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 August, 2011

Not such a tall story.

Posted by Big John on August 29, 2011

I don’t remember a great deal about my grandfather as he died when I was about ten years old, but I do remember that he was not a very tall man, and yet he is by far the tallest man in this photograph taken around 100 years ago …

My grandad is the one on the far right of the picture and, apart from one fellow at the back, he appears to be about a ‘head’ taller than his companions .

The studio photograph below was taken around the same time and shows my grandparents before the start of World War I. My grandfather is wearing the uniform (complete with spurs and riding crop) of The Royal Field Artillery (TF) as he was a member of The Territorial Force (similar to US National Guard) …

(click on images to enlarge)

From the picture I have estimated that the old boy was about 5′ 8” or 5” 9” tall, so no giant, which means that some of the other men in the first picture must only be around 5′ tall or even less.

Perhaps they were a bit on the short side due to genetics, a poor standard of living or an inadequate diet, although this is hard to believe when you look at the girth of the blokes in the front row.

My grandad went on to fight in the ‘Great War’, and I expect that many of his ‘short-arse’ mates did the same. So I suppose that you could say that they were all …

… “short in stature, but long in courage”.

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 2 Comments »

Holy Godfathers !

Posted by Big John on August 26, 2011

Remember when a short time ago I was bemoaning the lack of good historical drama series on TV, and how I have had to make do with a fantasy tale starring Sean Bean ?

Well since poor old Sean lost his head near the end of series one of ‘Game of Thrones’ I’ve had bugger all to watch in the way of ‘swords and sandals’ or royal ‘rumpy-pumpy’, and I’m afraid some boring old fart on the ‘History Channel’ telling me about bloody Tutankhamun for the umpeenth time, or that squeaky little twit Tony Robinson looking down another empty hole for that elusive Roman villa, does not compensate for the drama of dark deeds, flashing blades, ripping bodices and men in tights.

So you can imagine how pleased I was then, when this week, I caught up with the first three episodes of  ‘The Borgias’, for it’s full of “dark deeds”, has some blood stained “flashing blades”, shows plenty of “bodices” ripped, and missing completely in some cases; but is a bit light on “men in tights”, as most of the characters appear in the scarlet robes of cardinals or other clerical outfits.

As with ‘The Tudors’ Jeremy Irons looks nothing like the main character Pope Alexander VI, and seems to spend most of his time being dressed in his Papal clobber and then undressed by young choir boys. Umm … sounds familiar ! Oh ! .. and he does quite a bit of running about in his nightshirt, as you do, when visiting his mistress via the tunnels under The Vatican.

His far from holy ‘Holiness’ makes his son Cesare a cardinal, although his main role seems to be that of the Pontiff’s ‘consigliere’. He in turn employes the professional assasin Micheletto to ensure that as many of the Pope’s enemies as possible end up “sleeping with the fishes” in the Tiber.

I don’t know too much about 15th century Italian history, and this TV show may be a load of old “Duos habet et bene pendentes”, but so far I have enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to my Saturday evening ‘date’ with the beautiful Lucrezia, and as I relax, I may have an extra glass of red wine …

… Well, perhaps not ! 

Posted in humour | 3 Comments »

Here we go again – Part 4

Posted by Big John on August 23, 2011

Judging by the chaos in Tripoli as the Libyan rebels claim to have “captured” the city and Gaddafi’s sons . I dread to think what will come next, that is of course, if the loony colonel’s loyal troops don’t kick them out of town any time soon.

I’m afraid that it’s going to be ‘Eye-Rack’ déjà vu time, as no one seems to have any sort of postwar reconstruction plan, and I expect that the rival tribes, the religious nutters and the various political factions can’t wait to start grabbing what they can for themselves, whilst bumping each other off in the process.

Still, never fear, for good old Dave has volunteered British troops as peacekeepers. Has he counted them lately ? Do we have enough ? and, will he have any idea what to do with them when they get there ?

Of course he will ! … He’ll have them guarding  …

… the oil fields !

Posted in humour, political, rant | 3 Comments »

Only 125 days to go !

Posted by Big John on August 22, 2011

One item from the usual pile of junk mail on my doormat this morning suddenly caught my eye, and I looked out of the window just to check that the sun was shining, the leaves were still on the trees, and some people were going about their business dressed, as I was, in shorts and T shirt. I stepped out of the door. It was a fine warm August day with not a cloud in the sky, and yet this had appeared …

Usually I don’t go into “Bah ! Humbug !” mode until early October when I get to Sainsbury’s and find that the shelf stackers have been working hard filling the aisles with fancy packs of mince pies, giant tins of ‘Quality Street’, large pots of Stilton cheese, and all the other festive season ‘goodies’, but this year my little rant has come early. I wonder how long it will be before my local pub restaurant puts out the sign …

… “Book early for Christmas” ?

Posted in humour, rant | 2 Comments »

A right royal riot.

Posted by Big John on August 19, 2011

Edward VIII did it by visiting the economically impoverished coal mining villages in South Wales and calling for  “something to be done” for the unemployed and deprived coal miners. He then went back to bonking Mrs. Simpson and living it up on the Riviera.

The late Queen Mum did it when during the London ‘Blitz’ she and husband ‘Bertie’ visited a couple of bomb sites and she then declared that now Buckingham Palace had been bombed (no serious damage), she could “look the East End in the face”. They then returned to the safety of one of their many castles.

‘er Maj has done it loads of times when not attending race meetings, deer stalking or generally buggering about on one of her many estates, and the only time the old dear was seen to cry was when they took away her Royal Yacht.

Now they are all at it ! … Yes … It’s let’s get out there, shake a few hands and look glum time.

So the recent riots have belatedly brought out the ‘royals’ to do their thing. Which is to meet some ‘ordinary people’ and get their pictures taken as many times as possible.

Well I don’t know about you, but if I was a victim of the rioters and had lost my home or my livelihood the last people I would want to see coming towards me would be Charlie and Camilla, even if they had been so gracious as to give up one day, yes one day, of their Scottish holiday. Bloody hell ! .. Their life is one big holiday !

I see that Willy and Kate have visited Birmingham, but the press seem to be more interested in what Kate was wearing, rather than the funeral of three of the victims, and the ‘ginger spare’ has been “morale boosting” in Salford where not everyone was pleased to see him, although he did manage to ‘mumble’ a few words to some firemen before being whisked away by his security men.

So having “done their duty”, they can now get back to their own hedonistic lifestyles, safe in the knowledge that the ‘Buck House’ spin machine will make the most of their efforts, and some of those “ordinary people” will be feeling so much better, even if the only things they have …

…  are the clothes they stand up in !

Posted in humour, rant | 6 Comments »

“What did you do in the war Daddy?”

Posted by Big John on August 17, 2011

In my post .. “Too close for comfort” .. I referred to my dad “pottering about” in our back yard, which may have made some of you wonder why he was not “away at the front” like many of my young friends’ dads.

Well, my father was born the same year that Queen Victoria died, which meant that he was too old for military service when World War II started in 1939. It also meant that he missed conscription during the 1914-1918 War as he had just been ‘called-up’ when it ended. So you might say that he was lucky, which was true when it came to ‘The Great War’, but I’m not so sure when it came to the 1939-1945 conflict.

Even if my dad had not been too old to join the armed forces in 1939 he would still have remained a civilian because he was in what was referred to as a “reserved occupation”. He was a railway worker, and was required to help keep the trains running in the face of enemy bombing. He also volunteered for the ARP (‘Air Raid Precautions’, later renamed ‘Civil Defence’) and served thoughout the war as a ‘fire guard’ in a ‘Civilian Fire Team’. During the London ‘Blitz’ his railway repair work took him into the heart of ‘The City’ where he must have seen some terrible sights.

Although my dad didn’t talk a lot about his war-time experiences, when he did it was usually in the form of amusing anecdotes, like ‘rescuing’ an old lady’s false teeth. He even made it sound funny when he recalled the time that he ran for his life when being machine gunned by a German aircraft.

I do, however, remember him recalling an incident when he was talking to a policeman during an air-raid. They said “goodnight” and went off in different directions. A few moments later there was an explosion in the direction which the copper had taken, and my dad rushed to the scene. All that he found was the metal number from the policeman’s uniform collar.

My father was awarded the Defence Medal, but he either didn’t know of his award or never bothered to collect it. Many years after his death it was sent to me from the Cabinet Office on behalf of The Home Secretary.

I was reminded of my dad when I read the following …

“… it was not unusual to find a man with several stars (campaign medals) who had never heard a shot fired in anger. Conversely, a man with only the Defence Medal who earned it, for example, whilst serving in the fire or rescue services in London or any other city subject to constant air attack, wears a medal worth having …. only the man who wears the medal knows how it was earned”.

Posted in family, nostalgia | Leave a Comment »

Are they talking a load of old “ebonics” ?

Posted by Big John on August 15, 2011

So historian David Starkey is a “racist” according to some journalists and the Labour leader Ed Miliband.

Well, for all I know, he may be, and I suppose his comments on ‘Newsnight’ could certainly be considered as “inflammatory”, but was he right ?, when he said …

“The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent destructive, nihilistic gangster culture has become the fashion and black and white boys and girls operate in this language together”.

Perhaps he could have been more careful with his choice of words, but the language he referred to “Dat is true innit” as anyone who has watched TV interviews “wid da yoof” recently will know. “Yoo know dem what ai’nt got no foot in dem bellies” as one young “dude” moron put it to London Mayor, Boris Johnson on his recent photo opportunity  tour of riot hit Brixton.

Now it wasn’t too long ago that black people living in Birmingham sounded like ‘Brummies’, and those living in London sounded like ‘Cockneys’ etc., and I expect that many still do. So it now seems strange to me that, in recent times, young black people, who have never been anywhere near the West Indies, know nothing of it’s culture, have never heard of men like C.L.R. James, Marcus Garvey or even Bob Marley, should adopt a form of speech based on Jamaican patois, ‘spiced up’ with US ‘gangsta speak’. 

Today I learned a new word, which goes some way to explaining Starkey’s recent remarks  …

It’s definition …  “Slang –  A white youth who adopts black youth culture by adopting its speech, wearing its clothes, and listening to its music“.

The word ? …

…  “Wigger” !

Posted in humour, political, rant | 4 Comments »

Don’t ‘OUT’ Big Bird !

Posted by Big John on August 12, 2011

Are Bert and Ernie gay ? … and does anybody care ?

Well certainly not the under seven year olds who watch Sesame Street, but some nutters misguided people are determined to confuse young minds by introducing them to something which they can’t possibly comprehend, by having the two ‘male’ puppets ‘marry’.

Like it or not the world of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) is here to stay, and same sex marriage (civil partnership in the UK) is becoming more and more accepted by those of us who believe in “live and let live”, as is the fact that two ‘mums’ or two ‘dads’ are no different from any other parents: but this does not mean that this subject should be drawn to the attention of those too young to understand.

Innocent young children must be allowed to remain in the magic world of puppets, cartoon characters and fairy tales for as long as possible. These days too many are forced to ‘grow up’ far too quickly.

OK, so it’s a bit of a laugh for some adults to speculate on the sexual relationship between Bert and Ernie (Remind me again, they are puppets aren’t they ?) but this petition, although purporting to have a serious motive, must surely be a joke.

If this goes on they will be telling us next that ‘Zippy‘ …

…   is into S&M  !

Posted in humour, rant | 7 Comments »

 
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