On My Birthday

On my birthday
Something of a change from the usual diet of cameras, film processing and hill walking for this post. Yes, occasionally I do think about other things.

A little while ago my friend Bexxi stated on Twitter that she intended her next blog post to follow a meme which I found quite appealing. Quite often I’ve found myself performing something similar on a friend’s birthday – checking the date on Wikipedia for any interesting births, deaths or events which happened that day in history. And yes, I confess I’ve previously looked at my own birthday for just the same things. I said I’d have a go at it, although something tells me I’m not going to do quite such a good job of it as Bexxi did and it has taken me rather a long time to “get around to it”.

When is your birthday?

On October 3rd

Pick three people who share your birthday and share what you know about them.

As a keen hill walker I couldn’t help but include Rebecca Stephens, the first British woman to reach the summit of Everest. She originally trained as a journalist which should maybe fill us all with hope that we can make changes to our lives and go on to do the things we want to do. Rebecca’s journalistic training will have helped, I’m sure, when she took on the role of presenting “Tomorrow’s World” during the 1990s. Not that I was a viewer at the time; I remember watching that programme as a boy when it was hosted by the likes of Raymond Baxter, Michael Rodd and Judith Hann. I know that I will never climb Everest, I have no desire to do so, however I find Rebecca’s determination and commitment to be inspirational. She happened upon climbing by accident, realised it was something she wanted to do and got right down to it.

Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. Photo by Matt Becker, melodicrockconcerts@gmail.com. Source Wikipedia. Used here under Creative Commons license.

The main reason I’ve included Lindsey Buckingham is from fond memories of trailing around various local music venues over twenty years ago following my friend Kate Easton and whatever bands she was a member of at the time. With one band, “The Bijou Pleasurettes” Kate would take on lead vocals for occasional songs, one of them being “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac. I must ask her to sing it again sometime, she always did such an excellent job with it.

But I digress, I should be telling you what I know about Lindsey Buckingham and I suppose I can skip the obvious bit about him being guitarist and lead vocalist for Fleetwood Mac now.

Prior to joining Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham had recorded an album with his girlfriend of the time, one Stevie Nicks. Mick Fleetwood heard a track from the album, “Buckingham Nicks”  in 1974 and decided that he wanted whoever was playing the guitar to be in his band. Fleetwood was told that if he wanted Buckingham he would have to take Stevie Nicks too, and thus was formed the classic mid-seventies Fleetwood Mac line up of Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.

The second album released by this line up was the legendary “Rumours” and this is where my reference to my friend Kate singing “Dreams” comes back into the story as that song features on this album. Anyone who used to watch Formula 1 motor racing in years gone by will know very well another track from this album, “The Chain”. It also featured “Don’t Stop” (…”thinking about tomorrow..” – sorry if I’ve now inflicted an ear worm on you) and “Go Your Own Way”.

I was never a really huge fan of Fleetwood Mac, although I certainly enjoyed their material of this period and “Rumours” is one of the first albums I had owned on vinyl which I chose to replace on CD. Well, I say “replace”, I still have all my vinyl too.

Charles Duke was Lunar Module pilot for the Apollo 16 mission to the Moon in April 1972. During that mission Duke became the tenth person to walk on the surface of the moon and clocked up a (then) record stay on the surface of 71 hours and 14 minutes. During that time he left a photo of his family on the lunar surface.

However Charles Duke will probably be even better remembered in his role as CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) for Apollo 11, the first lunar landing. During the mission all communications to the crew were channeled through one person to avoid confusion, that is the role of CAPCOM. It was Duke who talked the crew onboard Eagle, the Lunar Module, through the final descent onto the surface.

During the video of the final minutes of that operation you can hear Duke giving alerts to the crew “sixty seconds”, “thirty seconds”. That wasn’t the E.T.A., that was how much fuel they had left to burn. I can only imagine the nervous tension at Mission Control during those final minutes so it’s understandable that Duke fluffed his words a bit as soon as the landing was complete, “Roger, Twank… Tranquility, we copy you on the ground. You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue. We’re breathing again. Thanks a lot!”

Is anyone listed as being born on the same day as you (ie the same year)? If so, what do you know about them?

Well, I have to confess that I’d never heard of Rob before starting this project. I appreciate art and I have as friends a number of artists, indeed some of whom have also been illustrators for comic books. I can appreciate the art, but I’ve never really been one for comics, certainly not beyond childhood. I did buy a few “graphic novels” in my late teens and early twenties but I have to say that I would rather read a novel than a graphic novel. I like to make my own pictures in my head.

Wikipedia tells me that Rob has worked on “Youngblood” and “X-Force“. A quick look shows me the sort of thing I never really got a taste for. People in silly costumes with over developed bodies flying through the air. Underpants on over the top of their trousers, etc.

As somebody who can’t draw anything which looks at all life like, I can certainly appreciate the skill involved. My inability to draw was one of many factors which led me towards photography as an artistic outlet. No disrespect intended to Rob in any way, or to people who enjoy reading comic books and like that style of art. It’s just not my thing.

List three people who died on your birthday and tell us what you know about them. 

Much as I have respect for artists and musicians, I also have a deep respect for comedians. Somebody who has the power to create laughter is a valuable member of society indeed.

Ronnie Barker was somebody who provided much laughter to millions of people. During my childhood he was an integral part of Saturday night TV as one half of “The Two Ronnies“. But Ronnie had first come to prominence in the medium of radio, particularly as a member of the cast of “The Navy Lark“, a situation comedy set onboard HMS Troutbridge in which he performed in some 300 episodes. I was astonished to discover that this programme ran until as late as 1977 as part of my research for this blog post. It started in 1959 and I had always imagined it to be a creature of the 50s and 60s.

Class Sketch

Ronnie Barker (centre) with John Cleese (left) and Ronnie Corbett (right) in "The Class Sketch" from the Frost Report, 1966.

After the success of “The Two Ronnies”, Barker went on to appear in the highly successful “Porridge” alongside Richard Beckinsale, a sitcom set in H.M. Prison Slade which also featured the talents of Fulton Mackay as the acerbic prison warder Mr Mackay. After calling time on “Porridge” he went straight onto yet another hugely successful comedy series “Open All Hours” as the miserly, stuttering Yorkshire corner shop keeper, Arkwright, alongside David Jason.

Barker decided to bow out at the peak of his fame, retiring from show business in 1987 at the age of 58. However, he was tempted back to produce “The Two Ronnies Sketchbook” which aired in 2005 with a Christmas special recorded in July of that year being aired posthumously. The show comprised of Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett introducing their old material from decades before but it proved to be a success with audiences.

Although I enjoy films, I’ve never been one to know much about actors. To my mind, if they do their job well then I won’t even think about them as being an actor and I have no interest in their off-screen / off-stage lives. I think there are only two films in Janet Leigh’s career which I’ve ever seen, but one of them is an absolute classic which has been parodied to death : Psycho. Janet Leigh’s character, Marion Crane, features in a big way in the most famous scene from that movie. Is there anyone who has never seen Psycho? Well, just in case I will say no more.

I had to include Woody Guthrie really. He died on the very day I was born, October 3rd 1967. Although I was aware of Guthrie I didn’t know much about his life. I became interested in folk music in my early twenties thanks to influences from various friends and also due to my liking of Led Zeppelin. That’s a rather convoluted story to tell, but in essence Sandy Denny performed a duet with Robert Plant on Led Zeppelin 4, “The Battle Of Evermore” and it was from there that I started my exploration of folk music.

Born in 1912, Guthrie suffered the deprivations of the Great Depression at first hand. Many of his songs related to the plight of working class people during this period. I can imagine him travelling to find work, guitar slung over his shoulder, picking up traditional songs wherever he went and finding inspiration in plenty for his own songs. He became known as “The Dustbowl Troubadour”.

His most famous song, “This Land Is Your Land” was written in 1940 as a response to “God Bless America” which Guthrie thought didn’t reflect the realities he saw every day.

If it wasn’t for Guthrie I’m not sure that I would have been enjoying the music of Bob Dylan, Sandy Denny or Fairport Convention and he is cited directly as an influence by such diverse musicians as Joe Strummer,  Dylan, Billy Bragg and Bruce Springsteen.

List three notable events that took place on your birthday.

I’m mindful of just how long this post already is, so I’ll keep this section fairly short!

Julius Caesar

Julius Caesar

The Battle of Alesia was the culmination of the Roman conquest of Gaul. Despite the victory, Caesar was denied a triumph and the political tensions this created led to Caesar’s invasion of Italy and the civil war which followed between 49 and 45 BC. Vercingetorix was executed after being displayed at the triumph Caesar finally had granted for himself in 46 BC. Caesar met his own end on the Ides of March just two years later in 44BC.

It seems somehow fitting to follow the Battle of Alesia with the Battle of Philippi. Following Caesar’s death in 44 BC Rome was once again plunged into civil war. Octavian was named as Caesar’s heir in his will. Along with Mark Antony and Marcus Agrippa he pursued Caesar’s killers. Brutus and Cassius were defeated at Philippi and took their own lives. Octavian later went on to defeat Antony at the Battle of Actium (31 BC) and become the first true Emperor of Rome, being awarded the title Augustus by the senate. He went on to rule the Roman Empire from 27 BC to 14 AD.

Although of course, they detonated the bomb on the other side of the world, in Australia. This was a modified version of the bomb that was used on Nagasaki. The bomb was detonated within the hull of HMS Plym as the British Government wanted to see the effect of such a device being smuggled into a UK harbour aboard a ship.

Tell us about a holiday that falls on your birthday.

Not the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, but rather the anniversary of the formal declaration of German reunification in 1990. This is a reminder of the huge changes in global politics which have occurred during my life time. The Berlin Wall fell when I was just 22 years old and yet I didn’t venture over there to witness the events for myself. I do wish I had. I was maybe always too “responsible” for my own good when I was younger. I had a job to keep, one that really did place quite a lot of responsibility on shoulders so young. Somehow that seemed so very important to me at the time, although at that time I had no real responsibilities to anybody else. I could have just upped and gone and witnessed the events in Berlin for myself.

Finally, please tag some lovely people to carry on this meme, then link back to this post so they can find the badge and link up their post once published.

Well, this might not be in the true spirit of this project, but I’m not going to tag anyone. If anybody reads this and feels inspired to have a go then please do. I will however link back to the original post.

Hope I’ve got most of my facts right!

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