NATIONWIDE mass excitement over the forthcoming marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer was building this week in May of 1981.
Even though the big day – July 29 – was more than two months away, national newspapers vied for pictures of the couple and local ones tried to come up with community angles.
One of our stories began: “Valerie Dennis, of High Street, Blunsdon, has won the Adver’s Royal Wedding greeting contest.
“She wins a special rolled gold Parker fountain pen – one of only a thousand being made to commemorate the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Di.”
The pen was engraved with the date of the wedding and the Prince of Wales’ insignia.
The winning verse ran: “The past holds happy memories,/The present is your dream come true,/Great happiness and lasting love/Is our future wish for you.”
Several other stories that week involved creativity in various forms.
We visited the Swindon home of a retired school secretary whose skills wouldn’t have been out of place among scribes at a Medieval monastery.
Mollie Voisey, who lived in Arundel Close, was a devotee of calligraphy, and even provided us with a beautifully lettered headline saying: “Thumbs up for a good hand.”
The original is still in our archive.
Mollie held some strong views about legible handwriting, which she believed everybody was capable of.
“To my mind,” she said, “bad writing is as bad as a speech impediment when it comes to communication.
“The written impediment can be cured, so there’s no justification for inflicting the burden of unravelling rows of scribbles on friends, relatives and business associates.”
Mollie admitted to having been a scribbler until she began studying calligraphy three years earlier, having been inspired when her granddaughter won a poetry competition.
“Clare had written the poem in an attractive, formal hand. I was so ashamed when I compared it to my scribble that I made up my mind to learn to write legibly.”
Another creator of beautiful objects showed off some of her work at a local exhibition. As with the calligraphy, we captured images of the item for posterity.
We said: “One of Pat Nicholls’ most treasured possessions is a patchwork bedspread which she calls her nostalgia quilt.
“It contains pieces of her family’s life – bits of fabric from her school uniform, her going away outfit, maternity smock, her boys’ shirts, her daughter Lucy’s first dress.
“And she reckons anyone could have one, provided they’ve enough time, energy and patience to make it.
“Pat, who with her husband Stephen keeps the Blunsdon Village Stores, put four years, 900 hexagonal patches, a mile of cotton and more than 64,000 hand stitches into hers.
“She’s now so expert that she gives talks and demonstrations on the craft and runs a small patchwork group in the village.”
The quilt was displayed at that year’s Blunsdon Arts and Crafts Exhibition. Perhaps its creator can tell us whether it survives.
Examples of another excellent and complex locally-made item – albeit produced in a factory – definitely survive and have a market among collectors.
By 1981, the Swindon operation of hi-fi manufacturer Garrard was a slimmed-down shadow of its former self. Cheap competition from overseas had wrought havoc on its balance sheet.
A new system, named the Gradiente in honour of the Brazilian parent company which had bought the firm two years earlier, was readily acknowledged as a final throw of the dice for the Swindon operation.
Managing director Alan Kirton and sales manager John Varney were photographed next to a stacking system bristling with lights and dials. It cost £1,000 at a time when a terraced house in Swindon could be had for £16,000.
Quality, the bosses promised, remained high, but costs were minimised by bringing in ready-made components from overseas.
Mr Kirton said: “What we have here is the new era. Our final opportunity for a new start.”
Sadly, the new start was to last only until the next year, when the company’s Swindon presence came to a final end.
The week also saw a dancer with an unusual story to tell appear in Swindon.
“You’d never guess that lissom, sloe-eyed dancer Avigail Ben Ari is a dab hand at assembling and dismantling machine guns,” we said.
“Or that she can cover a rugged assault course with the speed of a well-trained infantryman.
“Or that she used to spend her working days sussing out terrorists and hunting for bombs in crowded cinemas and bus stations.
“Avigail, 28, is now with the Extemporary Dance Company, which is appearing at Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre.”
Some years earlier, however, she had been a teenaged soldier in the Israeli army during a period of immense tension over disputed land.
She said: “It was nothing unusual. In Israel all girls do 20 months’ compulsory military service – unless they’re married and have a child or are pregnant.”
According to various online archives, the Extemporary Dance Company was formed in 1975 and toured extensively, promoting new dance to new audiences. It closed in 1991.
Avigail Ben Ari - or at least, someone with that name - seems to have gone on to found her own studio.