Festival of Britain in Norwich 1951

Taking a break from the writing for a few days to enjoy Christmas with the grandchildren in Surrey. But just this morning the postman brought me something exciting – a programme from the Norwich events held to celebrate the Festival of Britain in June 1951. Wonderful original source material to add authenticity to my account of Joe and his family moving to Norwich and him living in the city around this period.  Some of the advertisements are fabulous – look at the beautiful old buses and the two Norwich hotels, one now gone but the Maids Head is still going strong.  Happy Christmas and a splendid New Year to all my followers….

Programme cover
Programme cover

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Briton Brush Company Wymondham, Norfolk 1930s

My grateful thanks to Richard Fowle of the Wymondham Town Archive for permission to use these two wonderful photos of the factory workers at Briton Brush Company during the 1930s.  Joe’s wife Jean Skitmore worked there for a short while as a young woman before WW2 and once he had been demobbed, Joe took a job there in the Accounts Department.  The biography is coming along – up to 1955 and counting….img002 img013

Suitcase1938 One Year On

Joe Stirling and Cast of Suitcase PressThis time last year it was the 75th Anniversary of the first Kindertransport train arriving in England from Nazi Germany.  Seven months later fourteen year old Gunter Stern escaped Hitler using the same route.  Victor and I took Joe to see a performance of Suitcase1938, an interactive promenade play about the Kinder, in Harwich during late November 1939.  The cast were delighted to meet a real refugee and he really enjoyed his day.  Victor and I then took two of our best friends (Judith’s father was also on the Kindertransport) to see the final performance at Liverpool Street.  This can be now be viewed on their website at http://www.suitcase1938.org or via the youtube link below.  Look out for Victor, me, Judith and her husband David, all singing along at the opening of the piece (1 minute 12 seconds!). It was a wonderful experience on both occasions and the video is well worth a view.

Tea in the Lord Mayor’s Parlour

On Monday 10th November I was privileged to join Joe and members of his family at a Tea Party in honour of his 90th birthday, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Councillor Judith Lubbock.  The Parlour is a beautiful Art Nouveau room with Canadian Maple panelling, her own facilities, a little kitchen and a wonderful view over the Market Place and up to the Castle.

Joe and the Lord Mayor in conversation November 2014
Joe and the Lord Mayor in conversation November 2014

The walls are covered in old paintings of Norwich landmarks.  The Mayor had baked a delicious lemon drizzle cake and some flapjacks, and as ever the tea tasted so much better out of fine porcelain cups.  Joe had a lovely time as patriarch and the conversation was wide reaching.  I am only sorry that my book will not be published while Councillor Lubbock is still Mayor, but with Joe’s long time connections with the City Council, I am trusting that the next Mayor will be as supportive of the project.  It was a lovely afternoon.  Thanks to the Lord Mayor for her hospitality.

News from Nickenich

I am so excited about a new research lead that I have to share it with you straight away!  A week ago Joe received a call out of the blue which led to a flurry of emails between a lovely doctor called Hubert  in north Germany who it turns out was born in Nickenich.  His father, Heinz was in the same school class as Joe and that the two boys were friends.  Hubert’s mother, Maria Becker is now in her eighties but remembers little Günter and his parents well. This morning I received some wonderful old photos from Hubert.  Here is one of his grandfather Peter Saftig (the taller and younger of the two on the mowing machine).  This is from the 1930s.  Apparently Peter would regularly go to the local pub to play Skat, the German national card game, with Günter’s father Alfred, presumably after a long day in the fields or at the Cattle market!  I will not reveal any further touching memories from Nickenich at this stage – I don’t want to spoil the book for you!  But I am exceedingly grateful to Herr Doktor Becker for his generosity in sharing his parents’ memories with me and Joe.Mowing the fields in Nickenich

ARMY PHOTO OF JOE

Today I am looking at Joe’s time in Portsmouth with his wife and new baby.  I found this wonderful photo of Joe as a fresh faced young soldier and thought I would share it with you.  Following Joe’s recent 90th birthday celebrations I have found so many other contacts and photographs – this biography is getting out of hand!  Just today I have sent a collection of photos over to the publisher at Pen and Sword for the cover design despite there still being over a year before publication.  This is certainly proving a learning curve!Private Stirling