Friday, 27 May 2016

CB Widow - Part 1

A counter display for my Esso Blue badges from the early '70s, complete with order form. As I said before, the "Non-Smoker" one gave me grief cos it was the product that didn't smoke, not me. Mrs Tillotson said she was goin' to write up to the advertisin' standards people about it, said it was false advertisin' cos whenever I was in the Foundryman's the air was so thick with smoke she felt kippered.

My next tale begins way back in 1982. Me telly ads 'ad been over a few years, and the Missus an' me were still runnin' the shop. Nowt much 'ad changed really. Sharon, the Missus's niece, 'ad grown up and married young Pete Hardcastle, who worked at the dry cleaners in Victoria Road. They'd got a nice little council 'ouse an' just 'ad their second, kiddie - a little lad they called Adam.

"Why 'Adam'?" I asked.

"Ooh, Uncle, yer are be'ind the the times!" giggled Sharon. "'E's named after Adam Ant, of course!"

Well, this thing about namin' kiddies after pop stars 'as been goin' on for donkey's years an' I think it's daft. Mrs Thirkettle called 'er little lad Engelbert after that Humperdick bloke. Engelbert Thirkettle - 'e was in and out of Strangways for decades. Reckon 'is name 'ad warped 'is mind an' given 'im criminal tendencies. I shouldn't be surprised.

Anyway. one mornin', Sharon brought little Adam into the shop to buy 'er fags an' get some pear drops. She's a terror for pear drops, our Sharon!

"'Ave yer 'eard?" she said, going all serious, which were very noticeable cos she's a giggly little thing.

"'Eard what?" said the Missus, weighing out the sweeties an' slipping a few extra in, like we always did for family.

"The Pickering's 'ave split up!" said Sharon, a bit dramatic, like.

Well, you could 'ave knocked me down with a feather. Bert and Eileen Pickering were two of our oldest friends - I'd been at school with Bert - and they'd been married for over twenty years.

They lived in a one of those high rise blocks off Belmont Road, and they seemed devoted. Their two children, Gary and Christine, had left 'ome a couple of years before - Christine 'ad gone off to work in a posh 'air dressin' salon down near Birmingham, and Gary 'ad gone to work on an oil rig.

The thing with the Pickerings was they always seemed in tune with each. And with the telly. If you popped up to see 'em on the fourteenth floor (an' if the lift were out of order, which it often were, that were no easy feat) you'd likely find 'em watchin' telly.

One of 'em would let you in, they'd say " 'ello", then go on watchin'. The conversation was non-existent. You might get the occasional: "Ooh, I'd 'ate it if Eamon crept up on me like that! I'd tell 'im where to stick 'is red book!" or "This isn't the same without Noele Gordon!" or they might sing along with an advert - WE 'OPE IT'S CHIPS, IT'S CHIPS!" or somesuch, but that was about it.

After a while, you'd say "tarah", they'd say "tarah", and you'd leave.

If Bert came out to the Foundryman's, 'e used to talk, of course. An' 'e talked at work. 'E worked as a bus driver an' 'e was always chattin' with passengers. An' 'e 'ad ideas in 'is 'ead - opinions - watched World In Action, Panorama an' that sort o' thing.

We all watched a lot of telly of course. It 'ad taken over our lives a lot since the '50s. My aunties were always on about 'ow they made their own amusement back in the "good old days" an' that telly 'ad "killed the art of conversation", but they watched a lot all the same.

My mother-in-law wouldn't 'ave one in 'er 'ouse. "It booms too much!" she said. An' that was it.

But the rest of us 'ad tellies and square eyes to match.

But not as square as the Pickerings'.

I don't think they were un'appy together. They seemed contented, sat there night after night.

Then Bert got a CB radio rig. That was all the rage back then. It 'ad swept in like a hurricane in 1981. An' it was all language - all "Eyeballs" and "Ten Ten Till We Meet Again" - stuff like that. I knew a bit of the lingo back then, but I've forgot it long since. I didn't 'ave one, but Bert 'ad bought 'is off Cyril Palmer, whose wife 'ad ordered it out of the 'ouse after just a few months.

And, it seemed, 'e'd discovered the art of 'ome conversation through it.

Of course, the Missus set straight off to see Eileen as soon as Sharon left the shop. When she came back, she looked fagged out.

"Flamin' lift was out of order again!" she said. "I can't be doin' with those stairs - not at my time o' life!"

"But what's goin' on?" I asked, a bit impatient.

"It's all up," said the Missus. "Bert's been spendin' most of 'is time in the spare bedroom with that CB thingy. An' apparently the other night 'e didn't even come out for Quincy - though Eileen called an' called 'im. She'd made the Horlicks an' all. Stone cold it got.

Now, some couples 'ave an "Our Tune", a special song they like an' they share together - often a memory of courting days. Me an' the Missus are partial to How Much Is That Doggie In The Window because it was all the go when we were doing our courtin'. But Bert an' Doris 'ad "Our Programmes" - particular programmes they both liked specially, an' Quincy was one of them back in 1982.

"You know 'ow much it means to Doris to cuddle up with Bert when Quincy's on," said the Missus. "It reminds 'er of their first night with the new washin' machine a few years back - the one Bert got 'er as a surprise for their weddin' anniversary."

"It was second 'and and conked out after about eight months," I said.

"I know," said the Missus. "But it's still a fond memory. After all, Bert bought 'er it special an' 'e didn't know it were gonna conk out. That was the night they first watched Quincy."

The shop bell tinged and Mrs Conroy came in, followed by a couple of scruffy little kids - the Mitchell twins from Broadhurst Street.

Mrs Conroy was a bit of a misery who lived a couple of streets away from us. She 'ad a lazy 'usband, but some folk felt 'e'd just given up on life after 'e married 'er.

"I've come in for me order," said Mrs Conroy, "and you'd better add an extra tinned of corned beef an' a box of fish fingers."

"Expectin' visitors, Mrs Conroy?" asked the Missus, a bit incredulous. The Conroys never 'ad visitors usually.

"I've got a payin' guest now," said Mrs C. She puffed 'erself up. "Gotta look after 'im proper. I've told the old man to put that bloody dog of 'is in the out'ouse. Filthy 'abits that 'ound's got. Puts yer off yer tea. I reckon 'e's takin' after 'is master. Anyway, things are gonna change now we've got a payin' guest."

"Who's the payin' guest then?" I asked, going over to the freezer cabinet for the fish fingers, and keepin' 'alf an eye on the Mitchell twins who were 'overing over the blackjacks. They were known for being a bit light fingered, those two. I think I knew what Mrs Conroy was gonna say. And she did.

"Your pal, Bert Pickerin'. Could of knocked me down with a feather. We''ve been advertisin' that room in Mr Patel's window for six months. Five P a week! I was gonna take the card out next week. An', last night, I was just watchin' Crossroads an' Bert turns up. 'E moves in tonight. An' that bloody dog moves into the out'ouse!"

Mrs Conroy paid for her goods, made a couple of disparagin' remarks about our display of Alpen, then left.

"'E must be desperate to get away if he's going to the Conroys," said the Missus.

"I know," I sighed. "It's a funny old do this!"

"I'll tell yer what else is funny!" said the Missus, casting an eye over the shop.

"What?" I blinked at 'er.

"Them thievin' little Mitchells 'ave made off with all our blackjacks!"

Well, bit of a cliffhanger there for yer. But that's all for now. I've gotta go and get a tin of spotted dick from Asda. I've a got a right cravin' for it, an' the Missus won't buy it coz she sez I'm fat enough. See yer soon.


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Holiday Camp Part 5

Here's me up a tree in 1983. I could be seen on advertisin' signs for years after the Esso Blue telly ads ended.

I slept an' slept. I dreamt nasty dreams. It's funny, some dreams you've forgotten before you wake up, but some stick in yer mind for years. I remember, lyin' there on that little bed in the caravan at Silver Sands, dreamin' that I was bein' sent off into outer space with just a monkey for company. The space ship looked like summat made on Blue Peter with a giant washing-up liquid bottle. It seemed just about big enough for me and the monkey to cram into. An' there was a single lever to pull - one forward, t'other back.

"Ooh, I can't go in there!" I said. "Me claustrophobia'll start up!"

But there were crowds of people all standin' on the tarmac by the launch pad, shoutin': "GO ON! BE A MAN - THE MONKEY'S GOT MORE GUTS THAN YOU 'AVE!" And the Missus was there, doin' the same.

I woke up in a sweat. Me 'ead was still poundin'.

I thought I could smell steak an' kidney for a minute.

"I must be seriously ill," I told meself. "Fantasy smells! Alcohol poisoning!"

I fell asleep again, an' this time dreamt I was in a cage with lots of people jeerin' an' laughin' at me. I knew I musn't get upset though coz Auntie Doreen was standin' at the front of the crowd, wavin' a banner. I kept tryin' to see it, but people were in the way, wavin' their arms about.

But some'ow I knew it said: "BE A MAN".

Well, there were other dreams I just recall bits and bobs of, some I've forgotten completely I daresay, but it were a nasty few hours.

Then I came to.

I was glad to be in the caravan, safe.

I lay there. I realised I 'ad to phone the Missus. We were on the phone at the shop - 'ad to be because of orders an' suchlike. But not many round our way were in those days, just us, the other shop keepers, and the landlord at the Foundryman's pub. Oh, and Mrs Thirkettle in Bright Street. But 'er 'usband was manager of the abbatoir and they were a bit up market.

I 'ad to tell the Missus I knew what had gone on. I knew she'd deceived me. What would she say? We'd never 'ad a conversation that were owt like that in't past...

There'd never been any need...

I got up. I'd 'ave a quick sluice and get down to the payphone. I checked me pockets for change. Plenty of 2ps. Me 'eart felt like lead.

'Ow could she do it? Leave me to face a new challenge with the booking at the camp, and Auntie Doreen for a whole week? And all because she didn't like caravans and didn't want to miss the new bingo 'all opening?

I opened the door of the bedroom.

And everythin' changed.

Just like that.

I blinked.

There were the Missus, just takin' a steak and kidney pie out of the oven. A pan of mashed spuds and a pan of sprouts stood by on the little worktop, together with a couple of warmed dinner plates.

For a minute, I thought I'd died and gone to 'eaven.

"Wash yer 'ands, Joe," she said, very matter of fact. "And whatever's 'appened to yer 'air?"

"It were a fag, I caught it alight..." I started

The Missus laughed. "It's good to see yer again, lad. I've missed yer this past couple of days. I know what you've been through. I met a young girl outside 'ere when I arrived, just about to knock. Very large chest. Bit of a floosie I reckon. She said she were a singer at the club 'ouse. Said she'd seen yer this mornin' lookin' like death, and she'd come over to see make sure yer were all right. She told me all about last night."

"It were nice of 'er to pop over," I said.

"Well, she won't be poppin' over again," said the Missus firmly. "I made it plain to 'er she weren't needed, thankin' 'er all the same."

There were a glint of jealousy in 'er eye, if I wasn't mistaken!

I washed me 'ands while the Missus dished up. One of her 'eavenly pies - flaky pastry, rich meat 'n' gravy... it was a grand sight.

"Joe, I've summat to say," the Missus said after a moment or two, a bit awkward-like, as she finished dolloping out the mashed spud.

"What's that, luv?" I asked.

"Well," the Missus paused with a dessert spoon of sprouts, and looked uncomfortable. "I can't lie to yer, lad. Not for long, anyway. It were a put-up job, our Florrie's gallopin' flu. I couldn't face a week in a caravan with yer Auntie. But as soon as you'd gone, I realised I were wrong. 'For better, for worse, for richer for poorer'. My place is 'ere with you."

I kissed 'er on the cheek.

"You're a wonderful woman!" I said.

"Daft beggar!" she said - but she looked dead chuffed really. "Anyway, I am sorry, luv. Where's Auntie?"

"Found 'erself a fella!" I said. "Off ridin' snails and old time dancin' in Great Yarmouth!"

The Missus looked amazed. "It must me the sea air! Poor fella! Ridin' snails? Been at the brandy bottle 'as she? Always makes 'er a bit whimisical, that does. Remember that Christmas when she were prancin' round our living room sayin' she were't sugar plum fairy? I were that embarrassed! I couldn't look Mrs Potter in the eye for weeks after! Now, luv, we'll eat, then we'll go for a nice long walk along the beach. It'll put some colour back in yer cheeks. And Joe - "

"Yes, luv?"

"Just open that window, will yer? Condensation's terrible in 'ere."

I opened the window - with a sigh of  'appiness.

So, it all ended all right. Gotta go now. We 'ad 'igh winds in the night and a couple of slates 'ave slipped.

JOE x 

'Ere's one of the Snails at Great Yarmouth. Me an' the Missus ended up 'avin' a ride on one. Lovely. You go round a little garden bit with little hills and dips. We liked it so much, we went on a second time. And a third. And we'll go on them again if we ever go back. It's smashin' bein' daft at the seaside. If you've never done it, give it a try! 

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Holiday Camp - Part 4

'Ere's me - thumb up and statin' the obvious.

The next mornin', I staggered out of the bedroom in the caravan to find Auntie Doreen and Percy drinking tea. Auntie was smokin' a Senior Service and sayin' to Percy: "I'm glad you've got a fresh vest and kecks on today as well, Perce. They really improve the ambience."

She liked usin' posh words, did Auntie.

Percy was like a little puppy dog. 'e looked at her bashfully: "Aw, Dor, you do remind me of my Edie!" 'e said.

Auntie simpered and patted her 'airdo. She saw me and her face went all stern: "Well, look what the cat's dragged in! Got a thick 'ead 'ave yer? It's not surprisin' after last night!"

I sat down at the table.

"Want some bacon and eggs? Nice bit o' fried bread?" asked Auntie, heartlessly.

"Ooh, 'ow could yer?" I moaned.

"Yer 'air looks a right mess," Auntie went on. "There's a bald patch where I 'ad to snip some off las' night when you set it on fire it with yer fag. Eee, our Joe, yer are daft!"

Percy laughed. "It was funny," he said. "I know a lot of people were laughin' when your Auntie threw the bitter lemon in your face."

Auntie giggled girlishly. It was a bit unbecomin' at 'er age.

I didn't care. I was thinkin' about me Missus. Me Missus and 'ow she'd lied to me.

Through thick an' thin - that's what I thought marriage was supposed to be about.

An' she'd left me to flounder in me hour of need.

Auntie stood up and stubbed out 'er fag.

"I can't 'elp feelin' sorry for yer, lad. I'll get you some Andrew's Liver Salts  and then you can pop in that shower. Terrible thing, if yer ask me - yer can't beat a proper bath. But it'll liven yer up a bit. Then take a breath of fresh air an' yer might feel a bit better."

"Thanks, Auntie," I said, warmed by 'er sympathy - I needed it. "We'll 'ave a nice quiet day, shall we?"

"Well, YOU will," said Auntie, slamming cupboard doors as she searched for the Andrew's tin, and makin' me flinch. "But me an' Perce are goin' into Great Yarmouth for the day. 'E says there's some snails we can ride on, then 'e's takin' me to tea, then we're goin' old time dancin'. I shan't be back till late. I'll miss yer act at the club 'ouse tonight. Never mind. I've seen it once. That were enough."

I sipped the Andrew's while Auntie put her coat and hat on.

"Now, don't sit here mopin'," she said. "You're made of sterner stuff than that. Be a man! Get yourself outside, get some air and get at the day. I'll see yer tonight. Don't wait up, lad."

And she and Percy left.

I 'eard 'er say: "But I can't imagine ridin' on a snail, Perce. Nasty, slimy things! Funny way of enjoyin' yerself..."

Then the door slammed behind them. And I flinched.

I left the caravan. It was a cloudy day, but at least it wasn't rainin'. I made me way down towards the beach, and on the way saw Happy Harold Henson. He'd freshly slicked his fake quiff and was looking very oily indeed. "Hello, my good man!" 'e smarmed. "I was just on my way to your caravan. Your agent's been on the phone. He wants you to call. You can use the phone in the clubhouse office."

I made my way dazedly through the darkened club, which reeked of fags and old beer, and into the dingy office at the back. I steadied meself, fought back the need to throw up, and dialled Wilf's home number. It was Sunday and 'e'd likely be there.

"'Ello, Joe, lad," his voice crackled over't line. I flinched again. Everything sounded so flamin' loud that day.

"I 'ad a call from Silver Sands this mornin'. They're discontinuin' yer act. Their regular male singer's comin' back early and they don't need yer."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

I were relieved. And yet I were disappointed. I'd got meself so psyched up for that week.

Wilf went on, and I could hear him dragging on his Slim Panetella: "But they say you can keep the caravan for the week to make up for yer inconvienience and they'll pay yer for las' night, of course."

So I was still stuck at Silver Sands with Auntie for the week.

"I thought me act went down well," I ventured.

"I'm sure it did, lad - but that's showbiz!" said Wilf. "And you've still got the Esso Blue ads. I've gotta go now. Sunday or no, there's work to be done. I'm expectin' a call from Mr Mix. Can you imagine me with two TV ad stars on me books?" 'E chortled and 'ung up.

When I left the office, Happy Harold was 'elpin' himself to a crafty short behind the bar. "Would you care for one?" he asked, grinning real cheesy.

His teeth were so white, they made me eyes ache and me 'ead throb even worse.

"No, ta, " I said, dodderin' on my way.

"What happened to your hair?" he called after me.

I knew he was laughin' at me.

He knew.

"Oh bog off, you stuck-up pillock - you're nowt better than a sawn-off Elvis Presley!" I said, at the end of me tether. "And at least I've got some 'air of me own!"

And I left him standin' there, gobsmacked.

I was pretty pleased with my comments. Auntie would have been proud of me.

Just outside, I saw the young girl singer who'd sung I Never Promised You A Rose Garden the night before, burstin' out of a mini-dress.

"Ooh, you poor thing - you look terrible!" she cried.

"I know," I said, very short and sharp, and walked on towards the dunes.

A couple of women passed me. "There's that ugly little Esso Blue fella from last night again, Shirley!" said one. "Doesn't 'e look a fright!"

And they cackled like a couple of witches.

On the beach, I found a quiet spot, aware that some of the campers were nudgin' each other and gigglin' at me. One of them, a huge woman in an orange bikini, said loudly: "Henry! It's that funny little George Formby impersonator - the one who sang Paint It Black and set his hair on fire!"

"Silly little bugger," said Henry - who was just as large and clad in a pair of green swimming trunks that looked like an elastic band round 'is middle.

I stared out to sea.

"Be a man!" Auntie and the Missus 'ad said.

Well, it were very lonely bein' a man at times.

Both me Missus an' me Auntie 'ad deserted me. I never thought I'd be sorry to see the back of Auntie Doreen for a while, but at least I knew 'er - she was familiar. 'Ere I was, in a strange land, all on me own. It's a long way from Norfolk to Lancashire.

Suddenly, I became aware of a little woman standin' over me - a dear little soul with a perm and an olde worlde print dress.

"Please may I have your autograph?" she asked, a little breathlessly. Some people get like that when they're around celebrities. "I am a most ardent admirer of yours!"

And she thrust a slightly grubby Co-op receipt at me and a blue biro.

Well, I know you have to be good to your public, so I smiled at 'er. "A pleasure!" I said and scrawled my name on the back of the receipt.

"Oh, thank you so much! You've made my day!" She turned to go, looking at the receipt as she did so, then suddenly turned back: "Oh. I thought you were Jack Howarth, sorry." And she handed the receipt back to me and walked off.

Jack Howarth?!

"Daft ole bat!" I muttered.

I slunk back to the caravan.

I'd 'ave a sleep, I thought.

And I did.

Going for a pint with Bert Pickering now - this is a rare treat at today's prices. See you soon.

JOE x 

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Esso Blue Joe - On The Buses...

Back in me days of fame, I were a star of telly, newspapers, magazines, hoardings, signs, delivery vans and... buses! Bet yer didn't know that, did yer?

In late 1972, the advertisin' agency came up with a neat skit. As you know, all the ads ended with "Boom Boom Boom Boom - Esso Blue!" - that was the way they always closed, but other tunes were sometimes featured before the end jingle - like the Smoke Gets In Your Eyes skit of 1971 - and Blue, Blue, Blue in the 1960s. In the spring of 1972, Chelsea Football team released a record called Blue Is The Colour.

"Blue is the colour, football is the game..." it went. And it got into the top pops chart - or whatever they call it.

Well, blue was Esso Blue's colour an' all, so the ad people thought it would be a great campaign tune for us for  the 1972/73 winter season.

So, we teamed up with Chelsea football team and did an ad about a sing-song after a match while the lads were splashin' about in the bath.

"Blue is the colour, smokeless is the flame..."

It 'ad the same tune as the football song.

And in late 1972, I ended up on the buses - me in me shorts sayin' "All together now". I know it looks a bit daft with the 'eadless footballers runnin' after the ball, but when the bus 'ad passengers on, their 'eads became the footballers' 'eads - if yer see what I mean.

That bus ad campaign lasted a whole year.

Yer just couldn't get away from me in them days.


Saturday, 12 March 2016

The Esso Blue Sign Again...

Very pleased to get a comment from Paul:

I like your blog Joe! I'm interested in your illuminated shop sign because I collect things like that. Could you post some more pics and tell me more about it?

Well, Paul, thanks, lad - I'm glad you like the blog.

The sign we 'ad in our shop and now 'ave in the living room is made of plastic. The back is shapped a back like an old telly back. You can take the front off and put yer bulb in.

When we 'ad it in our shop, around the late 1960s to mid-1970s, Mrs Conroy from Pilkington Terrace said it were right ugly: "Give the kiddies nightmares, 'avin' that glaring out at them on winters' nights!"

But my Auntie Doreen said to 'er: "You shut yer trap! 'E might not be a real looker, but 'e's all right, our Joe is!"

I were quite touched, but later Auntie told me she only said it coz she wasn't 'avin' an ex-clippie criticisin' one of our family, an' she really thought Mrs Conroy was quite right.


Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Holiday Camp - Part 3

These three badges appeared in the early 1970s. You'll notice there's one with me on it saying "I'M A NON SMOKER". Well, I was representin' Esso Blue, the product - an' really I was sayin' IT didn't smoke. Me personally - I smoked like a trooper. A lot of us did back then. Nowadays, of course, people start creatin' if you so much as puff one o' them electronic ciggie thingies. People love 'avin' a reason to moan at other people. I stopped smokin' in 1998 coz me chest and me wallet weren't up to it any more.

Splat! Auntie Doreen chucked her bitter lemon in my face.

Well, I'd been sittin' there at the table in the Silver Sands Holiday Camp club room, fag on, chin cupped in my 'and, thinkin' back on the first day at the camp.

It 'adn't been good.

Firstly, I was troubled by the Missus.

She'd stayed at 'ome, if you remember rightly, coz her sister were ill.

But it seemed, accordin' to Auntie Doreen, that Florrie wasn't ill at all really. She'd seen 'er comin' out of the Washer Rama, right as ninepence.

So, the Missus 'ad lied to me to get out of comin' to Caister.

Leavin' me to cope with Auntie Doreen alone. And my singing spots at the Silver Sands club room.

Me and the Missus 'ave never 'ad the most excitin' of marriages - she sometimes sez it lacks "glamour" and wants sun loungers and stuff like that, but we've always been close. Never lied to one another.

Until now.

I felt a bit shattered by it.

I 'adn't 'ad time to tell the Missus I knew what her little game was before I left home, coz the neighbours 'ad organised a little send-off - all out on the pavement - singin' "He'll be comin' round the mountain when he comes", as me and Auntie got in the shop van and set off.

It were nice of 'em, but a bit odd coz Norfolk's not got anythin' like a mountain.

It was a long journey. Auntie kept wantin' a cup of tea. So we'd stopped an' she'd 'ave one. Then we'd start off again and she'd want the toilet. It were like that all the way.

The camp were nice - 'ad a shop, off-licence, the club room. Right near the beach - just over the dunes. The caravan were OK, too. Well, Auntie didn't like the fact that the seating, which was black plastic covering yellow foam, was showing signs of wear (that's 'ow we knew about the yellow foam, coz the plastic had flaked off or ripped in places and the foam was bulgin out).

The first thing Auntie did was to fish 'er Michelin Man ashtray out of 'er 'andbag. "I couldn't settle anywhere wi'out it," she said, lighting a Senior Service.

The beach were lovely. Beautifully sandy. The sea was a bit brass monkeys, but OK for short paddles. If you didn't mind yer feet goin' blue.

Auntie Doreen struck up a bit of a friendship with a bloke called Percy on the beach on our first mornin' at Silver Sands.

He was stayin' in a caravan on the site with his daughter and son-in-law and their two kids, Tracy and Gary.

"They all take me for granted," he moaned to Auntie. "Do this, do that! Change your trousers! Put that pipe out! Take that vest off, it wants washing!'"

The one he was wearin' that mornin' certainly did. It looked ready to walk off  'is back.

"Well, when I were a lass, we respected our elders," said Auntie. "My old grandad used to stink to 'igh 'eaven at times after me grandma died, but we'd never've dared tell 'im to change 'is kecks."

Well, Auntie took Percy under 'er wing.

"We're about the same age, lad. And I always think us old 'uns should stick together. Young people nowadays are too full of themselves by half. Fancy them bossin' you about! Now, go and change that vest and you can buy me a cup of tea."

I was dreadin' doing me turn at the club room, but the time soon came round.

It's always the same, time flies - when you don't want it to.

As I stood there on the stage, knees-a-knockin', I 'eard a woman in the front row say: "Look at that! An' I always thought 'e was a cartoon character!"

"Well, you didn't often see men as ugly as that in real life, Shirley!" said the woman next to 'er. "Poor little beggar!"

The camp comic and presenter bounded on to the stage. He was called Happy Harold Henson, and was a little man with an 'airpiece an' a gold lamé suit. I looked out into the audience through the fag smoke. I could see Tracy and Gary, pickin' their noses, Percy having a doze, and Auntie Doreen - looking more sour than the bitter lemon she were drinkin'.


"Here you are then!" he sort of cooed at me. "Just down from the land of whippets, hairnets and corner shops! Bit of a culture shock, civilisation, eh, my friend?"

I frowned. This view of the North is not summat I've ever liked, and it falls far from the mark. All right, I ran a corner shop, several women in my neighbourhood wore hairnets and two blokes in my street kept whippets, but it wasn't the whole story, not by a long chalk. I wanted to come back at him strong, but I could only manage: "Eh?"

"Going to entertain us with a few homely little ditties, are you?" Happy Harold went on.

Well, patronising wasn't the word for it! I gathered myself together and let rip: "Eh?"

Auntie Doreen came to my rescue. She stood up and let Happy Harold have it good and proper.

"Shut yer trap, lad. Yer nowt more than a cut-price Hughie Green. Let Joe get on with it. 'e may not be up ter much, but at least 'e's a trier."

The audience was on Auntie's side, because they applauded 'er. They obviously found Happy Harold hard to stomach as well.

After that, things didn't go too bad. I'd bought me grandad's ukele and gave them Mr Wu's A Winder Cleaner Now, and then, accompanied by the camp pianist Anthony, I belted out Tears for Souvenirs, the Esso Blue version of Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, Bimbo, How Much Is That Doggy In The Window? and Paint It Black.

The audience seemed to be on my side and I got a bit of applause as I left the stage and joined Auntie. A young woman in a very small blouse was the next turn and she started singin' I Never Promised You A Rose Garden. She bobbed about on stage as she sang, and Auntie said: "She'll be fallin' right out of that top if she's not careful. Disgustin' little 'ussy!"

I drank three pints and 'ad a couple of fags. I'd  'ad a short before I did my turn, and the beer made me feel a bit woozy.

I felt right down.

I puffed on me fag. cupped me chin in me 'and, and thought of the terrible time I was 'avin' and of the Missus.

'Ow could she? 'Ow could she?

I suddenly smelt an appetising smell. I realised I was starvin'. Alcohol always gives me the munchies.

"Is somebody doin' toast?" I asked.

Auntie looked at me - and splat! - chucked her bitter lemon in my face.

"No, yer crate egg! Yer 'air's smoulderin'! You were setting it alight with yer fag!"

Not a good idea, cuppin' your chin in yer 'and when you're 'oldin' a fag.

I sat there, spluttering and drippin'.

And this was only the first day.

Off out to the allotment now. See yer soon.

JOE x 
An old Esso Blue receipt. A non-smoker! If only I 'ad been! Lookin' back, I don't quite understand why the non-smokin' bit was so important when it came to Esso Blue paraffin. You could've kippered yerself on the fag smoke in most people's 'ouses anyway - a bit of paraffin smoke would've probably gone unnoticed!

Monday, 7 March 2016

Solved! The Mystery Of When Joe Was The Esso Blue Dealer But Not Joe...

Me in all my youth and handsomeness (well, sort of) back in the late 1950s.

I've 'ad a lot of queries from folk over't years about an early Esso Blue commercial I appeared in. It may even 'ave been the first one they ever showed, but I don't rightly remember. Anyway, in this ad back in the late 1950s, I'm answering the phone and folk keep askin' for Joe, to which I replies that I'm not Joe, I'm the Esso Blue dealer. It's the famous tongue-tied ad I spoke about before.

Anyway, in the end, Joe phones up an' asks me if there've been any calls for 'im.

Why, folk 'ave often asked me, am I apparently not called Joe in that particular ad?

Well, it's because the Esso Blue ad agency 'adn't got all their ideas together, and at first I was anonymous - just a dealer. So, they picked the name "Joe" as the name of the bloke bein' asked about by people phonin' the Esso Blue dealer (me) and then him phoning at the end of the ad.

Joe is my name, of course, and the ad director said it were a "nice, down to earth, proletarian name", whatever one of them is, so I that's the name they used for the unseen bloke in that ad.

Later, they decided to use my name on the ads, which is Joe as well, of course, and that's when the confusion comes in when folk see the early ad.

They were heady days.

But they sometimes made me feel I didn't know whether I were on me 'ead or me 'eels.


Holiday Camp - Part 2

'Ere's an Esso Blue receipt with me on it from a place called Leighton Buzzard, back in 1971 - the year I'm talkin' about in this blog post. Funny name, Leighton Buzzard.

The next morning, the day we were to go to Caister, dawned bright and sunny. There had been rain in the night and the cobbles were all wet and greasy and kind of dazzling to look at as I stood in the shop doorway with me mornin' cuppa, staring out at the council flats opposite.

I had a real heavy heart.

It was going to be a bad week.

And, even as I stood there, it got worse.

My wife's sister's eldest girl, Sharon, came runnin' up.

"Eee, Uncle Joe!" she cried. "I've got a message. Me Mam feels terrible this mornin'. Reckons it's gallopin' flu. She won't be able to look after the shop for you and Auntie. She sez she's real sorry!"

I was stunned. Went numb. Surely... nay... this couldn't mean...

My Missus 'ad appeared on the step beside me. "Oh no, poor Florrie! All right, our Sharon, tell yer Mam not to worry and I'll pop round later," she said.

"OK, Auntie!" and Sharon was gone.

"Right, Joe, you're all ready, so you'll 'ave to go alone," said the Missus.

"Alone?" I croaked out.

"Well, you and Auntie Doreen," said the Missus. "Probably for the best, Florrie not lookin' after the shop. You know 'ow this decimal money gets her in a tizzy!"

I felt faint. There was a buzzin' in me ears.

"Eee, lass, me an' Auntie Doreen!!!" I said.

"Now, Joe, be a man!" said the Missus firmly. "You've been booked by this camp... it's a real chance for yer, so stiffen yer lip!"

Just then Mrs Tillotson arrived for her Mint Imperials. "You're off today then, Joe," she said. "Eee, rather you than me, lad! Audiences can cut up real rough if they don't like an act. I remember once at Cleethorpes, I went to the Rendezvous with our Myrna and..."

The Missus cut in, hasty like: "All right, Mrs Tillotson! I'm sure our Joe'll be fine." She turned to me. "Get your stuff together, love."

I wandered out to the back yard to say farewell to me pigeons.

Petula looked at me soulfully, head on one side. She was me favourite back then. The night before I got her, I 'ad a dream about Petula Clarke singing Down Town outside our local Woolworth's. It 'ad been a real striking dream, and that's how Petula got 'er name.

I'm sure she understood every word I said.

I felt like skriking at the thought of a week with Auntie Doreen. Yet the Missus 'ad said "be a man"! Why were only women allowed to cry? My mate Bert 'ad things to say back then about 'ow Women's Lib wasn't about liberation at all. No, 'e reckoned we blokes 'ad always 'ad a bad deal. And, as I stood there with Petula, Lulu, Dusty, Engelbert and Ringo I thought 'e 'ad a point.

"See yer in a week, my lovelies," I said.

Was that a tear glinting in Petula's eye?

My peace was shattered by Auntie Doreen's foghorn voice as she appeared at the back door: "Come on, lad, I've humped me suitcase over. We'll need to be startin' off. It's a long trip. Pity it couldn't 'ave been Blackpool. But at least we won't run into anyone we know at this place in... where were it? Caster?"

"Caister," I sighed.

"That's it. It'll be better coz we won't 'ave the embarrassment of friends and neighbours lookin' on when you fall flat on yer face up on that stage," Auntie continued. "Yer better half tells me she's stoppin' 'ere. Funny that. I thought she'd want to be with yer. Thought it'd be a second honeymoon for yer. The first weren't up to much by all accounts."

"Florrie's poorly," I said.

"Is she?" Auntie looked surprised. "Well, I saw 'er comin' out of the Washer Rama just now, natterin' 'er 'ead off to Mavis Thorpe - seemed full of beans!"

I stepped back, a bit on the stunned side. Could it be the Missus had been lyin' to me to get out of goin' on the Caister holiday? She'd never lied to me before, not as far as I knew. Was Florie's gallopin' flu a put-up job?

Petula looked at me sympathetically.

More soon. Dinner's ready.

JOE x 

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Joe's Esso Blue Light

When me and the Missus settle down to the night's telly on the dark winters' evenings (we only watch DVDS of old telly programmes these days, like Selwyn Froggitt and Crossroads - which me Missus loves), we 'ave a reminder of my heyday as the famous Esso Blue dealer to make sure we have enough light to find our cuppas and Hobnobs. It's an old advertising light we used to 'ave in the shop window. I mentioned it before. It features me telling passers-by: "ESSO BLUE PARAFFIN ON SALE HERE".

It's dead nostalgic. It's made of plastic and it's lit by a single light bulb. In the old days, we used to 'ave some 'ooks above the shop window, and we 'ung the sign on one of them, facing outwards, on a bit of string. The bit of string's still attached to it. Those were the days!

The sign with the bulb lit up.

In the old days, the sign used to get quite 'ot, with the 'eat from the bulb. But we've got one o' them modern LED bulbs in there now and it's fine.

They're a real marvel, these modern bulbs, aren't they?

My Missus sometimes gets a bit critical. "You look like somethin' out of a cartoon on that sign," she sez.

My Auntie Doreen used to say: "There's some big great conks (meanin' noses) in this family. Fortunately, mine's nice and dainty. I were lucky. You weren't our Joe."

I don't care.

After all, Barry Manilow 'ad a big 'ooter, and it didn't stop 'im. The ladies used to go mad at 'is concerts.

They were good days. Kiddies used to shout "BOOM BOOM BOOM - ESSO BLUE!" after me in the street, and I used to feel grand seein' my physog round about on paraffin cans and advertisin' 'oardings.

I was a bit of a celebrity, but without all the money that goes with it.


Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Holiday Camp - Part 1

In 1971, my flexi-disc record for the Esso Blue campaign was released. The Great Blue Singer!

They asked me how I knew it was Esso Blue

I of course replies

With lower grades one buys

Smoke gets in your eyes

The flexi-disc ended with the "Boom Boom Boom Boom - Esso Blue!" jingle, which I'd grown right fond of, and was always featured at the end of the ads.

I was as pleased as punch with the record. And I thought I sounded quite good.

Wilf, my manager, thought it might lead to more singin' work. I was keen and started to plan my debut single in my own right.

One day, Wilf phoned the shop and said: "Get down 'ere, lad, I've got summat for yer!"

"A record deal?" I asked, heart pattering away ten to the dozen.

"No, live singin'," said Wilf. "Come over an' I'll fill yer in!"

I went to 'is office, in the "better part of Salford", as my Missus called it, and he puffed on a Slim Panatella and said:

"I've got yer a week's work, lad, at the Silver Sands Caravan Camp in Caister."

"Where's Caister?" sez I.

"Norfolk," sez Wilf.

"Oooh, 'eck, that's miles away."

"Want fame, must travel," said Wilf. "Now, yer get a three berth caravan with black and white telly thrown in, there's a laundrette on site, and you'll be doin' a nightly spot at the clubhouse. Bit of singin', few jokes, that sort of thing."

"I were thinkin' of doin' Crying In The Chapel - the Elvis number for my first single," I said. "I reckon I could make a right good job of that live on stage."

"No, wi' your looks and voice you'd be better off doin' George Formby, that sort of thing," said Wilf - which I thought was a damn cheek coz I wasn't that bad looking back then and he was a little baldy weasle of a bloke with no shoulders to speak of.

When I got 'ome, I told the Missus. "Well... Norfolk..." she said. "I've always wanted to travel, of course, but I don't fancy a caravan camp. You know I like a nice little guest 'ouse or 'otel. You get a lot of condensation in caravans."

She wasn't keen. Wasn't keen at all, particularly when she found out it clashed with the opening of the new Astoria Bingo Hall in Victoria Street.

"I were so lookin' forward to it. Everybody who's anybody round 'ere's goin'. Oh, Joe, what a nuisance!"

"I'm sorry, love," I said - feeling a bit crestfallen, truth to tell. "Will your Florrie look after't shop?"

"Oh aye," said the Missus, with a sigh. "We can't afford to close for a week, that's a fact. If our regulars get used to walkin' to the Pick-A-Snip or Fine Fair they'll not be back coz both are cheaper than us."

Well, word got out in the family. They all reckoned I was a lucky blighter, and when I went to see Auntie Doreen, she was sat there as usual with her Senior Service an' her Michelin Man ashtray. "I've 'eard yer news," she croaked. "Eee, y'are a lucky lad. I've been that poorly. Doctor says a touch of sea air'd do me the power of good, but I can't run to that. Eee, our Joe, you should be right thankful them Esso people were daft enough to take you on. Some folk are lucky, some aren't..."

Well, I'm not daft - I knew she were 'intin', but I wasn't keen. It's true the caravan could sleep three, but I didn't want Auntie there.

I went to my Missus and she sighed and said: "It's no good, Joe. You'll 'ave to ask 'er. We'll never 'ear the last of it if you don't!"

"BUT..." I started.

"No, go on, lad," said my Missus. "Get back round there and get the deed done. It's the only decent thing to do."

Well, I thought this were right big of my Missus - she wasn't keen on the idea of a caravan site anyway, and with Auntie Doreen on top of that... well, I thought my Missus was a little marvel.

I went back to Auntie's. She weren't on't settee.

I 'eard 'er voice, floating down the staiirs, all weak-like.

"Is that you, our Joe? Come up, lad, come up."

I went up and she was in bed, curtains drawn though it was daylight, one hand laying all weak looking on the candlewick, the other stubbing out 'er Senior Service in 'er Michelin Man ashtray.

"Eee, our Joe, I do feel terrible," she said. "I wish our Beryl were here."

Beryl was Auntie's daughter. She'd run off to Australia and married a sheep farmer.

"Well, I 'ave good news for you, Auntie," said I.

"What is it, lad?" asked Auntie, her eyelids fluttering weakly open.

"You're to come to't seaside with us," I said. "It's all sorted out..."

Auntie stopped dying and started being Action Woman. It were amazin'. She sprang out of that bed, and at first I thought she was having some sort of convulsion, but no, she grabbed her jotter and ripped off the first sheet of paper. "That's a note for Sylvie to tell 'er I won't be able to make bingo next Wednesday," she said. "Pop it through 'er door on your way past, there's a good lad. And don't tell your Auntie Gladys I'm comin' with yer - I want the pleasure of seein' the look on 'er face meself! This'll sicken 'er chops!"

Although Auntie Doreen and Auntie Gladys were sisters, they never got on.

I went down the stairs, leaving Auntie packing. Now, you might think I'm daft, but it hadn't escaped my notice that Auntie had her note for Sylvie all ready before I told her she could come to Caister with us. But I didn't say anythin'. Not that I was scared of Auntie, of course.

But sometimes, in fact quite often with Auntie Doreen, it was best to keep your lip buttoned.

When I got 'ome, the Missus had just finished packing my suitcase.

"Not done yours yet?" I asked.

"I'll do it in't mornin'," she said. "I'm tired tonight. Now, eat yer tea and we'll have an hour in the Foundryman's before bed."

And a miserable hour it was for me.

"Eee, lad, a free 'oliday and gettin' paid for it?" said my pal Bert Pickering. "You're a luck devil!"

"Yeah, I know," I sighed.

The Missus was putting on a bright face - in fact she seemed quite cheerful.

But I was convinced we were in for a week steeped in grot.

I felt a real sense of forebodin'...

More soon,


Monday, 29 February 2016

The Goggle Box

 I can't help thinkin' this piccy of me on an Esso Blue can looks a bit fey. I look like a real telly-type, don't I?

It awes me, lookin' back, how the telly has taken over our lives. That's not recent, of course. What was a rarity in the early '50s was in just about every front room by the late '60s. And we were all square-eyed.

I remember my dear old Gran, God rest 'er, saying: "Television 'as killed the art of conversation!" way back in the early '70s. And she weren't the only one sayin' it - far from it.

We called it "The Goggle Box" or "The One-Eyed Monster" - and there was so much that we just had too see, although there was only one channel, then two, then three, then four.

Do you remember Michael Miles on Take Your Pick? "Open the money! Take the box!" and Charlie Drake - The Worker - " 'Allo, my darlin'!"

Michael Miles was the presenter of "Take Your Pick" - one of our top telly faves in the '50s and '60s. We'd get real excited and join in shouting with the audience in the studio: "Open the box!" or "Take the money!"

It probably seems funny to younger folks that so few telly channels could attract such huge audiences. But we didn't really 'ave anything better to do with our leisure time. Even before telly. People said "Oh, we made our own entertainment before the telly, got the family all together, songs round the piano," - and we did. But if you'd ever 'eard my Auntie Doreen and Auntie Gladys sing, you'd understand why you couldn't really call it "entertainment".

You were much better off with Dick Barton on the wireless.

Or even Mrs Dale's Diary.

Me and my Missus didn't get telly til 1956, but we saw the Queen's coronation in 1953. Mr and Mrs Potter next door had a set, and they invited us all in. We all took some food along and we had a bit of a party. There was fruit cake, sandwiches, little three corned ones with the crusts off, 'genteel', my Missus called 'em, and flies' cemeteries.The weather was terrible in London - it was pourin' with rain, and my Auntie Doreen said: "Bad omen that. She'll 'ave a short reign, you mark my words."

ITV started in 1955, and, of course, I started my career in telly adverts three years later.

One of the things we loved was Dixon of Dock Green. It was magic - all about a policeman and the crimes in his area. It went on for donkeys' years and it had a beautiful catch phrase: " 'Evenin' All!" We were all goin' round sayin' it. Those were the days!

In fact, I'll say it again:

" 'Evenin' All!"

Brings it all back!

The late great Jack Warner. He was PC George Dixon. That was in the days when the police were portrayed as friends of the people - before they took your DNA even when you hadn't done anything, which is what 'appened to Mrs Potter's great-nephew a few years back.

The 1960s were great years for telly. I never missed The Avengers. That Mrs Peel was really something. And Dr Who started. He was a really old man then. Got younger as the years went on. Probably end up in rompers one day. And then there was Simon Dee, who used to interview people. I never liked that much, but my niece was keen. She wrote up for his autograph. And my Missus went mad on The Forsyte Saga which was a drama set yonks ago with people in old fashioned clothes and a miserable bloke called Soames.

The lovely Mrs Peel gives a baddie a karate wallop.

The '60s also gave us World Of Sport - a whole Saturday afternoon of sport. But it was always a busy time in the shop, so I never saw much of it, unless I nipped through for a butty and my Missus kept an eye.

One of my favourite telly treats was a good western and we had several of 'em - do you recall Bonanza, High Chaparral, and Alias Smith and Jones? Some of  'em ran for years, and my Missus said they were "soap operas for men". Well, all I can say is, I found the doings of Big Ben Cartwright, Hoss and all them far more fascinatin' than Hilda Ogden and Ena Sharples going on about Elsie Tanner's romantic life in't corner shop.

Bonanza - a programme for blokes. No corner shops and no hairnets.

In the late 1960s, telly went colour. First with BBC2. But BBC2 was a bit posh for us and we didn't often 'ave it on, and didn't 'ave colour anyway. Then, in 1969, they turned BBC1 and ITV colour as well, but we couldn't afford a colour set until we started rentin' one in 1978.

Now 'ere's a nice bit of 'istory. It's February 10, 1961, and there's discussion about a third TV channel. "Give it to the BBC". We ended up with BBC2 in 1964, which was the first channel to go colour - in 1967. My Auntie Doreen called it the channel for "stuck-ups", and 'appen she 'ad a point. It was 'ighbrow and 'ad lots of "culture" and foreign films with sub-titles. The advert featuring me alongside the article tickles me pink! My nephew Andy found this page in 'is local newspaper archive.

In the 1970s, we got afternoon TV on ITV (the BBC didn't do a proper afternoon service til the '80s), and my Auntie Doreen was glued to it. No afternoon was complete without Marked Personal or those posh ladies from Houseparty. I can stll see Auntie now, stubbing out her Senior Service in her Michelin Man ashtray, and saying: "And WHAT'S macramé when it's at home?"

Auntie Doreen's bakelite Michelin Man ashtray. A family heirloom, it now takes pride of place on our wall unit.

The thing that got on my wick about the telly in the 1970s was that the decade was dreary enough - with the galloping inflation, three day week, power cuts, Winter of Discontent and whatnot - without the telly companies makin' us more fed up. They seemed to get a real kick out of it - put on loads of miserable dramas set in the 1930s or 1940s like Family At War, Sam, The Stars Look Down, The Mallens and When The Boat Comes In. We 'ad enough misery in the present day without 'avin' past hard times thrust up our noses. No wonder boozin' became so popular in the '70s.

You know all that stuff about 'ow we kept cheerful durin't war? Well, the Ashton family didn't. The story began before the war had started. And they were miserable beggars even then.

And then there was The Sweeney, that showed us not only 'ooligans be'aved like 'ooligans, the police did as well. Dixon of Dock Green ended around the same time, but you couldn't call The Sweeney progress really.

Well, I didn't think so.

The 1980s brought us Channel 4 and breakfast telly, and my Missus went through a phase of "limbering up", as she called it, with the Green Goddess. But she soon stopped that. Her knees just wouldn't take it.

 Here's the Green Goddess leapin' about in public. But then it WAS the 1980s.

Channel 4 could be a bit... well... rude. They used to put a little triangle or some such on screen to warn you off the dirty programmes sometimes, but I remember my Missus bein' keen to see a film called My Wonderful Laundrette. She thought it was about time the local Washer Rama had a make-over and was hoping to pick up tips to give to Mr Patel, the owner, though I couldn't imagine the Washer Rama having neons all over the place.

Anyway, the film turned out to be a dirty, violent one, and my wife wrote in complaining about it, but, to this day, she's still waitin' for a reply.

But Channel 4 weren't all bad. It brought us Countdown. And every day, my Missus would leave me to mind the shop on my own for 'alf an 'our, brew up, bring me a cuppa through, and put her feet up to watch it. This give me a bit of time to study the racin' form.

A very fancy laundrette that was. But what they got up to on the premises didn't do much for hygene standards. Of course, I'm pretty broad minded, me. But I don't like folk flauntin' things on the box. You even get it in 'Emmerdale' these days.

We get a video recorder in the mid-1980s. "Just think!" said my Missus, "I'll never 'ave to miss Crossroads again!" But it took us about three years to work out how to set it, and by then they'd taken Crossroads off. My Missus was not impressed.

The 1980s also brought us EastEnders. It was all about folk in London, shoutin' at each other. It still is.

The end of the '80s brought satellite telly, and the '90s brought things like Big Brother - which I didn't understand.

Big hair and big barnies were the order of the day in EastEnders, which began in 1985.

Why do folk want to watch other folk sittin' around on the setee or sleepin' or keepin' chickens?

I suppose there's a lot I don't understand or don't like on telly over the last twenty years. But I used to love watchin' the Crocodile Hunter.

But we have too many channels and sifting through tryin' to find somethin' decent is 'ard work.

We used to end up watchin' Bullseye from 1987 or Dallas from 1982 or suchlike. They were the best things on.

Thank 'eavens for my allotment! And we've got a DVD player now. We've been watching Columbo and The Larkins and Murder, She Wrote lately.

At least we know we like 'em, and we don't have to keep flickin' channels to find 'em. And we don't 'ave to pay the licence fee - and that's a blessin' coz the BBC's gone right downhill.

See you soon,


Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Life Of Fame

Here's me, back in my heyday. I had a bit of a sniffle when that was taken, but I don't think it shows.

I was right surprised when I was approached by the Esso Blue people to front their telly adverts. That was around 1957. They said they wanted an 'everyday bloke' as their public face and that's just what I was. The first advert was shown in 1958. I was so nervous during filming, that the first thing I said when the camera started rolling was 'I'm the Esso Blee dooler!' and that's not what I should've said at all.

But they liked it, and they put it in an ad later.

I suppose I was, I think the word is 'overawed', by it all - the lights, the cameras, all the people in that studio. I went all pimply and felt a bit uncle dick. I could feel my knees knockin' together.

But they were all very nice about it, and the first ad only took ten 'takes' - which is a technical term for how many times it takes you to get it right.

They didn't want anybody trendy, which was lucky because I was a bit too long in the tooth to be a teddy boy. Wouldn't've wanted to be anyway, because some of them round my way were a bit on the yobby side, to be honest.

But youth will 'ave its day.

They all turned out to be nice lads - Alfie Wainright retired in 1998 as manager of the Tesco's near us, after thirty-three years in the post.

But he was all margarine quiff and attitude back then.

Anyway, the telly adverts ran for years, I was on advertising signs and in newspapers and magazines too, so I got a bit famous - I was asked to open fetes in my neighbourhood, and people pointed at me in Fine Fare.

Of course, we heard a lot about the likes of the Beatles, Hank Marvin and Cliff Richard, who got carried away with their fame and went a bit wild from all accounts, but I always kept me feet on the ground and I never met people like that anyway.

I did meet Mr Mix from Nesquik, and he was a nice enough chap, off-screen.

Sometimes, I had requests for autographs, and I remember once on the Golden Mile bein' told I was a 'dish' by a woman in a psychedelic kaftan - but my Missus stepped in and said: 'Clear orff, you daft hippie bat - whatever have you been taking?!'

And that was that.

I got an agent called Wilfred, who was based in what my Missus called 'the nicer part of Salford', and he got me an audition. I wondered what I might be like at drama, but he thought I should try for Crossroads.

It was the part of a grotty old poacher who got on people's nerves.

I said to Wilf: 'Can you see ME as a grotty old poacher who gets on people's nerves?'

And he said: 'Yes'.

So, off I went to Birmingham.

But the producer said my nose was too big and kept going off-camera when I had close-ups.

I lost heart after that.

I got really excited when Esso told me I was to make a flexi-disc about going round the world. But it was all done in a recording studio in Warrington. Still, me and the Missus used the money I earned to 'ave a nice weekend in Llandudno, and the waitress at our hotel had seen me on the telly and warned us off the egg and bacon flan. So that was nice.

I remember being asked to open a couple of shops. One of them was what you'd call nowadays a vintage or retro clothes shop, but in those days we called it 'second hand'. It was called 'Az Nu' and was in Porrington Street, where the pork butcher's used to be. It's been boarded up for years.

The other was a branch of the 'Pick-A-Snip' supermarket on Commercial Road. When they opened their next branch, they got Ken Dodd to do it.

I don't think fame changed me. My Auntie Gladys said: 'You're as daft on telly as you are off,' and Mrs Potter next door said, 'Once a pillock, always a pillock.'

'I think there might be a touch of jealousy there!' I told my Missus.

'If you say so,' she said.

See you soon,


'Ello, Everybody!

Here's me starring on a lit-up Esso Blue sign. It has a bulb in it. You could pop it in your shop window, plug it in, and hey presto - all the people passing on dark nights knew you sold Esso Blue. You 'ad to be careful not to trip over the extension lead though.

I've thought for some time I'd like to try this blogging lark. But I'm not that good with computer-type gadgetry, so Andy, my nephew, is giving me an 'and. He's writin' down what I say as I say it.

Even droppin' me g's and aitches when I drop them.

Good lad.

I came to a bit of fame many years ago, back in the late 1950s to be exact, when I starred in a series of telly adverts for Esso Blue.

Esso Blue!

The name still gives me a tingle!

'Boom boom boom boom - Esso Blue!' - that's how the advert jingle went.

And the ads were popular and they went on and on and on.

And on.

Right into the '70s.

I suppose I was a celebrity, although I was never mobbed like Cliff Richard and The Shadows.

That was a relief because people can tread on your feet when they're mobbing you, and I have a tendency towards corns.

Esso Blue was a wonderful product. All right, it did make your windows stream with condensation, like when you're boiling up the sprouts and spuds on a Sunday, but it was the finest paraffin you could buy.

Better than that pink muck anyway.

I sold it at the corner shop I ran in Balaclava Street (it's a Costa Coffee now) and I delivered too.

The telly adverts helped trade at the shop, because a lot of my neighbours thought I could get 'em on telly.

Especially Mrs Clough, out of Pork Street. She used to get herself up like Margaret Rutherford before comin' in for 'er fire lighters. She thought she looked like that woman out of Gone With The Wind, but it were Margaret Rutherford who always sprang to mind.

 That woman out of Gone With The Wind.

Margaret Rutherford

For 'olidays, I often to used to visit my brother Stan. He ran a shop in Ramsgate and I used to give 'im an 'and with the Esso Blue deliveries there. It made a nice change.

Anyway, on this blog I'll be sharing my thoughts on those days and these days and the days in between.

I'll say 'toodle pip" for now because the missus wants to go to Boots. We're nearly out of Radox. They still do the original powder there. There's nothing like it - lovely and squidgy between your toes in a bowl of warm water.

Them self checkouts are a marvel, aren't they?

'Unexpected item in the bagging area' is a national catchphrase - you can get it on t-shirts and the like.

But it's not nearly as good as 'boom boom boom - Esso Blue!'

Well, I don't think so anyway.

We'll have another natter soon.