A Sense of Occasion

A Sense of Occasion CoverFirstly, this is not a scooter book. I think there is one mention of a Lambretta in it, so don’t buy it expecting a insight into scooter riding in the sixties. But, if you’re into the sixties, and the whole mod scene, this book is a must read. It’s the story… or several interlinked stories really… of some ordinary, working class girls growing up in Chelmsford, Essex, and how they make sense of the world.

The whole “mod thing” is not laboured… but is there as a constant backdrop, and it’s clearly how these girls define themselves. Being a mod is the most natural thing in the world. And it’s something that ‘society’ just doesn’t get. At one point, one of the key characters, Linda explains what it means to a confused German… “We’re working class. So people don’t think much about it, I mean except to say “They’re fighting again”. But the clothes are good.” The girls, for once, are the lead characters in these stories, and the male characters very much fall into supporting roles. A Sense of Occasion is a slim volume, but one I thoroughly enjoyed, because it’s beautifully written and because of it’s authenticity. The dialogue is believable and ‘real’, and really gets you into the head of the girls… and you really start to empathise with their lives. If you have an interest in the sixties and the mod scene, read it. You can grab it on Amazon, here.

Follow author Elizabeth Woodcraft (that’s her on the cover at a school fashion show in 1964) on Twitter here… and her blog is also a great read. A follow up collection of Chelmsford stories “Beyond the Beehive” is coming shortly.

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Book review: Mods! By Richard Barnes

Mods! by Richard BarnesI had this book back in the day, shortly after it was published. It became my bible… a revelation, an eyeopener, source of information, and the definitive reference work when it came to solving arguments. I bought it from the sadly missed ‘Books, Bits & Bobs’ from Kingston-upon-Thames, a cavernous place that sold a vast array of pin badges, patches, books, comics, posters and all sorts of other ephemera… and they weren’t picky, the mod stuff was intermingled with the 2tone, punk and heavy metal patches. It was across one road from the cinema where I first saw Quadrophenia, and across another from Jack Brendon’s, the clothes shop that sold an unlikely mix of Mod and Teddy Boy gear.

But I digress. Back to the book. Firstly, it’s worth buying for the pictures alone. And there are a ton of them. In fact most of the 128 pages are pics. And they’re great. A lot have been reproduced over the years in various other formats, and all over the internet, but there’s nothing like having them together as a collection. And they close inspection! There’s a load of scooter pics, as well as clothing, hairstyle and music shots. There are also a fair few reprints from 60’s newspapers, lots about the the seaside battles of Brighton, Margate, Clacton and the like. The text is insightful and although the author, Richard Barnes, was by his own admission not a mod himself, he was at the heart of the scene and saw it happening all around him. In fact, being a slightly removed, dispassionate observer has probably made this a stronger, and less biased book.

To finish my story, this book became a part of my library in the early eighties. Much read, much loved. And then, in a clearout it ended up in a charity shop. Doh! So, for many years, I didn’t have it. And then, my lovely wife got me a copy for Christmas. Only then I realised how much I had missed it!

I know more that most, that being a Lambretta rider doesn’t automatically make you a mod, and you may even hate the tag. But you’ll more than likely have more than a passing interest in the scene. A scene that has not only become a integral part of British subculture, and cultural history… been at the root of many revivals over the years, and passed on essential elements to many youth cultures that have followed it. Do yourself a favour, and add this book to your library.
It doesn’t tell the whole story of Mod as a movement, and there are other books that deal with other aspects of the scene. But this book was the original, and as mods will know, the original is often the best.

Get it here on Amazon

Dick Smart and his SuperVespa


Came across this recently via Ride the machine.
Now I know this is a Lambretta blog, and I have been less than complimentary about our Vespa riding brethren (only in jest, honestly),
but that’s because I’d never seen this movie before. Dick, or should that be Signor Smart, is a Vespa riding, latino James Bond type.
I won’t spoil it for you (you really got to see it to believe it) but the words Little Nelly sprang to mind. 007 afficionados will know what I’m on about.
Fantastic cheesy soundrack too.