Nearly time to get back into the garden!

IMG_20190305_140347_HDR              Such beautiful colours and textures.

At the risk of repeating myself I love growing veg. in buckets because they can be moved around to chase the sun.

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Some of my garden came with me to Brighton in pots from London and bring back family memories.


But the cherry tree my mother had bought me was fully grown so  I decided to buy another one This year as the pink blossom falls I think of Jamie one of my grandson’s now living in Japan.


Apparently a white camellia was traditional for great grandfather’s buttonhole.


It’s great to see you
just a whisper in your ear
Spring is nearly here.

I could not resist putting that one on facebook


Rosemary is for remembrance as well as a wonderful herb. Bees love the flowers which seem to go on for ever and ever.

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Mayhem and madness in March while rooks weave their nests
lined with soft green moss

I moved here soon after my mother had died and this poem is about her Oleander.

The Oleander

We found it in Albi,
no gentle sketch
but boldly painted
bright and blowzy
heady with scent,
out for a good time.

In London.
loving the culture
pink petals
flirted with passers-by
revelled in attention
posed for pictures.

Uprooted to Brighton
in a white fleece shroud
it faltered
leaves fell
naked boughs mourned
sensing life had passed.

Two years later
in a new pot
on a south facing wall
tiny green shoots emerge,
pink blossoms
show their party faces.

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The magic of Bob Pelham in Marlborough

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                           Pictures from the event are sprinkled throughout this post.

The big day arrived, people gathered including some the younger relatives of those who had once worked in the Pelham Puppet Factory.   Bob Pelham had employed a great many people in Marlborough over the years, especially just after the war when woman had dressed the puppets in their own homes.


David Leech set up a display and theatre in the town hall. The Lady Mayoress and some of the council were in attendance. Bob Pelham’s nieces Astrid and Sue Pelham pulled the magic cord. The president of The British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild, Ronnie Le Drew, Brian Hibbitt photographer and film maker and fellow puppeteers and friends attended the reception, One or two visitors brought along some very special puppets including Steven Metcalfe with his latest acquisition – a mermaid.

We were entertained with short performances from David Leech, Ronnie Le Drew and a very skilled young ventriloquist, Max Fulham.

I was asked to give a short speech so I did deciding to share three things that no one else knew about Bob except me. sounds like a magic spell!



1. My father and Bob both served in the Second World War and afterwards became friends. My parents were the first people to demonstrate Pelham puppets in Gamages.   My mother wrote rhymes and monologues for the puppets and apparently sales rocketed!

In Harrods we performed our own show – Ron and Joan Field’s puppets as well as promoting Pelham Puppets. Our modest career in the world of puppetry suddenly took off and we entertained professionally for years!

But in those early years we had a tiny  publishing company so Bob and my father agreed we would write the play books and distribute them which we did.  It was also agreed that we would retain the copyright to the books.

We produced a second book, my mother and I writing this one together so she insisted I should also have my name on the cover.  It was 1950 and I was ten.

The curtain call monologue was so popular headmasters and mistresses sometimes adapted it to read on their retirement.

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2.  Bob lent us a giant Bimbo to promote our professional Marionette Musicals in the Arcade Theatre on Blackpool’s North Pier and on the Spa Scarborough, in the early 50s.

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3.  Ours was the company that made and performed with two soldier marionettes and a horse in Richard Attenborough’s feature film ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on Brighton’s West Pier.   We also made the tiny soldier marionettes with fibre glass helmets, uniforms, breast plates, neat rubber boots and tiny hand sewn white gloves which were to appear in the roundabout scene in the film.

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This army had taken months to make, but just a few weeks away from filming dad realised we would be hard pressed to make enough of our own heads.

A quick phone call to Bob and he agreed to send us whatever he had laying around the factory. The box of heads arrived.  The soldiers, with their heads tipped down and partly covered in helmets, were to be seated on white moulded plaster horses, so no one noticed that Hansels from Hansel and Gretel, and a Beatle were going to be riding with the regiment.


Bimbo read some of ‘Curtain Call’ at the end (written by Joan and Ann in 1950)

Curtain Call
(Can be read by a puppet clown or the puppeteer)
The time has come to say goodbye.
This ends our little show
And I must do my best to try,
To thank you ‘fore you go.
You’ve laughed in the right places
It’s really been a feast,
Just to see your faces
Made us laugh to say the least,
But please don’t feel insulted,
We’ve had a pleasant time,
Which eventually resulted.
In this ‘thank-you rhyme.
We thank you very sweetly,
And we’ll hope you come again,
We’ve learnt our parts so neatly
Done our best to entertain.
So now there’s one remaining
Task for me to do.
It doesn’t need explaining,
Goodbye to all of you.

P1120705Bimbo had printed copies of his rhyme to celebrate the day and gave them out to people in Marlborough which was the best thing he could think to do on such a special occasion!

Later young people in the pub took poems for an aunts and Nans who had once worked in the factory.  Someone else took one to an old lady who had once worked there too and later told she was very pleased!

Bimbo and I even had our picture in the local on line newspaper as part of a full report about the event which was a bonus.  Next day it was two buses and three trains to get home again and the end of an era with Pelham Puppets for me too!

As children my sister and I never owned a Pelham Puppet they really were luxury toys. Lucky children saved pocket for months, others hoped they would get one for Christmas.

Some of the delights of Marlborough
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The Green Dragon a delightful pub and bed and breakfast. A room for two with Bimbo and bunny – bunny is one of our own marionettes, a hardworking white rabbit from ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

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There are many ancient buildings, walkways and beautiful churches what a wonderful place!

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Hooray! A blue plaque for Bob Pelham in Marlborough

The unveiling and celebration is on 28th of February in Marlborough,  where Bob Pelham created Wonky Toys and later Pelham Puppets. The plaque is  a big achievement for David Leech  who instigated the idea and the council for their generous support for this memorial.  David Leech was an important part of the Pelham Puppets success story.

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Today there is a little witch hanging on a picture frame and a Bimbo unpacked and waiting in the wings, while I take it upon myself to go diligently through boxes of uncharted family archives.  Amongst them I find my mother’s handwritten notes about her friendship with Bob and her early involvement with his Pelpop newsletter.  There are also reports about the first shows my parents performed to promote Pelham puppets at Christmas in  Gamages and later in Harrods.


At Harrods we put on shows with our own marionettes and our company was established. My parents entertained some of the stars like Peter Sellers and Kenneth More (the leading actor in the film Genevieve) at The Dorchester Hotel.  The ultimate honour was a performance for Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace, a birthday treat for the very young Prince Charles.

I first met Bob in our studio when I was about 10. My mothers first pelham play book had past all expectations.  Later she and I wrote the second book of plays in our garden at 74 Dartmouth Park Hill. We dreamed them up between us, so my mother insisted I should have my name on the cover with hers.

Bob suggested that because we had written the plays and agreed to publish them, all the rights and revenue would belong to us. But of course the books helped the sales of the puppets and some children liked having a script to perform.


As the exhibition organiser for the British Puppet and Model  Theatre Guild’s Silver Jubilee Exhibition, my father tried to get a display of Bob’s puppets into the exhibition. But the committee rejected his request on the grounds that Pelham puppets were toys! Which they were, but very special toys and an inspiration for people who were to become professional puppeteers in later life.


Back in our archives I find the cuttings about a giant Bimbo, lent by Bob to attract attention to our own marionette musicals in the Arcade Theatre on the North pier at Blackpool and later The Spa Scarborough. in the early 50s.

outside the theatre in Blackpool

Many of the guys returning to post war Britain could not settle including Bob Pelham. My father and Spike Milligan had served in the same campaigns but I don’t think they ever met. It was after the war when we were engaged as the first puppeteers for the Telegoons that they met for the first time.


Chatting with Norma Barnes (Spike’s agent) and the wonderful  Charles Chilton and Marcel, producer of the Ying Tong song at a Goon Show Preservation Society meeting led to a tremendous respect for all these creative guys.

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The world of entertainment is never easy, for Spike serious depression, for Bob the worst disaster must have been when a fire destroyed his factory in the 80s

We had our share of emotional and financial disasters too. writing scripts and making pilot films for a series that did not take off, patents for moving mouths ignored. But we also had successes, satire for Granada TV, a series featuring our rod puppet cooks for deaf children,. appearing in ‘New Faces’ and Cliff Richard’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium.

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My solo career started at 18 touring in variety with people such as Alma Cogan and Max Miller.

But my involvement with Pelham Puppets has just gone on and on. As a young mum in the 60s I used to do shows in schools with them and once at Christmas promoted sales of Pelhams at Allders of Croydon.

After my father died my mother and I made a new version of our ‘Alice in Wonderland’, we also gathered some Pelhams together and filmed some of her plays in her garden. I arranged for a limited 50th anniversary reprint of her book together with a DVD.   Although we filmed the second book of plays my mother died soon afterwards and the reprints of the second book still lay in a box.  I lost heart.

But one of the last acts of friendship from Bob was a very special one. We were engaged in making and performing  with marionettes in the film ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ on Brighton Pier in 1968.


Each character was chosen from our collection by Richard Attenborough
and re-dressed by my mother in authentic uniforms. My parents had taken six months to make an  army of tiny soldiers for a roundabout to be featured in the film. They all required fibreglass helmets, rubber boots, breast plates, leather straps and handmade white felt gloves.

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But we were running out of time and did not have enough heads, so a quick call to Ron’s old friend Bob, resulted in a whole box of heads being posted to us from his factory. Fortunately our helmets covered their heads so the soldiers were incognito.

Since moving to Brighton I conserved the puppets from the film and they featured on BBC South East and were on display at the Art Gallery and Museum in Rottingdean

Ann conserving puppets from ‘Oh What a Lovely War.’


The display at The Art Gallery and Museum in Rottingdean.


Pelham Puppets crept into my life again in 2009 when I ran family workshops at Saltdean Library. We made rod puppets, but the Pelhams I took in provided loads of creativity and fun too.

In recent years I have written poetry and had some poems published in magazines. Two years ago I published ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’ with poems about people, places, love and loss and the complexity of being a puppeteer’s daughter. Not surprisingly a poem about our Adana printing machine crept in with a reference to Pelham Puppets once again.


For my parents the world of puppetry ended abruptly. They suddenly changed track, worked with ceramics for a few years, my mother at 60 then applied for and became  principal at The Royal School of Needlework. My  father became involved with communty education but also gained funding and worked with a PhD student on the restoration of the Brunel Pump room in Rotherhithe

As we all know Bob died of a heart attack.   Had he lived he would have been 100 on 28th February, a man who just loved creating puppets for children to enjoy.

Here are two Pelham Puppet plays my mother and I filmed during her retirement just for the fun of it.

Posted in Ann's photography, Becoming a poet, Brighton - out and about, Cheer yourself up on a dull day, Creativity, Marionette, Photography, Puppethouse mayhem, Rottingdean | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Caught in a blizzard – poem

IMG_20190130_085202  Photos by Robin –

Sisterhood in the 60s

Trapped in the cottage during a blizzard
we manage to light the old gas lamp hanging
on a chain on the ceiling, coax half a bucket
of water from the well, find a tin of soup
to heat on the primus stove and breastfeed
our sons huddled under warm blankets.


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Cataloging life and poetry

According to one source cataloging includes alphabetize, arrange, tick off, rank, stream, a pecking order, pigeon hole.

Love the last one, imagine indignant pigeons waiting while I place half finished poems into holes along the white cliffs walk way.

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Cataloging life 

Consider seriously if the scripts about gnomes living in a wood are ever be a going concern or for that matter to ‘Lizzie with love.’

Set out colourful packets of seeds into tempting rows.

Put all the pictures and handmade bits and bobs the grandchildren have ever made into three boxes, one for each of them.

Plan when to read files of mother’s writing including  letters from her wartime lover.

Think about singing don’t actually sing – just think about it.

Stop slipping into endless obligations say NO and another LOUDER NO.

Decide when to finish Nicky’s book about Pasta.

Make sure you messenger all the grandchildren at least once a month.

Go through your whole wardrobe decide who you are and stick to it.

Don’t write poems dancing naked in the bathroom as suggested by Matthew Dickman – stay curled up in bed.

Ancestry and Paper Chain from ‘The Puppeteer’s Daughter’


My people were
in the rag trade
their trademark
a thimble.
Granddad had
a fruit shop
his trademark
a black cash box
and constant cough.
An ancient uncle
mixed pigments
for Windsor and Newton
and studied the great masters.
Gran’s folk came
from gypsy stock.
fortune tellers
and dreamers.
Dad had a dance band
during he war
and played for radio Milan.
My mother lived
by her needle
and cooked
the lightest ever
Victoria sponge.

Paper Chain

Snow falls like flakes of memory
tucked under a warm blanket

cheeks pinched with cold
the window a filigree frost

rough sawn logs stacked in the grate
a comforting casserole in the oven

the smell of honeyed baked apples
stuffed with raisins

“Gales in the Herbides snow expected
to continue in the Highlands’

Mr Crick the newsagent hanging a single
dusty paper-chain in his window

Busy sparrows in a flurry of snow
spinning on the bird feeder

Mrs Kettle in her cottage with her goat
and cat huddle together to keep warm

The letter
‘We are sorry your great aunt died
two months ago, we are sure she would
have liked your letter returned herein.’

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New Year Resolutions…Oh No!

p1120581Made a list of last year’s successes instead:

            • Stayed alive!
            • More or less kept up with promises to family and friends.
            • Managed to keep my blog going after ten years seemed a pity to  abandon it
            • Made a show with my young neighbour…Cinderella – a pantomime in a box! p1120522-002
            • Had fun in my garden and allotment.
            • Read from my book at Troubadour, Pier Poets and was featured along with the great and the good at Pighog.  ‘Miss Lottie’s last chance’ was based on my mother on her allotment.
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            • ‘Lizzie a poem about a gypsy child a fond memory. Poems about the complexities of being a puppeteer’s daughter had been a long haul.P1110912
          • Think I got to grips with Facebook despite the fact that I haven’t got a cat! I’m not too sure about the concept of friends but interesting acquaintances are fun.
          • Put a film up of a marionette singing Happy Birthday to someone special. wp-1546201566855..jpg 
          • You make your own luck my old granny used to say. Oh no not her again.

        But looking around the house at different bits and bobs decided success and what actually makes one happy are often very different things.

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  1.  So think it best to take things as they come. (apologies for the layout on this post just could not get it right)

  2. An award-winning blog  for a ‘blog that brightens our day’

Posted in Becoming a poet, Brighton - out and about, Cheer yourself up on a dull day, Gardening and the Allotment - for the love of it, Marionette, Photography, poetry, Puppethouse mayhem | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Finding the printing press – puppets – poetry – presents

Well we’ve eaten all the mince pies!

The Adana

P1120480.JPGI uncovered the Adana press and IMG_20181219_160906a long lost box of printing blocks just before Christmas, as one does when one is looking for last years wrapping paper!

The blocks looked intriguing and as Nicky the youngest grandson was home from uni we unpacked them.

He thought the newspaper wrapping was almost as interesting as the blocks.  One went back to 1964 and several others were packed away in 1974. So we ironed them to read later and then he printed some of the blocks by hand coloured and laminated.

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The block of Cinderella would have been used for publicity and a programme for our first performance of Cinderella which was at The Torch Theatre Club in London in the 50s.  After that performance different versions of the pantomime and new scripts seemed to go on forever.

In the box there were several sets of blocks and typeface in place from shows performed years ago!

IMG_20181219_161224From 1947 my parents made marionettes, costumes, wrote scripts, designed and painted scenery, sometimes with the help of aspiring puppeteers and local artists.

An agent called Arnold Stoker secured one their early engagements, performing at Buckingham Palace for the Queen. This was at Her Majesty’s first party after the war.

The Arnold Stoker Agency was still around and getting me engagement for my cabaret marionettes, when I was a young mother and training to be a teacher.

But our Adana printing press was our life line. When I left home at 15  heading for Eastbourne Hippodrome with a basket of cabaret marionettes and an Equity card my father handed me a set publicity photographs and newly printed business cards!

The poems


The old Adana
never stopped clanging
virgin paper fed its jaws.
Nearby large drawers held
sets of single letters in
Garamond or Dorchester
for straight talking
Venetian Gothic, curvy
and romantic
for invitations
Typsetting done
sheets destined to be
hand fed between rubber rollers
emerge in sticky black ink
publicity flyers, leaflets
programmes, plays for
Pelham Puppets
all laid out on every
available space to dry.
We did everything ourselves
to cut costs.

A hundred years ago
TJ Cobden-Sanderson threw
all the type from Dove Press
into the Thames when he fell out
with his partner.

137 Bus
We are travelling
on the top
of the 137 from
the Archway
to the West End
to collect a
new type face from
the Adana shop
so why on the
way home
a deep blue
ceramic dish
full of tiny pebbles
a soapstone hill
two small houses
a mirror pond
a bridge and
tiny Japanese lady
with a red parasol.


Now for something completely different …

Sooner or later things change and now all the grandchildren are in their twenties Jamie is living in Japan and Joshua is a pharmacist, so I did not think we would continue our traditional and somewhat haphazard attempts at making Christmas presents.

It all started after the years of Leggo and gadgets and things and I once received a innovative bird feeders made out of coat hangers, even if my knitted hats and scarfs never really happened!

But now Robin and Sheila have started hand painting lights and glassware for craft fairs, so we had wonderful personalised  jars, lights and glasses. My youngest son loves leatherwork so he made keyrings and I had glass mats of course even if I did cheat a bit by adding a  glass and a bottle of something to go it.

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