Posted by Big John on March 13, 2013
Yes, of course, Auntie had a rich ‘benefactor’ ! .. In fact he was an extremely wealthy ‘City Gent’ who owned a country estate near my aunt’s cottage and a London mansion near to the Mayfair apartment where my aunt lived when she was in town. I can remember seeing a photograph of her with a group of ’toffs’ riding on the nearby fashionable Rotten Row in Hyde Park. I found her up-market address, with it’s ‘MAYfair’ phone number, in the on-line records of the 1930′s London telephone directory.
I only found out recently, from an older cousin, that my aunt had a son who she left in the care of my grandparents, while she went back to the high life in London’s West End. Tragedy struck when the child died when his mother decided that she would take him away for a few days holiday. My grandfather never spoke to her again, and, later, her rich lover dumped her when he discovered that he was sharing ‘her favours’ with a dashing RAF pilot at the start of World War II. She joined the ‘ATS‘ !
I always assumed that my aunt must have enjoyed her life with the girls in the ATS, as at that time, she shared her home with another young woman named ‘Bobby’. She called herself ’Jo’ although her name was not Josephine or Joanne. As I recall, and from what I see in photos from those days, Jo and Bobby favoured short hair, men’s shirts, slacks and ‘sensible shoes’ !
The family never saw much of my aunt after that time, although she did turn up in the early 50′s driving an MG sports car and with a very pleasant ‘sporty’ bloke in tow who she said was her husband. From then on she used the title ‘Mrs’, although I don’t believe that she was ever married. The next time she put in an appearance, ‘hubby’ was long gone and so were any signs of affluence.
The old girl died about ten years ago, and I last saw her when she asked me to take along a few photographs of her in her young days, so that she could show the other old folks, in the care home where she lived, just what a gay young thing …
… she had been back in the days when ‘gay’ meant something different: although in her case I’m pretty sure that she would have been quite happy and ‘proud’ to be labled with the modern definition of the word.
When I arrived at the care home she was at the point of saying farewell to another visitor; a rather ‘dapper’ looking, but frail old man with cropped white hair, wearing a three piece tweed suit and neat collar and tie. I heard a whisper of .. “Goodbye Jo” .. and then he nodded at me and walked slowly away down the corridor. It was only then that I noticed his very small feet and those highly polished ’sensible shoes’ ! .. I wonder ..
… could it have been ?
Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 5 Comments »
Posted by Big John on March 7, 2013
My mother had nine brothers and sisters, all now departed from this life, although there might just be one ‘black sheep’ brother still knocking around, although I suspect that he is ’as dead as mutton’ by now, as he would have spent most of his eighty something years staggering from pub to pub.
I must say that I got along fine with my mum’s family, although there was one sister who, for some strange reason, I tended to avoid as a child, and who never seemed to quite ’fit in’ with the rest of the family, as she had a rather haughty ‘posh’ voice and a somewhat flamboyant and overbearing manner. Not what you would normally expect from a working class girl from a back street in Brixton.
Sometime ago, when searching through some family documents I came across a postcard written by this aunt during the 1930′s and sent from Budapest. On the front was a picture of the River Danube and on the back she described a luxurious train journey across Europe and the joys of staying in the grandest of hotels: and this at a time when most people could not afford even a couple of days seaside break at Margate.
In the old family photo album there are a number of pictures, taken during the 1920′s and 1930′s, of my aunt as a beautiful young woman …
… showing her in the latest fashions, posing by her car and in the garden of her country cottage. Expensive holidays ? .. Latest fashions ? .. Car ? .. Country cottage ? .. How did a girl who’s mother is recorded in an earlier census as, ”taking in washing”, afford such things ?
Well the answer may be obvious, but …
… you will have to wait to find out.
Posted in family, nostalgia | 5 Comments »
Posted by Big John on March 1, 2013
I know that the NHS has been falling down badly in some areas recently, but I must say that at ‘local’ level, as an old fart, I have few complaints; for I have regular blood tests to check on my liver and kidney functions, my blood sugar level and the PSA level of my prostate ‘thingy’. I also have regular consultations with my GP regarding my blood pressure and general health, during which I lie (as does everyone) about how many units of alcohol I consume each day.
Now I have been asked if I would like to be screened for bowel cancer, which, of course to me, was a ‘no-brainer’ as my father died of the disease.
However, even in this most serious of subjects I have found some ‘light relief’, for I expected to be asked to attend a clinic to undergo tests, but instead I received, by mail, a self-testing kit containing three orange coloured envelopes, six small cardboard sticks and instructions as to how to transfer small samples of my faeces to the envelopes via the sticks ! Royal Mail would do the rest !
I won’t go into details, but for those of you who have read A. A. Milne’s ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’, or seen the Disney movies, this procedure, in no way, resembles …
… the game of ‘Pooh Sticks’ !
Posted in family, humour | 5 Comments »
Posted by Big John on December 20, 2012
Well I must say that the run-up to Christmas has been far less hectic than usual this year, due to the fact that I have not been trudging around the shopping malls and high streets or searching the web for hours looking for Christmas presents.
Why ? … Well it’s not because I believe that old cobblers about the Mayan calendar and the world ending tomorrow, and it’s not that I’m a tight fisted old git as well as a miserable old sod. It’s because my family thought it a good idea to go all philanthropic this year and decided not to spend money on the usual socks, perfume, CD’s, books and assorted Christmas crap, but, instead, to donate that money to our favourite charities. So this year there will be no packages delivered from ‘Amazon’ and just a big empty space under the Christmas tree.
Oh! .. Before I forget, I did do one bit of Christmas shopping. I bought a new set of ‘LED’ fairy lights, thus avoiding swearing for ages at a tangled mess of electric wire and spending bleedn’ hours testing all those tiny coloured light bulbs before blowing a fuse.
Now, in our house, I’m the one who usually cooks the Christmas lunch, but I’ve even managed to avoid that task this year by inviting myself and the old ‘trouble and strife’ to our daughter’s home on Christmas Day, so let us hope that the country does not descend into travel chaos, as it usually does when there are a few flakes of snow, or we will be sitting down at home to a plate of beans on toast with a sprig of holly sticking in it.
Posted in family, humour | 6 Comments »
Posted by Big John on November 11, 2012
During World War I, my grandfather served with the Royal Field Artillery, as did my great uncle Bill. Although he was ‘knocked about a bit’ my grandfather returned to his family at the end of that conflict. Bill was not so lucky ! So I decided to try and find out what had happened to him and came up with this ‘medal card’ record from the National Archives …
… It shows that Bill served as a Gunner with 8th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery and was one of the first soldiers to fight in France as he was awarded the 1914 Star (The Mons Star) with the clasp for service between 5th August and 22nd November 1914. It also records that he was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal, although, of course, the poor bugger was no longer around to have them pinned to his chest, for looking further into the records I discovered that Bill died on 8th May 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres where his unit saw action in a battle which resulted in over 100,000 casulties. His fate is confirmed by the chilling entry …
“K in A”
Posted in family, nostalgia | 2 Comments »
Posted by Big John on April 18, 2012
During the last couple of weeks I have spent a considerable amount of time settling the affairs and arranging the funeral of my late aunt, who died recently at the age of ninetytwo.
Now I must say that most people with whom I have been dealing have been sympathetic and helpful, but I feel that I must tell you about my experiences when trying to register the death of my aunt with the local authorities.
As I live a considerable distance from the part of the country where my aunt died it was arranged that I should make a “registration by declaration” at my local registry office. I was given an appointment time, a reference number and told to take along all relevent documents. I was also informed that staff at this office would assist with informing government and local council departments of my aunt’s death.
I arrived on time and was met by a rather nervous looking woman, who greeted me with .. “I’ve never done this before” .. Just what I needed to hear ! .. She then started questioning me about the circumstances of my aunt’s death, while constantly referring to her notes and making me repeat myself several times.
When she finished she told me that she could not issue a death certificate or give me the relevent forms to advise pensions, tax offices etc. She said that all the information would be sent to the registry office in the borough where my aunt had died, and that that office would issue the necessary certificate etc. She also gave me a paper with a reference and telephone number and said that I should make an appointment to visit another council office where I would be informed of how to advise all those officials who needed to know my aunt’s details. She said that they were listed on the paper. They were not !
Oh! shit … I thought … this is going to take forever ! … and then I noticed that the paper she had given me was headed … “Directgov” … Hang on ! … I thought … I’ll ‘Google’ that … and came up with a website where I could link to something called “Tell Us Once” which enabled me to inform 14 local council and government departments in one ‘hit’ ! The whole procedure took about twenty minutes. Fan-bloody-tastic !
Now I have to ask the question … Why didn’t the stupid woman who gave me the paper tell me of this Department of Work and Pension’s on-line service ?
Well either she had never heard of it herself, or more likely, she saw before her some old git who had probably never heard of the internet and couldn’t possibly know how to …
… use a computer !
Posted in family, humour, rant | 5 Comments »
Posted by Big John on April 12, 2012
One thing that I have noticed over the years is how standards of dress have declined. ‘Sunday Best’ disappeared years ago and even the smartest restaurants no longer require that “gentlemen wear ties”.
Today the unkept ‘celeb‘ look seems to be the fashion. Every TV chat show guest seem to wear the same ‘uniform’ of T shirt, suit jacket and jeans (holes are optional).
The same thing applies when it comes to ‘proper’ uniforms. Just look at some of our police officers in their ‘hi-viz’ vests, polo shirts and baseball caps, or the assorted garish garb worn by many public transport staff and, by far the worst of all, the employees of ‘Royal Mail’. Yes, our postmen take some beating when it comes to ‘sack of shit’ scruffy !
I was reminded of just how things have changed when I was searching through some family papers last week and came across this photograph of one of my uncles. It was probably taken in the late 1920′s and shows a very young man in the uniform of what was then The General Post Office (GPO).
I wonder what happened to …
“Taking pride in your appearance” ?
Posted in family, humour, nostalgia, rant | 3 Comments »
Posted by Big John on February 21, 2012
I know that this is not a very good photograph, but it was taken more than a hundred years ago and, like so many, it ended up stored away and forgotten until I happened upon it when going through some old family papers.
The picture shows my father’s eldest brother. He was a couple of years older than my dad and was born at the very end of the 19th century which meant that he was conscripted for military service towards the end of World War I. My dad was lucky as that war ended just as he received his call-up papers and he never had to report for duty.
My uncle was not so lucky, for although the war with Germany ended in 1918, he was sent to Russia as a member of a multi-national military force sent to back the Tsarist forces fighting the revolutionary Red Army.
I have tried to trace his military history, and have found only one soldier with his name. He was a private in a battalion which is recorded as being sent to Archangel in 1918, and a War Office medal record card in his name shows that he was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
I have no idea what happened to my uncle during his service in Russia, but my father told me that his brother returned to England, after going ‘missing’ for some time, bringing with him a suitcase full of Tsarist bank notes which, of course, were of no value by that time.
I often wonder what happened to that young man when he went ’missing’ in the Russian snow, and how did he come by all that money ? .. Did he meet up with some Bolshevik ‘friends’ ? .. After all, as a poor lad who, like my dad, had slept “five in a bed” in a rat infested ’Victorian’ slum, he had far more in common with the Russian proletariat, than with the people who had sent him there in the name of some bloody king and in support of a despot Tsar: and if he did, perhaps his new ‘comrades’ helped him ‘liberate’ all those paper roubles from some Romanov aristocrat, or perhaps he just found the case in a ditch ? Alas, we can only speculate.
My dad had nine brothers and sisters, and I knew most of them, but as far as I can recall I never met this uncle; which is a pity, for I bet …
… he had a great tale to tell.
Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 6 Comments »