Thursday, 30 January 2014

Doesn't Time Fly When You're Having Fun.

    Three of our grandchildren stayed overnight last week; Ted, four, Tommy, nine and Angelina, twelve. We took them to my home village of Ockbrook. I thought they ought to know a little concerning my own dodgy background and upbringing. ( see 'A childhood Revisited' at the beginning of my blog.)
    Unfortunately the weather excelled itself. We all got out of the car near the Moravian chapel I attended for all of my youth. Within twenty seconds of us alighting there lightning flashed ominously, lighting up the sky, followed immediately by  horrendous claps of thunder. (We were taught as children that each second between lightning and thunder is one mile distance between the two. indicating how far away is the storm. Were we taught correctly?) The children were alarmed, Angelina particularly so. 'God's not amused  by the infrequency of my visits to his house' I mused as we all dived back in the car. Our visit to my childhood pastures had lasted all of one minute!
    Much of my childhood was spent outdoors. On farms amid animals and machinery. Or near the railway lines that ran through the next village. In summer learning to swim in the putrid water of the Erewash Canal; or the tempting but highly dangerous currents of the River Derwent. Indoors enjoying the delights of Subbuteo or printing rude words with the aid of a John Bull printing set. 
    The fifties were extremely unsophisticated times, certainly if compared to what's on offer to the young of the westernised world in the present century. So much has changed; so much is different today. 
    I happened recently to see an Eagle Annual that featured the best of the 1950's comic. The Eagle comic first surfaced on the 14th April, 1950, priced three pence, later rising to four and a half pence. (old money before decimalization. double the price of most other comics.) The Eagle was a comic that in many ways was  before its time.  Much of it in colour, it was innovative in so many ways. It brought inventions and technology into the lives of children. It pushed the grimness of the recently fought war into the background. It was exciting, and it brought its readers new heroes: Dan Dare, PC49 and Harris Tweed. No wonder at its peak it sold over one million copies per week. as a young teenage boy (born 1939) I loved it all. Happy days, yet looking at some pages today, I marvel as to how things, particularly language has changed since my youth.In the Eagle comics of the fifties there are frequent mention of 'chums, chaps and fellows'. There is a quaintness about the time. A 'criminal' in PC49 exclaims, ''Lumee, its a fair cop" when arrested. There is talk of 'grub' and 'yippee' is a frequent exclamation. A young reader writes in all innocence to say he lives in a 'queer' place! (In Eagle's early days its badge for a readers outstanding 'courage and service' was called a MUGS badge! (Later changed to a Silver Eagle Badge.) The stated aim of the Hulton Press, proprietors of the Eagle, was to create a comic that, unlike American counterparts, was both 'wholesome and decent'. Times have changed and I have no doubt many will say 'not for the better'. I honestly don't know, you tell me! 

    Two little 'foods for thought'. Near to my home in one particular place in Derby was a shoe shop called 'Gay Shoes ' Why did it change its name to Alvaston Shoes I wonder. And during my youth a boxer by the name of Randy Turpin was my hero. Presumably Randy was a nickname. I wonder if 'Randy' would raise the eyebrows most then or now. I wonder, I truly do!        

Friday, 17 January 2014

Golden Years Of British Comedy: The Swinging Sixties

'Know Thy Place'

    In some respects this post is a natural follow up from my last post. And it comes about because of something I recently read. Evidently visitors to  hospital 'A and E' departments suffering from cannabis, cocaine and amphetamine overdoses, particularly around seventy five  year olds have increased massively over the years. The suggestion is that twenty year old representatives of the 'flower power, free love' years of the 1960's are at least partly to blame. Ah, I remember them well; any of you, dear readers  dare also put your hands up!
    My quirky mind started to go into overdrive. They're not assuming, I surmised, that its almost OK for long haired, bearded student types (and that's only the girls) ' to indulge in such drug induced frivolity, but staid, upstanding geriatric types, never! And it began to dawn on me how much 'society' puts us all into categories, groups. The expectations of others makes, or tries to make us 'conform' whether we like it or not. We may or may not like it, but my goodness, we lump it, so to speak.
    Most of us live in houses, in the western world at least; at the beginning probably with little choice as to where. But as we 'prosper', heaven forbid, we aspire to better things. We move to bigger houses, better places. Ever been to Derby, my friends? What is it they say, nothing special but 'There's no place like home.' Yet within all of is a desire to be different. So often in little boxes with our green doors, or blue, or black, orange or white, we dream of bigger and better things. And one day, in the far distant future, worn out but happy, our house with its green, blue,  black, orange or white door paid for, we die happy. And the children sell our little house with its green, blue, black, orange or white door, split the proceeds between them and look for something bigger, better; same old confines, same old story.
    Now I do realise I've exaggerated the picture just a little! (Oh come on, you can't really expect the 'History of The Western World' in just two paragraphs!) But you know, what's the modern term, 'where I'm coming from'.  But the part that particularly fascinates me is the end bit, you know, the bit between paying all the debts off and doing what I like (WE if the dear wife has also survived the journey)  before shuffling off this mortal stage. You may, just may have some money left, legally or otherwise that the Government or the children have not yet prized off you. And there are things you might like to do, mainly legal before you 'shuffle off', so to speak. And, if what you fancy doing, large or small is within your grasp, is do-able, so to speak go for it. If eyebrows are raised by your aspirations, great, you're on the right track.
So you've got some money in the bank, great! Fancy some transport? How about a Ford, A working man's car; you still consider yourself a working man so a Ford it is! Wrong. How about a Volvo, owned by many a retired man. Solid, reliable; yawningly boring!  Or how about a second hand ten year old 'cheepo' similar to many other second hand cheepos' you've had for the past thirty years. The children will love that, money saved to share out when you've said your last goodbyes.
    I bought a new car in the summer. The first new car I've ever bought. (Very novel I thought at aged seventy three.) I thought of all the things the 'young uns' would have fitted to their cars if they could afford it: bucket seats, tinted windows, sports suspension, spoiler, stripes, metallic paint, top of the range model. Half of which was unnecessary. So I bought a car of my choice that had: bucket seats, tinted windows, sports suspension, spoiler, stripes, metallic paint and top of the range model.  
    I suppose the point I'm making is that we are barely in charge of our lives, from beginning to end. And we live within restraints, whatever our wealth, our 'station in life'. BUT if there ARE goals, however small you wish to achieve, go for them whilst there is still time.
     I thought you might like the sketch concerning The British and their attitude concerning The Class System made famous by Ronnie's Barker and Corbett. I've always thought the British 'Oh so set in their ways'. If you doubt me, an example concerning the attitude towards 'old' people and sex.  Any couple over seventy years of age, sit in a local bus shelter and give your partner a kiss. Be ready for the horrified looks. (eighteen years olds doing the same, no problem.) For maximum effect, same couple, keep a straight face and announce at the next cocktail party you attend, 'Oh by the way, you do realise we are sexually active.' You will no doubt be remembered forever!(There will be readers no doubt that will be highly embarrassed by even the mention of such 'goings on'.) If so, my apologies; we are oh so conditioned in the western world! 

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Look in the Mirror; What do you see.

I had a strange experience recently. My  wife and I (very Royal as usual!) attended the Out Patient department at the hospital recently. It was very busy and we were moved constantly. I finished up prior to being seen in one of two rows in close proximity. Opposite no more than two paces away sat an old lady. Interesting in that she appeared unusual in appearance and gestures, the sort of person that caught the eye. Eventually her name, which I recognised, was called out. I realised immediately I knew the person; I had worked, with the old lady for many years. I was amazed that I had recognised neither her distinctive voice nor her somewhat unusual appearance. And it set me thinking.
    How do we see ourselves. Do I, for instance, see 'Kenny', a young boy; 'Stevo',a dashing teenage gadabout; 'Mr Stevens', a besuited teacher, referred to as 'sir', a model member of the community; or 'old Mr Stevens', who lives at number twenty nine.
    When I see Richard, best man at my wedding, I see the two of us fighting in the school yard, and my mother coming out of the school 'cookhouse' where she prepared the school dinners. (In 1948 she earned £38 8s 9p a year,  for two and a half days a week. The school became short of money. The answer, cut my mother and her cooking colleague' s money; teachers money was not cut.)  I smile a secret smile when I see the matronly ladies of the village we 'young bucks' pursued in our youth. If I meet pupils I taught, I am often greeted with a cheery 'Hello sir.' It is all of twenty five years minimum since I taught, with blind enthusiasm any pupil at the comprehensive school. And I am resigned, but not amused when I am referred to as 'the old lad', granddad or worse. I know, I know, I AM oldish. But don't remind me. (It's true I've started to clean my teeth with E145 on occasion; or is it E45! Plus I made the lousiest cup of coffee yet. No wonder, the coffee grains turned out to be gravy browning. Simple mistakes that anyone could make when the old eyes are not what they were!)
How do I see myself; how do YOU see your self. Possibly more important, how do OTHERS see us
Who are the best people to ask, I wonder. What was it Robert Burns said.
    O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
    To see ousels as others see us.

    The language might be difficult but the message is clear enough. Oh that God would give us the gift of being able to see us as others see us. It would save us from many mistakes in Oh so many ways.

    There was a television programme (Channel 4) this week called Secrets of the Living Dolls. It concerned men who wear full body suits to become fantasy women. Whatever turns you on I suppose (In fact the whole characterisation was not intentionally, overtly sexual.) but the strangest aspect was the latex masks worn by the 'Living Dolls'. Expressionless masks that were hypnotic, almost alien in looks. An interesting aspect of the individuals  who 'Mask' is relevant to my little 'essay'. Concerning men who 'mask', Living Dolls'' do we see, if see is the right word, maskers Charlie, Fred and Bert, or Living Dolls Brenda, Cindy and MaryLou. The world in the 21st Century is at times confusing. If I talk in riddles, no matter. As I said in the introduction, 'Look in the mirror: what do you see.' Me, I'm going for a lie down, my old brains had a hard day!

Look in the mirror and what do you see. Do you like what you see