THE FUTURE’S SO BRIGHT (I GOTTA WEAR SHADES)

So, former husband was going round the house chanting to himself Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades, Future’s So Bright… which was at least an improvement on The Don Lindberg Aquatic Show, The Don Lindberg Aquatic Show or Member of Lloyds, Member of Lloyds… He used to get phrases stuck, which was annoying. I think The Future’s So Bright… featured in an Orange mobile phones advert at the time, and that was how it had got to him.

The Don Lindberg Aquatic Show was something we witnessed on The Leas in Folkestone in 1970-something. All I can remember is this man at the top of some sort of cherry-picker or giant crane arrangement, doing a lot of posing before diving with enormous ceremony into a plastic paddling pool, and somehow emerging from it without a broken neck. By the way, if you are the Donald A. B. Lindberg (born 1933), Director of the United States National Library of Medicine from 1984 till your retirement in 2015 and known for your work in medical computing… I know it wasn’t you.

Personally, I found it boring but my husband liked that sort of thing. I did catch a glimpse of the late Alan Freeman in unwise leather trousers. Alan ‘Fluff’ Freeman was at that time a famous radio disc-jockey, known for catchphrases such as Greetings, pop pickers, Alright? Stay bright! and Not ‘arf! He had an orange-y face and seemed so very small, out of the radio. He was later to be the inspiration for comedian Harry Enfield’s Dave Nice in the Smashy and Nicey sketches, which I believe he quite enjoyed.

I can’t really criticise ex-husband for his occasional bouts of echolalia since I too get phrases stuck in my head and can’t somehow get them out, the only difference being that I don’t verbalise them all the time. I suppose we were both a bit on the obsessive-compulsive side, not to mention the Asperger’side, the unsociable side, the smart-arse side and the irritating side. There were really quite a lot of things we had in common. We might have noticed this if we’d had any patience with one another. But of course, we didn’t.

Which brings me to what one of my fellow bloggers refers to as a meme… so many new words, so many new words, so many new words… which everyone will no doubt know to be an idea, behaviour or style that spreads from person to person within a culture:

A reporter asked the couple, “How did you manage to stay together for 65 years?”  The woman replied, “We were born in a time when if something was broken we would fix it, not throw it away.”

So – this meme thingy. I wonder how many years the old couple would have kept trying to fix the poor, broken old thing? We spent twenty-two years, on and off, trying to fix ours. And then, of course, unless you were rich, before the nineteen-sixties you didn’t really have the option of divorce: you either fixed your mistake or suffered for it – more often a combination of the two. But the sentiment is good, and fixing’s always worth a try.

Going back to The Leas. This is a long, wide strip of grass – lawn – stretching the length of the cliff above Folkestone to Sandgate, providing ‘a cliff top promenade with fine sea views’ according to one old leaflet:

http://www.visitkent.co.uk/discover-folkestone/folkestone-historical-walks—promenading-on-the-leas.pdf

Folkestone is a seaside town in Kent, on the south coast of England. Lots of interesting things have happened on The Leas over the years – air displays and such. It has a slidey lift down to the beach which has been there since 1885 and a Bandstand (1895). It was extremely popular with the Victorians, who came to Folkestone to breathe in the clean sea air. Spacious and Gracious used to be its advertising slogan. In the ’70s when I was there, some arty-farty clever-clogs re-labelled it Specious and Gruesome and everyone thought that was hilarious for a while. But it was OK. By the ’70s it had dimmed into just another British seaside town, sprawling, shabby, a bit rough round the edges, but it had baby seagulls on the rooftops and fairy-lights looping through the trees along Bouverie Road West. It possessed a shabby, nautical, slightly bohemian charm, I always thought.

There’s also a cavernous, in-cliff venue called the Leas Cliff Hall where people can go and see acts like Steelye Span (Yay! Steelye Span!) Psychic Sally and One Night of Elvis featuring Lee ‘Memphis’ King.

I can remember two things about The Leas, apart from Don Lindberg and his blasted aquatic show. One was going for a walk along The Leas with my mother, father, youngest sister and husband not long after we had married and moved to Folkestone. My sister, around fifteen at the time and still going through the ‘Kevin’ phase, was so fed-up with the whole visit and probably with me – even more probably with my new husband – that she collapsed flat on her back on the grass, in her winter coat, gazing up at the grey sky and scudding clouds and refusing to move. Someone took a photograph of her in this position, which is now lost – except to memory.

The second is not so much a memory as a story. I had a friend, once, who had been pursuing a certain gentleman for many years. He lived in her village. He was nice. I met him. They undertook the New Year bell-ringing duty together each year but no canoodling was ever reported to have taken place up in that icy midnight belfry. It was sad, gothic and romantic, but he never proposed.

So we all got older and older. In her forties she became interested in belly-dancing – she was always trying out one thing or another – and she and her belly-dancing group were out performing their routine one Sunday on The Leas when she spotted in the crowd – yes, none other than the object of her longings. I gather he had never seen so much of her on display until now, and of course for belly dancing you have to display so much – all those wobbly-waggly tummy bits one prefers to keep hidden under floppy tops and smock-like dresses. So there she was – wobbling, waggling and gyrating, unable to stop and run away without ruining the group’s routine and making herself even more conspicuous – and there he was – surprised, spectating – and it was embarrassing and mortifying and…

If it had been a Mills & Boon story he would have been smitten, stricken or similar and rushed forth from the crowd to drop on one knee and propose marriage, babies – although it may have been too late for that – a gold ring, a massive reception with Asti Spumante and those little throwaway cameras on the tables for the guests to take pictures, a five-star honeymoon at poolside hotel in Antigua…

But of course, he didn’t.

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