Wednesday 30 July 2008

Flabby Tabs

When we were children we often listened in to adult's conversations, a habit that has stayed with me throughout my life. If we were caught we would be sent on on our way with the dismissive retort, "Mind your own business, flabby tabs." How many recognise the term; I wonder, including our American friends across the water.
Two examples of conversations that recently intrigued. Two well dressed young women were intently examining a shiney new car on a car park as I parked alongside.
" I shan't tell him" said the young lady who was apparently the driver. "I'll wait until he goes off to his golf then I'll get the T Cut out."
Two old men were talking in the pub. Old meaning about my age, heaven forbid. The merits and price of Viagra prescribed by the doctor were the subject of their discourse. I can't remember the exact price but a sum around thirty pounds was mentioned. Unfortunately one of the men was rather deaf, he shouted rather than merely talked, consequently everyone within range listened intently. Evidently the results were mixed, causing him to state, " It were ok, but it only half worked, so I had some more at a reduced rate."
Two conversations, both intriguing both leaving questions unanswered. Who'd be a 'flabby tabs'!

'Keep right on to the end of the Road.'

It was never the intention to write a blog on such mundane matters as house moving. But a blog being a personal diary in the main, if house moving is the centre of our universe at the moment, so be it.
Tonight is our last night we will spend at number forty seven. For the last five days we have moved possessions, unpacked possessions, sold possessions, given away possessions. Our limbs ache, old and unused to manual work. We are alternately tired, dispirited, excited, optimistic, apprehensive. My next moved will be in a pine box. No more moving, it is high on the stress list. Marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, a death in the family, moving house is up there somewhere.
We are no where near finished. Our new house is already full. At least two trips to the auction beckons. This house is full still of abandoned goods that will need to be dealt with if we are to have any chance of selling our house by auction. The loft is still full as is the garage. I look out of the window as a young fox strolls gingerly across my garage roof and greenhouse. My garden, so lovingly cared for until recently is now their domain. I feel like King Canute fighting the inevitable. Everyone is full of gloom at our prospects of surviving without complete mental breakdowns. Sod them all, I have survived sixty eight rough but happy years, (Who sang 'I will survive'?) Watch this space.

Saturday 26 July 2008

D-Day arrives.

D-Day arrives and I open the gates as arranged at five to nine. I wait and I wait and panic begins to set in. At ten o'clock two of our removal men arrive, unperturbed. A third arrives minutes after. Kendrick, Ken for short, Andrew and Douglas are all of West Indian roots and have a philosophy towards life all of their own.
Ken manoeuvres the large van into position, there are doubts as to whether its roof will clear the carport at the side of the house, the vote is around fifty fifty of all present. No problem, Andrew watches just in case. Only he doesn't watch too closely and a loud bang indicates original reservations were justified. Plan A is abandoned, the van is reversed onto the road to be loaded there, Plan B. Non of the neighbours knew we were leaving; they do now! For the next five hours the men work loading our possessions into the van and out again at the other end; four hours in and one hour out, between cups of tea and fish and chips. They are pleasant, cheerful, amusing, plus knowledgeable concerning removals and very methodical. I am ashamed if I ever suspected otherwise. Dougie, the oldest seems to be self appointed foreman, Andrew is quite the academic and philosopher; Ken is boss and quietly takes it all in, working inside the van, uncomplaining despite the extreme heat.
The job is eventually finished around three o'clock. Seven or eight of our beloved possessions, mainly heavy Victorian furniture are in place plus over seventy largish boxes now wait unpacking. My wife and I are shattered and we have done the bare minimum. 'The Three Imegos' seem unfazed by the whole experience. We, Paulette and I flop down on the settee and promptly fall asleep; Ken goes off to another job. He is also a mechanic and his day is by no means finished.
We could have gone to Yellow Pages for our removal men. Instead Ken was recommended by a teaching friend. We both taught Ken and Andrew in school over thirty years ago. Doug is over sixty years of age, strong, fit and again quite the philosopher. They were all an inspired choice as a gut feeling suggested they would be. A hard day that will stay in the mind, thanks men, you were brilliant.

Au Revoir but not Goodbye

Undoubtedly an emotional day. Sarah and family finally move to Lytham St Annes and a new exciting life. My grandmother lived to ninety nine years of age and only ever moved to the house next door. My mother spent her entire life in the village where she was born. I am living in the town in which I was born and my wife was born twenty five miles away. Sarah and Paulette are obviously upset to be parting, particularly a female thing I suspect. Or perhaps we males are conditioned not to show too much emotion. But Lytham is only around one hundred and ten miles away, not the ends of the earth.
We frantically pack the last of the belongings (Jeff is away lecturing) and the farewells are many and lingering. The toilet is frequently called into use and there are a few tears. Helena's favourite ball is missing, frantic searches are to no avail. Finally the car is filled to bursting point, lingering becomes pointless and they are away. I know how the Pilgrim Fathers must have felt sailing away to a new life. And they had no telephones, e-mails or motor cars! Good luck, Sarah, Helena and Jeff, see you soon.

Thursday 24 July 2008

And It's Sod's Law Again

One very overwrought week. My daughter and son in law have spent the week frantically packing and driving vans up the M6 prior to a final move today. In between Jeff giving high powered seminars (so he tells me) to photographic students and keeping Helena aged nine happy in her last few days at her present school. Everyone is very stressed and it shows.
At this end we also pack frantically, boxes are everywhere. The mere thought of the move is frightening. I arrange for a gardener to tidy up the garden prior to selling. (It is so bad at least one fox has taken up residence at the bottom of the garden, I see him or them everyday.) I search for garden shears to trim a little, hoping to give the idea that it is not completely abandoned before the gardener's appointment. Sod's Law, I cannot find shears, not over surprising in the jungle that used to be called garden. Neither has two friends got so simple a tool, two others can't be found in my hour of need.
Virgin have been issued with details last week with details of the imminent move and reconnection at the other end. They confirm dates for reconnection, getting the details completely wrong. (They also got my daughters details wrong, how do they manage it. A rhetorical question, no answer necessary, Mr Branson.) They are informed by telephone of their mistake. They write again concerning the move, promptly getting it wrong again.
I sleep badly so arise early. I go to the computer for solace. Horror of horrors, Broadband is not working. My wife eventually arises from her slumbers ( she is normally first up) and deals with the problem via the telephone. ( She is better than me concerning computers. Also my blood pressure is already too high for comfort.) A lady in India is eventually contacted and assures us there is no problem in our area. (How far is India from Great Britain?) She presses a button and lo and behold broadband is retrieved. Oh that it were that simple. Unfortunately not true, the television now also becomes defunct. My wife perseveres, at least four or five are now 'on the job' so to speak. Our phones now join in the excitement and switch off mid call. (So much for buying cheap phones on Sunday markets.)We are now informed that we were cut off yesterday as per our instructions. No such instruction was given and we couldn't be cut off otherwise the phone wouldn't have worked until now. Reconnected twice more, Virgin admit defeat and arrange for a technician to visit tomorrow morning. Which couldn't be more inconvenient if it tried. Tomorrow I have arranged for three men and a van to move the heaviest of our possessions. What's the chance of them turning up, I wonder.
And it's still only half past ten. The phone rings, this time someone with a strong Birmingham accent. There is trouble in your area, he announces, contrary to earlier information. Broadband is now restored. (He doesn't say for how long.) Already a strange day what next I wonder. As Captain Oates would say, "I am just going outside and may be some time."

Sunday 20 July 2008

It's a Deadly Existence, That's for Sure.

The incident concerning the body stayed in my mind all week. So much so that I could not help but recall the story I included in 'There's Nowt so Strange as Folk', a book of short stories I wrote a couple of years ago. I hope you enjoy it.

“You will get cold feet if you stand about waiting for dead men’s shoes.” Peter Keary

Deadly Serious

There’s no doubt some are born luckier than others. Take Amos Crampton, for instance.
He was born prematurely on Friday the thirteenth, in a small terraced house next to an undertakers in the dead centre of Bury. I suppose you could say Amos hadn’t a chance of happiness. But you would be wrong, dead wrong.
True, he was a sickly baby whom the midwife declared, “Hadn’t a ghost of a chance of survival,” but survive he did.
At death’s door on numerous occasions, he often lay in his battered old pram, shrouded in blankets lest he catch his death of cold. His mother administered to his every need. She was heard to say on many an occasion, “Amos, you’ll be the death of me,” but he survived infancy due to her exceptional dedication.
“Amos, die, over my dead body,” she frequently uttered, “he’s dead gorgeous.” And survive he did.
Amos’s passage through school was, I suppose, unexceptional. Some teachers thought him somewhat dead from the neck up. Any attempts to install in Amos anything more than the educational basics were deemed to be flogging a dead horse.
He would sit, trancelike, gazing out of the window, oblivious to the teacher’s oratory offerings, completely dead to the world.
Attempts at change were resisted. Even the threat, “You’ll finish in a dead end job,” merely elicited the thought so succinctly articulated by the illustrious Robert Louis Stevenson centuries previously. ”It’s better to be a fool than dead.”
Not that Amos had ever heard of Robert Louis Stevenson. Or for that matter George Stephenson, or indeed any other Stevenson with a ‘v’ or Stephenson with a ‘ph’, famous or otherwise who had ever lived.
Amos was far more interested in leisure pursuits outside school. He rode furiously down the hills around the town after school, peddling furiously, on his dilapidated bicycle, brakes defunct, a death trap indeed. He nevertheless happily diced with death itself amidst the early evening traffic. And sometimes at weekends he could be found, at dead of night in Piggin Wood, the eerie solitude enough to scare you to death. Plus discovery by the gamekeeper would have ensured you were a dead duck. But the visits were profitable and he would return home dead-beat with rabbits to supplement the Crampton family pot.
Sick and tired to death of school, Amos was thankful to leave. He obtained a job easily, contrary to school expectations, as an apprentice, cum odd job man at the undertakers next door to his home. His greyish pallor, solemn expression and general demeanour made him particularly suited to work at an undertakers, though he was less than balmy about embalming.
Work amongst bodies and flowers he liked, though his tendency towards hay fever meant him sometimes coughing amidst the coffins, so to speak. But he didn’t mind, remembering that old adage, “It’s not the cough that carries you off, it’s the coffin they carry you off in.” For Amos viewed life with macabre irreverence. It might have seemed a melancholy existence to others, but in a way it was Amos’ idea of ‘living on the edge’, permanently having ‘One foot in the grave’ he used to say whilst adopting his best deadpan expression.
The work was hard at times, a coffin plus body being a dead weight. Amos was dead set on doing well but promotion depended on filling dead men’s shoes. The die was cast, for promotion prospects seemed as dead as a dodo. Nevertheless he enjoyed the work so much that he even volunteered to work Bank Holidays when only a skeleton staff was required. On such an occasion he would turn on the radio for company, singing along to such classics as Jimmy Ruffin’s ‘I’ve Passed This Way Before’, Sammi Smith’s ‘Help Me make It Through The Night’ and of course Billy Fury’s haunting ‘Halfway to Paradise’, though not loud enough to waken the dead of course.
But life for Amos was not all work and no play.
Amos was not adverse to the company of the opposite sex, courting Jessica, who lived opposite the cemetery for many a year. But whereas Amos was thought by some to be dead from the neck up, Jessica was definitely dead from the neck down. Their courting therefore was confined to holding hands in the cemetery, together reading the epitaphs on the tombstones. A dead loss from a romantic point of view. Jessica may well have been a dead ringer for a young Greta Garbo, but her lack of passion signalled the death knell for any truly sexual progress. Of any case, the ties to his mother were too strong, ‘until death us do part’ referring to mother rather than Jessica.
Amos also pursued other leisure interests to varying degrees.
He regularly visited his local public house. A creature of habit, dead set in his ways, he always sat in the same seat, drinking only spirits, with a natural preference for brandy, a stiff drink if there ever was one. And a deadly shot in the darts team, he was always in at the death in any competition offering cash incentives.
He read nature books, becoming somewhat of an expert, particularly on the Death’s Head Hawk Moth and the habitats of the Deadly Nightshade. He also read poetry, being so fond of Tennyson’s ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ that he learnt from memory the entire poem. A huge undertaking, starting of course ‘Into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred.’ And he read novels, Hemingway’s ‘Death in the Afternoon’ being a particular favourite.
He carefully studied the obituaries in the local paper, an interest both personal and professional. Amos worked on the principal, “If you weren’t mentioned, you’d no worries.” Plus any local personages listed could well be a bonus in the very near future.
He visited the theatre, never tiring of Agatha Christie’s ‘Death on the Nile’, the author being on a long list of people he was dying to meet.
Ever the dutiful son, his weekends included visits, in his Sunday best, to the Methodist Chapel round the corner from where he lived. The sermons were often as dry as dust, asking ‘What do we mean by the quick and the dead?’ Plus debating ‘The wages of sin is death’, but Amos did not really mind. It pleased his mother that he attended, and his grandfather, a Sunday School Superintendent would have turned in his grave had he not done so.
In summer he would visit a cousin in Gravesend, conveniently placed for hop picking. An excellent source of extra income in a hot summer, a dead loss when storms persisted. A wet summer signalled the kiss of death to financial gain, though the farmers seemed unaffected by variations in the weather, proving the country aphorism, “You never see a poor farmer or a dead donkey.”
He never made a fortune, did Amos, no gravy train, the undertaking business. He was a proud man, nevertheless. He wouldn’t be seen dead collecting supplementary benefits others thought of as their divine right. He would rather drop dead than accept charity, as he called it. He was at death’s door on several occasions, but always recovered, quoting Mark Twain’s words, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.”
Inevitably mother passed to the other side and Amos himself grew old. His increasing deafness meant a world as silent as the grave. And the end, when it did come, came peacefully, over seventy years after it was first expected.
A happy life; a contented life; a long life. Neither morbid nor melancholy, though others might disagree.
On cold wintry nights when the wind whistles round the back street of Bury, one can feel a ghostly presence in the air, smiling down at any poor soul braving the elements. The elderly nod knowingly and hurry home. The young huddle together on the streets, sometimes apprehensive as they imagine hearing a hearse passing by from an undertakers long since gone. And are they a little afraid, a little nervous, these brave young things of a new generation.
“Dead true, they are!”

Tuesday 15 July 2008

A Peaceful Weekend at the Seaside

The strain of the our forthcoming move is beginning to show. A couple of days away usually does the trick so we load up the van and, hey presto we're away. Three hours later and we're walking down Skegness High Street.
Dear old Skeggy, full of obese, cigarette smoking, often tattooed individuals of both sexes, many day trippers from the Midlands: Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley. A pilgrimage their parents and grandparents made in the non too distant past.
Although it is barely afternoon the effects of alcohol and the warm sun combine to make the expletives flow and I wince at the lack of self control shown by some with small children in tow.
We buy a bag of chips, obligatory in Skegness and eat them outside the shop. Skegness never did stand on ceremony; the place has a certain charm, though many would not be seen dead there, an unfortunate phrase considering what was to happen only a few hours later.
We elected to stay overnight on a caravan site in nearby Anderby Creek. A pleasant enough choice amongst the static caravans much loved on the East Coast. Plus the bonus of a pub nearby. A toilet block on the site plus a pub nearby, life is good at times as long as your expectations are not too high! We cooked a meal by the beach, returned to the caravan site in good humour and retired to the pub.
The place was full and it was immediately apparent the average age was high. (The average age of motorhomers evidently is sixty three. The average age of people in static caravans is probably higher.) It did occur to me an OAP bus trip had called in except that it was fairly obvious that most were ensconced in the best seats, suggesting they were all 'regulars'. No matter, my wife and I took a back seat, literally a back seat and surveyed the scene.
The bingo was approached by the regulars with enthusiasm, the caller screeching the numbers with deafening gusto. My original enthusiasm was tested and the production of a karaoke machine set the alarm bells ringing. Thus commenced the worst karaoke singing I have ever heard. Whether it was the sheer age of the participants, (whom I doubt had ever seen never mind used such modern apparatus) or the choice of song, inevitably Country and Western, the end product was excruciatingly bad. Plus they did encores, perhaps a case of senility rules. (One old gentleman definitely 'away with the fairies' insisted on regaling us with his rendering of an entirely different song (we were in a side room and viewing through an open door).
By now my original euphoria had all but gone, and I was beginning to wonder whether our visit was a good idea. I glanced out of the window and did a double take so as to be sure as to what I was actually seeing. A van was only yards away, its rear doors open. An unusual vehicle in a way, it took only a moment to realise it was in fact an undertaker's vehicle. Fascinated, singers ignored I watched in morbid fascination. Lo and behold, a stretchered body appeared from a nearby caravan and was carefully placed in the waiting vehicle; and the karaokers continued to karaoke. Quite a shock of a Saturday evening, not exactly designed to lift the spirits if you'll pardon the pun. The karaoke was bad but I hadn't realised it was that bad! (Evidently an elderly gentleman had died in the caravan overnight and had been discovered only minutes before we arrived for a 'fun' night out.)
The rest of a most unusual weekend passed without incident, but a weekend we would not forget in a hurry. Who said you can't beat a weekend on the East Coast for getting rid of stress!
Coincidentally I write up this post as the television announces new government plans to allow people to die in the place of their choice. Great news, except that you need to know in advance the time of your demise. No doubt the old man loved his caravan at the seaside. I wonder if he knew something we didn't.

Thursday 10 July 2008

I think that's Funny

My grand daughter, aged six told me two jokes.
"Why did the banana go to the doctors?"
"I don't know, why did the banana go to the Doctors?"
"Because he wasn't peeling very well!"
"Doctor, doctor, I don't feel very well, I feel like a pair of curtains."
"Pull yourself together."
Interestingly enough, the doctor joke I remember from my own childhood, which set me thinking. Do children in general still tell jokes, if so, have they changed in the main from my childhood?
We tended to tell jokes that began, "There was an Englishman, a Scotsman and an Irishman." They all finished with the Irishman being the butt of the joke, definitely politically incorrect nowadays. Some of our jokes were smutty, repeated away from adult ears as we knew they would not approve. I recently asked a delightful young lady of my acquaintance, aged sixteen to tell me the kind of joke circulated amongst her peers. The result was a very funny story but unrepeatable, enough I suspect to make a hardened navvy blush. In our early adolescence our humour too tended to reflect our growing occupation with sex. An example is the following story, deemed rude by ourselves but mild by today's standards.
Three cowboys walked into the local store to buy provisions. An attractive young lady stood behind the counter.
“Can I help you?” she asked.
“A bag a’ raisins” requested the first cowboy.
The young lady moved a ladder to the shelves behind the counter and proceeded up it until she could reach the top shelf, showing a large expanse of stocking as she did so. She returned to the counter with a sack and gave it to the cowboy.
She looked at the second cowboy. “A bag a’ raisins,” he too requested. The young lady returned to the ladder and proceeded upwards, showing even more stocking and flesh. She returned to the counter with the sack and turned to the third cowboy.
"A' raisin?" she asked.
"No, just a' twitchin," replied the cowboy.
I have asked many of my contemporaries for stories from their childhood. With few exceptions virtually none can now be remembered which in a way is a shame. The cowboy story was told to me by a village friend of more than fifty years ago. I personally remember only two other repeatable jokes beside the doctor joke from those childhood days.
Firstly a joke I probably considered sophisticated in my early grammar school days.
Two lions were walking near Trafalgar Square in London. One turned to his mate and said, "Isn't it quiet for an Easter Monday."
And last but not least my favourite joke for at least the past sixty years.
This couple always wanted a child and they were thrilled to have at last a baby boy. An unusual child, different in that, instead of having a belly button, he had a small golden nut and bolt, a half inch Whitworth nut and bolt. (We were of course unaware of the more delicate term navel for belly button. Of any case belly button was good enough for us.)
People came from far and wide and his parents would roll down his nappy so that they could view this amazing sight. But as the child grew up he became embarrassed by the fact that he was different from other children. Girlfriends were amazed, but also amused and it wasn’t doing his sex life any good. So he visited his doctor. The doctor was worse than useless, so were other specialists in The National Health Service. He was desperate, willing to visit anyone who might be able to help. There appeared no way that conventional medicine could help. Which is why he found himself consulting a witch doctor in darkest Africa.
“My son,” said the witch doctor, “there is only one cure for your condition. You must find a field of ripe corn. On the night of the full moon you must lie down on the ground. At exactly midnight you must pull down your trousers and wait."
With mounting excitement he returned home. Summer came and he found a field matching the witch doctor’s requirements. On the right day, an hour before midnight, secretly he lay down in the centre of his chosen field. He rolled down his trousers and waited. At exactly midnight the clouds parted, the moon shone brightly and a little angel, holding a white napkin floated down from the sky. The angel alighted amid the corn and carefully unwrapped the napkin, revealing an exquisite gold spanner, a half inch Whitworth spanner. Expertly handling the spanner, he proceeded to unscrew the nut and remove the bolt.
He placed them carefully in the napkin, smiled at the young man and flew silently away. The young man lay in the corn and joy overcame him. He could not believe that at long last he was the same as anyone else. His troubles were surely over, and he joyously jumped to his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “Look at me, look at me, I’m cured, I'm cured.” And then his backside fell off.
Presumably children all over the world still tell jokes and stories. Any examples gratefully received. You never know, we may be able to blog in the future with your examples.

Saturday 5 July 2008

Home Sweet Home Three

I spent a year at college in Leicester in 1964/65. The government had decided it needed more full time leaders, to 'lead' the countries youth and I, amongst others fitted the bill. So in their wisdom they set up The National College for the Training of Youth Leaders, a grand title for a one year course housed in a disused Civil Defence centre. The course was varied, an education in itself to a somewhat naive village boy.
I lived in 'digs' so to speak, a 'semi' on the ring road with three other male trainee leaders. The living experience I remember for two things only. We were all untrained in domesticity in the extreme. We we constantly rushed for time, long individual ablusions in the morning were a disadvantageous to everyone. Thus the rule was that the toilet come bathroom was never to be locked to others, probably a typically male arrangement. Privacy was therefore non existent, a shock to the system of even the most thick skinned amongst us.
One other memory lingers on. If Henry, not his real name was in the building, anywhere in the place wherever, his presence was indicated by the strangest unfortunate obnoxious foot odour I have ever encountered, before or since. I have only to close my eyes, over forty years hence and I am reminded of Henry. Where are you now I wonder, not nearby or I would know, my son. My first real experience of living with others. The place therefore a house but not really a home.

Happy Days

Its not only onions that have a tendency to repeat. Television at this time of the year is also full of repeats. Saturday, the most popular night for viewing and what are we offered? Have I Got News For You, Foyle's War, Dad's Army, Benidorm, Law and Order, all repeats. Plus Big Brother highlights, excruiating even first time round and Glastonbury, The Best Bits. Oh, and two films well past their sell by date.
The television remains off and my wife reads as is her wont. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen; The Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun; any Dalziel and Pascoe mystery; Morse, Sharp, Holmes, their adventures are constantly devoured ad infinitum, morning, noon and night.
Fretful I ponder how to amuse myself. What would granny have done, between bringing up eight children, cooking, ironing and attending chapel, God willing. (Plus presumably a lie down when possible.) As soon as I thought of granny the answer was there in a flash, look at the stereo cards of course.
I remember many an evening as a child sat in grannies parlour, looking at 'grannies pictures'. The 'need to know' syndrome might be popular today. But did we children of the late 1940's care that we were looking at examples of stereoscopic images viewed through a stereoscopic viewer. Or that it was invented by a Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1840. Or for that matter realise that stereopsis is most commonly referred to as depth perception. The only thing we cared about was that we loved looking at 'grannies pictures'.
I retrieve the battered box still containing those treasured cards. A little faded, some inevitably yellowed with age, several marked by grubby fingerprints from bygone ages. But most are still viewable. (Many years ago the original viewer fell apart from constant use but I found another in a local auction, no doubt placed there by the fates that surround us all.) I carefully place the cards on a table and the memories flood back.
Pictures of places: Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight; West Cliff at Ramsgate, seaside and countryside, literally up hill and down dale. Plus nearer to home Chatsworth, Buxton, Matlock and Haddon Hall. We as children had hardly if ever visited such mysterious places. A trip up local fields with corned beef sandwiches and a bottle of pop was as far as we went from the village but we could but dream.
Another popular subject viewed with interest were those that showed the working man in his glory. Particularly favoured were pictures of coal mines, traditionally relevant to Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire at the turn of the century.
A proliferation of pit props that were ideal subjects for three dimensional viewing. Each and everyone viewed with awe and not a little admiration. I view the pit bottom once again and marvel. Nostalgic memories but a sombre reminder of the hard life led by many, a life of physical toil for doubtful reward.
Yet wonderful though these all were, our favourites were those depicting humorous or dramatic scenes, some obvious, others too subtle for childish minds. Romance was often depicted in a gentle, innocent way. 'Love Laughs at Locksmiths,' 'Love in a Tub', two titles with obvious appeal. 'Waiting for Santa Claus' had charm, whilst'Not a Drop till You Kiss me' had a cheeky appeal. The youngest amongst us were alarmed yet still fascinated by two men confronting each other, entitled 'Friend thee had better move', though we never did truly comprehend 'A Jew and a Quaker at work. Experience of either was way beyond our simple village experiences. The subjects were varied in the extreme, and our delight endless.
Particulary seached out time after time was 'Boys bathing', our first experience of people with no clothes on! Perhaps the Victorians were not as prudish as history would have us believe! For once repeats were acceptable. Big Brother, eat your heart out.

Friday 4 July 2008

Sod's Law

Sod's Law is evidently 'Any of various satirically pessimistic observations propounded as quasi-scientific laws.' Don't I know it!
I have waited non too patiently over two weeks for delivery of Blogging For Dummies; delivery date yesterday at the latest. Nothing doing, not best pleased I e-mail Amazon and wait. Half an hour after the e-mail is sent a note is pushed through the door, silently. The postman has been unable to deliver a parcel. No knock on the door. I check and find the doorbell is working perfectly; not the regular postman obviously, Sod's Law again. I wander up and down the street, either he's running round or he's hiding behind a hedge. Never mind, I'll fetch it tomorrow and enjoy reading it over the weekend. Only the document stipulates a twenty eight hour wait. Which brings you to Sunday and surprise, surprise, the office doesn't open Sunday's! Sod it, Sod it, Sod it, I hope it's worth the wait!

Thursday 3 July 2008

Home Sweet Home Two

After my mother died I went to live with Aunt Clara, Uncle Walter and son Dennis in another part of the village. I have no real memory as to whether I chose them or they chose me. My sister went to live with another Uncle and Aunt, Nettie and Edward, the latter known as Ted. We were not offered the choice of staying together and in retrospect this was insensitive in the extreme. But I suspect the Fifties were less au fait with the needs of orphans, plus the extended Hudston family had little insight into my own requirements; they were more ignorant than malicious. At least we were not homeless as was the case with many orphaned in the early fifties, Australia being a favourite place to send those not lucky enough to have a family in time of need. Was it a mere sixty or so years ago, not a hundred and sixty.
Clara and Walter lived in a huge Georgian house owned by my grandmother on the Settlement, a private part of the village. But if this sounds grand, nothing could be further from the truth. The house would eventually fetch a lot of money (it was modernised after my grandmother's ownership)but in the fifties my family were cash poor in the extreme, granny included.
My Uncle was an outstanding craftsman in wood yet earned his living as a school caretaker come handyman on the poorest of wages. Fortunately his expectations from life were not great. His pride and joys were his motorcycles, at one time an AJS and later a Rudge Ulster. His weekly pleasures were his Woodbines and his pint of mild at the Cross Keys. Clara was never a 'Cordon Bleu' cook, boiled cabbage high with bicarbonate of soda often figured on the menu. The only meat I ever remember eating was chicken, though fish sometimes figured. It was a frugal though not unhappy household. The house was draughty and cold. One downstairs room only was used; the other room had furniture permanently adorned with dustsheets. It was never to my knowledge ever used or the fire lit in all the years we lived there.
The toilet was up a dark passageway, some distance from the living room. The bathroom was equally unusual, off a landing and heated by an antiquated gas geyser than could have killed with no effort, such was its age and the lack of ventilation the bathroom offered. My bedroom was on the third floor, entry via a steep carpet less winding staircase. The room next door was windowless (bricked up during the tax on window, 1696-1851). Though there were slits in the walls that allowed birds to enter at will and not even quietly. Suffice to say it was an eery place to sleep, not for the fainthearted.
I was not unhappy in this house but it is interesting that I can never remember taking friends home. We either roamed the streets or visited another friend's house where there were no dustsheets.
The school Walter worked at was a private girls school. When Dennis left home and a small lodge became vacant we moved in as it was no doubt financial helpful to Walter, though it made him very much at the beck and call of his employees. As well as general maintenance Walter fed the boilers, mowed the grass, filled the swimming pool, his efforts were endless and I fear unappreciated. The lodge was small and damp, a relic of the past; (again renovated and modernised many years later.) They deserved better.
Walter and Clara looked after me to the best of their ability. They were concerned as to my welfare but I fear they were out of their depth at times. I wandered rather than worked through my school life, unhindered by adults. I remember at the age of sixteen overhearing Walter and Clara talking concerning my future. And Walter uttered immortal words that indicated the grasp he, and Clara had concerning their nephew come lodgers education. "Has he left school yet?" was Walters simple question. I hadn't as it happened but it did show we weren't exactly on the same wavelength.
I stayed with them both until I left for college at the age of twenty four. They were simple people, caring, tolerant, Christian and loving in their own way. I owe them so much, for how many would take on someone else's thirteen year old for little or no reward.