Sunday 29th March 2015


Has anyone else been watching the BBC’s wonderful “Back in time for Dinner”? I have been hooked. The 50s in England didn’t sound or look as great as it looks in the Hollywood musicals especially the post war food. I found this on the internet about it:

The National Wheatmeal Loaf was introduced in the autumn of 1942 and contained all the wheat grain including the husks. This resulted in a heavy loaf of bread that was a dirty beige colour with a gritty texture. For those used to eating white bread – and that was the large part of the UK’s population – the wheatmeal loaf was not popular but many accepted that it was needed to ensure that the wheat crop was not wasted. The government pushed the idea of saving wheat with a poster campaign that had a sword on it with a sheaf of wheat imposed on it. Next to the sword was “Don’t ask for bread unless you really want it.” And the public was urged to “join the crusade against (the) waste of bread”. Newspapers reported cases where people were sent to magistrates courts for wasting bread:

“Miss XYZ of Herts was fined a total of £10 with £2 costs at Barnet today for permitting bread to be wasted. Her servant was fined 5 shillings for wasting bread. It was stated that the servant was twice seen throwing bread to the birds in the garden and when Miss XYZ was interviewed she admitted that bread was put out every day. “I cannot see the birds starve”, she said.”

From the ‘Bristol Evening Post’ (January 1943)

A government wartime rhyme was:

“Pat-a-loaf, pat-a-loaf, Baker’s Man
Bake me some Wheatmeal, As fast as you can:
It builds up my health, And its taste is good,
I find that I like, Eating just what I should.”

Along with other foodstuffs, the government constantly warned people not to waste food. One of the more effective posters for this message stated “A clear plate means a clear conscience”. Therefore, while the wheatmeal loaf was seen as “nasty, dirty, coarse, dark and indigestible” people put up with it as it was viewed as being better than nothing. Recipe on the recipe page.

No wonder the ladeez could fit into tiny-waisted dresses. I had fun spotting all the items I have been collecting over the years from the 50s – 70s.

A cold is an irritating thing at the best of times let alone if you’re a singer and even more so if you have a gig, a gig that you do once a year. it came on a week before then decided so stay so I did as little speaking as possible and the only practice I did went on in my head and with only positive thoughts and more stress than usual we made our way to Ronnie’s the morning of the gig. Saturday afternoon I had been lying on the settee watching James Stewart star in The Glenn Miller Story from 1954, setting myself in the right era and marvelling at Louis Armstrong and Gene Krupa on the screen. I spoke about this on the stage saying to Freddie, “Have you seen the Glenn Miller Story – it’s got Louis Armstrong in it?” He said, “No, but I’ve seen Ed Miliband!” Very funny! I like someone up front joining in the banter and for his first outing was a joy to listen to.

I do this thing where I sing a ‘C’ to see if there is anything there. Quite often this week there was nothing although I could still speak. I did the note in the morning and was pleased to hear it was there and glad that our gig was at lunchtime as it had been weakening as the day went on. We had arranged a rehearsal as we had two new players to the stage: trumpeter Freddie Gavita and pianist Arthur Lea. Poor Spencer’s (bass) flight had been delayed from Portugal and then there was no Stansted express so he caught a coach back to London. He had been playing with singer/pianist Anthony Strong.

All practiced I laid out my three birthday cakes: lemon drizzle, coffee and walnut and Victoria sponge with home-made lemon curd and cream and went off to change.



I had been trawling around as I always do, for suitable 50s dresses and at The Wardrobe in Hastings’ Old Town I found a beautiful three-piece 50s wedding outfit – lilac with strapless dress, bolero jacket and veil. It reminded me of Doris’ wedding dress as Calamity. I didn’t wear the veil – I wore a purple flower instead. So that was my first outfit. The second was a dress I hadn’t worn for years, in fact the last time I wore it was for the semi-finals of the 1999 Perrier Jazz awards at the 606 Club in Chelsea sans full skirt that ties around my waist; such a beautiful jade green. I got out my trusty yellow number for the cake giving to go with the general lemon theme of the day.

On a personal level it was nice to see my lovely friend Claire Weeks in attendance with her sons Max and Jonah – all up from Westbay. Claire and I always loved singing together at school, recorded our first song together, did hospital radio together including our own jingles and she has her own
a cappella group Ladies of the Lawn down Dorset way.

During the show I test the knowledge of the audience and there were fans aplenty. I don’t think anyone has ever known the name of the soap in The Thrill of it All before. The focus as always was light and positive – after-all it was a celebration!

I always say it but it is such a pleasure to talk to people after and give out cake and hear about how cherished Doris is as an artist and a person. One attendee said it was her 70th and had always wanted to come to Ronnie Scott’s. One gent said it was his birthday surprise and he has been a huge Doris fan all his life – with pictures all around his house so was delighted to be here listening to the music of Doris Day with his lovely family. Another said that his favourite Doris and in fact album of all time is Doris’ Duet album with Andre Previn – YES! The loveliest comment I received today was, “Your voice was so clear, I could hear every single note.” That meant a lot – thanks. Arthur Lea on piano was a fantastic new addition to the group, his playing was superb and it was nice to meet his parents who were watching as was Simon Pearson’s and wife Sally. Freddie was our new trumpeter and he proved to have good wit on stage

I arrived home two hours later and could only croak. The following day nothing.

Thanks to Charlie for the great sound, Erminia for the review and to Carl Hyde for the wonderful photos as usual!