NOSTALGIA: A peek behind the iron curtain and a postcard from Perth

AS THE eyes of the world turned towards Russia in recent weeks, it marks 25 years since Observer readers headed to the centre of the USSR.

In March, 1989, 26 intrepid Observer readers and one reporter headed to Moscow to record their experiences.

Pictured in Red Square, the readers posed outside the multi-coloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral, as well as admiring the Czar cannon next to the Kremlin, which dated from 1856.

A further furtive photograph also shows readers Anne Willard and Mary Small with two Russian policemen in the foreground.

At the end of the Cold War, the photo was contrary to the rules and regulations as it pictured the policemen.

Other international stories featured in the Observer in March included a young boy whose postcard to Milland made its way all the way there from Australia, despite only being addressed to the Hollycombe Primary School.

Ten-year-old Geoffrey Davy, a pupil at the school, was on a five-week holiday in Perth when he wrote the postcard to his classmates. However, the only address he used was to the Hollycombe School.

Fortunately, an enterprising Australian postman spotted that the handwriting on 
the letter matched that on another letter addressed to Geoffrey’s grandmother, so 
he put that address on the school postcard.

The letter was then forwarded to the school, which received it three weeks after Geoffrey sent it.

Headteacher Jill Green said it showed someone had used ‘amazing initiative’.

There was also a Hollywood angle to the Observer that month as the paper reported on a leading studio producer’s interest in turning the first book by former Chichester Festival Theatre artistic director Patrick Garland into a film.

The book, entitled Wings of the Morning, was officially launched at Goodwood airfield that month and was based on Mr Garland’s father’s unpublished war memoirs.

Speaking at the time, Mr Garland said several studios were expressing interest in the book.

“It has only been on sale for just under a week, but I have already been approached by a well-known Hollywood producer, who has made 
films with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman,” said Mr Garland. “He read it, liked it, and asked if film rights were available.”

The festival theatre was at the time performing a version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, which saw Chichester’s very own cathedral getting involved with the action.

A picture appearing in the paper showed the then dean, Robert Holtby, at the cathedral with Micky O’Donoughue, who played Quasimodo, and Chris Barnes, who played Poussepain in the play.

The paper said Quasimodo was disappointed not to be allowed near the cathedral bells, but spent time in the Cloisters and up one of the towers.

The Observer added: “After his brief foray into 20th-century Chichester it was back to the festival theatre to recreate Paris of 1482 in a play packed with wild antics, love, lust, romance and tragedy.”

The Chichester Observer of March 9, proclaimed ‘Village fury as listed building razed’ on the front page.

Residents in Selsey were ‘shocked and saddened’ by the early-morning demolition of Myrtle Cottage, a Grade-II listed building in the High Street, which had stood there since 1764.

“Local residents were awakened at 6.20am on Friday by the noise of crashing stone and bricks as a bulldozer moved in to raze the controversial cottage,” wrote the Observer.

Selsey councillors were outraged and wrote to the district council asking for the strongest possible measures to be taken against those involved.

The building was knocked down following concerns it was unsafe.

The following day, a wreath was laid at the site by residents.

Meanwhile perhaps Selsey’s most famous resident, Patrick Moore, was the subject of a couple of newspaper stories, but for very different reasons.

The first story to appear showed the veteran astronomer supporting the Observer’s campaign for a new scanner at St Richard’s Hospital.

Pushing over a teetering pile of 2p pieces that had been collected at the White Swan Pub, in Westhampnett, the patron of the paper’s appeal was also presented with a cheque for £550. The pile of coins had been collected as part of a fundraising drive by bar staff.

Another story in following weeks featured Sir Patrick for a completely different reason.

The Chichester Observer wrote in March, 1989, that the astronomer was ‘seeing stars’ over the way he was stopped by police on the way home from a charity function.

“I am not letting the affair rest – I am only just beginning,” he said.

He had been flagged down by police, who believed he had been drinking, when in fact all he had was an orange juice.

Sir Patrick claimed the policeman breathalysed him, searched his car, but was not able to produce a warrant card when requested.

He was allowed to go on his way, but complained about the fact the officer could not produce a warrant card.

A police spokesman said the astronomer had withdrawn the complaint after meeting with the head of Chichester Police, however Sir Patrick maintained to the paper the matter was ‘very far from closed officially’.