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 50 years of happy marriage.
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Archive for the ‘family’ Category

A day to remember… Well, almost !

Posted by Big John on May 8, 2015

Today is the 70th anniversary of ‘VE Day’ (Victory in Europe) and I can just about remember it.

I was six years old and had lived all of my young life in war torn London, so the wail of air raid warning sirens, the boom of anti-aircraft guns, the drone of German V1 missiles and the question “Is it one of ours ?” whenever the sound of an aircraft engine was heard overhead, where all part of everyday life for me; although I was a little too young to experience the fear that slightly older children must have felt as I sat on my mother’s lap under the stairs in our basement and waited for the ‘all clear’ to sound.

Now all that had ended, and in our bomb damaged street that evening, there was a large bonfire on the ruins where once there had been houses; and some Royal Navy sailors were letting off flares and rockets from the top of the burnt out shell of the house across the road. Flags were flying from lamp posts and were hanging out of windows. Tatty home-made bunting was strung from house to house. That is, of course, if there were still houses to hang it from.

I suppose there must have been a street party, but I don’t remember it. I do remember seeing some people dancing in the middle of the road in what, in those days, was referred to as ‘a good old knees up': and I’m pretty sure that victory was being toasted in hard to come by booze.

So I was there on that momentous day in history, but, as a little kid, all the fuss didn’t mean much to me at the time; and now I can remember very little of those events. Perhaps my memories have faded with time, or perhaps, as little kids do, I just climbed on to my mum’s lap …

… and fell asleep.

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 4 Comments »

By my troth, t’was so !

Posted by Big John on January 24, 2015

I enjoyed watching the first episode of ‘Wolf Hall‘ on BBC TV, although I think that I look more like Henry VIII than Damian Lewis; and perhaps there is a good reason for this, as my great-great grandfather was a Sussex farmer who, in 1839, married ‘above his station’, when he wed a lady who was a descendant of Lady Anne Hastings (née Stafford), Countess of Huntingdon, who had an affair with King Henry VIII in 1510, and who was probably his mistress for some time after that date, and certainly until 1513, as was proved by the King’s generosity towards her.

Anne had a son, Francis, 2nd Earl of Huntingdon, who was born in 1514, and although there is no documentary proof that Francis Hastings was naughty old King Henry’s illegitimate son, it would be a pretty good bet that he was the result of some royal ‘rumpy-pumpy’, and that one slender branch of my family tree connects me to the ‘Merry Monarch’ himself via Francis’s daughter, Frances Ann Hastings !

Below is a photo of that farmer and his ‘lady’s son, one of my great-uncles, who was born in 1841 when his mother’s maiden name was added to his surname …

Jesse 001 (244x390) (244x390)

… and a photo of me on a visit to Hampton Court Palace taken around 1985 …

henry VIII 001

 … I rest my (royal) case !

Posted in family, humour | 1 Comment »

Another moment of fame !

Posted by Big John on January 7, 2015

Yesterday afternoon ‘she who must be obeyed’ summoned me to the kitchen to view the sunset, which indeed, was quite spectacular, so I took a picture …

Tankerton sunset (800x549)

“Why don’t you send it to the TV weather people” she suggested. “They may show it on tonight’s weather report”.

So I did, and two hours later …

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… There it was on BBC TV, right behind my favourite weather girl, Rachel Mackley : and I even got …

… an ‘on-screen’ credit !

Posted in family, humour | 4 Comments »

… and now ! …

Posted by Big John on December 31, 2014

… It’s …

HAPPY NEW YEAR

Well not quite, as I feel like shi .. I have flu: but how can this be ? .. I had my flu jab in October after taking advice from the NHS, like the good little old fart that I am; but it didn’t bloody work !

Oh, well ! … Back to the armchair, the welcoming fire, the paracetamol and a nice cup of

… a good stiff drink !

ALL THE BEST FOR 2015

Posted in family, humour, rant | 2 Comments »

It’s that time of year again !

Posted by Big John on December 23, 2014

WHATEVER YOU ARE CELEBRATING

HAVE A GREAT TIME

christmas comp

MERRY CHRISTMAS

TO YOU ALL

 “Peace on Earth and goodwill to all men”

Now there’s a thought !

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 5 Comments »

“Don’t drop the ‘baby Jesus’ !”

Posted by Big John on December 7, 2014

According to a recent survey only a third of schools now stage traditional nativity plays at Christmas, complete with Mary, Joseph, shepherds and wise men. Others perform modern alternatives without religious references. Some include space-men, fairies, and even Elvis !

Now it may seem strange that this old atheist, who welcomes the latest news that Britain is fast becoming a more secular society, is saddened by the demise of that annual event when small children appeared ‘on stage’ dressed in bed sheets, towels and sandals, forgot their ‘lines’, shuffled about, pushed each other, fell over, burst into tears and waved to their mums and dads in the audience; but to me, all those years ago, it was a tradition to be enjoyed along with Santa Claus and old time pantomimes.

Of course, for those parents whose kids still take part in such performances, they no longer have to ‘raid’ the linen cupboard for their ‘Judean’ robes thanks to supermarkets and online retailers offering cheap, mass-produced nativity costumes.

… Wouldn’t you know it ?

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia, religion | 1 Comment »

The spirit of Christmas past. (Well almost !)

Posted by Big John on November 18, 2014

I know that this must sound strange to many people, but I can remember when Christmas started  … at Christmas ! .. Not, as I recently read  … “during August” !

When I was a young child nothing much happened in our house until Christmas Eve apart from my dad ‘dispatching’ one of our chickens in the back yard and hanging it in the coal cellar (Yes, that’s where the meat was kept). Later my mum would pluck it and prepare it for Christmas dinner. To most people, in those days, ‘Turkey’ meant a place where they made strange smelling cigarettes.

On Christmas Eve my dad would bring home a small fir tree of some kind, which had probably been growing alongside the railway track where he had been working that day. He would also have with him a sack containing a limited assortment of fruit and nuts. No one ever asked where they came from, as wartime rationing (which continued for long after WWII) meant that an orange was something to be marvelled at: and I well remember that the first time I saw a banana I thought it was some sort of sausage.

From inside his overcoat pocket he would produce a bottle of Scotch whisky, which would have recently been ‘under the counter’ of the local off-licence (liquor store), which was run by one of his mates. He would return to the store later to pick up a crate of ‘Guinness’ and a bottle of ‘Tizer’ for me. Wine was far too ‘posh’ and was limited to sherry or port if any could be found.

My task was to make the paper chains, which I did with my mum’s help. She cut up the coloured paper and I glued the strips together with home-made paste, which didn’t always stick. Holly would be hung all over the place: and I suspect that this came from the same place as the little fir tree, which would soon be decorated with a few ‘antique’ glass baubles and some tatty tinsel.

My grandmother lived in the same street as us, and was a bit like a fairy godmother when Christmas came around, for not only did she make Christmas puddings for all the family, but somehow, managed to come up with a few extra goodies, mostly supplied by a local butcher (we never found out how she blackmailed him), and various friendly ‘black-market’ contacts. A few items had been ‘liberated’ by dodgy members of our gallant allies, the United States Army.

On Christmas Eve I would hang up a pair of my dad’s long woollen socks, snuggle down under the blankets, watch the shadows on the wall made by a glowing fire and wish: but I never did get …

…  that bloody train set !

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 5 Comments »

Days with my Dad.

Posted by Big John on September 25, 2014

One of my greatest pleasures, when I was a young child, in the years following the end of World War II, was when my father would take me, at weekends, on trips to various parts of London.

Of course at times we would go and play in the local park, but, in those days young children tended to roam and run free in their own neighbourhoods, so I could visit the park (and beyond !) any time I felt like it: but those trips with my dad were something special; although I didn’t realize it at the time.

My dad was a railway worker, and I was always amazed just how well known he was, for as d and j 48 001we travelled on, what was then the Southern Railway, he was always greeted with a .. “Hello Jack !” .. and .. “Is that your boy ?” .. by uniformed railway staff everywhere, and as no ticket inspector ever asked to see his ticket, or the one I didn’t have, I imagined that he must be someone of importance. In fact, he was just a humble carpenter, but of course, in those days, like many ‘industrial’ workers, railwaymen were a fairly close-knit bunch.

Our sightseeing trips often included other sorts of ‘sites’, for London was still showing the devastating effects of the Luftwaffe’s visits and Hitler’s V1 and V2 missiles. However this did not stop us from strolling along The Mall or Regent Street and visiting the Tower of London and Saint Paul’s Cathedral. London was a very different place then, and in particular ‘The City’, for that one square mile and the nearby docks of the ‘Pool of London’ had been very badly damaged during ‘The Blitz’, but there were still alleyways to explore and the strangely beautiful ruins of churches designed by Sir Christopher Wren to marvel at.

It seems strange now that my dad knew so much about London and it’s history, for he had only a limited education, having left school at the age of thirteen. However, he had spent a good deal of time repairing bomb damage done to London’s railway stations and bridges during the war, so I guess that he must have picked up some knowledge along the way.

I can well remember a day when we found ourselves in one of London’s recently reopened art galleries. It was full of huge rooms; which, in turn, were full of huge paintings, depicting huge ladies, showing huge amounts of naked flesh ! It was all very puzzling to a young lad still in short pants, and I can still see the amused expression on my dad’s face as he saw me wondering why none of them had any naughty bits.

When my daughter was young I used to take her on similar trips, only this time it was by car. We would watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and feed the ducks in Saint James’ Park. Her favourite treat was always a visit to the fun fair in Battersea Park, but I believe that the biggest treat for both of us was that …

… her Grandad came too !  

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 3 Comments »

 
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