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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Archive for October, 2007

They didn’t do ‘unisex’ back then.

Posted by Big John on October 29, 2007

The other day I was browsing through a collection of photographs on the ‘web’ of the Brixton area of London where I spent my childhood.

One of these photographs showed some derelict shops which I remembered well, as one of them had belonged to our local barber, Mr. DeVito.

Now my dad wasn’t big on hairstyles, preferring the good old ‘short back and sides’, so I had to suffer a similar fate whenever he would drag me under the striped pole into the barber’s shop.

Once inside I was mezmerised by old Mr. DeVito with his waxed moustache and gold teeth. He was a daper little man who always turned heads whenever he left his shop dressed in his black jacket and waistcoat (vest),  striped trousers, polished black shoes and grey ‘spats’. On his head sat a large black fedora and in his hands he always carried a pair of grey gloves and an ebony walking stick with an ornate silver handle. Below his winged collar he wore a silk cravat held in place by a pearl stick-pin. He looked more like an opera impressario than a barber.

Slightly less elegant were the young men who used to gather in his shop to pass the time of day with the old man in his native tongue. They wore an assortment of garments including bits of military uniforms, all with large sewn on black patches. They were Italian prisoners of war who worked in the nearby railway goods depot.

I loved to watch Mr. DeVito ‘stropping’ his cutthroat razor on a leather strap before skimming it over a lathered chin, but what really grabbed my attention was when he set fire to someone’s hair. This was called ‘singeing’ and was carried out with a burning taper and a comb. Men’s faces were swathed in hot towels and strange smelling liquids were massaged into their scalps and slapped on their faces.

When my turn came a large cushion was placed on the barber’s chair and I was hoisted onto it to await the dreaded clippers. My head was pushed from side to side and tilted backwards and forwards, as I tried to understand what the old Italian was saying to me. It didn’t really matter as I was soon transformed into a young ‘convict’, but at least it was better than the ‘pudding basin’ home haircuts some poor kids had to put up with.

The photograph below shows me getting a haircut a few years after Mr. DeVito had gone to plant his red and white pole on the ‘Pearly Gates’ and give Saint Peter a quick trim …

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… It was taken in1960 at ‘Jimmy’s’ barber shop in Atlantic Road, Brixton, but the place still has the ‘look’ of Mr. DeVito’s old shop with the water boiler for the hot towels on the wall.  The difference was that now I was old enough to be asked …

“Something for the weekend, sir ?” 

Posted in family, humour | 3 Comments »

They’re still around !

Posted by Big John on October 26, 2007

So scientists have discovered, from DNA samples, that some Neanderthals had fair skin and ginger hair, and yet they still do not know why they died out around 30,000 years ago.

I’ve got news for them … They didn’t !

You can still spot them any day of the week as they wander around our shopping malls and supermarkets, although they are less hairy now, due to their need to cover themselves in tattoos and body piercings.

A nocturnal sub-species can be found in many city centres at weekends. They can be identified by their mating ritual, which involves females exposing their boobs and males showing their bare arses whenever possible. I understand that vomiting in the gutter is a way of marking out their territory. 

It is also now believed that our once hairy cousins could speak.

They could … and still can … Well at least they sometimes try …  

“Yeah. it’s cool in’it … It’s like stuff ‘n like in’it (sniff) … know wot I mean like … right (grunt) … it’s nuffin man … Umm yeah … wikked bruv (spit) … whatever”  …  (Please insert your own ‘F’ words).

It was once believed that these ‘knuckle draggers’ were killed off by our cave dwelling ancestors, ‘Homo Sapiens’, but although they might have tried they obviously failed. …

…  Pass me my club ! 

UPDATE … ‘THEY’RE STILL AROUND !’ …

…  ON BOTH SIDES OF THE ATLANTIC.  :-)

Posted in humour | 2 Comments »

Junior Justice.

Posted by Big John on October 24, 2007

When I first read about the latest government ‘gimmick’ to introduce so called ‘children’s courts’ I thought that the idea sounded ridiculous.

How on earth can you have kids as young as ten sitting in judgement on young tearaways ? … Surely you have to be mature and experienced before you can make judgments and hand out punishments to others ?

Well I could be wrong if two recent cases are anything to go by, where a couple of bewigged buffoons once again failed to ensure that ‘the punishment fitted the crime’.

The first case was described by Judge Warwick McKinnon as … “A vicious, entirely unprovoked and sustained group attack“… which resulted in the death of a man from a heart attack. He then went on to sentence the five yobs involved to two years detention, which means that they will each serve only one year watching TV and playing pool in some young offenders holiday camp centre.

The second case involved a savage attack on a 96 year old man which left him blind in one eye. The vicious arsehole who carried out this attack was seen on the TV news leaving court grinning from ear to ear, after Judge Kenneth Macrae said that ‘banging him up’ … “would do nothing to protect the public in the future” … he went on to say … “my real concern is the public“.

So what did this judicial ‘guardian’ of the public do ? … He put this dangerous thug back on the streets in the care of ‘psychiatrists’ and ‘probation officers’ for three years. What are the chances of him turning up for his ‘treatment’ ?

I believe that in the USA some judges have to be elected to ‘the bench’ by the public. Maybe it’s about time we did the same here, or perhaps we should just leave it to the ‘ten year olds’, and …

… put a booster seat on ‘it’.

Posted in political, rant | 2 Comments »

Sorry, but here I go again !

Posted by Big John on October 21, 2007

Last week it was a crack in the floor, and now we have a plank of wood laying on another floor, which comes complete with a gallery curator to explain to us what it’s all about …

… “The act of having to physically lift your leg to cross it announces that you are going into a different space. Entering the space may promise a revelation or enlightenment”. 

The plank, called ‘Untitled Threshold Sculpture’ is the so called ‘work’ of Nathan Coley, and according to curator, Simon Groom … “could have its artistic roots traced back to Rodin”.

Yes, you’ve guessed it ! … It’s time once again for ‘The Turner Prize’, and of course this 6ft x 6inch lump of timber has been ‘shortlisted’.

Another one on the shortlist is entitled … ‘Amnesiac Shrine’, or ‘The Misplacement (a Futurological Fable): Mirrored Cubes – Inverted - With the Reflection of an Inner Psyche as Represented by a Metaphorical Landscape’… In other words bits of driftwood and old traffic cones. 

The favourite to win the prize is a video of a bloke wearing a bear suit wandering around an empty art gallery in Berlin. The exhibition catalogue waffles on about… “the artist’s interest in the idea of transmutation by exploring the mechanics that underpin Berlin’s civic symbolism” … but what cracked me up was the comment from Simon Groom who said … 

“I am sure that Michelangelo would love it and say that it was a work of genius.” … and that somehow it … “was in the tradition of Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or Caravaggio throwing light into great churches”.

Rodin ! … Michelangelo ! … Caravaggio !

Perhaps I’ll create a montage of men’s naughty bits copied from famous works of art such as Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’. I could enter it for next year’s competition with a title summing up the whole bloody exhibition …

…    ‘A load of old bollocks’.  

Posted in humour, rant | 4 Comments »

It’s not your fault that you’re fat ?

Posted by Big John on October 19, 2007

During the 70′s and 80’s I made a number of trips to the USA and was always amazed by the size of many Americans. I don’t mean tall basketball players or beefy linebackers; I mean the guy at the lunch counter taking up two stools, or the huge woman in the tight pink shorts trying to squeeze her thighs and arse through the subway turnstile

The other thing that I always noticed was the number of fast food outlets standing one beside the other on the approach roads to every town.

Well like many things American the burger bars and pizza parlours soon crossed the Atlantic, springing up all over the place, and people over here soon learned to eat their fried chicken out of a ‘bucket’

Now wherever you go in this country you will see fat people. Not just the ones who are a bit ‘chubby’, or like me, who have to let their belt out a notch or two every so often, but massive mountains of flesh who quiver and wobble with every slow step that they take.

OK, so you might say that these grossly overweight people have no self control when it comes to eating, but no, for according to the latest UK (Foresight) study, they are fat because they are now living in an “obesogenic” environment where it has become normal to eat lots of high-fat food, spend hours watching TV and use the car instead of walking even short distances: so you can’t say today’s generation is greedier than before, or larger than before; it’s just that the environment is conducive to gaining weight.

As usual the government ‘experts’ are spouting all sorts of gobbledegook about solving the problem of obesity, but it seems a funny way to start when you tell people that it’s not their fault that they are fat. I bet that McDonald’s are …  

…  just    …  “lovin’ it“.

Posted in humour, rant | 3 Comments »

Suffering school kids !

Posted by Big John on October 16, 2007

During part of a recent national study (The Primary Review) organised by Cambridge University, primary school children were interviewed and expressed  fears about what plagued their everyday lives outside school … ‘Traffic …  the lack of safe play areas … rubbish … polution …  graffiti …  and gangs of older children’.

These youngsters expressed a sense of “deep pessimism about the future”, with worries about such things as climate change, the gap between rich and poor, and terrorism.

Now I’m sure that there are a few sensitive little mites out there, but from what I’ve  seen of today’s mini-hooligans, with their agressive out of control behaviour, I doubt if many of them fear anything, much less worry about ‘carbon footprints’, the ‘favelas’ of Brazil or ‘Al-Qaeda’.  

Various press reports have quoted today’s ‘little darlings’ as being “depressed” … “showing deep anxiety” .. and .. finding many aspects of modern life both in and out of school as … “stressful” .. and .. “scary”.

‘Stressful !’ .. ‘Scary !’ .. Try sleeping in an air-raid shelter … and …

…     being bombed every night ! 

Posted in humour, rant | 4 Comments »

If only I could remember her name.

Posted by Big John on October 13, 2007

It was 1956 when Sandra Dee entered my teenage world, and I was immediatly smitten. No, it wasn’t the real one, but a young typist who looked like her and worked in the same office as me.

Now ‘Sandra’ was a very pretty girl who always dressed in the teenage fashion of the time, wearing a full skirt with layers of net petticoats, a wide belt, tight sweater and white gloves. Yes, it’s hard to believe now, but back then, girls wore dainty white gloves.

west-end-56.jpgMy gauche attempts at attracting her over the office tea trolley always failed miserably, and my loitering around her desk only drew evil looks from her ‘Gorgon’ of a supervisor. I did try to talk to her one lunchtime in an Oxford Street record store, which was a really dumb idea as it was one of those places with little booths where you could listen to your favourite music for free, and she was far more interested in listening to ‘Rock Around The Clock’ than in talking to me.

My attempt to woo her at the office Christmas party was a disaster, as she was sipping Coca Cola and I had just met ‘Johnnie Walker’ for the first time.  

My ‘casual’ encounters at a local Soho coffee bar fared no better, as the juke box had more appeal for her than my feeble invitations to share a ‘frothy coffee’ or my offers to let her listen to my latest Elvis record. 

During that drab and gloomy time  ‘Sandra’ and I worked in an office in Denmark Street, which was known as London’s ‘Tin Pan Alley’ due to the number of premises occupied byb-h-c.jpg people in the music business. 

Now it just so happened that Denmark Street was only a ‘stones throw’ from the Dominion Theatre in Tottenham Court Road, where in February of 1957 ‘Bill Haley and his Comets’ were due to give their first European performance. Somehow, through a ‘Tin Pan Alley’ contact, I managed to acquire two tickets for that show, which to the ‘Rock ‘n Roll’ mad generation at that time, was the biggest thing to hit London since the ‘Blitz’.

I looked at the tickets laying on my desk. Most teenagers at that time would have ‘sold their soul’ for just one of these small pieces of paper, and I had two ! … I thought of my mates, and wondered which of them should have that spare ticket ?

It’s now half a century since that event, and during those fifty years I have sometimes been accused of boring the pants off people with tales of how I was there to see Bill Haley perform … LIVE ! … Well I bloody WAS ! …

…   and so was ‘Sandra’ !    ;-)

Posted in humour | 4 Comments »

Why can’t they do something useful ?

Posted by Big John on October 11, 2007

Can someone please explain to me what Harry and Willy are doing pissing about in the army, when neither of them are ever likely to serve as ‘real’ soldiers ?

Well, bugger me, I’ve just found out that Willy is now off to play with the Royal Air Force’s aeroplanes and helicopters for a few months before the Navy take him on board for another few months of cruising and ‘dragon boat’ racing with Katie. Blimey, he’ll soon have more uniforms than his dad.

Apparently it’s all about his future role leading the ‘Armed Forces’. …

 …”Once more unto BOUJIS dear friends, once more”…

… and speaking of ‘Boujis’, what’s his little brother been doing lately ? … Well apart from more of .. THIS .. of course. 

OK, I suppose that he is entitled to relax, as like all of his bloody family, he ‘works so hard’. In fact this week he undertakes his first solo ‘royal’ engagement in FIVE years.

I thought that the ‘ginger spare’ was going to get his “sorry arse” (his words not mine) out of the army if they didn’t send him to Iraq. Perhaps he will, now that some American artist has ‘bumped him off’.

I quite like the statue, and feel sure that the pose …

…   will seem familiar to it’s subject.

Posted in humour, rant | Leave a Comment »

 
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