Celebrating The Life Of…Roy Castle

What do you want out of life? What is success? The answer’s are much clearer once you are told life’s just about over. The simple, loving, caring things then score heavily, and the greed, selfishness and ego become millstones.’

‘What do you want out of life? What is success? The answer’s are much clearer once you are told life’s just about over. The simple, loving, caring things then score heavily, and the greed, selfishness and ego become millstones.’ – Roy Castle

Roy Castle was born 31st August 1932, in Holmfirth, near Huddersfield. His mum had always wanted to go into show business and saw Roy as her second chance by proxy. At the age of three, he was singing in concerts. When he was twelve, he toured with a variety group, and at one venue, was paid in marmite sandwhiches. At fourteen, he did regular bookings at The Queen’s Theatre, Cleveleys, near Blackpool.

Impressed by Frank Sinatra, Roy became a ballad singer. He joined a musical trio, playing trumpet and high hat cymbal with the Ramble Band Wagon.

He got his own five minute solo spot with Jimmy Clitheroe and two spots with Jimmy James playing the Singing Skunk Trapper for eleven weeks.

He worked on the same bill as Dickie Valentine and was offered a seven minute solo and a four minute duet with Dickie in a show called ‘Saturday Spectacular.’

After that, doors began to open and he was offered a spot in a two week variety bill at the Prince Of Wales Theatre in the West End. Soon he was mixing with the cream of the British entertainment industry of the time, including Eartha Kitt, Pat Boone, Harry Seacombe, Bruce Forsyth, Max Bygraves and Norman Wisdom.

His impressions of Elvis’s three chord trick along with gyrating hips, made the Duke of Edinburgh laugh out loud. He said that this was the moment which catapulted him to the big time. He was asked to do an encore, to The Queen, The Duke and the audience. He was besieged by journalists afterwards, and by Eartha Kitt, who planted a kiss on his cheek.

Landcroft House: People You Didn't Know Were Great Mates With Roy Castle  From Record Breakers: 1

He was booked for another T.V series and revue show, also for a summer season with Tommy Cooper and panto with Harry Seacombe. He got an invitation to go to New York and guest on the Garry Moore Show, ‘playing trumpet with a little bit of comedy.’ He was to appear on the show forty two times.

Back home, Eric Morecambe, set him up on a date with a young lady called Fiona, who was to become his wife. He began his family. First up, a son called Daniel, with Eric Morecambe as godfather.

He spend the next few years, booked up with dates, either in England, or the U.S.A, from nightclubs near Sheffield, to nine weeks on Broadway starring in Pickwick.

Fiona had two more children and Roy starred in his one and only ‘Carry On Film’, ‘Carry On Up the Kyber

He took bookings on cruise ships, and after another child, Fiona battled with post natal depression. Roy was working away so much, which led to problems within the marriage. He developed a drinking problem and the couple were close to splitting up but they became Christians and they found that their marriage was also saved.

It was 25 years ago today that Roy... - Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation |  Facebook

Roy said, ‘I have met people who say, ‘I’ve been too wicked, too stupid. God would never accept me. Wrong.’

‘A genuine desire to turn away from evil and selfishness, and all the other garbage on offer, is accepted with open arms.’

Fiona and Roy got back on track and harmony returned to the family. He battled the booze for a while but was finally able to give it up. He said, ‘I can now identify with all the other people who found themselves struggling with addiction and sympathize with anyone going through the trauma of drying out.’

His career meanwhile went from strength to strength. He was on Blue Peter regulary and claims to be the only person on a live show, to have been bitten by Shep, during the performance.

At that time, Alan Russell was looking for a presenter for a new show for Children’s T.V. Someone who was a jack of all trades and didn’t mind looking a fool. He instantly turned to Roy. His words, not mine!

In 1972, the first ever Guinness Book of Records aired. Roy experienced many strange record breakers in this series, including someone singing in a bath in Times Square for hours on end, to cherry spitting championships. He broke several records on his own show, including one at Blackpool Tower.

Daniel, his eldest son, suffered a serious fall off a cliff when he was fifteen, and fell into a coma. Roy prayed with his church fervently and held night vigils. Daniel came out of his coma and made a full recovery. What Roy hadn’t known beforehand, was that a huge Christian gathering called Greenbelt, sixteen thousand in all, had prayed for Daniel.

Roy appeared in a play at the Shaftesbury Theatre in a play called ‘Big Bad Mouse’, replacing Eric Sykes, while also doing panto and summer season at the Palladium. He also replaced Michael Crawford, taking over the lead in ‘Billy’ at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Then onto starring in a musical called Mr. Polly in 1977. Roy also performed in ‘Singing in the Rain’ at the Palladium, alongside Tommy Steele, notching up 896 performances over two years.

In January 1992, Roy started to get terrible migraines and felt like he was suffocating. He was given a brain scan. After a battery of tests, he saw a radiologist and had a chest x ray. The doctor asked him if he smoked. ‘Never,’ Roy replied, but he had worked most of his life, in a lot of very smoky atmospheres. Then the doctor muttered, ‘Big in America now, passive smoking.’ After a bronchoscopy, it was revealed there were extremely virulent cancer cells known as oat cells in his lungs. The doctor concluded that he had a classic example of what was known as passive smoking, an inhalation of other people’s smoke.

When he wasn’t ill from the chemotherapy, Roy kept doing charity work, and in June 1992, he was voted ‘Man Of The Year’ receiving an award from the institute of entertainment and Arts Management for ‘Outstanding Service to the Entertainment Industry’. Also, there was an award from ASH and the British Heart Foundation for his ‘Outstanding Achievement in the Campaign Against Smoking’

The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation were holding their ‘People of the Year Award’ and Roy was a nominee but he had a bit of a dilemma. Baroness Thatcher would be at the event and she had signed with Philip Morris, the tobacco magnates, for which she would receive a great deal of money. Roy didn’t want to meet her, in his current circumstances, and he thought a confrontation would be selfish and spoil the event, so when it came time to meet and greet with the former Prime Minister, he ducked out of the line and lost himself in the crowd.

The headlines the next day screamed, ‘Roy Castle Snubs Margaret Thatcher’

He received an OBE from the Queen the following February.

He was baptized on Sunday 20th March, under duress! He said he didn’t like rituals just to please other people and felt that he and God ‘had a perfectly good understanding without making a public display’, but the baptism turned out to be ‘beautifully simple’.

And just to reiterate, because it’s important, ‘What do you want out of life? What is success? The answer’s are much clearer once you are told life’s just about over. The simple, loving, caring things then score heavily, and the greed, selfishness and ego become millstones.’

Remembering Roy - Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Roy had an amazing sense of humour and was self depreciating. He said, ‘They say that when you’re dying, your life flashes by in front of your eyes. I’ve had to rewind mine three times. I feel I’m taking longer to die then James Cagney on the cathedral steps.’

Roy didn’t live long enough to see his autobiography published.

In January 1994, Roy lent his name to an appeal to raise funds for the world’s first centre of Excellence to research lung cancer. His widow, Fiona, took up where he left off, in order that future generations should not suffer the effects of this terrible disease. She said his final words on the BBC TV programme ‘Fighting Back’ will continue to ring in her ears. ‘Don’t whine-laugh!’

I Thought It Was The End

I’m at the cinema and the movie is on, but when I look down, the popcorn is gone. People are leaving, the seats are all tipped, the soda and cola haven’t been sipped.

Wait, I was dreaming, fell asleep you see, I don’t like thrillers, bore the pants off me. The film went on, forever it seemed, but I quite liked to think

it was the end

in my dreams.

And then I went home to find kitten at play, with a ball of wool she’d had her eye on all day. The unravelled thread, I followed along, ‘soft, strong and very, very long’.

Out in the garden, the wool did extend. It was just the beginning but I thought it was the end. While tracking the string, U.F.O fleet I spy, orange and red, in indigo sky. Aliens fly to me, with guns all aglow,

the end is nigh, they say,

in their own lingo.

It’s war of the worlds, army from the stars, thought my number was up, invasion from Mars. I thought it was the end, intergalatic death ray?


It’s just the World Firework Championship Display

Beaver or Diva?

I overheard a conversation on the tram this week between a man and woman. This is how it went:




MAN: (MUCH LOUDER) A beaver?


MAN: (VERY LOUD) What’s a diva?



Me yesterday

blonde 1

Me today

444_IMG_20180802_185658brighter tartan pic

It’s the Blackpool Punk Festival.

Rebellion Festival Blackpool 2018

Interesting, exciting and intriguing four day event with a great atmosphere. I hang out but I don’t go to the ‘festival’. It attracts a lot of Europeans, including Dutch and German punks. They are all sweet and lovely and polite. A lot of local punks don’t go to the festival, they just hang out by St. John’s Church or around the Winter Gardens. People want to bond or socialise or relate with like minded people. I had a chance to see P.I.L who are headlining on Sunday but I turned it down. Why would I want to see John Lydon in the flesh? He would only disappoint me. I have no interest in seeing my ‘heroes’, I would feel that it would be a let down in some way. I had a chance to see Theatre Of Hate tonight, but I have C.D’s and videos of them.  Plus I’ve seen Kirk Brandon before. I don’t really get the ‘live’ thing. I just don’t get it. If I could have a decent, lively, intelligent conversation with these people instead, then I’d prefer that. What I’m concerned about though, is the young punks who are so drunk (by 9 p.m) that they can’t walk straight and are dropping their money and hairspray and lighters….and I’m wondering how they are going to get through the night.  And I worry about them. I suppose I’m getting old and mothery.

There was one guy tonight and his mohican was very flaccid. He staggered over to the glass window of a shop (one of those behind me in the picture) He used it as a mirror and put hairspray on and kept dropping it. He was very drunk. He looked over at me once or twice and I wish I’d have just gone over and helped him put his hair up and sent him on his way. I really regret that because he was all alone and seemed a bit vulnerable. I hate it when I wish I’d helped people and didn’t because I dithered or procrastinated or was too slow.

Oh, well, there’s always tomorrow.

Wall To Wall Punks

Last Thursday started the long weekend of the Rebellion Punk Festival in Blackpool.

It was four days of the best and worst of punk rock music and all it entailed, mohican haircuts, rainbow and (these days) pastel hair colours, studs, tartan, bondage trousers, leather jackets, firm hold hairspray (actually, hairspray is a misnomer, soap, sugar and water and lemon curd are the only things that will make that mohican stand up straight and for a decent time. Maybe glue for the more hard core. Regardless, they all contribute to the The Viagra of the Hair World).

I was there myself, for as long as I could hold out, with a smidgen of blue hair, just to observe and take in the ambience, draped with enough chains and studs to weigh me down to the nearest pub or free live event.

I was never one to go around in a ‘pack’ of punks and could never understand why such an movement, geared to individualism and uniqueness, went around in tribal groups, like a bunch of sheep, all dressed the same, in identical leather jackets. I never had a friend who dressed like me, to help breed the hypocrisy of the uniform and the pack mentality. You’re either an individual or you’re not. You either go it alone or you don’t. As a lone punk, you become a paradox and a truth. As a teenage female punk walking down the street, alone, I would get heaps more abuse than say, a gang of gelled up juveniles with blonde mohawks doing the same thing. No friends to back you up you see, to snarl for you, as it were. The lone sheep is always going to be subject to violence and attack, whether they are a punk, or a hippie, or a metal head, or someone who is dressed in polyester jersey and unfashionable flares, or maybe even just a nice cardie.

Nothing changes. Last weekend, I hung out, around the punk festival, but not at the punk festival, with people who think punk is a) what Clint Eastwood would deem a criminal element b) a snotty nosed whipper-snapper, who needs to get some military training ASAP or c) a piece of wood gone rotten at one end.

To explain, I was, for at least one of those days, with mum and dad. Mum looks upon the whole spectacle quaintly and serenely, enjoys the vibrant tresses, ripped fishnets, Doc Martens and dangerous looking wristbands, says punk people make her happy. When dad heard he was going to be around when the event was in progress, he groaned in resignation, ‘Oh no, I’m 73, I’m too old for this. It’ll be wall to wall punks.’ I like that expression, ‘wall to wall punks’. And that’s what he said when I met and embraced him at the train station, in his suit, tie pin and cufflinks. He said to me, ‘It’s wall to wall punks and I think I’m the only person within three hundred yards wearing a tie.’

‘Now that’s punk.’ I said.

I never went around in a group of punks, a ‘group’ meaning more than one, but like the Greta Garbo of the Johnny Rotten world, I felt isolated at times, alienated. As we congregated, in the square by The Cedar Tavern pub, I thought, we may share the same conical stud belt and crazy colour pigments in our hair, but that’s where the similarity ends. I liked to watch them, as one may like to watch herds of multi coloured wildebeest thundering across the Serengeti that is the Winter Gardens. But I’m a wildebeest too, who has been separated from the herd. I thought I might appreciate, admire these music fans and even get some tips for future dressing, I thought I would enjoy the whole thing from a distance. I thought, punk never died, it just got more pastel.

But then, I changed my mind, the weekend happened…four days…and it was like the best holiday ever. I never got near the Winter Gardens and the actual festival, but it didn’t matter. There was another festival, going on, on the outside, and, on the inside of my mind.

It was all a lesson in social communication. I felt like I belonged. I thought, if I can feel authentic once, I can feel authentic again. I know I can be authentic. Next year, I might actually get a ticket, be a bit rebellious.

I would be happy if I could be punk every day, to dress punk every day and to somehow live it, perhaps with like-minded people. Theatre. Punk. Writing. Music. If I could just incorporate these four things into my life, every day of my life, for the rest of my life, I think I would be happy.

I think everyone has three or four things that will make them happy, if they were pumped in, at the right measure, balanced, varied, those three or four things, interests, hobbies, loves, passions. We all have them. I don’t think it’s just one thing any more. I used to think it was. For me, it was writing, but then, I had the punk passion and the acting passion and I realised it’s usually a combination of a few things and that combination is like a flower arrangement.
It’s the flower arrangement in the vase of the window sill of your life. And then, once we’ve sorted out that part of our lives, we might find the space, energy and incentive to actually do what we were meant to do.

Burger Break Between The Blues

I went to the Jazz and Blues Weekend Festival in Blackpool last weekend held at The Winter Gardens. It was a free event, all for charity and jam packed full of very talented singers, songwriters and musicians. I’m not a jazz fan, I’m more into the blues, and never understood why they heap the two together.  I don’t see the connection, they’re not the least bit alike. Still, I can appreciate and enjoy most kinds of music. My husband, who is not into music per se, and has chronic pain issues, sometimes needs to read to distract from that pain. He sat and read a book on inventions and science for the whole time and got some funny looks from po faced ‘serious’ jazz fans. How can you sit and read while these ‘cool’ musicians do a jazz version of ‘Tainted Love?  It just looked odd to them I suppose. If they had the back story, I’m sure they would have understood.

I’d been listening for jazz for maybe two hours, when I realised I was in need of a bit of fresh air from the seriousness of it all. MACDONALDS, a perfect antidote. I just needed a bit of meat to counteract a Sunday morning hangover, which, unusually, this day, went on until 5 p.m. Ordered two no frills burgers, but was scandalised by the size of the dill pickle, which was about the size of a half penny and you have to be old and British to know what a half penny is. It would make you cry if you were a fan of dill pickle and saw the size of it.

So, burger break and then back to the blues festival and then I realised I had to get back home for role playing at seven. You know, like Dungeons and Dragons, but much better than that, as we’ve moved on from the 80’s stuff, honest, well, some of us have. I wanted to stay at the festival, hadn’t realised how good it was going to be and hadn’t realised it was on until 10p.m.

I had just had my senses assailed by the amazing Mickey Van Gelder and Pat Clarke. Pat Clarke. Oh, what that man can’t do with a harmonica! I wanted to stay so bad, harmonicas aside. However, I knew I had to honour my prior commitments. So, we were watching the wonderful  Lauren Dalrymple, and, embarressingly, had to walk out in the middle of her set, which was at the more intimate Baronial Hall on the Sunday evening.  I thought to myself, if role playing is cancelled, I’ll head straight back into town and hopefully, catch the finale!

We went home and discovered that roleplaying had indeed been cancelled. I got changed, headed back into town and managed to catch the awesome blues finale in the Spanish ballroom. Nick Unlimited were like a heavy bluesy Status Quo, with a bit of Manfred Mann and The Kinks thrown in.

There were kids running around, dancing like crazy, a really full on family atmosphere. I preferred that in some ways to the serious Soul Jazz going on in the other hall, with not a sound, a movement, or a muscle twitch going on. Both atmospheres had their attractions though.

A lot of the musicians, the cream of the festivals crop, went on to a local live jazz/blues/rock nightclub for the after show party. This is when you see passions burst forth with some really good performances. What fascinates me most about these kind of musicians, is the way they flit from instrument to instrument when they are jamming. They sashay from lead guitar, to bass, to keyboard, to percussion. It seems a bit slutty, but you can’t deny their versatility. It’s admirable. The musicians never seem to get drunk, or tired, or want to go home. These guys are really into the music, they feel it, love it and live it.

Blackpool Jazz and Blues Festival 2017 proudly raised funds for Trinity Hospice. 







Beautiful Soul


I saw Burt Lancaster today. He was in the amusement arcade. He even had Burt’s famous smile but without the teeth. He only had a couple of front teeth. It was a toothless smile, but still, he had a beautiful smile and a beautiful soul. Sometimes, I like to observe people, but only people who stand out, by the summer day that is shining through their soul.

When you see someone physically attractive, you can’t stop looking at them. Maybe you’re a deer in the headlights and maybe they’ll catch on and get all big headed and egotistical. Even if you just glance in the direction of a man or woman who knows they’re attractive, they’ll catch on very quickly, and then they’ll get all smug and stupid, but, when their soul is pleasing to you, they are oblivious. That in itself is immensely telling. It’s not physical attractiveness that’s important, but something on a much deeper level. I’m sure others have been frozen in time and feel like they just want to sit in the darkened cinema of life, with that bag of popcorn, just to observe someone’s beautiful soul on the big screen. Coming to a street near you.

Well, for the record, I observed Burt. He was with several people, a woman, three other men and a teenage girl. While the others were taking turns to use the public bathroom, he was laughing along with the girl because she was having so much fun on that dancing game. What’s it called now? It’s big in Japan.

Hang on, I’ll just google…

Oh, Dance Machine. Is that it? I thought it would be something more… I’m  a bit underwhelmed.. Well, if that’s what it is, then that’s what it is. A Dance Machine. 

So, she’s on this dance machine and having fun and Burt is laughing, but mostly smiling…genuine laughter and fun. Laughter can sometimes be a bit maniacal, a bit crazy. We have to be careful with laughter. Unfortunately, there’s a time and a place for laughter. I wish it wasn’t so. Well, this was the time and the place but it was mostly smiling, the benign type, so it’s allowed.

So these guys had rucksacks as well. Signs of a tourist. They were  wearing waterproof coats. The proper expensive ones, not the shower proof ones for £1.99, which can sometimes be a compulsion to buy. Burt was tall, like Burt. Maybe a bit older than we remember him in say,  Trapeze. And maybe he didn’t have the muscles Burt had either.

I wanted to follow him for a tiny bit. Not so that they would ever know, or get uncomfortable. They never know, these beautiful souls, because they are always in another world, the world of the people they’re with. Now that’s sanity. I’m careful not to burst that bubble. 

When I say follow, I mean watch, just to get some of that joy, by osmosis, but it’s never premeditated. It’s always very natural, spontaneous. Spontaneous. me? Ha! My husband just said ‘don’t make me laugh, so that I have a heart attack through laughing’.

So I just watch them go off into their happy world. I watch them leave. They were all blissfully unaware. They never know. They never feel it. They have too much to give. I just observe the beautiful aura that surrounds them. I’m like a rabbit in a headlight and just have to snap out of it. Sometimes, like my friend Mike says, the rabbit needs to be restrained.

Burt was holding a plastic carrier bag. I have a soft spot for people who carry plastic carrier bags, especially if they are the resilient, environmentally friendly ones, the ones that last a lifetime and look a bit worn and are full of stuff. My heart just melts. I’m not sure why. 

So I said to my husband, very seriously. ‘Look, there’s Burt Lancaster’, and of course, he ignored me because he’s known me for twenty years, and because it happens sometimes, not a lot, but enough. It’s not just men. It can be women, animal, vegetable, mineral. If you feel it, you feel it. I’m not even sure if, in real life, the real Burt was a beautiful soul, but the one in the arcade certainly was.

So I watched this lovely little troop leave the arcade. I blessed Burt and his friends/family and wished them a great holiday.