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

“Smile ? .. I’ll think about it”.

Posted by Big John on May 14, 2016

During a clear out of years of accumulated household rubbish I came across this rather tattered picture …

IMG_0002 (664x800)

… Could it be an long lost ‘old master’ ? … No, it’s not even an old ‘mister’. In fact, it’s an old ‘missus’.

Yes, it’s a hand coloured photograph of ‘she who must be obeyed’ taken during the 1930’s. Doesn’t she look cute ? …

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… Even if she does look as if she is about to tell the photographer to …

… “Get a bloody move on !”

 

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 5 Comments »

‘Catch Up TV’ … why bother ?

Posted by Big John on May 5, 2016

I recently invested in a new ‘all singing and dancing’ Sky+HD satellite TV system, and I am now wondering .. Why ? .. for after scanning through it’s TV guide, I can find very little worth watching apart from one or two US crime series, such as ‘Blue Bloods’ (‘she who must be obeyed’ fancies Tom Selleck) and a few interesting documentaries on the ‘History Channel’ and ‘PBS America’.

Now I know that I have ranted about this before, but ‘Trash TV’ is getting beyond a joke, with an endless parade of blubbing bakers, crying cooks, distraught dancers and assorted ‘wannabes’ taking up many hours of ‘prime time’ TV. Old style game shows for the gormless seem to be back in a big way, along with lots of ‘celeb’ chat show crap for cretins.

Decent drama is hard to find and comes around about once a week if you are lucky, but don’t expect the actors to keep their clothes on, even one of my favourites, the Simla ‘soap’ better known as ‘Indian Summers’ has degenerated into more of a story of ‘rumpy-pumpy’ during the ‘Raj’ than a serious portrayal of the last days of British rule in India.

Still, it’s not all bad news. ‘Game of Thrones’ is back, so the old brainbox gets a workout, as I try to stay with the plot (is there one ?) and tell a Lannister from a Targaryan; and tonight will see me sitting in front of my TV wearing my flat cap, with a glass of stout in hand as I eagerly await the return of those 1920’s haircuts and the  bloody tale of  the …

… ‘Peaky Blinders’ !

Posted in entertainment, family, humour, rant | 8 Comments »

“Hello ! .. Are you still there ? “

Posted by Big John on April 28, 2016

Today I had a long telephone conversation with my American cousin who lives in Upstate New York, which still seems strange to me, for I can remember a time, not so long ago, when to speak to someone on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean you would have to book the call via an international operator and wait, possibly for hours, for them to call you back after they had made the connection. It cost ‘a fortune’, the line was never very clear, and you would probably be ‘cut off’ in mid-conversation.

Now it’s as easy as calling your local Chinese ‘take-away’. If you had told me fifty years ago that I would be able to ’email’ .. ‘text’ .. ‘fax’ .. and .. ‘phone’ to the USA in an instant, I would never have believed you. Mind you, if you had told me that some Chinese bloke would be cooking sweet and sour pork just up the road …

… I wouldn’t have believed that either ! 

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 4 Comments »

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 …

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… 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’ …

NO IT ISN’T !

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 …

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… 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’ …

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

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… 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 »

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 …

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… 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 …

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…  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 »

A birthday burger.

Posted by Big John on February 11, 2016

Today is my 77th birthday, and as usual the ‘old trouble and strife’ insisted on dragging me down to the pub for a birthday lunch, or perhaps I should say that it was more like we leaned on each other as we limped along towards the local hostelry.

So what did I select for my lunch ? .. steak ? .. fish ? .. pasta ? .. curry ? .. chicken ? .. or .. one of those giant steaming platters of ‘Gawd’ knows what ?

No! .. I chose a ‘once a year’ .. cheese and bacon burger which came with all those ‘extras’ which I did not order. Most enjoyable !

So now I’m looking forward to this evening, when the menu might be just a little more…

… ‘Cordon Bleu’ :-)

posted via a BT wi-fi ‘Hot Spot’

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 5 Comments »

 
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