Now that I have pinned down the dates of those Valérie Čižmárová recording sessions and have related it to my school days and given the fact that I am still in possession of some of my work at school from those days (the majority from the ‘Belper High School Days’, but some precious rarities from earlier on…alluded to in this post) I wondered if I had any work dated from any one of those dates so I could see what I might have been doing on exactly the same day as Valinka would have been at work in the recording studio. I didn’t manage to find an exact match of dates, but I have found some that go very close.
First of all, during the Third Year at Long Row Junior School, as well as one’s regular coursework, one was encouraged to keep a diary of one’s latest events (sort of like a Blog of its day!) as a way of stimulating the proper ‘grown-up’ joined-up writing that I had just started to learn that year. Here is the front cover, with my full name on it that gave rise to my nickname at the time, ‘Seedy’ (C.D….get it?)
Around the time of the recording of Valinka’s ‘Za sluncem, za vodou’ (5th April 1971) our family experienced one of the most dramatic events in its history. On the afternoon of Saturday, 20th March 1971 the farm of my two uncles – Geoffrey and Peter – St. Bride’s in Stanton-by-Bridge (in the South of Derbyshire, where both my parents’ families lived – my parents moving slightly north to Belper back in the late 1950s) was struck by a thunderbolt, leaving a massive hole in the roof. Fortunately, my cousins, who ordinarily might have been, say, watching the television at the time, were out at the parish church of Stanton-by-Bridge, helping decorate it for the special service on Mothering Sunday (our Mother’s Day, which is not to be confused with the American Mother’s Day in May) which is the third Sunday before Easter. Otherwise, it might have been rather more serious. Here is my report, written variously on Tuesday, 23rd and Thursday, 25th March, complete with a dramatic depiction of the hole in the roof!
The event was front-page news in one of the local newspapers, the ‘Burton Observer & Chronicle’, dated the same day as my second Diary entry. I thought we had it somewhere at home and I’m very glad to report that I have tracked it down.
As a close personal friend of my father’s, the Head of the Art Department at the school where my father taught (see below for a reference to that), Wilfred Ball, painted, as a special commission, St. Bride’s Farm. Here it is on our living room wall. The modern kitchen extension on the right in the newspaper photo, where my Auntie Hilda would have been cooking at the time when the cooking knife was jolted out of her hand by the force of the thunderbolt, has since been demolished to be replaced by a smaller structure more in keeping with the architectural heritage of this historic farm.
Wilfred Ball, who unfortunately is no longer with us, wrote books on watercolour. Here they are on sale at Amazon.co.uk.
On that same page of my Diary, from the following Tuesday, 30th March, you will see a reference to that classic toy of around the turn of the 1960s to the 1970s, Matchbox ‘Superfast’ cars. That collector’s item of a childhood collection is still largely intact and I can still put them on show with their boxes in many cases, although unfortunately I do have some empty boxes and cars that no longer have their boxes.
‘Superfast’ cars date from those far-off days when mass-produced toys were still ‘Made in England’. I cannot see any reference to any flags other than those of Spain, West Germany and France on the box tabs, so although trade would have gone on between the UK and Czechoslovakia at the time, sadly, I don’t think any Czechoslovakian children would have got to share in the wonderful ‘Superfast’ experience at the time.
From the following Thursday, 1st April (just four days before the recording of ‘Za sluncem, za vodou’ on Monday, 5th April) you can see that I had big plans for the Easter Holidays! I think that was an unintentional ‘April-fooling’ of my teacher, who at the time would have been Mrs. Latimer, partly standing in for Mr. Griffiths!
Also around that time, since we are talking of the former Eastern Bloc here, we would have been marking a decade since Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering space flight and that gets a mention in my diary.
And here is Valinka’s ‘Za sluncem, za vodou’…and what a storming slice of Soul it is – natively composed, too, by Ivan Šendera (music) and Jana Hornofová (lyrics) – fittingly so, in view of the fact that I have been writing about a thunderbolt strike! ‘Za sluncem, za vodou’ almost hits like a thunderbolt, I happen to think, driven along nicely by Karel Vlach se svým orchestrem (Karel Vlach and his Orchestra), with backing vocals from Sbor Lubomíra Pánka (The Lubomír Pánek Singers).
Moving on to the ‘Herbert Strutt Days’. The academic year of 1972 to 1973 marked my first steps into the wonderful world of Modern Foreign Languages. Here is my first-ever French school exercise book, complete with my name in French! (Which we used during French lessons).
Here is my homework (‘devoirs’ in French) from Thursday, 11th January 1973 – just two days after the recording of ‘Tak měj mě rád’ and ‘Mít aero a létat’ (on Tuesday, 9th January 1973). Evidently, I was quite taken, at the time, with those horizontal lines through the number seven, prevalent on the Continental Mainland!
Here is ‘Tak měj mě rád’ – music by Vítězslav Hádl and Ladislav Pikart and lyrics by Petr Markov.
And here is its Double-A-Side, ‘Mít aero a létat’, by Antonov and Markov, which, like ‘Za sluncem, za vodou’, could be ‘Eastern Soul’.
In both cases, the accompaniment coming from Studiový Orchestr Pavel Vitoch, wih backing from Sbor L. Pánka.
In this past few years there was a reunion of former pupils at Herbert Strutt School which I attended. The following is a photo of me (highlighted) joining in ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at the end of the reunion in the Main Hall. The Main Hall was where I was part (in the chorus) of the school’s performance of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’, which would have been sometime in 1973. If one takes a look at the Wikipedia link one will note that it was not until that year that the musical was first performed in the West End. This would probably make Herbert Strutt School’s performance one of the first ever school productions of the musical. It is a clear memory of mine that all members of the chorus had bright orange letter Js sewn – at home – onto their tops. I am sure that Valinka would have approved of the fact that a future fan was so actively engaged in a musical production in what was perhaps her finest year in the Pop Music business. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is any actual photographic record of that production, which is a great pity, since it must have been one of the school’s finest hours.
Finally, as my older brother, with whom I had been at Herbert Strutt School for just that one year, made his way up to the then newly-built Belper High School when the wholesale re-organisation of the educational system into a Lower, Middle and Upper School system finally swung into action after a year-in-transition, when my year was the first to enter Herbert Strutt not on the basis of having passed the 11-Plus, but rather simply on place of residence, my year went straight from the First to the Fourth year and I went from Class 1/8 to Class 4B. At that time of educational experimentation a novel subject entered the curriculum – Environmental Studies – a sort of mixture of elements of Geography, History and Social/Community Studies. Here is the front cover of my Environmental Studies exercise book. By way of a strange ‘symmetry’, Miss Cook, who had been my Fourth Year class teacher at Long Row Junior School, was my Environmental Studies teacher in this other Fourth Year.
Just ten days before Valinka commenced work on the recording of her eponymous LP – to be eventually released in 1975 – on Friday, 1st February 1974, (the tracks recorded on that date being, ‘Dál než nejdál’, ‘Padal déšť’ and ‘Píseň o kraji’), here is my analysis of the industries of Derby and Belper, respectively, from Tuesday, 22nd January 1974…one or two slight spelling problems, there (as in ‘Jeager’ instead of ‘Jaeger’ and ‘foundary’ instead of ‘foundry’)! I wasn’t corrected by Miss Cook! Talking of schoolteachers, you will note an in-places somewhat comical reference to my father, who was a teacher – not at a school in Belper, but at Spondon House Secondary Modern, then Spondon Comprehensive School, in the Derby suburb of Spondon.
Here is the link to the LP so you can play those aforementioned tracks.