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The Year 2021 in Pictures and Captions
Another year in pictures. Although this year I thought I'd add captions to give a little insight into how the year has gone. There have been a lot of changes in my life that I have had to adjust to as well as try to focus on my writing.
The last posting here was in July, but I realise that I haven't really mentioned on my website that I had moved house.
I didn't mention it before we moved in February because I didn't want to jinx it. Anyone who's been through the experience of buying and selling a house will understand that. You never know if it will happen or not!
Moving to Norfolk from Kent has been a huge leap for us. Phil and I have lived in London and the South East (Kent) for most of our lives. We have always seen ourselves as Londoners, so this was a challenge. We also left behind family and that was a big heart wrench. But we are in our twilight years and needed a place to settle for our remaining time, however long that may be. We have been in search of peace and quiet for a long time and I hope we have found it.
Since moving here in February, and as Covid restrictions were lifted, we have taken part in a number of village events. I joined the Women's Institute and volunteered to be part of their village committee. I am hoping to do a WI Web Editor training course to help run the local group's webpage. I have also attended most of the key social events that took place here in our village during the summer. I have offered to help run the village Millennium Green social media page on Instagram, plus provide words and pictures for their new website that is being developed by other volunteers at the moment and planned for launch in 2022.
Getting involved in community activities as a volunteer is something that I have been used to for many years, but village life is different and takes some getting used to. I just hope I can find my place and look forward to the time when I'm not seen as an outsider. I will keep you posted as best I can. I'm still trying hard to get back on track with my own writing and really want to finish my memoirs. I have a note on my desk that says "I came here to write"!
In the meantime whilst you're waiting for my life story to emerge, sit back and enjoy my 2021 journey. It's been fun. Happy New Year and see you in 2022.
The Year 2021 in Pictures and Captions
"I’m a bit of a perfectionist and like to go over things, rather than rush it. Going to a professional studio is the kind of level we want, and to be working with people who have expertise." Steve Marriott, speaking to Val Weedon about his band DARLINGS May 2021
AN INTERVIEW WITH STEVE MARRIOTT JUNIOR
LEAD SINGER/GUITARIST WITH 'DARLINGS'
It was at a Small Faces fans gathering in 2008 that I first set eyes on young Steve Marriott.
Following that night, one fan observed in a blog they’d written for a Mod website, that Small Fakers, a Small Faces tribute band “were joined on stage by a young kid, who happened to be Steve Marriott’s nephew.”
This was our young Steve of course. He was at the event with his older sister Lucy and other members of the Marriott family that included siblings, Toby, Mollie, Tonya and Lesley.
I had been chatting to some of them in the upstairs bar at the venue when young Steve caught my eye. He was small in height at that time, bearing in mind he was still just 16.
I briefly said hello and my attention was drawn to the white guitar he was clutching. He looked me in the eye, and I felt an instant connection. We didn’t chat as I was unsure what to say. Apart from having worked with his uncle Steve back in 1966 and being a huge fan of the Small Faces back then too, I thought young Steve wouldn’t be interested in anything I had to say. On reflection I was completely wrong of course. This young man has plenty of things to say and is interested in many things, especially music. He has a wicked sense of humour, but he is also sensitive and has an awareness of the world way beyond his years. We have now become firm friends and he has affectionately nicknamed me The Chick.
Our brief encounter at this event was interrupted as the various bands started performing on stage. It became quite loud and was a distraction from any conversation likely to take place. Then it was announced that, next up, was Small Fakers, one of the more popular bands of the night, so we all made our way to the front of stage. The next time I saw young Steve was when he appeared on stage with his white guitar in hand.
In a conversation I had with him recently Steve laughs as he remembered being introduced by his older cousin Toby who, in true Marriott style, jokingly stuck his fingers up at the audience as he told them to give it up for Steve!
Steve looked really confident up there on that stage. I thought he was a natural and knew instantly he was destined to be a musician, performing on stage.
I got to see Steve perform a few times over the next year or so. Mostly at Small Fakers gigs when Steve would join them on stage for a couple of numbers. These were great opportunities for him to develop his musicianship, but I know now that he was looking for more out of his music than performing as a guest guitarist just because he was related to a well-known musician (his uncle Steve Marriott).
Around 2010 I started running a few of my own gigs in various clubs around central London. One of the venues was the Troubadour club in west London that has a rich musical history dating back to the 1960’s where people like Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix performed.
It’s quite a small club, mostly known for its acoustic sets, but I thought it would be a good venue to give some of the bands I knew a chance to showcase their work. One of them, Connett, featuring lead singer Darren Connett, had been performing regularly on the Mod circuit. Steve had become aware of them too so asked me if he could come along to the gig to see them. For some reason the timings on stage that night were running late and Steve was concerned he’d miss his last train home. I had travelled to the venue with my husband Phil in our car, so we assured Steve not to panic and offered to give him a lift to the station in east London as it was on our way home anyway. But soon after dropping him off we got a phone call from him saying he’d missed the train and although there was a bus station close by with a night bus service back to near where he lived, we were not comfortable leaving Steve to face that journey on his own. The motherly instinct kicked in for me, and I thought that his mum may be worried. I remembered when my own children were teenagers on a night out and as a parent you can’t rest until you know they are home safe.
So, we turned the car around and headed back to pick Steve up and decided to take him back with us. He messaged his mum to let her know what was happening and assure her all was ok.
Steve remembered the incident when I got to interview him recently and told me he was really cool about the whole thing of being stranded and coming back with us to stay. Especially as it turns out he was still at school and this meant a day off the next day, so he wasn’t fazed by it at all. This reminded me of his uncle Steve Marriott who was well known for not being keen on school!
Steve and I kept in contact regularly chatting about his ambitions relating to music as well as his influences and heroes. One of them was Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood. Steve revealed he was hoping he would one day get to meet him. Then a chance arose in 2009 when it was announced The Faces were reforming, for one night only, at a charity concert taking place at the Royal Albert Hall on October 25th. Rod Stewart was unable to be at that concert, but it was planned that other solo artists would cover. Ronnie Wood had of course been a band member of the Faces prior to joining The Rolling Stones and he joined the other Faces; former band mates Ian (Mac) McLagan and Kenney Jones, with Bill Wyman covering on bass.
Steve was so excited at the news that Ronnie would be there and asked me if I’d go with him to the concert. Of course, I agreed, especially as my hero and friend, drummer Kenney Jones was also on the same bill! We managed to get great seats just a few rows back from the main stage. We arrived at the venue about midday and headed for the Stage Door wondering if we’d get a glimpse of Ronnie arriving. There were lots of eager fans and autograph hunters that had gathered outside. Everyone got excited each time a car pulled up or someone with a rock star haircut came out of the stage door! Sadly, we didn’t get any sighting of Ronnie even though we were there all afternoon right until the time we needed to head inside the concert hall.
We had aisle seats, which was handy as it meant that when the Faces came on stage, we could then easily access the front of stage and join lots of other eager fans for what became a real party atmosphere. Steve was the first to make a dash and I quickly followed. It also meant I could get closer and take a few photos. After the Faces finished their set, the organisers appeared on stage.
This charity concert was called ‘Helping the Heart of Music’ and organised by the PRS (Performing Rights Society). It had been advertised as
'a unique celebration in aid of the PRS for Music Members Benevolent Fund’.
What the organisers didn’t reveal before the concert was that the Faces band members were to be given an award for their contribution to the charity. It was highlighted that the fund was still able to help Katy Lane, former wife of Faces bass guitarist Ronnie Lane, who died of MS in 1997.
Katy was also at the concert and came out on stage, joining Ronnie, Mac and Kenney when they received their awards. The show ended with all the artists joining the Faces for a grand finale!
After the show ended, we were buzzing with excitement. As we left the venue we passed the Stage Door and saw Katy Lane outside. I waved to her and she came over. I introduced her to Steve, and he said to her; “My Mum and Nan say hello. They haven’t seen you in ages.” She asked who they were, and Steve told her “Kay Marriotts.” She was genuinely delighted to meet Steve and said “So, you must be Kay’s son.” We stood there talking to Katy for a few minutes. Steve recalls that he somehow blagged his way into the after-show party. I remember Katy didn’t hesitate in helping get him backstage. She was really sweet and I was so excited for Steve, hoping he would get to meet Ronnie Wood.
I could’ve gone with him but had agreed to stay with a friend that night who’d also been at the concert. I must admit I was concerned about how Steve was going to get home safely. I had a mobile phone so was able to send him text messages, but I never heard anything back and hardly slept. Then as dawn broke, I got a phone call from him telling me about his exciting and unbelievable night. Yes, he got to meet his hero!
When I spoke to Steve recently, he talked about the events of that night in more detail:
“One minute I’m at the after-show party at the Royal Albert Hall with these people that had been playing that day, and then the next thing I’m in a car with Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, Lee McLagan (son of Ian McLagan) who was driving and his mum Sandy Sarjeant was there too. All of them on their way to a Ronnie Wood private little bash back at his hotel in Cavendish Square! Jesse Wood, Ronnie’s son, was there too.”
“I had briefly met Ronnie at the after-show party, I remember seeing him look at me and I think he was talking about me I don’t know, probably saying who’s that funny little fat geezer, as I was back then. I had a bit of a Rod/Ronnie haircut at the time. So, as I walked into Ronnie’s party, he pointed at me and said ‘Fuck me, you sure you aint mine’ coz my haircut was similar. Jesse and Lee McLagan were really nice and took me under their wing and looked after me. There was a free bar, and I could have whatever I wanted. Ronnie’s Russian girlfriend at the time Katia was there, I remember she fell into me with her nails falling between my shirt buttons and scratching my belly.” Steve laughs “She asked me, what’s your name, I said Steve and she said I’m Ekaterina, but call me Katia.”
“We chatted for a while and I saw Ronnie and Mac talking, probably catching up. Then I went to the bar to get a drink and Ronnie came up to the bar too and stood with me as he barked out his order ‘rum and coke’. Then he went back to his table leaving his drink on the bar. Being a big fan, I thought, this was a good opportunity to go over and give him his drink. So, I did that and gave him his drink and said, ‘Woody, there’s your drink there you go’. He looked at it and said ‘no, no, what’s that?’ I think he was winding me up or testing me. I replied, ‘it’s your rum and coke, you ordered it’. He replied, ‘no I ordered lemonade and rum’. At the time I’d never heard of that, but funny enough it’s my tipple now, a good combination. Anyway, I think he was winding me up. I was nearly a little arse licker, you know, sucking up to him and nearly said, ‘ok mate I’ll go and get you another one’. Then I thought”
Steve laughs again: “wait a minute, fuck off, you may be a rock star, but at this minute you’re just sitting down in a hotel lounge with me and other people, not that I’m someone, but thought, you’re not on stage now and I thought drink it or not I’m not bothered. I turned around to talk to the boys, Lee and Jesse. Next thing I look around and Ronnie’s drinking it, the fucker”. Steve continues:
“When he was leaving, he came up to me and gave me a big hug and said, ‘it’s lovely seeing you Steve’. And I was all excited as I responded saying ‘thanks Ronnie’, I remember this so well, especially his look as I said ‘Yeah, see you again soon no doubt’. Ronnie just looked at me and said, ‘yeah alright mate’.”
Steve laughs out loud as he adds “And I haven’t seen the cunt since”
Even though meeting his hero didn’t have the ending he may have wanted, this chance meeting didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for music, which has never waned.
Over to Steve…
“I love music and knew that I always wanted to perform, from being very young. My first public performances were during my school days. I did a gig at the Half Moon in Bishop Stortford where I live, and one of my schoolteachers taught me a little bit of guitar before then, but I wasn’t doing any rock gigs or anything like that back then. It was more than an aspiration to play music and perform. I knew I always wanted to do it. “
This was an opportunity to ask him about his famous uncle, Steve Marriott, lead singer and guitarist with the Small Faces and Humble Pie a band he went on to form with Peter Frampton.
“There was no real acknowledgement by the family that my uncle Steve was famous, I just grew up knowing it and got used to it.”
Young Steve was named after his uncle of course, but never met him, as he sadly died in a house fire the year before young Steve was born.
“I got to know about him just from mum telling me stuff and her playing his music. Obviously at a young age I found it really cool to know who he was, and still do. But it had a bigger impact when I was younger. It was in the family, in the blood. As cliché as it sounds, but in this situation, it was probably one of the main reasons I was so into the music. I just have a love for all music.”
I ask Steve when the first time was he started playing guitar. He explained it was when his mum Kay got him his first real guitar for Christmas, along with a little amp and other essentials for playing. This was when he was in 7th grade at school. (11/12-year-olds).
“I was going around saying I was a guitarist but hadn’t really played that much before. When I got the guitar though I just got on with it as I’d always wanted one. My god dad Neil taught me the basic chords, including ones like All or Nothing, plus some tips on how to teach yourself. After that I just taught myself by ear. Some say it’s hard to learn, but you have to want to play and keep at it. You have to be interested. There is nothing worse than getting lessons for something you don’t want to do.”
I remember when I first saw young Steve on that stage in 2008 just how confident he looked. At such a young age to get up on stage in front of a large crowd was impressive. He looked a natural with no fear playing along with the Small Fakers. Almost like it was where he was supposed to be.
Steve laughs “That was my poker face. I was really bricking it. Still do. I always get nervous before a gig.”
He went on to explain that the band members of Darlings, his present band, all admit to being nervous when they first go on stage.
“You need to get up there and own it and enjoy it. Even from those early days until now I get nervous, but I think it’s because you want it to go well. If it doesn’t show it’s because you need to put on a front. That’s part of it. You don’t want to see someone on stage shitting themselves, you want them to own it, and enjoy it. And after the first few numbers you do.”
Steve said that often he finds some solace before going on stage, although at first his band members thought he didn’t want to hang out with them. Once he explained they were fine and admitted to feeling nervous too.
“My mate Bailey, who plays bass in the band, took it personally at first, asking me why I never used to hang out with them before a gig or after, and asked if everything was alright. But I said no, I’m fine and explained that when we’re at a small club or pub I have to remove myself from people wanting to talk to me and I shied away to be on my own, not just before, but afterwards as well. I needed that time to sort things in my head. It’s lovely that people come up to you and say things like we were really good, but I do find it hard accepting compliments.”
It's taken a while for Steve to get to this point of finding a band like Darlings that he feels comfortable with and enjoy live performances. We look back and talk about his early days of getting his first guitar.
Although Steve wasn’t keen on school, he did stay on at 6th Form. He had his sights on being involved in music, that much was certain. He toyed with the idea of doing music promotion, because at that time there weren’t many other young musicians doing what he wanted to do, especially in the small town where he lived.
“I did think how hard could this be, but it was a pain when I did. It was easy to get gigs, but everything around it, sorting out schedules with others and having people drop out of a band was stressful.”
So, then Steve looked at taking up an offer for a place at college studying music. But found it was more about production and electronics.
“For me, at the time, I just wanted to play guitar, so I left college. Fortunately, 6th Form took me back again. Then I found another really cool music course in Kilburn at the ICMP (The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance). It’s quite a prestigious music school. I passed the auditions and got into that. It was a really cool opportunity.” Steve smiles “Then within a few days I was fed up and quit. But I was always doing things like that to see if I could do it. Then I thought, no, I just need to get a band and get a job. I was tired of school by then.”
For a few years Steve performed with a number of different bands. He reflects: “Great at first, but then it’s typical of bands trying to keep up the momentum. It’s hard and life gets in the way.”
He admits though he played with some great line ups, all giving him more confidence and experience each time, helping him to develop his style. He’s had a few jobs in between to provide an income. He even trained as a Barber at one time. As he hit his early 20’s his dedication to music took a greater hold. The downside was that many musicians of his age group were in the same position, completing college courses, or going to university or working.
The first time Steve fronted a band was with Black Leather. This is when he started singing and writing music. He performed in Black Leather for one of my Galaxy Entertains nights at a small basement club in London’s Denmark Street (Tin Pan Alley). Steve had done a few gigs for me in some of the bands he appeared in, one of them was a 60’s type Mod band called The Reaction. But with Black Leather it was the first time we’d seen Steve as front man and singing his own material as he was starting to experiment and develop his own music.
“Before that I’d only featured as a guitarist. I joined that band with my mate Rowan but that disbanded, again because life just got in the way. But we were always on the same level of ideas and with what we wanted to do with song writing. Then I went to the States with my mates, when I was about 20, and it was while I was travelling around all these melodies kept coming into my head. I never thought about writing a song. I’d muck about on the guitar, but never anything that I thought was decent. Then all of a sudden, melodies would approach me in my mind. At first, I thought they were songs that had come into my head (you know, from listening to stuff?) and I just started writing without realising. I didn’t have a recorder or anything and would play something to a mate and ask them to remember it. The first two songs I wrote was 'Past Futures' and '10,000 Watts', which are more kind of Kasabian inspiration songs.
After Black Leather, Steve didn’t do much, just some acoustic sets. Then a couple of years ago he started writing again.
“It was probably because I had more life experience by this time and had something to write about, like relationships. That’s how I channel my song writing, like when something happens to me emotionally, or mentally. It just happens. So now I’m on a bit of a roll and can’t stop it.”
Coming right up to date, Steve is now performing with his new band Darlings, who are fast becoming established on the music scene. Steve had his mate Rowan in the line-up, but Rowan had a change of heart during the pandemic.
“Rowan quit the band to go to Uni and he didn’t want to hold us back. He will always be a mate, but we crack on. We have Liam who has always played guitar, but also a handy man and plays keyboard/synth. So, Liam was there ready when Rowen left. He’s also played in bands before and knows what he’s doing. He’s a good add in and we all get on with him. It just feels right.”
The full line up now includes Bailey, Guy, Liam and Steve
Lockdown was a tough time for most musicians. But Steve found it quite productive, and he said he had lots of ideas. It gave him time to work on things.
“When I was working it was difficult to do that. It was nice to have the time off and concentrate on it. I gave it my full attention. I’d send stuff over to Rowan at the time when he was still us. I’d record on my mic, but he’d be able to make it more decent. We tried to be as active as we could.”
The results of their collaboration as a band came in the release of their single “Why” which came out in May this year. They now have enough material for an album, but as a new band and not having financial backing it’s difficult. So just putting out the single for now they are hoping they can attract interest that will allow them to go into the studio to record properly.
“We are all able to record stuff individually and our drummer has some home kit, but it would be better to have the mix done in a professional studio to make sure levels are fine. Plus, I like the idea of doing it in a studio and all of us being together. It’s exciting that way as well. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and like to go over things, rather than rush it. Going to a professional studio is the kind of level we want and to be working with people who have expertise. If you’re going to invest all that time and money, it’s worth spending more time working on it.”
‘Darlings’ were gaining popularity last year, performing live gigs in their hometown and then managed to secure a live gig in London earlier in 2020 to a really enthusiastic crowd. Then the pandemic hit. But as things start to open up again the band are eager to get out there and perform again.
“After we released “Why” it got a few thousand hits. It’s been over a year since we released anything so it’s great that people are engaging with us again. We’ve had a small revamp of course with a new band member and have a few gigs lined up for the future. Can’t wait to get playing now.”
Steve and the band recently did a live stream that went down extremely well and they looked and sounded great. Plenty of energy and they are starting to develop their own sound and style. Make sure you look out for these Darlings!
DARLINGS will be appearing at The Half Moon, 31 North Street, Bishop's Stortford, CM23 2LD on Saturday 31st July 2021 at 20.00hrs
Tickets via TicketWeb (a Ticketmaster company) SOLD OUT
DARLINGS WILL BE SUPPORTING The Sherlocks
The Sherlocks Bedford Tickets, Bedford Esquires, 15 Oct 2021 – Songkick
Well no one expected a year like 2020 did they? The year wasn't all doom and gloom though as I was reminded when I looked back over photos I'd kept on my iPhone during this year.
For January and February life was still pretty normal and I was able to go into London and meet up with family and friends several times during these months.
On the 3rd March my lovely daughter in law Francia finally received her British Citizenship and many tears of joy were shed. We are so proud of her and so glad she is part of our family. My daughter Sarah was admitted to hospital for a minor op, but restrictions were introduced as hospitals had to respond to the growing pandemic and this meant we weren't allowed to go visit her in hospital for the few days she was recovering.
Later in March came the dreaded full lockdown. We were completely isolated from family and friends, only being allowed out to go food shopping, or perhaps a little walk. My exercise regime started off with just a few hundred steps, but over the weeks increased to about 7,000!
Going food shopping was a real bore having to queue up and online deliveries were really hard to book. We did finally manage to get a delivery slot which led to huge excitement. Cake baking, eating more and drinking more became the norm in our house. I also attempted to learn to play guitar...again. I used to play years ago, but I've forgotten everything, so it's like starting all over again.
Phil put a bracket on my office wall for my guitar to be easily accessible and prompt me to practice every day. It did for a while, but now collecting dust again. I did manage to get over my fear of learning how to tune it, thanks to some young musician friends on Instagram who were offering online tips to get people started. My hurdle was my hearing loss which made me feel unsure if my guitar was in tune or not! Thanks to their suggestion of using a phone App I was able to make a start on my journey. Fender offer a great Auto-Tune App that tells me when each string is in tune. This gave me a lot of confidence. I now just need to master the art of playing chords. Which I will one day!
International Noise Awareness Day that takes place every year in April was only celebrated with a banner this year. A planned event at the House of Commons to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the UK Noise Association that I am Honorary President of, had to be cancelled.
Peace and Quiet was noticeable in the early days of lockdown because air travel came to a near halt and there was little traffic on the roads. Then neighbour noise complaints started to rise as more people were at home doing noisy things like DIY!
Not seeing family was the hardest, but we found a way to keep in touch. On our daily walk we would go past my daughter's house and was able to wave and chat for a while at a distance. That was really hard for me and my daughter as we do like to hug!
Then ZOOM came along to keep me in touch with other family members. That has been such a blessing and I thank my niece the Reverend Donna for introducing us to this way of connecting.
It also gave me an idea that led to my series of Zoom interviews to find out how some people were coping during this pandemic. You can find them on my website, if you haven't already done so of course!
The spring and summer arrived, giving us light and warmth that helped us through some dark days. As restrictions eased a little we were able to spend time with limited numbers of close family in the garden, which really helped with the anxiety I was starting to feel.
Things were a little more relaxed during July and August and being able to finally get my hair cut and look presentable once more really gave me a lift. We were able to go see our first live music performance since March. This was held outside, with everyone still social distancing and sitting on separate tables. But it felt so good hearing and seeing a live performance again.
Earlier in the year we had planned a huge party in September for Phil's 60th and my 70th Birthdays, but this had to be cancelled. We were back into being restricted again, but did manage to celebrate Phil's 60th in October and mine in November with just close family.
Then the shutters came down again in December and that is where we are right now. Christmas celebrations with the family were saved by Zoom.
There is light at the end of the tunnel with announcements that a vaccine is on its way.
We've had some sad moments during 2020, but also a lot of fun times. Overall we have a lot to look forward to.
Happy New Year everyone.
On 7th November 1950 at 2am I came into this world! On 7th November 2020 I turned 70! Whatever happened to those years inbetween? Thanks to my lovely husband, photographer Phil Weedon, here is a compilation of the many good times I had over the years all in one big book called "How to Party for 70 Years" best birthday gift ever.
I was deeply saddened to hear the news that Jimmy Winston, a dear friend and original keyboard player with the Small Faces, had died on Saturday 26th September following a battle with a rare lung cancer (mesothelioma).
Jimmy was a key part of the bands early success. He appeared on the first and second single as well as part of their fabulous debut album.
He also toured with them around the UK, appeared on the 60s tv music programme Ready Steady Go and also in the movie Dateline Diamond.
By the beginning of 1966 Jimmy had left the band to go solo. That's when I started working at the Small Faces fan club and we became good friends. Read my story...coming soon...
This month's Zoom interview is with Singer/Songwriter Peter Donegan. Talking about the 'L' Word .... not just Life, Love and Lockdown!
To read more, click here .... Peter Donegan
Story can be found in the Features section (link here)
Secrets of a locked down rebel
By Val Weedon
ZOOMING IN ON KENNEY JONES
Read this in the "Features" section of this website
"Kenney Jones is a living legend of rock music. Founding member of the Small Faces, drummer with the Faces and the Who and member of the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame."
Taken from Kenney Jones website
Written by Val Weedon
Originally posted to Kenney Jones Fan Club and Small Faces Fan Club on Facebook
Delighted to say, the article about my links to Thomas Hardy, has finally been published in the summer edition of the Hardy Society Journal. A PDF copy of the article, plus extra photos, are featured below and can be downloaded for free.
Copies of the full journal are also available at just £4 from the Thomas Hardy Society.
From the book "Salerno Remembered" by Geoffrey Curtis
"On 9th September 1943 the first major assault on the mainland of Europe was made at Salerno on the SW coast of Italy. Salerno Remembered brings the battle to life through the recollections of those who took part in the operation."
My father, Albert John Williams was there. It was a battle that changed the course of his life. He didn't like talking about his war experiences as the injury he sustained during that battle was forever a sad reminder of those days and the friends he lost.
I never knew anything about the battle at Salerno, except the brief stories my father chose to tell us to explain the nature of his injury.
Then, after my father's death in 1994, I came across the book "Salerno Remembered" by Geoffrey Curtis who was a platoon commander in the 2/6th Queen's regiment at Salerno. His book is a fascinating account of what happened and helped me understand how my dad sustained his injury, which involved losing part of his hand.
My dad was modest about his role in that battle and almost embarrassed talking about it. He was not even proud of the medals he received (recorded in his army book as "Africa Star with 8* army clasp and 1939, France, Italy Victory etc") From what I remember he disposed of them over the years.
I've always been curious to know more about his time in the army and why he became a reluctant hero. I call him that because in my eyes he was one of the many brave that fought for our freedom. But for my father it was just painful and depressing for him to reflect on that time.
As a family though we were always encouraged to respect and acknowledge Remembrance Sunday and at 11am we would stand quietly watching the laying of wreaths at the Cenotaph on television. My mother would always be tearful when Big Ben struck 11am. For her it was a reminder of my father's disability and how that had impacted on her and shaped the family life that we had.
The details of that moment dad was injured can be found on pages 46-47 in the book Salerno Remembered, but the background to events leading up to this were described at the start of the chapter. It explains that British troops had secured a particular hill that gave them support and protection, as well as a vital observation point of the enemy.
It is described how this occupation of the hill was a thorn in the side of the Germans as the British gunners were able to shoot up any movement in the valley below. My father was in charge of one of sections guarding the hill.
Pages 46-47 explain that "..the Battalion 3in mortars had also been in action and that Sgt Cardwell, who was the Mortar Platoon sergeant at the time, recalls getting a message that Sgt Williams (my father) and that he had been badly wounded in the hand. When the Germans had got behind them in the valley, Sgt Williams had turned round his mortar, firing it down hill at them and he had been hit by a bomb before he could get his hand away from the muzzle."
The details of what happened in the immediate minutes after this incident are not recorded in the book, but my father had told me of the time when he arrived at the first aid tent to be treated by the doctors.
When he told me the story it was never clear if he knew at that time the exact extent of his injury. He knew that a number of his fingers were badly damaged and hanging by a thread. I'm only hoping that some pain relief had been administered, but this was unclear. He only describes, quite graphically, how the doctor treating him, quickly and swiftly cut the damaged fingers (three of them) straight into a bucket.
My father's hand was then bandaged and he was shipped back to the UK. This is all dad would tell us. It seemed quite cold hearted what the doctor had done, but I'm guessing there was no room for emotion and decisions on how injuries were dealt with needed to be quick.
The days, weeks, months and years following my father's ordeal are long and detailed so probably best told another time. But as today is Remembrance Sunday I thought it important this part of his time in the army was told.
Dad's Army Book records state that he was discharged from the army on 2nd February 1944 and his military conduct recorded as EXEMPLARY.
There is no doubt my father was an exceptional man and I can't wait to tell you more about him.
For those who regularly check my page I apologise once again for my absence. But you know the score by now.
I haven't been idle as I've been consumed with another important project. And this is my birthday week, so thought it appropriate to update you. Not that I'm looking for birthday messages, presents or offers to take me out.
For ages I’ve been talking about writing a book about my life. It all started when friends suggested I should write about my times working in the music industry back in the 1960’s with bands like the Small Faces and also explain what it was like having Don Arden, Sharon Osbourne’s father, as my boss. Then I thought there are lots of other diverse activities that I've been involved in over the years.
In May 1991, following a neighbour noise problem that forced me to move house, I launched a national campaign called The Right to Peace and Quiet. The comedian Spike Milligan, who'd had a number of noise problems himself, became our Patron. With his involvement the campaign attracted widespread interest, especially in the media and parliament. In 1997 I was awarded an MBE for that work.
In more recent times I discovered that I am related to the writer and poet Thomas Hardy. Which for me as a writer is hugely exciting.
So, as I thought about each of these landmarks in my life, the idea of writing a book sounded appealing. Time to stop thinking about it and time to start writing.
As a working title, I'm calling it 'Whatcha Gonna Do About It' which was the first single of my favourite 60's band, Small Faces As a writer I am often self critical and have moments of doubt. I feel it's part of the creative process. Whatcha gonna do about it eh?
Writing a book about my life is obviously something I've never done before, and I realise this isn't a short term project!
I was talking to Kenney Jones, drummer with Small Faces, The Faces and The Who, following the launch of his autobiography Let The Good Times Roll. He had been working on his book for some years, but said that having someone help with research was so important and he would not have been able to complete the project without that help. Getting dates and times correct is so important and I agree that is taking up a lot more of my time than actually writing.
I now have someone to help with Editing, which has been a huge bonus in getting me focussed. But so far, I'm enjoying the journey.
This week I may have some difficulty as I have a birthday on Wednesday (7th November in-case you're interested). Celebrations already started on Saturday when I went to see the best and my favourite pub band, Bif Bam Pow. They made a rare trip across the Dartford Bridge into Kent from their homeland in Canvey Island, Essex, or the Thames Delta as its known. If you ever get a chance, go check them out. You will be blown away!
I'll try my best to keep you updated on the progress of the book.
Val, with husband photographer Phil Weedon and Bif Bam Pow at the Westcourt Arms, Gillingham 3rd November 2018
Listen to me TODAY on the community radio station SheppeyFM talking about everything from community radio, the band Small Faces, my campaign work, and my family connection with the poet/writer Thomas Hardy. sheppeyfm.org.uk/
Well, here we are at the beginning of another year. Here goes my attempt to summarise, in monthly bite size pieces, my thoughts and ramblings on the variety of activities that seem to fill up my life these days.
It was really tough getting back into writing. This was partly due to me facing a number of family and friend's bereavement anniversaries that occur in the early part of the year, especially January.
The loss of my best friend Pauline Corcoran, who died on January 14th 2016 hit me pretty hard. We had known each other for over 50 years and I’m still finding it hard to accept that she’s not here. The last ten years since we re-connected we were in touch most days, either by text or via Facebook. So it is weird not to be able to pick up the phone to her and make arrangements for our regular get-togethers over lunch down in Margate where she lived.
I’ve written about Pauline a number of times before here on my website, but for those of you who don’t know, Pauline was the fan club secretary for the 60’s band the Small Faces. From the moment we first met at the fan club offices Pauline and I became best friends.
It has been my plan for a number of years now to tell our full story in book form and not confine it to the odd words in a blog. It is certainly worthy of the full monty!
The other loss in January was that of my eldest brother John who died on January 17th 2017. Out of all my siblings, I was closest to him, simply because he was our big brother. When I was a young girl he would care for me, for example, taking me to the dentist, holding my hand because I was scared, even though he hated medical stuff, especially needles. Or he’d treat me and take me to the cinema. As an adult he moved to South Africa with his wife Ann and two young children looking for a new life. But we always kept in touch and still had a connection. He was a dedicated Christian and his faith was important to him. Whilst I didn’t share the same religious passion, it didn’t matter because he was such a caring person. He loved everyone and would tell people they were beautiful. During the last 15 years of his life he suffered a number of serious strokes that eventually left him dependent on a full time carer. But he never lost his humour and had a number of quirky quotes that friends and family were reminded of at his memorial service last year.
“My brain is scrambled.”
“I’m so wobbly.”
“Have you met my first wife”
“If I’m talking to you, I’m good.”
On January 11th this year I was honoured to attend a special wreath laying ceremony in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey to commemorate 90 years since the death of poet and novelist Thomas Hardy. It was organised by the Thomas Hardy Society who were also celebrating their foundation 50 years ago.
I have been a member of the Society for a few years now as part of a mission to establish whether a family rumour that we have links to this celebrated man is true or not. As a child Thomas Hardy’s name was mentioned numerous times by my mother, but I’ve never really known if the connection was real or not. I’d made a few feeble attempts in the past and then a second cousin I’m in contact with on Facebook sent me some useful documents she had obtained from her grandparents that allowed a decent starting point for my journey. But it was still difficult to know how to proceed any further.
So, in January 2016 I attended a local Family History class and was able to finally confirm I do have a direct link to the Hardy family via Hardy’s mother Jemima Hand. One of Jemima’s brothers, Christopher Hand, had a daughter called Caroline. She is my great grandmother.
I now have a number of official documents as final proof that I am indeed related to Thomas Hardy. Of course my journey doesn’t stop there. Now I am on a mission to find out as much as I can about the great man. My only regret is that I’ve left it so long and really wish I had known this connection when I was at school and university. I often wonder if that English essay I failed in my first year at college would’ve been graded differently had my tutor known of my literary connection! Sigh!
See you next month…
"There have been many events in my life over the last few years that have impacted on me emotionally. The loss of close relatives and friends in particular. I've suffered depression on and off since I was quite young so I am experienced enough now to recognise that depression is unpredictable. Hoping that 2018 will be a more positive time. Watch this Space." Val Weedon December 2017
Erin Jones, daughter of rock drummer Kenney Jones (Small Faces, Faces and The Who) will be running for two key charities MS Society and Prostate Cancer.
The Half Marathon takes place on Saturday 12th March in London.
Dig deep and give generously.
Erin pictured here with her mum Jayne Jones (left) and dad Kenney
Photo by Phil Weedon
FIRST NIGHT 7th APRIL WILL BE DEDICATED TO SMALL FACES FAN CLUB SECRETARY PAULINE CORCORAN WHO SADLY DIED ON 14th JANUARY
We lost our lovely Pauline on 14th January this year following a short illness. April 7th would’ve been Pauline’s 67th Birthday and she was so looking forward to seeing the musical. The loss of Pauline has not only left a huge gap in my life but also for the fans that she had reconnected with since 2006.
She was such a special person. Tolerant, good natured and mature beyond her years. It’s what made her such an ideal fan club secretary. The Small Faces band members loved her dearly too. They were like her brothers.
Pauline started working for the Small Faces as their fan club secretary right at the start of their rise to fame in 1965 following the release of their hit single Whatcha Gonna Do About It. She continued to work loyally in that role, right up until the time the band disbanded in 1969.
When she went for the interview with Don Arden she was hoping the vacancy was to work for The Who, as she really liked them, so when Don Arden told her it was the Small Faces she’d be working with she looked rather disappointed. That response got her the job! Don told her he didn’t want someone who would be in awe of the band. He wanted someone who wasn’t going to be dazzled by their fame. Being a fan club secretary for a professional famous band was one of the most envied positions back then. But Pauline was so grounded she handled all of it with such calm and dignity. She travelled almost everywhere with them, going on tours, including Europe and even accompanied them to television studios for the recording of programmes like Ready Steady Go and Top of the Pops. Don Arden told Pauline he wanted her to have unlimited access to the band so that she would have all the information she needed to write her fan club newsletters.
There were two other girls who worked in the fan club office with us. The receptionist was called Stella, a young mum with two children, and then there was Linda, Don’s secretary. I was so fortunate in getting that job working with Pauline. I had been a fan and used to hang out at the office helping out as a volunteer. Pauline and I just hit it off and we became best friends. She really begged Don to take me on full time. He obviously knew what a huge fan I was, but I had to promise him I would behave myself, especially as the band came into the office a lot. We had such a laugh everyday in that office, but we worked really hard too as there was so much to get through. We didn’t have computers back then and everything was answered on a manual typewriter. It was quite amazing to think that Pauline was only 16 years old herself and she handled her role with such maturity. The workload she had to deal with everyday was huge, coping with thousands of letters and she would answer as many of them personally as she could. The phone calls from fans were non stop too. Then there were the newsletters, produced every few months, that she wrote herself. All so incredible for someone so young. I don’t think I ever saw her get angry or stressed, she was so good natured and always smiling.
The band could be quite a handful when they came up the office, always in high spirits and mucking about. Although we all loved them coming into the office it could be quite disruptive, but Pauline handled them very well and I never saw her get irritated with them, even when they answered her phone or messed with her typewriter, adding funny messages to letters that Pauline would be half way through typing. Kenney was the main culprit, although he was the quiet one, he was also the joker. Mac was mostly well behaved and sensible, it may be that he was still fairly new and finding his place. Steve had a special bond with Pauline, often using her as his confidant. He was probably the closest to Pauline out of all of them. Ronnie was the cheeky one, always trying to flirt with her, but Pauline knew exactly how to handle all of them. To Pauline they were her brothers who needed looking after.
When the Small Faces left Don Arden’s management Pauline went with the band to work from the Immediate offices. Eventually, in future years, she ended up working from home for them until the band finally disbanded.
Pauline went on to work for Don Arden again when he took over the management of the band Amen Corner, and he asked Pauline if she would be their fan club secretary. Pauline and I remained friends throughout this time and even both got married to musicians in the same band. We both had two children and lived close by for a few years until she moved away. We lost contact when Pauline’s husband, drummer Dave Neal, joined the Suzi Quatro band and because he was touring abroad a lot Pauline and the children went with him.
But, thanks to the internet, we reconnected in 2006 and we picked up on our friendship like we’d never been apart. We had ten wonderful years reconnecting again with Kenney, Mac and of course the fans.
Pauline was a beautiful person and I think it’s so lovely to have the first night of the All or Nothing musical dedicated to her. Such a fitting tribute. All or Nothing was her favourite Small Faces song and was being played as she passed peacefully. It was also played at her funeral. She will be missed so much, but we were so lucky to have her in our lives.
Best friend and Fan Club Assistant.
These are my pride and joy and thought it would be nice to share them with a wider audience. They were written by fan club secretary Pauline Corcoran who was just 16 years old when Small Faces manager Don Arden employed her. She had unique access to the band, attending concerts and tv appearances, at the instruction of Don Arden who told Pauline it would enable her to gather the material she needed to write her newsletters. They were published about every 3 months throughout 1966 and there is one last one published around April 1967 when the Small Faces moved management from Don Arden to Harold Davison and Tito Burns. When the fan club was run from Don Arden's offices in Carnaby Street fans were able to visit the office fairly easily. Well, it's how I got my job working for them. Unknown to my parents, I used to scive off my day job in a boring City office and go to Carnaby Street to help Pauline in the fan club offices instead! Eventually I got offered a full time position helping Pauline. But when they moved management I went to work with Galaxy Entertainments (the agency that handled all the tour concerts for the band) whilst Pauline went to new management offices alone. In the first newsletter she produced there, she announced to fans that "you will no longer be able to visit us anymore.." She revealed some years later that the new management resented her position and made her feel very uncomfortable, giving her a really cramped office the size of a cupboard and not being particularly friendly towards her. In time she ended up running the fan club from her home in Wembley until the time when the Small Faces finally split.
These old newsletters make fascinating reading and for a mere 16 year old Pauline did an amazing job relaying stories to the fans that were full of intimate facts about the band and what they did and how they felt about life at that time.
One of the biggest highlights for me this year was reconnecting with a very dear friend the Reverend Patrick Forbes and his lovely wife Annette.
I first met Patrck back in the early 1970's. He was our local vicar, but of course he was also so much more than that.
Patrick and I met up at my local pub The Chequers (at Patrick's request) We had a lovely afternoon chatting about old times. He signed my copy of his book and we giggled as I took some selfies. He is such great fun to spend time with. You really must read his book. It's aptly described as an entertaining autobiography.
Patrick is one of the most inspirational people I know. I owe him a debt of gratitude. His patience, kindness and encouragement got me through some very dark times in my life. He is full of ideas and energy and at the age of 80 something he shows no signs of giving up!
Thank God for that!
Zooming in on Peter Donegan
Pic by Phil Weedon
Zooming in on Glen Matlock
Pic by Phil Weedon
Zooming in on Kenney Jones.
Pics by Phil Weedon