Wednesday, 8 April 2009

29 July 1942

PB is with us again but seems more subdued than formerly.  Trifling incident VH who, tapped on head with paper roll, flopped as if struck dead.  Very silly.  Walk around only. No PE.


Nor truth to tell, did I contemplate other than purely legitimate means of securing the necessary article.  If in doubt, they say, ask a policeman and this was definitely applicable to the present issue.  I repaired, therefore, to the notorious police station in Lodge Walk which did a thriving business every Saturday night in the matter of drunks and disorderlies from the Castlegate and elsewhere.  Rather timorously, I entered the Charge Room and diffidently stated my business to a beefy man in blue seated at the high charge desk.  The fact that he did not wear a helmet gave me more confidence than I had had before entering.  To me, as I suppose to most people, a policeman complete with helmet is a rather awe inspiring sight, but a policeman without a helmet is a Samson shorn of his locks and deprived of his majesty.  This particular bobby looked quite human and heard my request with polite attention.  But apparently, in all his career as a minion of the law, he had never before been called upon to supply a cast off helmet.  He reflected deeply and then presumably decided to call in the help of Scotland Yard, or at least a higher authority, to handle the case.  He was clearly stumped.  ‘Ah canna tell ye’, he said.  ‘Ah’m afraid ye’ll have to see the Chief Constable aboot that.  Jist sit doon there for a minute.’  So I sat down on a bench while my shorn Samson departed presumably to enquire if the Chief Constable was disengaged.  While I sat there, I was approached by another polite man in blue.  His approach had something conspiratorial about it and he did his best to walk on tiptoe but without much success.  His feet ran true to regulation size.  He stooped down until his face was on a level with mine and then asked, in a hoarse whisper, ‘Is it anything confidential sir?’  The humour of the thing struck me and I grinned and replied, ‘No, no.  I just wanted to buy an old helmet.’  The poor man looked so disappointed and offended that I felt quite sorry for him.  He straightened up with an injured air and, turning his back to me, retired from the scene with massive dignity.  A few minutes later, my Samson reappeared and beckoned me.  ‘Will ye come this way, sir?’  So I followed him through a door, up a flight of stairs where he knocked discreetly on one of the doors leading off the landing, and ushered me into the presence of Chief Constable Anderson, he himself retiring and closing the door softly behind me.  The Chief Constable was seated at a writing desk busily writing when I entered.  He looked up a moment and, indicating a chair in front of his desk, said, ‘Please sit down’ and continued writing.  After a short time, he finished the task he was engaged upon and then, giving me his attention asked, ‘Now, what can I do for you?’  Feeling rather diffident in the presence of this august authority and, suspecting already that I had been directed not exactly to the proper department, I blurted out, ‘Can you sell me a cast off helmet?', and then added apologetically the reason why it was required.  He just sat and looked at me for a moment and then said, ‘No, I am sorry.  Will you go out this way?’  But as I passed him while he held a door open for me, I think I detected a slight twitching of his lips as if he endeavoured to repress a smile.  And I am sure that he indulged in that smile in the privacy of his sanctum, preparatory to having poor Samson on the carpet.  As for me, I descended anther flight of stairs and found myself outside in the street, having failed dismally in my assignment.  And, after all, it was decided to put another sketch altogether!  The programme had been arranged for the second tour and it so happened that we were to play first at Banchory, the place where I had commenced my career with The Balmorals and the place which was destined to see the end of it.  We arrived in Banchory by late afternoon train and having arranged accommodation, repaired to the hall and got everything set to rights just in time for the opening of the show at 8pm.  I sat in the ticket box till 8.15 and by that time the audience numbered….. two!  It was a complete ‘dry up’.  We gave the audience their money back and closed down.  Gus declared that nothing would induce him to stay to show his face in Banchory next morning and asked Monty if he was game to walk back to Aberdeen – 18 miles!  Monty was game and somehow the idea appealed to me too.  So the ladies were brought to the hotel and installed there for the night while Gus, Monty and I set out on our long trek.  I will always remember that walk.  Gus and Monty were so cheery and humorous about the whole business, accepting the bad luck in typical trouper spirit, that the miles passed under my feet almost unnoticed.  I remember we sat down at the side of the road with our backs to a wall somewhere beside Culter and I know I laughed until my sides were sore at Gus who, with a mock air of tragedy, sat calculating from the rolls of admission tickets how much could be saved from the wreck by the refund of entertainment tax.  When we arrived in town, it was still too early for the tramcars to be running and I, for one, had to walk right across town before reaching home, which added quite a few miles to those I had already left behind me.  I aroused a startled household about 5 am but deferred more lengthy details until I woke at 5 pm the same afternoon.  That finished my connection with The Balmorals.  I could have continued with them during the summer months in a Pierrot show on the beach but as the summer season did not commence until 1 May and the ‘dry up’ occurred about the end of February, I had no inclination to spend two months in idleness, or ‘resting’ as it is known in the profession, nor, candidly, could I afford to do so.  I applied, therefore, for a situation with the Aberdeen Savings Bank and commenced duty there in March 1919 as a respectable bank clerk.  But I had had my ‘fling’ and such a ‘fling’ as many might have envied and I have always looked back on those few months as a concert party artist with very pleasant memories.

1 comment:

Mickey said...

I just love this's gotta become a book