer term? The interminable challenge remained and by now the new arrogant Unilever fiefdoms back home were in the middle of meddlement and another scrap ... the new lot didn't drink much.

But the Ademola Street pad was home to regular beer parties for the gang ... one ... two ... three ... four ... five ... six ... seven ...

This gang of friends made life fun for us during our second stint in West Africa, a wonderful social mix of characters, nationalities, disciplines, aptitudes and skills ... all of them mavericks who confronted the Unilever bureaucratic kluge and contributed immensely to getting the job done ... thank you fellas! 

Baron Steen was remembered for his enthusiasm, always urging more doing ... particularly he had zero doubt about the purchase in 1982 for £2,600 of a 1.07 plot of land for cows on Commonside, Alvanley ... the most expensive acre of land in the kingdom? But this was precious remnant from Uncle James' farm when the old Greenway family farm became uneconomic as agricultural policy struck hard times in 1970s. In 2020 during the rural flight from Covid, this paddock 2 miles from The Meister was reported to be an invaluable accoutrement when the time came to sell The Meister?

RIP Baron Steen von Irgens-Bergh, 8th Jan 2022 ... always smiling ... always fun   

Chris Weeks was a special friend because we first met way back in 1968 at Four Acres at a beer drinking indoctrination course and we were side by side as we smiled at the camera and then from this auspicious foundation we enjoyed similar Unilever trajectories into and out of Africa. We were there in Unilever House for his retirement party. 

RIP Chris Weeks June 2022 ... long time fun from 1968   

Thomas, our wonderfully competent steward, fed us all until he absconded after our first tour ... but Carole with an 'e' couldn't half cook.

On arrival in 1982 we were both aghast and agog to see the backsliding in the factory ... when we left after our 1972 stint we had established the considerable opportunity following investment in the latest technology at a spanking new powders factory in Aba and decontaminated Apapa complexity with plans for specialist food production in far away Agbara. Sustaining improvements was always a problem. Perhaps management changed too frequently? ... or was the Unilever culture difficult to ingrain? ... Unileverisation was far more than following the Accounts Manual and the 'Blue Book Specifications'.

Alarmingly we discovered that many of the best local technicals had left the club and many of those guys had been first rate ... and had been keen to be part of the club,

'I would walk through walls for some of these expatriates ... but not all'!

1982 the Apapa factory was a sprawling mess which involved a cast of 1,500 folk milling around looking for scraps to pinch ... 'Coordination' could not supply the handbook with the necessary instructions, they were out of their depth ... but Malcolm Duns having built the new factories was now on the job and Malcolm, an old overseas sweat, was a great bloke to work with ... we concurred.

Malcolm had done a brilliant job building the new specialised factories; detergents at Aba and foods at Agbara and the rest at Apapa  ... and he was now the Technical Director of the whole show ... a propitious move as Malcolm knew the country, the company, the people and his stuff. Despite, or maybe because of, his business effectiveness Malcolm was a target for the marauding fighters from the fiefdoms back home. We both endured pathetic attempts at assassination ... but we were both beer drinkers, synced instantly and got off to a flyer. We both knew what was needed at Apapa ... downsizing & simplification ... people & costs out and quality & reliability in ... easy to say but how could it come to pass? ... with the help of reliable engineering from Ron Stirzaker and hard work at the coal face over a few more pints ... the whole show was now going to be led by old hands who had bought the T-shirt.

We recalled that first up on day 1 was a head count ... on day 2 there was a blow up as Department Managers, Personnel Records and Payroll Departments all came up with different figures! We didn't know how many folk were supposed to be working in our factory! ... and worse ... it transpired that we were paying good naira for some unknown folk who never bothered to work on the site, and only turned up on pay day!

We knew about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Don't believe the figures, ignorance & chaos was the norm. Discover the good bits and grow what works. We also knew first hand back home in HQ there was bureaucratic kluge and Apapa was a career buster. 

We had another beer ... if we were going to help these guys the first stage was to find out how many folk were trying to improved the abysmal quality of Lux Toilet Soap ... we could, of course, do it all ourselves but the same effort was required for the whole product portfolio ... then the costs were out of line ... and the services and the distribution ... our brief was 'to get a grip' ... 'bang some heads together' ... 'all the basic procedures had been detailed by old Technical Directors years ago' ... the popular refrain was that it was all about 'management' ... but was it really 'a management problem'? We remembered the the early saga of the Apapa Generators!   

We had another beer ... although a threat of physical violence to the family was below the belt we managed to keep the unions sweet ... and we kept the body fit ... 30 lengths in 29 minutes ...

The beer was just as good as in 1972 and there were still a limited few members of the club around who saw the opportunity ... teeming millions and big bucks in soap ... but for most in the fiefdoms, Apapa was an unsavoury basket case ... it was complicated as it became a playing field for fractious fiefdoms each hoping for dominance in their zero sum world ... but sustaining productive improvements required special business skills not dictums from the centre but rather continuity and local autonomy ... a culture ... after all Unilever was a multi local multi national? 

Hindustan Lever

Prakash TandonHindustan Lever became our model; a fascinating overseas business, full of character and characters ... and local autonomy. We had all read Prakash Tandon (1911-2004) and his three books; 'Punjabi Century', 'Beyond Punjab' (dedicated to Andrew Knox) & 'Return to Punjab' ... quite extraordinary perspicacity. We had been further excited and indoctrinated 'by these fascinating stories of virile people', initially with Vijay Bhalla in the Glasgow watering holes and then with Ashok Ganguly at Four Acres and became hooked after extensive 'working' and 'training' visits to the Bombay Factory where we indulged ourselves in the intricate foibles of 3,500 employees and learned how they 'by passed the blockages to let the blood flow'. The Bombay Factory was teeming with complexity and challenges but we found that there was a welcoming buzz and real opportunities ... and then in Nigeria in we met another stalwart from the subcontinent our good friend and confidant Bertie Piera.

Subcontinent at 75Hindustan Lever, a great company, had been inhibited somewhat by the vagaries of history and then by socialist governments ... a political, entrenched,  bureaucratic, economic command & control minefield. From the Raj to the Congress Party. Socialist folly led to cries for self reliance, import substitution, nationalisation, state command & control, 5 year plans, corruption, arbitrary & retrospective taxes ... all hindered progress nevertheless the size & scope of the entrepreneurial resilience & zest of heroes like Vijay & Ashok was obvious. 

We concurred wholeheartedly with the Geoffrey Jones conclusions about The Raj and Hindustan Lever -

'Extensive government planning sought to guide and control the private sector. High levels of taxation resulted in India neither seeking nor receiving foreign multinational investment. Unilever opted to negotiate rather than divest. A number of factors were important in Unilever's survival and growth in India; a long established presence, commitment to localisation provided a strong management cadre able to negotiate concessions'.

This was the important fruit of the indigenisation policy; local senior managers negotiated commercial concessions from errant host governments. We remembered the Sukarno years in Indonesia where the Unilever company hung on in there during the profitless commercial chaos of the Indonesian Communist Party but to be rewarded by a superb company serving 255 million folk by 2015. And while we were in Malawi Jim Louden asked us to look at the Zambian factory after Kaunda had neutered the company ... but it wasn't the factory that presented a production problem but rather local government and their bureaucratic anti business policy. Similar perseverance, decentralisation and local autonomy were also appropriate for Lever Brothers Nigeria ... in the early 1970s there was an attempt to 'nationalise' the company (buying a majority stake at a P/E of 1½) but the new 'owners' accepted expensive service fees and brand licenses from Unilever as the cost of staying in business ... it was also clear that Ken Durham's strategy of Unilever as a multi local multi national company suggested that centralised business edicts from London & Rotterdam were anathema.

Industrial DeregulationHLL's distinctive company culture continued to thrive particularly after Rajiv Gandhi, V P Singh and the 'New Industrial Policy 1991' (deregulation / liberalisation / privatisation / globalisation inflection point ... aka structural reforms) ... the party continued into the new millennium as Hindustan Unilever Limited.

Was HLL itself big enough to be itself a Unilever fiefdom as some suggested? 16,000 folk were directly involved in the company which produced a series of CEO who rose to the main Unilever Board and who were able to both champion local autonomy within the central core competences and also had the business stature to influence the socialist onslaught on corporate India. 

The OSC and an erstwhile Vice Chairman of HLL, knew how important local autonomy & indigenisation had been to the fortunes of HLL ... and although local R&D in HLL enjoyed a fine innovative reputation ... it was innovations from propitious M&A that took the biscuit (remember Lipton, Brook Bond, Chesebrough Ponds, Tata Oil Mills and Tata Lakme ... and the Modern Foods privatisation?).

Arthur LewisTime & again the economic reality overseas became clearer. Underneath the soap pans in Apapa we had learned a lot about Unilever and World Development and in 1979 we were tickled pink when Sir Arthur Lewis was awarded the Nobel Prize for economics. From his studies at The London School of Economics and Manchester University his brilliant Theory of Economic Growth was published in 1955. This model seemed to us to be spot on. Overseas development seemed to be all about -

Lewisian Turning Points and the middle class bulge which followed -

irrepressible instincts of curiosity about bog standard practical survival

Unshackling India was huge. If The Congress Party could change its tune there was hope and a breath of fresh air ... big time ... years of ideological baggage & rhetoric were ditched & disowned. Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi would have been apoplectic. If governments got out of the way, the middle classes would grow ... our customers were no longer in ex growth Europe but Overseas development ... and once the Less Developed Countries had learned how to protect their market economies from the looting machines of their bureaucratic despots ... the middle class bulge would present a massive opportunity for Unilever ... and local competitors.

Hindsight revealed the historical sequence for Unilever Overseas; to the 1920s entrepreneurial trade & imperialism, 1920s to 1980s independence & socialism, from 1980s onwards liberalisation & globalisation.

But had Unilever been 'fair' to the host countries in their selection of senior expatriate management? Or was the selection process itself part of the subcultures of the fiefdoms which bordered on arrogance, as Geoffrey Jones had reported?

TajmahalUnilever TeaFun to record ... we extracted far more insights into our own overseas operations from Bombay, Mumbai from 1995, than London ... from Bombay we enjoyed understanding, from London we received directives ... perhaps, in turn, we understood India following from our close friendship and beer drinking with Vijay Bhalla at University ... syndicate mate Ashok Ganguly at Four Acres ... and reading Prakash Tandon books.

We enjoyed Bombay ... many old friends, opportunity, diversity, energy, entrepreneurial buzz ... we reflected later on the success of businessmen & women from India -

Alphabet - Sundar Pichai 
Adobe - Shantanu Narayen 
Barclays - CS Venkatakrishnan 
Chanel - Unilever - Leena Nair 
FedEx - Raj Subramaniam
Gap - Sonia Syngal 
IBM - Arvind Krishna 
Microsoft - Satya Nadella 
PepsiCo - Indra Nooyi 
Starbucks - Reckitt Benckiser - PepsiCo - Laxman Narasimhan 
Twitter - Parag Agrawal 

... sorry for the many we've missed ...

The Taj Mahal pad in Bombay provided more convivial pints than we can ever hope to remember ... Bombay always housed a concentration of old friends Ashok Ganguly, Sachit Raychaudhuri, Prem Chadha, Bertie Piera, Jagdish Chopra, Vinod Punshi, Prem Maker, Sunil Sahni, Vijay Grover, Gurdeep Singh, C V Narasimhan ... all paid up members of the Club ... perhaps we took tea with these stalwarts more often than beer ... but it tasted just as good. 

Bertie PieraBack in Apapa we spent happy hours around the fat trap with HLL enthusiast, Bertie Piera, an ace from Goa. Bertie had been steeped in the eclectic mix in HLL and Unilever factory workings ... but above all of his accomplishments, he had managed to corner a superb culinary aficionado, the delightful Hazel ... it was Hazel who showered us with extreme hospitality and endless scrumptious curries ... and we learned yet more about the fascinating Indian culture

We recalled that MLD had been rewarded for his admirable execution of intent and proven longevity by an enviable position in Hindustan Lever. We had a glimmer of hope but it was dashed as Malcolm himself succumbed to the feuding fiefdoms before he even got off the plane. FM should have warned him?

So as we left Nigeria in 1984 the factory reorganisations were successfully completed & the manufacturing strategies detailed ... and we hoped that the lessons for Unilever success overseas had been learned by the local managers ... specialised factory technologies, cast of thousands cut to the bone of a simplified flat line management structure without interfering staff functions ... costs down, quality and reliability up ... and another beer. 

Alas, at Head Office, the fighting fiefdoms were escalating their invective. Wary, we ventured into another great West African trading company John Holt Ltd and we were propositioned for more highly paid excitement ... but we concluded that there must much better opportunities within the vast global Unilever that we loved ... it looked like we were a one company phenomena and we went with the flow ... if Unilever could not offer excitement & bread, no other company could ... we were right but the happenings were not as expected ... although we certainly discovered more of the convivial pints that made life and friends fun! 

There was one infuriating postscript to our endeavours in Ikoyi. As we left and said our personal farewell to friends we were owed some £3,500 (1984 money) by The Bank of Nigeria ... imagine how many beers ... and liver failures? The funds were frozen and could only to be thawed out by the ubiquitous 'dash' which we refused to pay ... we were tickled by a personal gift from Michael Omolayole ... 'only for special expatriates' ... we remembered many convivial pints with Michael who in his own way was a very convivial gent ... and certainly a member of the 'club'. 

We mulled happenings over ... Unilever's long term strategy in Africa was sustainability, from early days of plantation management at Sapele and indigenisation, as we prepared the way and manufacturing strategies for George Mungurira at Limbe and Sammy Ohiosimuan at Apapa ... we concurred right to the end.
We welcomed Michael Omolayole, Sam Ikenzie, Philip Obi, Iriah, Fred Katimaba, Hassan as social friends, paid up good eggs as members of the Unilever club ... but some doubts lingered ... 'sustainability' & 'indigenisation' were up against tough cultural and systemic complexity, change, conflict & scarcity ... it was a big ask? ... but the alternative had no chance? 

It was clear that the 'overseas circuit' had been superseded by an 'indigenisation' policy which we supported. Any necessary help/guidance in future was to come from specialised secondees from the 'mainstream' Unilever fiefdoms. OK, but we knew that the social glue for a cohesive culture should never sacrificed for short term expedience ... the foundation for all successful overseas ventures was Unilever's knitting; the social glue. Furthermore, in Europe, mature markets, P&G and DOBs had turned Unilever sour and there were tempting challenges in the search for a reliable personal income stream.

We did a brilliant job at the Apapa Factory not because of our nous & wit but because of the encouragement & trust of MLD and the enthusiasm & effort of Ron Stirzaker, Iriah, Hassan, Philip Obi, Famurewa & friends who were all 'on board' and did all the hard work.

When we left the West Coast in 1984 there was no longer an 'overseas circuit' ... but the vast expense of education & health for the kids was on a secure trajectory ... and the house & garden with the Mouldsworth aspect were top drawer. We were in good nick but some beer drinking friends like Parsnips and the Bruce were redunded in around 1983 ...

We left 'Apapa' on a high, we had demonstrated the effectiveness of our overseas manufacturing strategy in real time ... immensely satisfying ... but Europe was on a different page! 

Perhaps Europe could learn something from overseas? The overwhelming importance of folk and their social cultures? The view of Unilever through the bottom of a beer glass was 20/20!

The 1980s were about consolidation, we had learned our trade and confidently knew how to pay the bills ... we knew -

'vision without finance was an hallucination'

but 'luckily' we had both ... but we also knew it wasn't 'luck' ... Gary Player's words often rang in our ears,

'funny but the harder I practice the luckier I get'!

We told anyone who would listen that ... perhaps ... it was all about,

'hard work, honesty & thrift' ... with beer?

:drink    back to first round    


The Meister, CH3 8AR - Home and the 1980s

The Meister 1980In 1980 Carole with an 'e' settled into The Meister and john p settled into The Goshawk. There was something special about a family home ... wonder & be grateful ...

The great attraction of The Meister, Smithy Lane, Mouldsworth was that it was within crawling distance of a Greenalls haven; The Goshawk. Such proximity in no way detracted from the attraction of Carole who always loved driving to more distant hostelries ... a devotion which seemed to blossom after the drink drive laws were introduced.

Grannie & Grandpa loved The Meister and Gran & Gramps too ... although the proximity of The Goshawk didn't seem to feature in their motivations.

In this way in 1984, with gay abandon (and a tinge of sadness?), suitcases were largely swapped for settlement in rural Mouldsworth. There was no apparent harm to the family nor mum & dad ... and by 1986 we sometimes even drank wine at home ... some said we had become domesticated and we even cultivated the land and attended to animal husbandry. The garden was our pride & joy and our relaxing therapy. We had some grand plans which were constantly interrupted by couch grass and burrowing badgers. 

And one day we even managed to get 'Edley out of the pub and into the dining room.

Life in rural Cheshire had many attractions ... did they all spring from a long and fascinating Deep History of Folk & Cows in Rural Cheshire ... families and friends many long since dead?

The Goshawk, CH3 8AJ - Greenalls

Back in the UK we had an opportunity to get more serious about convivial pints as we surveyed the local picture with an old friend, workmate and neighbour from Latham Avenue, Helsby.

Dr CJM was a maverick and immediately established himself as a fun friend ... a polymath with memory ... massively into the intrigues of all interesting sports and all interesting sciences ... and some interesting jazz ... which left us bereft and isolated, contributing little but some meagre nous gleaned from our acquaintance with dark satanic manufactories and the hidden depths of human nature that we had glimpsed underneath the soap pans in Apapa. 

CJM told the story of a fine tradition of Goshawk beer drinking which transmogrified into jazz -

CJM'We are allowed to be soggy with nostalgia as Tom Lehrer once intoned. I first met jpb with my bucket & broom handle, in No 1 Soapery, Port Sunlight in April 1967. At the time he was the side kick of a fine fellow called Bernard Moses and I had been dispatched by my boss Roy Davies of Glamorgan C C to rescue jpb from ignominious failure as he tried to manufacture for the launch of a new fabric softener product. The turmoil had been generated by a sophisticated mixed active system. Unfortunately production had been aborted as one of the actives bore a strong resemblance to granite rock rather than fluffy fluff ... hence the broom handle. The ploy worked a treat and a grateful jpb immediately offered beer to reward my efforts ... we hardly knew what he had started when we discovered we both lived in Latham Avenue, Helsby. One Dick Morris also lived in Helsby and worked in URL and a car pool emerged ... this helped Mrs Birchall considerably with shopping and child rearing but a mixture of excess speed, single lane overtaking and a decrepit Jaguar took years off the life of jpb.

From 1979-82, I was in Brazil and on return started living in Helsby again on October 5th 1982 at 8 The Paddock, Helsby.

I had a beer party on October 30th 1982 and another one on January 27th 1984 which jpb attended but Carole was wrestling with the aftermaths of a back operation. But in any case she preferred Chablis.
jpb returned from Nigeria at end 1983 and we indulged intermittently at the Goshawk. I recall a lady from Malawi joined us on one occasion probably mid 1980s.
Outings on a Thursday began in earnest in 1989 when Ken Robo moved north. On Wednesday August 2nd 1989 we had our first beer session with Ken and regular but intermittent bevvies followed. Thursday August 2nd 1990 Les Ball pitched up at The Goshawk. I got fed up with the Buckley Quiz night, we always won and the natives got restless. One night when the quiz was off in late 1990, Les joined us and he never looked back. Thursday June 27th 1991 Colin pitched up at The Goshawk with KBR. Colin joined the gang later when he moved up north from leafy Esher because Ken thought he would be a lonely southerner in the northern wilderness. Colin gave the impression that he was really a southerner in disguise ... but we knew he hailed from Ellesmere Port, a suburb of Liverpool (where he knew the gorgeous Heather Chilton). It was a bit like an E W Swanton story - if you wanted to wind up E W, it was good to say, as did J J Warr on occasions, 'I liked your piece in the Telegraph today Jim – good stuff, almost as good as your writings for the Evening Standard before the war'.
Morton's ReliefSport was always a source of intense speculation over our pints, not only cricket but also soccer and the fortunes of blood ties and Sheffield, Liverpool & Manchester. Around this time in one of our rival watering holes, 'The Helter Skelter' in Frodsham, I uncovered a micro brew from Sheffield and a momentous beer drinking statistic - the sacred relationship between Morton's consumption and Sheffield Woeful. 
We were just five regulars when at the Christmas Party on Thursday December 17th 1992 during an interlude in 'Hark the Herald Angels Swing', a clarinet and a trumpet and a soprano saxophone were offered for play. I couldn’t play the clarinet but I borrowed the machine, purchased a reed the next Saturday and did a bit of practice ... and the rest is history.
The first band rehearsal was on Good Friday April 9th 1993. From Easter 1993 the Smithy Lane Stompers have performed at The Meister Concert Hall almost every Thursday prior to refreshments at The Goshawk at 9pm.
jpb's retirement party at Hartford Hall on December 3rd 1993 was chaired by KBR, an ancient friend, as jpb declined the usual accolades from the hierarchy and concentrated on future fun & beer. We all vowed to look forward to new opportunities for music & convivial pints on a Thursday night at The Goshawk.
After chewing the cud with jpb at the Warrington Factory KJMG retired on Thursday September 23rd and had a party at Statham Lodge on October 8th 1993 ... things then went very quiet in Warrington ... then on Monday October 11th there were convivial pints at The Goshawk ... and more regular Monday night fun followed culminating on Monday December 6th with a ‘top office’ party at The Goshawk and back at The Meister ... which included Dave Clark.
Then on March 7th 1994 The Banjo Player first joined us for Jazz at The Mill with The Wall City Jazzmen. (We had first  ventured to 'Jazz at The Mill' with CH on Monday November 29th 1993). On March 21st 1994 The Banjo Player purchased his banjo. On March 23rd he pitched for practice; he was stymied at home as all his 'play along' Chris Barber records had mysteriously disappeared to the tip after one of Myra's spring cleans. On March 24th he played his 1st Thursday nite Gig, and even bought a pint afterwards ... then we were four. We played for our own meagre fun and the gross amusement of others.
Following an Old Soaps jaunt at The Pollards, Willaston on Monday Nov 10th 1997, young Mike Dalton joined our Thursday bash with a guitar recklessly pulled off the top of his cluttered wardrobe. His efforts to lay down a steady groove pushed our Banjo Player to take up the trombone, which he affectionately called his sack-butt. He insisted this was the result of arthritis invalidating his fingering pattern for the Dm7b5 ... the 'bone was fine as someone told him if his arthritic hand joints failed he could always play the trombone with his foot. We had others who didn't last the pace; Ken Robbo suggested a bassoon but this failed to compete with the pleasures of golf ... even before he got off the tee, Mel Scott tried the accordion, Jim Trueman, SuperSax, brought an alto and kazoo, Mal 'Bongo' Davies persisted with drums until his dog ate them, Geoff Lewis was too accomplished on the bass for novices like us, Roy Miles tried us out and had fun but preferred his wind band and the Martins from next door tried to inject some musical nous into proceedings ... all great fun ... social fun'

So, we found ourselves embroiled in music. Learning the sounds was hard hard and a method had to be concocted which worked for us so we worked at it and we worked it out ... all in our different ways ... some were indebted to Slim Read, others to Glenys, Jacqueline and Hannah ... wot a mixture.

As we woodshedded our way along a long musical journey through what seemed like endless time, somebody said it took 10,000 hours for things to become something like interesting ... or 'listenable to' as our piano player used to say ... no wonder we needed beer to fend off exhaustion!

But we were having fun ... even though some teachers of the dots were known to suggest that this jazz thing was all guesswork? Louis' 'West End Blues' guesswork ??

It was in this way that beer drinking at the tavern led to the sound of jazz and The Banjo Player and The Blues and The Smithy Lane Stompers.

:drink    back to first round    


Warrington Factory 1984-94

The Warrington FactoryWas the job that MJC fixed up for us at the flagship Warrington Factory a no brainer? It was certainly no sinecure and in our book Warrington was one of Unilever's finest factories with a premier league reputation overseas ... a superb product, supported by technical excellence and ongoing innovative capital investment. It seemed a better bet for us at the time than the fun & frolics with Frank Martin's 'Twilight Club' in London where -

'the purpose was to meet three or four times a year for an alcoholic occasion including food - and a general bind about Unilever and its management and direction'.

Was this something about a mid-life crisis? Was it something about climbing the ladder of success, only to find that it had been put up against a crumbling tree? And who chose to put it up against that particular tree in the first place?

In 2005 Geoffrey Jones had outlined the UAC problem -  

‘In case of UAC it would appear that a strong motive for the firm’s diversification was to provide continued employment for existing staff. Although there were other reasons for UACs diversification strategies and other factors in its ultimate failure, the assumption that its managers possessed skills that were easily transferrable from Africa to running businesses in Europe and elsewhere turned out to be thoroughly misconceived. UAC was radically different culture'.

We substituted OSC for UAC and arrived at a 'radically different culture' ... for sure the Warrington Factory had successfully nurtured and established a radically different culture from the Port Sunlight bureaucracy ... just as Aba and Apapa? 

We certainly didn't feel like a 'stripe less victim' the beer was still too good.

My old boss from Port Sunlight days, a smiling Tony Trevor greeted us effusively,

'Welcome back to the fold, John'

... we certainly didn't feel we wanted to be in a protective enclosure, there was work to be done. We remembered our conversations Bill Valve when he returned to Port Sunlight from precarious Burma in the 1960s ... Bill was a breath of fresh air from alien parts who was out to cut the mustard ... he was certainly no lamb coming back to the fold. 

Our first assignment was a bit ominous. We embarked on a tour of Europe to familiarise ourselves with the European powders business. We remember well our European tour of 1971 with Jim Marshall when we met enthusiasm & excitement in smiling faces and a stampede to help get technology into the vast markets of Indonesia and Nigeria ... Europe & URL seemed to be 'overflowing wells of innovation' eager to grow in expanding markets. What a contrast in 1984, we seemed to meet nothing but doom & gloom from beaten up bureaucrats smarting from the twin barrels of P&Gs perpetual success and the commoditisation of laundry powders. Warrington & Persil were isolated jewels in a morass of squabbling fiefdoms ... sad & sour folk had gone belly up, 'not interested, not invented here' ... good folk were wasted and reduced to 'jockeying for favours in the hierarchy' ... Europe & URL had become a 'bottomless pits of expense'. There were few convivial pints and we even met some threatening demeanors ... as we were reintroduced into the sprawling system of bureaucratic fiefdoms.

We said goodbye to a top job in Unilever and lost our Senior Management status but the family loved The Meister & the garden ... and The Goshawk was within crawling distance just across the field ... and Warrington was an much better bet than an alternative job at Port Sunlight, Warrington was a success story. Warrington was going to be fun.

Persil washes whiterThe four drivers of Warrington's historical success were clear -  

Persil had a superb brand heritage and a history of product innovations ... Mum loved it ... 'Persil washes whiter and it shows' ... Big Brands made money ... interesting insights of earlier times was the price printed on the packet!

technical excellence had always underpinned factory operations with a history of technological know how  - continuous soapmaking, DFA saponification, NSD automatic, non tower processes ... technology drove productivity ...  

new investment in process innovations flowed into the Warrington Factory ... chasing profits and cutting losses ... ruthlessly cutting losses as Persil progressed one funeral at a time ... Darwin would love it ... search for profitable projects not cost savings ...

Warrington culture was different, Warringtonians were doers not pontificators, innovators not bureaucrats ... Crosfields had always been different from the very early days ... and on to the legendary folk like R V 'Ronnie' Owen who made soap & recovered glycerine and wrote DLO/58 with a young trainee; Mike Cowan ... and Sidney 'Micky' Newall who blew soap powders ... giants who were still revered in 1985 by saltmen like Alf Gaskell and Stan Wright.
Warringtonians had belief in Brands, technology and investment in the future ... and they got on with it ... they hated bureaucracy, they hated committee meetings ... and Warringtonians loved beer.

Not irrelevant was also the culture in Warrington Town which we knew from our studies of great granddad Edward Hindley. Warrington was drenched in the history of the industrial revolution, with a Quaker tradition of enterprise, and Warrington was the home of Persil, a successor of 'Blue Mottled', a jewel in the old Crosfields crown. Big brand Persil provided lifeblood to the whole of Lever Brothers in the UK ... to be nurtured and grown ... you didn't mess with Persil ... and when you experimented with itching powder that didn't work the speed of abandoning failure was impressive. We were proud to be part of the effort to perpetuate this culture at a time when it was under assault.

Crosfields The front dust cover of A E Musson's book (Economic History, University of Manchester) on Joseph Crosfield, illustrated perceptively the evolution of soap making technology from early beginnings in 1815 to sophistication in 1965 ... as doers did.

In 1984 Warrington was a remarkable manufactory, focused on 180,000 tpa of innovative excellence ... 'Persil Automatic'. The Warrington Factory was not to be turned into a wasteful European bureaucracy that some said Port Sunlight had become ... rather bankrupt Europe was to become a sleek Warrington; focused on doing Big Brands excellently. 

Of course no one said it was easy and descriptions always sounded a bit glib & trite ... invest in success, chase profits and cut losses; grow the good bits ... but happenings meant different things to different folk?

Our practice had been well established in maverick No1 Soapery at Port Sunlight, independent Aba, smiling Limbe, teeming Bombay & the chaotic Apapa Manufactories ... we arrived with a plan ... after all that's why we got the job.

At Warrington we met some saltmen for the porridge and a Factory Operation & Culture second to none ... we hatched a strategy and dedicated it to the saltmen ... by pass the bureaucratic blockages and let the blood flow ... and the blood was in good nick ... daughter SJ promoted our plan with her dab hand at calligraphy and provided a promising communication channel.

alfredOur 3 pronged strategy for Manufactories -

deep immersion into the folk and the environment - underneath the soap pans in Apapa the factory talked to us - we could 'hear', perhaps 'feel', where boundaries were being breached or compromised 

strategy communication & investment - we'll do it proper - direction, speed & destination - help provide the 'tools' for autonomy - by pass the blockages and let the blood flow for motivation - 'grow the good bits'

leadership - trust, respect, fun ... and beer - management by 'walking about'  

We were competent, confident & skilled at our specialisation in Manufactory Management, earned thru hard work, honesty & thrift ... easy ... 'we stuck to the knitting', 'we minded our own business' and 'we got on with the job' -

run the numbers

pitch the vision

cement the team

... with beer & fun and protection from the monkeys on our shoulders with dictates from above ... that's it!

First up were questions, not about the technology and organisation but rather ... 'wot was the crack'? ... wot was going on? ... plug into the factory gossip to reveal all the pertinent happenings which were unknown in the corridors of power ... wot was reality? The Warrington strength was a long standing independent culture ... a superb 'Persil' powder, supported by technical excellence and ongoing innovative capital investment ... a cohesive glue, going back to the Quaker days of Joseph Crosfield and the quest for independence from the upstart newcomer up the Wirral.

To be avoided at all costs was bureaucratic kluge ... 'Project Fear' orchestrated in polished Board Rooms from above ... 'analysis paralysis' by a 'cast of thousands' where 'more equals less' ...  

 Uncannily 4 to 5 years later in 1989 we read a chiming letter from Warren Buffet, the sage of Omaha, to his shareholders ...   

1989 Warren Buffet, Letter to Shareholders 'The Unseen Force'.   
Running an institutional bureaucracy is far harder than it looks from the outside.
You arrive with a plan, that's why you got job. Call everyone together and tell them what they have to do. They ignore you. Not openly. They nod obligingly, and then get on with what they were doing before, a sort of 'institutional imperative'. All bureaucracies will resist any change in its current direction, after all it has survived.
Decent, intelligent and experienced managers don't automatically make rational business decisions about the future.
Rage, as the new manager discovers, is a bad idea.
Rather study the system. Ask people to explain what they are doing and why. Do not confine yourself to those at the top. Talk particularly to those unregarded people who have most direct contact with the action; the public, the customers and the services. They know far more than than their job titles suggest.
Watch, listen, talk to some of these people over coffee.
First, the system is always tough to change. It has been built up over the years. There are often strata of technology that have accreted over time. Pull one thread and it could all unravel
Second, not all the old ways are bad. There are slivers of good practice that are worth preserving.
Third Many people know things can be done better. Employees are not an undifferentiated mass. Some will feel threatened. What does change mean for their jobs? But others, hearing that you are genuinely receptive, may send you their ideas unprompted. You will have allies.
After a while, you build up a picture of what needs to be done.
Try to work out who is likely to resist your changes. Speak to them too. They may raise legitimate objections or they may reveal themselves as people who need to move on.

However in a strange way all the bureaucratic kluge was motivating ... after all we'd met it all before in Port Sunlight in the late 1960s ... we vowed to inject a bit of fun and a few convivial pints into the proceedings ... after all we had learned a lot underneath the soap pans in Apapa. We had learned about eye ball to eye ball nuanced communication and above all we had had learned how to identify the guys who could really help at the coalface ... and how to avoid the inept 'prancers' ... and we had learned how to buy a convivial pint!   

Alf Gaskell was one of the greatest gillies known to man and dominated our Packing Room operations, and understood the factory reality ... and understood how to sup our pints ... he was a giant and his bog standard nous & enthusiasm rubbed off everywhere ... against all the odds we refused to be diverted by the encroachment of -

'analysis paralysis' by a 'cast of thousands' where 'more equals less' ...  

and those who tried to correct perceived weaknesses as an alternative to getting on with the job and building on the established strengths of the Warrington Factory. This was bureaucratic kluge gone mad ... and we were certain that the strengths, the culture, of the Warrington Factory had been staggeringly successful and must be nurtured & grown not neutered.

We arrived at Warrington just as the focus on the culture was under threat by aliens from across the Mersey who had different experiences ... was history to repeat itself just as the OSC culture had been attacked by a profitless European culture?

Factories like companies had cultures of their own and some cultures evolved and worked while others became moribund and stagnant. Culture matters ... the biggest threat to Warrington was Port Sunlight ... and a shortage of good beer. There was gravitas around and folk stopped smiling.

We saw the parallels with our Nigerian experience of the chaotic culture in Apapa and the learned lessons of how the efficiency of the Aba soap factory had been 'rewarded' by new investment in an NSD Factory. Aba was a jewel in a Nigerian morass, anything was possible! Grow the good bits!

The quest was to grow Warrington not to change the culture, it was the Port Sunlight bureaucracy that needed a culture change?

The battles raged as interlopers from the bureaucracy were everywhere seeking rents and threatening value & morale ... and certainly the beer started to taste sour ... typically some folk gummed up the works, they didn't want to get on with the job and try things, they wanted to talk about it at a meeting ... Alf Gaskell called it 'the contemplation of navels'.

After what seemed like 30 years under the soap pans in Apapa we knew all about the Iron Duke's problem in politics - The Duke of Wellington with asperity -

'I told them what to do and they wanted to stay and discuss it!'

  One of the young fresh faced newcomers from the bureaucracy was overheard - 

'If running a factory is about efficiency & profit outcomes, I don't want to be part of it, we know what we're doing, we don't want disruptives here' ... uber alles.

He left ... and eventually the European leadership role of the powders factory continued as we worked on improvements and investments into technical excellence & Persil with the Manufacturing Technology Division in Unilever Research ... crucially the Technical Director himself took up the cudgels and was in the chair and effectively -

'by passed the bureaucratic blockages and let the blood flow'

... this perceptive comment was a ploy often uttered by our mate Ashok Ganguly ... after a pint ... or two!

John DaviesYears later Dr John Davies, 'The Governor', was a big drinking mate of ours and we indulged in fascinating discussions about factory cultures. Like the Banjo Player, Dr John had wallowed all the challenges of a 'real job' in factory management, at the coal face and far away from 'ivory towers' ... 'people persons' who had learned the hard way about how to get the best out of technology and folk of all shapes & sizes. The Governor had started at Warrington commissioning DFA chemical plants and then confronted the foibles of production at Port Sunlight before a look see at how ICI and INEOS tried to manage their factories in Warrington ... we discussed, compared & contrasted the bullet points of the different factory cultures -

bureaucracy v. enterprise 

complex organisation & staff functions v. flat hierarchy & line responsibilities

multiple brand marketing v. big brands focused technology 

unionised labour intensive workforce v. enthusiastic teams of technology operators

loaded up with high indirect costs v. trim, tight economies of specialisation & scale

marketing know how, adverting & consumers v. technology know how, suppliers & customers

low capital investment, low efficiency v. high capital investment high efficiency

short term milking of commodities, low R&D v. long term investment in innovative products/technology, high R&D

For certain in the 1980s as the foibles of fickle folk disturbed the buzzing peace & tranquility at Warrington and the assailants from Port Sunlight faffed around with the factory culture ... it was the continuing investment in technological excellence ... and beer ... that kept the Warrington Factory ahead of the game.

Vernon HockleyWe were fortunate at the time in having the wily mind of Vernon Hockley to help sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Technical control of Complex Adaptive Systems had to be done proper! So we had a pint, chewed it over & over, every which way, upside down & inside out, all the angles, nothing but the best, technology solved problems ... we agreed and then went for it, all systems go ... and had another beer to celebrate.

No 'grandiose schemes' from 'macho managers' but building deliberately from the bottom up ... understanding adaptive control ... Vernon got it right first time, and kept it simple stoopid ... many of the other ambitious project engineers we had met had a propensity to orchestrate from the top and usually imposed chaos on the hapless bits of hardware, software and mankind at the coalface. Those at the coalface were trying their best with system complexity which was full of change & conflict ... and invariably with 'grandiose schemes', the politicking of the bureaucrats ... we'd met such complex systems over the years ... three of the worst were engraved on our memory ...

Groundnut Affair --- learned from Edgar Graham OSC 

Cybersyn Project --- learned from Pancho Jimenez TD Chile

NHS IT Project --- learned from son-in-law Eddie Medical Physics NHS

 ... three disastrous failures provided grist for our mill. Such arrogant command & control projects from above were 'pies in the sky' ... evolution don't work that way ... and if happenings were not the outcomes of natural selection, wot on earth were they 'Intelligent Design'?  

Later Vernon reflected over a pint and remembered some powerful lessons from life and project management ... and we agreed beer always helped separate fact from fiction?

One of the sympathetic young turks at Warrington was our Manufacturing Manager John Needham; a bright spark from Oxford, he was a 'colourful character' and far from the regular gray clones, he quickly grasped the importance of the ancient values entrenched in the Warrington Factory culture. He added much needed 'salt to the porridge' and provided enthusiastic support as we confronted the all pervading cultural disruption orchestrated by the aliens, as a swam of unhelpful helpers waded in with instant solutions to bureaucratic problems which they themselves had created. We strongly suspected that folk like Alf Gaskell, Vernon Hockley, Andy Cole, John Needham, Mal Davies and Stan Wright could make it all happen without the sclerotic bureaucracy. But then we had learned from the ghosts from the past and the 'overseas club' -

care over the appointment of senior managers - hard work, honesty & thrift

delegation within agreed 'annual estimates' and 'five year plans' - focus on the knitting

prior agreement for all capital expenditure - long term sustainable investment & compound interest

... and no restrictions on convivial pints!

JGN ended up as Group Operations Director at Synergy Flavors; he done good and excelled as 'a strong strategic thinker' ... we were not surprised ... he was Unilever's loss.

We remembered much drinking & fun with the giant maverick Alf Gaskell, mostly orchestrated by the delectable Mary Jones, the smiling heroine of Warrington who ran the Food & Drink Department in The Blue Room ... an exemplar of flawless operations at Warrington in 1985.

 The Banjo PlayerKeith Garnett was another character at Warrington who we enjoyed ... and he too was a beer drinker and fun. We first knew him as a Industrial Engineer at Port Sunlight ... then under the baleful influence of John Dickinson and Frederick Winslow Taylor. But he had accumulated considerable savvy in the plagued motor & print industries in Liverpool ... and had acquired a deep distrust of bureaucracies ... he was also a history buff which was a considerable help as he had seen it all before in ancient Greece. He had been ensconced in the Warrington factory system for some time and knew all the key protagonists who kept the wheels turning in the factory ... and these guys were craftsmen who had been nurtured by an old sponsor of ours, Tony Trevor, or 'dad' to the Warringtonians. They were rightly proud of the success in the Warrington Factory. They had been there seen it and bought the tee shirt.

These were the indispensible henchmen who needed to be kept onside as the new technology roared ahead.

Keith later became famous as our Banjo Player but long before that he was one of the few who grasped the pioneering relevance of Eddie Shah who did for the national print industry what Ronnie Owen & Mickey Newall had done for Crosfields soapmaking & powders ... 'The Banjo Player' and his print factory taught us a lot about the British Disease.

Warrington factory life in the 1980s was where more equaled less. As the cast of thousands and the analysis paralysis gripped hard reality we enjoyed some gritty understanding from stalwart Keith. Keith had adapted to and owned the Warrington culture as he wrestled with the Print Chapel and the gigantic fossil which was the Warrington print factory. A giant anachronism with archaic Chambon letterpress & ancient F&G machines which somehow still trundled out cartons, on time and with remarkable flexibility to satisfy the initiatives of the band managers but often defeated the modern high speed Acma carton fillers in the Powders Department. We never understood how he managed to keep things going on a shoestring budget and zero investment. It was a miracle of ingenuity and nous, extracting gleanings from the best of the suppliers and massaging a nod from the 'Bishop' of the Shop Stewards. As new investment in powders and soapmaking thundered on, Unilever had deliberately chosen to neglect investment in 'the print' where the Father of Chapel ruled the roost. The innovative technology which underpinned the Warrington success and culture had by passed 'the print'. After a few pints Keith would tell the story of young David P, a wannabe on the Chambon machines. In 1984 in the middle of a 'negotiation strategy meeting' in the Print Factory with the Head Office Personnel Manager, David interrupted the gravitas by barging through the office door and agitatedly exclaimed to the boss -

'Mr Garnett, you must stop Alf Grover, he's working'!

Everybody at the meeting broke up.The Sun

Inevitably failure to invest in new print technology eclipsed the ancient letter presses as digital ink jets manipulated by powerful silicon chips and clever software code delivered a tsunami of unimpeachable excellence at minimal cost.  

It was ironic that close by in Warrington was Eddie Shah, the guy who led the way and urged the print industry out of the dead hands of the Trade Unions & the British Disease and into modern flexible computer technology and economic growth. Eddie Shah's efforts in Warrington led directly to Wapping and the demise of restrictive practices in Fleet Street and the rise of The Sun ... the largest selling 'daily' in the UK ... a raging success with a finger on the pulse of Joe Beer Drinker. It was The Sun wot won it and, contrary to popular belief, it was not page 3 ... but whatever your cup of tea ... and tastes were many and varied ... many of our friends were 'Guardian' readers ... the productivity breakthroughs in the print industry in Warrington were the start of something big ... in the end when push came to shove all 'restraints on trade' & 'restrictive practices' impoverished everyone and were not Evolutionary Stable Strategies. Diversity was always the feedstock for evolutionary change ... and Darwin suggested that there was no other sort of change that anyone knew of?

Over convivial pints over the years we chewed through this history of relentless successful change ... we learned a lot from our Banjo Player and were astounded how few took the trouble to listen ... years later the lessons from our own music making were much the same ... too few took the trouble to listen to the diversity of views to be heard?

Dave Key, was also a good friend and confidant at this time and we enjoyed many a convivial pint as we mulled and clarified our understanding of a cast of thousands, analysis paralysis and more equals less. Dave had his own unique contribution and educational ploy ... he wrote 'a case study' for presentation at the Four Acres management indoctrination courses ... there the emerging high flyers were to chew over a real live factory farce & fiasco ... we recalled many hilarious conversations as we discussed the cognitive biases of pontificating prancers ... in 1984 we smelt the odious obnoxion of bureaucratic kludge we first met way back in the 1950s.

We met up with Dave again after retirement with Ken Robbo & Morton Peas and reconfirmed that the 'pontificating prancers' were involved in the three bureaucratic pains of the period -

casts of thousands who got in each others way as they all tried to help ... 'Not Invented Here!'

analysis paralysis to save face and justify simple experiments as they were reclassified as monumental decisions ... 'Cover My Arse!' 

more input equaled less output as bureaucratic kluge clogged things up ... 'Keep It Simple Stoopid!' 

Such flawed decision making followed the crunching of every bit of data again & again into smaller & smaller detail to draw increasingly spurious conclusions from increasing irrelevant assumptions ... by the 9th meeting everyone was punch drunk as interpretation remained just a woven web of guesses ... in this way enterprising experiments became face saving decisions. And there was more ... once the decisions were taken they would be championed long past their sell by dates ... others would have simply dropped the ideas as un-embarrassing errors in the exciting trials.

This was a common cognitive malfunction later described by the psychologists as 'effort justification' or 'confirmation bias' ... we called it 'prancing pontification' and it scuppered many a good idea.

No doubt thinking and economics were biological phenomena. Evolution shaped happenings just as it shaped the species. Physically, biologically and cognitively, folk were evolved hunter gatherers. But since ancient times the environment had changed dramatically as experiments persisted and folk remembered what worked. Back in hunter gatherer past, things were simpler and more stable. Folk lived in small groups, there was little technological, social nor cultural progress. Then in the last 10,000 years came cultural explosions which transformed the world ... crops, livestock, villages, cities, global trade and financial markets ... more interaction and more problems of change, complexity, conflict and scarcity ... cultural prosperity raced ahead of cognitive progress ... the result was economic progress but also systematic errors in thinking as folk were perplexed by Darwin's idea.

If the surpluses at Warrington were not built on, and the wastes at Port Sunlight were not curbed, Unilever Research would not exist. It was win win not a fight of the fiefdoms as the economic necessity of chasing profits at Warrington and cutting losses at Port Sunlight slowly and painfully challenged the fiefdoms ... and as always economic necessity won in the end ... and as always it was slow to jell in the minds of the prancers who didn't drink?

The Warrington cameo was insightful ... it demonstrated how evolutionary economics provided an explanatory understanding of happenings ... successful cultures tended to survive ... and we were convinced successful cultures were embroiled in convivial beer.

We didn't claim any luck ... nor any privileged access to knowledge ... but we had learned a lot about business know how underneath the soap pan in Apapa.

But ... as if to confirm wot survived was know how not widgets ... 26 years into retirement in 2020 the Warrington Factory Shut ... our mums had stopped buying washing powders and turned to the easy convenience of liquid detergents.   

Cotswold Bevvies 1984

ColinIn December 1947, the Value Analysis approach to problem solving had been developed in The General Electric Company in New York, where else? Lawrence Miles wrote the definitive book in 1961, 'Techniques of Value Analysis and Engineering'. We had learned about this historical precedent in 1971 when an Economics of Industry module at The Institution of Works Managers alerted us to various management techniques which were presented as potentially useful 'flavours of the month'.

The Value Analysis Projects proved to be a successful methodology to 'by pass the blockages and let the blood flow' ... nevertheless back at the coal face the offending bureaucracy remained stubborn in place?

It became clear to us that those Unilever managers worth their salt were at value analysis day in day out. Problem solving, just like innovation, became hum drum for the best managers ... and Value Analysis was to cost saving what Synectics was to innovation; a useful focus for necessity.

It was a bureaucratic tragedy if business necessities needed a contrived special focus to enable execution?

Don't get problem solving wrong ... it was impossible for smart cookies to go to work each day 'to make a profit', this was an outrageous myth, cooked up by soothsayers who spent all their time pontificating about the future. All the managers we worked with 'solved problems' and 'managed risk'; they tackled their mountainous in-trays as best they could; prioritising a myriad of problems. There were some macho men who often boasted that they went to work 'to make a profit' but when push came to shove and you watched what they actually did, what they worked at ... it was all bog standard problem solving ... what else could it be? No one had ever been able to write the instruction manual involved in 'making a profit' ... and if in the future some omnipotent ever managed to identify such a sequence we were certain that competitors would immediately change their numbers ...     

As all Evolutionary Economists had learned, profit (or loss!) was an unknowable outcome of economic activity; a surplus of value over costs at the end of the day. Although every one always pontificated, it was very silly to lie about the future because the cookie always crumbled one way ... or the other ... depending? If you get our drift?

In 1984 Colin Hughes was a master of his brief, caressing £10 million cost savings out of the 180,000 tpa output from our Warrington Factory ... still big bucks even after the 30 year rule ... and that was without tackling most of our familiar suspects ... or structural reforms ... cost cutting was never a route to exciting innovation - 

simple focus on the vital few

specialising on our core competences & subcontracting the rest

interdependency & supply chain efficiency

packaging & changing distribution patterns

product innovation & concentration ... or liquids?

Such key areas were mysteriously left outside of the brief which restricted analysis to the 1984 mid year review costs & tonnages? 

But as the haemorrhage & sclerosis continued we remembered what we had learned underneath the soap pans in Apapa about the economics of business ... and what we had learned from the ghosts from the past ... and the from the Ground Nut Scheme ... and from successful businessmen like Ronnie Archer, Derek Holdsworth and Mike Cowan -

exciting innovation - cost saving salamis & snake oil were not alternatives to continuous successful innovation, which was the only answer to mature markets and boring commoditization ...

sticking to the knitting - focus on core specialisations was blurred as 'miscellaneous' brands hung around, making everything lethargically moribund ... 

fearful execution - casts of thousands were enmeshed in risk averse & indulgent analysis paralysis which was indecisive bureaucratic kluge ...

competing fiefdoms - unfathomable responsibility & accountability of multiple management groups, staff functions & conflicting supply chain interdependencies & rivalries made cronies and men of the system ...

bureaucratic despotism - command & control strategies imposed layer upon layer of top down management hierarchies when efficiency demanded bottom up experiments ...

not invented here - 'risk off' jealousies led to desperate manufacturing & supply chain obsolescence and stagnation ...

keep it simple stupid - staggering complexity of too many brands & too many people endlessly eroded efficiency ...

Of course no one said it was easy and these seven bullet point descriptions always sounded a bit glib & trite ... as did all other adages - execution; focus, invest in innovation, grow the good bits, chase profits and cut losses ... the trouble was happenings meant different things to different folk?

The Manor House, Moreton in MarshHowever a small team of enthusiastic doers could produce results. Colin set up the scene in the Cotswold Hostelries and supplied the convivial pints to lubricate the mission at The Manor House, Moreton-in-Marsh & Dormy House, Broadway ... and late at night Colin was known to occasionally to forego the pint and turn his taste to a wee dram or two of Glenfiddich (perhaps a trick he learned when working with atoms at Dounreay) ... the Scotch, he insisted, actually improved the quality & taste of the convivial pint ...

There was general agreement that the route to cost saving & innovation was via the convivial pint.

But the perspicacity of the assembled henchmen was amazing and many snippets were overheard which were well worth recording -

'We must start by getting our house in order and abolishing all stupid things. Start at the beginning, go on to the end and then stop. And we must write in plain English. Remember 100% of customers don't received the average and the planner is still a very simple chap so give me an example of an 'unknown' that we can't plan for.
But the decision wasn't a proper business decision, it was taken in the Brand Office and I know how to select marketing people, it's easy, they know how to talk.
Where is Richard this morning? Richard who?
The good thing about cartels is that they protect incompetent buyers and this is painless in the sense that you don't have to consult with the buyers. They're totally isolated and independent, just like Business Systems Department! I don't think we ever had this hassle in Lagos. We banned it. It was like doing brain surgery with a hatchet. Even the Unilever Team considered the remote possibility of cleaning during meal times.
It's just as good to catch it when it's closing as when it's opening and it's been dripping like that every 20 seconds for the last 20 years. It's knackered. In any case it's adjustable unless you want to change it.
I understand that Domestos is not a very good contraceptive ... no but the bottle is! And I suggest that not putting a hole in the neck of the bottle in a fundamental problem. Why are we worried about wadless caps when we send out capless bottles? Remember we don't have to solve this problem, we just need to create the environment in which it can be solved.
It's an exciting area but Vibrational Analysis is not the answer to a maiden's prayer. Muscular mechanisation & ocular inspection suggest we should do fast mathematical analysis of the transient parameters that are considered important.
Unless we have an understanding of the physics we cannot design a model of it, and unless we have a model and can express it in concise mathematical terms we cannot gain any understanding of how it will impinge or interact with other parameters. We must understand the underlying scientific principles and to do this we need need resources, and we must decide where our priorities lie and allocate our resources accordingly. We must quantify the proposition since if you can it, it will stand up ... er ... what was the question?
Now ask me a proper question ... when?
My mind is wandering, I can't read when I'm writing so I'm going to do F all and you can tell the boss to F off.
Where has everyone gone?
I'm going for a beer!'

Was this really a small team producing results ... or was it another example of analysis paralysis by a cast of thousands?

As always, more serious understanding of customer value came during exchange chatter over a pint ... Why do we need weight control legislation at all? Why do we tax companies in the first place? Was 'performance under the conditions of the test' meaningful information? Was the whitening performance of enzymes eroded by the reuse of suds? Were fillers or concentration relevant to the resilience of 'the charged phased model' and 'cost per wash'? Was expensive energy intensive spray drying convenient for customers if liquids could deliver results and convenience? And who wanted whiter shirts that showed when shirts were coloured and became sweaty not dirty?   

Looking back, our note of May 31st 1985, was along the right lines but woefully inadequate ... we pulled our punches ... 'good everyday managers did good every day value analysis ... everyday' ... and always started with 'zero budgeting' innovation by definition had no truck with insidious sunk costs.

Unilever was essentially a marketing company which relied on acquisitions rather than R&D for continuous innovation. There were obvious deficiencies in the technical support given to our brands. The great production technologies of the past had become obsolete skills: fitting on nigres, fat blending, hydrogenation, sulphonation, oil refining, tissue culture & more? Such were old hat and less relevant to brand success? And were washing powders themselves becoming obsolete? We knew margarine had a tough time overseas where ever bread was not a staple? P&G were enormously successful in detergents in North America and then Europe with central strategies from Cincinnati. Technical innovations were pumped up into brand strengths, premium prices & economies of scale. But commoditization relentlessly undermined P&G's business strategy which began to reek of centralised sclerosis ... did P&G's central strengths become a handicap when business growth moved to emerging markets overseas? ... in Europe a toaster was a toaster ... and above all ... what about Adam Smith's 'law of unintended consequences' ... and MJC's admonition -

 'we're in business not industry'!

We had learned all our theory on Gilmour Hill & at Four Acres, we had learned manufacturing practice under the soap pans in Apapa and we were enthusiastically ecstatic when, over our first opening pint at The Manor House' Richard Rivers our Marketing & Sales chief honcho quipped,

'It's no good manufacturing crap, the customers don't like it!'

Just sayin' ...

But to the point, while we chewed the cud, Colin's passion for the supply of convivial pints, continued well into retirement ... when we continued to learn and understand more ... about the difficulty of learning and understanding.

:drink    back to first round    


Global Technology Transfer URL 1986

InnovationBack at Warrington in 1986 there was a half hearted attempt to explore overseas opportunities again but re-establishing Unilever's manufacturing presence in Egypt became confused with helping out with an 'a facon' toilet soap line ... which our old mate Ron Stirzaker described as a 'piddling project'. This was not for a Senior Manager and Willie Vale agreed and the opportunity withered and died.

The writing was on the wall. In 1987 the Overseas Committee was disbanded and Regional Managements with their own resources were set up ... no more 'overseas circuit' ... we were time expired.

However there was work on exciting global technology transfer projects with Unilever Research which promised interest and reward; we called them Master Projects ... an attempt to move R&D from snake oil to business driven usefulness ... an old Four Acres mate of ours from 1975 wrote passionately about the necessary rigor in 1999.

The Master Projects proved to be a successful methodology to 'by pass the blockages and let the blood flow' ... but back at the coalface the offending bureaucracy remained stubbornly in place?

The Warrington Factory had to be re-established as a technology leader and it could only do this it escaped from the analysis paralysis of a cast of thousands and got serious about specialisation and economies of scale ... and R&D could be effective only if it was relevant to the business ... invest in success, chase profits and cut losses; grow the good bits ... easy to say ... but luckily the wag Watkin was our TD at the time and he was in the Chair & sponsored the project ... he recognised a good thing when he saw it ... and he also paid for all the convivial pints ... hic ...

Technology Transfer had long been our experience & forte and we promoted the model at every opportunity -

commitment - the boss was the customer, he must be in the chair, leading, building & resourcing investment and social capital

customer problems - real factory priorities had to be identified which required solutions

relevant technology - docking of problem & solution, no solutions from the snake oil merchants looking for problems to solve

focus & speed - targeted results & quick progress reviews ... chase profits & cut losses ... no faffing about 

small customer led teams - complete delegated responsibility, risk & rewards

problem solving empirical methodology - observe reality, dock with the theory, experiment to validate, peer review with the boss

establish credibility - early wins, success breeds success, cut the crap   

This was immensely satisfying ... looked like we got the basics right over a convivial pint ... commitment to problem solving without the fighting fiefdoms.

We docked beautifully with the decentralised Unilever culture -

'The Special Committee remained committed to the view that Unilever's strength was being close to customers in local markets'.

In our case the customers and local markets for innovative technology were the Technical Directors located in their factories ... not R&D boffins in isolated ivory towers ... and we immediately discovered brilliant 'boffins' with brilliant technology buried alive in a stultifying bureaucracy ready, willing & able to get out into the action help ... all they needed was the opportunity.  

Technology solved problems ... rather than snake oil. We had bought the T shirt.

Simple 'fool proof' control of the moisture content of spray died detergent powders was a prize wanted by Factory Managers everywhere. We knew, we had asked them ... over a convivial pint ... and it was only over a pint that we got down to the nitty gritty rather than the party line peddled in the usual committee meetings with agendas which produced instruction manuals and blue bibles.  

Connoisseur LeeSerendipity, we had a big win early. Young Bob Lee and 'Control & Automation Technology' confirmed that URL could provide effective solutions as well as useless snake oil. URL Vlaardingen had wrestled for years trying to improve detailed linear control algorithms for moisture control of detergent powders but had failed miserably to model the thermodynamic complexity of of our spray drying process. However dramatic success was achieved with an adaptive statistical control package based on the experimental manipulation of inputs and the discovery of outcomes that worked.

This was 'enlightenment', was it our first glimpse of the power of Big Data and Al? We measured everything that moved and much that didn't, including the colour of the operator's sox ... the 'data' was the prize, the statistical mathematical algorithms that teased out the meaningful correlations between inputs & outputs were nowt but number crunching trials & errors. This technology was commercial enterprise emerging from Professor David Sandoz at Manchester University, an academic control engineer who applied some experimental evolutionary satisficing principles to spray drying technology. His Connoisseur adaptive control system was an early 'win' for our team and business driven research which secured the Lever Europe Colibri Prize for innovation ... and a splendid booze up in Parkgate to celebrate.

In this way the Technical Directors of operating companies guided the research programme ... after all they were paying the astronomical 12% indirect on cost ... Central Research & Product Coordination were not to be prima donnas in ivory towers ... folk at the productive sharp end remembered Nigel Clayton - 

'Detergents Coordination wanted a more centralised organisation. And when ever there was an opening somewhere they would try to get their people appointed. At times this was a subculture which bordered on arrogance.'

The objective of the Master Projects was to by pass the centralised blockages and give Technical Directors direct access to R&D resources rather like our own experience with the old Overseas Section in URL. 'By pass the blockages and let the life blood flow' ... there was work to be done, we engineered innovative projects in Warrington, Chicago, San Paulo, Seoul, Nairobi, Casale, Haubourdin, Mannheim ... and Green Fields.

Many customers were smiling and the good Dr W was buying pints, and in Research a reinvigorated Richard Dodds played a blinder which was celebrated at The Development Dinner in 1993 ... we think that was where we celebrated but all was not clear as our hosts arranged a taxi home; a mode of transport which always seemed to blur the memory.

So in 1986 we went for broke with the Master Projects. Top wank, experimental science & technology investment dovetailed nicely with the Warrington culture. The merriment continued right up to a retirement party with our host and great mate Richard Dodds at The Blue Bell Inn in Chester ... it was most enjoyable revelry and we mulled it all over and confirmed that we knew how to distinguish between the 'operators' in the factories who cut the mustard and 'prancers' who just pontificated ... some said less and listened ... and some were bull shitters ... Alf Gaskell would have been pleased ... the beer and the company were superb!

Wot fun, there was light at the end of the tunnel ... but the 'not invented here' merchants were still around ... and some of them refused to drink with us ... were we tainted with snake oil? The Master Projects were a bright spark in difficult times. In the words of an eminent Unilever sage (and JKM) R&D was like 'taking a running f--- at a rolling doughnut'. Sure the active molecules were the priority but overseas and in Europe for that matter ... putting them into a quality mix and into boxes in the warehouse often proved to be the Achilles Heel. Sadly sometime after we retired in 1994 and after a magnificent new Manufacturing Technology building had opened at Port Sunlight URL (built by our mate from Malawi, David Crawford) ... the rumour spread that we were not delivering 'value for money' in manufacturing technology ... it was all old hat. The Central Manufacturing & Engineering Group was disbanded in 2001 and the supply chain was managed by attentive sub contracting. More R&D was decentralised globally into the Business Groups and Unilever focused on its traditional strength, specialisation & scale from the acquisition of innovative brands ... but the overall coherence was still achieved as it always had been by the profligate exploitation of the convivial pint and the esprit de corps that went with it!    

We did a brilliant job with technology transfer to the Warrington Factory not because of our nous & wit but because of the encouragement & trust of Dr KW and the enthusiasm & effort of Richard Dodds, Vernon Hockley & URL friends who were all 'on board' and did all the hard work.

'It don't get much better than this!'

We were competent, confident & skilled at our specialisation in Manufactory Management, earned thru hard work, honesty & thrift ... easy - 'we stuck to the knitting', 'we minded our own business' and 'we got on with the job' -

run the numbers

pitch the vision

cement the team

... with beer & fun and protection from the monkeys on our shoulders with dictates from above ... that's it!

In 2001 The Manufacturing Technology Department was closed ... Richard Dodds mused - 

'It was a sad day; manufacturing technology was deemed not to be delivering value for money'

Manufacturing projects continued and were taken on by HLL ... but had the snake oil merchants won? Richard retired and went to teach at Liverpool University.

RIP Richard G Dodds, October 2014.

So did 'the international social club' continue to function amicably? The key, once again, was the commitment of the 'customer' Technical Director ... some were 'networkers' others were from alien fiefdoms? ... but one thing remained, for sure, we were convinced the successful Technical Directors were always 'networkers' who lubricated the technology transfer with convivial pints! 

The projects starkly confirmed that the exciting opportunities were overseas. Europe was a mess full of fighting fiefs and commoditised ... a toaster was a toaster. The beer tasted much better overseas ... it always seemed a bit sour in Italy & France where the infighting was most fractious ... maybe it was because they were wine drinkers? But then Pancho Jiminez's wine in Chile was superb ... funny that?

Soooo ... was pride in & growth of the Warrington culture eventually restored?

NSD powder production at Port Sunlight ceased in 1988 and with it the plant that we had commissioned in 1963 was scrapped. But the Warrington specialisation was in NSD powders and large packs of expensive powder were not convenient for customers ... to stay relevant in the future innovation & change had to be continuous.

Perhaps the sobering truth was that Warrington was established as the leading European factory though sticking to the knitting by nurturing a successful big brand and continuing innovative investment in manufacturing technology. But just as soap powders became obsolete, perhaps NSD powders were now passed their sell by date as innovative brands moved ... into more convenient liquids ... did Port Sunlight become a focused, specialised liquids factory? ... and overseas ... ?

At the end of the day the Warrington Factory and the Master Projects were successful, not so much because of manufacturing technology but rather because they revealed and exploited habits of human nature which worked ... in a nut shell productivity improved when working friendships were focused on big brand successes which were lubricated by convivial pints ... it worked for powders, liquids ... and margarine ... technology was the easy bit. 

It was rumoured that Willie Vale's assessment of prospective business partners overseas involved his critical appraisal of the quality of their convivial pints!

Much later in 2008, as we had come to expect, MJC hit the nail on the head and summed it all up when he recalled an empty office with black coffee or more likely the club and a convivial pint -

'We would spend hours putting everything on the table and looking at it from every angle, every which way, honing and revising our plans and then we just agreed on an option and got on with it'. We were in 'business' not 'industry'. 

'We never knew how to make money out of bits of 'miscellaneous products' when they shared Unilever's enormous level of 'indirects'. The European & North American problem was that we did not innovate fast enough in all product groups to avoid mature markets going ex growth and meanwhile overseas emerging markets were burgeoning and required serious investment, 'nothing but the best, nobody told me to compromise'.

'Unilever's growth and innovative success always tended to come from propitious acquisitions rather than Research Division, the purveyors of snake oil ... and even our track record on acquisitions was mixed'.

'There was no effective R&D to speak of. The product had become a commodity. Anyone could set up a factory and buy the know-how to formulate just as cheaply as us. Raw Materials were bought at common international market prices by everyone. We struggled for market leadership with 3 'national' competitors and myriad of local operators, selling their DOBs at rock bottom prices. What they lost to us in scale they more than gained through lower overheads.

You must have come across this type of situation in your studies; I came across it frequently at Harvard, and we never developed a realistic solution.

There were of course the snake-oil men in research who promised all sorts of miracles including using URL expertise to improve our buying decisions. But buying raw materials is like buying stocks and shares; no matter how good your intelligence, there are very few who beat the market, and they are the first to admit it's just luck. The sensible ones make their fortune and quit before they lose it'!

We concurred and retired early, optimistic in our belief that we had sussed it out and when the fractious fiefdoms stopped fighting and friendships deepened, the Unilever global social club would get a fair crack at progress ... we never thought we'd be the best out of the world ... just better than some of our competitors who had tried their luck from time to time.

Looking back in the 1990s we were smiling and convinced that we got Technology Transfer mostly right in the Master Projects. We remembered all about the difficulties in ORAC and our hearts & minds were with the OSC who had wrestled with global technology transfer & organisational learning since for ever ... and we remembered the words -

'Technology Transfer was not a facile process ... organisational learning was not about instruction manuals nor questionable snake oil technology ... especially when it all became embroiled in the fiefdom fights and a shortage of good beer'.

At 50 we were bullet proof and believe it or not we were looking forward to retirement in 1994 and lots of good beer!

 We were finishing on a high but were still fascinated with the Unilever business and the role of science & technology in problem solving.

Global Opportunities   

Tsingtao BeerArmed with Ben Wubs and his insight of decentralised flexibility during WW2 and Ken Durham and his strategy as outlined in Unilever as a multi local multi national ... we had a last fling in South Korea.

In 1992 we enjoyed one final opportunity to wrestle with the Unilever business strategy overseas and the conundrum associated with the intricacies of Market Development, Technology Transfer and Unilever's Knitting ... a social wort of financial clout and M&A nous ... we went to South Korea to meet Madame Chang.

In 1981 Bill Vale & Frank Martin had established a promising partnership with Madam Chang and The Aekyung Industrial Co Ltd Korea which had gone pear shaped. Market Development turned into forced Technology Transfer as naive intellectual property theft led to inevitable collapse of trust & cooperation. Madam Chang did not wish to be part of a 'little Unilever clone' ... she wanted her very own success with her very own brands ... give me the instruction manual and 'I'll do the rest' ... if only Market Development were that simple.

In 1992 we mulled over the strategy with the local expatriates over fabulous Tsingtao beer in Hong Kong before a memorable train trip up the Korean peninsular from Seoul up to the factory in Daejon with a budding John Kilgallen who knew the technology nuances inside out but had much more trouble with the gorgeous local girls who all looked the same ... the opener 'haven't I seen you somewhere before?' never ever seemed to work.     

Korea was eventually resolved most effectively in 2017 with Unilever's financial clout and the acquisition of Carver Korea ... an established innovative high margin successful business in Personal Products ... Goldman Sachs & Bain Capital invested in 60% of Carver and trebled their investment in 12 months ... time will tell ... A.H.C (Aesthetic Hydration Cosmetics) had developed their biggest market in China ... we recalled FM musings when he planned Shanghai Ponds -

'I should explain the logic of getting into skin creams. The bitter winters in northern China along with vile winds and dust storms and the inevitable need to be out in these, result in faces like well tanned leather and hands like kitchen graters - so skin cream is very high on the list of 'luxuries' which the women dreamed about when they were not dreaming about food and warmth'.  

There were bits of 'know how' hidden in corporate culture ... we had felt & touched the wisdom under the soap pans in Apapa, regurgitated with MJC during our beers, and from FM during our interregnum in the Bridget's House bar in 'limboland' ... these gentlemen were on the ball and led the team which broke into China in 1986 ... Frank's book of memoires recalled the story on page 292 ... Messrs Martin, Cowan, Cheng and Kam ... wot a team.

In 2019 we caught up with Fred Cheng who we first met in URL in 1982 to reminisce over coffee in The Hinderton Arms on the Parkgate Road.

Fred ChengChina was a fascinating Case Study and we believed that from 1983 the success of Unilever's operations depended on the personal relationships developed in Shanghai -  

Fred spoke the language in Shanghai and knew all about Lux Toilet Soap and was everybody's best friend ... and a coffee drinker ...

Mike was bought up in Shanghai and was a technical & business connoisseur ... and beer drinker ...

Frank was an overseas business aficionado ... and beer drinker ...

Edson was the man on the spot in Hong Kong who we didn't know ... we wondered, was he a beer drinker? 

... wot a team and we were happy to call them mates ... but we would say that wouldn't we?

On 31 July 2008 @ 08.20pm well into our retirement, out of the blue, we received an email from our old mentor from Unilever Overseas, MJC ... it seemed to sum up all our fun pretty well -

Hi John, I was Googling Apapa Soap? Yes it seems pretty unlikely! I’d read that morning that Unilever had sold its US Laundry business, which peeved me a bit since I’d helped to save it 25 years ago. So I decided to look what they’d done to the Malaysian and Nigerian Businesses. Sure enough in Malaysia the factories had been closed, though the business still exists. In Nigeria I found no mention of our Aba plant (do you remember when you went to run it in an emergency – quite a 'colonial incident'! I certainly remember you going to hold the fort at Aba and the murder that greeted your arrival! Quite like old colonial times and a story for your grandchildren) and then, for Apapa, your article popped up. I began reading it with sheer amazement, Port Sunlight, Bill, Fred, Stevens, Coathup ... trying to work out who was the author – I’d never heard the generator story before. Suddenly the penny dropped.
I thought it was a splendid essay, which every ‘westerner’ should read before going overseas to work.

NB -

'These informal networks we’ve developed over many years, some based on friendships, others on just a style of working, were special in Unilever and were incredibly effective. Consultants brought in by Mike Perry were surprised to find them, and very much troubled by them when trying to install formal systems. The US P&G style was that nobody could do anything outside the job spec in the blue book. Our style was to pick up the telephone and get on with the job ... (well some of the time!)
It was a lot of fun John, and I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated your company. Goodness knows not everything done was right, but the majority was! I think we worked for Unilever during the company's best years and were lucky for that.
Glad to be in touch. Best, Mike.'

So there! We remained convinced that all the knotty questions Unilever faced were best viewed through the bottom of a beer glass with mates ... most of the fractious issues of folk were soluble in alcohol ... bottoms up ... and go with the flow and get on with the job!

Unilever and life in a suit case was not a sob story, we had learned that there was a way out of all the pickles ... hard work, friends & beer!

During our retirement we needed beer money and we were determined to keep in ongoing touch with our pension and the opportunities for -

Unilever's Knitting & Sustainability... Mergers & Acquisitions and Long Term Profitable Projects

China's Emergence ... Market Development      

We also imagined that our fun at Unilever was well worth recording and naively vowed the write a book ...

Corporate Wealth Creation

Of course we were side tracked by a host of opportunity costs which inevitably overwhelmed our intentions ...

Nevertheless happenings were still going to be interesting ... we retired immensely satisfied with our Unilever 'life in a suitcase'!  

:drink    back to first round    


Retirement 1994 'a second bite at life'

Josh at the pubWot an opportunity, retirement at 54 years old and still sober ... a chance for a second bite at life.

wink winkWe felt a bit like we had traveled the word over but found our 'home' @ The Meister, CH3 8AR ... we were replete, we knew from at least the 17th century on there was a legal principle of common law in England that an English man's home was his castle, no one could enter a home without a clear invitation so that whatever the size of your house (or hovel!) it became a home ... an impenetrable cosy castle ... with a garden full of work & fun.

Was this a 'planned strategy'? Our original 'Unilever' plan when we started work in 1963 was a quest to see the manufactories of the world? Of course, it wasn't really a plan ... it just happened ... that was the way the cookie crumbled. It was fun, we made lots of friends, we saw the world, we developed robust manufacturing strategies and we knew how to operate to get results ... even underneath the soap pans in Apapa where happenings were a tad hostile! We retired with a satisfied smile and a de lux CV.

The risk and grind of work in Zone 'A' countries and membership of the UNIAC Pension Fund provided the wherewithal for our second bite at life ... at great expense to all concerned, although contributions to the rainy day fund were elevated to cope with such generosity. Sure there was an abridged life expectancy as the 'white man's grave' on the West Coast of Africa depleted reserves ... the actuaries weren't daft ... but neither were we.  

Our expectations were high as we embarked on a two pronged attack on retirement and our second life -

Open University -- back to swotting & exams and the study of Evolutionary Economics ... even though we were well aware that it was economists who made astrologers look good ... and

Selmer Mark VI Soprano Saxophone -- 1973 Serial No. 264948 -- as we dusted off our virgin device with a bit of spit & polish and attempted to play some Dixieland Jazz ... a long lustful dream in our previous life ... even though we were well aware that we had cloth ears ...  

We were determined to learn and not to sprinkle the desert with a teaspoon, retirement was to be devoted to the mysteries of economic behaviour & the musicality of saxophones ... such intrigues had remained untouched in our first half century as we succumbed to the essentials of putting crumbs on the table for the kids ... the new challenges were to be fun, mulled over and pondered with family & friends over convivial pints ...

Of course happenings didn't go according to plan ... the 2nd Law saw to that ... 

RetirementWe motored on Economics and Saxophones at the start gate with naive enthusiasm ... and managed to make some exciting progress on understanding evolutionary economics and dixieland jazz ... but ... there was no doubt the big disruptor of retirement plans & time was the unknowable serendipity of grandchildren ... it all started with Josh in 2003 and then they arrived at regular intervals ... Georgia May 2005, Jake 2006 and Daniel in 2009 ... peace and tranquility were destroyed and time had to be completely refocused ... economics, jazz and bridge had to be rescheduled as the traffic trips to Sevenoaks became regular relaxing fare for a rejuvenated Gran & Grandpa.

But wot a team, all different, all characters, all well and soon earning spurs. Their story had only just started to unfold and would, no doubt, be told ... much ... much later ...  

 Such dramatic change put paid to most other serious time consuming activities ... but in 2005 Grandpa did manage to start construction of a splendid tree house and swing in our magnificent Cheshire oak tree in Mouldsworth overlooking the Sandstone Ridge ... and we also, somehow or other, managed to keep some time available for 'mucky beer' with our mates! 

How to Find Time!? problems or opportunities?

Mike ShawThe imperative was to organise time to exploit the potential of early retirement. After our initial forays into The Open University and The Smithy Lane Stompers it became clear that time itself had a mind of its own ... things were getting desperate ... 

In 1968 just before we packed our suitcases we had had some fun with J Mike Shaw when the ancient institution of the 'Works Laboratory' was reinvented as 'Quality Department' ... this new fangled collection of scoundrels became prey to Mike's penetrating questions ... and his outrageous 'jokes'.

As well as a mean chemist Mike was a thespian & raconteur, he not only intoned The Galaxy DNA Song in front of a real live audience, he also employed original props ... would you believe a Bishop and an actress ... a real dizzy dizzy blonde? -

Jessica, 'wow, that's big!'

Bishop, 'you're pulling my leg' 

After these early escapades Mike reappeared in 1994 with less hair as an enthusiastic member of the Old Soaps walking group. He proved to be a fellow after our own hearts when he insisted walks should be confined to 3 miles on the flat so that we would be back in fine fettle in time for a pint in the pub just as the doors opened.

JessicaInevitably more outrage followed, this time from the Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin.

Somewhat furtively JMS was sharp and observant and he noticed immediately that Jessica must have changed her telephone number!

There was more ... young Mike was in possession of two remarkable abilities -

his intriguing questions cajoled idle folk into thinking & using their imaginations and

his miraculous capacity to turn ordinary beer into a convivial pint was extraordinary

Mike's musings not only intrigued us old fogies who were well passed their sell by dates but also activated actions as we vowed to pass on such conundrums to the grandkids in the vain hope of helping to complete their education - 

In 1972 when grandpa was a tropical flower in West Africa he was lounging in the hot sun, in a small boat in a small water hole and, as expected, savouring the delights of a large crate of mucky beer; McEwan's Heavy. The midday sun was burning so the worry was that the cold beer might be getting a tad warm. Easy; a rope was tied to the beer crate which was cast overboard into the water to keep it cool, confident that it could be pulled up again for subsequent, well deserved, refreshment.

The crate sank to the bottom of the cooler water no problem. But the intriguing question was ... wot happened to the water level in the pool? Did it rise, stay the same or fall?

Answers to Archimedes, care of Topical Science, The Grange School, Hartford.

One way or another we understood a little bit about science but never really understood time, nor how to find it, so we were grateful to Mike when he inspired our investigations into the predicaments & opportunities embedded in the phenomenon.

In 1999 Mike offered a solution to our ordeal ... Heliochronometer Serial No JPG 029, £665 Gunning Sundials, Petersfield. BSS Record.   

John & Carole Birchall, The Meister, Mouldsworth - 53 14 07 N   2 43 59 W

MillenniumNeedless to say, although we now knew where we were, this considerable investment of AVC funds into heliochromatics and Mike's GPS expertise, failed miserably to locate that elusive retirement time which had been thieved from us so successfully. However all was not lost as the expensive time piece was an attractive accoutrement & centre of attention when we welcomed in the millennium. This was somewhat remarkable as it was dark at the time, 12 midnight December 31st 1999 ... but the beer was good. 

The Birchalls were not alone as beneficiaries of such auspicious wisdom. It was recorded for posterity or prosperity in the Journal of the British Sundial Society that Mike also offered his considerable services, for free, to the Duke of Westminster at Eaton Hall in an attempt to pin down an errant travelling sundial ... it was not known whether the Duke was suitably gruntled by this erudite historical investigation into his ignorance?

The Shaw scholarship continued unabated and all sundial aficionados were in his debt ... wot the hell was a toposcope?    

But like all problems ... they just queued up ... but for beer drinkers every problem was an opportunity ... so if ever we did manage to Find Time!? ... wot were we going to do with it? We hatched our plots with friends at our local pub ... where else?

:drink    back to first round    


Thursday Nites @ The Goshawk    

Evolutionary Economics & Dixieland Jazz & Family History

Business CardsWhen we retired from Unilever it had been 10 years since the curtailment of our excitement with the overseas club. In 1994 we left a strange bickering, still relentlessly bureaucratic & somewhat backward looking 'Lever Europe' but we chose to stay close to our beer drinking club which had a life of its own.

At our leaving party at Hartford Hall we invited a very select group of 'Thursday Night' beer drinkers and urged them to look forward not backwards. To the gross amusement of all, we vowed, there and then to focus our second bite at life on Evolutionary Economics & Dixieland Jazz ... and beer ... and a little later when mama started to droop; Family History.

Our tutors in Evolutionary Economics were at the Open University, at Manchester, Liverpool, York & Bath where the sages and peers pointed us towards new evolutionary ideas & books of wisdom. Our tutors in Dixieland Jazz were led by the blues horn & nous of Slim Read ... but, of course, it was the serendipity of grandchildren who proved to be our most potent tutors!!

During our second bite at life at The Goshawk we eventually concluded we were neither Chemical Engineers nor Economists but best described as Biological Historians ... we were folk who had enjoyed real jobs in business, free traders who seldom messed with the distortions & gravitas of religion, politics & bureaucracy ... we stuck optimistically to empirical science and nous. Our beer glass was always half full and never half empty.

It seemed to us that -

religion always involved incredible myth, magic & mirrors

politics always involved incredible ignorance & arrogance, tyranny & oppression or bribery & corruption

bureaucracy always involved incredible stultifying restrictive practices & restraints on trade

... a divisive trio of trouble ... yet evolution made everyone different for good reason ... just sayin'?

We paid our dues to the empirical scientists, not only at King's and University but also as we watched and admired daughter SJ as she emphatically confirmed  a joint degree at Leicester in two inseparable disciplines ... Biology and Psychology. Therein she was introduced to a giant, Richard Dawkins, and excitedly recommended to her dad his book of enormous consequence The Selfish Gene

Growing Up in the Universe The case for science was encapsulated in simple clarity by Richard Dawkins in The Royal Institute Christmas Lectures (1991) ... wot a yarn for the kids!? 'Science as Epiphany', multitudes became convinced that something big was going on with the worms in our heads and such was certainly not as written in the good books or on tablets of stone. Neither the Bibles, nor the manifestos, nor the regulations & fine print cut the mustard as we all hung on to our own different interpretations of happenings as we went for longevity in our own autonomous way ... while at the same time we all renewed our subscription to Xenophanes, who we suspected had been tutored by our hero Richard Dawkins? -

‘The Gods did not reveal, from the beginning, all things to us, but in the course of time through seeking we may learn & know things better. But as for certain truth no man knows it, nor shall he know it, neither of the Gods nor yet of all things that I speak. For even if by chance he were to utter The Final Truth, he would himself not know it: for all is but a woven web of guesses.’ 

We confirmed that there was consistently nothing new in the recent shenanigans of folk. In 1345 Edward III ended up losing his tax revenues to Alice Peres, and in the 16th century The Pope gave up on taxing Harry, and in 2010 the new Treasury Secretary had lost much more than his tax revenues even before he started his work ... there was a note on his desk from his predecessor -

'I'm afraid there's no money left'

The previous Chancellor had spent everything and more including most of the Birchall rainy day savings!

In the face of all this ackamarackus we suggested the secret was to lighten up, do a few deals, listen to the girls and play the blues ... then have a pint ... which all helped us to forget all about the oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals & corrupt Bureaucrats and enticed us to look after our genes who themselves did their cost/benefit calculations when left in peace.  

:drink    back to first round    


The Old Soaps & Tavern Talks     

LesWe first met Dr Les Ball when he was a young quiff on August 2nd 1990. He had been rescued by The Busker when he swapped the monotony of pub quizzes and ordinary short measured beer for the delights of convivial pints of Greenalls at The Goshawk. 

In 1994 retirement didn't get in the way of the continuity of the beer consumption as the 'Unilever Social Club' spawned new offsprings.

The Old Soaps Walking Group ... 'Old Lever Development Scientists Originally At Port Sunlight' ... although we rejected the old, and were hairy arsed factory buffs, we claimed membership rights as our first pay cheque did originate from Port Sunlight ... such was a remarkable retirement strategy, lots of convivial exercise followed by lots of convivial pints ...

Our social catalyst Les Ball concocted this inspiring story ... 

Tavern TalksWithout doubt the best of the convivial bevvies were at The Goshawk on a Thursday nite as an ordinary pub was turned into a local institution by eight retired soap stalwarts who refused to stop learning - The Busker, our Social Catalyst, Ken Robo, Designer Hughes, our Banjo Player, our Celtic Strummer, Dr John the Governor & john p ... wot a team!

Thankfully the quest for learning was the only thing we agreed on ... everyone was enthusiastically different, independent and aberrant ... and just as the girls stubbornly continued to dance backwards, we resolutely did our own things ... there was no such 'thing' as 'society' in our group ... nor anywhere else for that matter ... we were thankful for that ... we knew that without diversity there could be no natural selection ... diversity was an opportunity for co-operation ... not compromise. We Googled the words co-operation & compromise and agreed there was a significant difference in meaning. However the wags did point out that this independence caused some difficulties when it came to musical harmony. The fun was top drawer, but the sound was lousy!

Even though he avoided beer and drank coffee, it was our new, Celtic Strummer, who grasped the significant ambience of our ensemble - 

'Everyone was different and answerable to no one as we played our musical instruments in our own way and did our own thing ... and the very same distinctive character traits were obvious in the tavern talks afterwards as we drank our beer in the pub and indulged our prejudices'.

The challenge was to wallow in conviviality and avoid the trivia of tittle tattle. We loved it, sitting in front of rapidly depleting convivial pints swapping bets about the future. Although we didn't know it at the time, biological history was our theme as we tried to go beyond the obsequious evils of taxes, opium & slavery ... we searched for 'the bigger picture' and resisted the 'comfortable life of an echo chamber' ... it was the convivial pint that guaranteed the fun as learning continued.

There were only two entry qualifications into our ensemble -

buying a round

reading 'The Selfish Gene' by Richard Dawkins

Musical qualifications didn't come into it as nobody could play anything.

Needless to say we failed miserably on everything, even buying a round became difficult, as agile folk changed their names to Zebedee, changed their minds to suit and changed their harmonies to irritate ... but some did manage to learn a bit about grandchildren, calculating flow rates, immanent & transcendental theology, democratic minorities & human rights, natural law & the whim of kings, comparative advantage & trade, business ethics & profit, blues harmonies & noise, swingin' & dottin', bureaucratic kluge, space & time, science & technology, neverendums & voting with your feet, resurrections & conjuring tricks with bones, natural selection & Boeing 747s  ... and we met with many fascinating but absent friends ... Mitochondrial Eve, Ricardo's Friends & Joe Sixpack ... and Slim Read ... and in weaker moments we lambasted the laudable intentions but abject failures of umpires, referees, priests, judges and bureaucrats ... and all fickle folk who were not around to defend themselves.

There was much dross & tittle tattle but also the occasional useful insight ... which had little to do with luck and much to do with hard work ... and biological history ... so wot exactly was happening with the happenings at The Goshawk?

Non Linear Conversations

Beer ConversationsThe Goshawk on Thursday nights served many convivial pints which lubricated 30 years of learning which we euphemistically called discussion & debate. This excuse for a pint was embroiled in an initial launch pad of shared interests in sport, music, Unilever, retirement & computers ... and eventually covered all the gossip & crack known to man ... it seemed that however hard we tried to avoid the time wasting passions of 'banned subjects' ... religion, politics & sex ... we largely failed at the first fence and had another pint. Our words, reflected our fun, they were inspiringly skew whiff.

Our conversations were a ridiculous mixture of tittle tattle and what some wag described arrogantly as 'nonlinear'. But whatever they were, they were certainly fun ... especially after the fourth pint ... and as prostates made their presence felt our talk was hilarious even after two. The chat never followed a logical sequence from a direct question ... 'cos no one ever asked a direct question. The ubiquitous start point ... 'I don't fancy yours' ... was also ignored as all provocations simply invoked responses involving whatever was in the brain at that moment ... as memories were fading. Thoughts were not random but they were path dependent and there was an infuriating flip flopping electro chemistry which sparked the appearance of ideas as and when. Folk always felt they had permission to say whatever was on their minds, but no one was under the slightest obligation to listen ... and nobody did ... this was creative thinking, no chairman, no agenda ... no sense ... just prejudices which were instantly challenged. Things emerged that were totally unexpected, forcing befuddled brains to try to figure out what on earth was going on. We never reached any conclusions  ... and repeatedly returned to echoing themes ... maybe there were important contentious issues to be resolved ... but we never got round to them. The Selfish Gene was required preparation ... but although we had forgotten what was in it ... we agreed it was a good book. Were natural selection, law of the land, empirical science and the price of beer interconnected?

We managed to agree occasionally, without doubt, that the stupendous outcome of evolution was the capacity of folk to learn ... and furthermore empirical science was the methodology involved, uber alles ... both involved social interactions which we enthusiastically lubricated with beer.

Beer AficionadosAnd we claimed proof of the efficacy of the barley malt brew as both Benjamin Franklin, and his mate Thomas Jefferson, were beer drinking aficionados and they both exposed the fatal flaws whenever naive fools ventured outside of the scientific discipline into the unknown where synergistic co-operation collapsed and impossible compromise reared its ugly head -

'a man convinced against his will
is of the same opinion still'

'to compel man to subsidise with his taxes, the propagation of ideas in which he disbelieves & abhors is sin full & tyrannical'

Our very own contribution, after beer, admitted ignorance but was sharp ... even though it only 'worked' with real friends -

'listen to what we mean not what we say'

Mind sets were revealed as we desperately tried to avoid divisive politics which upset the taste of the beer. We welcomed 'gridlock!', we asked 'who was the Prime Minister of Switzerland?' and offered 'Norman Wisdom for PM'! True friends understood our meaning even though our words were trite ... especially in e-mails which didn't work ... a bit like Skype where daft questions didn't get air time. 

So what were the themes of our non-linear conversations?

There were seven fragments of conversations which must have been interesting because they recurred again & again within the cluttered chatter... but they convinced nobody and occasionally even the cries of 'rot' ... 'it's a canard' ... it's not 'logical' ... were heard above the savouring of the pints. 

Seven Books for Learning?   

Darwin's Dangerous Idea1 - Natural Selection & 'Designers'
Was 'Intelligent Design' a physical impossibility? After all 2+2=4 was not the end of the story, scientists were now certain the universe was not clockwork. But did evolution 'just happen' as the 2nd law of thermodynamics relentlessly unfolded and structures spontaneously emerged ... did some structures some how manage to differentially survive? 
We guessed that long necked giraffes resulted from the death of the short necked variety and the Boeing 747 was not an intelligent design hoax.
Why was it real hard to swallow the evolutionary truth that intelligent folk did not on average have children who were more intelligent than the parents ... but rather, the more intelligent of the children differentially survived and had more surviving children of their own?
The Watch Maker was Blind    From Bacteria to Bach & Back    

Trade Shaped the World2 - Cooperative Synergies & 'Comparative Advantage'
Were cooperative synergies discovered & accumulated from specialisation & trade? It seemed after all 2+2=5, was the norm in Adam Smith's Pin Factory and now biological historians were reinterpreting the past. Intelligent men just didn't get it? There's no doubt comparative advantage was a difficult idea?
We guessed that the Danes were not better than the English at milk production (they had no absolute advantage in milk) ... but rather the Danes themselves were better at producing milk than cars (they had a comparative advantage in milk).
We guessed the Chinese built up a trade imbalance not because they they were good or bad at producing 'Barbie Dolls' but rather that they 'fixed' their exchange rate ... and stole software. Otherwise the trade balance would balance.
Why did Sir Francis Drake secure synergies & riches as a trader of good gotten gains rather than as a raider of ill gotten gains?
2+2 must equal 5    Co-operation not Compromise

The Nature of Value3 - The Nature of Value & 'Printing Money'
Who controlled the money supply when the bankers promised to pay the bearer of a £1 note? Money could not be created out of nothing?
We guessed that The Bank of England could not control the quantity of money notes in circulation ... but rather Joe SixPack simply requisitioned as many money notes as he wished from his credit balance in his personal account?
Could money be created out of nothing? Did money have an intrinsic value or was it simply a measuring system which valued the output of exchangeable goods & services?
Hard work, Honesty & Thrift    Trade, Torts & Technology

The Selfish Gene4 - Just Wars & 'Cultural tit for tat'
Was the Iraq War a natural part of the evolution of cooperation? A game of cultural tit for tat from chapter 12 of 'The Selfish Gene'?
We guessed that The Iraq War was not caused by belligerent politicos but rather it was an episode in the ancient historical process of cultural competition? Even cultures must learn to cooperate or die?

Why was Liberal Democracy never ever not about 51% taxing 49% ... but rather about cooperation, repeated interaction and differential survival as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights protected individuals and minorities provided they didn't harm anyone? Was the Section 30 caveat of the UDHR drafted to stop Nation States treating their citizens as they wished? Did the UDHR make the world safe for diversity?  
Folk were Free to Vote with their Feet and join Clubs of their Choice   Caveat No Harm to Others

God & the Money Lenders5 - Privatisation & 'Tax & Spend'
Why the endless cycles of tax, borrow & print? Did the bankers have a government guarantee?
We guessed that our own Rainy Day Funds were not illegal, immoral, ill gotten gains available for confiscation by taxation, manipulation or financial oppression by oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals & corrupt Bureaucratic despots ... and other parasites & predators 'I say I will have all, both use and principle' ... but rather good gotten gains saved as self insurance policies for family & friends for a rainy day?
Why were Unilever profits seen as a cost canard and not a surplus for investment in projects of choice? The Unilever Accounts Manual defined tax as a cost, a cost just like a tariff which clearly reduced output & thus real wages?
Balance Sheets must Balance
    Unilever a Business not a Political Circus

Vice President6 - Technology & 'Globalisation'

Why did too many assume a sustainable surplus was a rip off? Did JJ follow our footsteps and go global in his search for good gotten gains?  We guessed that a cure for cancer would not come from the local council?

Were freedom and equality alternatives or two sides of the same coin? Was everybody equal before the laws of nature & the laws of commerce?
Perhaps the Chinese were not irrelevant as some claimed but rather continually interacting agents in the middle of the whole shebang and caboodle? Was Rebekka Brooks immoral for reporting 'news', or was it Ryan Giggs who was playing away from home?
Why was the NHS tolerated as a despotic profligate bureaucracy (wasting 7% of GDP) where multiple assistants denied patients access to the technology and survival machines? Did the system survive off the fruits of American investment in R&D (18% of GDP) rather than contribute as a successful medical technology business selling excellent global technology from Moorfields and Alder Hey Hospital Trusts to insurance companies? Or did the investment in the USA also mostly end up in outrageous bureaucracy?
A Whole Throbbing Shebang & Caboodle 

Honest to God7 - God of Moral Sentiments & 'worms in the head'
Was the resurrection a conjuring trick with bones? John Robinson & Bishop Spong thought not?
We guessed that Adam Smith's 'moral sentiments' were not a gift from God but rather complex neural circuits & networks, deep down in the skull which produced real universal emotional responses and empathies?
Something was going on, to a greater or lesser extent these feelings of 'a bad conscious' or 'an inner light' were universal? Did everybody 'feel' they knew where good manners came from?
Resentment of Cheats
and Fairness of Shares    Universal Emotions load the dice

Was it really propitious to boil down 30 years of social intercourse to just seven headlines embodied in seven books?  

natural selection

comparative advantage

fiat money

just wars




Early JazzJazz Music Missing?     

We must mention that there was another, rather esoteric, tome that tickled personal fancies but failed to inspire the Goshawk Gang during our beers. We discussed music, of course, but we never managed to get to grips with 'Early Jazz: its roots and early development' by Gunther Schuller 1968 ... his suggestions fell on stony ground ... but the book did lead to hours & hours of hard work and an 'on line' project deciphering / transcribing the Louis Armstrong Hot 5 Recordings. This was a labour of love, magic in every quaver.

We learned a prodigious lot about our passion for jazz music but it didn't seem to help the chaotic sounds which emerged from saxophones! We admitted we were perplexed? Why did the Thursday night squad @ The Goshawk launch into endless discussions about the repetitive trivia of the latest political fiasco .. and yet the unfathomable 'understanding' of jazz never seemed to strike a chord? And what was a 'chord' anyway and why did it matter?

Was all this Goshawk intrigue a 'Search for the Bigger Picture' or just a 'Cozy Life in an Echo Chamber'? Some said it was idle gossip? We said it was tittle tattle? Most called it all a flibbertigibbet? We certainly savoured all the descriptives from Readers Digest ... but in all the kerfuffle & hurly-burly it seemed we were just cantankerous curmudgeons bloviating codswallop ... and having beer & fun.   

Books & Beer    

Books & BeerBooks became important. We had no time for books at school, it was all about doing cricket. We had no time for books at Uni, it was all about passing exams. We had no time for book at Unilever, it was all about putting crumbs on the table for the family. But in retirement, when the saxophone was blown out, we really discovered the joy of books ... books were about vicarious learning ... anybody could get into the heads of all sorts of interesting authors and exploit the excitment of empathy. Sure you could do the empathy thing with your mates in the pub but once we were in the 'Amazon Library' the English speaking world was our oyster. Our bookcase grew & grew nourishing our predelictions and making the triumphs of 'jazz' and 'evolutionary economics' unassailable. We found kindred spirits everywhere, we were not alone in our cosy echo chamber in The Goshawk ... 

Sooo ... we tried and thoroughly enjoyed books, endlessly, but they didn't help much, there was a book for every flavour. Did we end up reading the books that fed our prejudices? Books were often much of a muchness and little like our own yens (which were all different, of course) ... and any conclusions were a crass over simplification ... we were desperately trying to understand but didn't even agree on whether we had problems or opportunities ... problems were easy see everywhere as zero sum myths echoed round the table, robotically reiterated as the gaps widened ... but the real marvel that we were grappling with was the opportunity for positive sum cooperation through hard work, honesty & thrift as folk did honest deals ... rats had problems but rats saw theft as a solution ... parasites & predators were constantly impeding progress by tying our shoelaces together ... no wonder we needed beer?

In the end we only read science books ... and we discovered & accumulated ... as antagonists were cut to the quick when experiments in Scunthorpe worked in Chester. But what about the strange distractions of politics, religion, music & sex?

We found scientific endeavour was making inspiring inroads into the understanding of these such intractables ... was it all about ... fear and excitement ... was the dark & dismal economics fast becoming an evolutionary science? Some inspiring folk suggested that things like friendships and musical empathy were intensely economic and impossible to steal as the genes themselves did the cost benefit analysis ... and you've got your work cut out if you want to steal genes? 

Evolutionary Economics was an Empirical Science and day by day the evidence mounted; Robin Dunbar (this time with Jim Al-Khalili on YouTube) delivered diversity and the best understanding of science for free ... learning was never about money, it was always about friends and you couldn't buy friends on an App ... friends needed hard work, honesty & thrift ... folk only managed about 150 of 'em and understanding economics and music needed friends for cooperation not bureaucrats for compromise ... Dot Readers - Money Printers - Lethal Debtors - BBC Censors - Fake Noos - Pontificators - Prancers ... all stuck in ruts obsessively checking their iPhones for more news of more doom & gloom ... all became irrelevant to our wealth of happiness.

GDP statistics did not measure the endorphic excitement of that first ... or second convivial pint!  

After may be 33 about years of Goshawk booze were we were stuck in a cosy rut? We felt we were well fed up & drunk with puerile talk and sterile jazz ... and we were rapidly running out of time.   

We'd had a good run and our annual summaries of the highlights were great fun ... they were always challenging and certainly not boring ... but they were getting a tad repetitive?

Had our Thursday nights and tavern conversations become a boring echo chamber and our music a painful cacophony?

In March 2016 we tried to uncover new insights into these dilemmas by experimenting and even drinking in different pubs!

So by 2016 beer drinking and music on Thursday nights were in disarray ... but friendships and jazz were due for fillips ... there were fantastical opportunities ahead not dour problems ... a Renaissance was an imperative if we wanted to escape from the stranglehold of stifling kluge while there was still some time left ... we all had to get out of the cul-de-sacs ... so we took feet to avoid the blockages of the echo chamber & the cacophony and let the blood flow ...

The Echo Chamber of 'draining the swamp' & 'getting it done' - Trumpeting Brexit - Vote with Your Feet & Join a Club of Your Choice

The Cacophony of 'walls of noise' & 'wailing cats' - Screeching Saxophones - The Smithy Lane Stompers

We remembered again and again our Captain Chris Chorlton -

'rather than be sad that it came to an end we should wonder and be grateful that it ever happened at all' ...

We embraced Empirical Science to avoid the tittle tattle ... we had learned underneath the soaps pans in Apapa about - Unilever's Knitting -  a Multi local Multi national - flexibility for adaptation - did things slowly fall into place?

Or was it in 2016 when our most cherished assumptions and exciting conversations ... stopped?   

:drink    back to first round    


Knee Jerk Hystericals & Bureaucratic Kluge
Broken Polarised Petty Party Politics, Lethal Debt, Lockdown & Trumpeting Brexit  

Knee Jerk HystericalsHistory revealed all the stark problems of Thucydides Traps -

Athens v. Sparta - Catholics v. Protestants - Capitalists v. Socialists - Left v. Right - Debtors v. Creditors - Compound Interest Earners v. Compound Interest Payers - Creation v. Evolution which became Intelligent Design v. Natural Selection ...

... and now, perhaps, happenings were simply -

the fear of Problems v. the excitement of Opportunities ...  

... a flip flopping 51% v. 49% ... jeez ... knickers got all twisted yet again whenever we strayed off -

the evidence of empirical science &

the reality of natural selection

We bet big time that censorship & misinformation & the Chinese Communist Party & 'Cancel Culture' could never stop ideas ... some even said 'Cancel Culture' actually helped to propagate ideas ... work that one out?!

Since forever fearful problems & exciting opportunities were global & contagious ... how on earth do you stop instincts & emotions from crossing borders? ... Iron Curtains, Berlin Walls and demilitarised zones never stopped flights of fancy? ...

Yet folk tended to experience and better understand the local, after all that was where most folk had to survive. But the fearful and exciting truth was that all was one whole shebang & caboodle ... amongst all the complexity, change, conflict & scarcity ... it was physically impossible to orchestrate Westphalian States into economic & political utopias. The 2nd law saw to that!   

The electoral appeal of 'Trumpeting Brexit' was not about the lies about the unknowable futures and 'cliff edges' and but rather the lack of trust in oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals and corrupt Bureaucrats? The bureaucrats in Washington, Brussels & Westminster had been rumbled ... they couldn't 'balance the books' and the 'bills had to be paid' ... but how to 'drain the swamp' when the minds of folk were captured by prancing messiahs? Some folk do and some folk don't, watch & listen ... like all historical pageants Trumpeting Brexit was both entertaining & educational ... the interesting question was why the show went on for so long?

Even in liberal democracies polarised groupings & 'club memberships' always seemed to tend to split 50/50 as 'winner takes all' zero sum unproductive blame games took hold whenever transfer of 'titular power' was mooted. Social bonds became disrupted and often escalated into a common hatred of the other 50% ... the interesting question was why the games were taken so seriously? But 'titular' was the key word ... natural selection saw to that.

Bull ShittersWhich 'clubs' to join?  How to seize the 'fantastical opportunities'? How to sort out the wheat from the chaff? Everyone must have a survival strategy, but who to trust? Trust 'mum' was a good place to start ... everyone agreed with that ... but it was unsustainable as every adolescent knew, 'mum' didn't have a clue about iPhones & Tick Tock and hamburgers & girls ... and all the 'op eds' and the 'balanced' BBC didn't cut the mustard, they just fed prejudices.

Young 'Carole with an e' developed a robust strategy, she looked for smiles in the 'whites of their eyes' ... excellent ... such could not be faked ... we concurred! We remembered Headmaster Canon Harvey, 'choose your friends, don't be chosen'.    

We had no doubts and we also put big bets on Empirical Science & Liberal Democracy as bedfellows, the humanities & the autocracies were also rans. We focused on the growth of survival know how which involved synergies of specialisation & scale ... such riches were only available through cooperation and hard work in positive sum productive compounding activities ... excluding out or ignoring 50% of any population was plain daft ... seeking some violent 'final solution' was anathema ... but how to avoid the knee jerk hysterical hatreds?

Checks & balances, term limits, separation of powers, bills of rights ... subsidiarity ... we've been there before? ... so how to avoid back sliding into kneejerk hystericals?

Shackled to a CorpseThe problem was not never Trumpeting Brexit, the problem was Washington/Brussels/Westminster bureaucratic kluge!

Were we not never going to be shackled to a Brussels nor even European corpse?

We guessed we could do better, we wanted to try ... sooooo ... we didn't forget that us & our mates were at Unilever, we were focused on investment in the 'middle class bulges' located in India, China, Indonesia, Brazil & Nigeria (and perhaps even in the Oxbridge Business Park triangle!) ... we were bent on discovering & accumulating real synergies of specialised innovations and economies of scale?

We were more than a bit peeved - Brussels never ever 'Balanced the Books'.

The Pope had a word for it - Anathema - a formal curse, denouncing a doctrine -

abhorrent, abomination, aversion, ban, bane, bête noire, bugbear, curse, damnation, debarment, denunciation, disgrace, evil, excommunicate, execration, hateful, imprecation, malediction, monstrosity, odious, offensive, outrageous, pariah, proscription, repellent, repugnant ...  

Pie in the SkyThe Brussels 'Stability and Growth Pact' was pie in the sky.  

We got excited and bet again on the ongoing growth & natural selection of Adam Smith's moral sentiments ... hard work, honesty & thrift ... trade, torts & technology ... nobody took the bet so our friendly response was ... calm down and have another beer ... so we did ... but deep down we knew the dice of moral sentiments were loaded.

Real money was never ever created out of nothing.

On a hot day in 2016 young JJ reflected on a tragic happening on the Washington beltway. One of his respected colleagues working for his venerated silicon valley grandee took his own life as he drowned, submerged & spluttering in the filthy foul stench of the all pervasive bribery & corruption embedded in the sprawling bureaucratic mire of titular 'government'. Moral sentiments? Tosh!

Were world class, profitable, competitive businesses in America helpless as they were sucked into the Washington swamp? Were businesses over here in Europe any better under the Brussels cosh and the continuous abject failure to balance the books? And Westminster was just an ill-tempered circus ... everyone in the pub agreed with that ...although agreeing about a solution was a different matter?       

Just remember the last time them up there tried the command & control of good behaviour, Bishops lost their frocks, Princes lost their heads, Emperors lost their clothes, Generals lost their stripes and Bureaucrats lost their marbles'!

All this malarkey was going on a long long time ago in medieval history, that was where Jake's cousin studied the mind boggling complexity of social evolution - the rise & fall of empires, the collapse of dark age feudalism, the religious schisms of East & West, reformation & renaissances and the hope of agricultural & scientific revolutions - a tortuous, messy, complex, unfathomable, unbelievable, sketch of path dependency to the English language, common law & liberal democracy? ... or not? ... and usually it was not?

Seemed Churchill was right ... liberal democracy was the worst form of government apart from all the others which have been tried from time to time.   

Then once upon a time, after the 'millennium bug' and the 'dot com' crash, the latest happenings got real nasty as the Bureaucrats in the Washington swamp, the Brussels kludge & the Westminster circus went for broken as bribery & corruption, tyranny & oppression and parasites & predators clogged up the minds of us folks & our mates with 'fake noos' & 'social media'. The Busker threw his breakfast at the telly, dysthymia raged and we left the BBC to talk to itself and even the 'opinion pieces' in the FT were colour coded so we could ignore them.

We all, one and every, confronted the doom & gloom of a triple whammy - the credit crunch & lethal debt, the Washington & Brussels bureaucratic 'money printing' backlash and then the beastly bug from Wuhan ... and then even more ... a proxy war in Europe. All were global intrigues leaving local pontificators & prancers impotent at the leaky borders as the bureaucrats switched their instructions & statues to pending, and then a real challenge, climate change ... vainly hoping to keep the patient alive while they tried to do the operation without scalpel nor anesthetic?

We were tired ... all bureaucratic hierarchies had plans which came to naught.

Now God said, and we agreed with him -

'Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. The whole earth is of one language, so do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth ...'

We were certainly not helpless. But were we wasting time rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic as we sacked one planner & hopefully replaced him with another ... or perhaps a her? Expecting a messiah to dig us out of the hole? 

Consider the LilliesThe Piano Man said -   

 'Someone has to rule us, otherwise there would be chaos'

Saxophone Player muttered -

 'eh? ... but e = 2.71828 ... a universal growth constant ... the mathematical truth?  

Banjo Player -

'You misheard, he said, someone must fool us to cause the chaos' 

'Rule' or 'fool' the saxophone player was confused 'cos we couldn't remember the chapter & verse and in any case we never really understood logarithms (even when we graduated with an Honours degree ... we only passed exams ... however we did vaguely remember one enthusiastic lecturer who brightly suggested - 

'Order emerges on the edge of chaos? That's where the action is ... it's thermodynamics' and the Piano man added knowingly -

'you get f-all for nowt'

We coped with maths at school but didn't really understand ... in desperation we turned to some cautionary wisdom in Luke 12:27 -

'Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these'.

All this arrogant nonsense about bureaucratic command & control of good sensible behaviour ... it was all cockamamie ... so many words -

absurd, asinine, balmy, brainless, cockeyed, comical, crazy, cuckoo, daffy, daft, derisory, dotty, derisive, dumb, farcical, far-fetched, fatuous, foolish, half-baked, half-witted, harebrained, idiotic, imbecilic, inane, inconceivable, incredible, insane, illogical, irrational, jerky, kooky, laughable, loony, ludicrous, mad, moronic, nonsensical, nutty, pathetic, preposterous, ridiculous, risible, screwball, senseless, silly, simpleminded, stupid, unbelievable, unreal, unrealistic, unreasonable, unwise, whacky, weak-minded, witless ... downright poppy cock

So we were pushing maths & physics ... we didn't expect anyone to listen although Jake did decide to do maths & physics at 'A level' ... we got on with the job -

hard work, honesty & thrift from the 2nd law espoused by the Piano Man -
... 'you get f-all for nowt'

compound interest from e = 2.7182 espoused by the village mathematician -
... 'a immutable universal constant always accurate to as many places as you want, even in Scunthorpe'

we remembered way back Brian Stanyer's cousin Jeff in 1953 espousing - 
... 'all this pontificating is all very well John but wot are you going to do about the laws of nature?'

Funny how these three terse, far from vapid, statements of rarely disputed facts stick in the memory and built survival beliefs. Betting didn't help 'cos nobody took our bet, so we tried coffee instead of beer ... but that didn't help much so we had another pint and forgot to remember wot we were worried about.

But why on earth were degenerative decaying geriatrics like us turning into worried men? ... we were survivors and we'd bought the T-shirt ... and we'd bought a brand spanking new Android duberry ... about to be smashed to smithereens by the Banjo Player? ... thru our sitting room window!  

But don't get it all wrong ... Unilever also had plans which failed but, in contrast, we worked hard on our local patch to change happenings & innovate rather than perpetuate & fossilise bureaucratic kluge ... we recalled folk all over the world seemed to love succulent, delicious, scrumptious 'Magnums' which proved to be a good way to survive, smile and avoid bankruptcy.

HappyEven the Banjo Player forgot his worries and was happy after a pint of J W Lees.

We were determined that doom & gloom merchants peddling 'Project Fear' and 'cliff edges' were not going to subdue our enthusiasm for 'Tiger Rag'!

All these intractables, obdurates & intransigents led Reuters to proclaim Brexit Fatigue is Driving Britons to Drink ... but was this all 'fake news'? ... wotever happened to the big economic common senses & surges in 'know how' ... the 'fantastical opportunities' like the 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights', 'subsidiarity', 'privatisation', 'Doha Rounds', 'drain the swamp' and 'get it done'?

We were 'lucky' we had a Unilever pension ... (although like Gary Player, we knew for certain that the harder we practiced the luckier we got so we banished 'luck' from our vocabulary) ... we had learned under the soap pans in Apapa that 'fake noos' & 'alternative facts' were nothing new and did not arrive with Trumpeting Brexit, Twitter, Facebook & the 'balanced BBC' ... in our day we called all such baloney 'bullshit' and soon learned to recognise the phenomenon by the unmistakable stench.

From 2008 to 2022 thru 2016 we risked the lost decades of life & fun as parts of the world as we knew it became ossified in moribund, puerile distractions as action ceased and polarising squabbles & hatreds dominated intercourse and were substituted for action & progress. Most of the beer was in danger of turning sour and even the firkins in the Goshawk cellars had to be written off during Covid.

Let's get things straight, this 'interlude' went on & on & on ... a boring distraction which incited knee jerk hatreds ... what a waste of valuable time ... however for us evolutionary economists it was almost irrelevant and maybe hilarious fun ... we were optimists who knew for certain that natural selection was still at work in Darwin's 'entangled bank' and the dice were loaded ... all the frantic passions channeled into command & control of human behaviour resulted in nowt but pathos and humour ... who did they think they were? Project Fears went useless in the same way as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse did years ago. Folk weren't daft they learned ... such stories were distractions ... meanwhile Unilever went on selling more Magnums ... 'cos customers seemed to love them?

From the bottom of a beer glass, the view of the bureaucratic antics seemed to us to be just the usual 'kicking the can down the road' ... 'pinning the blame on others' ... 'doom & gloom' ... and 'cliff edges'. We went balls down for another narrative of 'fantastical opportunities' ... from hard work, honesty & thrift. In other words our club settled differences by +ve sum co-operation rather than zero sum compromise ... some folk we met had to use their dictionaries to grasp the different meanings of compromise & cooperation? We saw few signs of problem solving and little sign of more opportunities for empirical science, however all the time the scientists & technologists were still at it, sticking to the knitting, gettin' on with the job & minding their own business.

There were a few folk around The Goshawk, CW3 8AJ who still thought wealth was accumulated by ingeniously nicking silver spoons. We were almost speechless ... but we stuck to our knitting and went back the exponential growth of Darwin's entangled bank and compound interest ... and muttered hopefully that 'e' = 2.7182 ... always ... as the hard work of growth trumped the only alternative to decay & bankruptcy ... we couldn't do the maths so we told some more stories -  

Wooden Pennies - a Clockwork Rabbit story for the toddlers ... it was all about personal responsibility and very difficult ... there was no messiah, no god behind every tree ... such orchestration from above was was pie in the sky ... such folk were shackled to a corpse

Parable of the TalentsParable of the Talents - a forgotten story from the good book Matthew 25:14 'Every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance. But from him that hath not shall be taken away, even that which he hath. And the unprofitable servant was cast into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth' ... use your personal 'talents' to grow your inheritance ... otherwise value & wealth will inexorably decay ... busy is good ... sloth is evil - 

everyone inherited life & existing know how 

talents were diverse & different

growth success came from hard work & honesty & investment

everyone joined a club of their choice & faced a day of reckoning as the bills had to be paid    

Compound InterestTwelve Grains of Rice - a story about eating the seed corn and getting on the growth curve thru hard work, honesty & thrift ... evidence from the mathematics of compound interest ...

Don't get it wrong ... many dishonest folk worked hard at thieving, that was for sure, parasites & predators were everywhere but they were playing a zero sum game ... the dice were loaded as social species had to be honest to be social and gain access to cooperative synergies and + ve sum games. We imagined how long a thief would last in The Goshawk if he didn't but his round? In this way synergies were unavailable to thieves who ate the seed corn and such were ostracised and kicked out of the club ... investment required honest trust which had to be earned over time ... honest trust could not be a declaration ... 'trust me I'm from the council' just didn't cut the mustard. Sure there was honour among thieves but the mathematics of growth required investment over a period of time ... and the strange story of Euler's 'e'.

We thinks ... few folk trusted a thief?  

Pros and ConsHappenings happened but you & I seemed to remain stubbornly polarised around 50% pros and 50% cons ... for certain we were both going for longevity but different people, in different places at different times had different ideas ... as time tick tocked relentlessly by ... not to be wasted?

We were also betting pints that 'polarising neverendums' never worked ... nor indeed for that matter, did any sort of voting 'work' ... this was especially clear on Thursday nites in the Goshawk where voting was verboden ... such polls were 'red herrings' as invariably 'voting' became a justification for 51% to screw 49% and could never, no not ever, solve problems ... especially as jazz saxophone players always seemed to be in the 49% who were being screwed ... if only Adam the Smith, Jimmy Watt and Tommy Jeffers were still around to help the conversation? ... meanwhile in fear of 'waking Jane' & 'being cancelled' the BBC fed the prejudices & flavours of the month to the hoi polloi who paid their taxes and never mulled 'opportunity costs' and 'counter factuals' -

'if ifs & buts were candy & nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas'


We were all trapped in an unreasonable, emotional & irrelevant slanging matches about unknowable futures ... polarised extremes which would never materialise because folk must, sooner or later, always, experiment and go balls down for the synergies which secure survival and escape the zero sum alternative of decay, destitution & certain death ... the fan chart of the future identified no go areas for home sapiens in his environmental niche ... amongst all the kerfuffle & wasted time we were forced to remind ourselves that behaviour was always either adaptive ... or soon non existent ... QED

The good news - for many tinkers armed with the moral sentiments of the Scottish Enlighteneers & an uncanny capacity poke a bit of fun at fools, there was the excitement of opportunities for synergies of specialisation & scale ... if they actively confronted the problems of millstones of bureaucratic kluge, parasites & predators, tyranny & oppression, bribery & corruption, ignorance & arrogance ... and adapted ...

The bad news - for many other tinkers, the fear of Lethal Debt, Lockdown & Trumpeting Brexit and legion 'Projects Fears' & 'Fake Noos' resulted in frozen inactivity and a miserable failure to adapt ...

The Darwinian science of the natural selection of moral sentiments and The Case for Business remained stubbornly under wraps as too many frit folk had an strange bias to be duped by bullshit.

TimelineOnce again in our long history of the universe and the recent emergence of DNA; knee jerk hysteria, panic & searing emotions of excitement & fear barged in thru an open door as science & reason leaked out thru closed windows ... we membered Schopenhauer's lady friend, the muse of history; Clio

'the muse of history as thoroughly infected with lies as a street whore with syphilis'

In this way 'Fake Noos' had been a virus of the mind since forever so don't get your knickers in a twist.

Very early on asked for the identity of the fact checkers who had privileged access to knowledge? 'Who were these eminences grises?' Were they the oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals & corrupt Bureaucrats who always seemed to be pilloried as most eyes were diverted and beliefs were distorted as the focus was locked on the top rather than the scientists at the bottom who got on with the job ... the knee jerk hysteria & panic spread to who won & who lost but neglected the synergies as the incomprehensible physiology which continued to both mesmerise and inflame.

Sure history never repeated itself but it did rhyme ... 50% went west 50% went east, mesmerised, distracted, distorted & sidetracked by the talking heads from above ... all the bureaucrats in Brussels, Westminster & Washington saw to that ... and above all the raucous polarising mayhem of hatred we never heard the voices of the business men & the scientists ... they were 'cancelled' ... they were minding their own business and getting on with the job ... cashing in on maths, science & reason to survive ... otherwise they went bankrupt or lost their citations and turned into zombies.

As the BBC and the Newspapers, and even the FT, succumbed to the top down mantra we voted with our feet and joined another club of our choice. But when we desperately tried for another round we discovered The Goshawk was lockdowned ... so we tried at home, it was good but not as good as the real thing.

Why were 5½, or was it 25½ and counting, years of valuable beer drinking time lost on tittle tattle? ... 'this time was different' ... jeez ... so many words described the fiasco - 

not only unreasonable, emotional & irrelevant ... but also diminutive, exhausting, exiguous, immaterial, inadequate, inappreciable, inconsequential, inconsiderable, insignificant, insufficient, limited, meager, measly, minor, narrow, negligible, paltry, petty, poor, puny, restricted, scanty, skimpy, slight, small, sparse, tenuous, trifling, trivial, unconsidered, unimportant, vitriolic, wimpy, worthless

Much AdoSoooo ... just like the hysteria over the Millennium Bug which destroyed drinking time in 1999 ... and the War on Terror in 2001 ... in 2021 Lockdown & Trumpeting Brexit stubbornly refused to pass into history and fouled up our attempts to get going again with a smile ... only to be distracted again by more deluded bureaucrats ... Putin & Xi?

In the Grand Scheme of Things on Darwin's entangled bank there was much bunkum and twaddle talked by folk who should have known better but it was Willie Shakespeare who cut the mustard and told us the story of Much Ado about Nothing, just bit of fun which chimed - 

easy to fall in love, easy to take offence ... easy to be deceived & duped into believing by malicious or benevolent plots & conspiracies ... lies & intrigue compounded complexity ... and innocence was proved by a chance but inevitable discovery of the truth ... the truth will out ... 'e' = 2.7182 ... it doesn't = 42  

Revisiting Willie's yarn 'Much Ado about Nothing' repaid dividends big time for anyone who tried to cope with green Millenniums, polarised Snowflakes and assertive Wokes ...  

We had learned underneath the soap pans in Apapa ...

'plus ca change plus la meme chose' ...

We were in a good place, problems were solved by technology ... with some help from torts and trade ... and there were always endless fantastical opportunities for -

diversity = technology was discovery - new variants from sex & single nucleotide polymorphisms? (level playing fields?)

immunity = torts protected accumulation - eukaryotic cell membranes discriminated & specialised? (semi permeable borders?) 

synergies = trade enabled specialisation & scale which delivered win/win mutual benefits - differential survival of existing variants? (positive sum games?)

But ... and in was a big but ... parasites & predators inevitably evolved?

bribery & corruption thrived ... 'as soon as there were stocks there were thieves' and defensive systems were essential consequences ... in 2020 we learned about adaptive immunotherapy systems ... and immunity from treachery.   

Nobody could 'stop' the Laws of Physics (and chemistry & biology) ... and even high falutin' Liberal Democracy itself had to adapt to survive, the process of natural selection was relentless ... it was an arms race. 

We loved all the science in The Galaxy DNA Song ... and the bright ideas abounding in the maths of Ken Arrow's Impossibility Theorem, The Condorcet Paradox ... David Ricardo's Comparative Advantage ... Richard Dawkings' Evolution of Evolvability ... so we urged all who would listen (but, of course, nobody ever did) to Designer's greatest contribution ... Vote with Your Feet & Join a Club of Your Choice  

Sure, we were mere saxophone players and had no deep understanding of evolution and its explanatory power as genes themselves did their own cost / benefit analysis ... but we reckoned that voting was useless and only empirical science settled arguments about outcomes -


mathematical theory

testable hypotheses

experimental validation

peer review

It was experimental outcomes in Scunthorpe, which were validated in The Antipodes, that provided the opportunities for new 'know how' ... survival 'know how' ... we kept repeating ourselves ...

a double blind randomised control experiment in Scunthorpe which was repeated in the Antipodes 17½ nights later with the same peer reviewed results was meaningful evidence ... the rest was tittle tattle ...

Fairy TalesThus, seen through the bottom of a beer glass, Lethal Debt, Trumpeting Brexit, Lockdowns & Inflations were no big deals at all ... they were all in the past ... some thought the future was a 'race to the bottom' but others believed the future was 'top wank' ... a profusion of experiments, fantastical opportunities, not for 'equivalence' but for 'betterment', productivity synergies and 'quality of outcomes' ... all else was exaggerated emotional froth in broken bureaucracies that added zilch to the knowledge base ... 'bills had to be paid' ... 'Covid ain't daft' ... 'crowd trouble if 51% screw 49%' ... put it this way - 

us evolutionary economists reckoned that nobody knew much about the future ... so lying about the future was misspeak ... different folk in different places at different times had different ideas about the what, who, when & why of the how of how happenings happened ... the intriguing question was - which random mutations of ideas in imaginations, in combination & recombinations, would emerge and result in experiments in the real world which would gather enough steam to be noticed as complexity, change, conflict & scarcity panned out as everyone mutually benefited from the unstoppable 3% compound growth of 'know how' ...

or as we had summarised in our tutorials at OU way back in 2000 -

Evolutionary Economics explains the unleashing of a process of technological & institutional innovation involving the generating & testing of a diversity of ideas which discover & accumulate more survival value for the costs incurred than competing alternatives. The evidence suggests that it could be adaptive efficiency that defines economic efficiency ... as know how evolves.

Don't VoteThus inspired evolutionary economists seldom bothered to gather votes in broken bureaucracies ... they had better things to do. Don't Vote it will only encourage them was a bit of fun but voting often distracted us all from personal responsibility and focused on the cul-de-sac of blaming others for our predicament.

Our 'duty' to vote became a simple exercise in damage limitation we still had to work to put a crumb on the table for the kids.   

The one & only best best option for us all as we were confronted by 'the garden of forking paths' was personal endeavour and buying beer for your mates -

'stick to the knitting'  -- more specialisation, more scale, more synergies, more trade, more convivial pints   

'mind our own business' -- more hard work, more innovation, more experiments ... and

'get on with the job' -- discover & accumulate 'know how' with your mates in the global network of 'empirical science'

The Laws of Nature themselves guaranteed the diversity of opportunities ... the problems were the bureaucratic distractions, 'spanners in the works', the fantastical opportunities were sustainable, 'synergies & surpluses', nurtured by the 'hard work, honesty & thrift' available to everyone who tried for experimental innovation & discovery ... we seemed destined to repeat ourselves so we tried to smile at all the bureaucratic impotence & pretentious nonsense - 

ackamarackus, babble, balderdash, baloney, bamboozle, beguile, bilge, blah, blather, bluff, bribery, bullshit, bunk, bunkum, charlatan, chatter, cheat, circus, claptrap, codswallop, con, concoction, corruption, crap, deceit, delude, denial, drivel, dross, dupe, fake, false, fast one, fiddle, flannel, flimflam, folderol, folly, foolishness, fraud, fudge, garbage, gibberish, gossip, guff, hoax, hogwash, hokey pokey, hoodoo, hoodwink, hooey, hokum, hot air, humbug, hustle, hypocrisy, jest, lies, malarkey, malfeasance, misinform, mislead, moonshine, nonsense, nuts, pantomime, phony, piffle, poppycock, pontification, prank, propaganda, punk, put-on, quackery, red tape, rigmarole, rot, rubbish, scam, senselessness, sham, silliness, slush, spit & polish, spoof, sting, stupidity, swindle, tittle tattle, tommyrot, tosh, trash, trick, trivia, twaddle ...

So many words for 'spanners in the works' yet so few for 'surpluses & synergies'? ... no wonder everyone was frit and there was a 'risk averse bias' ... no wonder there was 'anti-business rhetoric' ... no wonder there was a 'democratic deficit' ... we all smelt out the folly yet we all participated in the fertile ground for bullshit especially when we indulged ourselves in the myths, mirrors & magic of religion, politics & sex (just testing, you know what I mean) ... but such were well established no go areas for empirical scientists who just asked, where was the evidence? ... why pontificate if you don't know? ... fewer still just smiled at the fun and had another pint - 

'better to remain silent and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all possible doubt'!

'admitting one's ignorance is the first step in acquiring knowledge'

We loved to repeat the Unilever mantra and we always pushed hard for 'sustainable synergies & surpluses' - 

'if you act like it's all a hopeless problem you will soon be overtaken by some guy who's already been there seen it, done it and bought the T shirt ... probably a Goldman Sachs Banker'?  

'you tell us your trade rules and we will decide where our investment opportunities are ...
currently we're focused on the middle class bulges India, China, Indonesia, Brazil & Nigeria' ...
... and perhaps in the Oxbridge Business Park triangle!

and then someone said ... was it Queenie? - 

'we should respect deeply held differences'

Gilt Edged TrustEveryone clapped ... but some remembered that as soon as their were stocks there were always parasites & predators so we guessed that 'Gilt Edged' trust and 'draining the swamp' were physical impossibilities and we went for 'due diligence' and 'caveat emptor'.  

and then someone else said ... was it the Banjo Player? -

'be careful what you wish for instead of Trumpeting Brexit, you could have Putin & Xi'

Everyone stopped in their tracks ... and even our very own Designer forgot about his penchant for manipulative Statutes, Encyclicals & Dictates and was crystal clear - 

'you make peace with your enemies not your friends who you trust'  

He didn't make peace, he respected differences with his splendid supplication,

'vote with your feet and join a club of your choice'.

Needless to say, 'drowning sorrows' wasn't the solution ... so we celebrated our differences instead ... with another round. We reiterated that life, even in retirement, was something to do with cooperation not compromise ... diversity not consensus ... influence not power ... after all we remembered that the girls were always happy to dance backwards

... and the evolutionary economists said -

'there was no such thing as a free lunch'

... and the Piano Man said -  

'you get F-all Nowt' 

but there were always others who cried -  

'if it's free put me down for two please ... and the saxophone player will pay'.

LearningBut all this rigmarole & malarkey was déja vu all over again, the saxophone player had seen it all before underneath the soap pans in Apapa, and the only thing he could do was more practice ... more 'hard work, honesty & thrift' ... which was another way of saying, 'stick to the knitting', 'mind your own business' & 'get on with the job of empirical science' ... and that word 'empirical' was important ... all the slick words rolled off the tongue easily but they meant the same thing ... more trying, more learning and discovering that convivial beer really does taste better?

So all our top down grand designs to 'set the world to rights', like all top down grand designs, had hit the buffers, foiled by the rigours of reality. The oppressive Bishops, tyrannical Princes, dictatorial Generals & corrupt Bureaucrats had ballsed it all up.

So we had tried to abandoned polarising blame & hatreds and unrealistic expectations and went instead for far more rewarding introspection. There we slowly realised, if & when we watched & listened, that it was the grandkids who were teaching us ... not the Gods nor the texts and certainly not the arrogant bureaucrats ... the grandkids were learning marvels ... just watch the speed of their fingers & thumbs on their iPhones ... our gran would have smiled -

'if at first you don't succeed try & try again'

A slam dunk, they were far far better at learning than us wrinklies  ... it was almost as if the grandkids couldn't stop learning and that we had given up and become parasites ... work that one out!

With this strange inversion of reason it seemed clear that we all shared, with all the grandkids, ... the greatest happening of all ... we were all, everyone, remarkably good at learning ... so why stop just 'cos you're ancient? 

It seemed to us that during the 'lost 5 years' ... or was it 10 years? ... 20? ... it had been difficult to learn the difference between 'fake noos' and 'alternative facts' 'cos we all seemed to fall foul and -

chose to feed our existing prejudices ... in religions, in tribes, in newspapers, on TV, on YouTube & on Twitter

reject natural selection and meekly accept the supernatural bureaucratic hierarchy ... the Gods we worshiped now were in Westminster, Brussels & Washington 

forget that Complex Adaptive Systems were always intractable ... there were no solutions to 'non-linear' equations!

It certainly felt like it was 'the squeaky wheel that got the grease' as the knee jerk hystericals were screaming & canceling and the silent majority were exhausted & didn't even vote.

We were bored with all the folly & kerfuffle, there must be a better use of our time. So as we abandoned 'doom & gloom' of 'social media', switched off the BBC, cancelled our subscription to the FT ... played the saxophone and watched in awe as the grandkids learned and then walked down to the pub and concocted a more exciting story about Complex Adaptive Systems -

Entangled Bank Polarised culture wars were a figment, 'society' was not a 'thing', it was you & I agreeing & disagreeing & taking our own different decisions ... and seeing if they worked ... and if they didn't they were not repeated ... it was called learning. There was a 'tapestry' in our neck of the woods of 60m different folk, in different places, at different times, with different others all trying to cope & learn and go for longevity in their own particular way ... out of the melee emerged intriguing immutable patterns of recognisable order not chaos & anarchy but ... from immutable the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics ... Euler's 'e' ... eukaryotic cells ... cities & banks & businesses ... cycles of Minsky moments and Kondratieff waves ... the Boeing 747 ... and Darwin's entangled bank ... wow! awesome!

QED Watch the grand kids they instinctively learned by trial & error and stopped repeating mistakes ... and when they reached adolescence they still loved Mum but went for broke in their own way ...

Nevertheless the one thing that us old farts had learned for sure was that convivial beer was good ... and that was why we suggested another pint, another conversation and another gig ... so we did.    

Darwin would have chuckled as we re-remembered fondly & often that -

Adam the Smith from our old university was a moral philosopher who wrote 'The Theory of Moral Sentiments' 1759 before he wrote 'The Wealth of Nations' 1776

Richard Dawkins wrote chapter 12 'The Selfish Gene - nice guys finish first' and believed genes did cost / benefit analysis and the watch maker was blind  

 ... and more recently a Central Banker reminded the assembled Senators - 'Stein's Law; if a thing cannot go on for ever it will stop' 

But what were they talking about? ... 'free lunch' economics or beer drinking at The Goshawk? ... or both?

The second to last word on boozing at The Goshawk came from The Busker who regaled the gang with the problems caused by the ravages of alcohol on ancient decaying bodies and proffered the Brian Rossall Solution ... 

But we vowed that if we ever got too old for beer we would remember that the very last word came from our mate and Captain of Cricket Chris Chorlton -

'rather than be sad that it came to an end we should wonder and be grateful that it ever happened at all' ...

So in 2016 when beer drinking appeared to be in disarray, friendships & music were thriving and due for fillips ... we seized opportunities, forgot problems ... and welcomed a Renaissance ...

:drink    back to first round    


Swinging the Blues    

TrioThe Busker reminded us that it was beer drinking in the Goshawk tavern which always involved some reminiscing about our shared musical passions from the 1950s which inspired us to think about playing the Blues.    

After the annual Christmas Party at The Meister following a pint or two at The Goshawk on Thursday December 17th 1992 we began to firm up on some actual action which led to our musical adventures in retirement - 

Sounds of Jazz and

Banjo Player and

Blues and

Smithy Lane Stompers  ...  

On November 10th 2016 after 24 years of hard work and fun ... a feeling had emerged, painfully slowly ... that our music at our Thursday sessions was a mess and we would all be better off growing tomatoes.

The Smithy Lane Stompers (1992-2016) ... The Busker wrote an 'obituary' ... but we preferred to think of it as a 'renaissance' ...

Rather like Trumpeting Brexit to us this was all about co-operation & opportunities for diverse synergies rather than compromise & problems with polarised beliefs ...

... while there was still time!?

... and still some sap left!?

Our musical renaissance gained some meagre traction as we splintered and regrouped, and our beer drinking was also restored to its rightful place in our affections. It transpired that we were so physically & mentally knackered after our excursions with 'Tiger Rag' at 220 beats per minute that we started drinking in the afternoons ... this was an assault on ingrained habits of a lifetime but we were still learning ... night time was for sleeping and recovery but in rural Mouldsworth, beer was best supped in the midday sunshine or even in the gentle rain. 

Thankfully we recorded our efforts ... initially to help us to learn what not to do ... then some respite with a Quartet which was 'listenable to' ... and finally a bag of 276 mp3s which were sheer fun & joy!

Our cassette tapes were binned, but some of our renditions that were 'listenable to' found there way into the car CD players. Our CDs, hot off the press, soon ran to 3 Volumes of 'Me & Him @ Smithy Lane', 3 Volumes of 'Quartet @ Smithy Lane 2016/7' and 6 Volumes of 'Me & Them @ Smithy Lane' ... so far we've sold one copy for £5 to Ro ...

Clearly if anyone has had the misfortune to hear any of our recordings we apologise. 

But we must add that recording our efforts with new fangled iPads was a learning boon, there was no place to hide, the only way out was practice.

Then on 24 Aug 2022 as we tried to fathom the intricacies of brand new iPhones our version of 'Stormy Weather' started to play uninvited with no shame ... there were smiles and someone wistfully mused, 'ah, I wish we could play like that!'  

 Wink WinkAfter failing miserably to play a bog standard Ab blues on Wednesday April 26th 2023 we all agreed it was much better just to have another beer and listen to our stupendous mp3s ... that way we had much more fun! 

:drink    back to first round    


The Paul Cup - Chester Primary Schools Soccer Competition.

David HindleyThird cousin David Hindley was not only an enthusiastic family historian who guided us through the fog of our ancestral Hindleys but he was also a meticulous chronicler and organiser of our sporting past.

In 2000 David planned and shaped a momentous celebration; the 50 year anniversary of the Paul Cup win in 1950 when a group of King's School youngsters excelled! 

The beer was so good that the celebration was repeated ten years later in 2010 with a rediscovered Ian Speechley. And in 2015 seven stalwarts again defied the inevitable ravages of time ... maybe it was a last fling? ... but the beer was still good!

Paul Cup 2022Then after an uninvited covid interruption, five of the Paul Cup survivors from 1950 plus two enthusiastic supports and one celebrity guest, all managed to stagger to a 1pm @ The Goshawk CH3 8AJ celebration lunch on 12 Oct 2022 ... seventy two and a half years after the triumph ... although he missed the sticky toffee pudding with custard ... even Creaky joined us on Zoom all the way from Essex ... what a party.  

The sharped eyed noticed that john p was not a member of the Paul Cup team ... we never made the Junior School at Kings ... we were still at The Grange School, Hartford with the girls ... but we did play with this gang of soccer wizards throughout secondary school and donated our enthusiastic support for the reunions and joined them for the beer or two.

Brian Stanyer was in the team, our old class mate from Barrow, one of the reprobates from the days of imbibing in Bollands and a worthy Crossbatter. He reappeared in disguise but proved to be just the same, still on the splendid trajectory we all remembered; a humanist and now an author of note.

Brian also joined us at a grand reunion at the new Kings Chester, 60 years after our departure from the old Bishop's Palace in 1958.

:drink    back to first round    


The Boot, Kelsall

The Boot InnThe Boot was a favourite eating house of ancient Eda. Eda didn't drink beer but she was partial to a tasty crumb and had a string of hostelries at the ready for every occasion. But The Boot was tops and when the time came to say au revoir, the family assembled dutifully, as promised and indulged magnificently.

And ever since, sometimes twice a year the Birchalls gravitated, time and again for fun and beer at The Boot. Jill, John, Ricky and Kay were all older and a little wiser now ... and with Rick, Brian & Mike we drank our beer a little more slowly now but wot a riot ... Carole always said there was too much noise ... but it was the beer talking not us?

 In 1992 The Boot Inn were proud to announce the arrival of a new supplier Weetwoods. Brewed at Weetwood’s Cheshire brewery; Weetwood Ales Limited, The Brewery, Common Lane, Kelsall, Nr Tarporley, Cheshire CW6 0PY. We now had our very own local brewery.

With the tearful demise of Greenalls in 1991 we were flummoxed and incoherent, what then was to be done? Initially based in St Helens, Greenalls Brewery went back to 1762. They relocated to Warrington in 1787. Took over Shipstones brewery in 1978. And ceased brewing in 1991 to concentrate on running hotels. Rick

A calamity ... we had all been weaned on Greenalls ... but Weetwoods came to our rescue as they brewed a range of award winning premium beers. Only finest quality ingredients were used including British Maris Otter barley, whole leaf hops sourced from around the world and Weetwood’s own special yeast. There was no compromise on what went into the beers nor the effort required to produce them. Weetwood beers were famous for being consistently full flavoured, balanced and drinkable!

That was the sales blurb; we concurred. Wheetwoods was also served at our own pub just off our back garden ... The Goshawk, Mouldsworth. It seemed Wheetwoods was a worthy successor to Greenalls and turned out to be one of the most reliable of suppliers of convivial pints. Jonathan regularly made the journey from South San Francisco to check on the current quality of the brew and contribute to their profits.

Although everybody enjoyed the Weetwoods the brothers, sisters & recruits who made The Boot were less than enthralled about our 'intriguing' family history. For most there was life to be lived and places to be seen ... the past was a pain ... especially when memory faulted and the stories of g-grandfather Edward were, in any case, unbelievable?

Cousin ReesFamily History

We had been ensnared into genealogy when regular visits to see ancient Eda in the Davenham Hall Nursing Home became endless trips down memory lane to Acton Bridge and 'grandma' ... as Eda's short term memory lapsed we joined her in the past and started to learn about The Weaver Refining Company ... as a Business Economist we became fascinated by the story of wealth from stinking bones in the factory by the River Weaver at Acton Bridge. Luckily all the remarkable digging into the Hindleys had already been done by our mate and third cousin David Hindley ... we had a flying start and thus started a two sided conversation with Mama in her final months ... we think she enjoyed the journey into the past ... perhaps we all did?

Later our mate John Rees goaded us into proper Family History and DNA analysis ... we discovered, somewhat belatedly, the complexity and intrigue of biological history ... very different from history as writ ... it was certain that John was our distant cousin ... 'cos everybody was ... so we bought him a pint!

:drink    back to first round    


1pm @ The Goshawk, Mouldsworth CH3 8AJ

Mike DanceIn 2001 Jeremy Woodward & Duncan Falconer purchased the old 'Railway Inn' by the station at Mouldsworth. It had been renamed The Goshawk during one of the refurbishments as the old Greenall Whitley pubs tried to up trade. Spit & sawdust, pickled eggs and Smiths Crisps (complete with added salt available to taste in a blue paper wrap always at the bottom of an opened pack) ... were replaced with pub grub. The old place enjoyed a purple patch with the Balls and a young waitress Sally Jane but mostly we enjoyed reliable Greenalls pints ... with George at Sunday lunch times and The Busker whenever he was in town.

By 2015 Jeremy & Duncan had transformed The Goshawk into a pinnacle of reliable gastronomy and expanded elsewhere ... and then at the top, they sold out to Hydes Brewery of Salford ... the lads done great.

As the tavern changed hands and Jeremy & Duncan left ... with them went our lifeblood ... Weetwoods bitter from crafty Kelsall, which had proved to be an admirable substitute for the defunct Greenalls of the past. All hell broke loose as Weetwoods was destocked ... at a distance in California Jonathan was mortified and even Daniel's staple of 'Chocolate Brownies' turned black!

Thus it was with great trepidation that we fearfully watched the introduction into the heart of our very own 'local' an alien brew ... 'Hydes Original Made of Manchester' ... concocted in promising parts somewhere in Salford just across the river from Main Road ... and a far cry from the accumulated flood of bitter from Burton on Trent ... and much to the Busker's disgust, a country mile from Anfield ... he was not best pleased. 

Hydes OriginalThen slowly but surely some semblance of order was restored as Hydes Original, on repeated sampling, established itself as one of the finest convivial pints in town ... we confessed to becoming addicted to this novelty and the reliable taste & conviviality of the Hydes pint became indispensible ... many old friends agreed and proved that the new brew was indeed convivial after all. We even trained our barman, Danny, on the routines & disciplines required if he was to avoid getting his lines crossed and our ale in the wrong pump ... and furthermore how to pull smoothly to ensure a good creamy head without knackering the pump mechanism ... it appeared that Jenny & Ffion had mastered the technique with some aplomb.    

By 2017 following exhaustion after our Wednesday afternoon 'dance music sessions', the Smithy Lane Trio firmly established a beer drinking renaissance, 3pm @ The Goshawk, Mouldsworth, CH3 8AJ ... and for non musical endeavours, 1pm @ The Goshawk, Mouldsworth, CH3 8AJ ... became an ecstatic routine in full swing. Lunch time was so pleasurable around this time that we stopped doing night flights especially as insidious glaucoma struck and car journeys became taboo as our prostates dictated a maximum distance of 4 to 5m from a bog. 

It worked, the beer tasted even better in the afternoons and we could crawl home after the fun ... with such stringent constraints we really discovered who our friends were ... real friends continued to emerge from the woodwork and discover the convivial pints @ The Goshawk.

that was good As we got into the groove we repeated to anyone who would listen that the wholesomeness of health & happiness applied only to convivial pints ... but nobody said conviviality was easy, so watch out for typos ... and thinkos, there were no guarantees ... but there were five of our very own home spun lifetime choices which considerably helped the flow of convivial pints, and we all voted yes to -

smiling for friendships

sleeping for resuscitation

slimming for longevity

exercising for efficiency

cooperating for endorphins

Slowly but surely as years crept by and lungs became congested, it was the 'blowing' that proved most irksome especially for us brass players -

Our indignant 'bone Player - 'it's Ok for you piano players you don't have to blow'

Piano Player - 'so that's where I've been going wrong'!

The saxophone player was terrible forgetful and just couldn't remember which end to blow. In this way we seemed to remember less & less about the old days ... but it wasn't the days that were old it was us.

By 2018 our old beer drinking mate The Baron Steen von Irgens-Bergh from Copenhagen was calling time, The Danes, he said, called it 'The Repair Age'. We weren't sure about repairs ... our big ends had gone ... we were 'write offs' ... but we clung on ... our musical renaissance was positively therapeutic as we were in awe of our recorded mp3s which were constantly consulted during morning shaves and drives at the wheel ... we had no idea where the lines & lilts came from ... they just happened!?

So in this way in addition to our musical renaissance there was also a beer drinking renaissance as we discovered the delights of a pint in the afternoon at The Goshawk ... and there was a bonus ... just one conversation full of humour and without angst ... we discovered that life itself was not all about erudite philosophy and replicating bits of DNA -

Reflective Saxophone Player, 'Wot existed before life'? 

Designer, 'Thursday nights'! 

BeerThe Banjo Player knew there were 'worms in everybody's head' and Designer 'got it' as we abandoned abject blame & dour seriousness for shared humour -

Banjo Player, 'when it's your round it means everyone'? 

Designer, 'you shouldn't drink so quickly'!

and again & again maverick characters refused to languish in the cosy indifference of an echo chamber -  

We all chose friends with common interests and a shared sense of humour. Laughter was universally contagious ... in retirement as in business -

technology & analytical skills were useful

cooperation & social skills were essential

 ... life seen through the bottom of beer glass was fun -

surviving physical pain of trauma was a matter for the Specification Chemistry 

surviving social pain of rejection was a matter for a couple of convivial pints

... in this way we only remembered the fun ... what mattered was a convivial pint tomorrow ...

'1pm @ The Goshawk, Mouldsworth, CH3 8AJ'

 ... a clarion call for family & friends who generously travelled from afar for a convivial pint ... Jonathan even roped in his friends from Californian for a taste of the delights ... we always managed to crawl home after the action and that was something spiffing ... but we felt guilty so we bought the first round, lightened up and traded smiles.    

J W Lees

On Wednesday March 27th 2019, two days before Brexit, The Goshawk was closed ... rumours abounded ... our music was appalling ... not because of fear but rather lack of beer ... we were forced to travel to foreign parts over the border to The White Lion at Alvanley where we surprised ourselves and found excellent convivial substitutes.     

We soon discovered that the closed door was not a personable affront. Two days earlier on 25th March 2019, William Lees-Jones, Managing Director of J W Lees had announced the purchase of The Goshawk, Mouldsworth, a 19th century former Coaching Inn in the heart of rural Cheshire ... an impeccable location ... 

Lees BitterPublican AwardJ W Lees, a family brewery company, was founded in 1828 in Middleton by retired cotton manufacturer John Lees.  Manchester's oldest brewery? The company were winners of the 2019 Best Brewing Pub Company -   

This family business was spreading joy and growing a pace in the North West -

'Boathouse' Chester

'Duttons' Chester

'Ring o' Bells' Frodsham

'Vale Royal Abbey Arms' Oakmere

'Hanging Gate' Weaverham

'George & Dragon' Budworth

'Golden Pheasant' Plumbley

'Saracens Head' Warrington

... wot a party!

Then, out of the blue, Wednesday March 17th 2020, Covid, and problems of 'lockdown' & 'dysthymia' ... 

We were locked out of The Goshawk!

As expected lots & lots of designer folk had brilliant ideas, that's what ingenious folk did, they always hatched brilliant ideas for others to implement. In The Goshawk we had always repeated ourselves embarrassingly as we concocted our responses -  

'congrats, wonderful idea, but will it catch mice? Meanwhile you have personal responsibility for your own good behaviour as we have for ours' ... 

'don't vote it will only encourage them'

 Lockdown, access denied ... so wot do we do to stop the onset of dysthymia?   

After all the action we ended up repeating ourselves ... we couldn't see to read ... we couldn't travel to pee ... we couldn't remember the question ... we couldn't get a grip for drooling & slurring ... as the doc said it was all -

'degenerative decay' and 'wot do you expect at your age?'

Then 14 months later, Wednesday May 26th 2021, there were new opportunities for 'musical fun' & 'convivial pints' as the yoke of 'lockdown' and 'dysthymia' was broken ... The Smithy Lane Stompers attempted to play 'Alice Blue Gown' ... and the beer afterwards was ecstasy ... but drinking thru a mask was tasteless so we didn't try it? 

The Banjo Player was reflective - 

'it's truly wonderful to be back playing music and having a pint with my friends?'

The Piano Man was po-faced - 

'but he isn't here!'

And although we couldn't remember the music, we still remembered the fun ... with a smile ... and we were constantly reminded of the incompetence of the many aspiring aliens and all those bull shitters stymied by the rigours of the reality, pretenders who arrogantly claimed they had privileged access to know how ... the know alls ... you've met 'em -  

'if you can guess how many ferrets are in this bag you can have both of them'

'see those two houses over there, well mine's the middle one' 

'have you noticed that the rustic farmers always put their gates in the muddy part of the field?'

'and have you noticed that devout folk build 8ft walls round cemeteries even though nobody wants to get in & nobody can get out?'

'but not so fast Rome wasn't built in a day' ... 'no but I wasn't in charge of that job!'

And then, alarmingly but reassuringly, we discovered that Paddy & Mick were in fact English Anglo Saxons and we laughed at our cack-handed clodhopping ham-fisted incompetent selves -

We remembered when Paddy & Mick were savoring a convivial pint and Mick fancied himself as a helpful First Aider -

Paddy - 'OK Mick wot would ya do if your kid swallowed the house keys?'

Mick - 'I'd climb in thru the window!'

Mick also arrived next week with a brand new car & a wide grin -

Paddy - 'Where da ya get that posh car?'

Mick - 'My girl gave it me'

Paddy - 'Wot? I knew she was sweet on yer but this is ridiculous'

Mick - 'Well it's like this Paddy ... she was showing off last nite with a drive in her new car when she pulled off the road into the woods and parked ... quick as a flash she got out, tore off her clothes and pleaded - 'take wotever you want!'
- so I took the car'.

Paddy - 'You're a smart cookie Mick, those clothes would never have fitted you'!

Our Piano man immediately claimed that if Keith was a smart cookie like Mick and ran a tight ship in the Warrington Print Factory then he should be Prime Minister? The Saxophone Player guffawed, respectfully apologised but still remained steadfastly suspicious of all men claiming privileged access to 'know how' -

'Georges Borges didn't even know the date of his own death'

and nobody knew the name of the bloke who decided the order of the alphabet?  

'someone else discovered the smallest book in the world was the Irish book of know how' 

and in any case we were all certain -

'the girls took all the decisions'

Throughout all this blah & blather The Goshawk CH3 8AJ remained renowned for their super service -  

A resplendent white stallion walked into the bar and ordered a pint & chaser, our obliging barman Danny was quick - 
- 'would you like the whiskey brand named after you, Sir?' ...

- 'wot? ... Eric?'   

Over all this raucous hubbub in the pub after the first convivial pint the occasional snippet of wisdom was uttered but not heard  -

'If you think you have the answer to our woes, pukka for you, but don't mess with 3,800 meddlesome regulations (at the last count) and more & more insidious commands & controls which never worked, never balanced the books, never rid us of the parasites & predators and always seemed to upset saxophone players and our mate Joe Sixpack ... they simply didn't like it'.

Joe & his wife, family & friends had their very own survival strategy and went for longevity in their own different way, with different folk, at different times, in different places ... and in different 'clubs'.
Just remember the last time them up there tried the command & control of good behaviour -

'Bishops lost their frocks, Princes lost their heads, Emperors lost their clothes, Generals lost their stripes and Bureaucrats lost their marbles'!

Last Gasp    

Elle Woods

Danny Crosspipes was famous but not many folk knew that ... however Elle Woods was a musical superstar and served immaculate convivial pints ...

Elle, fresh from 'Legally Blonde', delivered our last gasp, we reckoned we had sussed out our beer and were now rather good at it. But our jazz was a very different kettle of fish. So we had yet another look see at & tried to uncover the 'final truth' about our music. We were determined to continue to try and play our sort of music even though it became increasingly difficult to remember what, how & why ... we thought our music was dance music ... rooted in The Blues and Dancing but we weren't sure ... we were continually perplexed by an inability to play any of the mysterious and ephemeral alternative music which all the kids enjoyed. To us geriatrics modern music seemed to deliver nowt but the common problem 'operatic themes' but with melody notes we couldn't sing, play nor dance to ... and chord sequences which perhaps sounded good but didn't go round the circle of 5ths. Instead of the fun & romance lyrics of Ira Gershwin, there was the festering problems of 'them'& 'us' in the old & new -

'La Boheme' - Puccini - themes from the Italian & Austrian Courts portrayed the story of Bohemian poverty, suffering & debt in the midst of factional fighting with law abiding sophistication & discrimination ... 'classical dots' music.  

'Rent' - Jonathan Larson - themes from 'Incities' and 'Outs', impoverished protesting victims of poverty, disease & muggings but still capable of love and artistic epiphany ... 'rock riffs' music.

'Les Miserables' - Schonberg - themes from a protagonist, labeled a convicted criminal, undermined a determination to put the past behind and become a respected member of society. Driven by conscience, heroism & love but thwarted by poverty, injustice & mistaken identity by the law enforcement agencies ... 'I Dreamed a Dream' ... but we couldn't swing it nor dance to it?  

'Perfect Pitch' - Jacob Collier - G half # ... 'impossible' neural sonics.

and now 'Legally Blonde' ... to ponder further?

PopcornThe common themes - 'Ins' churned out addictive fodder which was spoon fed to the 'Outs' who grew old as slothful, obese, stressed out, pill popping, insomniacs as they cowered on cosy couches pecking at their iPhones ... everyone taking the law into their own hands and blaming others.

A sort of blame culture cul-de-sac ... tragic happenings? ... blame others? ... or, perhaps, share some personal responsibility! 

All summed up with masterful tragedy & some humour in Ben Elton's 'Popcorn' ... our interpretation of the epilogue -

'Bruce (rich manufacturer of movie fodder which portrayed killing as cool) survived Wayne & Scout's bloody confrontation with the officers of the law (poor evil outlaws with a hostage plan ... Bruce's movies were responsible for their crimes ... law enforcement officers failed to resolve violent social disagreements) but Bruce's career never recovered from the terrible events for which many felt he was partly responsible. He now makes tired, cynical movies in France. He has written a book about the night Wayne & Scout entered his life, called Who Is Responsible? In it he divides the blame equally between Wayne & Scout, the media, the police and the millions of people who did not turn off their reality TV show (the deal was, stop watching the show and the hostages will be freed).
Brooke (innocent beauty) died of her wounds. Her parents subsequently claimed that by pursuing a selfish debate, rather than making the simple statement, Wayne had asked him to make, Bruce had denied Brooke proper medical care for the vital period in which she could have been saved. They hold him responsible and are in the process of suing him.
Bill and Kirsten (making money out of tragic reality drama on TV) both died in the police assault. Their families now claim that as they were both employees of the television companies there was a duty of care and that the companies are therefore responsible for their deaths. Both families are currently suing the networks. They are also suing the police, whom they hold responsible for not intervening earlier. In a separate claim they are again suing the police, whom they also hold responsible for intervening when they did.
Velvet (innocent youth) was also killed in the crossfire. During a memorial service at her school, her principal reminded the congregation that society had a responsibility to protect young people like Velvet and had failed to do so. Her grandparents are investigating the possibility of suing the estates of Wayne and Scout. In the largest single claim in history, they are also suing the millions of people who did not turn off their TVs, who they feel are also responsible.
Many of the people who did not turn off their TVs have formed themselves into action groups, claiming that they have experienced anxiety, stress and mental torment as a result of the terrible moral dilemma that the TV companies allowed them to be put in. They hold the TV companies responsible and are pursuing claims for damages (blame the messenger).
The TV companies are currently lobbying for more specific guidelines on how to act under similar circumstances (blame the legislature). They claim that, in the final analysis, only government can be responsible for how public amenities operate. They have announced that they will attempt to offset losses resulting from claims made against them by taking action against Congress and Capitol Hill.
Police Chief Cornell and News and Current Affairs Chief Murray both lost their jobs as a result of the débâcle and hold each other responsible. Murray claims that Cornell should have taken charge of the situation and ended the siege sooner. Cornell claims that Murray should have denied the killers the oxygen of publicity which precipitated the final drama. In private lawsuits they are suing each other for loss of earnings.
Wayne Hudson's family are currently pursuing the Department of Welfare. They claim that it was early neglect of Wayne's problems by social workers that was responsible for turning him bad. They assert that it was clear that they were bringing Wayne up inadequately, and feel he should have been taken into care. They are suing.
Scout's family are also suing the Department of Welfare. They claim that constant intervention by social workers when Scout was younger left her insecure and easily influenced. They claim she should not have been taken into care and are suing.

On Capitol Hill, in the aftermath of the bloodbath, the Republicans claimed that the liberal values perpetrated by the Democrats were responsible.
The Democrats blamed Republican opposition to gun control.
Scout survived the gunfight and was eventually sent to a secure mental hospital, where she has discovered religion. She feels that the Almighty does all things for a purpose, and that in the long run God is responsible.
So far no one has claimed responsibility (it appears everybody can blame problems on others and escape personal responsibility).'

Was there an undercurrent of angst & antagonism? The blues could be sad but always seemed to us to be fun? It dawned on us perhaps we were just old farts, outdated wrinklies degeneratively decaying with old fashioned ideas from the blue past and certainly not cool?

Perhaps now we were the 'Ersatz Stompers'?   

:drink    back to first round    


A Village Rally

DerekDuring the Covid interregnum we kept a daily diary ... Immunity from Treachery ... all about our big hopes; the triumph of science and the superb decisions of the past when we plumped for rural living in the Mouldsworth sunshine with half the family just down the road armed with TLC.

Such wasn't luck ... but rather a sensible strategy from the get go ... just like saving for a rainy day ... just common sense? ... quite right too but we never mentioned luck ... Gary Player was right, the harder we practiced the luckier we got.

The Meister, Smithy Lane, Mouldsworth proved to be an idyllic rural retreat built for peace & tranquility as we indulged in the exotic charm of ancient Chester, with easy commuting of our Warrington Factory and it was just a short crawl back from The Goshawk, CH3 8AJ. The pad provided therapeutic opportunities for the secret delights of family, gardening & daily brisks round the Mouldsworth / Manley village block ... only 1½ miles and getting slower but every day ... with & without our faithful mongrel hound. During 'lockdown' these daily walkings monopolised social activity as beer, bridge, music & pubs were forboden. The survivors, the residents & exercisers who assembled down Mouldsworth Road and around the Manley village, introduced us to brand new delights & friendships ... David Hughes & Tarrant & LFC, Eric & Charlie, David Keogh & water mills, two Steves ... Steve & West Ham, Steve & Beeston Castle Farm ... then there was Mike next door who always wanted to play the drums, Robert & Emma, Ken who looked after himself and went on & on, Paul, Em, Brian & Barbara, Hilary, Katie who was Howard's daughter from Unilever South Africa, Derek & Anita from Jack Shemming's place, Pauline, Gail & Phil & co, Lucy & Rick & co, Porsche & Carol, Baz & Man U & co, Smiles, Annette & mallards, Bret, Ed & June, Shaun & Suzanna, Phil & Holly, Andrew & Joy, Geoff & Sam, Derek & Sue, Brian & Vanessa, Elaine & eggs from Poplar Grove, Peter & Liz, Geraint & Linda, Ossie & Helen, Warren & aircraft, newcomers Tom & Sarah and our loyal reliables and friends Jill & David ... on & on it went ... not all beer drinkers but wot a party. We lost Derek early on with Covid, a student of the turf, begonia cultivator & sportsman and mate of Richard Dandy our local postman and esteemed fast bowler at BHCC. We missed our regular chats on our rounds. RIP Derek 2020. 

... and there was more ... the ghosts of all the Mouldsworth Road potato farmers from the past and the stories & yarns of farming of old remembered & recounted by the original oracles Esme Turner & Frank Taylor ... all were rekindled in our memories. We were reintroduced to the local farming habits of the Greenways at Alvanley, all seemed to embroil themselves in spuds rather than cheese and still managed to find time to shower attention on the farmer's daughter from next door.

GigalockIn 1952 Auntie Clara Hindley (1914-1995) joined this mêlée of intermingled romance and married Uncle James Greenway of Cliff Farm, Alvanley ... then in 2021 as Poplar Grove Farm was demolished, and as new units grew from the rubble there was a new story to add ... there was a rumour that a Silicon Farm was springing to life ... there emerged of our very own local, out of town, silicon cluster at the bottom of Smithy Lane ... where the village centre used to be ... too far from the BT cabinet for internet businesses ...

... so Anthony & the Gigaloch lads obliged with F4AMM fibre optics ... superb effort ... thanks ... and, and it was a big and, now our rural haven at The Meister, complete with 1 acre horse paddock at Commonside, boasted instant fibre broadband & doubled in value?  ���� 

Interestingly in 2023 we discovered that our legacy patch of cherished rural Cheshire from Uncle James, Commonside plot 69, was worth more to David & Louise than it was to The Meister ... and there were rumours that Gigaloch was a 'zombie' about to go bust?

The Ashton Hayes Village Shop never closed and maintained supplies of goodies with apparent ease ... the village pub closed but immediately enhanced demand ... as property prices went through the roof Mouldsworth became a haven for staycations ... raves in Benidorm were OK but there was proof on that the farmer's daughter from next door was also expertly capable at mixing the genes for the next generation of essential diversity which built Darwin's 'entangled bank'.

Companies bent on recruiting, training & rewarding cloned folk who matched their own specialised requirements ... merits were no longer found during the Milk Round & slick presentations on Egyptian Mythology ... more likely mavericks were to be found around rural Mouldsworth and in the local pub. Unilever & Jamie Dimon were clear ... if you could work from home with Zoom you could be replaced by silicon & AI ... Jamie wanted hustlers back at the water fountains ... the way to peace, tranquility & happiness for all was to discover, design & build solar powered 24/7 machines with batteries ... or something?

No doubt the folly was limited and our learning was soon to be continued with a convivial pint at The Goshawk, Mouldsworth, CH3 8AJ as evidence mounted ... say from double blind randomised control experiments in Scunthorpe which were repeated in the Antipodes 17½ nights later with the same peer reviewed statistically significant results ... and no p-hacking, data torture, managed samples, manipulated time periods or selected variables!

There was an upside to Covid! 

And on Wednesday May 26th 2021 The Goshawk CH3 8AR reopened with some new friends.

:drink    back to first round        


Blame Games & Personal Responsibility

Blame GameIn 2022 John Faulkner had a bee in his bonnet about the state we're in? John was off beer by then (doctor's orders) and we could only confirm that our beer glass still appeared to be half full not half empty - hic!  

The wonder to ponder was not the all pervading destruction & destitution and degenerative decay and doom & gloom but rather the occasional little eddy in the primordial soup that produced life and a semblance of remarkable if fleeting order.

As we worked at it honestly & saved for a rainy day, amongst all the chaos & angst & antagonism, we began to glimpse the sliver of remarkable order    

... but don't get it all wrong ... evolutionary economists were ignorant of an unknowable future but there were discernable patterns, The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and Euler's 'e' saw to that - but as soon as there were stocks there were thieves ... parasites & predators abounded ... defence of stocks and immunity from treachery never ever resulted from creating money out of nothing!  

we were fed up with folk, who in their ignorance, arrogantly claimed to know what was best for us all ...

and ... but ... BUT    

we were more well fed up with folk, who in their ignorance, naively expected someone ‘up there’ to know what was best for us all ... and take decisions for us, as if absolving us from personal responsibility for a contribution!

Evolutionary Economists believed in random mutations and synergies, not antagonism and blame ... how can anyone coherently blame random mutations? Scapegoats can't help they are a distraction.

Wot would Charlie Darwin have said? ... wot did 'the science of choice' have to say?

BlameWe needed more pithy aphorisms?

Genesis 3.8-13 -

God said to the man, 'have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?’
The man said, ‘the woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.’
God said to the woman, 'What is this you have done?'
The woman said, 'the serpent deceived me, and I ate.'

But hang on ... in our twilight years of beer drinking blame was still rampant & rife. Our world had been hit by a quintruple of whammies, of happenings, as happenings continued to happen and most happenings were dire - 

2001 terrorists had a go on 9/11 - Cultural Tit for Tat ?

2008 balance sheets were decimated - Creating Money Out of Nothing ?

2016 Trumpeting Brexit - Knee Jerk Hytericals & bureaucratic kluge ?

2020 Covid floored us - Immunity from Treachery

2022 inflation - Strange History of Money & coin clipping ?

So many words for blame, blame was the irrational norm - 

accountable, accuse, admonish, animadversion, arraignment, attack, attribute, berate, castigate, censure, challenge, charge, chastise, chide, complaint, criticise, denigrate, denounce, denunciate, depreciate, diatribe, discipline, disapprobation, disapprove, disfavor, disparage, expostulate, exprobate, fail, fault, guilt, impeach, implicate, imputate, incriminate, inculpate, indict, invective, liable, object, objurgate, obloquy, onus, oppose, protest, rebuke, recriminate, remonstrate, reprehension, reprimand, reproach, reprobate, reproof, repudiate, responsible, scold, slur, tirade, wrong

The behavioural bias was focused on persistent problems of 'resentment of cheats' and never on fantastical opportunities for 'fairness of shares' ... but ... strangely & spookily all the 'problems' were in the PAST and all the 'opportunities' were in the FUTURE ... work that one out?   

Daniel Kahneman was not a saxophone player but he was spot on with behavioural economics -

'life was precious, so there was a loss aversion bias'?

'it was costly to be risk averse for gains and risk seeking for losses'?

'chasing profits and cutting losses was the best strategy'?

Blame Game & miss synergy We remembered The Chief Medical Officer had yet another go at blaming alcohol for ailments ... and blaming alcohol for bad behaviour ... we knew what he meant ... but jeez ... last time we looked happenings were a tad more complicated than blame games - 

Blame furrowed the brow and put you in a zero sum attack mode 2-2=0

Blaming other folk, or others things, let you off the hook of hard work, honesty & thrift and discovering synergies 2+2=5

Blaming causes was daft when effects were also causes of other happenings ... causes and correlations were different beasts

Blaming others who were not there to defend themselves was all too easy and a cop out 

Blame inexorably led to festering hatreds

Blame was malfeasance ...

aspersion, backbiting, calumniation, calumny, deceit, deception, defamation, detraction, dishonesty, disinformation, distortion, evasion, fable, fabrication, falsehood, fib, fiction, forgery, fraud, guile, hyperbole, inaccuracy, invention, libel, lies, mendacity, misrepresentation, misspeak, misstatement, myth, obloquy, perjury, prevarication, revilement, slander, subterfuge, tall story, vilification, whopper ... why so many words?

Blame was also angst ...

anxiety, apprehension, disquiet, distress, doom, dread, fear, foreboding, malaise, perturbation, trepidation, unease, uneasiness, worry ...

Unsurprisingly there was no shortage of different happenings & different groups around to blame & vilify and feed our prejudices - differences were not confined to the girls who danced backwards ... and some wag suggested we couldn't (or was it wouldn't?) even identify girls ... although we never seemed to have any problem.

But there were also many others who found other Gods behind other trees ... and then there were just ordinary folk who had learned different things, in different places at different times and could be 'identified' & blamed & hated as Jews, or Fat Cats, or Witches ... on it went as Ding Dong the Witch is Dead ... and a cacophony of '#howdareyou' and '#staywoke' and #metoo ... left footers & right footers ... cricketers & croquet players ... Manchester United & Liverpool F C ... and even those who preferred warm beer to iced lager ... all could be identified as different ... and blamed for ills ... and even hated?

To top the lot Connor McGoo even suggested his granddad was to blame for Lethal Debt, Lockdown & Trumpeting Brexit ... he was not alone many others suggested Covid was a 'boomer remover' ... a 'final solution'?

Whenever the focus was on 'blame' it soon turned to hatred and obsessive neglect of the task at hand ... which was making the most of the new fantastical opportunities.

'9/11 at the turn of the millennium was an outrageous act of evil terrorism ... and demanded a response ... to conserve the Jewish tradition ... in a State built on the spoils of war and the horrendous holocaust ... European Nation State rivalry with origins in the tribal, religious & Enlightenment altercations ... as folk everywhere struggled with the excitement of opportunity and the fear impositions ... as emotions & instincts or worms in the head flip flopped with electro chemical imbalances in the brain ... which had evolved to supercharge learning by trail & error ... in the face of abject ignorance why cancel Charles Darwin, Thomas Jefferson, David Hume, William Gladstone, Winston Churchill, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker ... ? 

Why such a long rant? Folk go for genetic longevity in their own way and prosper as long as they don't harm others ... inspiring cooperation without imposing compromise.

We couldn't understand it all so we vowed to enjoy our convivial pints and to avoid ordinary beer. Some of our gang dared to be woke, and many other things and continued experimenting. We reckoned we could discover & accumulate happiness which was immersed in family & friends, work friends & social friends ... they were all the same mavericks who indulged in hard work, honesty & thrift and didn't blame the incidental marginalia of trivia & tittle tattle associated with uselessness like fake money, ordinary beer and other diversions from the knitting ... we reckoned Snowflakes & Wokes only drank ordinary beer.

The piano man was clear -

'when your in a hole, stop digging, don't blame others ... you're not a victim, so choose your friends carefully and have another pint'! 

The doom & gloom merchants of 'Project Fear' were not going to win.

:drink    back to first round    


Beer Saved the World              

Beer Saved the WorldWe hear & we forget, we see & we remember more and whenever we tell stories we start to understand a bit more ... and we discovered it was fun stories that seemed to excite the youngsters and make them smile.

There was a suggestion that exciting empirical science was helping to extol the 12 benefits of beer drinking and we concurred ...

1. Beer kept your water works in good nick and washed out the pipes. Good for kidneys and reduced the risk of stones.
2. Beer improved crap ratios and mobility. Beer contained soluble fibre which played an important role in digestion and intestinal transit.
3. Beer helped healthy hearts as drinkers had reduced risk of heart attacks. Beer unclogged aging arteries as ingredients in beer helped prevent blood clots with boosted blood flows and good cholesterol especially as you walked to the pub. Fibre also reduced bad cholesterol.
4. Beer increased vital vitality and strong strength. Beer contained B vitamins and elevated levels of silicon in beer contributed to higher bone density.
5. Beer put you into sound sleeps. Lactoflavin and nicotinic acid from beer cured insomnia.
6. Beer induced reliable relaxation. Two glasses of beer a day reduced work-related stress.
7. Beer helped cure colds. Drinking warm beer was an excellent cold remedy.
8. Beer grew smooth & supple skin. Vitamins in beer regenerated the skin.
Beer Boost9. Beer maintained memorable memories and enhanced social interaction. Beer drinkers were less likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.
... there was no end to the promises.
10. ... and wot about cortisol, dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, endorphins ... GABA, acetylcholine ... ?

We were believers all along ... let’s go!

A convivial pint with friends, cleared the fog and confirmed it was Charles Darwin who inspired & urged us to go for longevity in our own particular way ... wonder why? and grasp the how?

BullseyeIntrospection revealed ignorance and compelling 'moral sentiments' and a whole throbbing shebang & caboodle, a helicopter view of entangled banks -

insatiable curiosity was a personal responsibility ...

natural selection loaded the dice ... moral sentiments for  ... 'do unto others'          

open minds admitted ignorance ... girls took the decisions ... read The Guardian 

adaptation weeded out the failures ... no one has privileged access to know how ...

know your weaknesses & strengths ... don't blame others who were not here to defend themselves ... don't waste your time on tittle tattle ... don't have an epi ... inevitable problems ... move on to fantastical opportunities       

join a club of your choice for fun ... choose your friends, wit & nous, the antidote for poisons, parasites & predators

actively experiment to discover & accumulate synergies of specialisation & scale ... some random variants worked better as 2+2=5

use your imagination ... me time space & silence to learn outside the box for hitherto unconnected connections of creativity & innovation 

don't sprinkle the desert with a teaspoon ... busy was good ... play the saxophone ... and put in your 10,000 hours   

That's it!

We loved the idea that perhaps the dice of Darwin's natural selection of happenings were loaded ... cooperation trumped compromise every time 'cos compromise missed out on the opportunities for synergies.

So we bet on family & friends, Empirical Science & Liberal Democracy and we bought a round.

Beer TherapyIn 1979 the advice was no more than 56 units of alcohol a week. This was later reduced to 36 units, then 28 units and then 21 units and then the Chief Medical Officer suggested 14 units ... the dreaded 14 point count; one glass of wine a day ... and any alcohol was a poison ... so rest days were required for resuscitation.

Yes our very own doctor also said alcohol was a poison and we believed him ... but our doctor, just like everybody else, 'was ignorant of wot it was he did not know' ... he knew a lot than many others didn't and was worth a listen. And he was honest, the quest of the Doctor was to help sick people not healthy ones ... but also help healthy ones not to become sick. All the doctors 'saw' the way alcohol ruined health & happiness, but some pretended not to 'see' the way convivial pints promoted health & happiness ... and, funny, the amount of alcohol sold in the UK was about twice the amount that folk said they drank?

So they would say that wouldn't they? But, of course, they didn't all say that ... did they? Some agreed beer was cheaper than therapy ... and we said maybe it was also more effective?

Yes liver damage was a problem but obesity & diabetes, sloth, stress and insomnia also damaged the liver and much more. Yes, cancer was a threat but the environment & lifestyle also led inexorably to cancers.

Meanwhile the US government estimated that 26,000 deaths a year were prevented by moderate alcohol consumption thanks to reduced risk from heart disease, diabetes and stroke and recommended up to 25 units per week! 

And wot about my gran's medicinal Burgundy? And where did healthier longer lives come from? The bottom line was that correlation was not cause & effect ... think about it?

The Temperance Movement, the Chief Medical Officer, the BBC and our Doctor were all mostly fixated with ordinary beer ... our passion was for convivial pints. The Daily Mail went hysterical ... but that's what the Daily Mail always did ... and the BBC ... come to think about it?

We were optimistic, convivial moderate drinking reduced all the 10 beasties above ... and more ... so we always drank to a clean living ... and had another when everybody agreed.

Beer RiskAll the time we were all battling the formidable 'J curve' ... some said the 'J curve' had been confirmed by The University of Sheffield ... and became respectable? But many thought it was a device deliberately confusing and contrived to thwart our honest endeavour ... our mum said it was to ease our conscience?

Some other 'research' was plain fake and neglected convivial pints altogether and was anathema -

adamant, bloody-minded, determined, diehard, inflexible, inexorable, immovable, inveterate, iron-willed, intransigent, obstinate, obdurate, pig-headed, relentless, resolute, rigid, stubborn, tenacious, tough, unaccommodating, uncompromising, unbending, uncooperative, unmalleable, unpersuadable, unshakeable, unwavering, unyielding, unrelenting

... in other words alternative 'facts' perpetrated by parasites & predators engaged in tyranny & oppression, bribery & corruption and ignorance & arrogance ... so like all good empirical scientists we agreed to do our own experiments and 'peer review' them ourselves! Stick to our knitting, mind our own business and get on with the job ... we called it personal responsibility!

So while procrastinators procrastinated we experimented. Beer was food for experimenters. And to top the lot our mentor, Robin Dunbar Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at Oxford, claimed empirical science was on our side ... the Prof knew all about convivial pints & serotonin surges ... QED?

Serotonin SurgeSo ... and it was a big so ... wot about the warm glow of the 'serotonin surges'? ... and -

... cortisol, dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins ... GABA, acetylcholine ... ?

It was all about chemical balance ... multi functions and interactions ... too much or too little ... opposing effects of chemicals & concentrations in gut microbiomes and brains ... and synergistic combinations ... no magic pill, no one size fits all ... moderation & flip flopping emotions of excitement & fear ...

The neuroscientists were wary of ignorant interventions and all preached about problems of complexity, change, conflict & scarcity ... and behavioural diversity/opportunities.  

Wot confusion ... alcohol, abstemious indulgence? ... we reckoned that the only way to proceed was to suck it and see ... observe what happened ... so we walked to the pub and had another pint ... but Designer opted out of the experiments as he feared he might not be around to see the results!

Bottom Up Top DownIt seemed the easy bit was getting to grips with the brewing of ale, such was 'bottom up' physics & chemistry ... the difficult bit was understanding how Banjo Players & Piano Men turned ordinary beer into convivial pints as they manipulated endorphins with a sort of secret 'top down' orchestration which miraculously set fire to our taste buds ... set our feet tapping ... and touched our idiosyncratic sense of humour?   

So don't get it all wrong ... ordinary beer was the poison and easily led to drunkenness, dependency, liver damage and woe. But convivial pints were intimately associated with a healthy life style of sociability and good behaviour ... and an essential survival aid.

So why not? ... and wot about sin taxes? ... why not tax antisocial bad behaviour, scowls, sloth & obesity? ... why not? ... jeez ... give us a break?

We were completely discombobulated, confused and wished we understood it all ... we chose our parents well, we were learned a bit about cricket & science at posh schools & universities ... we became intimately entangled with a smiling cherub who danced backwards ... work that one out ... we manufactured a beer drinking son who became a father and vice-presided over a successful Silicon Valley biotech business ... and a brilliant young girl who became a mother and studied both biology & psychology ... so we ought to have known wot the hell was going on ... but then we were also involved with friends who indulged in the intricacies of bridge, beer, cricket & saxophones ... so in the end we went with the flow and guessed that 'is' and 'ought' were always different, at different times, in different places with different folk.

We smelt a rat so we followed a strategy ... we switched off the fake noos from the BBC and shut off the broken bureaucrats in Westminster, Washington and Brussels ... and looked into the whites of the eyes as we went for longevity in our own particular way ... cheers.   

ModerationUs evolutionary economists guessed that it was 'know how' itself that was evolving so admitting ignorance was a much better bet than pointed blame ... especially when contemplating about the future happenings. Strewth, we didn't even agree about history ... interpretations of the past always seemed to be many & varied and different for different folk at different times in different places with different folk ... and the kibosh ... even the same folk seemed to flip flop between excitement & fear on a serotonin whim.

'Know how' was slippery ... complex, changing, conflicting & scarce ... diverse, dispersed, tacit & incomplete ...

But we believed our doctor, ordinary beer was a poison, so we happily confined ourselves to 3 convivial pints a week and told our doctor - 

'we don't drink alcohol except when we do,
when we feel like getting plushed to the scuppers!'

... and then we went for moderation and had another beer and hailed all the great men who thought like us -

JeffersonnThomas Jefferson was a brewer who knew his beer, 'If drunk with moderation, beer softens the temper, cheers the spirit, and promotes good health'.

Samuel Johnson recounted to Boswell, 'There is nothing which has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced, as by a good tavern or inn'  

Benjamin Franklin waded in, 'I fear the man who doesn't drink, he remembers in the morning what the rest of us said last night'

Yeats hit the nail, 'The problem with some people is that when they are not drunk, they’re sober'

Ernest Hemingway knew all about the creeping dangers of ordinary beer, 'An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with fools'

Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Terminator, was not the first nor the last to have his say, 'Milk is for babies. When you grow up you have to drink beer'. 

Vox populi, 'When ever we read about the evils of beer drinking we give up reading' ...

winkingPerhaps if we'd known we were going to live such a long time we'd have taken better care of ourselves ... but at the end our day our glass always seemed to be half full never half empty ...

:drink    back to first round


Job Done!     

Josh buys the first roundOn 6th July 2022 ... Josh, now a fully fledged 18 year old adult with attitude & ambition ... happily sacrificed some of his savings & hard earned wages from hours of toil in the Tahoe 'dish pit' and bought grandpa a pint of scrumptious & delectable JW Lees bitter.

We had previously enjoyed many milk shakes & 7ups together but this was our very first convivial pint. We reported excellence.

The subsequent challenge, of course, was to learn all about the differences between ordinary beer & convivial pints and that the lethal nature of ordinary beer demanded both moderation & conviviality which were life skills which required hard work, honesty and thrift ...

We claimed success, but we were never certain, that we had transferred such life skills to Josh's father ... however grandchildren with such recently acquired adult status were another kettle of fish altogether and beyond the reason of ancient wrinklies like grandpas.

We were quietly confident conviviality skills would be a tad easier than the lessons in moderation ... but what did we know we were only a saxophone player ... so we had a second pint to relieve the stress.

Fortunately JJ was on hand ready, willing & able to help ...

Three generations @ The Goshawk CH3 8AJ ... (we could never understand why both father & son had to stand on boxes to have their photograph taken with grandpa?) 

One grandkid had made adulthood, three others were well on the way ...

We guessed most folk would simply call us a curmudgeon (an ill tempered fellow, full of resentment and stubborn notions) ... but in truth we'd always worked hard at our fun.

winkingPerhaps we were cool after all ... job done?

Retirement Time LineThen on April 1st 2023 a strange happening happened ...

... when we retired on Jan 1st 1994 we had worked hard @ Unilever for 29 years 3 months

... on April 1st 2023 we had enjoyed the hard work of 'retirement' ... for exactly the same time period ... 29 years 3 months ... time line for two bites at life !!     

Half PintBy April 1st pints were spilling and saxophones were spluttering and Dr Panicker @ The Walton Centre reported 'john p presented with bulbar palsy' ... our message went something like this - nothing hurts we feel fine, brain's OK but muscles won't respond, talking & swallowing a pain, we're going with the flow, we've had two bites at life, every day's a bonus, what do you expect at 84? Feeling inexplicably not bad ... but definitely knackered ...  

Wednesday June 28th we carefully managed only 1/2 a pint, and claimed a victory as we listened to 'Memphis Blues', 'I'm Gonna Sit Right Down & Write Myself a Letter', 'Have You Ever been Lonely' and 'Joe Turner's Blues' ... and we all smiled with understanding ...  we were locked into an enjoyable fun routine ... 9.30am breakfast Assam, read FT, emails, garden potter, morning Gold Blend, diary, afternoon Gold Blend, 'jobs' @ the PC, bath, cook, carefully swallow scrumptious fodder, YouTube, bed 1am ... knackered but our beer glass was still half full!

... time for the editors?    

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please help make the story better our memory ain't as good as it was ...


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