Saturday, 25 July 2020

Art For Art's Sake - Tom Keating Comes Clean

If you are fortunate enough to have a da Vinci or a Rembrandt hanging in your lobby you are unlikely ever to want for much. But what do you think would be the going rate for a Sexton?

Far from being a painter, Sexton Blake of course was a fictional detective. And being a Londoner, talented art restorer Tom Keating knew a little about rhyming slang.

Left-leaning Keating was disgusted by what he saw as a system in which dealers and critics connived to fill their coffers often at the expense of struggling artists, and he undertook to throw the art world into turmoil through the simple expedient of releasing a whole load of fakes, or "Sextons" onto the market. Blessed with an exceptional eye for detail and a steady hand, he faithfully reproduced Renoirs, Gainsboroughs and Degases aplenty.


On every occasion he would cheekily leave what he called a "time bomb" in his works, writing text with lead white onto the canvas before painting on top of it which could be detected by x-ray, or using materials which had only become available in the twentieth century. In this way fellow art restorers would know what they were dealing with, but the pretentious pseuds of the art world usually would not.

In April 1976 Keating revealed to the world that he had flooded the market with over 2,000 fake paintings during a 25-year career as a forger. He was unrepentant, declaring that his deeds had been a protest against the exploitation of artists, living and dead.

Charges were finally brought against him in 1979, but the case was later dropped due to Keating's ill health. He sadly passed away in 1984 at the age of 66.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Being 58 - The Author Looks Back at the 1970s With 2020 Vision

"Hindsight, they say, is a wonderful thing, although it cannot be used to right historical wrongs and is in that sense quite useless".

All the same, we invariably look back upon our formative years with some degree of affection, if inevitably through a rose-tinted lens.

Being 58 is the first of a series of booklets through which I hope to create some context for my already-published novel, set in 1976, entitled The Best Year Of Our Lives. Through it I have attempted to offer a sneak-peak into the mindset of lead character Paul Adams, as he bathes in the moment of the glorious summer of 1976.

Whether we celebrate the innocence of adolescence or denounce the ignorance of the age matters not, for the future has not yet happened. In the land he inhabits he is king.

Looking back to the 1970s through the grey tired lens of the 21st century can be a painful experience, but therapeutic also. It was when wonderful memories were made.

It is not mine to decide whether the seventies finds its place in history as a statue or a museum piece. That is one for the judges of the future. For me, it's only important that isn't forgotten.

Being 58 is available from Amazon in paperback (£2.99) or ebook format (£0.99).

Sunday, 5 July 2020

My Radio Interview with Cockney Rebel Connections

It was a real pleasure recently to be given a one-hour interview slot on the independent radio show Cockney Rebel Connections.

As the name suggests the channel is dedicated to the work of Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, and I discussed my novel The Best Year Of Our Lives with presenter Stewart Griffin, with particular emphasis on the influence of Harley's music and lyrics on my own formative years and of course on the book itself. The singer-songwriter has appeared on the show in person on more than one occasion.

Some time back I was thrilled to receive some words of praise and encouragement from the man himself, who had read the novel and told me he was "pleased and privileged" to have been an influence.

The music of Cockney Rebel is referenced several times in the story, set in 1976, as the two lead characters are fans.

Click here to listen to the interview, which also includes a selection of songs which I was given the opportunity to select.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Get That Job by Christine Reidhead - Review

One of the many blessings of being an adolescent is that adult pursuits such as finding a job and paying one's way in the world lie too far into the future to be at all pressing.

But the fact remained in that heady summer of 1976 that I was but a few years from having to make that leap into whole new world of enforced labour - getting up in the morning, donning my jacket and tie and setting off on my four-mile trek to the office (didn't like the smoky buses) for which I would be rewarded the princely sum of £47.17, after deductions, at the end of each week.

Before any job, of course, comes the interview. First time around, I had four of them, and somehow managed to pass all four. But I'm sure it was more by luck than judgment. Had I had the benefit of this excellent book at the time, I’ve no doubt the process would have been a whole lot easier.


Its modest tally of 75 pages belies the wealth of experience and advice that is contained in this power-pack of information. Somehow within that sparse expanse of wordage everything the interviewee will ever need to know is captured, legibly and concisely, in a broadly chronological guide of what to say and what not to say, what to do and what not to do, what to wear and not to wear when the time comes to throw yourself at the mercy of the person who may be providing your beer tokens for the foreseeable.

Of course there are elements of the process which postdate my own early job-seeking experiences. The use of LinkedIn as a business tool, and the perils of posting the wrong things on Facebook whilst waiting for news of how the interview went, would have been alien concepts to me. But for most of it I was left pleasantly surprised by how little had changed since those long-gone days.

And with my later employer's hat on, I can confirm the wisdom of the advice and information which the author conveys. She clearly has first-hand knowledge of her subject and some mastery of the procedures involved. As well as, quite evidently, an equal mastery of the art of writing enjoyable prose.

I found Get That Job a highly productive and informative read. If you're looking for work, or expect to be in the future, it's a few pounds very well spent.

Get That Job by Christine Reidhead is available from Amazon in paperback, ebook and audiobook formats.

Friday, 24 April 2020

Get the Ebook Free of Charge - Offer Closes Tuesday 28th April 2020

For a limited time only The Best Year Of Our Lives is available in ebook format completely free of charge.

Simply click here and download the Kindle reader if you don't already have one (that's free too!). Then click where it says "£0.00 to buy" and follow the instructions to get the book.

There no catch, but if you enjoy the read please take a few moments to write me a review on the site.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

The Goodies: Insane '70s Slapstick and a Little Cameo - Tim Brooke-Taylor (1940-2020)

The 1970s was a golden age of innovative and unique, if somewhat dated, situation comedy. But amid all the sometimes predictable sitcoms and the cringe-makingly politically incorrect stand-up there were two comedic institutions which stood so aloof amongst their peers that they defined genres all of their own. One was the team from Monty Python's Flying Circus, the other was The Goodies.

At the height of their popularity in the first half of the decade, the zany trio that was Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and Tim Brooke-Taylor immersed themselves in way-out, sometimes surreal story lines and purposely absurd low-budget props to create a cult act which we teenagers waited eagerly each week to watch on our clunky television sets, some of us still coming to terms with the demise of monochrome. The trio plied their wacky trade under their given names, but each was an exaggerated stereotype in his own right which didn't always reflect the real personality behind the screen image. So whilst Garden, a real-life doctor, was not wholly out of character as the bespectacled mad scientist that he played, nor environmentalist Oddie as the left-leaning hippy type, Brooke-Taylor's ultra-patriotic, Union Jack waistcoat-wearing royalist was not a particularly accurate representation of his real self. "I had the double-barrelled name so I was always going to play the Tory," he once reflected.


The Goodies were an institution which quite personified the age. No theme was too controversial to make light of (one episode of the show was simply entitled "South Africa" and considered life under a regime in which people were discriminated against for being short under a system known as "Apartheight", much to the chagrin of the diminutive Oddie), nor too off-the-wall. Particularly memorable episodes included the epochal The Goodies and the Beanstalk, and Kitten Kong in which a fluffy white kitten named Twinkle is accidentally infused with a growth potion devised by Garden and subsequently runs amok around London.

No episode of The Goodies though was complete without the interval, during which "adverts" parodying real advertisements of the day featured. Of course, it was all a part of the show.

But their lovably insatiable desire for dominance of the seventies' comedy scene meant The Goodies were never going to be entirely satisfied with a weekly television slot. So it was perhaps inevitable that they would launch their unique act into the music charts, where they would record not one but several hit songs including Father Christmas Do Not Touch Me, Black Pudding Bertha and, most famously of all, The Funky Gibbon. During one of their many appearances on Top Of The Pops they performed a short, blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo for David Essex as he sang his number one hit Gonna Make You a Star.


Although unsurprisingly remembered more than anything else for his work with The Goodies, Brooke-Taylor enjoyed a long and varied career in the entertainment business. He worked with such notables as John Cleese, Graham Chapman and Rowan Atkinson, and was a regular participant over forty years in the radio show I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. In 2011 he was awarded the OBE.

Tragically he died on 12th April 2020 aged 79 of complications from COVID-19, the nightmare virus which holds the world captive as I write. He is survived by his wife Christine and their two sons Ben and Edward.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Guest Posts Welcome

I am always grateful for on-topic contributions from visitors to this blog.

Do you have an interesting story to tell relating to 1976? Some memories from school perhaps, from your neighbourhood, or just some thoughts in general about the fashions, the music scene, television programmes or popular culture?

Please send me a message at and we can discuss featuring it as a stand-alone blog story. I will be happy to include a byline and a discreet link back to your own blog or website, just so long as it isn't spammy.

This is your resource, please feel free to use it as well as to read it.