bigjohn

“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.

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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 56 years of happy marriage.

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Archive for the ‘History’ Category

I told you so !

Posted by Big John on December 11, 2018

In my post of 13th June 2017, I referred to Mrs. May as .. “one of the weakest prime ministers ever” … and one …  “who is about to start Brexit negotiations with the EU. Something which she wasn’t in favour of in the first place”  .. I then asked the question .. “What could possibly go wrong ?”

Well … Now we know !  … Chaos ! … with a capital ‘K’, brought about by “that bunch of self-serving hypocritical slippery chancers” at Westminster and a prime minister who, behind the scenes, was as keen to do the best deal for the British people as George Armstrong Custer was to make peace at…

… ‘The Little Big Horn’ !

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Posted in History, humour, political, rant | 1 Comment »

“You pays yer money …”

Posted by Big John on November 14, 2018

I don’t often review or comment on movies in this blog, but I couldn’t resist doing so when it came to two films which I recently watched possibly ‘for the wrong reasons’.

One I watched just because I wanted to see what all the apparent ‘hype’ was about, and the other because I am always interested in the stories of ‘larger than life’ historical figures.

When I sat down to watch “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri” my thumb was already hovering over the ‘off’ button as I am not a fan of “bitter black comedies” or mumbling ‘redneck’ characters: but luckily, I stuck with it and, I must say, that I thoroughly enjoyed the strong performances and equally well-developed characters; and despite all the swearing and violence, this rates as one of the best films that I have seen in a long time: and one that deserves it’s huge critical and box-office success.

How I wish that I could say the same for “Darkest Hour” with it’s, what seemed to me, ‘comic-book’ depictions of early wartime London, The House of Commons, Dunkirk, Churchill’s War Rooms etc.

The ‘clunky’ script had a ridiculous invented scene on the London ‘Tube’ (subway) in which Churchill is inspired by fellow passengers to fight on, rather than sue for peace. Of course, these passengers are of the “Cor blimey Guvner!” .. ‘salt of the earth’ .. ‘cloth cap class’: and most improbable of all; a seldom seen at that time, black geezer travelling on the ‘Underground’ just happened to be sitting near Churchill and could quote Horatius’s famous speech from Macaulay’s “Lays of Ancient Rome”.

Gary Oldman received critical acclaim for his portrayal of Winston Churchill, although I’ve seen better. However, I thought Kristin Scott Thomas was pretty good as Clemmie, and Ben Mendelsohn was a believable King George VI.

At one point in this load of old codswallop Churchill is making a ‘phone call to the USA asking the President for assistance. I thought that he would have had more success calling …

… Batman and Robin !

 

Posted in entertainment, History, humour | 2 Comments »

100 years since the guns fell silent.

Posted by Big John on November 9, 2018

The young lady on the right in this photo is my mother …

… and some years ago, in a previous post, I wondered who her sad looking companion was: and now I’m pretty certain that I know. She was my mother’s cousin Rosie, who’s father Bill had been killed on 8th May 1915 at the Second Battle of Ypres where his unit saw action in a battle which resulted in over 100,000 casualties. Like my own grandfather, Bill had served with the Royal Field Artillery and was one of the first soldiers to fight in France.

1918 – 2018

Posted in family, History | 1 Comment »

A special week.

Posted by Big John on July 11, 2018

This week I have been able to celebrate two anniversaries. One is due to the fact that I have been married for 57 years: and the other is that the Royal Air Force was founded 100 years ago.

Is there a connection ? … There sure is ! .. For it was during my two years service in the RAF that I met my future wife, which turned out to be the luckiest day of my life.

I suppose that I was lucky after being conscripted into the RAF as I became a radar operator in ground controlled air defence, so seeing the one hundred aircraft flypast on TV reminded me that during my time in the service I never flew in or even saw a single aircraft on the ground.

However, I did get to go to sea on …

… one of these !

Posted in family, History, humour, nostalgia | 4 Comments »

Much more than a musical memory.

Posted by Big John on June 5, 2018

The other evening I watched an interesting and evocative BBC documentary about the Everly Brothers (‘Harmonies from Heaven’).

It reminded me of the late 1950’s and, in particular, of one miserable rainy night on the platform of a railway station where I waited with a group of other young airmen for the last train, which would take us back to our RAF station after attending some lucky national serviceman’s ‘de-mob’ party.

We were chatting and joking amongst ourselves when we suddenly heard the sound of someone singing further along the platform. In fact, it was two of our fellow conscripts who had only recently been posted to our camp after returning from duty at the nuclear test site on Christmas Island. On the way home they had a few days leave in the USA and had picked up a number of records, among which were the latest Everly Brothers’ hits.

Obviously we had all had more than a “sniff of the barmaid’s apron”, and so these two lads singing may have sounded better than it actually was, but it silenced our chatter.

OK, so they weren’t exactly Don and Phil, and it wasn’t quite one of those “Harmonies from Heaven”, but it did have a strangely ‘haunting’ quality about it as it echoed around that gloomy station.

That was 60 years ago and I’m still here: but I wonder if the same can be said of those two young airmen who had spent a year or more on a Pacific island watching …

These clouds ?

Posted in History, nostalgia | 4 Comments »

“Othello” it ain’t !

Posted by Big John on March 14, 2018

I’m not quite sure why Sir Vince Cable’s latest speech has received so much publicity, for I doubt if  most people in this country are seriously interested in this silly old sod’s opinions on anything: but to brand all the old farts who voted for ‘brexit’ as racists who want to recreate a world where, amongst other things, “faces were white” is disgraceful !

However, I must admit that, in general, I couldn’t care less about what colour someone’s face is, but I am beginning to wonder why so many non-white faces now fill my TV screen ?

I know that we have all got used to seeing those many TV ads showing the “dual heritage” family, and the TV News ‘man in the street’ .. Oops ! Sorry, ‘person in the street’ interviews with one white, one black, one brown interviewee, and almost certainly one wearing a hijab: but why do TV dramas have so many black characters when they are set in localities in this country where, in reality, very few people (if any) from ethnic minorities would be living or working ?

Now BBC TV ..’PC’BC TV’s latest ‘swords and sandals’ epic series .. “Troy: Fall of a City” .. brings us, not only some very dark scenes, but also a number of very dark skinned characters. … Take a look !

OK … The ancient Greeks, including Homer, probably knew something of black Africans, and Memnon’s home was thought to be in the ‘East’, perhaps in ancient Persia. As a consequence, he was thought to have a darker skin colour than the Greeks themselves, but …he definitely was not black ! .. Also it is just ridiculous to show the gods and heroes of ancient Greek mythology and history as African !

So why do it ? … I can take a guess … but, please excuse me if I just say that …

…  “It’s all Greek to me” !

 

Posted in entertainment, History, humour, rant | 2 Comments »

Barmy ‘Brittania’ !

Posted by Big John on February 8, 2018

As you may recall from my previous posts I have always been a fan of ‘swords and sandals’ movies and I also enjoyed all those old ‘bathrobe’ epics way back in the 50’s and 60’s, despite the fact that most of them were complete rubbish when it came to historical facts, featured some really ‘bum’ actors and always had ‘a cast of thousands’ wearing ridiculous costumes and waving rubber swords at each other.

Now we have historical TV mini-series which I also enjoy, although sometimes for the wrong reasons. So, when I saw that there was a new series on Sky Atlantic about the second Roman invasion of Britain I thought I would give it a try.

At first I was impressed, as the depiction of Roman military life appeared to be pretty accurate with Aulus Plautius and his legionaries more or less properly equipped and ‘looking the part’.

Then ..  ‘Enter the Celts’ .. all tattoos, torques and tousled tresses, and the Druids .. all demonic, drugged and dirty.

I’m not sure if the Celts of the Cantii tribe resembled those in this drama, but, I doubt if the Druids, who in Celtic society were high class priests, political advisors, arbitrators, teachers and healers, would have resembled the ‘living dead’ from a trashy Zombie movie !

As you would expect there is plenty of blood, torture, severed heads and a man with a severed … Umm!.. let’s not go there. Let us just say that his wedding night didn’t turn out as he expected. Which is rather as I feel after looking forward to enjoying an ‘epic’ series about Roman Britain, instead of an incomprehensible mess of a fantasy drama about a mysterious land, women warriors, sadistic sorcerers and a mucky maiden following a wacky wanderer.

Julius Caesar’s previous invasion of Britain failed and he buggered off back to Gaul. I wonder, could it be true, that he reported to Rome that it was “a crazy little island and …

…  a seriously weird place” !

 

Posted in entertainment, History, humour, nostalgia | 1 Comment »

‘Fast forward’ 200 years !

Posted by Big John on January 21, 2018

Recently I acquired a fairly rare medal to add to my collection. It is a Military General Service Medal which was awarded to a cavalryman who saw action during the Peninsular War against Napoleon and later at the Battle of Waterloo.

This soldier was born around 1790, joined the army in 1812 and served for 15 years. He was discharged with the rank of corporal, with a small pension, and his regiment paid for him and his wife to be transported back to the town where he had enlisted.

He was lucky ! … Unlike many thousands of soldiers and sailors who, after Napoleon’s surrender were almost immediately discharged into a life of abject poverty, with many veterans selling or pawning their solid silver Waterloo Medals, the first such award issued to all ranks of the British Army.

Now, it’s hard to believe, and estimates vary, but reports indicate that, today, there could be as many as 13,000 British veterans living and dying on our streets, many with serious mental health issues !

A national disgrace ?  … Most certainly ! .. Still, never mind, for it appears that in Windsor, two in every ten rough sleepers are ex-soldiers. Just the place to be for that very expensive …

…  royal wedding !

Posted in History, rant | 1 Comment »