Wednesday 27 March 2013

Heroes All; Past and Present.

    There is a television series running at the moment called Born to be Different. It is an inspirational, unsentimental, candid British Channel 4 series filmed over several years chartering the lives of six disabled children and their families. It is remarkable for several reasons. It is totally lacking in self pity, and not without humour in spite of adversity; courageous individuals all, children and adults alike. I have seldom felt so humbled for many a year; compulsive viewing which will be for ever remembered.
Like many other instances in life, the present, in this instance Born to be Different made me recall the past, and in my case, brought about an awareness not previously present.
    I was born in November, 1939. My mother was unmarried, my father's name a secret she took to her grave (in 1953). I was born with a condition which I was told in later years was a twisted bowel but was almost certainly pyloric stenosis. I was operated on within twelve or so hours of birth. I also spent many months hospitalised in infancy suffering from rickets (Lack of pre-natal care and general poor diet.) The hospital in Bretby, South Derbyshire was around twenty miles from my mother's home; my mother did not drive or own a vehicle. We were poor in the extreme. My mother married a soldier, Ernest, who, in 1942 was found drowned in the River Derwent whilst home on leave from the Pioneer Corp in the British Army. My mother attended, alone, an inquest in Derby in order to identify Ernest's body.
    All these facts and more are covered at length in A Childhood Revisited on Kindle, Amazon. (See the lengthy review at the beginning of my blogs. May I ask, if nothing else, you read the FREE introduction here, and you DON'T need a Kindle to read it! Very easy, just click the arrow\ cursor on the book cover.)
    My mother died at the age of forty seven; I was thirteen years of age. (The death certificate stated cause of death, pneumonia; it ought to have said, 'cause of death, worn out due to overwork'.
  Born to be Different reminded me of my childhood. How resilient are children, particularly in adversity. How different they look at life in so many ways.
    For all the problems of my own childhood, I have happy memories. Different to the norm, maybe but often happy. I now realise how difficult it is to be a parent. I was unaware to the nth degree of such things. Perhaps it is 'clever stuff', that often the problems of the world are 'missed' by the young.
    My life aged around aged five to fifteen revolved around football, trips up the fields, train spotting, dens, and dams; my pleasures, my life, me, me, me. My mother's world consisted mainly of work, work and more work. School cook, skivy, mother of two children. Minimum income for maximum effort. (One of my mother's jobs as school cook/dogsbody in 1948 paid £38.8.9 for a year's work. Three hours per day per five day week; actually paid for, two and a half hours per day. When the school, Ockbrook Junior became short of money it was debated as whether to cut my mothers wage! Some kind soul in fact decided otherwise! )
    I had no real comprehension concerning rationing and shortages; the ever presence of impetigo, nits; ringworm, scarlet fever, whooping cough and the like. I reckon I had almost no comprehension of anything beyond my selfish existence.
    On a bad day I am filled with remorse as to what a hard, relentless existence was my mother's lot in life.  It is a fact that I was unaware as to the world beyond my cocooned, sheltered, safe, oblivious little existence. And it should be obvious why I had such a cocooned, sheltered, safe, oblivious existence. That's what hurts most. Had I the right to be so happy I wonder.
    Many, many adults, my mother included sacrificed their lives in order that their children had chances in life they themselves were denied. Make no mistake, for many they were hard times. Austerity, a buzz word indeed; the majority today do not really know the meaning of the word. ( Though there are many today who still live for their children; love for one's offspring will always be with us. Without love we are all nothing.)
    Life is seldom simple. There is a popular saying, 'Life is what you make it'. The older I get, the less I know. What I do know is that there were and still are are some wonderful people in the world. The families in the documentaries;  plus my mother, Mary Elizabeth Stevens. 

Tuesday 19 March 2013

I Thought by Now I Would Understand Everything.

    I am trying to make sense of the human condition. Please bear with me.
When I was little, for many years I lived in a village; I lived in the bottom end of the village; we kids at the bottom formed gangs, and we 'fought' the top end of the village. sometimes violently, with home made weapons. Not surprisingly, for we were boys, and that's what we understood boys did. (Some might like to read A Childhood Revisited. Kindle, Amazon. Ah, happy days.)
Around the age of eleven we went to new schools, not all of us to the same schools. And we made new friends, wore new uniforms and continued fighting, given the chance. Sometimes new foes from different schools, sometimes children in different uniforms, who used to be friends. Because we were now mobile, we made new friends outside of the village, but also new foes out of the village; naturally, inevitably, because that what boys did.
    We liked football and we 'belonged' to the local football team (in our case Derby County); or did they belong to us? Some swore allegiance to more famous or successful teams like Manchester United but their's was a strange affair. They seldom if ever went to their matches and, horror of horrors, they were even known to change to another club if one was so inclined. All part of 'belonging', of 'being someone, not merely one of the crowd. It was all part of growing up.
    Some of us were  were taught 'religion'. The idea of a life after death pleases. To some it makes sense, to others no sense.The idea of being special pleases. Unfortunately many, many religious people feel they, and only they are right and must 'teach' others; by killing the 'opposition' if need be.
Despite the protestations of the pious that it is otherwise 'religion' has been responsible for much death from time immemorial. (All for the off chance of a life after death for a chosen few. Sounds a bit selfish and dictatorial to me.)
    Nevertheless I understand more concerning life than I did in my youth. Not too much more, granted. And if I don't always agree with why people do the things the way they do, at least I can usually understand their thinking. Many people in the United Kingdom for instance have strong views on immigration. They see it in terms of 'them and us', 'our'  not 'their' country and so on. I do not subscribe to this viewpoint but I can well see where this viewpoint comes from. And this is important because yet again this is a post I had not intended to write. Something happened in the week that I cannot for the life of me fathom. The reason for this somewhat convoluted post.
    There was a football match a week or two ago; Tottenham Hotspur v Inter Milan. an Italian team versus a British team. A match that will be remembered yet again for some spectators (not all but not a tiny number either) who were abusive to any black players playing for Tottenham. A frequent occurrence in Italian football. Am I totally 'thick' in not being able to understand this moronic abuse of a fellow human being. Can someone TRY to get in the mind of those responsible for me. I am fortunate that this blog goes to many parts of the world. Please, will someone explain what it is all about. I assume it is not typically Italian behaviour. (It occurs elsewhere.)  Is it a male thing? A class thing? A football thing? Are some people naturally full of hate, and colour of skin is an easy 'marker' as who to 'pick on',
    How frightening that such people may be parents; perhaps they may people in positions of power in the world. How can ANYONE take offence solely because of the colour of a persons skin. I suspect the older I get the less I understand.

Wednesday 13 March 2013

An Awesome Event of Great Personal Importance.

    Something of the utmost gravity, of mind bending importance happened last week.
I have, in my life, been incarcerated in six different hospitals over seventy three years. I have suffered many illnesses and conditions that have affected my lifestyle at the time. Yet I have have experienced few things that have had the capacity to seriously affect my lifestyle. Something I find surprising, disturbing and food for thought.
    I have been producing a blog for around four years. Most people in the world don't know and don't care. But the very astute amongst amongst you will have noticed I'm late this week. But circumstances of such overwhelming awfullnes happening last week that it is only now that I can bear to talk about it. In fact it is only now I am PHYSICALLY ABLE to talk about it. The term deaf and dumb was much used after the war until a more accurate and sympathetic term came into vogue late in my youth. I have felt dumb and thus frustrated for the last few days. So what was the cause of such an excess of trauma.
    Simply without fuss or warning my computer died, or for  all useful purposes, perished. It expired, it ceased to be my friend. (Is anyone older enough to remember the days when 'normal service will be resumed as soon as possible' used to appear on your television. My grannie used to go round next door and ask them if it was on theirs.) Only in grannies' case it did reappear and in my cace it didn't.)
    I would not have believed how much I have come to use and rely on a computer. From writing, corresponding via e-mails and sending articles to looking up what are the best computers when you need one! (I even went to bed early one night because I was bored!) Suffice to say one week later I am the proud owner of a new computer and a much lighter bank balance.
    We will no doubt come back to all this. I don't even like the things but they are here to stay. Someone managed to retrieve years of work that I thought was lost for ever. Please don't even try to educate me regarding the things. I having great, great problems using our new toy without even trying to understand how it works. 
    By the way, I was advised, not to buy an Apple Mac as I would never handle it and not from PC World. So I bought, EVENTUALLY, an Apple Mac from PC World. There again, most people reckon I'm a might bit perverse. Have I done the right thing.

Tuesday 5 March 2013


    As I explained last week I seldom plan a post in advance, they follow no pattern and are not often topical. Often hard to find anything, then this little item turned up at the eleventh hour.
We have moved house two or three times over the last ten years or so. Much has gone missing, some still missing, some items resurface at intervals. Lifestyles change, we do things, hobbies for instance for a period of time then life moves on. I set up a little 'business' around 1990, creating Birthday Certificates. Fun particularly where 'family' were concerned, I also sent some to 'celebrities' and often received signed photographs in reply. (Eventually the master copy was destroyed; my entraprenerial days were at an end.)  My wife was sorting out papers this week. (Without wives many men would live in permanent squalor and unsorted muddle!) Amongst the papers the following certificate and photo. At some stage separated from his 'fellowmen'. How strange; a curio I did not realise I possessed. Strange too his chosen inscription. I make no comment regarding the man himself; it is not necessary. And I would be interested what YOU would do with these particular items.