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An Ulster Log: The day I lost Bardot to a colleague

A life-size picture of Brigitte Bardot in a bikini (what else?) once hung on the wall of the Larne Times newspaper. Printed on four (or was it five?) full pages in an edition of Reveille Magazine, the photo, which we admiring young reporters carefully glued together, was in black and white, but it coloured all of our lives.

She was 22, on the threshold of stardom, and she decorated the reporters' room for quite a while that year of 1956. Then one of our number, who was moving to faraway places, persuaded the rest of us to let him take Brigitte with him. So far as I know, she is still decorating a wall of an editorial department in Sydney to this day.

I only mention Brigitte today because Bikini Day is being commemorated everywhere, as much in tribute to Brigitte, one of whose early films was The Girl In A Bikini, as in memory of French designer Louis Reard, who in July 1946 unveiled what he called a daring two-piece swimsuit.

He named it the bikini because America was carrying out an atomic test on the very day of his launch in the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

The churches and other stuffy folk objected to the bikini swimsuit way back then, mainly because, they said, it was sinful for girls to expose their belly buttons.

The picture of Brigitte on this page today is the one that replaced her bikini shot on our wall, belly button and all. But it was never quite the same to look at, and eventually came down.

Reveille was a weekly magazine during the Second World War and for years afterwards, a favourite of men and women in uniform. The editor loved to publish posters of models and starlets like Miss B.

It went out of circulation in 1979, but that Bardot edition is remembered with affection by some of us.

Bardot mesmerised film audiences in the early 1950s, as she transformed from sex kitten in modelling shoots to sex goddess in her films. But her fame also ushered in deep depression, no fewer than four suicide attempts, four marriages, and more than 100 lovers, according to the just-released biography, Brigitte Bardot: The Life, The Legend, The Movies by Ginette Vincendeau (Carlton Books).

Christine's off to US but will be back here soon

Christine Bleakley is off to New York next week. Footballer fiance Frank Lampard is joining the MLS Club in the Big Apple, and naturally she is going with him.

The pair have been an item for four years but have been so busy with their careers that they haven't been able to fit in a wedding. Frank, though, has hinted they could be man and wife when the football season in America comes to an end.

Christine, the former One Show presenter, is bound to transfer her good looks and talents to Big Apple TV channels, but she will be back here in the next few months to film another out-and-about series in her home province. The last series, Wild Ireland, was such a hit that Christine was persuaded to shoot a sequel.

Helen's Bay poet's ballad of Bloat and Belfast linen

There are people out there who are word-perfect with a poem called The Ballad of William Bloat but haven't a clue who wrote it.

The author was Raymond Colville Calvert, born at Banchory House, Helen's Bay, Co Down, on October 30, 1906. He was the only son and the second child of William and Barbara Calvert. Educated at Bangor Grammar School and Queen's University, Belfast, he wrote his hilarious, blood-thirsty ballad in 1926, first published in a collection called Brave Crack. It has since been recorded as a song by the Clancy Bothers.

In the poem, Bloat is tormented by a wife he can't stand, so he cuts her throat with a razor and leaves her stretched out on their bed, presumably dead.

Then he is filled with remorse and decides to commit suicide. He takes the sheet from the bed and hangs himself. And here's what happens next:

He went to Hell but his wife got well

And she's still alive and sinning.

For the razor blade was German-made

But the sheet was Belfast linen.

I swear my tale about Duke was true

I don't know why onlookers were shocked when the Duke of Edinburgh swore at a photographer during a Battle of Britain anniversary ceremony recently.

Prince Philip is renowned for the use of four-letter words when he feels the occasion demands an oath or two. Years ago, he and the RAF pilot of a helicopter had a disagreement just before take-off from Sydenham at the end of a Royal visit. Philip dressed the officer down in no uncertain terms with clear use of a naughty word or three. I reported the incident in my story about the Duke's tour, but my editor at the time decided not to use it.

What did the Royal and the pilot fall out over? I think Philip wanted to take over the controls, but was quietly turned down.

German pilot meets a Red Indian

The Battle of Britain commemorations remind aviation historian Ernie Cromie of a German bomber pilot, whose plane was shot down in July 1940 at the height of the aerial conflict. He parachuted into a field next to a village hall, where an amateur operatic company was in the middle of a dress rehearsal of Rose Marie.

The cast, dressed as Canadian Mounties and brandishing wooden revolvers, dashed outside and surrounded the enemy airman.

It got even worse for the poor pilot when a character in the garb of a Red Indian and in full war paint informed him he was a police constable and placed him under close arrest. The pilot duly fainted.

Jane Austen's unrequited love

The sale of a Jane Austen manuscript of the unfinished novel The Watsons for nearly £1m reminds me that the writer had one unfulfilled relationship in her own life - with the Irishman Tom Lefroy.

Son of an army officer from Limerick, he met Jane in 1795 when they were both 20. They were friends for several years, but Tom's family desired him to marry money rather than a poor clergyman's daughter. He did so and had seven children - the eldest he called Jane. Austen never married. When asked about Tom on the eve of his wedding, she wrote to her sister: "I am to flirt my last with Tom - tears flow at the melancholy idea." When 93, Tom admitted he loved Jane. "But it was a boyish love," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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