Friday, 21 August 2015

CITY OF MUSIC: PART 57


Liverpool has been in the news a lot lately due to one of her most famous daughters returning home to her final resting place. We saw a lot of Cilla Black on the telly in her early days when she was famous for her singing, rather than her appearances on “Blind Date” or “Surprise, Surprise. She really could belt a song out and my all time favourite is “Anyone Who Has a Heart”. Cilla never lost her Scouse accent and yet I’ve never caught a hint of it when she sang. This despite there are those who have been heard to say she laid the accent on a bit with a trowel. If she did then that was most likely because her being a Liverpudlian was so very much part of her persona. Last time I saw her in the flesh was on at the Empire theatre in Lime Street a few years ago when she played the fairy godmother in “Cinderella”. Despite touching seventy as one might expect of a fairy, she flew down onto the stage (on wires, of course), looking extremely glam in a white and sparkly gown. She had come a long way from the young girl who wanted to sing and worked at the Cavern.
     Now I’m not going to go on about Cilla because you’ll have read and seen enough about her life since her unexpected accidental death in Spain. Rather I want to say that it seemed odd to me that Cilla should be so in the news, just as I’d emailed the manuscript of my latest book, (Many A Tear Has to Fall), to my publisher. One of my characters, Monica, sings with a group and appears at the Cavern and is hoping to sign a recording contract with an agent. The year is 1960 and I remember it well. I never set foot in the Cavern myself but my husband went there as a teenager, so he was able to describe it to me. I also have a cousin who later was to work at the Iron Door, a place that never became as famous as the Cavern.
      The Cavern started out as a jazz club and Maggie, the heroine of my story, goes there with a jazz enthusiast who is not all that he seems, but that’s all I’ll say about him at this stage. Music was very much part of my life as a teenager growing up Liverpool, even though I was never at the centre of the music scene. But me and the boyfriend would visit the music stores, Cranes, Hanover Street, Rushworth and Draper’s, Whitechapel, and Nems also on Whitechapel, to buy records or sheet music. At the time I had no idea that Nems was owned by the family of Brian Epstein, who was to become the Beetles’ manager, as well as that of other famous musicians and singers on the Liverpool scene. I was also aware of where the smaller store, Hessy’s was situated near Dale Street, where would be pop stars, bought their instruments. I never passed through its hallowed doorway but only gazed through the window at the guitars, saxophones and other instruments on show. Although both of us had sung in choirs, neither of us ever played an instrument, although John’s mother had a piano in the parlour as did many a household in those days.
    It wasn’t until we were married and much older that John bought his first guitar and taught himself chords and the like, purely just for fun. At one time he even purchased a mandolin. Our two elder sons never showed any real music bent, although Iain was in the school choir and later the church choir. We had to wait until Daniel, son no 3, requested a keyboard for a prezzie one Christmas before discovering that there was some real musical talent in the family. He taught himself, not only to play keyboard but to read and write music. He was eventually to play the organ at St Mark’s Methodist church in Netherton, as well as our local C of E, St Paul’s, Litherland. He even had a go at playing various organs around Merseyside, including the magnificent one at the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral whilst doing an organ course. As well as that he has written the music for several short films written and directed by son No 2, Tim. http://www.timjfrancis.com/slate.html

So where does this love and talent for music come from? I remember whilst doing research for one of my earlier books FRIENDS AND LOVERS reading that it could be due to the number of Welsh and Irish who settled here, as well as Liverpool being a port and so it being a haven for sailors who always enjoy a good tune. If that’s true, then it’s certainly in my family’s blood. Although, I don’t like to discount the part played by the English, Manx, Scots and Norwegian in my ancestry and a whole host of other Liverpudlians who enjoy a good singsong.

P.S.  I noticed this morning that my book MEMORIES ARE MADE OF THIS is selling at the reduced price of £1.78 in ebook format on Amazon.

   

      

   

 

 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Big News! Big News! : Part 56

When I wrote the above title I couldn’t help hearing Cliff Richard singing the song from “Summer Holiday” which came out in 1963 in my head. The film filled me with a desire to go abroad, so fortunately due to my father-in-law having a win of several hundred pounds on the pools that year, John and I were able to spend a fortnight in Majorca for our honeymoon the following year. There was a popular song around then called “Majorca, the Isle of Love.”
But I digress. My big news is that my new website is up at www.junefrancis.com. Alleluia!
   My son Tim has worked like a Trojan getting it done in just over a week. I played my part in typing up all the blurbs from my books, as well as various other items that I hope readers will find interesting. Also I had the task of choosing photographs for the background of the various pages.

   We decided not to go for the obvious when it came to photos by having beautiful shots of the Liver building and the waterfront. Instead we chose other lovely places in Liverpool’s fair city. Such as Newsham Park lake with the Seamen’s Orphanage hidden amongst the trees. The orphanage gets a mention in Flowers on the Mersey, Tilly’s Story and Sunshine and Showers and the park features in several of my books.

    There are also shots of Abercrombie Square gardens as background on the saga pages. A couple of scenes from The Pawnbroker’s Niece took place in the gardens and one of my main characters buys a house in the area. It is now part of Liverpool University and during the Thirties when the book is set there is a scene where students are collecting money for Rag Week. An event which I remember as a teenager during the Fifties. If I remember aright the money went to support local hospitals. 
   There were several members of the Abercrombie family that achieved some fame,  including Sir Ralph Abercrombie who fought in the Napoleonic Wars. 
   On the About June page there is a background photo of a row of merchants houses built during a time when trade made Liverpool affluent for some and resulted in workers from here, there and everywhere flooding into Liverpool seeking their fortune that many sadly did not find, including several of my ancestors. There are also several photographs of me taken at various stages of my life, including one that appeared in the Liverpool Echo in 1949.  
    For my historical novels we decided on a photograph of part of the ruined Ludlow Castle in Shropshire which my husband and I visited when researching The Man Behind the Fa├žade which was set in Tudor times.

Having finished my latest ms Many a Tear has to Fall which is with my agent, I’m hoping to get back to the ms I started writing last year about my family, ancestry and Liverpool history, as well as hopefully have some time away from my desk and enjoy the summer, weather permitting. I’m also hoping to catch up on some reading and have taken up the latest craze of colouring books for adults!