“Old age ain't no place for sissies.” .. Bette Davis

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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.




    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




    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.




    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 56 years of happy marriage.

  • March 2007
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Archive for March, 2007

A mole ‘down the hole’ ?

Posted by Big John on March 30, 2007

raf-k-d.jpgWhen I was reluctantly ‘doing my bit’ as a National Service conscript in the RAF back in the late 1950s, I was stationed on the south coast of England, because some idiot at the Air Ministry obviously thought that I would be a major asset to the security of this country if they turned me into an ‘Air Defence Operator’ and sent me to ‘operate’ within the confines of a ‘secret’ radar station.

This radar station was so secret that everyone including the Russians, knew exactly where it was, for although the guardhouse and entrance to the underground bunker was cleverly disguised as a seaside bungalow, the surrounding area was covered in large rotating radar antennas and other assorted military equipment which rather gave the game away.

Now I don’t want you to tell anybody, but I did sign ‘The Official Secrets Act’, because only those who had done so were allowed to go ‘down the hole’ and along the long neon-lit passageway which  led to the corridors and control rooms of this ‘Cold War’ nerve centre: which meant that all jobs within the bunker had to be done by the likes of me. For example, we, the radar operators, and not the N.A.A.F.I. had to run our own canteen. We also had to man the PBX (telephone switchboard) and other communications equipment as the operators who would normally run this equipment were not required to sign this ‘awesome’ document.

Before we entered the bunker every officer and airman had to hand in his identity card to a ‘snowdrop’ (RAF policeman), who then issued each man with a numbered pass which was to be returned on leaving the complex. This meant that the guard knew exactly who was on duty below ground at any time as every man was accounted for …

Hang on a minute !  … ‘every man’ ! … ‘all jobs’ ! … So who was that little old geezer with the grey hair and the limp who used to push his mop up and down that long passageway and drag his bucket along those secret corridors ? … Didn’t he live in the village ? … Wasn’t he a regular at the local pub ?  …  and …

…      didn’t he only drink vodka ? 


Posted in humour | 8 Comments »

Every kid needs one.

Posted by Big John on March 28, 2007

Following on from my previous post about ‘the perils of playtime’, I could hardly believe my eyes when I picked up today’s paper and read that, not content with wrapping their children in cotton-wool, some parents are now kitting their kids out in body armour !

I know that around here when the ‘school run’ takes place every day, a number of the vehicles taking part resemble 4×4 ‘battle wagons’ in a military convoy, so I can soon expect to see their passengers looking like a bunch of squaddies on the streets of Basra. Although from what I have seen of some of these ‘karate kicking’ kids, it’s the teachers who may need the protection.

OK, I know that knife crime is a serious issue, and in some areas young people may be in some danger, but this rush to dress ‘little Jimmy’ in protective clothing seems just a little bit ‘over the top’ to me, for I envisage the stab-vest becoming a playground ‘status symbol’ as was the mobile telephone, which most children now seem to clutch in their hands so that they can contact ‘mummy’ in an emergency or more likely use for a session of ‘happy slapping’. 

So what next for the ‘little angels’ who are driven to the school gates dressed in their stab-vests and clutching their mobile phones ? … What more can these overanxious parents do to protect their offspring ?

Well, how about equipping classrooms with very large school desks which can be hired by parents to accommodate their rented …

… bloody big ! … brawny ! … bad ! … bald ! … black ! … Bluetoothed ! …  bodyguard ? 

Posted in humour, rant | 3 Comments »

The perils of playtime.

Posted by Big John on March 26, 2007

Yes, it’s time once again for … ‘Swing the light and I’ll tell you a war story’ … Well sort of …


The above photograph shows me, but not the actual street where I lived, but it very well could be, for a similar view awaited anyone stepping out of our front door during the London ‘Blitz’, as the ten or so terraced houses on the opposite side of the road were destroyed by the Luftwaffe’s bombs. 

Of course I was very young at the time and have no memory of those events, but I do have very clear memories of the ‘bomb site’ that was created, as it became my favourite playground during the later war years and the early postwar period …

Although most of the houses were reduced to piles of rubble, one fire gutted house remained standing, although the roof and floorboards were missing. It was the scene of many adventures and not a few injuries as balancing along broken joists two floors up could easily lead to broken bones upon landing in the basement, and climbing a frayed rope up crumbling brickwork was a sure way to end up bleeding all over your mum’s freshly scrubbed doorstep as she surveyed the scruffy little wreck who stood before her needing a hug and some first aid.

Together with my young mates I made camps among the ruins, searched for ‘shrapnel’ and unexploded incendiary bombs (thank God we never found any). We did collect quite a lot of metal, but I expect that most of it was bits of old gas pipes and the expended machine gun bullets that we found were probably large rusty bent nails; although I do remember some older boys ‘firing’ live .303 rounds using a length of pipe and a hammer. There was quite a bit of  weaponery around at the time, and I know that it’s hard to believe, but just after of the war ended our little gang had a redundant ‘Bren’ light machine gun in it’s possession plus a number of less lethal items of military equipment.

Weapons of a more ancient kind, but no less dangerous, were favoured for our games of ‘Robin Hood’ or ‘cowboys and indians’ and bamboo arrows flew all over the ruins. The bamboo sticks were ‘borrowed’ from back yard vegetable patches and allotments, with the longer bean poles going to make quite powerful long bows. Luckily, as I recall, no one lost an eye, although I did get a thick ear from a ball bearing fired from a catapult (slingshot).

We built fires and sat amongst the debris eating slices of bread and ‘dripping’ held in our grubby little hands and I suspect that we swallowed almost as much dirt as we did fat. It was all washed down with swigs from a bottle of cold tea. If we were very lucky we might share a bottle of ‘Tizer’.

Due to rationing, sweets (candy) were a rare treat, but if you had a penny or two, ‘black market’ varieties were available from ‘Artful Dodger’ older kids. I dread to think what they contained. They mostly tasted of liqourice and mothballs and turned your tongue blue or green.

When I look back at those times I can’t help but think that I was probably in as much danger from playing with my friends as I was from Hitler’s ‘Doodlebug’ missiles which somtimes passed overhead.

All the kids in my street ‘played out’ almost from ‘dawn ’til dusk’, so it is hard to imagine what it must be like for some children today when I read that seven out of ten parents in this country would not let their offspring out of the house to play ‘unsupervised’, and that more than half of youngsters today have no knowledge of traditional playground games and have never ridden a bike.

I’ve heard today’s children described as the ‘cotton-wool generation’. I guess that cotton-wool …

…    must have been ‘on ration’ in my young days. 

Posted in family, humour | 11 Comments »

The ‘medic’ and the major.

Posted by Big John on March 23, 2007

We have heard a lot lately about American pilots in Iraq and how they have behaved in ‘the heat of battle’ which has not been to the credit of the US military: so it was nice to see one turn up at Buckingham Palace this week to have ‘er Maj’ pin the Distinguished Flying Cross on his chest.

US Marine Major William Chesarek is the first American flyer to receive this bravery award since World War II and took part in the same action in which a teenage army ‘medic’, Private Michelle Norris, became the first woman to be awarded the Military Cross for bravery under fire.

Normally I have a good old rant about investitures and the way ‘gongs’ are handed out like sweets (candies) to bloody second rate actors, ancient pop stars and so called sporting ‘heroes’, but for once they have gone to people who deserve them and can truly be called ‘heroes’.

Medals are often won for acts of heroism which involve killing other human beings, so it is always pleasing to see awards going to people who have risked their own lives to save the life of another.

In the horror that is the Iraq fiasco many decorations have been pinned on many chests and many have been presented to the families of those who have died; so whilst I congratulate the young ‘medic’ and the major, I have to hope that in the near future acts of courage such as theirs …

…    will become a thing of the past. 

Posted in political | 8 Comments »

“Fries or a fat lip?”

Posted by Big John on March 21, 2007

On the same day that I read that Britain is the ‘junk food capital of Europe’ I also read that McDonald’s has decided not to sue the Oxford English Dictionary over the definition of … ‘McJob’ … as … ‘an unstimulating, low paid job with few prospects’.

It’s been many years since anyone asked me … “D’you want fries with that?” and I must admit that I have never given much thought to what it must be like to face the ‘great unwashed’ British public from behind a counter whilst wearing a ‘comic’ uniform and name tag that tells everyone who your mum’s favourite pop star was back in the 1980s.

Apparently McDonald’s have some bloke called a ‘chief people officer’ who says the word ‘McJob’  …  “is out of date, out of touch with reality and, most importantly, it is insulting to those talented, committed, hard-working people who serve the public every day”.

Well I think that ‘talented’ is stretching it a bit, and I’m not too sure about the ‘committed’, but when it comes to ‘hard-working’ I’m prepared to give the boys and girls behind the counter the benefit of the doubt on the word ‘hard’, and say that they do deserve much praise for making the effort to find a job at a time when it is all too easy not to ‘work’ and instead, to do bugger all and rely on ‘state handouts’.

I don’t think that I would last too long dishing out the shakes and ‘Big Macs’ to impatient, ignorant ingrates and assorted arrogant arseholes, before I would be dishing out something else, which doubtless would soon result in me being kicked out to wander the ‘junk food capital of Europe’..

…     ‘McJobless’ !

Posted in humour, rant | 9 Comments »

Hide it in your sock, Jock.

Posted by Big John on March 19, 2007

You may recall from a previous post that I have booked a spring cruise for my wife and myself. We are due to depart at the end of next month and today our ‘holiday pack’ arrived from the cruise line.

The rather ‘posh’ looking wallet contains the usual tickets, luggage labels etc. and a bit more information about that all important ‘dress code’, which includes one piece of information which I find hilarious. It reads as follows …

‘Passengers wishing to wear full Scottish dress on formal evenings are advised that they must pack their ‘Dirk’ in their hand luggage. This will be collected from them by Security before boarding the vessel and a receipt will be given. The Security Officer will then keep all ‘Dirks’ when not being worn.’

I have a vision of a number of kilted Scottish gentlemen, who have had a ‘dram’ or two too many, doing a ‘Mel Gibson’ by displaying their bare arses and crying … “Freedom !” … as some hapless security officer tries to disarm them at the end of the day.

I wonder if the rest of the passengers will be searched as they leave the restaurant after dinner, in case one of them …

…    is carrying a concealed butter knife ?

Posted in humour | 6 Comments »

Cloth cap ‘class’.

Posted by Big John on March 16, 2007

copy-d-mates.jpgToday very few men wear hats, unless it is that American import, the baseball cap, or perhaps a woolen ‘tea cosy’ pulled down over their ears in winter.

To me the baseball cap always looks somehow out of place on the more mature Englishman (although, on occasion, I have been known to wear one), and looks completely ridiculous when worn at all angles on the heads of the ‘hip hop’ generation.alf-hat.jpg

In my youth the flat cap was worn by many men and was still very much a symbol of the ‘working class’ in this country, as it had been in my father’s day when just about everyone wore one, including children, as shown in the picture of my uncle Alf (right) which was taken during the 1920s . Even my grandmother is said to have worn a man’s cap (with hatpin) in the early days of the last century.

sawing-2.jpgMy dad wore a flat cap for all of the fiftyone years that he worked as a railway carpenter, as you can see from the photographs of him taken during the 1930s. He is the one with the saw, and the one (top left) sitting in front of the two ‘dodgy’ looking characters, who I guess were his mates at the time.

Today the few people who wear caps include my old git ‘hero’ Victor Meldrew  (may he rest in peace), and that prize prat Charlie when his valets dress him up to go pissing about in the countryside.

Somehow I can’t see the old cloth cap coming back in a big way, although flat caps of a sort have been seen in recent years as fashion accessories worn by the likes of Madonna, Kate Moss and the movie star Samuel L. Jackson, although he looks almost as big a prat as our ‘clown prince’ as he insists on wearing his back to front ! … These caps are normally of the ‘cheese cutter’ design and are not to be confused with the ‘classic’ British working man’s cap of yesteryear, which had a rather large circular low crown with a stiff peak which was attached to the overlapping front of the soft crown by a press stud. The cap was made of mar-1927.jpg woollen cloth or tweed and not some fancy soft fabric, tartan or leather.

In the past men had caps for work and ones that were for ‘Sunday best’ and holidays, but they were all made of the same thick material and hardly what you would call ideal beachwear; but this did not seem to bother my dad as he sat with my mother (dark dress) on the sands at Margate in 1927.

I have a rather smart tweed ‘Country Club’ cap,which is nothing like the cap worn by my father, but I’m sure that he wouldn’t object if I raised it now and then to the likes of him and his fellow working men of that …

…        almost forgotten cloth cap era.

Posted in family, humour | 16 Comments »

Blame it all on Edison.

Posted by Big John on March 13, 2007

Global warming ! … CO2 emissions ! … Carbon footprints ! (whatever they are ?) … Melting icecaps ! … Deforestation ! … Climate change ! … and cow’s farts destroying the ozone layer !

So how can we help stop the world coming to a sweaty, smelly and suntanned end ? 

  • Should we listen to Gordon Brown or David Cameron as each tries to claim to be greener than the other ? As experts in the field of  ‘hot air’, they should know.  
  • Maybe Al Gore knows the answer now that he has explained to George Bush that ‘Kyoto’ isn’t a new sushi bar ?   
  • Poor old Carl Wunsch doesn’t know whether he is coming or going after his “Swindle” film, so I don’t think that he will be of much use. ? 
  • How about that good old American religious nutter, Jerry Falwell, who says global warming is  down to Satan and that the bible tells us that God will maintain the earth until Jesus returns. So that’s good news then, for after what happened to him the last time, I don’t think that he will be too keen on another visit.  

Well, you can forget about all the so called experts and ‘The Almighty’, for I know who has the answer to the impending environmental disaster … It’s that gang of unwanted law makers at the EU ! … and their answer is, if you want to save the world, you must change your bloody light bulbs  !

Hang on a minute ! … For unlike the brains in Brussels, I foresee a problem, as in my home I have about thirty light fixtures and lamps of various designs. I have ones with screw fittings and ones of the ‘bayonet’ type. I have spotlights, wall lights and concealed striplights. Not to mention lights in the cooker, fridge, microwave etc. Some are British made and others are manufactured to American and different European standards.  … and guess what ?  …  The new expensive energy efficient bulbs only fit into three of these, and they are bleedin’ useless, taking ages to ‘warm up’ and then giving out a ‘miserable’ glow !  …

I’m confused ! … If I must buy all new light fittings, can I pay for them with a ‘carbon credit’ card ?

Amongst all the conflicting statistics being thrown around at the moment one caught my attention, for it seems that within the next year or two China will be the world’s leading producer of  ‘greenhouse gases’, as it uses 30% of the world’s coal and opens five coal fired power stations every week to serve it’s astronomical industrial growth…

…  and where are 90% of these new light bulbs being manufactured ? … Yes ! you guessed it !  …

…          Bloody CHINA ! 

Posted in humour, political, rant | 5 Comments »