News

October 2018

I know I say this all the time but can’t quite believe that September has already left us and now the winter weather is creeping in. I had to have my heating on over some periods just to take the nip out of the house. I have a beef with my neighbour as he told me on the 4 September that we were in for a heat wave and it would be the hottest September since the Stone Age (I might have exaggerated somewhat) and ever since it has been the opposite. I’m sure he must have been looking at Gambia or the like. It looked like the damp and cold was entrenched but then suddenly a coupe of glorious day, but just as quickly the temperature dropped 7 degrees overnight. My son says it is down to Global Warming!!

As those of you who know me will attest I hate the cold weather, my body goes into spasm, my joints swell in the damp and my blood circulation doesn’t seem to reach the parts other beers would, lol. The problem is I am not used to being home at this time of year and it has been a bit of a shock to the system. Mind you even on those few wonderful weather days I was enslaved to my computer spewing out new text ready for my new tome but I had hoped to have a day or two in the garden but I think I have missed the boat!

I have to say I haven’t had much time to dwell on the negatives of the British weather as I am working flat out on the book. It amazes me in this day and age of technology when answering an email takes all of a minute, that so many don’t bother. A few days ago I sent out more than 80 emails to shops, restaurant and attractions at one of the Norwegian ports. A handful were brilliant responding the very next day but I would estimate at least 40 haven’t bothered. Not only does it waste so much time in having to resend the messages but it is also mind blowingly frustrating. The advances in technology are awesome and I use Google Translate if I need to read a foreign message and they could do the same so they can’t use the excuse they can’t read English. Grrr

In the middle of all this my son has packed up his toothbrush and left Birmingham for good. He starts at Imperial University today (1st October) a science-based institution based in the centre of the capital, and regarded as one of the UK’s leading institutions.

The college has around 15,000 students and 8,000 staff, with a focus on four main areas: science, engineering, medicine and business and boasts 14 Nobel Prize winners, including Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.

Famous alumni include science fiction author H.G. Wells, Queen guitarist Brian May, former prime minister of India Rajiv Gandhi, former UK chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson, and former chief executive of Singapore Airlines Chew Choon Seng. Not bad company to be in.

I received a phone call from Max the night before he was moving saying he’d like to take me up on my offer. What offer I asked bewildered. He of course was referring to the one I had made two weeks prior saying I would go across and help him pack up. I meant in advance, not at the last minute. My wonderful son cajoled me into getting on the motorway I the middle of rush hour so I could be there bright and early but what he had seriously misjudged was the amount to pack up. He, Justine and her parents had been ferrying stuff to London the weeks before but it still needed me to make two round trips and store the stuff in my garage for a couple of nights. I was zonked by the time we got back to Telford and it didn’t take me log to fall asleep in the middle of the film. Mind you it was boring as hell. I’d seen the trailers for The Book Club some months before and I thought the story line hilarious and with a great cast I expected great things. Not so

My son took a coach back to London, hired a self-drive van to drive back to Telford and load the his stuff, drive back to South London to the new flat and mount 4 flights of stairs to get everything unloaded. He finished at gone midnight, that youth for you.

Although I’m excited for this new chapter in his life I am sad that he is now at least three hours away as opposed to 45 minutes. Even when living in Birmingham, his workload at Uni made it difficult to see him sometimes but a one-year’s Masters is going to be intense and unlike a degree which saw him get long holidays for Easter, Summer and Christmas, this course is straight through. The main thing is that I keep busy

I am going back to sea on 8th-18th October with Fred Olsen and I must say it is the strangest set up I have ever known. It’s a Mystery Cruise and so you have no idea where you are going. I thought they would tell the workers but no, we are being kept equally in the dark and according to past critics only the Captain and his navigational team know where we are actually going to dock. That presents all sorts of problems for me, as how do I know what to pack. Although I don’t expect tropical heat there is cold as in the British Isles to freezing conditions in Norway

Apart from the packing issue, passengers can’t book tour excursions in advance and I would have thought the cruise line would have lost a lot of revenue because of this. The majority of cruisers pre-book their tours through a cruise line and excitement builds as you uncover what is available that whets your appetite. I usually get excited about going on any ship but I have to say it is more annoying than anything else. But it would seem I am the exception as Fred Olsen have five of these mystery itineraries on their cruise calendar and as in past years they sell well. Saga also offers up the mystery element with ports only announced once the ship has berthed. Perfect if you’re looking for a cruise with a difference, and to be fair they seem to be great value too, as it includes an excursion at every port of call.

One of the fun parts bout a mystery cruise is all the secrecy! I’ll only tell my navigation team and engineers as much as they need to know for route planning and fuel management. After all, the more people in on it, the greater the risk that someone will let slip the next destination and spoil the fun. I like to keep everyone guessing a long as possible, perhaps I’ll head down an estuary towards a port, then simply turn around and go in another direction – that’ll bamboozle them all! – Captain Stuart Horne

Another past cruiser is Mark Ellis and this is what he had to say
Tell friends you are going on a cruise and the first thing they ask is, “where are you going?” But I had to tell them I didn’t have a clue. Before they thought I’d suffered total memory loss, I explained it was a mystery cruise and all we knew was that we’d sail from Dover for nine nights. We’d also be taking in four countries and six ports – all including Unesco world heritage sites – never before visited by our ship, Fred Olsen’s Braemar. Only the captain and one other person at the firm’s HQ knew where we were going – even the 370 crew were kept in the dark. But as we slipped away from the white cliffs, it soon become clear we were heading for the North Sea.
 And after a full day on board, the guessing game was over as we slowly negotiated rocky outcrops to reach the tiny port of Larvik in Norway, some 590 miles from Dover.

Nearby are excavated Viking towns, but we took a trip to the pretty town of Stavern, which has a great waterfront. For a truly Viking welcome, we had to wait until the next day at Hundested in Denmark. It looked like half the town (population 8,543) was there to see the first cruise ship dock in its historic harbour. There was even a replica longboat with a roaring crew. Friendly Danes gave us a fantastic welcome and the port was full of craft stalls, a display of sand sculptures and glass blowing, as well as cafes and bars. We slipped out of Hundested on a virtually calm sea, leaving behind the land of Vikings and fishermen. With just 929 passengers, Braemar is one of the four-ship Fred Olsen fleet and has a devoted following.

From our comfortable and roomy cabin with a sea view, it was a short walk to the two main restaurants as well as the informal Palms cafe where most mornings Captain Robert Bamburg would join his passengers in the queue for breakfast. Food on board was faultless, from bangers and mash for a jolly knees-up ‘British night’ with a red, white and blue dress code, to the amazing buffets for an Asian-themed evening. Siggi Weich, the executive chef, and maitre d’ Rommel Juatco gave me a sneaky preview of a seafood buffet – a real feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds – before opening the restaurant doors to hundreds of hungry passengers.

Our next port was also in Denmark, the ancient town of Nyborg, a short walk from the port and built around the magnificent castle, which dates from 1170. The following morning we woke up in Wismar, a pretty town on Germany’s Baltic coast that’s well worth a walk around to admire the churches and architecture. Our penultimate port, Fredericia in Denmark, really put the flags out – all 133 of them – to mark our visit. The historic town walk takes about an hour-and-a-half and will give you an overview of this fascinating place.

Two hundred miles at sea brought us to our final mystery port, Lysekil, and we knew we were in Sweden when we could hear Abba hits being blasted out. The small port is surrounded by fishing villages and beautiful scenery. Back on board, we enjoyed a drink in the Morning Light – the ships local with beers at pub prices – before the last of the evening entertainment, the Braemar Crew Show. Here you witness the hidden singing and dancing talents of your waiters and cabin staff, providing a fitting finale.

Our final day at sea was a time to sit back and enjoy the pool and hot tubs on deck as our magical mystery cruise drew towards its close. At noon the captain had to break the bad news: “This time our next port of call is not a mystery – we are sailing back to Dover

So that is what I’m up against although I am on Black Watch. One of my best mates Rose Cook, a historian, is going with me, or should I say I’m going with her. Wherever we go we have to toss a coin to see who gets the extra drawer as neither of us pack light but at least this is only a 10 day trip, I cannot imagine how much we will take on our 78 days South African odyssey in January. I say January but we are actually not going until 2020!! Yeah I know it is slightly premature but we spotted an amazing deal on this cruise a few weeks ago and decided we owed ourselves big time. It is my 60th and Rose’s 50th next year so this is our birthday present to ourselves. No work, no pressure and certainly no money left in our bank accounts, lol It is very unusual for us to find an itinerary that has virgin ports and this has loads and the couple that we might have been to are ones we are keen to go back on. The only negative is that it is on Marco Polo and the last time I was on her was an Amazon trip a few years ago that I didn’t fare very well in. Enough said. I love the ship, it is just that its tonnage is 22.080, which is the size of some of the mega ship’s lifeboats!!, lol

Tuesday 25 September saw Matt Jnr open the first night of his last ever tour at the Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth.

When Matt Jnr was only 13 years old he was invited by his father to join him on stage and perform a duet with him. From that moment on he knew that he wanted to be a singer and to repeat that unforgettable night in 1977.

Unfortunately the two Monro’s never got a chance to repeat the performance as in February 1985, Matt Monro died at the age of 54. Matt’s dream of sharing the stage with his father again had been shattered.

In 1986, a year after his father’s death, a tribute was organised at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London. Matt performed to over two thousand people. David Jacobs, the renowned DJ from Radio 2 was in the audience and subsequently announced on his radio show, “a new singer has emerged”. This led Matt to appear on the Bob Monkhouse’s Opportunity Knocks in 1986 where he came third in the competition. Bob Monkhouse offered Matt a place on his touring show. He did three years on the circuit, earning his dues as a singer and keeping his father’s name alive.

In 1989/90 Matt did a British tour with Cannon & Ball and Hinge & Bracket and from this the Matt Monro one-man-show was born. Matt toured with a nine-piece band, performing his own version of his father’s songs.

Matt Jnr signed with the EMI label in 1995 and thanks to the advent of modern technology was able to fulfil his dream from that night back in 1977 when he dreamt of singing with his Dad again. The album Matt Sings Monro is a collection of many of the best Matt Monro songs, done as duets with Matt Jnr following the example of Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole’s version of Unforgettable.

2005 saw Matt Jnr touring England with a new show The Legend Lives On, which was a year in the making and took the singer to over 40 concert venues across England. One of Matt’s personal highlights was working with his late father’s musical director, Mr Colin Keyes.

The shows were such a success that the experience has been repeated every year since and has established Matt Monro Jnr as a fine artist in his own right. Having successfully broken into the Asian market he has taken his unique brand to the Americas, Australasia, Singapore, Africa, Spain and the Philippines.

"I want to make the audience laugh and cry and take them on an emotional journey. If you think of my dad's audience they are generally between 40 and 70 and for a lot of the older people it will bring back memories, it's designed to be a warm show. There will be some times in my dad's life they won't have known about and it goes all the way up to my father's death."

Matt Monro died from liver cancer in 1985. To his son, it seems natural that it has taken this long to put a thorough tribute together.

"I could have done this show 20 or 30 years ago but if I had done it then I would have been accused of trying to cash in on my dad's death.

"Right now this is my perfect way of paying homage to my dad.

"We all lose loved ones in our lives. Most people have got pictures and memories but I'm lucky I can go on stage and people love listening to me when I'm talking about my dad and singing his songs. I feel very grateful." Matt Jr is looking forward to returning to perform in Weymouth. He says: "I know where the pubs are now! I remember going to one across the road from the pavilion.

"I like playing there for a number of reasons and one of them is that dad performed there. It's a special place and it has great memories for me."

The day after I spoke to Matt Jr he was going into the studio to add finishing touches to his new album - a personal tribute to the music of Matt Monro.

"It's full of my dad's stuff. It took me six months to go through 500 songs he recorded and I did his arrangements with my orchestra in his key."

Matt Jr says his favourite songs of his father's would have to be Portrait of my Love, which reached number three in the singles chart, and tissues-at-the-ready number Softly As I Leave You.

“I like a lot of the songs people don't know about. Some of my favourites weren't even hits. My dad sang Russia With Love, which was the first James Bond soundtrack. Every hit he ever did is in the show.

"Softly As I Leave You is very poignant and for me it's completely emotional."

Matt Jr thinks it's his dad's humble attitude that stood him in such good stead for a career in showbusiness. Because dad came from such a poor background, when he became big, things didn't change. He never forgot his roots.

"When I was young it took a long time for the penny to drop that dad was this iconic star all over the world”.

"I have many private memories of my dad on the golf course. It's the one aspect of my dad no one else can have, everyone else had a piece of him.

"I didn't have a 9-5 Monday to Friday dad. But when we did see him it was always special. He enjoyed life to the full."

*The Matt Monro Story is at Weymouth Pavilion on Saturday 13 October 2018 at 7.30pm. Contact Weymouth Pavilion box office for tickets.

So now after thirty years in the business, the dates in September, October, and November will see him hang up his show business hat. Having just got married to a wonderful lady he doesn't want to spend months on the road anymore, he figures it's time to try something new…. but he hasn’t made his mind up yet on what that will be.

 

Matt’s last album, which came out last year to coincide with the tour will also be available. “A Father’s Legacy’ was the first album since his 2007 “If He Could See Me Now” and his 2010 “Dancing With His Father’. Matt has done the album in the style of dad in terms of arrangements and although the final running order is different, these are the tracks included.

Fourth Blue Monday
Didn’t We
For Once in My Life
Georgia on My Mind
Let Me Sing
One Morning in May
Gonna Build a Mountain
One Voice
You’ve Got Possibilities
So Little Time
This is the Life
Wonderful World
On Days Like These
You Made Me So Very Happy
Yesterday When I Was Young

This is the first time that my dates have not come in for next year yet. Celebrity Cruises have had a change of personnel and they have apologized for dates being offered late but of course it might be they won’t offer anything at all. That is the nature of this business; it is very much a wait-and-see system. Fred Olsen has changed their criteria and Princess have now off-loaded their booking to agents but I will update my diary each month.

Cruise Dates 2018

8-18 October – Fred Olsen

Cruise Dates 2019

3 January – 27 February – P&O

Cruise Dates 2020

6 January – 24 March – Cruise & Maritime

 

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight feature this month, I know so many of you enjoy them. This month we look in on the ever-popular Jimi Hendrix

Check out the ‘Rough Guide to mattmonro.com’, which is available towards the bottom of the Homepage. If you don’t know how to access certain areas of the site or in fact are unaware of new areas, this guide will explain how easy this website is to get around, once you know how.

There is also another information box "How to Use the Forum'. I know a lot of people have been tempted to join in on some of our conversations but are slightly nervous about doing so. For that reason, I have printed step-by-step instructions on how to access it. It really does only take a few minutes.

Whatever the coming year holds, suffice to say that I shall be plugging dad’s music at every opportunity.  That is the wonderful thing about working the ships, it gives me a brand new audience each time and if then, a small percentage goes home a fan, then it is worth all the blood, sweat and tears, not to mention the Bay of Biscay!!!!

Until next month take care of yourselves and I’ll see you all again in October with more tales from Monro Towers.

Warmest to you and yours

Michele

 

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