Quotes that made me laugh #20

I was too young to party at Manchester’s Twisted Wheel club in the late sixties, one of the original Northern Soul all-nighter venues, but I did get to tread its boards circa 1976 during its disco incarnation as Placemate 7 – perhaps that’s why I never properly took to clubbing. Disco? Me? Really?

A Placemate 7 publicity flier from the same year that I bust a groove on its dance floor
A Placemate 7 publicity flier from the same year that I bust a groove on its dance floor

I did venture to other nightclubs though. Three(ish) to be exact(ish). A Mancunian friend called Bernard, who I had met during my ill-fated time as a student in London, visited me in Kendal a few months after I had dropped out from the prestigious North East London Polytechnic (aka NELP) and suggested we go to an all-nighter at the famous Wigan Casino. 

We were so naïve we didn’t know what it involved (seemingly drugs, an ability to ‘dance your own steps’ and a strong Lancashire or Scottish accent). We left before it really got going – before two actually in what was probably a first for Wigan Casino.

I still like the music, but Northern Soul purists would trash me for keeping the faith via the medium of a couple of ‘Best of’ CDs and not by the possession of rare and exclusive original 7 inch vinyl singles.

Can 2 compilation CDs be cosidered 'keeping the faith'? Probably not!
Can two compilation CDs be considered ‘keeping the faith’? Er, no!

A year or so later, a group I was with was turned away from the Mecca nightclub in Dundee due solely to my less-than-sartorial outfit (jeans and no tie). Fortunately, the city’s Barracuda club had no such sensibilities and thus, in June 1979 I stepped into a nightclub for the third (fourth if you count the Mecca) and last time.

So, you ask, what is the point of all this nostalgia? Well, although not a Northern Soul mainstay and probably a bit too disco for my liking, Stevie Wonder had released his double album Songs in the Key of Life just before my visit to Placemate 7 and while on the dance floor there I recall having to avoid the over-amorous attentions of one of my sister’s flatmates with whom I was dancing to Wonder’s Sir Duke.

Needless to say, any mention of Stevie Wonder (or Sir Duke) since then has immediately transported me back to that dance floor. And “No!”, I didn’t take advantage of the situation. I’ve always been “too much of a gentleman for your own good” (Anne Somervell, pers comm, New Year’s Day 1981) – frankly, as a naïve North Country lad I was also terrified!

So, the astute among you may have guessed that these ramblings were inspired by a recent mention of Stevie Wonder. And you’d be right as finally I get to the quote that made me laugh. Here is Stevie Wonder’s take on the current American Presidential election:

Voting for Trump is like asking me to drive!

All together now, one, two, three; Keep you mind on your drivin'; Keep you hands on the wheel; Keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead
All together now, one, two, three;
Keep you mind on your drivin’;
Keep you hands on the wheel;
Keep your snoopy eyes on the road ahead …

Aye, Phil, I’ll do just that!

I came across an old professor of mine in the Graun’s Birthday announcements today. Professor William Stewart by name, and I well remember one of the few face-to-face meetings that I had with him.

It was at the start of the summer term in the third year of my four-year degree course in Dundee. I had been called in to explain why I had walked out of a pre-Easter ‘class’ exam without answering any of the questions. The short answer was that I couldn’t, so I told him that, but added (truthfully) that it was because I had spent the entire term training for and playing rugby.

Such is the arrogance of youth that I also told him he shouldn’t berate me for it, but that he should celebrate the fact that someone from his Department was the University’s only first choice player in that year’s Scottish Universities Rugby XV. With an eloquent flourish I then demanded that he judge me on my junior honours exams in the summer and not on a meaningless class exam!

Quietly, he lowered his glasses down the bridge of his nose, tilted his head forward to look over them, smiled malevolently and whispered threateningly in his soft Islay lilt: “Aye, Phil, I’ll do just that!”

That had more effect than any ‘hairdrier’ kind of bollocking could have ever had and my goodness did I work hard to make up for what was effectively a missed term. He has since been dubbed a knight, so “thank you” Sir William Duncan Patterson Stewart DSc, FRS, FRSE (and former Government Chief Scientific Advisor), your understated menace had the desired effect.

Aye, Phil, I'll do just that!
Aye, Phil, I’ll do just that!

Postscript: a former colleague and I once disagreed over a detail on a poster that he had created for our library to highlight the fisheries research work of D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson, a leading scientist of the Victorian school and, like Sir William, a knighted professor. I argued that he should be entitled ‘Professor Sir D’Arcy …” whereas my colleague had labelled him “Sir Professor D’Arcy …”. We asked our Librarian to arbitrate, each confident of inviolability, at which point she quietly put us both in our place by referring to Debrett’s and announcing that he should be referenced by his senior honour only, so, Sir D’Arcy it should be. That’s my kind of pedantry, but clearly not the Graun’s; it announced the birthday of ‘Prof Sir William Stewart’ – see pic, above.