“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.

  • July 2011
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Archive for July, 2011

Bleak young lives.

Posted by Big John on July 31, 2011

Here is another post about young children, but this one definately does not fall into the category of ‘humour’, for it concerns various reports in the press, that on entering school a number of children are unable to communicate, socialise and carry out the most basic of tasks such as holding a pencil. In fact, in extreme cases some children do not even know their own name, or do not recognise it when it is spoken in a normal tone of voice, because at home they only hear it when it is shouted at them.

We are told by the ‘experts‘ that this is the result of poor parenting, for it seems that half of youngsters arrive at infant school with poor communication skills, and this situation is blamed on the low aspirations of parents trapped in poverty, where no member of the family has worked for generations. It would appear that these parents do not bother to talk to, play with or read to their children.

As one who had a happy childhood, albeit in a fairly poor working class family, and later made a living by using his communication skills (and still manages to string a few sentences together), I find myself lost for words and saddened when I read, that when questioned about her child’s inability to speak, one young mother is reported to have said …

…. “He don’t talk to me so I don’t talk to him”.


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Roll on September.

Posted by Big John on July 28, 2011

Oh. what joy ! I have just been to Sainsbury’s to do the ‘weekly shop’, only to discover that the school summer holidays have started, and that the place was full of mothers accompanied by their little angels.

So not only did I have to avoid all the usual trolley (cart) zombies blocking the aisles and clogging up the checkouts, but I also had to watch out for the football (soccer) game in the bakery section, the tantrums amongst the fruit and veg, and young ‘Johnny Depp’ slashing at everything in sight with his plastic cutlass. Oh! and I almost forgot, the kid trying to decapitate his little sister with the glass door of a freezer cabinet as she was reaching for the ‘Nobbly Bobblys’.

Now it may be my imagination, but all these young mums seem to have at least three kids in tow, or more likely not in tow, judging by the shouts of .. “Go and find your brother” .. “Put that back on the shelf !” .. “Come back here, or you won’t get a Happy Meal”; but I have to say that I was impressed by many of these women’s ability to shepherd their brood around the store and load their trolleys with one hand, whilst clamping a mobile phone to their ear with the other.

I noticed that the in-store cleaner was much in demand with calls to .. “a spillage in aisle number seven” .. and “Danger ! .. Wet Floor !” signs were much in evidence where someone’s screaming little darling had either “done a tinkle” or dropped their super sized ‘Slush Puppie’.

I suppose that I should have been warned before entering the supermarket by the giant ‘Yogi Bear’ display at the entrance and the number of cars parked in the ‘mother and child only’ bays. Not to mention the ‘shell shocked’ old biddies who were leaving the store muttering things like … “In my young days” .. and .. “clip round the ear”.

Now I never did understand why healthy young women and children needed to park close to the store entrance, so I would suggest that, at this time of year, supermarkets suspend those ‘mother and child only’ parking bays and in their place erect large barbed-wire cages where parents can deposit their ‘hyperactive’ rampaging offspring, but I suppose that the problem would be that many of them would still be behind the wire …

…     when the store closed.     🙂

Posted in humour, rant | 8 Comments »

“Service with a smile”… ?

Posted by Big John on July 25, 2011

For many years during my travels, both for business and pleasure, I always noticed how the service differed in hotels and restaurants in mainland Europe, the USA and the United Kingdom.

In countries like Italy, Spain and France waiting on tables always seemed to me like a ‘proper’ profession, mainly carried out by mature men in an attentive and polite manner, give or take the odd ‘Gallic shrug’ or an occasional … Bof !” or even a .. “Zut alors !”. Nothing was ever rushed and you were allowed to enjoy your meal without being disturbed.

In the United States I found that I was mostly served by waitresses who had been trained at the ‘robot’ school of … “My name is Jolene … I am your waitress for this evening” (Blimey! .. What did she think that I thought she was there for ?). Meals were usually served at lightening speed, often with one course ‘overtaking’ another and the constant enquiry .. “Is everything OK here folks ?”… I always expected after a positive response to this question to hear … “Then don’t forget to leave a big tip !”; and although the US dining experience tended to get more refined and enjoyable the further up market you went, I could never quite get used to all those false smiles, and those … “Have a nice day!”s.

Well, of course, “Have a nice day !” and American style service soon “crossed the pond”, and I found myself being waited on served by poorly trained young people in restaurants up and down the country, such as the young waiter in a fairly expensive chain hotel who did not know what I meant when I complained that the wine was “corked”, so he called his boss who also didn’t understand what I meant, even after I explained the problem to him in detail. I don’t think that my keen, but inexperienced waiter had ever expected to hear the word “No” after he enquired .. “Is every thing alright, sir ?”. Still I did get my bottle of wine, which was unusual at that time, as it would, more often than not, turn up on the table when you had finished your meal.

Now, it’s worth remembering that I am recalling experiences from a few years ago, and although I can’t comment on service in the USA today, I know that it has remained much the same in Europe and improved to some degree in the UK, as I noticed when staying recently at a hotel owned by a large international group. The service, from the largely foreign staff, was first class. The head waiter was polite and efficient, and his staff of waiters were attentive but not intrusive. In fact it was a very pleasant experience. Perhaps this was one time when I could say that …

… “I had a nice day”.     😉

Posted in humour, nostalgia, rant | 7 Comments »

The Cruise … Passengers.

Posted by Big John on July 21, 2011

Today there are so many cruises to choose from that you can .. choose your itinerary .. choose your price .. choose your cabin .. choose your restaurant .. but you can’t choose your fellow passengers ….

… and in the past this has always put me off the idea of cruising, for, by nature, I am not a gregarious person and the thought of being stuck with hundreds of ‘jolly wallies’ for two weeks was not something which I relished.

Now as a ‘survivor’ of three voyages on the high seas, I must say that I have mostly enjoyed the experience; but then I have been lucky in not being forced to share a table at dinner with a group of people whom you think are perfectly pleasant at the start of the cruise, but who you would happily cast adrift in an open boat by the end. A table for two works well for me.

It was Jean-Paul Sartre who said … “Hell is other people”, and to a large extent I have to agree with him. However I do enjoy observing the more ‘colourful’ and eccentric characters among us, and the confines of a fairly small cruise ship are a good place to do just that. It wasn’t quite ‘Agatha Christie’, but we did have, among others, a 4’6″ tall ‘Russian’ ballerina (“I just lurv to tango, darlink“), who must have known Najinsky and Diaghilev, and a “Colonel Blimp” type who probably thought that the ship was on it’s way back to ‘the colonies’.

Needless to say I avoided, like the plague, all those .. “let’s all join in and have fun” .. activities which some Brits so love when on holiday. I guess it must be some sort of masochistic nostalgia for the days of those post-war holiday camps.

It’s only fair to say that I did pass the time of day with some very pleasant and interesting people, and even the few natterers and nutters I met were harmless, but after two weeks in the company of strangers, I was pleased to return to dry land and the solitude and comforts of home.

So will this somewhat reclusive old git be taking that six month world cruise next year ? … Well, only if I’m …

…   ‘shanghaied’ by a press gang !    🙂

Posted in humour | 7 Comments »

Just the man for the job … ?

Posted by Big John on July 18, 2011

I’ve always thought that we are governed by a bunch of crooks, liars and vindictive idiots who manipulate and are in turn manipulated by the media; so all the disclosures, about the lady with the ‘Pre-Raphaelite’ hair and her mates, come as no surprise to me. 

I have only known one aspiring politician, and he was the most slimey, two faced, back stabbing creep you could possibly wish to meet, and who is probably, even now, stalking the corridors of power. 

I was reminded of him when reading about the ‘grillings‘ being meted out by the chairman of  the Commons home affairs select committee … Mr. Keith Vaz MP … who himself in March 2001, was censured by the Commons standards and privileges committee for financial wrongdoing and obstructing inquiries into a significant number of allegations. He was again investigated  by the Commons authorities over his links to the billionaire Indian Hinduja brothers after they had received UK passports. At the time they were known to have been involved in a corruption investigation in India. He was, at one time, suspended from the House of Commons by the standards and privileges committee for “serious breaches” of the code of conduct of MPs. Oh ! .. and I almost forgot about his expenses !

I don’t know how the chairman of ‘the Commons home affairs select committee’ is selected, but if this bloke is the best that they could come up with, can you imagine …

…  what the other candidates must be like ?

Posted in humour, political, rant | 3 Comments »

The Cruise … Barcelona ‘Bandits’.

Posted by Big John on July 16, 2011

One of my favourite pastimes when on holiday is to sit at a table in a street café and ‘people watch’, and where better to do this than on Barcelona’s ‘La Rambla’ …

 (click on images to enlarge)

So, there we were watching the world go by and enjoying a cold beer, when something happened that I have not seen for many years. A shifty looking señor set down a small board on the pavement and invited passing tourists to take part in what is known as … ‘the shell game’

This crooked operation did not seem to be that well organized, as the ‘winning’ accomplices planted in the crowd were easy to spot, and the lookouts must have been asleep as they failed to see this highly visible police officer …

… who pounced from behind a newsstand next to where we were sitting. It was a case of … “You’re nicked sunshine !” … and in this case, in plenty of sunshine.

I must say that the ‘arrest’ was a very civilised affair with the con-men showing no resistance, but then I suppose this must happen so often, that they are probably …

…   on first name terms with the cop !     🙂

Posted in humour | 5 Comments »

“Going my way ?”

Posted by Big John on July 14, 2011

My last post prompted a comment from ‘Silver Tiger’ about his days hitch-hiking in Spain when he was a student. I too relied on the old thumb to travel in my youth, but my journeys were made in the UK and often in the blue uniform of a conscript in the Royal Air Force.

After ‘square bashing’ (boot camp) at a camp near Manchester I was sent for training, as a radar operator, at No. 3 Radio School in Wiltshire. During this time I was paid the princely sum of £1 . 8s . 0d per week, that’s £1.40 (less than $2) in today’s money. OK, so that was 1958 and a pound went a lot further then than it does now, but the bus fare to London, where my family lived, was still 85p which didn’t leave much to spend in the N.A.A.F.I. or the local pub.

Now at that time, before the motorways, Wiltshire was home to thousands of servicemen, who were based on army camps around Salisbury Plain and the airfields and training establishments of the RAF and Royal Navy: and those of them who had a 48 hour pass (and some who didn’t) either played dodge the ticket inspector (and the military police) on the train, or crowded the old A4 road at the start of every weekend. This group’s game was …  ‘beat your mates to the first vehicle that stops’. Mostly this would mean climbing into the back of a lorry (truck), but sometimes you were lucky and got a lift in a private car, and if you were really lucky you got a lift all the way to London.

Of course you always ran the risk of accepting a ride from someone who should not have been behind the steering wheel of a car, but that was rare. In fact the only time I remember this happening to me was when I got into a car driven by a priest who had over indulged in the communion wine, and was in a hurry to take me with him to meet his maker via the wrong side of the road. My other startling experience was when I was hitching back to camp in the early hours of the morning in the hope of getting back in time for duty, when I got into a large dark coloured car, only to find myself sitting next to Group Captain Ian Esplin my station commander ! … ( = US rank of colonel).

During my two years service I stood by many a roadside ‘thumbing a lift’ and I am still grateful to all those kind souls who stopped in the rain and allowed a dripping young airman to sit on their clean upholstery and smoke their cigarettes. Some would treat you to a meal or a cup of tea at a transport café and quite a few would drive miles out of their way to help you on your journey. I could be wrong, but I doubt that …

…. it would happen today.

Posted in humour, nostalgia | 5 Comments »

The Cruise … Seville ‘Siesta’.

Posted by Big John on July 12, 2011

The temperature was 104f on the afternoon that we reached Seville and there was hardly a Spaniard to be seen on the streets apart from this bloke …

… who seemed to have left it to his horse to look out for customers. The poor animal was looking at me as if to say … “Please don’t wake him Señor” !

Only tourists (and few of them) seemed to be moving as I strolled from the Royal Pavillion … 

 … along the riverbank towards the San Telmo Palace  …

… and on to The Alcázar … 

(click on images to enlarge)

Just as I was beginning to think that I was in a ghost town, I rounded a corner near The Cathedral …

 … and came upon this group of  happy youngsters performing on the sizzling pavement …

So there was life on those hot streets after all.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments »