“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 58 years of happy marriage.

  • August 2008
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Archive for August, 2008

“Oh what a circus ! … “

Posted by Big John on August 31, 2008

I don’t know too much about American politics, and in any case everything that could be said or written about The Democratic Convention and Barack Obama’s acceptance speech has already been said or written.

What I can never understand about Americans is why they seem to need all that razzamattaz and schmaltz when taking part in such a serious process as electing the most powerful man in the world.

Why all the grandeur and pomposity of a fake temple ? … Why all the hugging and kissing and happy smiling families on stage being ‘drowned’ in confetti ? … and … 

Who the hell was that tall black ‘mom’ telling Barack that she loved him, and thought he would make a great President ? … I bet that ‘uppity’ Michelle was a bit pissed off !   😉 … and … 

Have you ever seen a more ‘pass the sick bag ‘ moment than when Bill Clinton mouthed .. “I love you” .. to ‘Gitmo’ suited Hillary ?

Surely all this mawkishness must cost Obama votes, but let us hope not.

I can hardly wait to see the ‘three ring’  … 

…     John and Sarah show !  🙂


Posted in humour, political | 4 Comments »

Sooper Snoopers !

Posted by Big John on August 28, 2008

As you may have noticed, I have a thing about ‘jobsworths’ and all ‘Little Hitler’ types, so I was a bit disturbed to read that we have in this country people who are part of something called the Community Safety Accreditation Scheme.

These people are mostly in such typical ‘jobsworth’ occupations as park and council wardens, hospital and shopping mall security staff and even car park attendants. They have almost the same powers as Police Community Support Officers, but with one major exception in that they are unable to detain suspects: but unlike PCSOs they are not part of the police force service, do not receive police training, do not wear ‘official’ uniforms with epaulette identity numbers and are not in radio contact with police control centres. In fact all that identifies them is a small black, white and red badge.

PCSOs seem to be getting a far better press now than when they were first introduced as ‘Blunkett’s Bobbies’, and appear to be carrying out a variety of duties including taking an important role in ‘safer transport’ and ‘safer neighbourhood’ schemes, where they are supervised by experienced police sergeants and senior officers. Many are now ‘old hands’ and have an extensive knowledge of the local criminal and anti-social elements in their areas and are appreciated and accepted by most of the residents in their neighbourhoods.

OK, I’m sure that there are a few ‘Little Hitlers’ and other officious idiots strutting about amongst the ranks of the PCSOs, but like all officers they are accountable for their actions to their various police authorities, unlike these jobsworths with badges who are probably only accountable to a bigger jobsworth further up the line or to some private organisation with little interest in the public’s welfare.

So do we need these ‘Accredited’ but unaccountable busybodies ?

The answer is … No we bloody well don’t ! … for they have already been dubbed Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s ‘Stasi’ because of this government’s obsession with prying ever deeper into our private lives.

So if I’m spotted on CCTV feeding the birds, and am surrounded by a litter warden hit squad who demand my personal details for some database or other, I’m afraid that I will tell them where to stick their little badges, with the added suggestion that they can use their ‘fixed penalty notice’ …

to wipe the same place. 😡

Posted in humour, political, rant | 7 Comments »

“Bread and Circuses” … ?

Posted by Big John on August 26, 2008

Since ‘The Games’ started this blog has been an ‘Olympic Free Zone’, but having seen all the euphoria, the media hysteria, Bojo waving that bloody flag and that ‘exploding’ big red bus (a nice reminder of 7/7), I just have to wonder about people’s priorities in this country …

Wow ! … 19 Gold Medals … 13 Silver .. and .. 15 Bronze: and all that it cost to train ‘Team GB’ was £90 million. Now that’s what I call value for money !

Now we are all set to blow £9 billion ( I bet that it will cost double that amount ) on staging the 2012 Olympics in London.

Meanwhile people are denied cancer drugs which are freely available in other European countries … Our public transport system is an expensive disgrace … Patients are still dying from diseases contracted in filthy hospitals … Old folk can’t afford to heat their homes in winter … Thousands of children are leaving school unable to read and write … Street violence is on the increase and nobody seems to know what to do about it … Our prisons are bursting at the seams … Wounded veterans (Real HEROES) have to fight for compensation … and countless ‘good causes’ are refused Lottery funding: …  but never mind, for soon the homeless and unemployed of East London will have just what they need …

…    a bleedin’ great Velodrome !     😡

Posted in political, rant | 3 Comments »

What insult ?

Posted by Big John on August 22, 2008

At the top of my left hand sidebar under the ‘Warning’, is an illustration of the road sign warning drivers about elderly pedestrians, which I think is rather amusing: but now it would seem that UK pensioners’ groups think that it is .. “insulting”.

What a load of politically correct old bollocks ! … It’s a bloody good clear warning sign which I believe was designed by a child in a competition about thirty years ago, and regulations introduced in 2003 did away with the caption ‘elderly people’ underneath the sign because it was considered to be “ageist”.

The sign is there to draw attention to those who may cross the road with difficulty, hesitantly, slowly, and perhaps with reduced hearing or vision. It’s not supposed to show a pair of sprightly old gits out jogging or represent today’s ‘silver surfers’ etc.

Now I know that such organisations as ‘Age Concern’ and ‘Help the Aged’ do a wonderful and vital job, but aren’t there worse things to get your knickers in a twist over ? …  Like lousey pensions, abuse, neglect, fuel poverty, isolation, ageism and a general attitude that we old people are unattractive and a pain in the arse !

If some fitter old codgers think this sign is insulting, all I can say is … I know that it’s a bit late, but .. ‘get a life’ ! .. and anyway, many people think that the sign means …

…   beware of pickpockets !

Posted in humour, rant | 5 Comments »

Down my ‘Memory Lane’. Part 2 continued.

Posted by Big John on August 19, 2008

…  and out stepped … a GI .. a ‘Yank’ ! … Except that this was no American. It was my Uncle Alfie.

Now what was one of my mother’s younger brothers doing in an American uniform and driving a US Army Air Force staff car ?

Well it would seem that when the American forces at last turned up in this country to help us win the war,  😉  they were a bit confused by our habit of driving on the left and by the fact that most road signs had been removed to confuse the Germans if they ever invaded. They also needed to be shown where the best pubs were and the shortest route to Piccadilly Circus: so a number of experienced British Army drivers were recruited to chauffeur them around, and were somehow ‘transferred’ to the US Army.

At the time I believe that my uncle was serving as a driver with the Royal Army Service Corps, or R.A.S.C., sometimes known as ‘Run Away Someone’s Coming’, so it must have been quite a shock to suddenly be transported from the life of a poorly paid British ‘squaddie’ to the ‘glamourous’ world of those who were … “Overpaid, Oversexed and Over Here”.

As you can see from his photograph, my uncle was a very good looking bloke, so you can imagine the ladies’ reaction when he appeared in that uniform. I was too young to know it at the time, but his life followed a similar path to his namesake in the movie of that name. Blimey ! He even became a professional chauffeur later in life.

I don’t remember too much about my Uncle Alf’s visit to my grandmother except that I was introduced to American ‘candy’ such as Hershey Bars and Chiclets. Something truly wonderful to a child at that time when sweets were strictly rationed.

I can’t recall if my mum got any nylons, but I do remember seeing cartons of cigarettes together with cans of strange things like tomato juice, peaches and peanut butter, and I do remember getting to ride in that car.

My uncle had landed the plum job of driver to a top American general, and so I got to sit where the general sat as we drove around the neighbourhood. As I was only a lttle lad I could hardly see out of the windows, so I wonder …

…  if anyone saluted me ?  😕

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 1 Comment »

Down my ‘Memory Lane’ Part 2

Posted by Big John on August 16, 2008

I’m sorry, but I just could not resist boring you with more childhood reminiscences after reading Ginnie’s comment on ‘Down my Memory Lane’ … “It looks like a lovely place to have grown up”.

Well I must say that my recent photograph does make the old street look a lot better than I remember it, but ‘lovely’ is not a word that springs to mind when I think back to the bomb ‘blitzed’ street of my childhood.

To be fair I suppose anywhere is a ‘lovely place’ to grow up if you know nothing different, are part of a loving family and are surrounded by friendly neighbours.

Most of the houses in the street were occupied by large families or shared by two or more tenants, including the one in which we lived. Our upstairs neighbours were Charlie and Ethel. Charlie was a retired Royal Navy stoker and Ethel worked in the local laundry with my mother. They were rather a sad couple whose only son had been killed during the war. 

I, on the other hand, was a very happy little boy as I played amongst the ruins. To me they were not all that was left of families’ homes and where people had died, but were exciting playgrounds where my imagination could run wild.

I always think of the place as being rather dirty and grubby, or perhaps that was just me, for most housewives kept their houses immaculately clean, even going so far as to ‘hearthstone’ their front doorsteps.

I think that one thing that contributed to the grime was the fact that a main railway line runs just behind those houses in the photograph, and in those days the old steam trains covered everything in soot, including my mum’s washing hanging out in our small backyard. The mixed coloured brickwork was a lot darker in those days, and there was not a green leaf to be seen anywhere.

My bedroom was only a few feet from the embankment, along which ran the railway tracks, and I well recall watching the troop trains passing by on their way to and from the Channel ports. When one of these trains stopped at a signal near our house it was easy to speak to the soldiers onboard. Sometimes a soldier returning from Germany would toss some foreign coins or even a Nazi badge if you were lucky; and of course the big treat was if the trains were full of American GI’s for the one ‘American’ phrase that all we kids knew was … “Got any gum chum ?”. 

Now as I told you in my previous post, there were usually no cars to be found parked in the street, but there were often a few horses to be seen as they pulled various tradesmen’s carts, and a much sort after by-product of this traffic was the steaming dung that the horses left piled in the road.

One day my scruffy young mates and I were collecting this ‘fertilizer’ for use on our families’ allotments and backyard vegetable patches, when we had to get out of the road as a large car slowly approached. To say that it was ‘large’ is a bit of an understatement as it was the biggest bloody car that any of us had ever seen. As I recall it was a sort of drab khaki/olive colour with a big white star on each side and ‘funny’ number plates. It stopped outside my grandmothers’ house, and out stepped …

…       Well, that’s another story.   😉

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 1 Comment »

My thanks to the man in the Midwest.

Posted by Big John on August 13, 2008

One day last week I received a rather strange sounding recorded telephone message purporting to be from my bank, and asking me to ring a number about security.

Now my bank is always warning their customers about scam calls and e mails, so I telephoned their help line saying that I was a little suspicious about this call. They checked it out by calling the number and advised me that it was probably a scam as the person they had spoken to was unable to answer certain ‘key questions’. They advised me that they would investigate further. I have heard no more !

On Saturday I received a ‘phone call from a man with an American accent saying that he wanted to speak to me about a “financial security matter”. I was a bit abrupt with him, as I thought it was another one of those bloody sales calls trying to sell me some insurance or other, or perhaps even another scam.

To my great surprise he quoted the last four digits of a credit card which I sometimes use and asked me if I had used it to purchase around £600 (approx. $1,200) of items using the ‘Paypal’ payment system. It seems that the call came all the way from Omaha, Nebraska. I said that I had not and thanked him for alerting me before immediately cancelling the card and advising the bank’s fraud department … “Oh !” they said .. “We tried to contact you last week”.

Two days ago I received an e mail again purporting to be from my bank and advising me that my on line account … “might have been accessed by an unauthorized third party”. I immediately changed my password etc. and sent an e mail to the bank’s special ‘scam’ department asking them if this e mail was genuine. As yet I have not received a reply.

In the meantime my credit card account is showing £1,300 (approx. $2,500) of payments which I know nothing about, and for which I was advised I was not liable.

Now, I’m sure that this matter will eventually be cleared up, but I have to say that I am surprised that someone based in the middle of the USA was so quick to contact me in person, when my own bank, here in the UK, relied on a suspicious ‘computer generated’ voice message to alert me which their own employees seem to know nothing about.

To get to speak to a human being at my bank takes forever via their automated telephone system, and when you do eventually reach their call centre, little Miss “How May I Help You” is usually no bloody help at all, and leaves you wondering just how safe your money really is ?

Perhaps my dad had the right idea. He kept what little money he had …

…   in a tin box under his bed.  😕

Posted in rant | 3 Comments »

Down my ‘Memory Lane’.

Posted by Big John on August 10, 2008

I was recently in South London and decided to take a look at the street where I had spent my childhood.

The first thing that I noticed was that you had to pay to park. When I played in that street more than sixty years ago, not only were there no ‘pay and display’ machines, but there were no cars.

The houses still looked much the same, although in the days during and just after World War II there were no brick walls or gates, just the stumps of ornate iron railings which had been removed so that their metal could be used in the ‘war effort’.

I lived in the house with the window boxes and the white bay window just to the right of the street light. The reason that a number of the houses have plastered bay windows and not the original Victorian brickwork is thanks to Herr Hitler’s Luftwaffe dropping a bomb which destroyed the row of houses on the opposite side of the road, and badly damaged the front of my home and the homes of a few neighbours.

As I looked at those houses, memories returned to me of those working class neighbours amongst whom were a coalman, an ostler, a chimney sweep, a tram driver, a costermonger and one dodgy family who only lived there ‘part-time’ as they spent the rest of their time as ‘guests of His Majesty’.

I had been told that properties in the street had been selling for ridiculous prices recently, and had heard rumours of ‘gentrification’, although I did not see much sign of this. In fact the few people I saw were not of the ‘posh’ variety, but could well have been the descendants of those West Indian immigrants who first appeared in the area during the 1950’s.

To my surprise the far end of the street had ‘disappeared’, just like the old Victorian pub which had gone up in flames during the Brixton riots of 1981; and trees had appeared where there had once been only ruins.

I was pleased to see that kids still played in the street, although I doubt if they still played games like ‘Tin Can Tommy’….

If only I had taken an old tin can with me. 🙂

Posted in family, nostalgia | 7 Comments »