Thursday 9 September 2010


(Thought the title may be a little obscure without the bit in brackets.)

Last week on the blog I mentioned winkles and we supplied you with a picture of winkles, which probably did one of three things:

1) Made your mouth water at the thought of their salty chewiness

2) Made your stomach turn over at the thought of their salty chewiness

3) Made you wonder why on earth I am writing about winkles in the first place.

Well, I was so wrapped up in my blog about shirts last week I didn't have room to tell you about winkles and what they mean to me.

As a blogger, rather than a literary figure, I wonder how the great works would have handled it?

"Alas, poor Yorick…look at that shirt"!

"Gawd bless us everyone…including our winkles"!

"In the beginning there were…shirts"!


The reason behind the winkle reference was to explain a curious and diabolical happening that occurred recently.

The Smashey and Nicey Fast Show cliché (which parodied Radio 1 DJ's in the 90's where they talked about doing a lot of work for "Charidee" but "didn't want to talk about it.") has meant that a lot of people tend to steer clear of telling people about any organisations that they are involved with. There is also the danger of appearing smug and self-serving. I hope this doesn't appear so as that is not the purpose.

I don't do a lot and the bit I do do has been the result of invitation in the hope that it may do their charity some good. Not entirely sure this has worked for them but hopefully a little.

Mainly, I turn up at events and give a short but cheerful speech and exhort you to dig deep in your pockets.

As a firm believer in "Charity begins at home", there are a number of charities in Hastings that have enlisted my support. Notably St Michaels Hospice in St Leonards-on-Sea which does terrific work with the terminally ill. My job is to go along from time to time and draw the raffle.

This is always great fun, though not without mishap. My biggest fear is getting a ticket caught up my sleeve, as happened many years ago in a very rough pub in Hull where I was doing something similar. Unfortunately, the ticket belonged to the radio station chief engineer. So immediately there were rumblings of disquiet!

In the words of a telegram that Harry Secombe once sent (I think it was to Spike Milligan after a particularly grim appearance at a theatre in the dying days of variety):

"Audience with me all the way.....managed to shake them off at the station".

On one occasion a few years back, whilst drawing the raffle, one of the generously donated prizes hadn't really been thought through. So with a flourish I congratulated one of the patients on winning a..."5 year diary".

Luckily they saw the funny side.

Recently I went to the Annual General Meeting of a related organisation called S.A.F.E.; they are involved in providing respite care beds so that relatives of the dying can have a couple of weeks off the 24-hour care they are providing at home, in order to recharge their batteries.

I am very proud to be the President of this organisation. Although I feel a bit of a fraud as a band of dedicated volunteers do all the fundraising and, if necessary, I will turn up to give a short but cheerful speech exhorting people to dig deep etc. (I know my place).

This is only the second time I have been President of anything. The first was as a small boy when I would follow my sister and her two friends around like a puppy and generally annoy them…

It is tough sometimes being three years younger. My sister still refers to me as her "little brother" even now at the tender age of 54. (That number looks awful written down).

However. turning the clock back getting on for half a century, tired and fed up with this kid following them around the three of them started the "Anti-Alex Club" with its rather witty logo of an....yes you ant.

Not to be thwarted and proving that with a skin that thick I could have made a career in politics, I immediately joined and worked my way up through the ranks until I was voted President of the organisation, dedicated to making my life a misery. Just as I basked in the glory of attaining this heady position, my empire crumbled as my sister and her two friends resigned!

Meanwhile back at the S.A.F.E. AGM as we all sat down and made ourselves comfortable, I chatted with the new Chairman, Brion Purdey. A distinguished gentleman who does a lot of good work locally and he wondered if I was related to any of the other Lester's around town.

I told him that my late Grandfather Norman Lester had been town clerk until he retired in 1966; he could see a picture of him and my late Grandmother taking part in a parade to welcome Lord Montgomery to town in the Fishermans Museum, as part of their Winkle Club exhibit.

He had been invited to become a member. He was in illustrious company along with Sir Winston Churchill and the Duke of Windsor among many others including local people who have dedicated themselves, as Brion has, to putting something back into the community.

In case you had never heard of it, the Hastings Winkle Club is a venerable Fishermans Charity that was created in 1900 to help underprivileged local families. Each member is given a winkle filled with sealing wax and upon meeting any other member is challenged to "Winkle up"! If that person is unable to produce their winkle they have to pay a fine.

I explained to Brion that my Grandad had been a very proud member of the organisation and that some years ago, I too had had the immense privilege of being invited to join.....The words had barely left my mouth when with a draw faster than Billy the Kid, Brion produced his winkle and challenged me to "Winkle up".

The club are now due some money. So terrified am I of losing my "badge" of membership that I never carry it with me.

So there you have it. My shaggy Winkle story.

Also if you are involved in any charitable work I salute you. Where would we be without you?

If you need anyone to deliver a short but cheerful speech.....

I am away next week so Tim Smith will be keeping you entertained. There will be a "Best of…" Oddcast on the website from Friday the 17th September (Oddcasts are available here) although I hope to get round to doing a "what I did on my holidays" composition for you.

Alex Lester, Form 4B


Annie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Annie said...

Alex Lester, you are a very kind and generous person. I hope that more good things come your way soon.

mwhite229 said...

That was a very serious and "grown-up" blog this week Alex, very impressive tho and shows just what a great guy you are doing your bit for others - not just your weird over-night followers of whom I happily admit to being one. Re winkles, I have never tasted one in my whole life and by the look of them I don't intend to change that fact in the near future!!
Was interested by your twitter today saying you spent £2.something, on food - wonder what it was??