Saturday 25 February 2012

Nostalgia Ain't What it Used to Be.

I have been writing for several years concerning life between 1945-1959 as I saw it. (aged five to twenty.) Hopefully it will be published as an ebook in the near future. I must admit I'm quietly excited though the technical side is way beyond me. I thought some might be interested in a couple of extracts from the epilogue. I wonder what readers from overseas make of it. And the younger ones amongst you! Any memories of your own from way back? Considering I seem to have followers from all over the world it would be interesting to compare notes!

'It is often the more subtle, little things in life that indicate the passing of time, ‘the way it was.’ Whatever happened to Spangles, where and when did they go? And the blue bags in crisps or trolley buses complete with poles. Buying shoes entailed having your feet x-rayed, not to be recommended, but an innocuous event at the time. Less aggressive, better mannered times, when AA men saluted and all stood up diligently in the cinema when the National Anthem played. Plus the audience probably knew all the words of ‘God Save the Queen’; Pakamacs, hair nets and head scarves; Blakeys and packets of five Woodbines; Capstan and Player's Full Strength. When cars had side indicators, most goods you bought were marked ‘Made in Britain and the upstairs on double-decked buses was full of smokers.

Change is subtle and sometimes is only remembered in retrospect. How many, myself included remember mother holding us firmly, spitting on a hanky and rubbing furiously inside our ears, painful and humiliating if friends were present!

Gone forever the days when breaks between television programmes meant interludes that fascinated almost as much as the programmes themselves. The potter’s wheel and the pot that was never to be completed; the little white kitten that played forever; plus the soothing effects of Angel Fish or windmills; and my particular favourite, the ploughman and his horse, ploughing for eternity. And who could forget Sunday dinners with Cliff Michelmore and Jean Metcalf on the wireless and evenings with Jimmy Clitheroe and ‘Sing Something Simple’ with Cliff Adams.

Small mainly unimportant changes but evidence of transition nevertheless. I remember black jack fruit salads, Pontefract cakes, sticks of liquorice and the grapes in Carnation and tapioca puddings. Bread and dripping, deliciously salty and cod liver oil and malt extract spooned out with regular monotony; semolina,  Spam, which stood for SPiced hAM, yellow fish and Little Miss Muffet junkets; dandelion and burdock delivered by lorry once a week; Where did they all go, and perhaps more important, when? Spanish root that dribbled disgustedly down your chin and sticks of real, jet black liquorish sticks, a magical laxative.

Continued next week.

Saturday 18 February 2012

The Older I Get, The Less I Know.

One of my childhood homes was supposedly haunted; I've been writing about it this week so its fresh in my mind. But is there anyone out there who is willing to say, 'I don't care whay you say, I Believe.! 
Sometimes when I was a teacher I’d be stuck for a lesson or a lesson would finish early. In which case I’d only have to say, “What do you know about ghosts?” and we’d be away. (I know, I know lesson plans are important but nobody’s perfect!)
“My granny says the Old Post Office is haunted and she knows ‘cause she’s old.”
“My mum says she saw a girl in odd clothes and a funny hat in her bedroom when she were a girl.”
(How many times have I told you, Trixiebell, it’s ‘you were, she was,’ not ‘you was, she were.’)
“Granddad often sees strange things on his way home from the pub.”
(I’ll bet he does!)
There’s no doubt many people believe in the supernatural and motorhomers are no different to anyone else. Plus the fact that they, motorhomers have the capability to visit places most likely to foster an unearthly presence. And though most of our metaphysical experiences can be explained, sometimes, just sometimes experiences are not so easily resolved.
I remember camping near Cromer many years ago when our children were very young. We, adults and small children wandered in the severest of fogs from the campsite towards the town. I seem to remember the weather often being foul, howling gales, or dense fog being the norm. (Which accounts for a proliferation of holiday photos showing anorak clad families braving the elements year after year.) Suddenly the ghostly sound of galloping horses echoed through the mist, becoming louder and louder, ghostly yet terrifyingly real. And real they were indeed, a group of runaway horses appeared out of the mist and fled past us at high speed to we knew not where.
I remember too food mysteriously spirited away nightly from our awnings in a park in Southport. Very strange, except that ghosts and apparitions have no need of our pork pies and treacle tarts, whilst tramps forced to sleep rough on the seafront definitely rate such culinary delights.
In the selfsame park on a late night walk our English bull terrier Buster became very agitated, at the same time doing my already high blood pressure no favours. I continued our walk, alone in the eerie darkness, a spooky experience guaranteed to set the heart pounding. Suddenly a large boxlike object came into view. Some sort of electrical substation, it emitted a persistent buzzing noise which could be heard only when you were very close indeed. Yet Buster had picked up the noise from some considerable distance. No ghostly cause then, but food for thought.
We have stayed in our trailer tent days inside the RAF Museum at Cosford. It is reputed that one aircraft, the Avro Lincoln RF398 is haunted. In the evenings when the public has gone home the place has an eerie mystique not easily dismissed. Whilst we cannot claim to have even fleetingly glimpsed a ghost, we did meet a volunteer who adamantly claimed an unearthly presence regularly misplaced his cleaning clothes as he worked on the aircraft.
Often we associate history with haunting. My wife and I visited Culloden on a cold, miserable morning. Culloden of course is the site of the last battle to be fought on mainland Britain. The date, April 16th 1746 when the army of the Jacobites were defeated by British Government troops.
We found the site fascinating and informative yet one thing stood out. The place had a chilling presence not easily ignored. And, though it was early summer, surprisingly not a single wild bird’s song could be heard; the silence was shattering in the extreme. Coincidence, perhaps, a fluke situation, maybe, but if ever a place deserves to be haunted, it’s Culloden.
Similarly Hadrian’s Wall is awesome yet, on a dull day at least, foreboding. Built by the Romans between AD 122-30, it is a stone and turf fortification built to keep out the Pictish tribes. It takes no great imagination to picture Roman soldiers marching the wall tops, weapons at hand to deter the warring Pics. And when the wind howls and the snow falls, who can be blamed if they hear the sound of caligae (military sandals) tramping the wall or the shouts of those in command urging on wet, cold soldiers.
A visit to Naseby is somewhat disappointing. The site of the most important battles in England, its importance in English history is unsurpassed. Here on June 14th 1645 Royal troops led by Prince Rupert fought Parliamentary troops under the command of Sir Thomas Fairfax. There has been little attempt to market, if that be the right word so important a place in our British heritage. Contrast the wonderful, informative modern displays at Culloden and Hadrian’s Wall. Staying in the area we visited the site of the battle, its presence almost grudgingly acknowledged by the local authority. A monument, open fields and that’s about it. Yet shut your eyes and the sound of battle can be heard by anyone with a feel for history. In the daytime just fields that could be any old fields. But at dusk an indefinable presence takes over and the sound of battle cries are never far away.
We have wild camped near Castleton in the Peak District, an area particularly steeped in murder and ghostly happenings. Particularly famous is the tale of the young couple on their way to be married, who were waylaid, robbed and their bodies flung unmercifully down a nearby mineshaft. We regularly park up overnight within a hundred yards or so of the site of the grisly deed. It’s not for the faint hearted of a stormy night yet we never seen sight of the merest apparition I’m sorry to say. My wife, by the way is not so sorry.
There you have it. Goulies and ghosties are for believers or those wanting to believe. Old sceptics like myself have little time for such silliness. I used to say, ‘think ghoul, think fool.’ That is until a strange experience challenged my entrenched beliefs.
Some years ago we visited Lindisfarne, a favourite haunt if you’ll forgive the pun. It was a bright summer’s day, not a cloud in the sky or ghosts in the air. We had by then a new, all white English bull terrier by the name of Sam. The churchyard contains several thought provoking graves and I was keen to see them.
We walked down the path and through the lynch gate. That is, my wife and I walked, Sam refused point blank to enter the churchyard despite being coaxed gently then pulled less gently on his lead. Bystanders thought it hilarious, I was somewhat embarrassed. The result being my wife and Sam sat on a seat at the lynch gate whilst I wandered alone round the churchyard and adjoining abbey ruins.
Holiday over we returned home and the holiday memories faded. Come Christmas and I was present hunting. I espied the Atlas of Magical Britain by Janet and Colin Bord; an inspired choice for a son in law interested in apparitions, phantoms, spooks and sprites.
I happened to read the book prior to it being gift wrapped (My wife says I’m a cheapskate, too mean to buy two copies) and there it was.
By tradition the ghost of St Aiden is said to still haunt the abbey and the Island. Plus the amazing statement that a ghostly white dog is also said to haunt the abbey ruins.
Coincidence, maybe; perhaps dogs are more perceptive than humans or merely one daft dog wanted a rest. Whatever the answer, this is one old cynic who’s not so sure about it all as he used to be. What do you think?

Saturday 11 February 2012

January, Start as you Mean to Go On. Grumpy's Alternative News.

Ten completely unconnected things that caught my eye. I make no comment! I leave that to you, dear readers.
1  Primary school pupils aged 3 to 11  are being given anger management classes in Leeds in order to 'break the cycle of poor behaviour.'
2 The World Cancer Research Fund suggests most Britons do not understand the calorie content of everyday foods. The example they give is hommos!
3 Traffic wardens have a new computer system in Southend. Its a hand held device that takes note of all parked vehicles EXCEPT the numbers of councillors cars!
4 Regarding the discussion concerning the capping of benefits in Westminster there are at least 190 families getting over £61,000 in state benefits annually according to the Department for Work and Pensions.
5 You don't have to have a working brain to have a baby. Christopher Dixon from Sutton near Hull, babysitting his daughter drank 12 bottles of lager and left the child in her pram on the street. He got a twelve month suspended sentence.
6 The Metropolitan Police spent more than £35,000 on calls to the Speaking Clock in the last two years. Plus £200,000 to Directory Enquiries.
7 Each call to 101, the new non-emergency police number for victims of minor crimes will cost you 10 pence. It is hoped it will relieve the pressure on 999 calls.
8 A Massena motorist was arrested after failing to appear in court on a traffic charge. His four year old daughter told an enquiring policeman 'Daddy is scared and hiding in the attic.'
9 A woman went through Cardiff Airport with a hippopotamus foot in her luggage. Possible from an illegal poaching operation, she claimed she was unaware she needed a licence.
10 Two centuries after Switzerland was last at war the country is set to have a referendum on abolishing conscription. About one third of Swiss households have a firearm.
11 What has been described as 'disgusting, ugly, unsexy, reminiscent of the bark of an ill tempered baboon.' Evidently the sound some female tennis players make in 'full throttle' so to speak. Now the Women's Tennis Association is trying to do something about it. Concentrating on the next generation of course Maria Sharapova is ok then!
12 Finally ladies take a bow. An NCP study of 2,500 people parking found women better concerning many aspects. The general impression was that men were in too much of a hurry. Plus women were far more likely to reverse into a space, (the method approved by instructors.) It might take ladies longer, but they do it right. Well done, ladies!
There was a song many years ago, sang by Anthony Newley entitled 'Stop the World I Want to get Off.' I often think about it. Do strange cum mad people know they are strange cum mad. Rich, famous Antony Worrall Thompson shoplifts cheese and wine from his local Tesco. Not once but five times, and that was just the times he was caught on camera. 636 people were murdered in the last twelve months in the UK. Circumstances vary, the bit I find strangest is that 29 murderers released from prison in the last ten years have killed again. 324 hauliers were fined for watching DVD's whilst driving in France in 2010 and its on the increase. (One driver was ALSO cooking a meal on a portable gas stove.) A dentist in Massachusetts uses paper clips instead of stainless steel whilst doing root canal treatment. A couple from Blackpool have been charged with keeping a ten year old boy in a converted coal bunker. They have not entered a plea. (What do you plead in such a case.) Just a small selection of people who are different, behaviour that is 'different. Do people know when they are DIFFERENT?
Perhaps it wouldn't do for us all to be the same. But surely there's a limit. What do you think?

Saturday 4 February 2012

Again and Again and Again.

I seldom plan ahead concerning the writing of posts. Not surprising in view of the fact that I'm not even sure as to why I blog. On a good day, a fairly easy task, on a bad day a blank canvas awaiting my limited efforts. Are you the same, dear friends. I've never particularly been one for topicality or the 'world scene', others do it better. Then, occasionally, something in the news catches my eye and off we go.
The Tibetan people are having it rough, rougher than normal at the hands of their Chinese oppressors, particularly in the Sichuan districts. (16 Tibetans have set fire to themselves since March of last year.) The Chinese Government of course deny any brutality in Tibet, or anywhere else for that matter. Truth is just as easy to suppress as people. Which suggests a 'deja vu' post yet again.
In the 1950's I was a wide-eyed schoolboy growing up in a village in Derbyshire. I was brought up in a Moravian household purely and simply because there happened to be a Moravian congregation where I lived. (A very old Protestant religion, similar to Methodists, established in Ockbrook in 1750.)
The Moravian Church happens to be a missionary church, so treats for us children would be visiting missionaries from far away places on 'furlow', speaking in the chapel concerning their important work delivering the word of God' to 'ignorant savages overseas'. (I did have a cousin who became a missionary but it had no appeal for me. Though I was fascinated by pictures of Eskimo children sucking seals eyes in the same way as we village boys sucked our gobstoppers.)
One day there appeared in church a small robed man, playing a musical instrument and singing/chanting; way beyond a village boys comprehension or experience. Evidently he was Tibetan, a Buddist converted to the Christian faith by Moravian missionaries. (Shortly to be expelled from Tibet by, you've guessed it,  the Chinese rulers in Tibet. All this in the 1950's, not 2012.)
The Moravians in Ockbrook arranged for a Derby engineering firm to make a typewriter that typed in the Tibetan language. Brilliant, They couldn't have been too many of them around! Then the little man returned to Tibet to a life full of danger and uncertainty, for his life had already been threatened because of his conversion to Christianity; he was a brave little man indeed and I salute him.

Over fifty years on the Chinese militia are still brutally suppressing the indigenous people of Tibet, presumably on the orders of their masters in Bejing.
At times I despair. Nothing changes. I have no answers and that at times worries me. Some religious adherents can be exceedingly self satisfied as to their beliefs. I make no point as to the rights or otherwise of religions converting others to their viewpoint. (I remember vividly feeling rather smug as a ten year old that I was lucky enough to be going eventually to an 'afterlife', others, apparantly were not to be so lucky. This of course I had been 'taught' as a child.) But as an adult I am non too impressed by many pious individuals of many different religions who seem convinced they and their ilk alone are assured of eternal salvation. (Though not all, many are sympathetic and understanding of other religions/beliefs.) Fanatics cum zealots are both frightening and dangerous. But this is not the main point of this post. The point that struck me most was how short is life. How repetative are mankinds mistakes. And so it will presumably be, for ever and ever. Deja-vu indeed. What say ye? .