Monday, January 01, 2007

A Touch Like a Midwife

Derek "Blaster" Bates - 1923-2006

I only found out yesterday that one of the icons who has haunted my entire life, Derek "Blaster" Bates died in September last year at the age of 83. "Blaster" was a demolition expert from Cheshire, the county of my birth, whose exploits and larger than life personality were turned into a successful after dinner speaking career once he'd tired of blowing things up; or perhaps there was nothing left to blow-up? Many of his stories are available on a selection of albums which my dad had on vinyl and some of which are now available on CD. "Laughter With a Bang" is probably my favourite. As well as the stories and his inimitable way of telling them they're also a wonderful record of the Cheshire accent, something which with the broader influence of TV and greater migration has become hugely diluted in people of my generation. My accent has almost entirely disappeared to be replaced by my current Radio 4 Received Pronunciation mode of speech. I still have short a's though, as in "bath" rather than "baaarrrth", but that's all that remains.

My knowledge of "Blaster" is twofold, mostly through his recordings and also because people in my family knew him and told other stories about him. Although I never met him, he has always been part of my life as I remember being told cleaned up versions of the stories by my family before I was deemed old enough to hear the undiluted original with all its gorgeous use of the Anglo-Saxon vernacular.

A fan of country pursuits such as shooting and fishing as well as a long association with motorbike stunt riding and racing the breadth of his tales and the frequent description of places I know well still strike a chord with me now when I hear them. And of course they still make me howl with laughter even on the five hundredth listen.

They really don't make 'em like him anymore. Bless you, "Blaster".

The title of this post comes from a celebrated incident when "Blaster" was being interviewed on TV and he was asked what he had that enabled him to handle such dangerous explosives so deftly. You've already read his answer.

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Anonymous The Music Man said...

Hey! I can't believe Blaster Bates is still so popular. I can't keep him in stock! Glad to know someone keeps tabs on him!

6:12 pm  

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