bigjohn

There is many a good tune played on an old fiddle.

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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.

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    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

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    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.

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    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.

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Archive for March, 2013

What next ? Fish, Chips and Chili Peppers !

Posted by Big John on March 29, 2013

Easter is here once again. That great religious festival of chocolate eggs, cuddly bunnies, fluffy chicks and hot cross buns: so at the risk of offending a member of some non-Christian faith who may have been watching me, I picked up a pack of those fruity little sticky buns on my recent visit to Sainsbury’s, and saw that ‘splashed’ across the package were the words  .. “cranberry and golden raisin hot cross buns”.

“Cranberry” ! .. So not exactly “Ye Olde English” recipe then ! Which brings me to asking the question … Why do so many people feel the need to muck about with traditional British dishes by adding extra or foreign ingredients ?

‘Shepherd’s Pie’ is a simple minced lamb dish topped with mashed potato .. not cheese ! .. ‘Toad in the Hole’ is just sausages cooked in batter .. It doesn’t need mustard, sliced prosciutto or bloody pancetta ! and I’m pretty sure that there wasn’t much oregano about in Lancashire when the famous ‘hotpot’ was first thought up by some hungry mill worker. ‘Steak and Kidney Pie’ is just that, plain and simple ! .. I’ve just read a recipe which included .. red wine, tomato purée, mustard powder, carrot, mushrooms, parsley, thyme leaves, extra-virgin olive oil and, can you believe ? .. Greek yogurt !

Now, I must say that, it’s nice to see such a variety of foodstuffs in our supermarkets these days, and I do enjoy my pasta, moussaka and sweet and sour, and if I’m not too hungry I’ll go for ‘nouvelle cuisine’, but I also love my good old British ‘grub’, and as much as I like the flavour of garlic, I don’t want to taste it in my …

… ‘Spotted Dick and Custard’ !

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Posted in humour, rant | 4 Comments »

Dressing up and playing silly buggers !

Posted by Big John on March 23, 2013

Well, it’s certainly been a good few days for the ‘mumbo-jumbo’ merchants.

Last week it was the turn of the Roman Catholic Church to elect a new Pope, with all that black smoke, white smoke nonsense, and hours of pontif poncing about in Saint Peter’s Basilica. A very spectacular, and I must admit, dignified affair, apart from, that is, the odd ‘groupie’ nun and hysterical religious nutter: although all those richly attired and well fed old cardinals did rather dominate the scene, and made one wonder just how much it costs to keep them in the style which they and their acolytes so obviously enjoy. 

Meanwhile, a couple of days ago, just down the road from where I live, we saw the old bearded ‘Arch-Druid’ being replaced by some new bloke as Archbishop of Canterbury and although Canterbury Cathedral is a magnificent building and the place was awash with men in fancy dresses, this local ‘shindig’ was a bit of a mess and somewhat down-market compared to the recent Vatican extravaganza; and all that bongo drumming and tribal dancing could hardly be called “dignified”, although it did seem to raise a giggle or two from Charlie and ‘Cruella’: and what was all that Punjabi ‘hymn’ singing, banging on doors, and praying in French all about ? I bet poor old Thomas Becket was spinning in his nearby tomb, for this truly was …

… Mumbo-Bloody-Jumbo ‘par excellence’ !

Posted in humour, rant, religion | 3 Comments »

“A prescription for trouble” !

Posted by Big John on March 19, 2013

And the Lord said unto Moses … “Keep taking the tablets” !

Well old Mo only had to get his prescription filled once on Mount Sinai, so repeat prescriptions were not a problem for him, which is more than can be said for anyone who is a patient at my local health centre.

Why ? … Well, a new system has been introduced, whereby repeat prescriptions for regular medications are sent to a pharmacist of your choice “electronically”: so instead of you taking your repeat request form to the health centre, collecting your signed prescription a couple of days later and getting it filled the same day by taking it to your local pharmacy (maybe you have to wait for ten minutes), you now have to leave the request at the pharmacy and return in two or three days when your pills and potions should be waiting for you.

Sounds like a good idea ? … Wrong ! … Last week I tried it for the first time. It was Tuesday when I left my request form at the pharmacy. .. “Should be ready by Thursday” .. said the young lady behind the counter.

I did not return to collect my ‘meds’ until today. One week later ! .. and guess what ? .. After much searching of the shelves and storage boxes, there was no sign of them.

It took several phone calls to the health centre and much use of a computer by the pharmacist and his staff, before a printer ‘dispensed’ my repeat prescription.

Now I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one who’s prescription has ‘disappeared into the ether’, and I can only imagine all the hassle this new system is causing at the medical centre … and why ?

Well, once again some ‘clever dick’ has ignored the old adage   …

… “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” !

Posted in humour, rant | 2 Comments »

My mysterious aunt … part 2

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 …

aunt costume 001

… 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 »

HAPPY MOTHERS’ DAY.

Posted by Big John on March 10, 2013

Here in the UK today is Mothers’ Day, or as it was once known .. “Mothering Sunday” .. which was all about “Mother Church” and not about making money for florists and greetings card manufacturers etc.

This grumpy old git hopes that all you mums out there have a lovely day …

Daffs 2013

… and please remind me …

… When is Fathers’ Day ?   😉

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

My mysterious aunt.

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 …

aunt 1 001

 …   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 »

Poo in the post !

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 »