Redcoats on Tour - "Doon The Watter" Pt 1

    Original Dunoon Redcoats

     

    Get togethers with any of my Butlins pals are always special occasions as they don’t happen all that often. They usually consist of a fabulous weekend which would include trips down memory lane, some of us would get back into our much loved Red and White uniforms (custom made), maybe do a bit of performing as well.

    It was a few days before Burns Night when the current Mrs Frankie Boy and myself in the car, packed to the rafters, drove along the M8 for another much anticipated Butlins weekend, this time it was “Doon The Watter”. This not a traditional Butlins reunion. The weekend had been in the planning for months.

    Towards the end of last year, the town of Dunoon was starting to like the idea of having Ex Butlins Redcoats around, thanks to the efforts of former Ayr Redcoat friends and colleagues, Jeannie and Andy who had their own spot on the local radio station and were a hit during the switching during last year’s Christmas festivities.

    In January 2016, a number of us ex Reds were invited to join them for a housewarming/Burns Supper weekend “Redcoat Style” where we would partake of a special “Redcoat Detail” which would include a special “Redcoat Show” at a local care home, ending with us finally sitting down and partaking of the “falling down water” and Haggis - of course!

    The town had known of our impending arrival. We were looking forward to meeting up again. I was especially looking forward to our show that Sunday. I had rediscovered my enthusiasm for performing in front of an audience during the as Butlins Reunions in Scarborough and even though it had been a couple of years, it was going to be great doing something again. I had found childhood memories performing as part of a concert party that used to travel around care homes and local clubs and what great audiences they were. And I was looking forward to getting back amongst it again.

    In true Redcoat fashion there was going to be plenty of last minute rehearsing – no pressure. Something that we were used to back in the day when we actually worked in Reds and recently when performing our “Redcoat Show” in Scarborough in 2014 were we had an hour to rehearse a full show. For myself and my good lady there was an added edge to the running order. A few months previously, there was a newspaper article about us doing the show and it was mentioned that amongst our group there was a “semi-professional” ballroom dancing couple. It was only when I went to bed and placed my head on the pillow that evening that it dawned on me that they were talking about us.Scotland Latin American Dance Team 1979

    For newcomers to this blog, I did come from a dancing background. I took up ballroom dancing at the age of eight, which eventually led to me becoming a member of the Scotland Latin American Formation Team that featured on the iconic TV programme, “Come Dancing” as well as appearing in demonstrations around the country as well competing in various sized venues like Mussleburgh’s Brunton Halls to Blackpool’s Winter Gardens and London’s Albert Hall. Even though we were not classified as professionals, we did approach things in a professional manner and it did result in me, as part of my job at Butlins, giving dancing demonstrations. So according to the rule books back then, I ended up as a professional – thirty four years ago.

    I did dust off the cobwebs in 1996 when I was “persuaded” to take part in a routine as part of my daughter’s dance school end of term show, which kind of gave me a flavour of what I used to do. The video evidence is still out there on the net. But when I was asked to do something for this new show, there was more to this than dusting off the dancing cobwebs once again. I needed to choreograph the routine, plus I would be dancing it with my good lady. Ever since we first met, she always pestered me to teach her to dance. Now, she was getting her wish and we had four weeks to do it. Or put it another way, I had four weeks to remember how it was done It was originally suggested that we gave a demonstration of Rhumba. But there were problems.

    The current Mrs Frankie Boy was recovering from a rotary cuff injury, a shoulder problem often suffered by American Footballers. And before you say anything, she has no interest in the game. In fact mentioning the words “Tight End” to her it has a totally different meaning The Rhumba is “the dance of love,” where you had to be sensual sexy and seductive. If I tried that dance with my wife being all seductive, then we would not have been able to finish the routine with her laughing. Forget the Rhumba, we went for an Argentine Tango, not as complicated, but lots of practise still required; which was not easy when you worked in a call centre. So every spare minute we had was dance rehearsal. And I can say that you cannot beat a quick Tango before you start your shift.

    Getting in the ProvisionsSo what about the weekend itself? Day One; we hit Dunoon Town Centre in our Red and Whites stopping off at certain businesses at their request for some promo pictures, finishing off with a bit of shopping. Let’s just say we gave the customers of local supermarket something to talk about.

    We certainly appeared to rekindle some holiday memories amongst the locals as we walked through town, smiling as they walked past us occasionally stopping to talk about their wonderful holiday camp memories. And the next day we would be bringing some of that holiday camp flavour to a group of special people when we will be putting on our “Redcoat Show” for the residents at the Ardenlee Care Home. So what followed was an afternoon and evening of rehearsals and technical run throughs where were many of us were out for the count come 9’oclock.

    That is what happens when you are over 21.

    Doon The Watter - Pt 2

    Redcoats On Tour: "Doon The Watter" Pt 2

    Day Two of our Redcoat’s “Burns Weekend”.

    Having “painted the town” Red and White followed by an evening of rehearsal it was “show time” at the Ardenlee Care Home. When we arrived at the place, the smiles on people’s faces suggested that the staff and residents had been looking forward to it. We certainly were.

    “THE REDCOATS ARE COMING” was the small poster on the office door of the main hall where we would be performing where there was a picture of a group of Reds (a lot younger of us) striking what I would describe a typical “Redcoat Money Shot” pose.

    The staff were going out of their way to give us a strong build up and it was down to us now. The main hall lounge area of the care home was going to be our performance area where an uncarpeted corner was our “stage”. Under the directions of Steve Westwood, the former Stage Manager our stage was set, with a shimmering back drop and our portable sound system. It was finally SHOW TIME!

    Time to TangoHow did we do? I think we got away with it, the Tango certainly. As for the show, the video evidence is out there for all to see It went down so well, we were paid I think was the ultimate compliment. “They are normally fast asleep at this time,” said one member of staff. But our performing schedule was not over yet.

    Before we got out of the door, we were asked to come back and do another show to celebrate Burns Night, back in our Reds of course, but this time, a strong tartan flavour, where our vocals would be really tested. Having got back into performing mode during the Scarborough Reunions, I was determined to keep it going whenever the chance. I was in character for most of it, but having taking a break from broadcasting for a while last year, I had been on a voyage of personal rediscovery.

    When I was a Red, I was known as a dancer, who moved into compering, a bit of character acting and doing stand-up. With this second show, this was a chance for me to stop being some-one else and go back to my performing roots. I may have started dancing when I was eight, but singing was my first love, going back to the days performing in a local concert party to being a solo singer as part of a choir in a local musical festival to being asked to do a solo stint at a festival in Largs (I chickened out of that one) to doing lead vocal parts in school shows, local theatre productions; then my voice broke – what a horrible few months that was.

    Guys and Doles - Oracle Theatre of Youth

    When my vocal chords were back to some kind of normality, I was very keen to get back to singing but when you worked at Butlins alongside so many fantastic professional vocalists, it was next to impossible. When I started doing stand up, I was determined to introduce music into my act, but my vocals did not set the heather on fire, for one very good reason – it was rubbish.

    So when we started planning for our second show, we just sat around the dinner table picking songs for our “Burns Night” concert, I found myself being taken back to my concert party days where we did all the singalong and Scottish Classics. So when Jeannie asked me taken on a verse of “Bonnie Wee Jeannie MacColl” and team up with Andy to do a verse of a “Scottish Soldier”, I immediately said yes! I felt that this was me going back to my performing roots. When we returned to perform again, there was no choreography or comic routines, we were back leading what was some community singing, belting out the old favourites. Some of us sitting on the chair, other getting in amongst our audiences.

    It was a success and that night, we packed away our Reds and had our Burns Night; Haggis, Neeps, Tatties – the works! It was the perfect way to end what was a perfect weekend with special people - having a fabulous time. And on April 2nd, it is going to be bigger and better when we get together again for another special show on the renovated Dunoon Pier.

    This will be part of a day of events and activities for all the family. This time our group will be bigger with a number of legendary and talent people from our Butlin past joining us. It was a special moment doing those last shows in Dunoon, this next performance is going be one for the books. I am definitely putting in some extra singing practise for this one.

     

    Gentleman, we can rebuild him/it, we have the technology...…..

    26116062 10214787021659260 6262362377321246920 oThere are signs when you realise that you have not updated The obvious one is when the website you have spent years in developing suddenly becomes a nesting place for all of those infuriating spam bots, leaving unwanted messages on my comments page, the kind of posts that put you off your dinner. 

    Thanks, goodness, for spam filters. 

    And now the rebuilding process starts, which you could say has been the case for me in general for almost 12 months.

    If you lead a creative life, a lot of people will agree with me, it is anything but boring.  Whether you are broadcasting or writing, there always new challenges to face.   The biggest challenge of them all is trying to strike a balance between your working live and your real life.  It has been anything but easy, but it is achievable.

    I know, and I hate to admit it, without the last four years working in “the fun factory” I would not have been able to do the various books, radio shows and videos.   But there are factors which if not kept under control, can affect one’s aspirations -person or professional.  Especially if you try and too much at once. 

    12 months ago, I thought that I was doing OK, dealing with the various health issues but in September last year, I realised that my mind was not in a good place either.  This had a detrimental effect on my motivation, on things I could control.  At the time I did not know how.

    Whenever I have a health issue, my number one outlook was to know your enemy.   And I certainly did. In this case it was anxiety and depression. 

    The cause, trying to stay strong for too long, trying to cope with a job that I did not exactly excel in, which continued to sap my energy, physically and mentally, whilst trying to maintain my creative side.  

    When you are “over 21” there is so much that your body can take and that was what happened to me.  And whatever I produced was well below the standards I had previously set, certainly did not help

    That was just over a year ago; but it is amazing what the right support and the right level of medication can do.   There has been a lot to fix.  We are going back a number of years, right back to the days on the dole, so it has and remains a work in progress.

    I need to understand my body more and that includes regular trips to the Gym and Swimming Pool – who knew that such a thing was possible.  Work is important, but I value my body more. 

    Exercise programme is going well.  I am working on a target of twenty press-ups every day.   I am pleased to report that I am half way there.  I can do the press, but not the up.

    And I am only half way through completing the latest instalment of my Butlins Trilogy.  I have decided that as this will be the most important out of the three books, I have given up setting any deadlines, but I expect to have it completed soon.  I need to, as I have a very busy few months ahead where the fun factory is not included.

    Following the completion of the next book, next will be the recording of a new pod cast which will feature the much-awaited gathering of my Butlins Family at the Majestic Hotel at Torquay later this year.   Now I know what you are going to say, “Torquay has nothing to do with Butlins.”   

    Wait till we get there.

    Mr and Mrs

    Dunoon Redcoats: Our Big Gig

    When a group of us ex Redcoats first came together in Dunoon for a one off performance at local residential home, it was the start of what led to a number of memorable appearances around the iconic Clydeside Resort, ranging from performing at the re-opening of their revamped Pier, to starring on the town’s local radio station, Dunoon Football Stadium and at Bogleha’ Bowling Club. Every appearance was a memorable occasion, even more so when during the second week of August we had our biggest gig so far, bringing to bring a flavour of the Hi De Hi era to the picturesque settings of the Hunters Quay Holiday Park.

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