Looking for Albert (and Kate)

It’s a funny old world, and no mistake. This week I sent out a call on Facebook for help in my quest to get in touch with Kate Bush.

I’m a long time fan; I can remember watching ‘Wuthering Heights’ on TOTP back in 1978, probably at my friend Ian Quance’s house in the foothills of the Cambrian Mountains, because his house was the only place near our student house we knew where they had telly. So every Thursday my housemates and I would hack over to Q’s house, watch Topper, and go. It was on the whole a frustrating experience; we went because once in a blue moon you might see The Clash, or Elvis Costello; for this was at the height of the ‘punk-rock’ boom of the late Seventies. This particular show, on came Kate, this bonkers genius singing like no one else I’d ever heard, looking like the most wonderful hippy chick of every boys dream, and… we were blown away. And she’s just got better ever since.

But although I’d leap at the chance to send her a gibbering fan letter, in this instance I’m trying to get in touch to see if she’ll grant me permission to use a verse of ‘This Woman’s Work’ in my new book. If authors quote from things, they are supposed to pay. For example, in ‘Parallel Lines’ I use a Betjeman poem, for which his estate charged me a hundred quid. Fair enough, you might think, and I’d agree. If you use less than 25% of a poem, this counts as ‘fair use’, and you don’t have to pay at all. But to use even a line of a song can cost thousands of pounds, which is odd, if you think about it, because poets need money a lot more than songwriters. I suspect that it’s not the songwriters fault, but their publishers being greedy, with the sad result that songwriters probably get less than poets, because no writer can afford to quote them; especially mad since you can just Google a song, and find the lyrics anyway. So, I’m hoping the divine Ms Bush will hear my pleas (the Facebook shout-out having paid off to some extent), and let me use her wonderful song.

At the same time, my wife has been looking for my maternal grandfather, Albert Bulbeck. He was a vile, violent man, who I wrote about in ‘The Longest Crawl’. He brutalised my Mum, and although she hasn’t seen him since she was seven, she has always lived in fear that he might come back. The family know nothing about what happened to him after 1940; in particular, we don’t know when he died. I’d like to find out where the old bastard is buried, so that I can tell my Mum that she’s safe. Looking for lost relatives, like reclusive geniuses, throws up some fascinating stuff, and I wouldn’t know what I do know about my evil grandfather without my wife’s patient and painstaking research skills. For example, before today, I didn’t know that my great-uncle John was killed in action at Ypres

Or, for that matter, that I’d even had a great-uncle John.

13 Responses

  1. You didn’t watch the pistols on my 12″ ferguson either; they were only on once & I missed them by taking an involuntary power nap during the TOTP they were on, having just finished a 10 hour shift at Bradford’s Bakery – my summer occupation. A place you probably drive past on your way to work in Brumegem, it being opposite The Hawthorns

  2. Brendan Ashbrook says:

    Ian. I’ll look forward to the conclusion of the Cruiser story.
    It’s obvious but I assume you’ve tried KB’s management company: NOBLE & BRITE LIMITED (Registered No 01256193)- 19 PORTLAND PLACE, LONDON, W1B 1PX? If not, it might be worth an old-fashioned letter. Failing that, get round there as I know that she used to like a roll-up (not a euphemism) so if you hang about with your Zippo at the ready, you might just catch her on a fag break 😉

  3. Ian Marchant says:

    Oh Brendan. We found him alright. And I need to do a blog about it… any day now. I’m keeping this one up for now because I’m still hoping to find a useful address for Miss Bush…

  4. Brendan Ashbrook says:

    Spookily enough, I’m currently reading The Longest Crawl and read the bit about “Cruiser” Bulbeck about five minutes ago!
    The tale of your mother being injured by him before her birth, due to a beating inflicted on your Grandmother, was quite horrifying and will stay with me. It’s like some terrible, real-world version of original sin: being born already scarred by a cruel and violent bully.
    I hope you find something more about him, if only to reassure your Mum that he’s gone.

  5. Ian Marchant says:

    I reckon it might at that, Jemma. Life wring ISM?

  6. Ian Marchant says:

    Goodness me. Well, since you were at Q’s house also watching TOTP, who was on? the Pistols I remember. Costello… Kate Bush, of course…

  7. Paul says:

    You wouldn’t have seen the Clash on TOTP me old chum… never appeared.

  8. Jemma says:

    Your mother is very lucky to have you. I often wish I knew more about my family; having an Estonian father and a mother who left Hong Kong aged seven, I always thought my family history could make for an interesting read.

    Also, the powers of Facebook can be immense. Good luck with it.

  9. Ian Marchant says:

    That’s very good Dan.

  10. Dan says:

    So the citizens of Rudgewick have dedicated an impressive site to listing the fallen from their village with quite a lot of detail about the individuals and their service records. Not quite finished for all the names as yet – but no doubt when done it will be admirably completist!

  11. I was only 7 when I was introduced to my Uncle John. I just couldn’t believe it. I come from a large family and had met all my aunties and uncles so why hadn’t I met him before? I was suspicious…
    He also exclaimed that I looked,”Just like an Aitkenhead”. Pronounced with his accent and my young ears it sounded like acorn head. I burst into tears. He’s dead now, but amazing how first impressions stay with you!

  12. Graham says:

    Well if flattery’s worth anything I can’t see the lovely Kate objecting. The Wuthering Heights video does stay with you over the years though, doesn’t it?

    Your Mum’s lovely. I saw her & Ralph yesterday, she was lovely.

    Good luck, Ian.

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