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 February, 2008

It’s time for them all to come home.

Posted by Big John on February 29, 2008

Well it looks like a PR coup for the old Saxe-Coburg-Gotha clan with the ‘ginger spare’ being portrayed as the ‘hero of the hour’ for getting himself posted to Afghanistan.

Now that the media is free of it’s voluntary news ‘blackout’ after colluding with the Ministry of Defence, it is blaming those who leaked the news for putting the lives of Harry and his men in danger; when surely the only person who did that was Harry himself, when he threatened to resign his commission following the decision not to send him to Iraq, and when his special role in Afghanistan was dreamed up in an attempt to placate him.

It would seem from all the reports in the press that our warrior prince has been performing the important task of directing air strikes on Taliban positions. A very responsible job which Cornet Wales (his military rank and name) seems to have performed to his credit. So why all those carefully edited photos of him in armoured vehicles, ‘armed to the teeth’, patrolling on foot, firing a machine gun etc. etc. ?

Well it seems that as a reward for keeping silent, the press were promised loads of pictures once the news broke that Harry was in Helmand Province, which must have put him in greater danger as the Taliban now only had to look for a soldier surrounded by photographers and TV camera crews.

OK, so he has ‘done his bit’ for his grandma and his country, but so have many other young men who, unlike Harry, have to go on risking their lives for far longer than a few weeks, while he is now on his way back to a world of … 

…    polo, piss-ups, paparazzi and privilege .  

Posted in political, rant | 4 Comments »

A flight to remember.

Posted by Big John on February 26, 2008

I was reminded of the very first time that I flew in an aeroplane, when I read recently that the last two Dakota (DC3) aircraft still in service in this country are to be grounded by EU health and safety regulations.

Now I have to disappoint those of you who are expecting this post to be about some daring exploit undertaken during my time in the R.A.F. because although I spent two years in the airforce I never once flew in an aeroplane, in fact I never even got to see one on the ground.

I married the old ‘trouble and strife’ in the summer of 1961, and after a brief honeymoon staying in a small hotel boarding house in a wet and windy Bournemouth we decided to save up for a ‘proper’ holiday the following year.

Yes … In the words of the song … “We were off to sunny Spain” … with, what was then, British European Airways, in one of their latest ‘Vanguard’ turboprop airliners … Or so we thought !

This was the first flight for both of us, and although a bit nervous we were looking forward to the experience, which at that time still had an air of glamour and luxury about it: and so we were dressed accordingly in our ‘Sunday best’ when we checked-in at the West London Air Terminal for the night flight to Barcelona.

When we arrived at Heathrow airport we were advised that our plane was delayed elsewhere and that we would be flying in a replacement aircraft.

I first caught sight of this ‘replacement’ as we walked across the tarmac towards the boarding point, and was immediatly reminded of the ‘Berlin Airlift’ and ‘The Paras’ dropping over ‘Arnhem’.

We climbed the short flight of steps into the DC 3 and were ‘squeezed’ into a pair of rear facing seats. We were each given a pillow and a blanket, but no parachute. Instead we were offered barley sugar (candy) as the stewardess muttered something about … “for your ears”.

My ears were the last things I was worried about, when a couple of hours or so later this noisey old crate was bucking and rattling it’s way over (or was it through) the Pyrenees. I looked between the ‘fingers’ of ice on the window at the vibrating oil streaked wings and the snow capped peaks illuminated by the continuous lightning, which my wife claims until this day she could see flashing through the pillow which she had over her face and the blanket which covered her head.

I have flown in many types of aircraft and have made hundreds of flights since that night in 1962; and a few have been a bit ‘hairy’ to say the least, but none could compare with that first time in that old Dakota.

As we came in to land hailstones rattled on the fuselage like machine gun fire, and I was never more thankful to have my feet on ‘terra firma’ than when I stepped off that plane into the heat of a stormy Mediterranean night wearing my crumpled ‘Sunday best’ suit. I pulled off my tie and shoved it into my brand new BEA flight bag.

I had survived .. I walked away .. I was unharmed .. I had not used a sick bag .. and .. It had not been necessary to  ..

…    stick the barley sugar in my ears.  :-D

Posted in humour, nostalgia | 4 Comments »

‘Gravy train’ Tony.

Posted by Big John on February 22, 2008

Well, that’s a surprise ! … Members of the European Parliament are said to have fiddled over £100 million in expenses in just over a year according to British MEP Chris Davies, who has seen a secret report.

Blimey! No wonder our Tony is so keen to get his ‘snout in the trough’, alongside his old mate Peter Mandelson.

Not content with a £5 million book deal and part time jobs with J.P.Morgan and Zurich Financial Services, which combined with fees for speaking engagements could net him another £10 million per year, this greedy lying hypocrite now fancies trousering El Presidente’s share of those Brussel’s Euros.

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Now despite early support from Angela Merkel, it seems that Germany could say “Nein” to ‘Tone’ becoming Europe’s first long term President, with sources close to Frau Merkel saying that Herr Blair  … “made a lot of fine speeches about Europe but, essentially, stood on the sidelines when it came to concrete steps forward” .. and .. “There is unease about a Briton at the top in that job …  (Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein ? …  :-) ). And then personally with Blair, there’s the Iraq thing”.

Yes, that .. “Iraq thing” .. is in itself enough to make me want to sign this … 

tony blair EU president

    HOW ABOUT YOU ? 

  

Posted in humour, political, rant | 1 Comment »

Close encounters of the ‘phone kind.

Posted by Big John on February 20, 2008

The lady who lives across the street from me is soon to have one of her hips replaced, and so, being the ‘good Samaritan’ that I am :roll: I volunteered to drive her to the hospital for her pre-operation check-up.

I dropped her at the hospital which is about a fortyfive minute drive from my home and went off to have some breakfast at a nearby supermarket, thus avoiding the queue and the ridiculous parking charges at the hospital car park.

 “Call me on my mobile (cell) when you are ready to go home” I told her “and I’ll be back to pick you up in a couple of minutes”.

Just before we left the hospital I made a quick call to my wife to let her know that I would be in for lunch; and on the journey home my neighbour and I discussed mobile phones and agreed how useful they are in this sort of situation, but wondered what on earth all those people found to talk about who seem to spend all day meandering about in a ‘trance’ with one ‘glued’ to their ear.

Well this morning I ran into two such ‘zombies’ or rather they ‘ran’ into me !

Now I know that it was a bit foggy this morning, but not foggy enough for someone to step off the pavement (sidewalk) and wander straight into the beam of my headlights. Luckily my vehicle was only moving at a ‘snails pace’ as I approached a set of traffic lights. I pulled to the right as the idiot ‘brushed’ along the left side of my car, never giving me a glance as he continued on his way engrossed in what could have been his last conversation.

My next encounter was less dramatic and took place in my ‘favourite’ Sainsbury’s supermarket, where from behind a mountain of Easter Eggs (Yes, only five weeks to go) a young man appeared, trolley (cart) in one hand and phone in the other. He was weaving about at some speed, with one eye on a screaming brat in the trolley’s baby seat, while the other looked vacantly at the aisle signs above his head. He crashed his trolley into mine, but did not seem to notice me as he careered on down the aisle, with his phone still ‘clamped’ to the side of his head.

I wonder if he was receiving instructions in how to navigate around the store ?  … “Turn right at the baked beans. Now left at the breakfast cereals, straight on at the toilet rolls … and don’t forget to watch out for any silly old git who might…

…     get in your bleedin’ way”. :-D      

Posted in humour, rant | 3 Comments »

A transatlantic transition.

Posted by Big John on February 16, 2008

Leaving politics aside, I have always had a soft spot for America and it’s people, so my last post got me thinking about what has arrived in this country from the USA during my lifetime, some welcome and some not so welcome. Listed below are a few of my pet hates  :-)  and some of my all time favourites …

I could have done without …

  • Baseball caps, especially when worn at all angles.
  • RAP music and the ‘gangsta’ culture that goes with it.
  • Hamburgers, fries (It’s bloody CHIPS !), junk food in general, the habit of eating in the street and the litter left behind.
  • Cheerleaders. It’s just not British old boy: although I could get used to those young ladies from Dallas.
  • Reality TV shows. It all started with Candid Camera.
  • Parking meters and the wheel clamp (‘Denver boot’).
  • Barbecues, which ruin a summer’s day by stinking up the neighbourhood.
  • TV audience over-reaction, especially on ‘talk shows’. All that bleedin’ yelling, whistling, stamping and screaming usually to greet some ‘celeb’ who is completely unknown to me.
  • Budweiser, Rolling Rock, and all those other beers which get drunk straight from the bottle.
  • The shopping mall, otherwise known as the home of the living dead.
  • All that ‘skinny latte mocha’ crap spoken in all those places where they sell expensive coffee in cheap ‘paper’ cups.
  • Double names like Billy Bob, Ellie May and Cindy Lou. These should be reserved for people in those parts of the USA where they play banjos and diddle their sisters.  
  • ‘Trick or Treat’, along with all the other ‘special occasions’ which we copy so badly when conned into taking part by greedy UK retailers.
  • Peanut butter … with ‘jelly’ ? … Arghh ! … Quick ! Pass the bucket.
  • Religious nutters who knock on my door trying to ‘save’ me.
  • Chewing gum. Take a look at the pavement (sidewalk), and Manchester United’s open mouthed masticating manager,  Alex Ferguson.
  • All those TV soap operas. Did we really care who shot JR ? …      and  …
  • Those bits of the American ‘Language’ which have snuck in over the years.  

OK! .. So now for some of those more welcome imports from across the Atlantic  …

  • Those ‘over paid, over sexed and over here’ G.I.s, without whom I might now have been speaking German.
  • Spam. I still eat it.
  • Hollywood movies. A lifetime’s entertainment.
  • Motels. Remember searching for a boarding house ? 
  • Classic TV series like … Dragnet … M.A.S.H. … NYPD Blue … The Sopranos … and many more.
  • Tourists (well the quieter ones anyway), as they always call me .. “Sir”.
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll, which helped turn me into a first generation teenager.
  • T shirts and jeans. Made that ‘first generation teenager’ imagine that he was James Dean.
  • Coca Cola, but only with rum added.
  • Jack Daniel’s .. No Coke needed.
  • Lots of great music from the likes of Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and so many others.
  • Pool, which, unlike snooker or billiards, can be played by almost anyone.
  • The ATM, (See, a bit of ‘American’ just snuck in) our Cash Point Machine.
There are some things which were invented in the US of A and belong on both lists, like supermarkets, credit cards, mobile (cell) phones and many other gadgets and gizmos, for they have often proved to be a mixed blessing; but the one that stands out most in my mind is the juke box; much enjoyed in the coffee bars and cafes of my youth, until someone had the ‘sacrilegious’ idea of installing them in pubs …

…  America !  You have a lot to answer for  !   :-)

Posted in humour, nostalgia | 9 Comments »

“If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular ?”

Posted by Big John on February 13, 2008

It seems that my local Sainsbury’s has no sooner cleared away the surplus Christmas and New Year’s goodies and booze, than they have trotted half of it back out again for bloody Valentine’s Day repackaged in pink and red and covered in hearts and chubby infants armed with bows and arrows.

I seem to remember that it was once called Saint Valentine’s Day, but I suppose that the ‘Saint’ got dropped in the same way that Jesus has disappeared under a mountain of chocolate eggs at Easter.

As I recall, it used to be the custom that you sent an anonymous card to the person who you fancied in the hope that they would guess who it was from and respond accordingly. A charming and innocent piece of nonsense that cost almost nothing.

Now it would appear that you have to demonstrate your love with all sorts of expensive gifts, magnums of Champagne, armfuls of flowers, huge boxes of chocolates and even cards with the greeting … “From our dog to your dog on Valentine’s Day”… (note .. St. Valentine is the patron saint of greeting card manufacturers). 

As with the way we now celebrate Mother’s Day (coming soon) , Halloween and other special occasions in this country, I assume that modern Valentine’s day started life in the USA and like so many unwanted aspects of American life, somehow found it’s way ‘across the pond’, where it has become another festival more about making money than anything else. 

Right! … So that’s my grumpy old git rant for today. I’m now off to give my wife a big kiss, to tell her how much I love her … and to …

…    kick a little cupid up his big fat arse !  :-)

Posted in humour, rant | 5 Comments »

A present from ‘the past’.

Posted by Big John on February 11, 2008

Today is my 69th birthday, so it’s only one more to go before the old ‘three score years and ten’, although for the past few days I have been feeling more like a hundred and ten, as I’ve been limping about like ‘Long John Silver’ with a pain in my right hip.

Now I read somewhere that ‘laughter is the best medicine’ and also that it triggers the release of endomorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.

Well it’s a bloody lie, because I’m still suffering, although this morning I nearly fell off my chair laughing when I opened a birthday present from my daughter and saw what at first I took to be an old copy of a genuine police manual …

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That is until I saw the name of the author … Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt !

Now the name will not be familiar to you unless you are a fan of the TV show ‘Life on Mars’ (on BBC America) about a present day policeman who finds himself in the very un-politically correct time of .. “you’re nicked sunshine” .. and .. “eat the wall scumbag” ..  world of 1974 ‘good cop bad cop’ Gene Hunt. 

Now I know that most people stagger back from the pub, but I’m going to stagger down to the pub for a birthday lunch with my wife, before settling down for a lesson from Gene Hunt on ‘interrogating suspects’, and the almost forgotten  ‘thief takers’ art of …

…      ‘getting them to talk (Physical)’.  :-)

Posted in family, humour | 11 Comments »

‘Patriot’ .. isn’t that the name of a missile ?

Posted by Big John on February 9, 2008

Earlier this week the press was getting it’s knickers in a twist about a town in Germany which wants to name a school after Klaus Riedel, a scientist who was involved in the development of the V2 rockets which rained down on Britain towards the end of World War II.

It seems that Riedel was not a Nazi, but a scientist and engineer of exceptional talent, and although his work led to the deaths of thousands of people, I suppose that it could be said that he was just doing his ‘patriotic duty’.

What I find strange is that in this country few people protest about the hundreds of streets, buildings, schools etc. which are named after some of the biggest mass killers in history, along with the statues and monuments which glorify the the kings, generals, field marshals and assorted adventurers who slaughtered millions on the battlefields of Europe and during the process of building and defending the British Empire. I suppose that they were also just doing their ‘patriotic duty’.

One of Riedel’s wartime colleagues who became a bit of a ‘hero’ in the USA, being awarded the National Medal of Science, was ex-Nazi Party member and SS Sturmbannfüehrer Wernher von Braun, who having admitted to using slave labour to build his ‘terror weapons’, was snapped up by the Americans and whisked off to the United States to continue his research into rockets that could now be used to kill Russians should the ‘Cold War’ ever hot up. He later became an American citizen and a very ‘big shot’ in the NASA space programme: and guess what ? … those ‘good ole’ boys’ down in Huntsville, Alabama  named a multipurpose indoor arena after him … Sounds like a good place to hold one of those …

…   old time ‘patriotic’ rallies. 

Posted in political, rant | 3 Comments »

 
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