Sunday 27 May 2012

Only the Brave go There.

I seldom decide in advance blog subjects. I frequently question why I blog at all. Do others have the same thoughts I wonder. And just occasionally something happens, never of worldwide importance that makes me think. And at my age thinking is important. If my mind's not working, it only adds to the other bits and pieces that are not working so well!
I was in the toilet at my local the other day. I was looking round as you do, (You have to look somewhere, and be careful how you do it otherwise you run the risk of having your head 'kicked in'. Not really but its hardly posh where I live and 'chill out'. Smashing pub but the bar's hardly salubrious plus the language is rather ripe, I reckon they throw a bone in every couple of hours just to keep everyone happy.) But I couldn't help noticing the tattoos of the couple of lads from the bar each side of me at the urinal. So we got talking (AFTER we all left the urinal) and I finished up photographing them both as I'm sure you're more interested in their 'art work' than reading my usual weekly drivel.
Both lads were extremely interesting to talk to.(I can imagine some people would have preconceived ideas as to what type of person they were. And in fairness anyone 'different' to the so called norm on occasion we find uncomfortable, even threatening.)
    They took their tattoos very seriously, both had personal stories to tell concerning their 'artistic choices' and both had many more tattoo sessions in mind. It took me back to my days as a schoolteacher in a large comprehensive school many years ago. (In the 1970's.) It was not uncommon for pupils to 'tattoo' themselves. I seem to remember it being particularly prevalent amongst the girls. The 'tattoo' done with either a pen or, of all things, the point of a geometry protractor. The 'tattoo' was scratched on (usually on an arm) and ink, ordinary school ink was fed into the outline. In a way it was a badge of courage. And it took courage, raw adolescent courage as it involved blood, pain and a lifetime with a less than artistic image with which to remember one's schooldays.  It was also not unknown to pierce ones ears with the same protractor, infection and sore ears more or less guaranteed! Alas,  happy days!

    My sophisticated teacher daughter has a tattoo, unknown to all but her extra observant pupils on occasion! I remember my daughter, then all of twenty asking did I mind if she had a tattoo. At least the tattoo of my daughter and those of my new friends are artistic and professional. (I once taught a young man, now in his forties who has an obscene tattoo across his back, done in his youth. He is now ashamed to go in the local swimming baths with his children.) Ah the folly of a misspent youth. I can also remember the occasional parents at parent's evenings trying frantically to avoid the 'love' and 'hate' tattoos on their fingers being on display for teacher's probable disapproval.
    Do you have strong opinions concerning tattoos. Have you got a tattoo and if not, any particular tattoo you fancy!  

Saturday 19 May 2012

Royal Times, 1950's Style

    We're nearly there, the royal celebrations I mean. You'll all be there, sitting round your televisions. I remember it first time round in 1953. So I thought this might amuse. (Taken from my ebook. Out any time soon, I'll let you know, as they say in some parts, 'I'm rait excited.')
    But the year belonged to Elizabeth II, the Coronation being for many the event of the year, an event to be remembered by young and old literally throughout the land. (Tuesday 2nd June.) The government even devised for our delectation ‘Coronation Chicken’, a so-called, ‘sophisticated chilled cooked chicken in a mild curry mayonnaise cooked in advance and eaten on your knee’. Undoubtedly a meal for TV viewing; if Elizabeth was queen, television was now king. Many did view the Coronation on television, though only 16% of the population had a television, black and white picture, BBC only; an estimated twenty million watched seven hours of coronation coverage. (Colour television had in fact arrived in the USA.)
    Village halls were a popular place to view, the whole event so enthralling that many decided to join the list of television owners. Television was becoming an important part of life. The television drama The Quatermass Experiment made a big impression. The BBC had in fact introduced science fiction with Journey into Space, the first programme of its kind on the radio. Panorama also appeared for the first time, as did children’s favourites Rag, Tag and Bobtail. Sport was becoming an important part of television broadcasting, including Rugby Union and League plus some Wimbledon tennis, though as yet no League Association Football.
Exciting times indeed, all in the year the cost of a school meal went up from seven to nine pence and the nature of DNA was discovered by Doctors Crick and Watson.
  In 1953 only 16% of the population had a television set, black and white pictures, BBC only. Not surprisingly therefore televisions were rare in the village. Some were literally homemade, usually by clever ex-forces individuals from parts purloined from aircraft and using knowledge borne of years as technicians in the air force; the result, tiny televisions with seven or nine inch screens, projecting pictures of a strange green hue. Yet of sufficient fascination to warrant large audiences, gathering round with straining eyes in awe of the ghost like apparitions who drifted across the tiny screens.
    But none could compare with Ivan’s colour phenomenon. Ivan, a village character, school crossing person and village odds job man, plus special constable; was he joking when he said “On account of the free boots”! Who nevertheless brought up five children, adequately clothed and fed. One of his claims to fame being the owner of the largest colour television in the village if not the entire county, and all this at a time when money was scarce and colour television had not even been invented.
    The television itself was not massive yet neither was it as minute as the home made sets prized by some. What made Ivan’s television unusual, even unique, was the thick glass magnifying screen placed strategically several inches in front of the set. The effect was sensational, if bizarre. A colourful presentation of each and every programme; whether a studio interview or a panoramic view of sweeping countryside; each and every picture comprising the same colours in the same order. The top of the screen blue, changing to green beneath the blue, then to yellow, to orange, to brown and finally red at the bottom of the screen. So skies were always blue, as was a presenter’s hair. Bodies were mainly orange, animals at least two tone, green and yellow dogs abounded. The programmes may have been rubbish, but no matter, interest never waned. The audience, drawn from every street in the village, would sit transfixed, mesmerised. Those sitting slightly to one side would have a different perception of events to those sitting in a more frontal position. For the screen, as well as its colour aberrations, distorted the picture when looked at from any other than a simple head on viewing. Irritating in a way, but no matter, it merely added to the interest, an unsophisticated audience in awe of equally unsophisticated technology.

Sunday 13 May 2012

An Unexceptional Place

  •     I decided when I started blogging I would usually avoid the news. Others do it better and on average its instantly forgettable. But once in a while something happens that stays in the memory.
  •     I live in Derby, an unexceptional town of approximately 230,000 people. When I travel the country many people have little idea of the place; often they don't even know where in Britain it is. I have written about it two previous occasions that I can remember. In    A man was convicted of plotting to kill the prime minister. Coincidentally the same thing had happened in Derby  (this time by a woman) many years previously, the Prime Minister being Lloyd George. (see post dated 27th August 2008, Deja Vu, Coincidence, Take Your Pick.)
  •     On the 4th October 2008 I posted concerning the horrific case of Shaun Dyke (A City Shamed) .    Mentally disturbed, Shaun climbed onto the roof of a building in the centre of Derby. Inevitably a curious crowd gathered. And some pathetic individuals, for reasons I cannot comprehend, urged Shaun to jump.Confused and frightened he did so, ending his young troubled life, to the eternal shame of some of those present.
  •     We do not appear in the news too often. When we do, it is all too often for the wrong reasons.
  • Mick Philpott is a well known, nay notorious Derby figure. Fifty four years of age he is the father of seventeen children, six by his wife with whom he lives and six by a mistress who was originally a bridesmaid at his wedding. He seemingly alternates nightly between wife and mistress. Mick has a criminal record and is unemployed, though he has refused job offers in the past. He is also on record saying that he thinks Britain is 'going to the dogs' because Derby Council refuses to provide him with a bigger house for his family. There are many other aspects of the Philpott saga, including Micks appearance on the Jeremy Kyle Show and frequent appearances in the national press.
  •     The whole thing is depressing in the extreme. But moved from merely depressing to horrific this week. The Philpott house was badly damaged by fire. Five children died, a sixth is fighting for his life in hospital. No children deserve this, indeed, neither do any parents, whatever their weaknesses. There is the suspicion of murder, you will no doubt hear much more in the following weeks.
  •     Derby will be to the forefront of national news for some considerable time. (It is not long since it made national news when child grooming by men was found to be taking place on a large scale.) Which all begs the question. Is Derby any better, any worse, any different to any other medium sized place in 21st century Britain. I get very annoyed with people, particularly the elderly who harp on about the past, 'the good old days'. But the seeds of doubt are beginning to be sown.  

Saturday 5 May 2012


Whenever I send an email, something on which I am non too keen, I often put 'life' as the subject. Lazy in a way, but recently it has actual relevance rather than merely a lazy response to 21st century technology.The ebook with which I am concerned (A Childhood Revisited- Memories of Growing up in an English Village 1945-59) has meant looking through photographs of my distant past and reading everything available concerning my forbears. If you want to remind yourself of your mortality do exactly what I've been doing for the past few years.
I have never have been one for family trees. I've met too many people who tended to be trying to prove what absolutely splendid stock they came off and how important their ancestors were. Perhaps I'm being cynical and unfair. Perhaps I'm jealous that my own ancestry is so dodgy and murky. (Out shortly, you'll have to buy the book to find out more!) 
    What its taught me, as if I didn't know, is the shortness of our little lives, the speed that it all moves. Our fallibility, our sheer mortality.
    Photographs are, in the grander scheme of things, a somewhat modern phenomena. Paintings can go back thousands of years, photographs a mere hundred or two. ('Boulevard du Temple by Louis Daguerre, 1838 or 39, the first photo ever including a human being. A ten minute exposure of a street but included a man having his shoes polished.) Paintings tended to favour the upper classes, but once photography was invented, all classes were exposed, literally to this new phenomenon. My research has uncovered some interesting pictures used in my ebook.

Great, great grandad William, born 1816. (1817, James Monroe became the 5th American President; Barack Obama is the 44th.)
Granny Hudston, born 1875. (Alexander Graham Bell makes the first voice transmission. Jesse James robs the train in Otterville, Missouri. Matthew Webb becomes the first person to swim the English Channel. 21 hours 15 minutes.)
Mary Elizabeth Stevens, my mother, born 1906. (Rolls Royce Ltd was formed. The San Francisco earthquake destroyed 75% of the city. First aeroplane flight in Europe.)

Kenneth Allan Hudston (Stevens) born 1939. The start of World War Two.

All times and dates relevant to myself and gone in the twinkling of an eye.  I do not of course remember William. But I do remember my mother and grandmother. Born so long ago. But my grandchildren will one day talk of me, granddad, gone we know not where, born so long ago. (No doubt 1939 will, to them be way back in history.)
 I wince when I see the two photos of myself. (But I am comforted by my latest reading. 'When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone by Philip Gould.) I am also comforted and amused by the fact that my ebook will hopefully prove I existed when I am gone. 

I can do no more than quote a favourite poem than I have included in the introduction to my ebook. Mind you, please note, I'm not thinking of going yet!

                                           When I am dead my dearest,
                                            Sing no sad songs for me.
                                            Plant thou no roses at my head,
                                            Nor shady cyprus tree.
                                            Be the green grass above me.
                                            With showers and dewdrops wet;
                                            And if thou wilt, remember'
                                            And if thou wilt, forget.

                                             Rosetti Christina Georgina  1830-1894