The Glorious 74th Entry RAF Halton Aircraft Apprentices (The Coronation Entry).

Stan Norris Remembers.

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4. Stan the Entertainer!

Photograph: Man playing a guitar on a beach.

I Became Involved in Folk Music.

During the twilight years of my RAF career I became involved in folk music. After I suffered a severe heart attack my wife Ann thought I needed an interest, a hobby to act as a sort of therapy. Ann bought me a guitar to fool around with, it came with simple instructions how to strum simple songs like Tom Dooley, Clementine, Kumbiya etc. It was meant to keep me calm and static for at least half an hour every day.

I Was Hooked.

A few months later I was posted to Akrotiri. We joined the theatre club which met in what used to be the old Sgts Mess. A folk club met in one of the rooms there I think once a month. I went along out of curiosity and found that I had heard a lot of the songs before and not realised it was categorised as folk music - I liked it, I was hooked. But I didn't play or perform, I just enjoyed being in the audience.

Lossiemouth Folk Club

Posted to Kinloss, we soon found Lossiemouth folk club at the towns Beach Bar and became regular members of the weekly audience, singing along and enjoying the very convivial atmosphere. I often wished that I had the bottle to get up and perform, the standard and quality of the acts varied considerably and it didn't matter because everyone was well supported and encouraged regardless of ability. I couldn't do it though.

Not Taking No for an Answer.

Some three or four years on, Ann and I was invited to an intimate little dinner party hosted by the landlord of the Beach Bar. It was during the course of this evening that Ann persuaded me to sing a song or two which turned out to be several. The following Tuesday evening the club organisers had been tipped off and were waiting for me and they were not taking no for an answer. I was so nervous, my fingers got stuck in between the guitar strings in mid song! My guitar playing never really improved but nevertheless that was my folk career launched.

I Was Asked to Join an Existing Duo so That It Became a Trio.

After a while I began performing at residential homes, charity events, Alzheimer and similar societies and the annual folk festival. Then I was asked to join an existing duo so that it became a trio. For a year or so we were kept busy singing at pubs and clubs in the local area, at one of the pubs we became the regular entertainers until the other two in the trio were posted.

It Was a Useful Experience.

One evening in my early days I was entertaining solo for the first time in a Care home. The residents sat around the room in a big circle with me in the middle of the room perched on a stool doing my easy listening repertoire. The lighting was soft, the audience relaxed contentedly in their armchairs with their Zimmer frames or walking sticks in easy reach. It was a lovely atmosphere. I was in mid song when one of the elderly ladies suddenly frantically launched herself out of her armchair, grabbed her Zimmer frame and clackitty-clacked noisily out of the room. A compelling call of nature had caused her exit. The problem was, that before she managed to leave the room five other ladies suddenly found that they too had the need to 'go' as well. Four of them had Zimmers and off they clattered across the room in a hurried, noisy and graceless exit. Although I was totally bewildered at the time I carried on without stopping and finished the song. It was useful experience. From that I learnt to have frequent intervals in my programmes at Care homes.

Another Moving Experience of a Different Kind.

Another moving experience I had of a different kind. The venue was a hospital and I was just one act of a Christmas concert party. Nurses and porters had crammed as many patients, including a few bedridden ones into the largest ward available.. After I had done my turn a nurse asked me if I knew "The Old Rugged Cross" and if so would I sing it later for her patient. She pointed him out. He was an elderly gentleman laying on his back on a stretcher trolley and from the start seemed completely comatose. Eventually there was a gap in the programme for me to perform the request. As I got into the song he began to react, at first it was just twitching, then he was groaning and sometimes almost shouting and the twitching became more physical. The nurse was by his side tenderly making sure he didn't hurt himself. When I finished he relaxed back into his practically lifeless state. The nurse came over to me. "It was his favourite in his church-going days, he was trying to join in. It's the only time he reacts to any sound." I felt a whole mixture of emotions, very humble and very sad that this was his quality of life. A moving experience.

A Treasured Memory.

During the first Gulf War I was based at Lossiemouth. My role was family liaison and if required - a death counsellor. Many husbands were detached to various parts of the conflict area, it was a worrying time for the families. The Station Commander and his wife hosted a social afternoon at the Wives Club on Mothering Sunday and asked me to do some entertainment. The two main rooms of the building were packed with the families of the absent fathers. I had no amplifier, completely acoustic and the background noise was very loud but I started my programme. After a few minutes the ladies were drawing closer and closer to me, to escape the background noise, some were even sitting at my feet. More and more people crowded in. They had wistful, faraway looks in their eyes, a very intimate audience. A treasured memory of that afternoon.

An Exotic Bird!

Another Care home evening engagement. Five of us performers taking it in turns to entertain our large and appreciative audience. The first four did their opening numbers to the enraptured assembly and then it was my turn. Soon after I started the song, from somewhere in the room, a tuneless and inappropriate, loud sporadic whistling started up. The audience seemed oblivious to it, my colleagues did looked at me with puzzled expressions. I kept on with the song, no stopping. Next time round it happened again and every time I sang! At the first interval I spoke to one of the care assistants about it, she was mystified at first and then she smiled as she realised the offenders identity. At the back of the room, completely anonymous under the cover of it's shrouded cage - an exotic bird!

It Was Fun While It Lasted.

My advancing years, the nerves and the increasing bouts of tremors in my hands tells me that my days of entertaining in public are over, but it was fun while it lasted. I still go to the folk club but it's only now and again that I can perform for them.

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