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 September, 2008

Is it meant to be Sainsbury’s ?

Posted by Big John on September 30, 2008

Until today I had never heard of ‘The Stuckists’, who for the last eight years have protested against the Turner Prize, which they call …

… “An annual media circus created by the Tate Gallery in order to showcase the most bland and pretentious art currently produced in Britain.”

Well that’s putting it mildly. I much prefer the message on the button badges which they are handing out …

… “THE TURNER PRIZE IS CRAP !”  …  and …

… speaking of ‘crapping’, one of the fancied exhibits this year features a dummy doing just that alongside a supermarket check-out in a ‘work’ entitled .. ‘I Give You All My Money’. Another mannequin has it’s head in a bird cage, and other rubbish is scattered around in what curator Carolyn Kerr describes as .. “Incredibly carefully composed and precisely placed and formed from ready-made objects we find in the everyday world … as well as incredibly personal objects — bowls that she’s fed her family and her children from.” … She added … “They are drawn together to form a story, but not a story that’s specific or defined.”.

Art critic Rachel Campbell-Johnston (Yes, her again) said the work this load of old ‘cobblers’ .. “though defying easy interpretation, may be the most approachable of all the four shortlisted artists”  (I’ll spare you my opinions on those) .. and ..”If you are going to come along and say ‘What does it mean ?’, you’re not going to get an answer in this piece. It’s a long surrealist journey,”   … 

I bet it is luv … and …

…   one I will not be taking !

Posted in humour, rant | 2 Comments »

Your palace or mine ?

Posted by Big John on September 27, 2008

Ordinary people are losing their jobs and homes, and some are finding it difficult to put food on the table; while others are not sure if they will be able to afford to keep warm this coming winter: so with perfect timing ‘er Maj has decided that she needs a ‘pay rise’ to keep her and her bleedin’ family living in style in all their many palaces and castles .. and ..

Speaking of palaces, the bloody Archbishop of Canterbury and his mate the Archbishop of York both live in considerable luxury in palaces of their own, which I pressume are partly paid for by the investments of the Anglican Church in the financial markets, which this week, both condemned in no uncertain terms. The bearded Arch-Druid even had the nerve to quote Karl Marx !

Apart from “pot” and “kettle” springing to mind, the only quote I can think that somewhat fits the moment, is one of my favourites by the French philosopher and writer,  Denis Diderot …  

“Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”

Posted in rant | 5 Comments »

“If I Were a Rich Man ….”

Posted by Big John on September 24, 2008

Remember that “basket full of old family photographs, newspaper clippings and other odds and ends” ?  …

Well amongst the ‘odds and ends’ I discovered a blackened metal brooch. It appeared to have some writing on it and a design that looked like stars. I cleaned it up with some metal polish and discovered this …

After a search of ‘the web’ I discovered that this is a piece of silver and gold Mizpah jewellery. Unfortunately the hallmarks on the reverse side are illegible, but according to one source, it was probably made between 1896 and 1916.

I understand that the word Mizpah comes from the Bible … “and Mizpah; for he said, The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” (Genesis 31:49), and I gather that Mizpah jewellery is worn to signify an emotional bond between people who are separated.

So could this brooch have belonged to my grandmother and did she wear it when my grandfather was serving in the Army during World War I ? The dates seem to fit, although there is no way of knowing for certain.

The photograph on the left shows my grandmother holding a baby who could possibly be my dad (born 1901) and I have to ask the question … Could she have been Jewish ? … She was called Mariah, a Hebrew name, but if she was of that race and faith no one in the family ever mentioned it to me, and now it’s too late to ask.

I don’t know if it’s possible to be a little bit Jewish, and in any case I’ll never know if I am, but ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ is my favourite musical, I always laugh at Jackie Mason, I love salt beef sandwiches, I fancy Barbra Streisand, I hate to ‘pay retail’… and …

I’m noted for my ‘Chutzpah’ !  :-D

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 8 Comments »

Banking bandits !

Posted by Big John on September 20, 2008

‘Short-selling’ … I’d never heard of it until the other day, but now I understand that it is the way a few very rich financial ‘whizz-kids’ became even richer by undermining the western banking system, which itself seems to be run by some very stupid, greedy and immoral people whose own actions led to all the current turmoil.    

So will all those involved at the top be pawning their Rolexes ? … Will we see Porches and ‘Rollers’ parked at the kerbside with ‘For Sale’ signs offering knock-down prices ? … Will anyone be jumping off the Canary Wharf tower ? … Will their barefoot children be selling apples in the street ?

Of course not ! … All those lovely bonuses will be stashed away somewhere safe and many will simply shuffle themselves around into new positions and continue with their ‘Champagne lifestyles’ as if nothing had happened.

The other day a small number of the original residents of the Isle of Dogs jeered at the staff of Lehman Brothers as they left their offices after clearing their desks. Not a very nice thing to do, but I suppose understandable to some degree, for when Canary Wharf and other office blocks where built walls and barriers where constructed to separate the City ‘high-flyers’ from the locals, many of whom had lost their homes to make way for the massive re-development which began in the late 1980’s. The sad part of this story is that these not too bright ‘Eastenders’ were probably jeering at the wrong people, for I suspect that most of those ‘dumped’ that day were the ordinary office staff, cleaners, caterers and lower grade traders. I doubt if the ‘fat cats’ were anywhere to be seen.

I see that short-selling has now been banned in a bid to bring stability and rationality back to the equity markets.  It’s only a temporary measure, but with a bit of luck it could catch some of these speculating sharks with their pants down.

Still one thing you can be sure of is that the greedy bastards of ‘Wall Street’ and ‘The City’ will soon be ‘wheeling and dealing’ themselves to greater fortunes, and I expect some of them will be spending obscene amounts of cash on another type of shark and similar works of art crap.

I’m not keen on either type of shark, but at least ‘Jaws’ is easy to spot, unlike …

the ‘bottom feeders’ in pin-stripes.

Posted in rant | 2 Comments »

“Who’s sorry now ?”

Posted by Big John on September 17, 2008

Of all the silly ideas that are running around at the moment, one of the daftest is that of saying that you are sorry for the deeds of your forefathers to people who are long dead.

The Pope once made a public apology for The Inquisition and the treatment of poor old Galileo. Tony Blair said sorry for the slave trade: many Christians have expressed their regrets over The Crusades, and now the Church of England, led by the Arch-Druid, Arch-dipstick Archbishop of Canterbury says sorry to Charles Darwin for giving him a hard time 150 years ago.

I wonder how long it will be before Parliament apologizes to King Charles I for making him even shorter than he was, or to Joan of Arc for not calling the fire brigade ? Blimey ! If this idea went transatlantic the Native Americans could end up by apologising to Custer, and the Mexican government might even say sorry to Davey Crocket.

I feel sure that we will see more of this nonsense in the future. It’s a bit like “grief lite”, or “mourning sickness” as it is sometimes known; where people leave floral tributes and teddy bears etc. at the site of the death of people they did not know.

It may seem strange, but Charles Darwin, the greatest of non-believers, is buried in Westminster Abbey: so I think that the next time I am in the area I will pop in to see if someone has left a …

 …    fluffy toy monkey on his tomb.

Posted in humour, rant | 5 Comments »

What did you do in that war Grandad ?

Posted by Big John on September 10, 2008

Last weekend I had a visit from a cousin who, due to the recent death of a relative, had aquired a basket full of old family photographs, newspaper clippings and other odds and ends. She left the collection with me to see if I could improve the quality of some of the photos by using my computer software.

Many of the photographs were in very poor condition such as the one below, which I suspect had been taken to appear in some newspaper or other …

… The picture bears a stamp showing that it was taken in High Wycombe and it shows a parade of assorted army volunteers …

 

After a bit of work on the computer I came up with the above enhanced section of the photograph and low and behold I found my grandad ! He is the bloke second from the left with the ‘Old Bill’ moustache, so this picture must have been taken during the 1914-1918 War when my grandfather served with The Royal Field Artillery.

 

Now my grandad, would have been a bit old for military service being nearly forty years of age and having eight kids at the time (final score ten !), but I have also discovered another picture of him (left) dressed in the uniform of The RFA (note the spurs and riding crop) prior to World War I, so I assume that he was a member of the ‘Territorial Force’, now called The Territorial Army (similar to the US National Guard). 

My father told me that he remembered his father dressed in the blue hospital uniform worn by wounded and sick soldiers, walking with the aid of crutches after his horse had fallen on him crushing both his legs. 

Now I don’t know if my grandad was injured due to enemy action or because of an accident, but I like to imagine him astride a galloping horse dragging a gun and limber in some heroic action. However the only souvenir of WWI which I have that belonged to him, I found amongst my fathers carpenter’s tools. It is a very large kitchen knife in a wooden sheath bearing the War Department stamp (W↑D) on the handle, so perhaps he was lucky enough to end up as  … 

…   one of the battery’s cooks ?   :-D

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 1 Comment »

Cowboys threw it on the fire.

Posted by Big John on September 6, 2008

When I first visited New York City back in the mid-70’s I was struck by the number of people walking about the streets while eating. Now when I watch American TV shows everyone seems to be walking the streets clutching a ‘Starbucks’ or some other ‘rip-off’ brand of coffee.

When I watch an old movie I notice that nearly everyone smokes ‘like a chimney’ and drinks ‘like a fish’. Somehow I can’t imagine Humphrey Bogart ordering a ‘skinny latte’ or whatever they are called; or John Wayne slapping the bar and calling for a cappuccino with an extra ‘shot’, but now even the toughest Hollywood cops are seen peeling the lid off their steaming mochas and stirring their espressos in every other scene.

Now I’m sure that many Starbucks coffee shops are very pleasant places to hang out, but with the smallest beverage costing more than £2 ($3.60) and their larger and more exotic varieties costing £4+ ($7.20+) they are not cheap: so I was not surprised to learn that hundreds of them are closing down in the USA and other countries. 

Although I enjoy a cup of good coffee my only experience of a ‘coffee culture’ was back in the 1950’s when ‘frothy coffee’ machines suddenly appeared alongside juke boxes in what were known as ‘expresso bars’. These places were very popular with us teenage boys, but not because of the coffee, which I recall was pretty awful, but because of the ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll’ music on the juke boxes and … all those luvverly  teenage GIRLS !

In recent years coffee has improved a lot in this country with supermarkets now selling a wide variety of fresh blends and beans, but I can still recall the days when it came in a bottle … Blimey ! … it still does ! … but …

…  Can you believe that the label has been changed to make it …

a more politically correct cuppa ?   :roll:

Posted in humour, nostalgia | 3 Comments »

What’s in her sights ?

Posted by Big John on September 3, 2008

Until a couple of days ago I had never heard of Sarah Palin, and I suspect, neither had most Americans. Now every newspaper and TV station is asking questions about her.

OK, so why should we care in this country if she becomes Vice President of the USA ?

Well, if McCain is elected she will be just one heartbeat away from being the first woman to hold the most powerful office in the world, for if old John ‘pops his clogs’ she immediately takes over as President, so surely she should be a person with considerable experience in the ‘corridors of power’ and beyond. Didn’t Barack Obama pick John Biden for this very reason ?

Now as far as I can tell Sarah is anti-gun control, anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, pro-oil drilling and an advocate of teaching creationism in schools, but as I understand it, her only political experience is as mayor of a small town in Alaska before she became governor of that state.

I know that some pundits are saying that she has been chosen to pick up the ‘Hillary vote’, but surely someone with experience like Condoleezza Rice would be more suitable, but I suppose being a woman and black is a bit too much for many Americans. 

All I know is that I find it very difficult to take seriously someone who names her kids .. Track .. Bristol .. Willow .. Piper .. and .. Trig ! .. and who believes in all that biblical old bollocks about Adam and Eve and how the earth was created in six days. Not to mention feeling a little apprehensive about a lady who has been described as .. “pistol packing Palin”.

Anyway let us hope, if she ever does reach the highest office, that her gun-toting exploits will be limited to the forests of Alaska .. and ..

…    those poor bloody Moose. :-(

Posted in humour, political | 3 Comments »

 
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