A Lifetime in Ties.

Posted on 05/11/2017 By

Ties: Tie Selection.

A Lifetime in Ties.

Bobby has never really liked ties. Most of his life they have been worn for convention. School and office work, where the “rules” had to be obeyed. To him they represent restriction. Having to wear appropriate shirts. Mums and wives consigned to endless ironing to satisfy the daily fresh shirt.

Ties: Some bears can carry them off, Bobby - err, nah!

Some bears can carry them off, Bobby – err, nah!

When he retired, he took the vast majority of office shirts and ties to the charity shop. Finding himself on his own now, the iron has only come out twice. To iron my bow tie.

He did, however, keep a few special ones. No idea why. But here they are and they represent a lifetime in ties and, for fun, a favourite piece of music from each decade.

Ties: Cheam Park Farm Infants and Junior Schools. 1949-1955.

Cheam Park Farm Infants and Junior Schools. 1949-1955.

Music from the 40s.

Bobby loved that piece of music played often on the ‘wireless”. The theme tune of Paul Temple. Detective.

The Park Farm Estate was created in the thirties as part of the massive London housebuilding programme in the suburbs. Bobby’s family came to live in the first house they ever owned. And the last for Sid and Dorothy. Bobby’s parents. Living in 138 Brocks Drive the rest of their lives. The family owned that house, which will be another blog, for 81 years. Needs a little research. As part of the estate, schools and shops were built. “Park Farm” infants and junior schools were where Bobby first made his name for telling stories. (And talking too much). On his final day at Park Farm, the headmaster Mr Carpenter said ”Bobby, we will miss your stories and are keeping some for future generations”. And so it was on to the “big school”.

Ties:Sutton County Grammar School 1955-1961.

Sutton County Grammar School 1955-1961.

Music from the 50s.

Bobby and his schoolfriends used to have fish and chip Fridays . Lunchtime at each other’s houses playing Buddy Holly and the Crickets.

After years of being a star in the local school, he suddenly found himself in the alien world of a boy’s only grammar school. The youngest of 600 pupils, where the oldest shaved. Rich ones came to school in sports cars and gold cuff links. The majority came by bike and the legendary bike sheds (or what went on behind them) extended the length of the playground. Poor ones bought uniforms in the second hand school shop. Dorothy was ‘poor’, but she was proud. Not only did Bobby have a brand new jacket, it was from the posher school outlet of Foster Brothers, whose cherry red was a distinctive improvement on Johns Brothers. The main outlet. Proud she may have been, but the first morning he walked off in his cherry red jacket and tie scared stiff of what was to come. He was the only boy from Park Farm that year to go to Sutton County. So not only was it a daunting experience, but he faced it on his own. Dorothy’s pride did not extend beyond Brocks Drive and neither she nor Sid ever came near the Grammar School.

Bobby: “In writing this, I realise how proud they were of my going to Sutton County. But also that they were probably intimidated as well. They were old parents. In their late fifties and could have been mistaken for grandparents. They were poor. Not in Brocks Drive terms, but in comparison with many whose children went to the Grammar School. So I am sorry mum and dad. I misunderstood you.”

Bearing in mind Sutton was third choice after Kings College Wimbledon and Tiffins! Ha ha ha. The cherry red is a more conservative terracotta now, but still retains the distinctive silver owl badge. It is still a school Bobby was proud to have been to, but not from an elitist point of view. His brother had been there before the war, and he was continuing a family tradition even to being in the same “Red House”.

Bobby was lucky in being very tall. As big as third years. The little ones were subjected to all kinds of humiliation and damage. Despite his teddy bear tendencies, nobody took a chance on challenging him – because he was bigger than them. And he had the gift of the gab to go with it. At that time, schools had boiler rooms for heating. The caretaker scribbled the height of all the tall boys on the boiler room door. Bobby was no 2.

He loved his years at Sutton County Grammar School but, eventually, the lure of girls and all his friends leaving to go to work was too much. Even the cherry red jacket superseded by a practical black jacket in the 6th form was not enough to keep him there. Playing tennis on local courts with friends now at work who would say…. “We will pay for you as you are still a SCHOOLBOY”! With no guidance at all, he left school in 1961.

Work 1961-2009.

Music from the 60s.

If ever asked at any time what his favourite song was, he would still say this.

London was the obvious draw. Louis Dreyfus, a French grain importer in Plantation House, Mincing lane. Poor job if you weren’t French. A great experience for a year in the City of London. In those days knitted ties were the fashion. And are again it would seem.

Ties: This tie is just like the ones from the 60s, but is currently available from John Lewis.

This tie is just like the ones from the 60s, but is currently available from John Lewis.

The next job was the only one he didn’t need a tie for. You read about it last week (Brooklands). Just two and a half days building the VC10.

And then came the Legal and General years.

Ties: Legal & General today.

Legal & General today.

Ties: Just in case you didn't catch the tie!

Just in case you didn’t catch the tie!

L & G. Thirty years in all. with many changes in tie fashion. Bobby has chosen a very colourful tie for the period when, along with Glam Rock and flares we also had glam ties. Big flowers and cartoon characters. They were fun, but hardly serious insurance.

Music from the 70s.

Bobby adored Crystal Gayle. He had album covers on his desk. Saw her many times in concert. He even got Diddley to see her at the Fairfield Halls thirty years later. Still sounding as good. Still the ankle length hair. They were great times.

Ties: Crystal Gayle.

Crystal Gayle.

In those days, the L & G closely resembled a holiday camp. Fun, sport, clubs with a little insurance chucked in. One annual event was Grotty Tie Day. Memories of which precipitated this blog. The office was awash with every kind of tie imaginable. A lady friend of Bobby’s confided in him she made her own with the immortal words embroidered on it: “Sex Appeal Please give Generously”. As you can see, it was a charity event.

Ties: Tie Selection.

Tie Selection.

We hasten to add that these are not strictly “grotty ties”. They were the fashion for a short while in the seventies. The last Grotty Tie Day was won by John Entwistle, who hadn’t even entered – but wore ghastly ties as a norm. I am also reminded that Grotty Tie Day started originally with ties covered in dinner and dubious stains.

Bobby left the L & G in 1992. I was at his leaving party. Sadly, the L & G is now leaving Kingswood too. So many memories. I had my time there when, threatened with redundancy, Bobby introduced me to the office. And he started wearing the Teddy Bear tie.

Ties: Leaving party from the L & G. 1992. Twenty five years ago. I wore glasses then. He does now.

Leaving party from the L & G. 1992. Twenty five years ago. I wore glasses then. He does now.

Music from the 80s.

Dire Straits were the biggest band in the world then. Princess Diana was a famous fan. Play the intro LOUD.

And so to the disaster of redundancy, divorce and difficult times that were eventually transformed into the best years of his life. Working in the civil service for the Highways Agency. A far more interesting job. Meeting the public. Being paid to talk. Organising exhibitions and shows. He was absolutely in his element. When sitting before the appropriately named Leslie Coffin for his appraisal, she complemented him on his communication skills. But reprimanded him on his truly awful attitude to Ministerial letters. For you, dear readers, these are the replies you get if you write to your MP, Minister of State whatever. They are far more important than mending the bleedin road. For parliament is your master. Those letters have strict templates, rules, rules and more rules. The first draft is covered in red ink and heads off to numerous other drafts until the final letter is sent to the minister who doesn’t like it either. The final letter bearing no relation to your draft. He once drafted a letter for Tony Blair that nearly got him the sack. Can you imagine a free spirit with words being subjected to this. So they didn’t ask any more and he slid into his last couple of years into being the cycling officer. Going on courses like “How to deal with difficult people”. He asked if they did one on how not to be a w*nker. There was no real call for it. But, once again, he was lucky. Recent years of austerity have changed that institution beyond recognition and the fun has gone again.

For a few years I had taken a back seat. Languishing on the couch with inferior bears. Just a bleedin ornament. But, Bobby tells me, never forgotten. Particularly when he found himself on his own for the first time – and used to talk to me.

And then he met Diddley, who you have heard so much about. I was Best Man at the wedding. Shared the honeymoon and the good times that followed. To finally being Chief Mourner at her funeral.

Music from the 90s.

Eva Cassidy was a phenomena and only became famous after she was dead. In her 30s, from melanoma. Terry Wogan single handedly did it by playing “Fields of Gold” continuously on Radio 2. More followed, but when her version of “Over the Rainbow” hit the airwaves, grown men were crying at the wheel. At the time, Bobby was in the first throws of chatting up Diddley and they went swimming together at the Legal and General’s beautiful pool. At times on a Thursday night with only the underwater lights on. Only the two of them in the pool and their chosen music. Eva and this song became very special. Here for good measure is “Fields of Gold”.

She bought him two ties for his HA years. The first one is “artistic”. Whatever you want it to be. But officially it’s tulips.

Ties: Tulips (apparently!)

Tulips (apparently!)

The second was her favourite and the only one worn in recent times. Usually to funerals.

Ties: Ostriches.


But there is one other that is now the official tie of Mindfully Bertie. She bought it years ago and it has never been worn until now.

Ties: The now Official "Mindfully Bertie" tie.

The now Official “Mindfully Bertie” tie.

Music from the 00s.

Bobby suffers from obsessions. Its all part of GAD. All or nothing. His latest, for many years, is Lucinda. Seen her many times on stage. With or without Diddley. Texan country rock. Same birthday as Bobby. 64 and attitude. Loves melancholy.

Ties: Lucinda.


Lighting a Candle to Diddley.

We all went to Abinger Roughs to light candles on Diddley’s Bench. To Diddley and Amber. The wind blew and we found a little nook in the Witches Broom Tree.

Ties: Lighting a Candle for Diddley - Under the Witches Broom tree.

Under the Witches Broom tree.



  1. Avatar Bernard says:

    Wonderfully tied together

  2. Avatar Tim Clarke says:

    As “Technical Director”, I thoroughly enjoyed typing this up. Reminds me of my old tie collection. My philosophy was if you have to wear the things, you might as well make them interesting. I even had one in the shape of a guitar!

    Sadly, me and my collection have parted company, save for a small handful of necessaria. The rest have, at least, gone to a good home. Fans will be pleased to know that the collection has stayed together. Thankfully none have gone to overseas collectors either.

    Loved the mention of Fairfield Halls too. Saw Shakatak there a few years ago now. Happy memories – they were one of the first bands me and my wife went to see when we first started going out…

  3. Avatar katherine says:

    LOVE your primary school tie, and realisation about your parents. I love Chrystal Gayle too.. there’s a surprise!! thanks Bob for a really cool blog.

    • Avatar Bertie says:

      We never stop learning from experience and the passing of the years. We know that from our chosen interest. Amazingly it took over 60 years to realise that about my mum and dad.

  4. […] 1958. Bobby and his plane-spotting friends at Sutton Grammar School (tie blog) are just twenty minutes by bike to Croydon Airport. Long past its glory days (and heading for […]

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