Posted by Big John on February 11, 2017
Today is my 78th birthday and although I didn’t get my brains knocked out on my recent encounter with a Sainsbury’s ‘zombie’, as I thought might happen (see my last post). However, I could have been affected in some way, as one of my presents from my daughter was this …
Of course we are !
Who could possibly doubt it ?
She also gave me the T shirt, which I will always wear with pride. See ! …
….. There’s nothing weird about me !
Posted in family, humour | 5 Comments »
Posted by Big John on January 25, 2017
I see that there is a report out saying that Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was right when, in 1957, he said .. “You’ve never had it so good”. (What he actually said in a speech was .. “Let us be frank about it: most of our people have never had it so good”).
Well he may have got it right when he said that “Rule one in politics is never invade Afghanistan”, but I’m not so sure about his observations on the lives of ordinary working class people in this country, as the years after World War II were still tough times for many, and if not exactly ‘tough’ we lacked most of the basic comforts and ‘must have’ items which we take for granted today.
However, I was 18 years old at the time and enjoying life as a first generation teenager. I had ‘escaped’ from my hated school a couple of years before and, with few or no responsibilities, was working as a clerk in the head office of a large travel agent in London’s ‘West End’. It wasn’t the greatest or best paid job in the world, but it was sometimes fun and would do until I had to report for my two years of military service.
My memories of that year are a bit vague now, but what I do remember is that my somewhat junior hedonist’s lifestyle involved…
- Spending lots of time with my mates in local pubs, playing snooker and drinking pints of ‘brown and mild’.
- Hanging about in record shops, listening to the latest Rock ‘n’ Roll hits from America for free and, at the same time, checking out the young ladies in the next booth and wondering why they were wearing little white gloves.
- Posing with a rare and expensive pack of ‘Camels’ or ‘Lucky Strike’ by the juke box in some Soho coffee bar and trying to catch the eye of the blonde in the corner wearing that tight sweater, wide belt and all those layers of frilly petticoats.
- Eating in the first ‘Wimpey’ burger bars and such ‘exotic’ establishments as ‘The Golden Egg’. They were a ‘step up’ from the local ‘greasy spoon’ and fish and chip shop, but the food was far from ‘cordon bleu’.
- Searching the ‘men’s outfitters’ for the latest fashions, hoping that I could afford them and that those ‘Italian’ shoes wouldn’t make me limp for the rest of my life.
- Queuing outside the ‘posh’ Leicester Square cinemas to see the latest Hollywood epics which wouldn’t be screened at my local ‘flea pit’ for months.
I’ll stop there as I’m sure that you have now got the picture of just how exciting my life was back then; and speaking of pictures, here is one of me being followed by two Soviet spies in London’s famous Piccadilly …
… Look carefully (click on image). I think that you may see a girl wearing little white gloves also following me, it was taken in 1957… I can see a trace of a smile on my face …
… I guess I was happy !
Posted in family, humour, nostalgia, political | 4 Comments »
Posted by Big John on December 15, 2016
I can remember a time when the most exotic thing to appear on the Christmas dining table was the ‘brandy butter’ to accompany the Christmas pudding and mince pies; and the only thing needed to ‘spice up’ the ham sandwiches at our family gatherings on Christmas Eve was my mum’s ‘home pickled’ onions.
Now just about every festive dish has to be mucked about with by stuffing it full of ‘blow yer ‘ead orf’ spices or overpowering flavours from ingredients which, once, could only be found in the far flung corners of the British and Ottoman Empires or perhaps “down Mexico way”.
As much as I love most foreign food I don’t want my turkey stuffed with jalapenos, my parsnips curried, my ham boiled in coconut milk or my roast spuds coated in guacamole.
There is a saying that “Too many cooks spoil the broth”, but this is more of a case that ‘Too many TV chefs could …
… ruin your Christmas !’
Posted in family, humour, nostalgia, rant | 5 Comments »
Posted by Big John on November 17, 2016
Have you ever had one of those ‘foreign’ experiences that didn’t quite turn out as you expected ?
Well back in the 1980’s we decided that we would give the ‘Costas’ and the South of France a miss as our annual holiday destinations and venture to a country which, up until that time, had not been a major mass tourist destination. Greece and it’s islands were popular, but nearby Turkey did not seem to attract the usual ‘package tour’ crowd.
So, off we went to a land of friendly and polite people who played strange music …
Eat strange food, drank even stranger drinks …
.. and where some of the ‘locals’ and their means of transport seemed to have come from a bygone age …
Well, perhaps not as long ago as …
Now the nearest Greek island to where we were staying was Samos, and after visiting Ephesus, we wondered if it was possible to visit the island that had once been home to both Pythagoras and Aesop ?
We found out that it was possible, but not to expect a warm welcome, as the Greeks were not too pleased when they received visitors from Turkey, but if we insisted on going we could find a boat to take us moored at the quay, and there it was …
… Well, not exactly ! .. as a scruffy little man directed us to another part of the harbour, where we had one of those “Ooh, Shittt !” moments when we saw that we were about to cross the Aegean in one of these …
… and we soon discovered that we were in for …
… a bloody long trip !
Posted in family, humour, nostalgia, travel | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Big John on August 18, 2016
My mother left school at the age of thirteen in 1918 and after a brief period working in a draper’s shop she started work at the local laundry. It paid a few pence a week more than working behind a shop counter, but it was hard work in unhealthy and unpleasant conditions.
I only mention this because the other evening I watched, with interest, the movie “Suffragette“, a fairly mediocre historical drama that recalled the English Suffrage movement, in which Carey Mulligan played Maud, a Bethnal Green laundress.
The laundry scenes looked authentic and the character’s name was right for the period, as all my mum’s friends were ‘Mauds’ or ‘Adas’ or ‘Ethels’ and I’ve plenty of photos of my mother in those hats, but, as with so many period pieces these days, such as ITV’s “Mister Selfridge” most of the actors seem to struggle with the accent of a working-class Londoner.
Notice that I say ‘Londoner’ and not ‘Cockney’, for London accents do vary and ‘Cockney’ traditionally referred to someone “born within the sound of Bow Bells” which meant mostly the poorer parts of the East End and a small area of ‘Sarf Lundun’. Today it is generally, if wrongly, used to describe the dialect of all working-class Londoners.
Now I lived and worked in London for most of my life. In my youth my friends, neighbours and family were blue collar workers, but I can honestly say that I never heard anyone speak in the strange way most actors do when playing shop assistants, taxi drivers, postmen and, ‘Gawd and Dick Van Dyke forbid!’, chimney sweeps: for they seem to adopt what I can only describe as a weird slightly lisping ‘Estuary English’ crossed with an almost baby sounding ‘Mockney’.
I wonder if, when some of them reach Hollywood, they are any better at ‘Brooklyn’, ‘The Bronx’ or even …
… ‘Nu Joisey’ ?
Posted in entertainment, family, humour, nostalgia | 2 Comments »
Posted by Big John on July 8, 2016
.. 55 years ! …. That’s a bloody long time ! .. and today marks the anniversary of my marriage to ‘she who must be obeyed’.
Yes, I’ve been wearing this ‘ball and chain’ for more than half a century, and if you have never had such an experience, then you don’t know what …
… you have been missing !
Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 9 Comments »
Posted by Big John on July 1, 2016
Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the deadliest day in the history of the British Army, when around 20,000 British Empire soldiers lost their lives in just 24 hours.
Recent research shows that an estimated eleven million British people have an ancestor who fought at the Somme, and I am one of them.
My grandfather …
… was there !
I was born twenty years after World War I ended, and I knew my granddad as a kind and gentle man, who let me march around his kitchen wearing that same cartridge bandolier shown in the above photograph.
I wonder what his thoughts were, at that time when we were once more at war with Germany, as he watched that little boy …
… just playing soldiers ?
Posted in family, nostalgia | 4 Comments »
Posted by Big John on June 9, 2016
Have you ever heard of .. ‘Generation Snowflake’ ?
I must admit that I hadn’t until I read that Dame Fiona Reynolds, master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, believes that parents in Britain need to rethink their children’s experiences, as kids no longer have room to run around and play. It would seem that children are now three times more likely to be injured because they have fallen out of bed rather than fallen out of a tree, and are currently growing up shielded from the harsher realities of life, which probably means that they are growing into a generation of mollycoddled wimps who need their own ‘safe space’ in an increasingly ‘politically correct’ country.
Now, the so-called ‘cotton wool’ kids have been around for quite some time, In fact, I commented on them at the end of this post of March 2007 after describing my own experiences in a far from ‘safe space’…
… But it sure was fun !
Posted in family, humour, nostalgia, rant | 2 Comments »