bigjohn

There is many a good tune played on an old fiddle.

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  • My Life and Times

    I was born in 1939 BC. That's 'Before Computers'. Luckily I survived the following events in my life, such as World War II, The London Blitz, Rationing, and worst of all... Archbishop Temple's School.

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    During the mid 1950s I was enjoying Rock 'n' Roll and being a first generation teenager, when suddenly, just like Elvis, I found myself in uniform during 'The Cold War'...and then

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    I became 'a family'. Which meant that I sort of missed the 'swinging sixties', but still managed to look a complete prat in the 70s, just like everyone else.

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    During the 'Thatcher Years' I lost my hair and a lot of people lost a good deal more. My career fluctuated to say the least as I was demoted, promoted, fired and hired a number of times, but still I managed to stagger on into a welcome retirement and to celebrate 50 years of happy marriage.
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The spirit of Christmas past. (Well almost !)

Posted by Big John on November 18, 2014

I know that this must sound strange to many people, but I can remember when Christmas started  … at Christmas ! .. Not, as I recently read  … “during August” !

When I was a young child nothing much happened in our house until Christmas Eve apart from my dad ‘dispatching’ one of our chickens in the back yard and hanging it in the coal cellar (Yes, that’s where the meat was kept). Later my mum would pluck it and prepare it for Christmas dinner. To most people, in those days, ‘Turkey’ meant a place where they made strange smelling cigarettes.

On Christmas Eve my dad would bring home a small fir tree of some kind, which had probably been growing alongside the railway track where he had been working that day. He would also have with him a sack containing a limited assortment of fruit and nuts. No one ever asked where they came from, as wartime rationing (which continued for long after WWII) meant that an orange was something to be marvelled at: and I well remember that the first time I saw a banana I thought it was some sort of sausage.

From inside his overcoat pocket he would produce a bottle of Scotch whisky, which would have recently been ‘under the counter’ of the local off-licence (liquor store), which was run by one of his mates. He would return to the store later to pick up a crate of ‘Guinness’ and a bottle of ‘Tizer’ for me. Wine was far too ‘posh’ and was limited to sherry or port if any could be found.

My task was to make the paper chains, which I did with my mum’s help. She cut up the coloured paper and I glued the strips together with home-made paste, which didn’t always stick. Holly would be hung all over the place: and I suspect that this came from the same place as the little fir tree, which would soon be decorated with a few ‘antique’ glass baubles and some tatty tinsel.

My grandmother lived in the same street as us, and was a bit like a fairy godmother when Christmas came around, for not only did she make Christmas puddings for all the family, but somehow, managed to come up with a few extra goodies, mostly supplied by a local butcher (we never found out how she blackmailed him), and various friendly ‘black-market’ contacts. A few items had been ‘liberated’ by dodgy members of our gallant allies, the United States Army.

On Christmas Eve I would hang up a pair of my dad’s long woollen socks, snuggle down under the blankets, watch the shadows on the wall made by a glowing fire and wish: but I never did get …

…  that bloody train set !

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 5 Comments »

But did he have a stag party ?

Posted by Big John on November 12, 2014

Someone has discovered another gospel, which tells us that Jesus was married and had children: and, Guess what ? .. Someone has written a book all about his married life which they hope pray will be a best seller.

Blimey ! .. There’s nothing new in this tale, authors have been writing about this for years. Amongst many others were the naughty old Rev. Phipps, who wrote ‘The Sex Life of Jesus’, the title of which was changed to ‘Was Jesus Married?’,  Baigent, Leigh, and Lincoln who wrote ‘The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail’, and, of course Dan Brown who came up with that load of old cobblers .. ‘The Da Vinci Code’.

Now I won’t go into all the nonsense surrounding this theory, as you can read all about it here: but what I will say is that if Jesus did exist, this nice Jewish boy would have had an almost daily Aramaic ear-bashing from his mother, which would have gone something like this …

“What’s the matter with you Yeshua ?” … “You’re a grown man already, and you can’t find a nice Jewish girl to marry ?” …

“It’s all the fault of those twelve layabouts who you hang around with and that red-headed harlot from Magdala” …

“Why can’t you be more like your brothers and sisters? .. OK ! So you had a different dad: but you will never be a proper rabbi if you don’t marry and have kids” …

“Besides, a handsome lad like you would be a fine catch for some girl. Just tidy yourself up a bit and get a haircut.” …

“Oy vey! the wedding will cost a fortune. Maybe you could do that trick with the water and the wine: and perhaps the caterer who did your bar mitzvah will give us a discount ?”

Of course he was most definitely…

… married !

Posted in humour, religion | 3 Comments »

“They shall not grow old”.

Posted by Big John on November 8, 2014

Recently there have been quite a number of programmes on TV commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I; and this week, prior to Remembrance Sunday, the BBC has been airing ‘The Passing Bells’, a rather ‘sanitised’ version of what life was like for both young British and young German soldiers during The First World War.

It is a drama for children and young adults who probably have little knowledge of world events between 1914 and 1918, and, therefore, it does not show the true horror of life and death in the trenches. The lice get a mention, but the blood, guts and mangled corpses are missing; and, like most ‘period’ dramas, as seen on TV today, it somewhat lacks credibility.

However, the title of the series has been taken from a poem, which says everything there is to say about the lost lives of those very young men who should be remembered on this day  …

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle
— Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs,—
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

“Anthem for Doomed Youth” … by Wilfred Owen

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Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

HAPPY HALLOWEEN !

Posted by Big John on October 30, 2014

I know, this heading is unusual, as this grumpy old git, usually rants and moans at this time of year, not about the traditional festival, but about that ‘import’ from the USA … ‘Trick or bloody Treat’ !

So why is this year different ? … Simple answer … Attrition ! … Which the dictionary defines as … “a wearing down or weakening of resistance, especially as a result of continuous pressure or harassment“. In other words I have been ‘swamped’ by all the commercialism, which seems to have multiplied one hundred fold this year, with TV and newspapers churning out ‘creepy’ ads and advice on how to have a ghoulish great time.

My local Sainsbury’s supermarket is stacked out with pumpkins, and it’s aisles have been full of Trick or Treat ‘tat’ for weeks. On my visit to the store earlier this week two very small children nearly crashed into me as they raced down the aisle waving orange ‘pumpkin’ buckets and screaming … “TRICK or TREAT !” .. “TRICK or TREAT !” … I’m sure that they did not have a clue what Halloween is all about; and you can bet that …

… their bat brained parents don’t either ! 

Posted in humour, rant | 2 Comments »

So, that’s that then !

Posted by Big John on October 27, 2014

So the last British combat troops are leaving Afghanistan and Camp Bastion is no more. Even the memorials to those who died in this conflict have been removed. Let us hope that our American, and any other, allies still there will soon follow.

I won’t repeat what has so often been reported about the waste of so many lives, the ridiculous claims of ‘mission accomplished’ by some military commanders and politicians, and the staggering amounts of money spent; except to say that on the subject of money, I see that our government has promised £178 million per year in aid to Afghanistan until 2017.

I would suggest that they have it sent as a large bag of cash via some helicopter pilot, who has instructions to fly to Helmand province and drop it next to the first bearded tribesman he sees who is wearing a turban, carrying an AK47 and tending a poppy field; thereby …

… cutting out the middle man !

Posted in political, rant | 2 Comments »

My holy ‘mumbo-jumbo’ moment.

Posted by Big John on October 22, 2014

Now it may come as quite a shock to you, but this old atheist has to confess that he was once blessed by the Pope !001

How did this come about ? … I hear you ask.

Well it must have been about 35 years ago when I was visiting the Vatican. (Don’t you just love this Swiss Guard’s outfit ?)

The Vatican ! .. So was it a private audience with the Pontiff ?

Well, not quite, as there were a few other people in attendance.

In fact, there were bloody thousands of people with me in Saint Peter’s Square, all excitedly shouting “Il Papa!” and waving their hankies. In fact, a nun standing next to me was so excited that she was facing the wrong way and waving at an empty balcony in the Basilica as a window opened in another building, someone hung out a carpet, and a figure in white appeared.  

So what about my blessing … ? … Well it was hardly …

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.. “Up close and personal” ..

Posted in humour, nostalgia, religion | 4 Comments »

My “window on the world” !

Posted by Big John on October 17, 2014

Although I spend time on the internet and still have a daily newspaper delivered, most of what I learn about the world and much of what I see in the way of entertainment comes to me through my television screen: and, I must say that this grumpy old git sometimes regrets not leaving the TV on ‘standby’ !

For what I often see on my TV screen is a ‘shallow’ world where the cult of ‘celebrity’ is worshipped, and the crude and the vulgar is accepted without question. In this world wit and droll humour has been largely replaced by loutish behaviour and foulmouthed utterances.

This is not only seen in the world of entertainment, sport, and those dreadful ‘Reality’ TV shows, where ignorance and stupidity are applauded by screaming morons fans; but, also in the political arenas of the world, where those who seek to govern we ‘lesser mortals’ often show themselves for the self-serving, arrogant, hypocritical incompetents that they are.

I also see a world where people still believe in medieval superstition, many of them wishing to drag us back to the dark ages in the name of some deity or other. Some are prepared to slaughter believers and non-believers alike, in the name of their religion, whilst others just want to rule over the gullible.

At the moment I see terror in Africa and panic in much of the world, as a frightening ‘plague’  threatens to spread: but apart from the efforts of a few brave health workers, little seems to be happening, and, as usual, our posturing political leaders don’t seem to have a clue what to do about it.

OK, so behind all the ghastly glitz and glitter, and amongst all the doom and gloom, I do occasionally glimpse a story which encourages me to believe that the whole world is not full of Philistines, fanatics and fools, but, regrettably,   …

…   it doesn’t happen very often !

Posted in humour, political, rant, religion | 1 Comment »

People come and people go.

Posted by Big John on October 11, 2014

During my time on this earth many people have drifted in and out of my life, some of whom I would have called ‘friends’ and some, I most definitely, would not.

Now at the age of seventy-five I find that they are all long gone and some I have completely forgotten, but not all, for I can still remember the girl I sat next to on my first day at school. Her name was Florence, we held hands, and I was just five years old.

I remember the boy next door, his name was Dennis. We played together in a quiet street where there were few vehicles. We crossed the road. Dennis stopped to pick up something. I continued, and I was the one who lived. I was seven at the time.

I can also recall most of the names of the scruffy kids in our ‘gang’ of eight and nine year olds, in the days when we roamed the ruins of the bombed buildings which were our playgrounds. There was Derek, Lenny, Graham, Dick and Christine, and she was the toughest out of all of us.

A few of us remained friends into our teenage years; but, at the age of eleven, most of us ended up in different schools where we mixed with a new crowd. I attended an all boys school where my closest friend was a boy named Roy. We had so little in common, that it is still a mystery to me as to how we became pals. He disappeared from my life shortly after we finished school.

Starting work at the age of sixteen brought a whole new group of people into my little world. They were called ‘foreigners’ ! .. There was Gerard, a Frenchman .. Alex, a Pole .. Freddie, a Belgian .. Dino, an Italian .. and quite a few others from around the world. They were a friendly bunch, and although they were a few years older than me we got along fine as we worked together at the head office of a large international travel agent. My first pint of bitter was bought for me by Freddie, who had been a jockey in a ‘previous life’.

After a couple of years working at the travel agents I was conscripted for national service in the Royal Air Force, where friendships came and went with the stroke of some officer’s pen, as my new found comrades were posted all over the world, and new kitbags appeared on their bunks, as Pete, Garry, Bernie and all the rest took their places. We were all great mates at the time, but I never kept in touch with any of them after I was ‘demobbed’.

At that time, my two best friends were both named Tom, and like me, they had recently returned to civilian life after doing their time in the military: but, unlike me, they had not had the good fortune to meet their future wife. They were great lads to be with, but my mind was elsewhere and we gradually saw less and less of each other. I later heard that one ‘Tom’ had died as a result of a disease which he had caught during his service in some ‘arsehole of the world’ jungle.

I won’t go into any more detail as I’ve had a long life and events tend to repeat themselves. We move home and lose our neighbours. We change jobs and say goodbye to workmates. We travel and meet those ‘ships that pass in the night’. Remember all those wonderful couples whom you met on some holiday beach or in some hotel bar, who promised to “keep in touch”, but never did ? Christmas cards stop arriving and we hear that some old colleague has ‘popped his clogs’, retired, or gone to join his family on the other side of the world.

Before I leave this long (and I hope not too boring) trip ‘down memory lane’ I must mention one man who sticks in my mind. I met him on a business trip to Spain back in the 1970′s, and we drove across Spain together. His name was Maurice and he was a Jew who loved Serrano ham and had a great sense of humour. We laughed a lot on that trip as we got to know each other: and when we reached England we shook hands and said goodbye. I never saw him again. It was only much later that I learned that, as a young child, he had survived the horrors of Auschwitz ! .. Which just goes to show how little we really know about those people who …

…  drift in and out of our lives.

Posted in humour, nostalgia | 3 Comments »

 
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