We have previously had a GOTGE Blog post with the same title as a Valérie Čižmárová release (‘Sbohem, školní bráno’). It would seem fitting, on this occasion, to repeat that theme – especially in view of my recent first experience in uploading to YouTube, which was the single recorded on 28th August 1972 at the Mozarteum – ‘Oči nelžou’ (‘Eyes Don’t Lie’), which was to the same tune as the New Zealander, Craig Scott’s ‘When Jo-Jo Runs’. I say this because, in the wake of the recent departure of my mother from this Earth, I have, as one does, been looking through some family photos with both myself and Mum in them and some from Mum’s youth and one has especially leapt out at me, given its year – Valinka’s great year of 1973 -, the fact that it was taken at the farm of my two uncles, St. Bride’s, previously featured in GOTGE in the context of the thunderbolt strike of March 1971 and the fact that there is a New Zealand connection.
The date of the photo is very interesting inasmuch as 30th August 1973 would have been my Dad’s 45th Birthday and would have, therefore, been at a very significant time in all sorts of ways for the family. It is notable that my older brother, Julian is looking very pensive (as in ‘Eyes Don’t Lie’) and it occurs to me that, at that time, he would probably have been half-way through the two years of his G.C.E. O Levels and was about to enter the uncertain world of the newly constructed (Comprehensive) Belper High School, where he would have been expected to mix in with lower-ability pupils after having worked hard to pass the 11-Plus exam to enter the privileged ‘cloisters’ of a prestigious school like Herbert Strutt, so, he may have had much to be pensive about.
Things were very different for myself at that time, as my gleeful expression probably indicates. After having been part of the first Herbert Strutt School intake that got there purely by the privilege of place of residence as opposed to passing the 11-Plus twelve months previously, as it was about to transition from Grammar School to Middle School, I was about to go from being the ‘little fish’ of the First Year straight to being the ‘big fish’ of the Fourth Year, by pure good fortune, at the alma mater of such luminaries as the actors, Alan Bates and Timothy Dalton. I have maybe, at times, been guilty of blaming a lot of my subsequent educational woes on the dislocation of those years, but really, on reflection, it was perhaps Julian’s year that was the most short-changed by it all. In summary, Julian was looking at a year of huge responsibility and what would have seemed a loss of prestige and I was looking at a year of undreamed-of power and not much in the way of responsibility!
At that time of educational experimentation Belper High School was to have a Full-Time Audio-Visual Aids Technician, charged with setting up videos (with the still-new VCR machine), films and radio programmes for classes and Mum was about to start there in that capacity, so maybe Julian would have been feeling the pressure, too, of being under his mother’s gaze at school!
There are some interesting ‘fashion notes’ to make regarding this fascinating photo.
I am wearing what was, perhaps, my first seriously fashionable shirt as I was about to leave childhood for adolescence – my beloved turquoise Paisley-pattern shirt with the ‘Slimfit’ seam down the back. I also think that the shoes I’m wearing would probably have been the antique, collectors’ item, leather-soled shoes, slightly built-up in the heel, with hobnails hammered in, to replicate the ‘Segs’ that were loved by teenagers at the time for the impressive noise they made on playground surfaces but hated by school caretakers for the effect they had on classroom, gymnasium and school hall floors! Perhaps reflecting contrasting fortunes, if one takes a look at this photo taken on the back lawn at our house the Spring of the previous year by Julian’s French penfriend (remember penfriends?) Denis Boulet, from Morsang-sur-Orge, just to the south of Paris, you will note that Julian is wearing a cast-off from his younger brother. Isn’t it supposed to work the other way around? Those, I think, would have been my first serious fashion shoes, BTW – cherry-red and antique brown loafers at just circa ten-and-three-quarters…a Mod of the future and long-standing shoe fetishist!
Returning to the St. Bride’s photo, I have made mention of Valinka’s love of polka-dots in GOTGE in the recent past…and what should Mum be wearing in that 1973 shot but that very pattern? Furthermore, talking of ‘eyes’, if one disregards the blonde hair in Valinka’s case, looking at this utterly charming photo of Mum aged just fourteen (in 1944) and about to start work I cannot avoid thinking of one of the great photos taken of Valinka by Vilém Sochůrek and how similar Mum is facially to Valinka and how Valinka is showing very ‘Tivey eyes’. We could be related! One can easily see why, in those pre-political-correctness days, Mum was very often wolf-whistled at by the locally stationed GIs preparing for D-Day as she used to cycle around Melbourne.
Given things Eastern European and Antipodean I suppose that it is natural that our family should connect with one whose first language was Hungarian, since here is a suitably attired Auntie Elaine (née Horváth) with my Australian Uncle Kerry at a barbecue (naturally!) at St.Bride’s. Yes, we have a ‘Hungarian Bentley’!
It isn’t only my aunts and uncles who have connections ‘Down Under’. Our family friends, the Burdekins, had lived in New Zealand for some years in the late 1960s (in Timaru, South Island, Auntie Celia and Uncle Eddie going to Te Awamutu, North Island) and here are a couple of family photos from the ‘GOTGE Era’ the first taken by Alec with our house (the only one in our row to have a hipped roof instead of a plain ridged roof) and the town of Belper in the background on a beautifully sunny Summer’s evening dated six days before my eighth Birthday (13th July 1969) and the second with Christine at their home in Eastleigh, Hampshire, where they settled on their return to the UK, dated 2nd June 1971, which would probably have been during a rare ‘Dormobile’ holiday headed South instead of our more usual North to Scotland or West to Wales.
Since GOTGE is all about the music, to return to the theme-in-hand, the ‘Oči nelžou’ connection to New Zealand has inevitably got me thinking on a part of the World that was another one of those ‘foreign fields’ that has held a fascination for me apart from Eastern Europe and especially from the musical point of view.
This runs on two levels.
Earlier in that Summer of 1973, as an aficionado of Grand Opera, it had been a great treat for Mum to have seen one of her all-time favourites, New Zealand’s Dame Kiri Te Kanawa at the Glyndebourne Festival in ‘The Marriage Of Figaro’ – so, talking of music festivals, the same Summer as Valinka rode to Petra Černocká’s rescue, performing ‘Koukej, se mnou si píseň broukej’ in the event of Petruška’s indisposition at the Bratislavská Lýra of that year. It also occurs to me that, like the Czech and Slovak female surnames ending in ‘-ová’ that seem to present such difficulty regarding on what syllable one should place the stress, Dame Kiri’s name suffered the same fate of mispronunciation in the early days – people saying Kiri Te Ka-NAH-wa as opposed to Kiri Te KAH-na-wa.
As well as St. Bride’s Farm away in the South of Derbyshire, another farm that used to be a great part of my life is just five minutes’ walk away – Crossroads Farm, where my classmate, Rachael Burdekin (Alec and Christine’s niece) used to live and where we were entertained over the years. One of those strange things that tend to stick in my memory is when, with the family’s connection to New Zealand, I was leafing through the record collection and encountered a record from the 1950s/1960s by a New Zealand act that slips my mind, but the ridiculously stilted sleeve notes that seemed to paint a picture of a hopelessly backward part of the World remain long in the memory. In more recent years, I saw a documentary on TV on a play (also, whose name slips my mind) recounting the terrible experiences of feeling out on a limb of a Jewish Mod girl who lived in Leeds in the 1960s and whose family moved to ‘the middle of nowhere’ in New Zealand.
Inspired by ‘Oči nelžou’ I have been looking into the ladies of the earlier part of the ‘GOTGE Era’ from that country. You know what, I have made reference to the (unsuccessful) attempts of France’s Carene Cheryl to ‘invade’ the UK and how little the West of Europe in general and the UK in particular knew at the time of the GOTGE. Looking at this Various Artists album who, in the UK, can name many of these ‘Kiwi Girls’ as household names in this country? If female artists from fellow English-speaking New Zealand didn’t raise a blip here what chance would female artists from France and Eastern Europe have? If one clicks on ‘more images’ I think one would agree that these ‘Kiwi Girls’ were every bit as trendy as their contemporary ‘Brit Girls’ and listening to Yolande Gibson’s ‘Baby What I Mean’ and Dinah Lee’s ‘Sorry Mama’ is the pure ‘Southern (Hemisphere) Soul’ experience…stunning!
Shouldn’t Pop from New Zealand and the ‘Kiwi Girls’ from that era be reassessed in the same way as those from the former Eastern Bloc? Isn’t that part of the World the victim of a similar unfairly poor image?
‘Eyes Don’t Lie’…or do they…at times?