Snowbow's April 2021 Newsletter
Welcome back to our newsletter. There is so much to write about including the fiftieth episode in our unique video series, The Great Liners… We still get asked time and time again how we ever came to produce this unique series. Well, it all started way back in the early 1990s when, just like Uncle Albert in that great British TV comedy series, Fools and Horses, I would sometimes turn to our kids and say. “Well, when I was at sea, I…” But before I could even get started they would be out the door and gone. Then one day I thought how sad it would be if they never knew what I had done in life and, more importantly, how great our Merchant Navy and shipping industry was back in its heyday, and even more important, what a wonderful time all seafarers and everyone involved with our Merchant Navy had, not to mention the girls, so I won’t, but we did have a fantastic time.
In those days the ships of the then great British Merchant fleet sailed to every far corner of the world and it meant that going to sea as a young man (I was just sixteen) you could sail to places others could only but dream about… When I walked out of my school gates at fifteen years of age and straight into a factory, little could I imagine that in just over a year I would be sitting on a beach in beautiful Tahiti (It was really special back then) and watching a stunning young woman walking towards me, dressed in just a grass skirt and nothing else… Wow, they didn’t have anything like that down at our local old dance hall back home!
Yes it was so exciting and although you spent many days in the middle of vast oceans without sight of land for days and even weeks on end, every day was special, every day was different and every day was exciting. Transiting the Suez or Panama Canals, steaming into the wonders of New York City, Cape Town, Sydney, Wellington Buenos Aires, Montreal, Rio, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Singapore, Fiji, some even went to Pitcairn Island, whereas the furthest people back home would go in those days was perhaps to spend two weeks in Blackpool or Margate… Yes, going away to sea was something really special, and when I left the sea I went into TV and films, which is how I learnt how to make TV programmes properly, and knowing I could do this helped me to make up my mind to try my best to make at least one video programme about shipping in its wonderful heyday.
Unfortunately, when most of the UK’s shipping companies shut shop in the early 1970s, before closing their doors for the last time, they just emptied their offices of everything of no apparent value or use, including beautiful posters and film, all considered to be of no further use. So my first major problem in making that first programme was trying to find the rare old film needed to make it.
I knocked on the doors of all the old shipping companies but they just shook their heads and sent me on my way. But not being one to ever give up I extended the search across the world, desperate to find film before it disappeared for good. To cut a long story short, in the end I began to find short cuts of film bits here and there, but then as more and more people became aware of my search and intent, so they sent me clues as to where I might find more such film, sometimes even in far corners of the world and as a result of this seemingly endless search, today we can boast of not only producing forty nine ship programmes, but also to having the biggest maritime film and sound archive in the world, which means that we can all sleep at night in the knowledge that the story of our once great shipping industries and the great history of our Merchant Navy are now not only recorded forever but also on beautiful moving film, so you can just put any of these amazing DVDs on, and as the curator of one of the world’s top maritime museums said when watching them. “It’s just as if you’ve managed to travel back in time and you’re actually there for real, steaming into New York or London, Sydney, Cape Town, Bombay (Mumbai) Hong Kong and practically every notable port in the world…Amazing.
So this now brings us to episode 50, which really marks a very special moment for us. There are times when I can’t believe we actually started this work let alone continued it all the way to the fiftieth episode and all without any help funding and without any personal financial gain. In fact it’s the opposite because we (Ulla and I) have had to do other work to enable us to fund this important work. But you know something, we are rewarded and in a very special way because over the years we have received thousands of letters from people all over the world, writing to thank us for giving them back so many wonderful memories of what were for so many, the best years of their lives… Those letters come from heads of industry, political leaders and just the likes of you and I… We even had a lovely letter from the Queen Mum, who wrote to say what wonderful memories these programmes brought back to her, and yes, these letters actually meant so much more to us than say, making films and TV just as a way of making money, for its all worth so much more than that.
Now we have started work on producing Episode Fifty, and whereas we might be tempted to make it as a compilation showing the best of the whole series, we won’t, for we will give you what you really love and that is more very rare film that has never been made public before. When it’s ready, which should be within three months, you will all once again be able to sit in your favourite chairs, pour a little drink or two and let yourselves sail gently away into a sunset of golden memories in what was the Golden Age of Ocean Travel… No Wokes, no Snowflakes, just a simple but so enjoyable way of living, far, far away from the maddening madness of today’s world.
Scouts of the World
So many of us were involved with the Scouts or Guides and many still are, so I wrote the script and concept for making a full feature documentary about this amazing story that started on the 1st Aug 1907, when Lord Baden-Powell, anxious to find a way of trying to bring peace and understanding to our world, took just twenty boys all from completely different backgrounds, some rich some without a penny, to set up camp on Brownsea Island. To his delight all those boys despite their very different lifestyles, all got on famously, but even Baden-Powell himself wouldn’t have guessed for one moment that this little, seemingly harmless camp would be a very special acorn, an acorn from which would grow the biggest youth movement in the whole world and yet, although there are books, there has never been a proper in depth video programme ever made to tell this amazing story, so as if I hadn’t sufficient work to do as it was, with the ship DVDs and our Maritime Memory cruises, Ulla and I decided the story should be told and so I wrote a screenplay and then armed with that, managed to get support from one of Hollywood’s major film companies.
The production started to grow as more and more people became involved and because we wanted the film to show how Scouting grew globally, we had to film scouts all over the world in places such as India, Africa, the Far East, Australia, North America, and all over Europe… I even ended up in the coldest Arctic, filming the most remote scout camp in the world, whilst at the same time interviewing one of Scouting’s most enthusiastic supporters, the King of Sweden.
This unique film is now ready to release here in the UK, which we will do just as soon as Coronavirus allows us to do so, which hopefully will be very soon now, and then if you or any of your family were ever involved in Scouting, which must mean nearly all of us, then do please order a copy from us, either by telephone: 00 44 (0) 1273 585391 or from our website, just as you do when ordering one of our ship DVDs. The film lasts for 70 minutes, and all being well, will also be available via downloads, and will cost just £12. 95p UK incl p&p, plus £2 extra if you happen to be elsewhere in the world.
It feels so good to have been able to make such an important programme, but it was very hard work I can tell you and there were many very funny moments as well, such as when Hollywood called me at four in the morning, yes I did say four o’clock, so they could discuss what to shoot next. I told them that the King of Sweden was a major supporter of the Scouts, but they told me that many Hollywood film companies had tried to do things with the King, but not even Warner Brothers managed to get him so we didn’t stand a chance. “So what we want Des is stuff full of excitement and danger.” They shouted excitedly down the line. “You know, like leaping out of aeroplanes like they did in The Sky Jacker or The Battle of Arnhem.” Even half a sleep, I wasn’t going to start leaping out of aircraft, but then I made a mistake and told them that I would film the most northerly Scout Camp in the world, which was up by the North Pole. “Yeah, Des, that’s the thinking, and maybe you could get hundreds of them all skiing down the steepest mountains you can find.”
Well, I did arrange to go to Sweden and to the world’s most northerly Scout Camp, and because they said we would never get the King of Sweden to agree to being filmed, I wanted to show them that just because you’re big and we’re quite small, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t get things done, so I called the Swedish Palace’s Press Office and they immediately responded with a loud and clear. “Impossible.” but when I told them the story of the film and that all I wanted to do was to take a young English Boy Scout to Sweden to do the interview, so it would show the world that in Scouting everyone is equal regardless of their fame or background..
Suddenly they loved the idea and thankfully, so did the King and a few days later I left for Stockholm together with George, my son, who was a Scout and the one I knew I could rely on to talk confidently to the King. When we arrived in Sweden we were greeted by the King’s personal cameraman, who then drove us deep into the Swedish forests to where a special Boy Scouts Camp had been set up. As we stood there surrounded by so many scouts, suddenly everything started to happen as a fleet of large cars announced the arrival of the King.
He stood chatting to senior Scouts for a while and then he turned and in English asked. “So where is the Scout from England who is going to interview me?” I twinged less George should suddenly not be able to handle the importance of the moment, and then he stepped forward, bowed his head and said. “I am that boy scout your majesty.” The King was taken aback but then took hold of George and led him down to the side of the lake, where they sat and talked and talked and talked… It was a major success and the King’s personal cameraman said after that he had never seen the King so happy in an interview.
Then I took George back home and a few weeks later, as winter began its arrival, I flew to northern Sweden to visit the most northerly Scout camp in the world. It was absolutely freezing and my first thought was that perhaps the best thing to do would be to just film these Scouts tying knots and a few other Scouting things, and then hurried back home to warmer climes as quickly as possible, but the Swedish cameraman wasn’t having any of this. “Are you ready for the Arctic then.” Smiled the heavily climatised Swedish cameraman. (I decided that as it would be so freezingly cold up in the Arctic, it would be wise to try to recruit a local man who understood filming in the freezing cold, but there aren’t too many of them up there at the North Pole, but I did manage to recruit one that operated out of Swedish Television’s small studios in Sweden’s most northerly large town. Kiruna.
I looked at his winter attire with envy as I tried to move my almost frozen jaw. “Yes, I think I’m ready although I have a problem so we won’t be able to do an actual ski scene.” He looked disappointingly shocked. “Ya, we must… I have brought all my gear and it will look so good.” “I nodded. Yes, but the problem is you see, I’m directing and unfortunately…I can’t ski.! His big Swedish arm locked itself tightly around my frozen frame. “That’s not a problem.” He smiled… “It’s not a problem… what do you mean, it’s not?” He lifted his head so he stood even taller than the average Arctic giant. “No, because I will take you down the mountain on my shoulders, which will be good anyway because you can hold the camera and get the shots you want.” I nearly died… “On your… your shoulders?” “Ya, ya, it’s no problem, I ski all the time and don’t worry, I will go very, very slowly, so there’s no danger.”
I was speechless and even more so when we stood on what seemed to me, to be the second highest mountain in the whole wide world, surrounded by all these nasty little Swedish Scouts, all eager to race like hell all the way down this seemingly endless mountainside. With that the Swedish giant lifted me up and placed me on his shoulders, which then meant that as well as being in great danger, I was also much higher up than anyone else. He passed me the camera and said all you’ve got to do is press go and then capture the footage you want, and don’t worry, they’re only young kids so they won’t go too fast, but you will need to take your gloves off or else it will be difficult to control the camera.
It was one of those moments in life when you wish you were somewhere else, perhaps home at your mum’s just as she’s poured out the world’s hottest cup of steaming tea. “Right, well just shout go and then all the kids will come past us and we will join them as they ski to the bottom.” “The bottom.” Uttered my bottom lip, the only part of me still moving. “I’ll be quite happy to film them just skiing past and disappearing into the distance.” “No, no, he shouted, just hang on and everything will be fine, so go on, shout to them to start.” So I turned slowly and saw them all hunched over their skis and on their faces, wearing those determined looks, looks that on teenagers can often mean a sign of pending danger.
“Go” I shouted, and under my breath added. “Please help me God.” Then we were off. “Slowly, slowly.” I shouted to the cameraman… “We’ve got all day and also, the slower we go the better you’ll look and we can always speed it up when we edit the film later.” It was a complete waste of breath as the little bastards came streaking past us at great speed and then, as if he were a wild husky giving chase, my nice, kind cameraman went into his own little world, completely forgetting his promise to go slow but instead deciding he had to catch all those speeding little brats and overtake them, determined to show them who was the fastest and the master of this snowy hell. mountain.
I remember little other than pointing the camera at all of them as they turned and twisted at great speed as we shot down and down the mountain side to somewhere even colder than an Arctic freezer.
“Great, great, great.” Smiled this stupid bloody Swedish cameraman, as he did a quick in-camera playback of some of the shots, “You must be very happy.” Happy… If being as frozen as an ice-lolly was happiness then I was surely the happiest person in the whole world, but this ice lolly was colder than death itself and I promise, my big nose and once proud jaw were now frozen solid.
The shots were good and the cameraman was well pleased, even if he didn’t quite handle the camera. He looked up at the sky. “There’s enough light for us to do it once more and then it’ll be great.” “Once more.” I looked at this imbecile of a human being and said. “No, no, I think we have all we need, and right now I feel it would be nice if we bought all these lovely young Scouts a nice hot drink.” He smiled. “Ya, quick, back on my shoulders and then we can all ski to a posh hotel a couple of miles away.” “No, no, I’ll walk, the exercise will do me the world of good, and so I trudged through the ever colder cold and deepening snow, and after what seemed to be forever when we eventually arrived at this great hotel, it was closed for the winter!
Perhaps the funniest part of this story is that some stupid editor somewhere went and cut all the skiing sequences out of the final cut, but I still managed to get some great footage up there in the Arctic, so from the tropics to the Arctic, this film covers it all and is well worth watching.
By the way, it was while up there filming that the name of our company, Snowbow, came to me. It was dark for most of the time but just for a few brief seconds one day whilst filming in the middle of a snow storm, the sun managed somehow to get a few of its rays to shine through and as they did so they caught the falling snow and formed the most beautiful rainbow I had ever seen, its colours made even more prominent and stunning against the bright white background of endless snow, and of course, it couldn’t be a rainbow because it was snowing, so I called it a SNOWBOW! And that’s how our company name came to be.
Some of you might remember that several years ago we decided to launch our very own cruise line, which came about because there were problems in the cruising business that were causing a lot of cruise lines problems, making it extremely difficult to operate. Anyway, a wealthy Banker came to me and asked if I could come up with a completely new format for cruising, one that would be much less vulnerable to these problems and be able to operate anywhere in the world at almost any time, so I put what was left of my thinking-cap on (most having been lost in the Arctic) and looked at the problems.
After some thought I managed to come up with a whole new way of running a cruise line, a way in which we would be able to offer millions of specific people unique cruises designed especially for them, and so I worked together with some of the best technical people in the cruise business and the research we did showed that what I had identified was a gap in the market that had a passenger potential of hundreds of millions of perfect pax, for they were youngish, wealthy, highly mobile and high spending, in other words, the sort of pax cruise lines would give their eyeteeth for. But on top of all this, what really appealed to the banks was how the operating costs for these cruises were so much less than operating traditional cruises… We had next to zero advertising, a great reduction in fuel costs, and were always able to use the itineraries we wanted without having to fight for berths with all the other cruise lines.
In short, what I had somehow managed to come with was a unique way of operating cruises that as well as appealing to many millions of ideal people, would also reduce working costs for the cruise line by a huge percentage… It was a Cruise operators dream.
The banks were prepared to put up all the money but one of the conditions was that I agreed to sign a contract that would tie me to the new company for at least ten years and this wasn’t really what I wanted, for I was already working hard producing our Great Liners programmes and our own Maritime Memory cruises for you, both of which were doing so well and growing in popularity, and we felt strongly that to stop or even to slow down these two operations just wouldn’t have been right at the time. They really gave so much happiness to so many of you, so reluctantly Ulla and I decided to put the whole of this new cruise line concept on hold for a few years and see how things went. Well now, with all the problems Coronavirus has caused, especially with the cruise lines, that time has arrived and although we will continue to produce videos and operate Maritime Memory Cruises for you, as far as we can tell, the cruising world badly needs new and profitable ideas to enable them to operate efficiently if at all , so we’ve gone through all the old paper work and yes, the thinking behind it will if anything work even better now than it would have back then.
One way or another we will now move this forward as quickly as we can and see what our options are and how best to make it happen. It might be that we could do it together with an already existing cruise line that fits the bill and is already geared up to go, which would really help our workload, but if there isn’t such a cruise line then we’ll just go it alone, but one way or another, it will happen.
I wish I could reveal all the relevant information about these unique cruises to you but unfortunately, as I know you will understand, it is all very confidential for the moment at least, but as soon as we’re in a position to do so then we will, so watch this space.
After so many, many years of trying to find precious moments to be able to sit down and write a book that I have so much wanted to write, Coronavirus has at least granted me this and now, complete with illustrations, this wonderful book, titled Christmas Island, is at long last ready to go off to the printer’s.
Don’t be misled by the book’s title because it’s not all about nuclear bombs going off and blowing our world into tiny pieces, although there are times when that might be welcomed, no, it’s a strange book and different from anything you might have read before. and it’s all based on real things that have happened to me in my life, and the book manages to weave all these stories together in such a way that relates them all and in the end they become as one.
It starts in Ireland in the year 1995, then takes you back in time to the year 1846, then forward to 1946 and after having travelled around the world through a myriad of magical encounters with the supernatural and wonderful miracles, it ends back in Ireland in the year 1995…How could all this be possible, well I did say it was different and it really is, and although it has lots of strange, magical supernatural happenings as well as sea stories and laughter that will make you joyful, and moments of emotion that will bring tears of happiness to your eyes and all in all it’s a book for all the family to enjoy and keep forever.
I am also more than halfway through finishing the follow-up to Part One of my autobiography, so the second Jumping For Balloons (Part 2) which I’ve titled ‘Carry On Sailor’ should be with us soon and for those of you that bought my last book, which sold out and will have a second print run, the size of the print will be much bigger than last time, which was a printer’s error and one I was unable to correct.
As the title ‘Carry On Sailor’ might suggest. this is all about my days at sea, which were very far from normal and hence this book will be a one off… I have read many enjoyable books written about lives at sea, but unlike them, as well as trying to capture the real experience of just what the life and times were like aboard a ship back in the 1950s/60s, I also wanted to tell the tales of the bizarre and so often hilarious things that just sort of happen whilst away at sea, stories that for a non-seafarer will be at times hard to believe, but as ex-seafarers know only too well, anything can happen at sea and in my case it most certainly did.
Somethings I am writing about will be so difficult for today’s Wokes and Snowflakes to come to terms with, but life was so hard back then when even as young boys we just got on and dealt with whatever came our way, and if they should read about how hard it was at the Sea Training School I went to, where we slept naked in freezing, unheated huts in midwinter, with just ice cold stone floors, only ice cold water to wash in every morning at 0600 hrs, with just one dirty blanket and no mattress on just wire mesh, well they would find it so tough that I will post a warning for all sensitive people not to read it through fear they would have a breakdown, especially when taking into account our daily diet of fishes heads, tails and live cockroaches. But although it was far harder than being in any UK prison, it made us able to go through life and to face up to anything that happen to come our way.
When at the age of just sixteen I left the old Vindicatrix Sea Training School, I found myself sailing from Liverpool on December 14th, mainly because our Captain refused to sail on Friday the 13th! Imagine a ship’s captain doing that today! Anyway, the biggest waves I had ever seen up until then were when holidaying in Bournemouth, when on a windy day my old mum looked at the sea and said. “Look at the size of them waves.” In truth they were probably no more than three feet high, but to me back then, if my old mum said they were big waves then they were big waves, for like most kids, as far as I was concerned my mum knew everything and would have won TV’s Mastermind hands down… Imagine my shock then, when after leaving Liverpool, rounding the bottom of Ireland and heading out into winter’s Atlantic ocean, we sailed straight into the two worst storms I ever encountered in my entire sea-going career! We were struck by two horrendous hurricanes one after the other and they didn’t bother to take any prisoners, and yes, the waves were slightly bigger than those on Bournemouth beach in fact, according to our Chief Officer, in the middle of about the 5th night at sea, as if things weren’t already bad enough we were hit by a giant freak wave that he estimated to be at least a hundred feet high… Oh how I remember the noise as that giant wave crashed down onto our boat deck and funnel, tearing and buckling the ship’s heavy metal railings as if they were made of matchsticks. I clung on to the sides of my bunk to save me being thrown out, but the noise was horrendous as we rose and dived and spun in a whirlpool of devastation as the huge wave tore lifeboats from their holdings… I had never imagined such a storm could have been possible, and as I threw up for about the hundredth time since sailing from Liverpool, I remember thinking… “Perhaps I should have been a Traffic Warden instead!”
Yet even after a night far worse than any spent in hell, I was still dragged out of my little bunkbed at 0600 hrs, given two buckets, one full of soapy water to scrub the decks and toilets with and the other to be sick in, and if that wasn’t bad enough, imagine how I felt when our Chief Officer stopped beside me as I sicked and scrubbed, to tell me how he thought I should say my prayers to God and thank him, for he really thought that when our ship had to face that giant, dark, rogue wave as it loomed up high above us before crashing down with such force that he thought we hadn’t a chance of surviving as our bow was forced down beneath the raging surface of the sea and all looked lost, taking all aboard with it. But then after what seemed like a lifetime, it slowly began to rise again and we were saved. All this was just what I wanted to know, and yet with no Mum or anyone for me to turn to, he turned and just strode off, leaving me in my so confused and lost state, to just get on and deal with it… I remember thinking that perhaps my wanting to go away to sea was a huge mistake and that I would have been better off being a Traffic Warden or something similar instead… Thank goodness that Sea School was so tough for without that training I honestly would never have coped.
I tell of how even crossing the equator for the first time, whereas on a ship today everyone has to wear Hi-Viz jackets, hard helmets, safety goggles and anything else that might cause you to be scratched or something equally as trivial whilst being held securely and gently splashed by a lifeguard we were drowned in buckets of warm, sticky tar and then covered in so many feathers… Can you imagine the news headline.. Young boys on the cargo ship Hinakura were subjected to being drowned in hot buckets of tar and then covered in feathers, but no one cared and we all treated it as fun and just got on with it.
In the book I try to cover every aspect of life at sea back then including shore experiences, which I bet 99 out of every 100 ex-seafarers would never dare to discuss openly, but I like to live dangerously so in ‘Carry On Sailor’ I’m going to do just that, but I promise you, they are very funny stories and I know that if you read it then you’ll have a continuous flow of tears of laughter, and each story will trigger your own memories of those most wonderful days, which were for 99% of us, the best years of our lives.
I used to play guitar aboard ship and spent nearly all my time singing all the latest hits as I worked away aboard ship… you know, bits of Pat Boone, Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Bill Haley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent, and of course, Elvis. When on the cargo passengers liners that would have much bigger crews, we’d often form our own little rock bands and pretend we were stars, and we even played in dance halls ashore when in ports and I’ll tell you, we were good and the girls loved us, but of course in those days they didn’t bung their knickers at the stage. Actually, there were quite a lot of crew members who liked to entertain like this, such as Gareth Hunt, who went on to co-star in Upstairs Downstairs and the New Avengers and Tommy Steele who went on to have hit records and many great films.
On one such occasion I went to a dance in Wellington, New Zealand, to see the Platters performing. They were massive back then and had so many huge hits, so I stood right down the front of the stage and although I thought I was singing to myself, to my amazement, after ending one song they looked down at me and said. “Hey, you’ve got a good voice, come up here and sing with us.” My little knees began to tremble as they pulled me up on stage, and then with a “One, Two, Three, Four,” we started to sing one of their greatest ever hits, The Great Pretender. Wow, that was amazing and I’ll tell you what, things like racism weren’t in our world back then, well certainly not aboard ship where we never thought about race, religion, sex gender diversity or anything like that, for as far as we were all concerned, we were all, regardless of whatever you were, just great friends and that’s all that mattered.
I mustn’t get carried away, but it’s true, and in all the time I was at sea, even though we had several hundred crew aboard our ships, I never saw any hostility anywhere equal to the hatred we see in our world today, and I firmly believe that this degree of hatred has come about because of all of todays so called do-gooders do far more harm than any form of goodness… If only they would give it a rest.
Now back to my record, so another time at sea when I was on my second voyage, which was on the little Cunard Cargo ship the Assyria, we’d arrived in Montreal and as I was the Cabin Boy, always scrubbing the decks and washing up all the greasy pots and pans, but as I scrubbed, so I sang and the song I was singing was that big hit of the time, Diana by Paul Anka. When I finished the song I heard the sound of clapping and turned around to see this big Canadian man standing there. “You’ve got a great voice, kid… I’d like you on my radio show tonight.” It turned out that he was quite famous in Canada at the time and had his own pop radio show, and just happened to be on our ship because he was a ship lover. Anyway, he wanted me to go on his show and sing Love Me Tender live. I couldn’t believe it… me, a poor little cabin boy going on a top radio show to sing, so even though it was a Radio Show and no one would actually see me, I put on a clean shirt and jeans, and then went to the studios but as I approached all these dolly young Canadian girls started screaming; I turned to see who they were screaming at and to my horror, they were screaming at me.
Now most sensible young men of the day would have made the most of this, but me, well although I loved singing and performing, the last thing I ever wanted was so called stardom, so I just turned around and headed back into town, where I stopped at a Coffee bar and listened to the show on the radio… Aren’t I daft and just think of all those dolly little birds!
Anyway, I did sing with a lot of people including Roy Orbison and the Beach Boys, and I had a recording contract in the early 1960s with EMI, but once again, although I really enjoyed singing, I hated all that stardom nonsense that nearly every performer craves for, so I got out of the contract and instead, went behind the camera to learn how to make television programmes and films, so you see, to now come out of my shell and start recording again at over two hundred years old, is perhaps a very strange thing to do.
What prompted me to do this was that I got so angry about all the doom and gloom that was constantly being churned out on the news, 24 hrs a day, e.g. “Good evening, this is the BBC evening news. Many millions have tired of Coronavirus and many more millions will also die in fact it’s safe to say that no one will be left alive come the morning.” Yes, a slight exaggeration I suppose, but all of you who lived during WW2 will remember how really bad things were, no food, no heating no electricity no nothing, other than the endless wailing of air-raid sirens, the ever threatening growl of Germans bombers flying overhead and the horror as they dropped a hundred thousand bombs a night on our factories, docks, airfield, cities and towns and yet there was always great optimism and as part of every news broadcast there was always reassuring words that really helped so much to keep us smiling and able to cope during even the hardest times.
So, tired of all this snowflake weakness and so on, I decided to write and record some songs that I thought might just bring a little happiness back into our lives, but I got a little carried away and actually recorded a complete double-album of songs, all original and written by me, and instead of being a Beatle or a Rolling Stone recording in the luxury of say Abbey Road, I was stuck in one of the world’s smallest flats with just a single microphone and a basic computer programme. I had a nice guy who operated the computer programme because that’s difficult to do when you’re singing, and unbelievably, just as I do if entertaining aboard a cruise ship, I just totally ad-libbed the lot, actually making up the melodies and lyrics to the songs as I sang, which I’ve since been told by those in the know, has never been done before, but I didn’t care because all I had wanted to do was to at least do something that might just bring a little ray of happiness into the lives of everyone, that’s all, and nothing else mattered.
When I’d finished I just put the double album away, thinking that no one would ever want to listen to my old rubbish, but then one day I thought to myself, no, you can’t just stick that album in a draw and forget it, but I also knew that all the major record companies would not only consider me over the top age wise and also, even more shocking for me, start by rewriting all the lyrics and taking out any hint of a word that might just cause some kind of offence to someone, so with no other options open to me, I went and put the first track on the internet and then like most things put on the internet, then forgot all about it, thinking I would never
hear about it ever again. So imagine my shock when about two weeks later I got a call from the States and a voice asked. “That record you released; do you know its in the European Top 100 Charts?” To say the very least, I was shocked, but immediately thought it was someone having a laugh. “No, no I didn’t.” I replied… The voice on the other end of the phone continued. “Do you know where in those charts it is?” “I’m sorry, no I don’t.” The voice continued again. “Well, it’s at number One!” Well whether this was someone having a laugh at my expense or not, you could still have knocked me down with a feather. “Hold on, I’ll send you a copy of those charts by email, and sure enough within a matter of seconds there it was on my computer screen… ‘My Internet Lover’ by Des Cox, Number One. I’ve heard and witnessed a lot of strange things in my life, but nowt as strange as this.
A few days later I had another call from America, this time to tell me that the record I had released was in the World Top 100 Charts. Again I told them I didn’t know about this, and then they really shocked me by telling me… “Well that’s at number one as well, so you’re number one in the world of Indie music.” Talk about silence, I don’t think I have ever been quite so quiet. I later discovered that unlike the national record charts where by the competition is between a few hundred records, the competition in the indie music charts is ridiculous with something like 40 million indie records released every month worldwide… I still can’t believe it but since then I’ve released two more, so three in total and they have all gone into the top ten of those same charts.
It is crazy and now they tell me that those records are being played on 250,000 radio stations around the world, but the one thing that makes me like this is the thought that if those record bring a smile or laugh to just one person every time they’re played then that really is a lot of people I have managed to bring just a little bit of happiness to, which is what I set out to do anyway.
If you would like to really help me even in just a simple way then please go to Google and just put in the search engine: Des Cox YouTube and the video promos for these records will come up so you can watch and listen to them. You will also find other tracks that our now American friends have released including folk, ballads and rock ‘n’ roll, all tracks from the same Double Album titled ‘A Little Ray of Happiness’ which the Americans listened to and told me… “Most albums usually have a couple of tracks that are worth listening to, but with your album every track is worthy of being a single release, so let us release them!” And so that’s what they’re doing. So please just put in Des Cox YouTube and help me in trying to bring some laughter and joy to people all over the world.
The Double album ‘A Little Ray of Sunshine, which will cost just £12. 95 plus £2 pounds P&P will be on sale via our website just as soon as Coronavirus allows us to get it copied. It will be available from our website www.snowbow.co.uk just as the ship DVDs are, and all being well also on downloads, and if you get a copy and want me to sign it then I would be totally honoured to do so.
Finally, for this Newsletter at least, which must be amongst the longest ever written, our Children’s TV series, The Bubblies. which is all about some wonderful little characters that are so colourful, loveable and funny and at the end of every episode, which are stories in their own right, they perform a pop song especially for them, and one that tells of the story just featured.
I first started drawing these different characters when I was at sea working as writer in the ship’s bureau and when on long sea crossings, especially those taking us all the way across the vast Pacific or Indian Oceans, without stopping anywhere other than say Pitcairn Island, I noticed how passengers and even our own crew after many days at sea started to get restless, so I decided to try to bring smiles back into their lives and to do so by creating their own daily cartoon and placing copies on notice boards all around the ship. They were simple but they worked, making people smile and even laugh, and so much happier.
I won’t attempt to tell you the long, long story of how the Bubblies ended up becoming a Children’s TV series that was broadcast in over 100 countries around the world, but as with so many things I do, it wasn’t without a lot hard work and pain, pain inflicted by all the nasty cheats that seem to come hand in hand with such a success… As a good friend once said. “Des, you’ll know when you’re successful because you’ll look up and see all the vultures circling above you.” And that’s so true and in this case the vultures, who were people I believed I could trust, stole absolutely everything, my copyright, creations, you name it and they stole it, removing my name and any mention of me from the credits and replaced them with their own.
I was totally gutted and in my autobiography I will tell you the whole story and will happily name and shame all those people responsible for perpetrating this terrible, full bloodied act of selfish plagiarism, and when I do expose them you will be surprised and shocked at who they were.
I had to fight these evil, devious people through the Highest Courts in the land all on my own, which was the most difficult of legal battles, for these people specialise in doing this sort of thing and because going to court, especially the High Court’s costs a fortune in legal fees, 99 out of every 100 creators just can’t afford to take them to court and in the end, just give up and walk away. But I wouldn’t, and no matter what they tried, which included death threats not only to me but my wife and kids as well, yet still I fought them on and on and on and in the end, much to their total horror The High Courts ruled in my favour.
Sadly, when they knew they were going to lose they quickly dispersed all the many millions they had made from both the sales of the Bubblies TV series and from the sale of all the relevant merchandise e.g. Books, dolls, puzzles, balloons, games, costumes, wallpaper, you name it, and hid it all away in untraceable overseas Bank accounts and then when the Courts came down in my favour, just to make sure I would never ever be in a position to release this Children’s TV series ever again, they destroyed all the relevant film and copies, and everything to do with the series, making my beautiful Children’s series, a series no more.
I was totally destroyed but without the films etc., there was little I could do and so in the end, despite winning, I had to accept that all income I tried to claim had disappeared and the fact that anything to do with The Bubblies had been destroyed, never to be seen ever again. Oh how those nasty little cheats smirked in their repugnant murkiness, for they were convinced that despite my success in the High Courts, they had won in the end…
Then one day, many, many years later, I got a very unexpected phone call. “Is that Des Cox?” “Yes.” I replied. “Hmmm, the same Des Cox that created the Children’s TV series The Bubblies?” “Yes, yes that’s me, but if you want to do something with The Bubblies then I’m afraid I can’t help you.” There was a slight pause and then the voice on the other end of the phone said. “Perhaps you can’t. but there’s a good chance that we can help you.” By then I was very confused. “Help me…Help me how?” “Well, we own one of the biggest film and video storage places in the country and amongst all the hundreds of films and videos we have stored here is a TV series titled…” Once again he paused… and then… “Titled, The Bubblies…” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “You have the… the Bubblies… but, but…” “Yes, your Children’s TV series The Bubblies, and knowing how you have been treated and how hard you fought to get them back, we are so pleased we managed to keep it all safe.” “Well, well what have you got… is it models or artwork?” “No, we have all the original negatives and prints in several languages and they’re all in perfect condition and ready to be broadcast again, but next time they will have your copyright notices back on them and they will be all yours once again.
I was more than speechless and I have to admit that all the years of suffering suddenly transformed into tears that found their way down my cheeks… I just couldn’t believe my ears, but it wasn’t a prank call for it turned out to be absolutely true. Now after all the many years I am now in a position of being able to bring The Bubblies back and to launch them again but this time, instead of getting involved with broadcasters we’re going to put them on the same Des Cox YouTube website, and in several languages including English, French, Dutch and Swedish , so if you do go to that Des Cox YouTube site to see the records, you will also be able to see one of the Bubblies episodes there already and that one, just to make it even more interesting to all you ship lovers, was actually filmed aboard Union-Castle’s ‘Windsor Castle’ whilst on a voyage from Southampton to Cape Town… terrific!
One final little word, which actually involves YouTube again; it was brought to our attention recently that people are showing episodes from our series of The Great Liners on YouTube totally for free, which really is yet another knife in the gut. It’s bad enough doing all the work we do without profit, but o be subjected to even more plagiarism is soul destroying, forcing us to once again to fight to protect out copyright from people who having bought copies from us and then, despite our copyright warnings on the sleeves and in the actual programmes, just ignore them and go and stick them on YouTube so the whole world can watch them for free, without a thought for all the work and the huge costs Ulla and I have suffer as a result
Thankfully YouTube itself isn’t to blame because as far as they know in the beginning, the people committing these acts of plagiarism are the legal copyright owners, but almost as soon as we tell them that we are the rightful copyright holders, they started removing the offending episodes and will continue to do the same with all the others once we have given them the evidence they require, but this is all extra and costly work that we really don’t need. Thankfully, 99.9% of our customers are our friends and go out of their way to help us and of course, you are, at least as far as this sort of thing is concerned, as honest as can be, so thank you for all your so greatly treasured support, and if you should know or hear of anyone making copies of our DVDs or putting them on the internet in any form then do let us know and we will take action.
Oh dear, I never intended to write so much but there again, so many of you enjoy a good long read especially now in Lockdown, but I promise to try hard not to write quite so much in our next newsletter.
Thanking you all for your greatly appreciated support and help.
Des and Ulla.