This is the second post concerning the book “The Vagaries of Swing”, treading delicately in the footprints on the Margate sands of time. It has been somewhat of a struggle to elicit further explanation of Mac Carty’s sources from 1965 as he remains elusive and often grumpy. We did try to draw him on the more contemporary topic of Mary Portas and her recent Channel Four documentary about revitalising the old town but he felt it better to keep his own counsel. He did mutter something about seeing Mary on television dancing with a man who sold chocolate willies from a shop very close to the Ruby Lounge.
It was never made clear whether the attraction was the retailing opportunity or the chocolate willies and felt that if the latter, she would have got on famously with his old Guyanan cricketing friend Mike. Although a very fine Margate cricketer, Mike though was never much of a dancer, apparently preferring some form of horizontal activity, maybe an early form of Caribbean break-dancing, probably accompanied on some form of squeezebox. Do you remember The Who’s 1975 Album and Squeeze Box? Of course, The Who play a key role in the book with their links to music, drugs and the Mods movement but we can’t explain. To return to Mary, if a Mars Bar can help you work, rest and play, then maybe chocolate willies are the new energy food. Might be a useful challenge for some of those Apprentice candidates to market with the right packaging. Mind you, not sure Mary’s dancing partner stocked anything to do with bottoms as they would probably be more appropriate. Mary was very keen in the show to promote a local publication called Thanet Watch and in their June edition they talk about Margate retailers being asked to sign gagging orders. That’s what too many chocolate willies do for you.
Thanet – inspired by a Goddess?
We were intrigued by the references on Page 113 of the book to the Phoenician Goddess Tanit which Mac claims was the inspiration for the name Isle of Thanet. You may know that Tanit was a Punic Goddess although he thought that might be a mis-spelling. Mac had lunched some four weeks back at the Fayreness Hotel at Kingsgate with three old cricketers, one of whom was in his nineties, but none of them remembered her or indeed had ever been to Phoenix. All of them though had read the book and thought that they had met girls like her in Dreamland, particularly the ‘free on point of delivery’ bit. Many of the girls in the town seemed to be goddesses after six pints of Double Diamond, although its advertising claim to ‘work wonders’ did not seem to be reflected in any contemporary performance. Of course, Heineken and its ‘refreshes the parts that other beers cannot reach’ were well in the future. Mac said that he had just returned from a holiday with a group of very old college friends and he guessed any talk of alcohol ‘working wonders’ or ‘refreshing’ would just be met with hilarity. It would be more a case of a ‘resurrection shuffle’. Mind you he had been in so many Italian churches that he was all frescoed out with resurrection images. Nice money earner for the priests though as it certainly drew the crowds.
Padstow, polenta and Padua
The holiday, as you ask, was initially a little disappointing as he had thought that the villa they had booked was in Padstow. He didn’t think anything of the plane at Gatwick flying out to Venice as he guessed that it was a Ryanair flight and that Venice was the nearest airport they could find to Newquay. Then he realised that the toilets were free so it couldn’t be Ryanair.
Turned out the villa was actually in Padua, in a magnificent old place owned by one of the ancient Italian families. All those years spent learning English at Chatham House from the wonderful and eccentric Mr Boniface and he never once mentioned that he had Italian relatives (San Bonifacio). Mind you once the dust had settled (and there was a fair amount of dust) everything went splendidly, apart that is from the polenta. In the restaurants he managed to slip large quantities into his suitcase and is now busy replastering the kitchen with it. To return to Padstow, you may recall that on Boxing Day it is a tradition for some residents to don blackface and parade through the town singing minstrel songs, an ancient midwinter celebration. This would have been a more appropriate holiday for Mac as the book does fondly recall those exciting times in 1965 singing along with the Black and White Minstrels and ‘paddlin Madeline home’.
There will be another post in two weeks time when we will try to get Mac to explain his theory about the Big Bang, but he needs some time to do a couple of experiments in the back garden. Incidentally he was very pleased to get a reply this week from that nice Mr Lineker. You know that young lad who advertises all those crisps and apparently played a bit of football in his time. He’s mentioned in the book and Mac had asked him if he had an opinion on the Higgs Boson principle. Gary would have known and maybe played cricket against Ken Higgs in Leicestershire as he was a useful cricketer himself and has played a few club games in Kent. Mac initially had hoped that it was an invitation to take over from Roy Hodgson because before this week’s result against Brazil he had been championing a new tactical approach to win the World Cup where England field 32 players, ten of whom would play in goal. He was sure that Mr Blatter would agree and had actually gone so far as writing his name on the envelope he was planning to send. Fortunately he hadn’t yet got the postal order so no damage done. By the way Mr Blatter to our knowledge has never been to Margate. Closest ‘The Vagaries of Swing’ ever comes to anyone resembling him is probably the reference to the Wizard of Oz. L Frank Baum could tell wonderful stories too.