Monday, June 09, 2014

Fred Bason

Two terrible photos of Grandson - one so that Gramps in Worcester can see him eating an ice cream (Son-in-Law said that Gramps would like this) - contrary to appearances, he was enjoying it very much -

-  and the other to show Nanny and Gramps the post-haircut effect. It was rather shorter than we expected (having been much longer than ever before) but at least it'll be a while before he needs to have it cut again.

I've been reading Fred Bason's third diary. I read a lot of published diaries but I'd never heard of him till I read a reference somewhere to "the Cockney diarist". We checked him out and found that he'd written four volumes of diaries. Some are really quite expensive to buy on Amazon but we found volume three quite cheaply. It contained this postcard. If you Google him, it turns out that he wrote on lots of these postcards and inscribed lots of volumes of his books. He seems to have understood marketing. He was quite well-known in his day (he was born in 1908 and died in 1960 something, I think) for broadcasting as well as writing.

He was brought up in what was then a slum area of London, Walworth, and went to work in a factory but hated it. He was a bookish boy and wanted to be a writer and bookseller. His parents gave him absolutely no encouragement. They were both over 40 when he was born, an only child. His mother often told him that she wished he'd never been born. When he was 15 he bought some books from a jumble sale, took them to a second-hand bookshop and sold them for a profit of £1 (quite a lot of money, then) and decided that he would indeed be a bookseller.

He realised that he would get more for books if they were inscribed by the author, so he tracked authors down and got them to write in their books - often repeatedly. He also collected (to sell) autographs on bits of paper, from authors, playwrights and actors - again, often repeatedly - so he got to know many writers and actors, some of whom were obviously very decent to him. He was advised to keep a diary if he wanted to write - and he did.

His diary is interesting and slightly naive. He seems to have been very unselfconscious about asking for his inscriptions and autographs and frequently writes about how he would like to have a wife. He describes various unsuccessful dates with women. He was presumably a bit odd and I'm not sure that people read his diaries for the reasons that he thought they did, but I can't help admiring his drive and initiative.

Sadly, he never did marry. When he died, he left £22,000, which was a LOT of money in the 1960s. (Our first house cost £9,300 in 1974.)

I've asked friends and no one had heard of him (I wondered if it was just me, but no). But there are various blog posts about him which come up in Google.

I salute you, Fred.


  1. What a fascinating story - I enjoy reading published diaries, too. His childhood reminds me of my husband's father; he was born 13 years after his sister and his mother often told him she hadn't wanted any more children, and she treated him accordingly. He had a great sense of humour and I used to wonder what he found to laugh at after a childhood like that.
    Grandson looks adorable with his hair cut!

  2. Shall have to look him up - I had never heard of Fred Bason before.

  3. Very interesting Isabelle -- I've never heard of him, but that's no surprise. How sad though, that he wanted a wife and never had one.

    And boy, that haircut makes small grandson look like a big boy!!!

  4. Poor Fred sounds like he was a rather a happy man.
    And young grandson has aged quite a bit with his new 'big boy' haircut!!

  5. I have one of his diaries, which is hand inscribed by Fred. He has added quite charming comments to the text, such as writing in ink next to mention of his landlady Liz "alas, she is dead". I don't know why I bought this book, but I have always been very fond of it.