Monday 5 May 2014

Thirties thrills, tunes and tea

Last week was another busy one for me, culminating in a trip to my local seaside resort of Southend for a job interview followed by lunch and a trawl of the charity shops with mater.  Putting aside my career prospects I shall move right along to the post-interview portion of the day, the results of which will be far more exciting and interesting to you, I feel sure!

We began the afternoon with a late lunch; deciding that the the BHS cafe wasn't up to much ("horrendous", I believe mother described the food as looking) we came upon a hitherto-unknown-to-us bistro just opposite and what good fortune it was that we did, for we have now a new favourite refreshment stop in Southend.  The Remedy Tea Shop turned out to be a charming little tea room that had just recently sprung up in the high street and we both enjoyed some very nice sandwiches, paninis and - of course - tea!  The selection of the latter was impressively extensive (albeit wasted on Mum, who - used to plonking a teabag in a mug of boiling water - requested "plain old English [breakfast] please".  But I mustn't talk deprecatingly about her on here, she doesn't like it!).  I must admit my plan to test one of the less common blends backfired on me, however - the "Russian Caravan" Ceylon/Darjeeling/China mix leaning a little to much towards the Darjeeling for my tastes.  I should have stuck to the Assam I know and love!


The place was beautifully decorated and laid out in a manner that perfectly reflected its aim of being "a haven of tranquility" and really was like a traditional English tea room of old.  A well-judged mixture of tables and chairs, armchairs, cabinets and even a fireplace all added to the homely feel of the place.  Highly recommended!

After our enjoyable repast it was ho! for the charity shops.  Sadly for such a large town Southend has surprisingly few such shops - only two on the actual high street.  Fortunately my interview had taken me down one the many side roads that bisect the main thoroughfare and which had two further beneficiary boutiques (not to mention two more restaurants that will require further investigations, Bacchus and Old Hat - the latter of which looked to be just on the verge of opening a vintage shop opposite its main business).  Mother scored a £1 M&S summer shirt for my stepdad in the first store, but the main event was the large Havens Hospice a couple of doors further down.  Occupying fully two shop fronts, one of which was devoted solely to books (like a library, it was!) it was the kind of charity shop one could easily spend half the day in.  The day had almost been and gone by the time we got there, though, so we weren't able to make much of a dent in the place - very unfortunate considering that the other side of the shop had half a wall's worth of CDs, DVDs and... a dozen boxes of 78rpm records at 50p a disc!  As I rifled through the first two baskets I quickly divined that they must have been some old boy's life collection - a mixture of 1930s dance bands and classical compositions from what I could see.  Time was against us, though, so not being able to make a proper selection I went for the alternative - an 8 LP box set The Golden Age of British Dance Bands!

With the hour now well past 4 and both of us needing to get home, I paid the princely sum of £3 for the set and we hot-footed it out into the street - only for me to suddenly realise I'd left my umbrella inside.  Popping back in to grab it I decided to make my way back out through the book department (quicker to the street - honest!) only for something I'd somehow missed the first time to suddenly leap out at me:

How could I have overlooked this - and how would this not be coming home with me when it was priced at a faintly unbelievable £2?!  I fair snatched it off the shelf, dashed to the till (mother was pacing, tight-lipped, outside) and threw the money at the young lad behind the counter.

I didn't get a chance to look at the book more closely nor listen to the LPs until the weekend and I'm pleased to say I'm over the moon with two of the best scores I've had in a long while.  The book in particular is an absolute steal - I think it was wrongly marked by the shop as 1963 when it is quite clearly 1930s (although I do have a habit of mixing up the last two digits of a number when I'm in a hurry, so they may have got it right).  There's no date to be found in it anywhere, but references to "the late King" [George V] and the autogyro pioneer Juan de la Cierva would certainly point to 1936.

Thrills of the Skyways is a real "Boys' Own" affair, published by Dean - the same people who later (re)printed some of the "Biggles" books and although there are none with that name (nor indeed authors' details of any kind) there are several First World War stories in a similar vein and it would not surprise me in the least if W.E. Johns wrote one or two of the articles.

It's a wonderfully evocative book and takes its place as one of the jewels of my collection, up there with my 1933 Modern Boy magazine, 1929 Tit-bits Yearbook and 1938 Power & Speed almanac.  It's written in the positive, effervescent style so typical of one of our favourite decades and provides a fascinating insight into the history of aviation in the 1930s (albeit aimed at young boys - aren't we all young at heart, though?).  There are facts and pictures therein that even I knew nothing about.  I was amazed to see that a Cierva autogyro was fitted with floats and operated successfully from water, for example.  Some of the predictions for the future are grin-inducing too.  Where, I ask, are our floating island landing strips, hmmnn?!

Some predictions were less rosy, though, as the dark clouds of a prospective second war were already looming large judging by the article above.

I will thoroughly enjoy delving into this book while listening to (and converting to mp3!) over 120 of the best toe-tapping Thirties tunes and I can't wait to see (and hear) what further gems both these splendid finds impart.  And I may just have to go back again soon for some of those 78s!


  1. What a great find that book was and I love the illustrations.

  2. WOW! You definitely won at charity shopping there. I'm very envious of those records, I bet there's some splendid stuff on them.

    (I'm with your mater: you can't beat a nice cup of English Breakfast!)

  3. Sounds like my kind of day out! Tea rooms and charity shops, equals a happy day tripper. I agree that book was '30s, and what a splendid haul of music to keep you entertained.

    I'm off on a day out tomorrow (as it's my birthday!) and will be hoping for tea rooms and charity shops myself - I will report back on any good finds, but we're going up Brecon way and it's the unknown!

    P x

  4. That tea place looks right up my street, pity it's so far away!
    It's always nice to get that particular find that makes you want to hug it to your chest and purr, isn't it?


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