Britain’s Forgotten Reality Superstar
by Tim Hogarth
In the north of England there was a put-down for women who had ideas above their station: “Who do you think you are? Lady Docker?”
Through Britain’s post-War years, scarcely a day went by when Norah Docker and husband Sir Bernard didn’t dominate the newspapers. The Dazzling Dockers, as they became known, were on everyone’s lips. Rubbing shoulders with royalty and the era’s Hollywood stars, the pair caught the imagination of a public hungry for frivolity.
They were the pioneering reality superstars of their age, controversial standard-bearers for our own celebrity-obsessed 21st century. Yet of the two, there is no doubt whose star shone brightest. Born over a butcher’s shop in Derby, Norah Docker went on to enjoy a level of fame second only to a young Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Brash but always fun, Sir Bernard was her third millionaire catch in a row.
Antiques expert Tim Hogarth, star of ITV’s Dickinson’s Real Deal and Secret Dealers, re-tells a tale once familiar but now almost totally forgotten featuring excessive spending, posh furs, diamonds, gold-plated Daimlers and terrible behaviour, such as when Norah got the couple banned by Prince Rainier of Monaco and saw the jewel that inspired the Pink Panther films stolen, thereby becoming involved with the London underworld. The Dockers sailed the Med on their own superyacht, owned castles and country estates.
It couldn’t last, of course, and didn’t, but what waves this working class girl made en route from rags to riches and back again. From the Bright Young Things of London’s Roaring Twenties to their equivalents in the Swinging Sixties, the adventures of Lady Norah Docker are a dazzling treat.
Rugby League, Rock’n’Roll, The Road and Me
by Steve Mascord
Steve Mascord – born Andrew John Langley – was obsessed with rugby league and rock’n’roll. Long after almost everyone he knew, he clung to these things like twin teddybears, turning at least one of them into a career and making a bit of money out of the other.
At the age of 47 he owned precisely nothing aside from hundreds of records and CDs and almost every edition of Rugby League Week ever printed. He was unmarried, had no car or property and was the proud owner of $50,000 of credit card debt. Then one day he discovered the truth about himself.
He always knew he was adopted but it turned out he was part of a bohemian family, his mother forced to give him up after suffering a mental breakdown. She searched for him until her dying day. Steve met uncles and cousins and aunties he never knew existed and for the first time in his life he felt whole. And he looked around that storage room full of CDs and football magazines and felt sad; a sense of loss. He appeared in newspapers and on radio and television and people thought he was successful but had he really created a life for himself? Or was he living in a childhood fantasy, compensating for what had been missing, ready to fall down on top of him as traditional media imploded?
Steve thought ‘enough of being Steve Mascord, who is not a real person. Time to finally be Andrew John Langley’. Having figuratively thrown all his toys out of the cot, he decided to conduct an audit. Which ones to pick up off the floor and keep in his new life, and which to leave laying there forever.
In the Footsteps of Laurie Lee
By Dave Hadfield
It was the Booker Prize-winning author of Schindler’s Ark, Thomas Keneally, who described Dave Hadfield as ‘The Poet of Rugby League’. True enough, though the man who has also been called Bolton’s answer to Bill Bryson has equally revelled in other subjects, like music and travel.
Lost in Spain is the result of the dying wish of his oldest friend’s wife, Barb, to have her ashes scattered along the route traced by Laurie Lee when he walked from Gloucestershire to the Mediterranean in the 1930s.
That original journey provided the material for As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, the book upon which, as well as Cider with Rosie, Lee’s glittering reputation rests.
Lost in Spain is a story of friendship and late-flowering love that is by turns informative, poignant, elegiac and laugh-out-loud funny.
These days freed from the constraints of daily journalism, Hadfield has no plans to stop writing. Of his ten books so far, five have been written since he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008.
Adventures on the Ale – by Tony Thomson
When Tony Thomson decided it was time for York to have its own beer again, he had more than a brewery in mind…
As well as creating a superior beer, the pioneering independent brewer wanted to offer the Minster city’s visitors an alternative attraction – a showpiece brewery with a visitor centre, bar and club.
P**s Up in a Brewery records every step along the way to building a successful business – from the birth of an idea to the search for funding; from hauling a second-hand kit across the Pennines to the improbable task of finding premises within the city walls; from tackling the stern resistance of York landlords to the moment when the new kid on the block captures the industry’s most coveted awards.
Alongside the drama is the humour associated with building a business on the simple premise that you like its product. The book’s cast of colourful characters include Tony’s partner in crime, one-time burger-flipper Smithy, and the softly-spoken barman who lets his wooden club do the talking for him. With secretive brewers, a couple of ghosts and a lass on a hen party determined to down a yard of ale also in the mix, you have something between a soap opera, a business plan and a sitcom.
Memoirs from a ’70s Yorkshire classroom
by Kath Padgett
Kath Padgett arrived as a naïve, newly-qualified graduate teacher of modern languages just as the pop band Dawn were topping the charts with ‘Knock Three Times,’ Spangles were the sweets of choice and orange mini skirts with shoes from Freeman, Hardy & Willis all the rage.
‘In those first two years, I laughed and cried, encountered wonderful and inspirational people, many of whom turned out to be lifelong friends and, in addition to learning how to teach, was taught how to learn. I learned about strength of character, tough love and the things that really mattered in life.’
This is the story of those early teaching years. The characters and black humour, the rawness, deprivations and an instilling of hope as much as education.
As much a social history of the time – including original letters received from parents – she deals with playground tragedy, first foreign trips and staff room politics, emerging on a career path that saw her ultimately spend 46 years as a teacher.
These recollections of inner-city secondary school life in early 1970s Yorkshire are
as poignant and entertaining as they are nostalgic.
“My story is in no way all sweetness and light, cute and slushy. It’s earthy, gritty and heartbreaking, yet at the same time rewarding, challenging, life-changing and vital…”