Author Paul Rance's website

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Made in Luton by Paul Rance (Extract)

Made in Luton by Paul Rance is available at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon sites worldwide in paperback, hardback and Kindle format

Made in Luton Page on paulrance.com; Extracts from Paul Rance's book, Made in Luton

Chapter One - In the Beginning (Extract)

It's always irritated me when people criticise Luton - I suspect most of the critics never travelled past the train station. So, their loss. As they never got the chance to see Galley and Warden Hills, Dallow Downs and Winsdon Hill, Bradgers Hill, Wardown Park and Stockwood Park. Even when I was in the womb the critics were, no doubt, turning on something synonymous with the town - Luton Town FC.

In May of 1959 the Hatters, when favourites, lost 2-1 to Nottingham Forest in the FA Cup final. It was a final notable for quite a few things. Elton John's cousin, Roy Dwight, scored one of Forest's goals and broke his leg. While Forest fans sang the theme tune of the popular Robin Hood television series; and consequently started a trend for the diverse variety of songs and chants that exploded onto British football terraces in the 1960s and 1970s.

Oblivious of events at Wembley I was still 6 months away from making my grand entrance into the world in Luton & Dunstable Hospital on November 16th. I was a Caesarean. As in keeping with my difficult nature, I wasn't going to make things easy for my dear Mother.

My first family home was Laburnum Grove, Warden Hill and the first few years of my life were certainly happy. Lovely parents Thelma and Peter, lovely pets. Our male tabby cat Whisky was already in the family, having pre-dated me by being brought to the Grove in the second half of 1958 as a kitten. My male white rabbit Candy would be joining us in the second half of 1964.

Dad was a hands-on father, changing nappies, for instance, along with my Mother. I was baptised at Luton Parish Church on February 28th, 1960. A few years later I would attend Warden Hill Infant School in Grasmere Road, and would walk the few hundred yards to the school and back again after the lessons had finished for the day. Small children seemed to have more freedom then. Cars were also not quite so prevalent, and my parents never had one. The first part of the M1 was opened in 1959 and had been inaugurated at Slip End the previous year.

We lived in a nice semi-detached bungalow, so having a nice home seemed more important than having a nice car. Both of my parents came from working class backgrounds, so they weren't going to spend too much unnecessarily. Bus services were also good in those days, though the town centre was barely three miles away, so it wasn't far to walk to.

Mum started work at 13 - just before her 14th birthday. She had been a seamstress for a Mr. Sugar in the centre of town, and the females on Mum's maternal side had worked in the hat trade going way back. Mr. Sugar was enlightened for the times. He was an employer who, from the 1940s, employed disabled people and had an ethnically diverse group of workers. But sexual assaults, including one on my Mother, were common and would be ignored. A typical comment would be: "He's like that with all the new girls."

Dad saw a lot of the world while he was in the Navy - Australia, South Africa, Japan, Malta, Hong Kong, Singapore (a place so hot apparently that you'd sweat sitting down, though the one time Dad ever suffered from sunstroke was in the UK), New Zealand, and cities such as Naples, Cape Town and Barcelona. He did say that the abuse hurled at the British sailors could be heard some way off before they entered Sydney - he was possibly joking... Dad saw Australia play the West Indies in a Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and remembered a young woman in a bikini on, I presume, Bondi Beach getting into trouble with the police on grounds of indecency - the bikini was still a new thing (invented in the summer of 1946 by French designer Louis RĂ©ard) and some countries took a while not to freak out about it.

Dad would say that Cape Town was a beautiful place, Naples was interesting and that he and his pals cheered on the bull at a bullfight in Barcelona. I did inherit some photos of that grisly event but threw ‘em out in disgust.

But it was Japan that made the biggest impression on Dad and not just because of the gentleness of the pretty geisha girls. He saw the cherry blossom out in the spring and visited Hiroshima in 1951. This was just six years after it had been annihilated by the Americans in the first-ever nuclear attack on a city. The solitary building standing, named the A-Bomb Dome, and the memorial for the well over 100,000 killed - not including all the non-human life that was also incinerated - must have made a big impression on my Father who was in his early 20s at the time. Then the Americans did the same to Nagasaki shortly afterwards. Those of us born after the War, right up until when Mikhail Gorbachev became President of the then USSR, had lived in the shadow of possible nuclear war, but, in truth, it didn't dominate our lives. Lots of other bad things could happen, of course.

After leaving the Navy in the mid-1950s and serving in the Korean War, Dad, who had become a qualified electrician in the Navy, worked at Vauxhall for many years and at the engineering firm, George Kent, in Biscot Road where my maternal Grandad had also worked. In the late 1950s Dad had worked with some of the first computers to appear in the UK at Vauxhall. My Father could have gone to university and delayed his National Service, but, after his Dad Alfred had died when he was 14, Dad felt compelled to earn some money to send back home.

As a child Dad had lived in Midland Road in High Town and near the train station. Not a great location to live during the War, as the train station was targeted by German bombers. Dad once made a grim discovery nearby (he also witnessed fatal accidents more than once in his life) which I'll spare you from, but there was some dark humour when he was once about to eat a sausage when the power of a nearby (bomb) explosion blasted the sausage off his plate. Further south, of course, things were very bad. Dad would recall, when living at Midland Road (which was built on a hill), that he'd look into the distance and see a red glow - when the Blitz in London was at its worst.

I'm doubtful if there were wild celebrations at the end of the War by the Rance family. There would have been relief that my Uncle George got back safely from the campaign in Africa, but Dad had lost his Father. He died in January 1945 following a heart attack.

Dad seemed to enjoy his time at Hitchin Road School and would say that he was best pals with future Luton Town footballer Terry Kelly. Terry was Syd Owen's understudy.

My Dad would say a lot of things to me when I was young that I didn't believe at the time, like the guy called Frankie Soo who played for Luton. Frankie indeed did play for Luton and represent England in wartime internationals. Frankie is still the only oriental to play for England I believe. My Dad also said he knew Sean Connery in the Navy, and that Sean just wanted to get home. Again, I didn't really believe my Father, but I later learnt that Sean had been in the Navy...

Though, I did believe my Dad when he said that he saw Gracie Fields in Capri, met Princess Margaret and the future queen, but then merely Princess Elizabeth. Dad liked to think that Princess Margaret took a shine to him. The attractive actress Barbara Murray did (she of the Fairy Liquid ads), Dad reckoned, when he worked as a teenager behind the scenes at a theatre in Luton.

Then there was Dad's story of playing hockey against the Wrens. The ladies didn't go easy on the poor lads, and a few injuries ensued apparently from busy hockey sticks.

Dad was a tough guy, but then one day he crumbled and the tears flowed. I loved him for that, because that would have been very difficult for him, as it is for anyone who gets called the rock of the family. They're not meant to crumble, are they? Dad was never quite the same again, and he would not be so reticent about showing this side of himself again.

Not too far from Midland Road, and after the War, Diana Dors was a barmaid at the Rabbit (which later became the English Rose), Old Bedford Road, Luton, as Diana's father-in-law, Stanley Gittins, was the landlord of the pub. His son was Dennis Hamilton, who was Diana's first husband. My parents would mention the wild parties actress Diana would host - not that they were present, I'm sure.

Around this time, the Luton Sack Murder of the 1940s shocked Lutonians, and my parents remembered seeing grim images of the murder victim, Caroline Manton.

Made in Luton by Paul Rance; Kindle cover
Made in Luton Kindle cover

Monday, July 03, 2023

Photos of Swans and Cygnets in Spalding, Lincolnshire

A collection of photos of swans and cygnets in Spalding, Lincolnshire. Photographed by Paul Rance on June 22nd, 2023. 




Grace on the River Welland



"Follow me, kids!"




Copyright © 2023 Paul Rance

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Peterborough Cathedral's Hedda Stone - Photos by Francesca Heaney

The Hedda Stone is one of the most important items in Peterborough Cathedral. Created in the 9th Century, there is much conjecture regarding who the twelve characters depicted on the Stone actually are. But, there is no doubt that the Hedda Stone has religious significance, whether the figures on the Stone immortalise murdered monks during a Viking raid, or include Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

These photographs, reproduced here with permission, were taken by Francesca Heaney, daughter of esteemed history professors Helli and Dorothy Koenigsberger. 


Click on an image to enlarge.

















Bottom photo. Writer Paul Rance and Peterborough Cathedral guide Peter Larke (far right) studying the images on the Hedda Stone.



Photos © Francesca Heaney

Wednesday, September 07, 2022

Dinosaurs in the Cathedral: Peterborough Cathedral Hosts the Iconic Giants of Our Past

The animatronic dinosaur exhibition inside the magnificent setting of Peterborough Cathedral did not disappoint. Amidst the terror of seeing a moving T. rex close up, the guy with the little arms (you can tell him/her as I won't...) wasn't the only star of the show. Ankylosaurus, Tenontosaurus, Sauronitholestes, Deinonychus, Edmontosaurus and Dromaeosaurus were among some of the other dinosaurs wowing small children and adults alike. While the dinosaur babies on display were undeniably cute, with some even seen to be hatching.

Entitled T. Rex: The Killer Question, the exhibition happened to end the day my friend Francesca Heaney and I visited last Saturday. Over the course of the near 7 weeks the exhibition ran some 50,000 visitors came to be awed by creatures that continue to fascinate. One little boy exclaimed on seeing a T. rex: "A beautiful dinosaur!" Beauty wasn't really one of Rexy's attributes, but I loved the child's sense of wonder.

With nine animatronic dinosaurs, and some static ones too, plus skeletons, bones and skulls all supplied by the Natural History Museum in London, one wonders what Catherine of Aragon, who lies in the Cathedral, would have made of the roaring dinos. I'm sure ex-hubby Henry VIII would have given a T. rex a good meal.

A terrified Paul Rance evades a T. rex just in the nick of time
Photo © Francesca Heaney

Paul Rance and Francesca Heaney outside Peterborough Cathedral
Photo © Francesca Heaney

Edmontosaurus babies hatching
Photo © Paul Rance

Don't look behind you, Ankylosaurus!
Photo © Paul Rance

A sweet Edmontosaurus curious about her new temporary home
Photo © Paul Rance

A cheerful T. rex
Photo © Paul Rance


Links of interest 




Available from Amazon UK (click on the image below to reach the relevant page): First Dinosaur Encyclopedia: A First Reference Book for Children (DK First Reference) Paperback 

 

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Art Advice for Beginners

There's no need to be afraid of drawing. A pencil and a piece of paper can't harm you! So, if you are nervous about drawing, take heart and read on.

A lot of people do think that they can't draw. It can be down to something which was said to them at school, or just something they believe because it's so long since they did actually draw, and have forgotten the skills they may have had.

It is important to realise that nobody is telling you to draw and then show relatives and friends your early efforts. If you are going to feel stressed at feeling that you have to draw to please other people, then please think again. All you really should be concerning yourself with is getting something down on paper when you are beginning.

You'll need to get a sketchbook, and a quality pencil, and in the sketchbook you can draw or sketch whatever you want to. If you are a beginner, you are better off working with photos, but if you feel confident enough to go out in the fresh air and sketch or draw a tree, or an idyllic scene, then that's perfectly okay. The more you draw, the better you will become, and you shouldn't really be worried about whether your work is brilliant or not at such an early stage. This early stage should be about enjoyment more than anything else. You'll learn more if you're enjoying what you're doing.

Think about what you love to draw, and experiment with rough sketches of the image or images that you want to capture. Don't get frustrated if you can't get the sketches right quickly. This is really early practice, and you should be having fun, and by learning in a step-by-step way. you will actually learn from your mistakes, and these early sketches will sharpen your skills.

As you progress, you will gain the confidence to become more elaborate with your drawing. You should begin with sketches, then try more studied drawings, but drawings lacking fine detail. Once you are skilled in sketching and preliminary style drawings, then you should attempt to draw in more detail.

Draw because you want to, and it's up to you what you do with your work, who you show it to - if anyone. Enjoy it, and don't take it too seriously. You never know, though, you may become so good that you'll want to shout about your talent from the rooftops!

Here's one of my old drawings and links to some of my work. 


Art by Paul Rance

Illustrations from my environmental novel From Ecocide to Eden on these two pages below.

Paul Rance's Blog: Some of the Illustrations from the Environmental Novel From Ecocide to Eden by Paul Rance (booksmusicfilmstv.blogspot.com)

From Ecocide to Eden by Paul Rance; Chapter One and Illustrations of Some of the Main Characters


Monday, August 15, 2022

Freya the Walrus: Another Victim of Man's Arrogance and Cruelty

The killing of Freya the Walrus in Norway is typical of man’s arrogance and nastiness. Anything that gets in the way has to be killed. The same was true of Geronimo the Alpaca last year, when the cold George Eustice (a Conservative that encapsulates the unpleasantness that pervades his party) and the lacklustre Labour leader Keir Starmer both thought that killing Geronimo was the right thing to do. 

So, animal lovers like me witnessed on social media videos of dreadful barbarism as Geronimo was brutally dragged away to his death. Not a squeak from Eustice or Starmer about animal cruelty - or triggering depression issues for those of us with a soul. While the police showed whose side they were on. The state - as always.

People who care passionately about animals should ask themselves why should they vote for political parties that don’t value the lives of animals. But millions will still vote for men and women who only care about power. 


Paul Rance wearing a Geronimo Forever t-shirt

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Pea-Leaf Weevil Climbing a Pinky

"Come on little fella you can do it!" Which indeed he/she did, as the summit was reached shortly after this photo was taken. It's worth looking at macro images of pea-leaf weevils as they have the face of a cute animal.





 


Copyright © 2022 Paul Rance

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Peterborough 30 Days Wild Swanfest

I love swans and I photographed these guys by the River Nene in Peterborough as part of 30 Days Wild last month. One guy looked particularly menacing as I had no food...









Copyright © 2022 Paul Rance

Thursday, June 23, 2022

30 Days Wild 2022

With so much bad news around in recent years it's nice to get out and lose oneself in the beauty of nature. Thanks to the Wildlife Trusts for encouraging people to make June 30 Days Wild month. The hashtag #30DaysWild on various social media sites will open up some great photos and videos that people have uploaded from all over the UK.

Click on the photos below to see them enlarged.

A bee embracing a flower in Crowland, Lincs during 30 Days Wild 2022

Water lily, Crowland


This dog rose in Crowland has some small visitors...


A small tortoiseshell butterfly enjoying life by the River Welland, Crowland



Copyright © 2022 Paul Rance

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Family Tragedies from Made in Luton

Made in Luton Page on paulrance.com; Extracts from Paul Rance's book, Made in Luton

I'm currently working on a book, provisionally entitled Made in Luton, about growing up in Luton from the early '60s to when I left the town in 1983. But the book won't just be about me. It will look into my roots, and the culture, events and environment that shaped me. Looking into my roots there were a lot of tragedies in my family, and here's an extract from what will probably end up in the finished book.

Family Tragedies

Some of the names of my Great-Grandmothers could have been the names of characters in a Jane Austen novel: Caroline Foxlee, Tabitha Tompkins, Rosanna Dollimore, Hannah Bedford, Sarah Pepper, Sarah Goldthorp, Sophia Williams. But tragedies seemed all too frequent for my ancestors. My second Great-Grandmother Caroline Foxlee's Father Job died after falling off a haycart.

While one of the hardest things to deal with looking into the family history is coming across the distressing number of infant deaths. My Great-Greatparents x 5 Joseph Bedford and his wife Susannah lost a son called Joseph in 1773, when he was just a baby. In 1776 they had another son called Joseph (it seemed a custom to give a later child the same name of a child who had died young). He also died when just a baby.

My fifth Great-Grandmother Lucy Carter died during childbirth in 1790. Her husband George Doggett was a yeoman, so they were a middle class couple, and probably had a comfortable life up to that point.

My first cousin four times removed, Mary Williams Gascoigne, was married and had her first child before she was 17. Both Mary and her husband, James Olney, died in their 30s.

The family of William Doggett (my second Great-Granduncle) certainly endured their fair share of tragedies. William who, when 22, married 19-year-old Hannah Sutton in Clophill in 1866, died in a well. Though it was never established whether William’s death was suicide or not. One can imagine the impact on his wife and their 16 children.

William’s son John was killed in the First World War. He was 42, and was an example that not all British WWI soldiers were young men. John, brought up in Clophill, had been living with his wife Frances Swann and their five children in Derbyshire, where he worked as a coal miner.


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Happy 80th Birthday Paul McCartney - the Greatest Living Englishman

It's not just all the great songs Paul McCartney has written (more than any other British composer) that make him, in my opinion, the greatest living Englishman. As one of The Beatles, Paul had a massive cultural influence in the 1960s, whether it be music, fashion, or encouraging people to appreciate art through The Beatles album covers of Klaus Voormann (Revolver), Peter Blake and Jann Haworth (Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band).

In addition, Paul's support of animal rights has encouraged people to be more compassionate. It seems then that love being a common theme in the music of The Beatles is no coincidence. 

Here's a piece I wrote about Paul McCartney a few years ago, and this page also features an appreciation of Paul McCartney by Andy Savage written in 1988.

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Photos of Nature in Crowland, Lincolnshire by Paul Rance

I wasn't expecting to see so many swans in Crowland today. Chuffed to capture these two flying over the River Welland, and the damselfly that posed for me. Plenty of buttercups out too, and here's just a few.

Swans flying over the River Welland in Crowland


Damselfly just chilling


Buttercups




Copyright © 2022 Paul Rance

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Some Old Articles

I'm currently working on putting some old articles online. You'll find a list of them here. There'll be a wide variety of subjects to read, including a brief history of aerial photography, the mystery of Atlantis and a brief appreciation of Doctor Who.

Top of the Pops Blog by Angelo; Top of the Pops CD Compilation

Brotherhood of Man may or may not have dedicated a song to him, but Angelo's Top of the Pops blog is a labour of love, and details repeated episodes on BBC4 of the popular TV chart show. Angelo must also have a strong stomach, as amidst the good stuff there's a lot of dross that would reduce lesser men to mush. The comments are interesting too.

https://angelogravity.blogspot.com/

Also...

Amazon UK are selling an interesting three disc box set of hits that featured on Top of the Pops from 1975 to 1979. 1975 was the year that I really got into music, and so this box set contains a lot of songs I remember liking at the time - Sailor's A Glass of Champagne, Roxy Music's Love Is the Drug, Jim Capaldi's Love Hurts, even The Stylistics Can't Give You Anything (But My Love). While 10cc's I'm Not in Love got me heavily into their music. 

Top of the Pops 1975-1979 is a good compilation of songs from this period, but it would have been better to have had the songs in some kind of chronological order.

Top Of The Pops 1975-1979

Track Listings from the first disc

1 M / Pop Muzik
2 Roxy Music / Love Is The Drug
3 Sailor / Glass Of Champagne
4 Abba / Mamma Mia
5 The Buggles / Video Killed The Radio Star
6 Squeeze /Cool For Cats
7 Siouxsie & The Banshees / Hong Kong Garden
8 The Stranglers / No More Heroes
9 Sparks Get In The Swing
10 Joe Jackson / Is She Really Going Out With Him?
11 Bay City Rollers / Bye Bye Baby
12 Status Quo / Rockin' All Over The World
13 Thin Lizzy / The Boys Are Back In Town
14 Jim Capaldi / Love Hurts
15 Mud / Oh Boy
16 Elkie Brooks / Pearl's A Singer
17 Boney M / Rivers Of Babylon
18 Mike Oldfield / In Dulce Jubilo
19 10CC / I'm Not In Love
20 Kate Bush / Wuthering Heights


Click on the image below to see more details at Amazon UK.


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Birds Photographed in Crowland by Paul Rance

 

A screenshot of some of the Crowland birds I've photographed. See bigger images of some of 'em here.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Some of the Illustrations from the Environmental Novel From Ecocide to Eden by Paul Rance

Some of the illustrations of the characters from my upcoming adult fairytale for the climate conscious (but not for the squeamish) - From Ecocide to Eden

Available as an ebook from January 29th on Amazon. You can see more illustrations from my environmental novel, and read the first chapter here.


Brutewulf
Marcus the Mole
Klar the Kestrel
Ferdinand the Frog

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Peace & Freedom Spring 2020 Climate Change, Nature Special Paperback

Peace & Freedom Spring 2020 - Paperback (also available in Kindle)

Climate change, nature special 

Poetry by the likes of Nancy L. Dahl, Dorothy Koenigsberger, Francesca Heaney, Jane Foulger, Janine Booth, Cardinal Cox, Sylvia Maclagan, Vivien Foster, Wendy Webb, Phil Knight, Keith Murdoch and Paul Rance.


Click on the image to purchase from Amazon.co.uk


Thursday, May 07, 2020

Google Cricket Game Personal Bests

Probably never going to have such a great day again playing the Google cricket game - two highest scores in consecutive innings (210 and 113 - only two innings of the day). Heard that someone scored over 800 in an innings, though I choose not to believe that, as that snail bowler is relentless.