Miss Willby's scrapbook

I think it's so sad to find albums of family photos etc at jumble sales and junk shops. Presumably they arrived there from a house clearance where the owner had died and either they were without relatives, or their kin just didn't care enough about family history. I have a few of these albums, collected during the Golden Age of jumble sales, circa 1970-1985 in the Guildford area. One stands out from all the rest, however: the scrapbook of a Miss G R Willby, who retired as a head teacher in 1953 and went on a sea cruise to Canada, keeping all the ephemera relating to that journey - cuttings, menus, postcards, receipts and a few photos - in a black photograph album.

It wasn't a good start. She was meant to sail on the Canadian Pacific liner RMS Empress of Canada, but she had caught fire in Liverpool docks. The replacement was French-owned SS De Grasse, renamed by Canadian Pacific RMS Empress of Australia.

Miss Willby was head teacher at Westborough County Primary School in Guildford. I'm assuming this is her retirement treat, but I could be wrong. The scrapbook spans 21 July to 29 August 1953, and 7000 miles, sailing to Montreal and back.

This is the impressive breakfast menu on board for the morning they docked in Canada.

On 29 July she stayed at the Montreal YWCA. She also visited Toronto, by rail, staying (or just maybe having lunch) in the Sheraton Brock Hotel, Niagara Falls (where she collected some impressive menus),

and the less impressive Angelo's Motel (owned by a sick man who had to leave his kitchen planning business in Montreal).

She also stopped at Prudhomme's Garden Centre Hotel, Vineland, Ontario, where she kept the Coronation themed place mats (the waitress was Scottish, she noted). She hoarded bingo cards, hairdressers' and florists' receipts too, plus all the cards and telegrams (mostly Coronation year themed) sent by well wishers.

Could this be Miss Willby? There is no record anywhere of her first name!


Edinburgh 2011

Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon play posters

So, where's the Edinburgh blog I hear you shouting? Well it was such a packed week, I don't know where to start. Maybe I'll just list the shows I went to?

Thursday 11 August
Arrived, wandered down to George Square (where the Assembly shows are this year) and the Udderbelly Pasture for a few pints.

Friday 12 August
13.15 at the Cow Bar: 'Those magnificent men'. This play by Brighton's Brian Mitchell and Joseph Nixon is about British flying heroes Alcock and Brown, who flew the Atlantic non-stop. The two actors manage to build the Vickers Vimy on stage, and I had a small walk on part as 'small boy' handing a toy plane to Captain Jack. Highly recommended.

18.05 at Canons' Gait: 'Thirty-seven ways of deceiving you, the audience, into believing I have written a new one-man show for 2011 even though I probably haven't, or something' by Peter Buckley Hill. To get a ticket for Robin Ince's free 7.30 show, we had to be in the bar scrum at 6pm, so decided to see PBH's show downstairs. His jokes may be corny, but the man's a legend, having started the Free Fringe many years ago.

19.15pm at Canons' Gait: 'Star Corpse Apple Child' by Robin Ince. He's always good value! At this point he was doing four shows a day!

21.45 at Pleasance Dome: Tim Key - Masterslut. A great performance, mostly underwater in a bathtub! He had a floor plan indicating what he'd do to audience members in certain seats, luckily we were in a quiet zone.

Also saw the Anish Kapoor 'Flashback'exhibition and Body bags/ Simonides at the Art College and Ingrid Calame at the Fruitmarket, where I met Paul Dutnall and Suzanne for a coffee.

Saturday 13 August
No shows! Just hung about in the Book Festival and Pleasance Courtyard with Sam and his friends.

Life Mounds by Charles Jencks

Sunday 14 August
27 bus ride out to Jupiter Artland to see lots of great sculptures in the woods.

Monday 15 August
Lots of art galleries: Anton Henning at Talbot Rice, newly restored Museum of Scotland, down the Martin Creed Scotsman Steps, Fruitmarket again for lunch, then across the road to the City Art Centre, where David Mach was giving a tour round his biblical collages and coat hanger Christs.

21.10 at Pleasance Beyond: The boy with tape on his face. Basically old-fashioned mime and clowning with lots of audience participation. Very enjoyable, but glad I wasn't picked on. This was the only show I went to handing out free badges!

22.40 at Assembly George Square: Neil Hamburger - old school offensive stand-up, John Shuttleworth meets Lenny Bruce! Apparently he was booed off at Reading Festival cos they thought he was for real.

Tuesday 16 August
12.30 at the Stand: 'Go Mr Tony go' by Tony Law. Dressed as an arctic explorer, the now-bearded manic Canadian comedian went through a totally surreal routine. Very funny.

Lunch at Seadogs. John Byrne at the Open Eye. Then back to the Stand through the pouring rain for

15.30 at the Stand: 'Hats off for the 101ers and other material' by Simon Munnery. A song about the R101 airship, then unfortunately it was mostly 'other material', Munnery no longer does his AGM, once with an extra hour in the pub over the road. Still one of my Edinburgh favourites tho.

18.50 at C venue ECA: 'Naive dance masterclass' by Inconvenient Spoof. Another Brighton show, featuring Matt Rudkin and Silvia Mercuriali. I expect dance afficianados and students will find this hilarious - and I did too. Simon Wilkinson was taking the tickets so next I plucked up the courage to go on his...

20.00 at C Venue ECA: 'And the birds fell from the sky' by Il pixel Rosso. I won't spoil this but it's very immersive, something I normally avoid like the proverbial. It involves video goggles and having to submit control for a long 15 minute rollercoaster (not literally) experience. Take a friend and try it, you won't be disappointed. I'm glad I did!

Wee puppet lass

Wednesday 17 August
More art: Elizabeth Blackadder (but no Baldrick) at the Mound, my top tip 'The Queen: art & image' with paintings (and holograms) by Andy Warhol, Lucien Freud and Gilbert & George, and many others, to Printmakers to see Julian Opie, Scottish National Library to see 'Banned books' (and have a coffee and flapjack), a wander down the Royal Mile to see the street performers, thence to

16.00 at Zoo Southside: 'Steal compass, drive north, disappear' by Brighton's Rachel Blackman. Classified in the Fringe brochure as physical theatre, she plays lots of parts: a selfish man surrounded by strong interesting women, interspersed with dance sequences and other theatrical devices that I didn't fully understand, not being a regular theatregoer. A fine performance tho - and a great soundtrack.

In the evening my son and heir Sam and his girlfriend TJ took me out for the swankiest meal ever at Michelin 'rising star' restaurant Castle Terrace. Then to Bennet's bar to meet up with Bongo Pete and Way-out Wolfie, who'd just arrived to take over audience duties, a bar full of runners, the Hash House Harriers, who run from a pub to a pub following markers made of flour dropped by 'hares'.

Thursday 18 August
Home to sunny Brighton.

So why go all that way to see Brighton shows? Well, where else could you be in a queue with Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee, or get flyered by Stewart Lee (for his wife's show - his was already sold out). I only scratched the surface of what's on, and this year didn't get the Scotsman every day or look inside the telephone directory thick Fringe brochure - I just let it carry me along. I didn't see a dud show - if pressed I'd say Neil Hamburger was my least favourite, but that was on late in the day. It might rain a lot, but in Edinburgh you really do know there's a festival going on.

[More photos on Flickr]

Rail ticket madness

I've written earlier about how the Irish manage to slim down their ticketing arrangements to just one eco-ticket, whereas in the UK you might need eight or more individual tickets - and the various blogs that share my frustration at the waste. The above photo shows (nearly) all the tickets for a journey from London Road Brighton to Manchester and back over a long weekend. I operate on the rule of thumb that you get better deals from the actual train operator you'll be travelling on, so the London the Manchester leg is from Virgin and the Brighton to London bit on Southern. I opted for DIY tickets from Virgin, but I am still expected to carry not only my Senior Railcard, but also the credit card I bought it with. Still, they've managed to put the journey and the seat reservation onto one sheet of A4 paper. For the record, it cost me £11.20 up and £7.60 back.

Now, with Southern, in order to get cheap tickets - £2.45 per single - you have to use a particular train, so for the journey up from my local station London Road Brighton I'll need:
  • a ticket from London Road Brighton to Victoria
  • a seat reservation from London Road to Brighton
  • a seat reservation from Brighton to Victoria
However, you can't reserve seats on these trains, so the seat reservation tickets are redundant!

In addition to these nine tickets (the ninth is the credit card receipt, which includes two other journeys bought at the same time), I will need an Oyster card (or bus pass) to get across London, my Senior Railcard and the aforementioned credit card I bought the tickets with (someone had to pay the full fare recently because her ticket was bought by their son on his credit card - but you shouldn't have to pay penalty charges). Of course I could have bought a ticket from Brighton to Manchester, which would have included travel from Victoria to Euston on the tube, but I reckon that would have worked out more expensive.