This is the third post concerning the book “The Vagaries of Swing”, treading gently where Lord Chancellor Edward Thurlow’s curling surges once faltered and were absorbed into the golden sands. Nine miles worth mush, as Tony Hancock would have said, better than sitting uncomfortably on those bloody awful Brighton pebbles. Stone me, call that a beach? One of Germoloid’s best sales areas, that part of the Sussex coast, and probably not the best site for a chocolate willie shop, despite appearances. Margate Sands rule! Mac was still reluctant to be drawn into comments on local politics as his own council leaves a lot to be desired, but coincidentally he has been reading about a certain McGonagall, often acclaimed as the ‘world’s worst poet’. William Topez McGonagall, to be correct, the author of “The Tay Bridge Disaster”, “The Demon Drink” and “The Collision in the English Channel”. He was wondering whether the collision might have caused the problem with those Transeuropa ferries and perhaps they might be able to recover the money the council have lost when the tide goes out. He and his friend Brian had unearthed a horde of lost pennies down by Walpole Bay when they were ship-spotting – it’s the bit in the book just before Mac meets King Ethelbert – so nil desperandum, you Thanet taxpayers. You can always trust an accountant, so get those buckets and spades out and head down to the beach.
Billy Butlin comes to Margate
Moving on, one of the other interesting facts to emerge from the publication of the book was the observation from the Chairman of the present Margate Cricket Club, who now play down at Tivoli Meadow, that Sir Billy Butlin had once been President of the Club. Chris Carter told Mac that they had a scorecard from the early 1960’s which showed this to be a fact. Mac says he has spoken to a number of old cricketers who had played for the club or were in the area and none of them can remember him being involved. However, apart from buying the hotels in Cliftonville, Billy was based at Sandgate when serving with the Canadian Army in the First World War, so may well have come over to Margate and formed an attraction in his spare time. If you ever had leave, why on earth would you want to spend time in Folkestone? He must also have come to Cliftonville occasionally in the late 50’s and early 60’s to visit his hotels and maybe the fact that Margate played at Dane Park attracted his attention. Billy had coincidentally lived at Dane Court in Hampstead for a while before moving to Grosvenor Square in 1951 so maybe felt an affinity. Margate Cricket Club was a strong side in those days with the likes of John Anscomb. One of Tommy Thomas’ old school friends, John, reminisced after reading the book about the crowds gathered around the slopes of Dane Park, sitting in deckchairs watching the cricket. On a Sunday the elegant park was packed. He also remembered encouraging a young girl to explore the bushes with him on a Sunday afternoon so again I guess nothing changes, although apparently she did wear stays. Leslie Wheeler, the band leader, whose young son Robert played for them in the late 60’s, was the President that they all remembered but if anyone can shed light on Billy’s brief involvement then please feel free.
A case of Billy-do
The Billy that Mac mentioned was of course the very honourable Rees Davies, who served Thanet as its MP for over twenty one years. The problem with having a colourful character as your MP was that no matter what they did or what the rumours were, you could never get rid of them and Thanet was always such a strong Conservative area. You were effectively untouchable. Rees Davies liked to make an impression in and out of the courtroom and apparently had some interesting friends socially. He did go to Chatham House school to participate in their ‘mock Election days’ and all of the three candidates made speeches, but none made much of an impression when Mac was there. Surprising that, because Billy clearly could perform when he had to and there is an apocryphal story of a high court judge who had become irritated by his continual grand-standing. In mid-flow during the closing defence statement, the client in the dock had passed him a hand-written note which Billy opened ostentatiously with his one arm. “May I read out this billet doux” he asked the judge, who is said to have replied, “Mr Rees Davies, treat it as a billy don’t”. There is a film coming out soon covering the Profumo affair which he obviously got wind of, but whether it will shed light on his involvement, other than as a whistle-blower, remains to be seen. Hopefully it will give Stephen Ward a better posthumous press as the establishment effectively dumped on him. Plus ça change. Ward, if you are interested, went to Caius College, Cambridge in his youth, well before Stephen Hawking discovered that dark holes emit radiation. Not as much radiation as Christine Keeler emitted. One of Tracey Emin’s works is called ‘There’s a lot of money in chairs’ and particularly if Christine’s naked torso had been sat on it.
Big bang experiments
You will be pleased to know that the Big Bang experiments in the back garden have gone to plan, but may well have read recently of the detection by the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) of dark matter, more specifically the particle neutralino which barely ever interacts with ordinary matter. Mac says he has friends like that, one or two in Thanet. He is not really sure whether his readers (or reader) understand theoretical physics – he just never bothered to take the examinations – but he believes that Stephen Hawking may have been inspired by Mac’s metallurgist college friend, who once starred for Margate Cricket Club. He had learnt to save electricity by lighting his own methane and would retire to his college bedroom backwards using the blue flame for illumination. Brilliant really, until he set light to the duvet and then it took all sorts of quantum mechanics to douse the flames. Black holes everywhere, which may have started young Hawking off. Mac is quite adamant that the new AMS system will actually show part of the dark matter to be fragments of Kookaburra (the cricket ball, not the kingfisher). The Big Bang may well have been created by the ball hitting the Great Creator’s coal bunker in his own back garden with such force as to cause an enormous explosion. GC, as we humans know him, had a pretty lethal forward drive when practising. The conclusive proof that Mac was seeking though has had to be delayed for a further two weeks with the news that the Hadron Collider will shortly be replaced with the International Linear Collider. The Klingon, Worf, who he revealed had piloted the first prototype Hadron Collider, will doubtless be very disappointed. We will investigate.