Tuesday 16 December 2014

Who said in a Country Existence Nothing Ever Happens?

    On the wall of my 'bar' (granddad's restroom, an old man's folly, the old man's retreat) call it what you will, there is a brass plate. It reads 'In 1765, on this spot, nothing happened'. Meant as a joke, at times it makes me wonder. As most of my readers know, I live, not for the first time in Derby, England, population around 250,000. I was born in the area, went to school roughly in the  area and likewise worked at various set ups over a number of years. An unimportant, anonymous sort of existence surrounded by many of similar 'working class ilk'. Surrounded by people, knee deep in people; except for one spell of four years.
    We, my wife and I lived for four years in Lincolnshire, in one of only four houses next to a farm and house. The house stood empty, we spotted it driving around prior to attending college. (The farm employed sixteen men before the war, now three only.)  No street lights and one bus a week.(Saturdays.) No gas main and no mains water (We did in fact have water from a tap but it failed miserably whenever a nearby golf course was watered.) Heat was from brick interior storage heaters (needed at least twelve hour notification of change in weather) plus paraffin delivered for paraffin heaters and coal fires if you could afford the coal. ( A Swedish girl stayed one weekend. I noticed she never took her coat off!)
  Television a godsend, no ariel needed, TV wired into metal window frame. Rats in the outhouse, mice heard chomping sweets indoors. Resulting in acquisition of cat, resulting in kittens. Dogs appeared spasmodically belonging to Irish itinerants. Collected when they moved on. True Romany gypsies plus horse drawn home stayed a distant apart from their travelling Irish compatriots. A generally unusual existence, but surely uneventful and thus boring? Nope!
    We had usually six neighbours, never more than eight. You fell out with anyone at your peril. One weekend Paulette arranged to go shopping in a nearby town with Bob and Alice. (Not their real names for reasons that will become clear.) Only at the last minute Paulette wasn't able to go; so the     foray went ahead, minus Paulette but plus Eric, recently returned from a spell incarcerated at Her Majesties Pleasure in a not too distant borstal. Quite influential was son Eric, so much so than a shopping trip became a distinctly organised shoplifting trip. A not very successful shoplifting trip, and all were 'nabbed' so to speak. Friend Alice was bailed fairly quickly, the menfolk were not so lucky. I seem to remember collecting Bob from prison at the end of a not too long prison sentence at a
non too distant prison. Ex- Sunday school teacher Paulette finding the whole episode distinctly mesmerising!
    Hare coursers on a Sunday Morning were another spectacle not available in our previous 'life', the participants (invariably travellers) intensely feared and hated in equal measure by most country folk.
    The blood thirsty antics of the shotgun brigade shooting pheasant, again on a Sunday morn. Birds so stupid, locally reared, that cleared the guns and landed not too far away, to await another salvo another day. The whole affair  reminiscent of the Alamo.
    One Christmas we were burgled whist we were away. As was our neighbour, 'Pop' an elderly farm labourer and Bob and Alice. Pop's mattress was destroyed in an apparent search for cash. Bob and
Alice's gas meter was raided but the 'burglar' was apparently a kind soul. He  fed coins through the meter so that Bob and Alice would have a fuel supply in what was after all the festive season! We seemed to have lost nothing in the raid; I was after all a very poor student at the time!
    On Boxing Day a visitor with two suitcases knocked at the farm requesting the use of a telephone to phone for a taxi. The kind farmhand, realising the difficulty the visitor was in, ran him to the station in the town. The burglaries had not been discovered at this stage! It turns out the 'burglar' had in fact been staying with Bob and Alice, having nowhere else to go. Country folk may not always be the brightest, but kindness is seldom lacking.
     One final bizarre memory stays in the mind from our stay in the country. One quiet, unexceptional  
weekend, (weren't they all) friend Alice knocked on our door to show us a perplexing letter she had received that Saturday morning. From a friend of some years standing, it stated that, by the time Alice would receive this letter, the writer would be deceased. Alice showed us the letter; it shared the dilemma without suggesting a response. In a way 'what to do' was there in front of us; we did nothing. The body of the young man, who incidentally was addicted to a type of cough mixture available at the time was found in the week ahead. Did Alice, Paulette and I do wrong by doing nothing; I've often wondered.
    We carry fond memories of our stay in the countryside. Both our children were born in this period of our lives. A special time in many ways; forever remembered.

Monday 1 December 2014

Grumpy, are You Surprised?

    They don't call me Grumpy for nothing, but, being a football fan, the last week or so has been enough to try a saint's patience. In particular the antics of Malky Mackay and Dave Whelan. Now Mr Mackay was for a period of time the manager of Cardiff City Football Club, whose owner happens to be Vincent Tan, a Malaysian businessman. Mr MacKay is highly rated as a football manager by many football followers. Having fallen out with his manager, Mr Tan, Mr Mackay made two mistakes. One, making derogatory remarks via tweets to an ex-colleague, comments of a racist, sexist and homophobic nature and two, inadvertently exposing his views to public scrutiny. Unsurprisingly Mr Tan took offence so Mr Mackay had to go.
    Fast forward to Mr Whelan, chairman, owner, main man at Wigan Football Club. Who has recently appointed Mr McKay as the new manager of his beloved Wigan FC. A brave decision or foolhardy, time will tell. Mr Whelan has created a situation of his own making that leaves him open to all sorts of emotive comments that does neither him nor Wigan favours. In defending Mr Mackay Mr Whelan adopted a curious, prehistoric style; Mr Whelan is after all seventy seven years of age. (I am seventy five; I hope I am not stuck in ages past, time moves on Mr Whelan.)
'Anyone who says he has never referred to a Chinese person as a Chink is a liar' says Mr Whelan. (You speak for yourself, Mr Whelan.) Just one example of Mr Whelan's archaic style. Perhaps he realises he has created a problem for himself and Wigan Football club by his antiquated way of thinking.
    I appreciate many of you will not be interested in the goings on at a football club. Fair enough, except this whole sordid affair highlights a problem within twenty first century Britain. We often cling to the past; we are apprehensive regarding the future. The trouble with nostalgia, its too often a case of viewing through rose tinted spectacles. I KNOW the Black and White Minstrels were highly regarded television viewing. But did it really do any favours to coloured people. Did it remotely suggest equality for black and white. I KNOW we had a shoe polish called 'nigger brown'; I KNOW some had a dog called 'Nigger. ( Guy Gibson's of Dambuster fame called his dog Nigger.) But did that make it right. Most of us have moved on. We used words, phrases that offended others and basically we did not care. The word PAKI for instance; we KNOW it offends so most of us don't use it. And here is the clue regarding the past. IF A WORD OR PHRASE OFFENDS, for whatever reason, DONT USE IT. It really is as simple as that. Whatever we thought, said or did in the past is irrelevant. And if Mr Whelan can't see that, what a sad old man to be in charge of anything; watch this space!
    Is it the time of year that is making so many of us miserable? Is it the weather? Is it the dark nights? Or is it the fact that so many, especially the rich amongst us are spoilt, 'not nice' individuals who get so much attention that detracts from all who are worthy of attention.
    Andrew Mitchell. a millionaire Tory Member of Parliament fails to get his own way as he leaves Parliament on his bicycle. So he subjects a policeman to a tirade of foul, abusive language. The Sun newspaper reports on the incident, Mitchell sues the newspaper and loses the case.
    David Mellor, broadcaster and Ex-Tory Cabinet Minister subjects a taxi driver to pompous, foul abuse. In both cases they had given similar abuse to people going about their job. Ordinary people whom Mitchell and Mellor consider are BELOW their 'station' in life.  And both shameful individuals found it necessary to point out HOW IMPORTANT THEY BOTH ARE! How enlightening! In both cases it shows how insecure, Mitchell and Mellor really are; how little self-worth they actually feel, truth be known.
    I'm not normally grumpy, honest! So I looked for something that is a little more uplifting than silly football folk, pompous politicians and bragging broadcasters. And I remember reading something along the lines that happy people, those with happy dispositions I presume they meant, live longer. (Can anyone enlighten me as to where I read it? Would I know if my memory lapse is the onset of Dementia. Do you know if its Dementia or will I be the last to know!)
My life is well below that of the rich, famous or important. But I am in the main happy; an example of the little things that make me happy.
   I have four delightful grandchildren. Ten year old Tommy seems to have theatrical leanings and recently attended an audition. We as a family are all ignorant of such matters. The majority of those attending seemed to be 'professionals', accompanied by proud, knowledgable parents or stage school 'types'; self assured, adults and 'would be performers'. You can only do your best and Tommy gave it his all; I was both proud and pleased. And, low and behold, Tommy passed the audition. Well done young man, I'm sure you will make a super Munchkin!