“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.

  • September 2007
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Archive for September, 2007

“A volunteer is worth ….”

Posted by Big John on September 28, 2007

At the time when I started my two years of national service in 1958 very few young men were being drafted into the Royal Air Force: so instead of being trained with a ‘flight’ consisting of all conscripts, I was grouped together with a mixed bunch of what you might call ‘pressed men’ and volunteer ‘regulars’ who had ‘signed on’ for periods of between three and twentyseven years.


The photograph above is part of a larger formal group and was taken a few days after I and my fellow recruits arrived at RAF Wilmslow to begin eight weeks of ‘square-bashing’ (boot camp). I’m the baby-faced one in the lower left corner.

I have selected this section of the larger group as it shows thirteen typical conscripts and just ONE volunteer…

…  Can you guess which one he is ?    -)     


Posted in humour | 3 Comments »

A fish by any other name …

Posted by Big John on September 25, 2007

I am a lover of fish. I don’t mean those in an aquarium or ornamental pond; I mean those that come on a plate, fried in batter or covered in parsley sauce.

I’ll eat just about anything that lives under water, whether it has scales, shell or suckers; one exception being winkles to which I am allergic: proof of which is the unused winkle pin (left) from a wonderful ‘fruits de mer’. It is worth mentioning that my grandmother loved winkles, but eating them always seemed to turn her into an even more miserable old cow than her usual grumpy self.

In the days when my job often meant spending a hard day at the restaurant with clients, I loved to lunch at such over priced locations as the Trattoria dei Pescatori in London’s Charlotte Street, where my expense account got stretched to it’s limits: but I was just as happy (well almost) with a ‘newspaper’ full of fried cod and chips or a dish of jellied eels.

One evening on my recent visit to France, I dined at ‘Le Matisse’ restaurant in the town of Le Touquet and was served a large wing of poached skate served in a sauce of butter and capers. Simple but delicious.

The French call skate ‘raie’ or ray, which I suspect would not be very tempting to most British fish eaters, in the same way that dog fish is far more appetizing when it appears in the ‘chippy’ as ‘rock salmon’.

Now I read that due to the dwindling stocks caused by over fishing of our more popular varieties such as cod, more ‘unattractive’ fish are to be renamed. So watch out for these on your fishmonger’s slab … The ‘orange roughy’, better known as the slimehead … The ‘grenadier’ which sounds a lot nicer than rat-tails … The ‘Torbay sole’, far more appetizing than the witch fish … and it seems the Patagonian toothfish sells a lot better when it’s called the ‘Chilean sea bass’.

Now I live about a mile from Whitstable harbour where fresh fish and other seafood is on sale every day of the week, so I hate to admit to it, but I recently purchased from Sainsbury’s, some fish that I had never heard of before. It was called .. ‘Basa’ .. and tasted pretty good; but it didn’t come from off the Kent coast, in fact it was catfish, and came all the way from the Mekong River Delta …

…   in bloody Vietnam !

Posted in humour, rant | 5 Comments »

A perception of poverty.

Posted by Big John on September 22, 2007

I recently read a report that stated that many children today consider it a sign of poverty for another child not to have a mobile phone.

Unlike most of today’s children many working class people of my generation will have seen or experienced real child poverty, so I suppose that we must consider it progress when the lack of a mobile phone is seen as a sign of ‘poverty’, and not the sight of young legs deformed by rickets: but I can’t help wondering from where do these children acquire such values ?

I suppose that it would come as quite a shock to these kids to know that when I was a child there were no cell phones and the nearest public telephone was on the counter of our local off-licence (liquor store) two streets from my home.

The telephone in question was one of those ‘stand’ types with a separate earpiece at the end of a cord. I can’t remember where the nearest red public phone box was in relation to my home, and in any case I wouldn’t have spent my few pennies of pocket money or wasted my time on making phone calls; unlike the kids I see everyday with their ‘Nokia’ pressed against their ear as they chatter on about such important matters as their latest video game or favourite ‘gangsta’ rapper.

At that time no one I knew had a telephone, and I can’t even remember using one until I started work in 1955 at the age of sixteen.

No cell phone, no ‘iPod’, no TV, no ‘X box’ ! … What would today’s youngsters have made of my childhood ? I suppose they would consider me to have been destitute; but at least I was safe from  …

…  being mugged on my way home from school.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

“This may sting a bit”.

Posted by Big John on September 19, 2007

I’ve found that as I grow older I get problems with parts of my body I never knew I had: take my prostate gland for instance.

I looked it up on the web and found that it appeared to be situated near the entrance to the bladder, so why when I visited my doctor did he tell me to drop my trousers, lay on his couch and stick out my bum ? I won’t go into details, but what came next involved a rubber glove and a tube of lubricating gel.

More gel came into play when I visited the hospital for an ultra sound scan of my lower abdomen. Not an unpleasant experience, but I did feel  a bit of a prat sitting amongst all those pregnant women in the waiting room, and unlike them, I wasn’t even presented with a copy to take home to show the family.

Now I must admit that I was not looking forward to my latest visit to the hospital, for it involved something called a ‘flexible cystoscopy’ which as far as I could tell involved having a tube containing a ‘telescope’ shoved up your willy for a look around inside your plumbing.

As I lay on the examination couch with my hospital gown pulled up to my waist (not a pretty sight), my mental image of a long garden hose did not help when the consultant asked me to relax.

Out came a tube of more bloody gel. I’ll leave you to guess where that was squirted. All I will say is that it’s anaesthetic qualities where not all they were cracked up to be.

To try and take my mind off what was happening half way up my urethra I watched the doctor as he appeared to be playing a video game with some sort of ‘joy stick’.

I looked up at the monitor and saw something resembling a scene from a TV scuba diving documentary. Suddenly the scene changed as the ‘camera’ shot into a tunnel … “That’s your prostate” … said the doctor as the walls of the tunnel narrowed… “It’s a bit enlarged, but otherwise it looks OK”.

So now I know what it looks like and where it is. It sure is a strange feeling looking inside your own body and seeing something that your own doctor seemed to think  …

…   was concealed up your arse.   🙂

Posted in humour | 7 Comments »

“à bientôt”. Part II

Posted by Big John on September 17, 2007

There are two things that I dislike about the French. One is that they let their dogs shit anywhere, and the other is that they are bloody awful at parking their cars: which means that you have to be careful to keep one eye on the ground when window shopping, and never think that it will be easy to retrieve your car from where you last left it.

Now I didn’t noticeparking-l-t.jpg many ‘doggy-doo’ bins on my recent trip across the channel, but I did notice something new to me in the way of parking meters: a ‘robot’ (left) which knows when you have parked and also knows when it is time for you to leave. Unfortunately I don’t think anyone has explained to the French what they are, but their dogs find them very handy when they cock their hind legs.

On the whole I like the French people, and find most of them friendly, polite and helpful; but perhaps that is because I do try to speak to them in their own language. I have to explain that .. “Je parle francais comme une vache espagnole” … but they seem to appreciate the effort. I can honestly say that during last week I was the only British (or American) person I heard utter a single word of French. Blimey! it doesn’t take much to learn the words for ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ !

The other evening my wife and I sat in a café surrounded by very well behaved young Frenchmen. She remarked on the fact that you rarely see a French person drunk and that there would not be the same relaxed atmosphere in an English pub full of young Brits.

Later that evening (after a splendid dinner) we were walking back to our apartment along a deserted street, when ahead of us I caught sight of two men ‘holding up’ a lamppost. I told my wife that she was about to see a couple of those rare French ‘piss artists’ that she had mentioned earlier in the evening… “I bet they’re English” … she said, and … bugger me ! …

…   she was right !  

Posted in humour, rant | 2 Comments »

“à bientôt”.

Posted by Big John on September 8, 2007

If anyone is looking for me for the next week, this is where you will find me …


Yes, it’s time once again to head through the Channel Tunnel for a few days of serious eating and drinking …

…      C’est la vie !

Posted in humour | 3 Comments »

Time for a ‘Tom Tom’ ?

Posted by Big John on September 6, 2007

This week my daughter and her husband are taking a break on the Kent coast near Deal, so yesterday my wife and I decided to pay them a visit, as where they are staying is only a fortyfive minute drive from our home.

We had a very pleasant day which included a huge lunch at ‘The Zetland Arms’, a beachside pub which is a bit difficult to find as it is situated a mile or two down a narrow country lane in the badly signposted village of Kingsdown.

Now I know that when you get out into the country around here you can still find signposts that would be familiar to a stagecoach driver or to Chaucer’s pilgrims, and you can come to a halt at crossroads where I suspect the signposts were removed during World War II to confuse Hitler’s soldiers, should they ever have landed on our shores; but you don’t expect to see the name of a town or village at an exit of a motorway, only to find that when you leave that motorway that name never again appears on any road sign !   

Yesterday, after thinking that I had discovered a quick way home, I ended up in the middle of the Canterbury rush hour, and took twice as long to get home, because some bloody idiot at the highways department obviously thinks that the Old Dover Road will soon be … 

…  swarming with German panzers !

Posted in humour, rant | 4 Comments »

A brief break from reality.

Posted by Big John on September 2, 2007

Around 1980 I worked for was employed by a very upmarket company with offices and showrooms in London’s West End, and when I think back to that time it now seems like some sort of surreal interlude in my career.

I can’t really recall how I got the job. I suppose that I must have gone through an interview of sorts, but how I was selected remains a mystery to me, for to the management of that company I must have seemed like someone from another planet, with my “blow the bloody doors off” Michael Caine accent and my ‘bolshie’ attitude.

The big boss was an ‘arty-farty’ old bag of the ‘mutton dressed as lamb’ variety; and her right-hand man was a hair flicking prat who was so vain that he only walked down streets where he could see his reflection in shop windows. They spent most of their time at ‘working lunches’, attending business seminars in such places as Aspen, or visiting trade fairs in the industrial heart of the Bahamas.

The ‘rank and file’ of the company were an assorted bunch, with a predominance of good looking young men (now I know how I got the job). How many of them got to go to Aspen or the Bahamas I never knew. The star of this show was the carefully dishevelled creep who would litter his desk with coffee cups and files and be shaving with his electric razor on the mornings when the boss arrived early. It was the nearest I ever came to seeing anyone actually doing any real work.

Attractive young women with ‘posh’ accents were much in evidence, fulfilling the roles of secretaries and personal assistants. It was one of those firms where even the P.A.’s  assistant had her own assistant.

The offices were furnished with more ‘modern classics’ than New York’s ‘MOMA’, and the whole ambience was sort of ‘Bauhaus’ with just a touch of ‘Star Trek’.

Meetings were held all the time, and the first time I was summoned to one I thought that I had stumbled on a gathering of members of ‘Poseurs Anonymous’. They sat around for much of the day discussing such important matters as … What canapés to have at the next cocktail party ? … or … Where to hold the next product launch ? .. “Not bloody Milan again dear!” … and … Which designer should they use ? .. That stunning little Mongolian woman with the eye patch and gold teeth; or that nice gay ex-Nazi with the interesting scars and blue hair ?

Now to call these characters ‘laid-back’ was a bit of an understatement for most of them were more like horizontal for most of the time: and so in an effort to fit in I adopted a less business like and more ‘aesthetic’ style. In other words I grew a beard and started wearing a pink bow tie.

Although I was only with this company for a year or two, I learned a lot about ‘image’, ‘PR’ and all sorts of other ‘bullshit’. Much of which was of great value to me later in my career.

When the time came to re-enter the ‘real world’, I was lured away by ‘an offer that I could not refuse’. Yes, I went to work for a big Italian outfit. They also held meetings which I attended, but I never knew who the old guy in the sharp suit and dark glasses was, who sat at the head of the table … and  …

….  I never asked !

Posted in humour | 1 Comment »