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THE GOLDEN YEARS 

THE GOLDEN YEARS

On October 16th 2002, Max Bygraves became an octogenarian. It didn’t worry him all that much, on that particular evening he played to a packed house at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre.

For a birthday show, invites went out to friends and acquaintances for drinks and eats at the Director’s Bar.

The audience was warm and congratulatory in a marvellous party mood, everything that’s needed for an after-the-show get together.

More than 120 well-wishers raised their champagne glasses as life began, life as an eighty-year old.

Max tells a great story and gives us a fun-filled look at his year as an ‘Octogenarian’….read all about the people and places that makes this great entertainer GREAT! AND STILL GOING STRONG!

 

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ISBN: 1-9208-8497-1
Format: A5 Paperback
Number of pages: 291
Genre:  Non Fiction/Autobiography

 

 

Author: Max Bygraves 
Imprint: Zeus
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2004
Language: English

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Introduction   

October 16th 2002, I became an octogenarian. It didn’t worry me all that much, on that particular evening I played to a packed house at Bournemouth Pavilion Theatre. For a birthday show, invites went out to friends and acquaintances for drinks and eats at the Director’s Bar.

The audience were warm and congratulatory in a marvellous party mood, everything that’s needed for an after-the-show get together. More than 120 well-wishers raised their champagne glasses as life began, life as an eighty-year old. 

The following pages were suggested as a keepsake by my close friend, Eric Sykes – “Jot it down,” he said, “you’ll get so much pleasure reading it again when you are ninety-nine.” 

Eric and I have been friends since we were attached to the BBC show, Educating Archie, way back in the 1950s. If I had done as he suggested and made a daily entry, this book would have been thicker than Tolstoy’s War and Peace. But he was right, days completely forgotten come up as surprises when re-read, so I am hoping you will get a little of the pleasure penned in these entries given to myself. I am not Tolstoy, but like himself as a writer, he was an entertainer. Let’s hope a little of it comes across as you turn the pages and I can go on doing what I have been doing for more than half a century – entertain… so I wanna tell you a story…    

 

‘THE GOLDEN YEARS’ 

 

Alright, so Jules Verne did it in 80 days, nowadays those astronauts can go round our hemisphere in eighty minutes – what’s the rush?  It took me eighty years up till last October 16th, Monsieur Verne didn’t have traffic lights, breakdowns on the M.1, he didn’t have to contend with garages being out of gasoline and having to start a war in the Middle East to make sure of a full tank.  There was no M.O.T. on those balloons, he didn’t need pit stops, insurance and a dozen other things to hold him up.

To get through customs and baggage scans must have cut his journey down considerably – take a breather. 

If you were born in the year of 1922 like I was eighty years ago, you’d have known the difference in today’s mode of living, there was no B.B.C., no refrigerators, no ball point pens, no electric blankets, television hadn’t been thought of.  Men had returned from a war minus arms and legs, coughing from the gas released to cower the enemy, the only bit of luck our fighting men could pray for was the wind to change.  That was the Great War when 4 million soldiers from both sides were fighting a war to end all wars, which was what they did – for twenty years.  That was until a fellow named Adolf said, “Your country needs you”. I know it originated from a bloke they called Lord Kitchener but Adolf used it as a catchphrase too, and once the youth of Germany took it up, we were used to make sure many of them were slaughtered in the same way with bombs raining down on them, the same way we were expected to retaliate after London, Coventry, Liverpool etc, had been blown to smithereens.

No, Jules Verne only had to face the elements and those elements were much easier to face in his day, mainly because we didn’t have a Labour Government then. We became a wealthy nation once again – how? Income Tax.  We were taxed more than we had ever been, the high taxes were to pay for that war, the strange thing was that our main ally (America) became even richer – that was because we all accepted more of that Lord Kitchener ‘Moody’, their leader Mr Roosevelt had charm too.

So, if you were like me and a few million others, you’d have to make up your mind to start all over.  Put away the uniform the R.A.F. had dressed us in for four years, paying us the princely sum of fourteen shillings every fortnight for our goodies and smokes, smokes that were driving many of us into a short life through lung cancer.  Jules Verne had no worries, up there in his balloon he could light up a cigar and not feel an outcast.   

So let me tell you a story… earlier this year I was booked for a cabaret appearance aboard a cruise ship going out of Sydney on January 23rd, we took it slowly through the Barrier Reef until we arrived at Cairns in Queensland.  The trip was blissful, a friendly crew and staff, every meal a banquet plus a smoke room to light a cigar should you feel like it with a glass of brandy at your side

“Did you ever smoke?” asked a colleague who saw me on the dockside at Cairns. I was puffing away at a large cigar having trouble drawing on the Havana, which I was smoking almost secretly, there are few places a cigarette smoker can go nowadays, and cigar smokers are scorned even more.

I told my enquirer that I smoked for a while during my R.A.F. service days only because it was fashionable to act like Bogart or Edward G. Robinson, dropped it after I was demobbed, he watched me trying to get some smoke through the huge Havana adding, “You need a poultice on the back of your neck.”

I thought the particular cigar I was puffing was like the expensive ones, sold at a store in Jermyn Street just off Piccadilly, they sell for more than eight pound each – eight quid for a thirty minute smoke is expensive in anybody’s language, no wonder the sailor on the wharf was surprised when I asked him if I could beg a light, he watched as I used three of his matches trying to light up, then took the remaining box shaking his head in disbelief at this bloke with a big cigar unable to afford a box of matches.

“Wanna keep ‘em?” he asked, I thanked him and told him no, I only smoke one at Christmas, which is true. 

Let me tell you a story… Earlier in the week our young Philippine waiter was telling me of the wonderful musicians he had heard when the ship docked previously in Havana, the place where cigars are supposedly the best in the world, the place where the beautiful maidens roll the cigars on their thighs to keep the moisture in the leaf for a cool smoke by connoisseurs.   He went on to tell that a box selling at more than two hundred pounds he could get for fifty dollars. Any bargain hunter knows that is a good deal.

“Did you get any?” I asked, he did a shifty look right and left then told me he could get me a box of twenty five for fifty U.S. dollars – at the end of dinner he passed me the box and I passed him fifty bucks. I was now smoking one on the dockside at Cairns thinking to myself that I didn’t think much of these famous Havanas, half way through the smoke I decided I’d had enough, perhaps it was the matches I’d borrowed that was making this such a disappointing smoke. 

I let the cigar go out then decided to investigate the contents of this awful tasting tobacco.  As I suspected when I shredded the leaf and watched what can only be described as sawdust – for sale to ‘mugs like me’, I could only smile and think to myself that everybody has to make a living.

If there is anybody around who would like a box of twenty four Havana cigars – you can have them for twenty U.S. dollars.

Here endeth the lesson.

 

Bournemouth U.K. - 16th October 2002 

I was born on this day, (eighty years ago) October 16th 1922, a time when the unemployed were in the millions.  

My father joined the dole queues after seven years in the British Army, four of them in France, I think the only words of French he ever learned was ‘fermè le porte’ and ‘shut the door’ was not a lot of good to my father who spent most of those years in a tent or a dug out.  What a lovely man.  When he was dying of cancer at a hospital in Dartford, Kent, I managed to catch a flight from Sydney, Australia to spend a few hours at his bedside. As I pressed his hand he murmured, “Keep ‘em laughing son”. Eventually I left the Joyce Green Hospital and cried myself to sleep that night.  

My wife Blossom had tip toed into the bedroom and laid out on our large double bed birthday cards, (one hundred and seven of them) with faxes, presents and gifts galore without waking me. When I did awake she told me that the postman was getting fed up with deliveries to our address in Sandbourne Road, suggesting I should rise and thank him for all the effort – which I did. 

With my dressing gown on I wandered downstairs to a chorus of “Happy birthday dear Maxie…” from several of the family that included Bloss, my son Anthony with his wife Celia and their three children, all with a glass of champagne in hand – I was given a glass for the toast (I can’t remember ever drinking champagne at 8.30a.m), after which my wife reminded me I had a busy day ahead.

There was a rehearsal for a show I was in that evening at the Pavilion, there was an interview with Fred Dineage for the evening news on Meridian T.V. The local newspaper was sending a photographer to let the world see what an old man looks like on his 80th birthday.  There were phone–ins from radio stations as far as Radio Scotland, one from a D.J. named Bob Rogers calling from Sydney, Australia, all with happy wishes and too much to take in for a poor old fella like me, funny thing was I felt no different to when I was seventy nine. 

However, today I become an octogenarian, imagine eighty years of age, and these pages are to remind me of my first year as an eighty year old.

               My 80th birthday -  These two young ladies baked and  decorated the birthday cake shaped as a piano, it was complimented by all. 

              Unless I put these photos back in the album we will need another 1000 pages,  because as they say – “Memories are made of this”.

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