BOTH OF US
Posted by Big John on December 22, 2015
Posted by Big John on December 4, 2015
It’s been some time since I delved into the old family photo album, so here’s part of a group photo of my father’s very large family. It was taken around 100 years ago …
… and shows my grandfather and five of my aunts and uncles.
Do you notice anything strange about the young lady sitting to the left of my granddad ? I never noticed it until recently, but her left leg appears to be missing !
Then I remembered that as a child I was fascinated by the long leather lace-up boots that she always wore, as the left one had a sole and heel several inches thick. In this photo she is hiding it from view as she was probably embarrassed by her handicap.
Her name was Harriet and she once worked as a seamstress. She never married, but spent much of her life living and travelling with a rather posh lady with a French name, who taught the piano and ran the local branch of the Women’s League of Health & Beauty. She was rather bossy, and I well remember my mother reluctantly dragging me along to the local school assembly hall to watch awful displays by women of all ages, shapes and sizes, prancing about in bare feet, with balls and hoops, whilst wearing short diaphanous tunics, as ‘Florence’ banged away at the piano.
The display was very much a ‘warts and all’ affair (sometimes literally) with little in the way of ‘health and beauty’ on show, but plenty of wobbly bits, pallid flesh, knock-knees, corns, bunions and more blue veins that a Stilton cheese.
Obviously my aunt played no part in these activities, apart from handing round some meagre refreshments (food rationing was still in force) and I have no idea if she enjoyed the spectacle: .. and .. as for me ?
Well, to this day I am still haunted by …
… the ‘horror’ of it all. … :-)
Posted by Big John on August 15, 2015
Please excuse me if I take another trip down ‘memory lane’, but it’s now more than ten years since I retired, and I often look back on my years of
hard work pissing about in the often exhilarating wacky world of sales and sales management (I’ve got a certificate to prove it !), and when I remember the companies who employed me and the people I’ve worked with; one place and time stands out in my memory … London in the mid-1970’s !
Yes, it was wide lapels, flared trousers, kipper ties and silly haircuts, and I was sales manager for a small up-market company with a head office and showroom located in a glass tower block in London’s ‘West End’. My office was a bit ‘Mad Men’ with smoked glass walls, fashionable black, chrome and leather furniture, and a well stocked drinks cabinet with a large copy of Lichtenstein’s ‘Whaam!‘ hanging above it.
force team line-up consisted of a diverse bunch which included a lapsed Jehovah’s Witness, an arty-farty designer, a nice but nutty Irishman, a couple of ‘Jack the Lads’ and a sexy ‘Sloane Ranger’. All very bright people, but like many, they had found their way into sales after failing to make a good living elsewhere.
Now, you have to understand that this was not a ‘foot in the door’ type of selling, but more of a ‘hard day at the restaurant or wine bar’ type of selling. Not exactly what you would be taught to handle on one of those hilarious sales courses (remember all those carbon paper salesmen?) where they played idiotic games and showed John Cleese training films.
Experience taught me that success in selling often came from being honest with your clients, having good contacts and ‘being in the right place at the right time’: and, although I can’t swear to it, I believe a large brown paper envelope often came in handy.
My boss was a character: an old style ‘wheeler dealer’ from an ‘East End’ Jewish family, “a real mensch” with a great sense of humour. If he attended a sales meeting you were sure to increase your knowledge of the Yiddish language and have a highly amusing time. He always had grand plans and sent me to the USA to check out the market …
(note the ‘flares’ and the lack of a smartphone)
Unfortunately, when I returned to London, other ‘grand plans’ had led him into financial trouble and the old firm was about to go ‘tits up’, so sadly I learned another Yiddish word …
… ‘Mechuleh’ … and moved on to ‘pastures new’ !
Posted by Big John on June 12, 2015
Yesterday was “she who must be obeyed’s” birthday. I won’t say how old she is, but she still thinks of me as her ‘toy boy’. Well, anyway, I like to think so.
So, I dragged the poor old dear down to the pub for a birthday lunch of fish and chips and chilled Pinot Grigio. How ‘cool’ is that ?
We arrived at the local hostelry after a short walk which left us a little breathless and brought on a few minor aches and pains. Nothing terrible, just a sign that old age has caught up with us and is letting us know it.
Now, I should say that weekday lunch times in this pub are a bit like an old farts’ function, as there are always a number of creaky old gits there who, like me, have seen better days, and yesterday was no exception; for when we were about half way through our meal an old couple, and when I say ‘old’ I mean bloody ancient, entered the restaurant at what can only be called a ‘lazy snails pace’, as the old girl, who must have shrunk to about four feet nothing tall, needed one of those walker thingies with wheels, which seemed to have a mind of it’s own, and the old boy, who towered over her, was hanging on to her with one hand, whilst waving his white cane with the other.
Although the weather was quite mild, she was dressed for an Alaskan winter and he was wearing light summer attire complete with sun hat.
How this wrinkly odd couple made it to their table, let alone the pub, I don’t know. It must have taken some effort. Perhaps they had ‘escaped’ from some nearby care home. Who knows ? .. All I know is that when I watched them quietly enjoying their lunch I realized that “you are only as old as you feel”, and although they didn’t look very ‘frisky’, perhaps inside they felt twenty something and that this was …
… their first date !
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 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 …
… and a photo of me on a visit to Hampton Court Palace taken around 1985 …
… I rest my (royal) case !
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 …
“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 …
… There it was on BBC TV, right behind my favourite weather girl, Rachel Mackley : and I even got …
… an ‘on-screen’ credit !
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