Friday, 27 May 2011

Sepia Saturday 76.




The young girl in the picture was my mother. At a guess, she'd be around twelve years old when this photo was taken, so that would be 1946/7. Although the picture is not in good condition, you can see the dog on her right hand side. He appears to be a border collie, or collie cross and his name was Rinty.

My mother was an only child, and didn't have the most settled childhood. She once told me that she had moved eighteen times by her twenty-first birthday! Her father was a farm worker, so they inevitably lived in tied accommodation. He was a blunt, no-nonsense Yorkshireman, who believed in being the master in his own house. My mother came home from school one afternoon, to find that he'd given Rinty away; apparently in response to something she was supposed to have done. If this photo was all she had left, then maybe that explains why it's seen better days.

Dogs played a big part in my mother's life. Growing up, I cannot remember a time when we didn't have one. Virtually all of our holiday pictures from my childhood have a dog in them somewhere! My father wasn't an animal lover at all, but put up with them all with good humour. After all, by the time they were married, I guess he knew what he was getting!

This is a Sepia Saturday post.


Sunday, 22 May 2011

Be Prepared.........

My last post dealt with my early childhood, (and some of you were even kind enough to read it)! We're going to jump forward a few years now, so prepare yourselves for a startling revelation.......




I was a Scout! Yes indeed gentle reader, during most of the seventies, I was a member of that much-maligned brotherhood. The Scouts were not fashionable even then, so to admit this was to invite a certain amount of mockery from the (ahem) 'cooler' members of my peer group. I have a lot of stories from that time, some of which would make your hair curl, but before we start, let's get a few things out of the way.

I never said "Dyb, dyb, dyb". Never. Not once. Or "Dob, dob, dob" for that matter. I never had to wear a wide-brimmed hat. I didn't own a penknife with a thing for taking stones out of horses' hooves. And bob-a-job ceased to exist many, many years ago. Oh, and I never, ever sang "Ging Gang Goolie". So there.

We did a lot of interesting stuff, some of which is still relevant today. I remember learning a lot of first aid, some of which I've had to use in my adult life. We learnt a lot of general safety information, such as what to do in case of fire. And even the knots have been useful!


                             This is a reef knot. Believe me, I know this stuff..........


We also had a lot of fun, who could forget the wide games on Seaford Head? For those non-scouts amongst you, a wide game is an outdoor exercise usually involving two teams. First team to capture the other teams flag, you know the sort of thing. Believe me, in the dark, they're a lot of fun when you're twelve or thirteen years old.

Then there were the summer camps. Oh yes. A whole week away from your parents, living in a field with your friends, and not being able to wash properly! What's not to like about that?


                                  Our tents were about as old as these.........


My first camp (aged eleven), was notable for an incident involving a trenching tool, a friend of mine (David) and myself. I happened to be digging a ditch (using the trenching tool), and managed to connect the sharp end with David's head! In my defence, it wasn't my fault, David had approached from the rear; I didn't even know he was there! Obviously I felt terrible, David had to be carted off to hospital to have his head stitched up. However, he returned later that day, calmly announced that it was his own stupid fault, and no more was said! 


                    This is a trenching tool. Ouch, I bet you can feel his pain.......


I was also present when our group managed to set fire to a camp site! To give us something to do, we'd attempted to put up an aerial runway. Unfortunately, we were unable to tie the rope tight enough, the first poor sap to use it landed in the brambles at the end. What could be easier, we thought, than to clear the brambles? And the easiest way to do this, was to set fire to them. Dear reader, this is how thirteen year old boys think!

Yep, you guessed it. The fire quickly got out of control, and we had to ask some nice firemen for help. I may have forgotten to mention that there were no adults present at the time; the Chief Scouts Award required a scout to plan and run a weekend camp. So the lad 'in charge' would have been fifteen or sixteen years old!

It wasn't all international incidents though, we used to camp at a farm where the drinking water tap, was the opposite side of the farmyard to the camp site. Unfortunately, the poor sap sent to fill the water bottles had to negotiate a flock of geese to get to the tap. If the geese saw you, you dropped the water and ran! I've heard it said that a few geese are better than a guard dog, and I had the marks on my legs to prove the truth of this!

Reading this, it will come as no surprise to you to learn that things have changed beyond recognition. I have an old friend who was a leader until a few years ago; he left because he was having to fill in more and more risk assessment forms. Apparently, he needed a Mountain Leadership Certificate to take his group over 500m above sea level. If he were to come out of his front gate and walk a short distance up his lane, then he would be higher than that! Another victim for Elf and Safety........

None of this would have been possible without the adults who were prepared to give their time. I discovered a couple of months ago, that my old Scout Leader passed away in 2008. He was just a normal family man, who gave several hours a week to a group of ungrateful kids. He did this for approximately thirty-five years; it's not until you become a parent yourself that you appreciate the effort and commitment involved.

So, rest in peace Geoff, wherever you are. And thanks for the memories.....




Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Home Sweet Home.......







I came across this photo the other day, and so I thought I'd share it with you. This palatial establishment was my first home! As far as I remember, (it's a long, long time ago), I lived in this caravan for the first three years of my life! I remember a much larger caravan than this, but then I was a lot smaller! 

            This is me! It's been all downhill since, although I do have more hair now!


Surprisingly, I have quite a few memories of life on the site. We had a bus conductor living close by; occasionally he'd give me a new ticket roll to play with. I use to run around the site giving 'tickets' out to everyone I met (I'm surprised I didn't get smacked around the head). No Playstation or Xbox for me, you notice. Funnily enough, most of my memories are of being outside, I cannot remember the inside of the caravan at all. There was an old abandoned American Jeep at the bottom of the site, and that provided many hours of entertainment! I'd pretend I was John Wayne thrashing the Hun (I'd never heard of John Wayne at the time, but you get the picture).

The Jeep was many years past moving, the steering wheel was seized solid as I recall. But one vehicle that did move, was this one.........


This, gentle reader is a BMW Isetta. As you can see, it has three wheels, and the front opens as a door! Usually, when you think of a BMW, you imagine a sleek executive rocket, plainly they had more humble origins! One of our neighbours owned one of these, and I was occasionally allowed to sit in it. As far as I recall, it was never moving at the time.........

After two or three years, we moved in with my grandparents, to allow my parents to save for a house deposit. I guess the caravan had been sold; I have a strong memory of seeing it go past my grandparents house on the back of a lorry. Eventually, somewhere around the end of 1963, we moved here.........


Three more years, and there were five of us (I have two younger brothers), and we lived there until my parents sold the house in 1985. Incidentally, this house is only about 400 yards from the caravan site. Since you ask, the site is now a mobile home park, for retired people only. So no kids then, at least not living there. They obviously got fed up with annoying little brats, running around dishing out bus tickets!

These photos really made me realise how much things have changed. After only fifty years, the world they show is unrecognisable now. Or perhaps I'm just getting old!


Monday, 9 May 2011

What's In A Name?

For the first time since 1954, the name Elvis is not among the top 1000 baby names in the US. According to the BBC website (see here), Jacob and Isabella were the most popular names in 2010.

Now I can see that the name Elvis would be more popular in the States, but to be in the top 1000 names for the past fifty-six years, is going some! I've no idea how popular the name was before 1954, but I'd put money on the King of Rock and Roll having a lot to do with it. I'm struggling to think of any famous British Elvi (see what I did there); unless of course, you count Fireman Sam's mate.......


                                               Elvis has left the building.....


So what's in a name? And how did we get from Ethelred to Bentley?

Being the possessor of an unusual surname, I've always been a little sensitive where names are concerned. Naming my own children, I made sure that I didn't choose anything potentially embarrassing. Of course, I could have gone down the 'Give 'Em a Stupid Name and Toughen 'Em Up' route, like a certain Johnny Cash (A Boy Named Sue), but believe me I've been there....

Dear reader, I've heard 'em all. 'Oh, higher Lower', or 'You can't get Lower than that'. I could go on, but I'm bored already! Since I've (allegedly) grown up, I realise that kids will get you whatever you are called; if not for your name, then for wearing glasses or for the clothes you wear.

Many years ago, I played rugby with a Bristolian called Jim. I'd known him quite a while when I discovered that his name was actually Richard. One day, I asked him why he called himself Jim. He looked down his nose at me (he is 6' 7"), and asked me if I knew what was short for Richard. Dick, I replied innocently (I was much younger in those days), and then the penny dropped. If you're big, and your name is Dick, then what are people gonna call you? Exactly. 


                                            Yes, of course I'll call you Jim.....      



So what exactly Frank Zappa thought he was doing when he named his son Dweezil, and his daughter Moon Unit, God alone knows! And who in their right mind would name their children Bandit Lee, or Sparrow James Midnight? Then there's Bob Geldorf and Paula Yates, who named their unfortunate sprogs, Fifi Trixibelle, Peaches Honeyblossom, and Little Pixie. Now isn't this just asking for trouble? This just goes to show that you may have been awarded a KBE, and have recieved many plaudits for your humanitarian work, but it doesn't mean that you have a scrap of common sense.

So be careful when naming your offspring. After all, a few years down the line when you're dribbling in your chair at the retirement home, you just may be relying on them to pay the bills!
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