Saturday, 1 February 2014

Permanent Moments by Stephen Mitchell

published 2013









In the June of 1967 an advertisement appeared in the Fylde Gazette announcing the arrival of Batman and Robin in Britain. Along with the Batmobile, Adam West and Burt Ward had arrived on our shores to promote the second series of Batman….

Lewis’s Department Store was hot and muggy and a crowd of people were clamouring and shoving their way forward, trying to get a glimpse of the Caped Crusader. I was rake-thin, and so able to scramble between the legs of the awe-inspired crowd and reach the front with no problem. I was dumbstruck when I reached my exalted position and when I held out my hand Adam West shook it and pressed a small scrap of paper into my sweaty palm. I carefully unfolded the white square and gazed in adoration at the autograph.

I thought, Wow!

Nothing else.

Just, Wow!

Then I was pushed and jolted back by the enthusiastic crowd.




observations: Declaration of interest: I know the author of this book, and he gave me my copy. But, that just makes me lucky, because otherwise I might not have come across it, and I was really impressed by it. It's a collection of short, linked stories about a boy growing up in the North of England in the 1960s, and the author does an amazing job of creating a world: the book is funny, nostalgic, honest, sad, touching, and really well-written. Anyone of similar age, background or geographical location will enjoy it. It’s a bit rough and ready, and a bit rude, and none the worse for that.

Mitchell describes his book as a ‘fictional autobiography’: in an amusing introduction he describes how we all borrow, steal and tidy up our memories:

Perhaps my first memory never happened the way I remember it and it’s just a fiction that my mind has developed and embellished over the years….
- so he’s giving you fair warning. But it doesn’t matter, they’re good stories.

It would be hard to over-estimate the importance and popularity of the Batman TV show in the era he describes – it was comparable to the Dr Who fever of recent years in the UK. It went out on a Saturday night, and all the talk in the school playground on Monday was about Batman. I’d be interested to know if the TV show was as popular with the young people of the USA?

I clearly remember that Batman and Robin recorded a special, separate, public service announcement to go out after the show, warning children not to climb high buildings or try to leap from them. The adult me can only try to imagine what grim Bat-inspired events led to the necessity for this. And I can still do a fair imitation of Robin saying ‘Holy broken bones, Batman!’ and smacking gauntlet-ed fist to palm to warn us off. And perhaps they were right to warn us of physical danger: but if you want to find out what terrible things happened to this young man after meeting Batman you'll have to read the book...

The picture is one that Stephen Mitchell drew specially for Clothes in Books. He is a talented artist, and did lovely illustrations for the book, but this is an extra one he did just for us.

The book is available on amazon, as both a paperback and for a Kindle.


You can read Steve's blog, Travels with My Rodent, here.

17 comments:

  1. Stephen Mitchell1 February 2014 at 11:07

    "Wow!" Nothing else. Just "Wow!"

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  2. Pow!!! Bam!!! Wham!!!! Moira Robin. Adam West was a great Batman. The T.V. shows were fun to watch. When my sons were going out for Halloween as young boys around 1990 there was more than one year they were the costumed crime fighters. I do not know if you saw the touching story from last fall of the Make a Wish Foundation setting up a Batkid adventure in San Franscisco for a 5 year old boy with leukemia. Here is a link to the Telegraph story - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10454080/Batkid-saves-San-Francisco-as-charity-makes-sick-boy-wish-come-true.html.

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    1. I did see that, it was a brilliant story, I'm sorry I didn't remember it to put in the entry. My son had Batman pyjamas which he wore all day....

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    2. I still wear Batman lounge pants today. Batman has been a huge part of my life ever since I was given some of the comics by my grandfather all those years ago. I sometimes think that I may be a little sad but with that great book cover designer Chip Kidd also still a massive Batman fan I believe that I'm in good company.

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  3. Moira - Oh, Batman was a huge, huge cultural influence! In the States, the kids played at being Batman and Robin, and everyone had Batman paraphernalia. There Batman lunchboxes, clothing and so on. There were even Batman underclothes for kids. And some of those phrases, like To the Batmobile! a are still culturally popular. Oh, and the book sounds terrific, and thanks to Stephen Miller for the great illustration!

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    1. I'm still living in that world today. Still read the comics (as well as real books) and still watch the movies! Ah, if only I were rich enough to be Batman, but I'm afraid with the advancing years I couldn't take all the late nights. Sorry, but you got my name wrong - it's Mitchell not Miller, but I'll answer to anything as long as food or wine is involved. To the Batmobile!

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    2. Oh, how embarrassing *blush of shame* - I am so sorry!

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    3. Stephen Mitchell3 February 2014 at 04:09

      That's OK - even I get my name wrong on a Saturday night.

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  4. Well, this one sent me off looking up Batman and Adam West, etc. I loved the TV show but don't remember whether I watched it when it came out or in reruns, or both. I especially remember the villains like Penguin played by Burgess Meredith and Joker played by Caesar Romero and the various actresses who played Catwoman. And we have followed all the different movie versions of Batman through the years. And the comics, at least in the 90's.

    The book by Mitchell sounds good. I agree that memories of our childhood may be false memories but they stay with us nonetheless. I love that illustration. I checked out his blog, and based on that, the book must be very entertaining.

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  5. Stephen Mitchell3 February 2014 at 04:08

    Ah another grown-up who's not afraid to stand up and say they are fans of Batman. The book isn't just about Batman though - a lot of it is based on the relationship I had with my grandfather, who was a bit of a rogue. The illustration is the same style as the ones in the book, although this one's in colour - only the best for Moira's blog - but I sell a lot of my other illustrations as cards here in Saudi Arabia. I've been working out here for about five years now and the Saudi way of life is ripe for lampooning but I do make sure that my cards are only sold to people I know as I'm not quite ready to be offered an aisle or window seat just yet.

    That all sounds like a sales pitch - but I assure you it isn't. I think I need to set up a website or something so people can just look at my stuff.

    I'm really pleased you took a look at the blog - I'll be posting again on Saturday with a piece about the Oscars and why the best film isn't always the one that wins and how Dan Brown's books are so bad they can't even make half-decent films out of them.

    I also write another blog called A Life in Cheese, which is about a young man who begins working for a Dairy Company in New Zealand and unwittingly ends up as a spy for the New Zealand Secret Service (Cheese Division). I like to tell people it's a true story, except for all the parts I made up. This blog will be getting rebooted starting from the 1st March, with a jazzy new title (A Life in Cheese - Reboot) and with a kind of X-Files storyline.

    Anyway, here's me rambling on when I should be getting to work. I'm glad you think the book sounds goods and iit was nice of you to say so.

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    1. I will be looking forward to you post on the Oscars and why the best film isn't always the one that wins... My husband and I discuss that often. He is much more of a film buff than I. We watch the Oscar's every year. Would not miss it. But we seldom see the films by that time and we often disagree with the winners. But it is just fun.

      I will check out A Life in Cheese - Reboot too.

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    2. The original Life in Cheese is already there, but you don't have to read it as I'll be giving you enough of an introduction of the Reboot to begin reading it. You might want to check it just for the strange Bogus Book Covers I created for it.

      As for the Oscars - well, you'll read about my opinion of the massively underwhelming American Hustle in a few days time. I must admit, though that the toupee's were good - in fact they were the only good part.

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  6. Do you remember the episode where Batman thought he had gotten a girl pregnant? "Holy contraceptives, Batman!" Robin exclaimed.........Moira you can always count on me to lower the tone!
    The book sounds interesting though.

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    1. That's the worst joke I've heard in a - oh well, on the other hand, you really made me laugh at 7.30 am on a cold Monday morning so I'm letting you off.

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  7. I'm glad you think it sounds interesting. Even I think it sounds interesting. I hope you enjoy it if you decide to buy, borrow or steal it. I used to have a pet chameleon - but I put it down the other day and I haven't been able to find it since. Now that's a bad joke - but funny - a bit like the film Sharknado.

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  8. Now if it's half as bad or half as good as Sharknado, it will be worth checking out. That film was......... entertaining, (struggling for the correct adjective)

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  9. It's a great film to watch with a group of people who have just consumed more than the recommended intake of alcohol. I wouldn't recommend reading my book in that state however, as the words on the page may become a little blurry and difficult to understand. You could probably still make out the pictures though.

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