Hours not Miles!

31 Mar

I wasn’t watching it myself but about a week ago, as a follow-up to the bi-annual Comic Relief charity TV event, a programme appeared featuring “Little Britain” star David Walliams. In it Mr Walliams was attempting to appear on as many TV Panel shows as he could in a 24 hour period – hence the title “24 Hour Panel People!”.

Why wasn’t I watching it?

Well, since you ask, I was in the study editing the details of the computer files which comprise my music collection.

And while we’re on THAT subject can you tell me why a file from a “ripped” audio CD finds it necessary to appear on my computer with a name of (for example) “12-Adam and the Ants- Prince Charming .mp3” when the details held within that file already include the track number (12) and the Artist name (Adam etc.)?  The only thing required (and that is not held anywhere else in the file) is the song title immediately preceding the “.mp3” suffix and with the file name trimmed down to that I can sort the tracks in Windows Media Player by ANY of the relevant parameters. This is something I cannot do if WMP thinks the full file name in my example IS the track name.

So I edit out all of the unnecessary stuff with a view to perfecting the record and, ultimately, having some chance of extracting those details into a database one day. I’ve done about 500 so far leaving about 6000 more to be looked at and possibly amended!

ANYWAY, as I said, I wasn’t watching the programme but from the occasional laughter emanating from the lounge I gathered that some bits were reasonably funny but other bits weren’t; so instead of going in to watch I carried on working and thinking about my own marathon experiences.

Not, I hasten to add, that I’m any sort of athlete – my prowess in that area is limited to ONCE, at school, achieving a 10 minute mile! I can tell you are duly impressed!

The marathons to which I refer were sponsored events carried out by my friends in the 3rd Ipswich Boys Brigade for Christian Aid Week in 1969 and 1970; they were 24 hour Table Tennis marathons.

I’ve mentioned one of these endurance tests in a past post  in connection with the music of 1970 and I think that was the one I contributed to the most.

Looking back I strongly suspect that my part in the 1969 event MUST have been limited to daytime only as I would in May of that year have been weeks, days, maybe even hours away from my GCE “O” Level exams – not a good time to go buggering up ones’ sleep patterns!

When mentioning my recollections of this event to my elder daughter later she was surprised to learn that we did not, as she had assumed, start this lengthy “ping pong” game at (say) 9 a.m. on a Saturday after a good night’s sleep! Oh, no! Nothing so simple and obvious!

Boys Brigade “parade” night was Friday (7.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. or 30 minutes earlier if you were in the company band – which I was) and for some inexplicable reason the marathon began after that!

Actually it’s probably not so inexplicable now I think about it – a 9 a.m. Saturday start would have had us finishing at 9 a.m. on a SUNDAY and the “reactionary old gits” (as I described them in the earlier article) who controlled usage of the Church Hall couldn’t possibly have allowed THAT, charitable reasons or not!

Plus, of course, we were required to attend church each week and the Vicar wouldn’t have wanted a couple of pews full of snoring, sweaty adolescents in his main service, now would he? Had it been a Catholic church on the other hand……….

Let’s consider my personal schedule for that weekend:

Friday morning – up at 7.30 a.m. in time to have breakfast and drive my nippy little Honda 90 motorcycle to work for 8.30.

Friday daytime – I worked at H.M. Inspector of Taxes, Ipswich 3rd District where I lugged about large wooden trolleys of files for the Inspectors and lesser mortals all day. Some of those files were for large partnerships and comprised about 6 inches of compacted papers in thick cardboard covers and they were bloody heavy!

Friday evening – At 5 p.m. I motorcycled home again, had my tea and went off to Boys Brigade for 7 p.m. band practice. In case you were wondering by 1970 I was the Bass Drummer so in case work hadn’t given me enough exercise I had to march up and down with that great big drum strapped tightly to my chest!

Friday night – by about 10 p.m. any boys who were of school age and whose parents hadn’t given permission for them to stay overnight were gone and the rest of us got the Table Tennis match under way. 

Note that by this time I have already been awake 14 ½ hours!

There were probably about 10 of us old enough and stupid enough to do the “night shift” and we played doubles when we could and singles when we had to. Coffee making facilities were provided as was a record player and an extremely varied collection of contemporary Albums (still referred to as “LPs” in those days) to help those that wanted to, or had to, stay awake.

In the back room four camp beds were set up and we had brought our own sleeping bags in case it proved necessary or possible to take a nap now and then.

I found that after my first 2 hour stint playing and/or scoring I had consumed too much coffee to be able to sleep and simply wandered around the hall, (or outside it for a cigarette) just listening to the  music on the record player. Then it would be my turn again and I would have to consume more coffee to keep going which would stop me from sleeping NEXT time the chance came around – and so on for the rest of the night!

There was, of course, the theoretical possibility that those of us who had lasted the night could catch a bit of a kip when the “dayshift” turned up but from about 7.30 a.m. onwards the 11 to 16 year olds who appeared were so boisterous and generally rowdy that sleep was utterly ruled out.

At this point, you will note, I had been awake for 24 solid hours!

Just why I didn’t pop home (it would have taken all of 5 minutes on the motorbike) and come back a few hours later I do not now have the faintest idea, and after a while I seemed to get my second wind and continued to take a turn at the game when needed.

I have a vague idea that some of us who were regulars at the Elm Tavern opposite the church went and had a few beers and a game of darts at lunchtime. I had been in the pub darts team for about 6 months by then – Landlords seemed to have trouble telling ages in those days and I think it was a genuine failing of his because he was more than a little miffed when he found out that the birthday I was celebrating in his Lounge Bar the following February was only my Eighteenth!

However I managed it, I was still there and still awake when the “final whistle” was blown at 10 p.m. on the Saturday and by the time I had driven VERY carefully home and made my way up to bed I had been up for slightly over 39 hours.

And THAT is a record that I’ve only even come close to on one occasion since – and it is possible that the occasion in question doesn’t count because I was, technically, more or less unconscious for some of that weekend!  It was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee weekend in 1977 and the Crown & Anchor in Ipswich WAS serving beer at 1953 prices all through the Saturday of that weekend – ’nuff said! Following that cheap drinking marathon I had a party at my house for the rest of that long weekend – to which my next door neighbour contributed a 9 gallon barrel of home brew beer – but that’s another story!

I think that makes Mr Walliams, for all his charitable intent, a bit of a lightweight!



Posted by on March 31, 2011 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , ,

2 responses to “Hours not Miles!

  1. Cy Quick

    April 4, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Apollo 11 EVA kept me up. I have had various night jobs. And elections have occasionally tempted me to stay awake until the result became clear. But, fortunately, I am no good at Games. And the only night shift I sometimes get involved in nowadays is when this dratted blogging addiction hits me particularly badly. Even that is on the wane at present. Anyway, this piece is very interesting because I never joined the Scouts or Brigade because it would have meant swearing loyalty to the crown. Our religion forbad that.

  2. Alfie

    April 4, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    I don’t remember an “oath of allegiance” in the BB – the only swearing I recall came from singing filthy Rugby songs on coach trips.
    Must check out whether I DID make any such promise as it might make me feel guilty if I ever have to lead the revolution that I feel is coming soon!
    On the other hand we could leave the Crown alone if it promised not to interfere and just shoot the Westminster Weasels instead! Then I’d be OK.



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