“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 2016
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Archive for March, 2016

Chicago Chic ? .. No .. Just ‘Sunday Best’.

Posted by Big John on March 31, 2016

Here is a photograph taken in Chicago during the 1920’s. It shows members of ‘The Outfit’ during the time of prohibition …

cab drivers

(click on image for a clearer picture)

… Unfortunately Al Capone moved as the picture was taken and his image is a little blurred.  I hope that this blemish didn’t mean that the photographer (Fat Vinny) ended up “sleeping with the fishes”. Sitting to Al’s right is one of the original ‘Moustache Petes’, and yet as far as I can see, there’s not a violin case in sight.

So, it’s a rare picture from ‘The Windy City’ in ‘The Roaring Twenties’ …


It’s from the old family photo album and shows my great grandfather (he’s the ‘Moustache Pete’) and a group of his fellow London cab drivers: and judging by the number wearing poppies, I suspect that it may have been a gathering to mark Armistice Day shortly after the end of ‘World War I’.

Don’t they all look smart ? … Note the hats, waistcoats (vests) and collars and ties. … People rarely seem to dress smartly these days. Blimey ! .. Around that time, just like the two railwaymen in this picture, my dad (also a railwayman) wore a shirt and tie …

Dad r w

… under his overalls !


Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 2 Comments »

A tale of two watches.

Posted by Big John on March 22, 2016

A couple of days ago my wristwatch …

Watch 1

 … stopped working. I expect that the battery has gone flat, but it is impossible to remove the back without a special tool, so it means a trip into town to a jeweller to have a new battery fitted.

In the meantime I searched through the bedroom drawers for a working replacement. No luck. Only broken or ‘dead’ ones.

That is until I remembered this family heirloom ‘half hunter’ …

Watch 2

… which according to it’s gold hallmarks was made in 1900. It belonged to my father …

watch and chain (412x667)

… and, that’s him wearing it, at sometime during the 1920’s. I doubt that it was used much after that time. In fact, I can’t ever remember seeing my dad wearing it.

So, a one hundred and sixteen year old watch. Would it still work ?

I nervously gave the winder a few turns, and bugger me, off it went …

… as good as new !

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 6 Comments »

“Begorrah ! .. It’s dat toime again”.

Posted by Big John on March 17, 2016

One of my oldest friends is a university educated, well spoken, intelligent businessman from Cork, but I bet that by this evening, like many others, he will be propping up a bar somewhere in London, recounting his loife in dee auld Emerald Oil, in doze hard toimes digging up the peat for the foire and listening to his mammy sing as she stirred the stobhach.

So to him and all of you …

s p day

Posted in humour | 2 Comments »

A family mystery solved.

Posted by Big John on March 14, 2016

When the last of my father’s sisters died a few years ago I found this tattered and faded old photograph in a box of letters and other documents …


(click on image to enlarge)

… I restored it as best I could, and then wondered … Who were these people, and where and when was this photo taken ?

Over the past few years I have looked into the history of the family and now have a fairly detailed record going back to 1635 and possibly before. They were mostly Sussex farmers who, at one time, were reasonably prosperous, but ‘fell upon hard times’ during the 1860’s. 

In the census of 1871 my great grandfather’s occupation is described as “labourer and drover” not ‘farmer’. During the 1880’s, like many other agricultural workers, my grandfather moved to the outskirts of London and in the 1890’s he found himself with my grandmother and two young children (final score ten) living in East Brixton, an area criss-crossed by railway tracks and viaducts and now known as Loughborough Junction.

Most of the above details come from public records including the census which was taken every ten years, and here’s something strange, for the family do not appear in the census for 1901, the year my father (Jack) was born, but a copy of his birth certificate …


(click on image to enlarge)

…  dated 11th November 1904 shows that they where living at No. 11 Lewis Road, East Brixton when he was born on 18th November 1901. Also, rather strangely, no dwellings are listed or the street name recorded in that census. In fact, the only trace of it that I can find is on a very old map printed at a time when East Brixton was shown as being outside of London and in the County of Surrey.

I discovered that it was renamed Rathgar Road around 1903 and was little more than a narrow alley ‘sandwiched’ between two railway viaducts. These viaducts still exist in many areas of Brixton including Rathgar Road. They all seem to follow the same design of brick built arches, and if you look carefully you can just see one corner of an arch and a semaphore railway signal above the corner of the building in the picture.

So I guess that this was Lewis Road at the end of the Victorian era, and suspect that it was the site of some sort of unregulated and dodgy housing for itinerant workers and their families.

That’s probably my grandparents standing in the doorway just in front of the postman. Perhaps he had just delivered my Dad’s …

…. first birthday card ? .. 🙂

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 3 Comments »

A little empathy goes a long way.

Posted by Big John on March 10, 2016

A couple of days ago ‘she who must be obeyed’ had her second cataract operation and I have to say that the doctors, nurses and surgeons at the hospital were wonderful, showing kindness, sympathy and efficiency at all times, as were those involved in her recent unpleasant endoscopy procedure which resulted in good news after a worrying time.

However, I wish that I could say the same for the NHS administrative staff who left a lot to be desired.

I know facing the general public every day can be an unrewarding experience, but surely, if you work in a hospital you know that you are going to have to contend with the old, the sick, the frail, the confused and even the angry: so I don’t see how your day is improved by adopting a supercilious attitude, showing a lack of understanding, and being downright inefficient when it comes to routine tasks, such as booking appointments, giving directions, understanding written instructions, passing on information etc.

I don’t know about you, but if I was nervously sitting outside a doctor’s office awaiting an examination and tests that could bring devastating news, I wouldn’t want to listen to some giggling receptionist discussing her ‘holiday fun’ with her mates because she has nothing better to do.

OK, so I’m sure that there are dedicated hard working admin staff in the NHS who deserve a ‘thank you’ and a ‘pat on the back’. I’m sorry to say that I just can’t recall …

… encountering many ! 

Posted in family, rant | 2 Comments »

Risible royal rubbish.

Posted by Big John on March 5, 2016

Those of you who are fairly regular readers of this blog will know just how big a fan I am of ‘er Maj and her mob, so it will come as no surprise to know that I was keen to watch the Channel 5 TV series ‘Inside Buckingham Palace’ which was supposed to show the history of the place …

… “With the help of former Palace staff, royal confidantes and celebrities, ‘Inside Buckingham Palace’ reveals what life is really like behind its imposing walls, exploring the scandals, tragedies and triumphs that have taken place over the decades and made the place what it is today”…

Umm ! .. That sounds like a load of ‘old cobblers’ .. I thought .. and it was !

The title suggested, a fly-on-the-wall documentary about life inside  ‘Buck House’, but what we got was a potted history of royal gossip, tittle-tattle, speculation, codswallop and hearsay, half brought to life via interviews with some weird hangers on and the like and some very strange dramatizations which featured actors people who looked nothing like the ‘royals’ they represented. There must be thousands of photographs and miles of film footage available showing the British monarchs and their families since the time of Queen Victoria, so why these very silly reconstructions ? I know that King George VI was also Emperor of India, but the black haired young bloke playing him made me wonder if someone who had selected him for the part thought that meant the king had Indian ancestors.

I’ll give it a rest now, as you can read more about the programme .. HERE. .. but before I go, I’d just like to point out that Princess Margaret’s lover (is this them ?) was not a “palace servant”, but a highly decorated Group Captain in the RAF and ‘Equerry’ to the King …

… Not a bloody flunkey !

Posted in entertainment, humour, rant | 2 Comments »

Creative constipation !

Posted by Big John on March 3, 2016

I’ve been feeling a bit ‘under the weather’ for a few days, and have appreciated the comfort of my nice warm home, particularly as I looked out of the window at the freezing rain and sleet this morning. I had a hot shower, a light breakfast, poured myself a second cup of coffee, settled down in my favourite armchair, and thought … ‘I must get back to blogging later today’ …

… So, here I am sitting in front of my computer and waiting for inspiration … Nothing ! … Not a glimmer ! … How much would you like to bet that I feel it coming on …

… about 3am ! 

Posted in humour | 2 Comments »