Retired teacher with experience of life outside the classroom.Was, amongst other things, prior to becoming a schoolteacher,a barbers boy, a Woolworth's trainee,a windowdresser,an office clerk, a farm labourer and a youth leader.Oh, and for all of four hours a Betterware salesman.
Almost the end of another year. To me, a not inconsiderable amount of time. But only a tiny, tiny part of the millions of years the place we call earth has been in existence. Of any case we humans are only really concerned with our own tiny, if unimportant lives, when all's said and done. Understandable enough when you think about it. We might be interested in the world around us, but only on condition that we, and that means ME, ME, ME is a living, breathing part of it! I like the idea that some of the stuff I write, my book, A Childhood Revisited for instance, might still be around when I'm not, but make no mistake, I prefer to still be around as well! ( I can see the attraction of religion and the belief in an afterlife, another go at it if you like, but its not for me.) But I've no wish for this post to become a rant at the fact that for some reason we are not immortal. I might be a creaky old so and so but I'm not thinking of leaving my fellow men yet. (Is this old unbeliever allowed to say God willing!) My heart (I nearly said soul) is full of optimism rather than pessimism and here are some of the reasons.
I see three of my grandchildren most days. Ordinary, happy, caring, carefree children who love life; loving and loved, like many other children, though obviously not all throughout the world. Their circumstances so different as to when I was a child. My own family was very poor by todays standards.
I grew up in the years after the war. There was no father present, food was rationed, my mother worked frantically at three jobs to give my sister and I the basics in life for there were seldom extras. Yet I remember few unhappy moments. We never starved, though we were often hungry. Our clothes might at times have seen better days but they were always clean. We were poor but carefree. And like my grandchildren, we were loved.
A memory that is etched on my brain. In the seventies, during my teaching days, I happened to park in a less than salubrious area of Derby. It was 'term time', but I was not bunking off school. honest! I was driving a minibus so could easily see over the less than neatly trimmed hedges surrounding the council houses. I noticed an electricity box attached to the nearest house had been forced open at some stage. Vandalism that did not bode well in my mind, though in fairness the householders themselves might well have been innocent parties. If that caused me concern, the sudden appearance of two young boys changed concern to alarm. Roughly dressed, neither had outer coats though the weather was far from warm. Of school age, around five and seven, they had with them largish screwdrivers; plus a teddy bear. What happened next has stayed with me ever since. Both children proceeded to 'assault' the teddy bear, each making stabbing motions towards 'teddy' with such violence that he was soon 'mortally' wounded, to the obvious satisfaction of both assailants; who then vanished round the corner, job done.
Questions have remained from that innocuous winter's morning. Am I overreacting. It was only a teddy bear; an inanimate, object of no real consequence. Where had the children of such tender ages
learnt such behaviour; I knew, and still know of youngsters of a young age who were allowed to watch films of a very violent and often pornographic nature from a very early age. Not all adults are either wise nor responsible when it comes to bringing up children.
A confession, I too at times exhibited a cruel disregard towards animals prior to puberty; plus I owned a gun until my mid teens. Obvious similarities to the behaviour of the two boys whose behaviour shocked me so much. I have thought long and hard concerning this incident. Times have changed but human nature has not. I am absolutely certain ALL human behaviour is learnt by imitation, deliberate adult teaching and the like (instinctive behaviour excepted). I do not wish to make excuses for my own behaviour when young. Suffice to say I had little 'training' when young due to my own circumstances and 'role models' were hard to come by. We as adults have great responsibility in life. The young may have inherited the earth, but how they deal with it is partly down to us.
So why am I optimistic concerning the future of mankind. Because there are so many good parents around; like the parents of my grandchildren for instance. I have no doubt children are born innocent.
Adults, including far too many of my compatriots are often cynical, bitter, miserable old codgers who, though presumably once young, have become right miseries in their old age. Don't forget what it was like to be young, happy, optimistic. Enjoy the expression of my grandson Tommy as he sees his Christmas present for the first time; a picture of sheer unadulterated wonderment. Nurture the natural innocence in the young. And the western world at least might, just might be a better place than we ourselves inherited.
Nearly the end of another year and I was feeling a 'mite' bit sorry for myself. It was all to do with 'self worth'. I got to thinking, 'What am I worth' and 'What use am I.' Its all to do with getting old I reckon; retired, no job, obviously and thereby producing nothing. Hobbling about on sticks, a burden on state and family; good for nothing, ready for the knackers yard. The feeling of being past one's sell by date lasted for ages; well, an hour at least. So I opened a bottle of beer and I pondered; and I pondered; and I pondered.
Now someone, somewhere had brewed the beer to put in that bottle. Probably a little chap in a big brewery. Without people like me, the little chap wouldn't have a job, would he! Neither would the man growing the hops, and the wheat to make the beer; or making the bottle, not including the top. Or for that matter the man delivering the bottles to the supermarket via the lorry made on the conveyer belt in the factory, filled with diesel made by another little chap and his workmates at the oil refinery. To be placed on the shelves by young men and served at the tills by young and some not so young women. I am beginning to realise that, unemployed and infirm I may be, but my responsibilities to others are enormous. Without me and people like me the brewery would go out of business. The farmer, the oil refinery and the supermarket workers all need me I reckon; quite a thought. So I opened another bottle of beer.
It is my duty, I have decided, in these austere times to provide employment for others. The hospital I have visited so frequently in the past year. The doctors and the dentists, the district nurses, the makers of the pills I consume in large quantities, where would you all be without me!
I bought a new car this year. How many workers has this purchase made happy; including our friends from across the sea. For I bought a Seat, made in Spain, courtesy of Germany's Volkwagen. And a television made in Japan, plus cooking aides for my wife, courtesy of China. My bank balance is much depleted, of concern to both myself and the bank clerks who manage my finances. But my awareness that my existence has some value lifted my spirits. So I opened another bottle of beer!
My musings took place whilst I sat in front of my wood burner, lovingly lit by my doting wife Paulette. The cat contentedly snoozed on my lap. (Yes, she or he is still here!) Grand daughter number two (Angelina, aged twelve, coming on fifteen) fleetingly called to see if we'd a spare toilet roll. (A not infrequent occurrence. I wonder if there's something 'doing the rounds!) I enquire concerning Tommy aged nine, (number three) and Ted (number four, aged four). Evidently they are at home, happily 'computer gaming'. Normal for year 2013, but what would they have been doing in 1946 when I was seven years old, I wonder. Mother (Alison) is evidently also 'computing', searching for bargains on the internet while dad (Simon) lovingly checks his collection of guitars. (Simon is a more than merely competent musician, albeit a player of very noisy rock music.) The family completed by Willow, a Cockerpoo. (A mixture of King Charles Spaniel and Poodle, fashionable if mystifying.) ,
On Tuesday Paulette and I travel to St Annes to spend Christmas with daughter Sarah, husband Jeff and grand daughter (number one) Helena, aged fifteen. Quite an artistic family, plus Ramsie, perhaps the most amazing English Bull Terrier, certainly in this part of Lancashire. Ramsie is renowned, unfortunately, for his obsessional behaviour, he swallows, given the opportunity, any unguarded object he finds. The range is enormous and has included his bed, phone chargers, socks, in fact anything that stops moving; a very expensive collection to retrieve!
I opened another bottle, and through by now an alcoholic haze I perceived a truth that I had not seen before in my searching. My 'worth', my real 'worth' was before my eyes, and I couldn't see it. My 'worth' lay in the love I have for my family and my friends; and they for me. For little else matters. To love and be loved, whatever one's age is worth more than any material consideration. Ah, happy days. Then, and I'm not sure why, I fell asleep!
Happy Christmas to all who have visited my blog. I hope you get all you wish for. Peace and best wishes to you all.
The year draws to a close. An unforgettable year, too often for the wrong reasons. Two spells in hospital, plus a new knee. Non too successful at the moment but we live in hope. Plus I'm booked in for further investigation in the Royal at Derby. When a specialist says to you, 'That's interesting, you have a hole in your brain' you become somewhat apprehensive. To further remind us of our mortality and so as not to feel left out Paulette had a stent fitted this year. Just as the year was destined to end on a less than high note 'cat' has appeared 'on the scene' to brighten our lives.
My wife and daughter were chatting on the street, as ladies do one evening about ten days ago when 'cat' appeared. When I say 'cat' appeared; I mean 'cat' literally leapt into my daughter's arms. He (she?) is a small, tabby cat, in good condition, young, I imagine around a year old. (I have no real way of knowing.) It proceeded to follow my wife up the street, into the house; my wife fed it and there it stayed! For the past few days it has slept on the bed, had breakfast and off it goes, we know not where. Only to reappear at the back door at dusk or thereabouts as if it has lived here all its life! We have advertised its presence widely including on local radio with no positive success.We have taken it to a local vets on the off chance it is microchipped, which it is not. A strange addition to our family, temporary or otherwise.
Before someone tells us we have approached 'cats' arrival on the scene all wrong, we know, we know! We shouldn't have had it in and shouldn't have fed it. We certainly should not, after a week, have spent good money on a litter tray, cat litter and food. (This cat has on a collar and is housetrained, suggesting it has/had a home. It has occurred to us this cat is going 'home' in the daytime and returning to us, as a holiday home in the evening.)
We might well be totally wrong as to the cats age and sex. I think I'm right regarding its sex but as to whether its a 'doctored' female I would have no idea. Its a problem and if it turns up in kitten, so to speak will only add to the puzzle. Any of my readers know of such things! And do we give it a name, its not our cat when alls said and done. But we can't really refer to it as 'cat', surely not!
My wife has taken to 'cat'. Not surprising, 'it' has been a welcome distraction. I too, grudgingly admit its presence is amusing yet surprisingly therapeutic. (Are men allowed to be a bit soft in the head when it comes to cats?) But it is not our cat. somewhere someone might well be looking for it. The way it lays on you when you are lying down suggests it has nothing but love in its heart for humans. But where has it come from, how far and why. Strange things, cats.
One thing occurs to me, however fleetingly. (My wife has had the same thought.) You don't think 'cat' is a reincarnation, spirit if you like of a person who has passed away. Paulette's mother, or my mother for instance? I don't profess to believe in such things! But I swear its giving me some funny looks at times!