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Something Changed 19: Breathe. RIP Keith Flint

It’s safe to say the Prodigy’s music wasn’t really to my taste. What you couldn’t say about it was it was that it didn’t make a statement. It stands in stark contrast to the ocean of blandness into which modern music has submerged in the late teen years of the twenty-first century, where all the performers seem to merge into one generic

It was therefore sad to hear of the demise of Keith Flint who fronted the Prodigy in their mid-90s pomp. Even sadder that it seems he took his own life. Any life cut short is a misfortune but more so when it might have been prevented.

I also discovered from the obituaries a personal connection with the band as it was formed in Braintree, Essex, a town where I lived for two years during 1980 and 1981.

Listening to this (and to their only other number one Firestarter) now, I find myself warming to their work. Too late, alas.

The Prodigy: Breathe

Keith Charles Flint: 17/9/1969 – 4/3/2019. So it goes.

The Screwtape Letters by C S Lewis

Letters from a senior to a junior Devil, Fount, 1991, 160 p (first published in 1942)

The Screwtape Letters cover

Many years ago, before we moved to Braintree, the good lady and I lived for a few months in Welwyn Garden City. We joined the library there and came across a book – which we both read and enjoyed – about angels and devils (and, I think, a war between Heaven and Hell.) Our recollection was, and is, that it was by someone reasonably well known, with a surname that began with a letter towards the end of the alphabet, but that the book wasn’t typical of his (it was a man) output. Since we moved from WGC we’ve never found the book elsewhere and can no longer remember its title nor who the author was.

When we heard of The Screwtape Letters both our thoughts were that, no, Lewis is too religiously minded to be the unknown author and his name does not begin with a letter in the latter half of the alphabet. I chanced upon this copy at a charity book sale and thought well, why not try it anyway?

The book is arranged as a series of epistles to “My Dear Wormwood” – the junior devil of the sub-title – all bar two of which are signed off with, “Your affectionate Uncle, Screwtape.” They outline Screwtape’s responses to Wormwood’s attempts to ensnare a soul and the various stratagems that may be employed for that purpose. In this Lewis highlights numerous human frailties and misconceptions, as he sees them. The whole thing is rather dry, coming over as an arid intellectual exercise, and strangely rooted in time by its many references to the “current European War.”

That book from Welwyn Garden City was funny and a delight. The Screwtape Letters is not.

Does my description of the WGC book strike a chord with anyone? Can you enlighten me as to its author and title? I’d like to read it again to see if it stands up to memory.

Pedant’s corner. All these despite this being a forty-fourth impression!:- dulness (that’s two books in a row now; did it used to be spelt that way?) strategem, in which a stranger self preyed upon a weaker (stronger self, surely?) “reckoning in light years” used as if a light year were a unit of time rather than distance, to watch a man doing something is not to make him to it (“make him do it” makes more sense,) a shell-like tetter (??? – tetter is a skin disease.)

Art Deco Oxford (ii)

We strolled along the road (St Aldate’s?) which led to Christ Church College and I pointed out the Cornish Pasty Company’s outlet. Pasties being in the news the good lady said, “Do you fancy a pasty, then?” I assented and we bought pasties for the first time since we were in Cornwall nearly 20 years ago. She had a pork and apple and I chose lamb with mint. Very nice they were too. A bit pricey mind. I wouldn’t want one for lunch every day.

Here’s another Art Deco building I found.

O'Neills, Oxford, Oxfordshire

Then there was this blocky Odeon Cinema.

Odeon, Oxford, Oxfordshire 1

Its brick built nature reminded me of the former Embassy Cinema in Braintree.

The window above the entrance is striking. The frieze above that seems to have lost its surrounding (and Fanatical its F.)

Odeon, Oxford, Oxfordshire 2

Down the lane past the entrance was a square with a market. In one corner was the deco-ish Old Fire Station.

Old Fire Station, Oxford, Oxfordshire

Coggeshall, Essex

Coggeshall is a village on the road between Braintree and Colchester. We used to pass through it a lot on the bus to Colchester (and back) when we went of a Saturday to the big metropolis from the wilds of Braintree. At least it was on the main A 120 road then; like Braintree it too has been bypassed now.

Coggeshall had a reputation in Braintree as being inhabited by yokels – they told tales of “Coggies” in the same way others would of the Irish (or the Irish do of Kerrymen.) It’s barely three miles away!

We went on there after Silver End to see how much it had changed. Answer: not a lot. Mind you the minor road from Silver End to Coggeshall Hamlet (just south of Coggeshall proper) is the windiest thing I’ve ever driven on – like a sideways roller coaster. The road is called Cut Hedge Lane and skirts the edges of a farmer’s fields and there are no fences – nor hedges come to that – the fields start where the road’s edge is.

Coggeshall is still quaint, with Tudor style wooden framed houses of which this was the example most lopsided in appearance.

Tudor Style Building,Coggeshall, Essex

It’s not without some modern references, though. Someone had obviously been watching The Two Ronnies.

Fork 'Andles

More Braintree

In Braintree we parked as close to our old house as possible and strolled up to the town.

The route took us past the War Memorial.

War Memorial, Braintree, Essex

Just over the road is this deco Masonic Centre.

Braintree Masonic Centre

And next door to that is an Art Deco house.

Deco House, Braintree

From the above angle you cannot see the curved balcony but looking in by the gate you do.

Deco House, Braintree, Balcony

The old Woolies in the town centre was/is deco in style.

Old Woolies, Braintree.

There used to be a Critall window factory in Braintree but that seems to have been demolished and replaced by modern housing.

When we lived there the traffic in the town was horrendous. The queues to get in on a Saturday from the north were enormous. So were the ones in the supermarket; they stretched from the tills all the way to the other ends of the aisles.

The town has long since been bypassed both north/south and east/west and so was relatively tranquil. Mind you we got there about five o’clock.

There is also now a retail park and an outlet centre off the bypass. Considering that, the town centre looked more thriving than you might expect.

Embassy Cinema, Braintree, Essex

Why Braintree?

Well: the good lady and myself used to live there when I worked as a Research Chemist. We thought we’d see how it had changed in thirty years so made it one of the last stops on our recent trip down south.

I well remembered the cinema. The Embassy as was. The building is very deco indeed but is now a Wetherspoons pub called the Picture Palace.

Former Braintree Cinema by day

Former Braintree Cinema by Night

Former Braintree Cinema Interior Panel
Former Braintree Cinema Photo Panel

Surprisingly the inside has not been mucked about with much. On either side of where the screen was situated – the screen itself appears still to be present behind the bar area – are some original panels one of which I tried to photograph (see left above) but the light level was very low so the result is grainy. Two photographs of the original interior are in a frame on the wall of the foyer (right, above.) The windows are not original but have been replaced very sympathetically. You can just about make them out here.

We astonished the waiter by saying we had actually seen films in it. (By the way, a true life incident – not to do with the film itself – from watching the first Star Trek movie there made it into my novel A Son Of The Rock in somewhat disguised form. It was too good not to use.)

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