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 ‘humour’ Category

Emblems of Empire.

Posted by Big John on March 28, 2017

As you may recall, I have a great interest in the Victorian era, and in particular the lives of the military ‘rank and file’. Some of these soldiers’ and sailors’ histories I have researched after acquiring their ‘named’ medals over a number of years …

(click on image for a better view)

… I now have medals from the early days of Queen Victoria’s reign, such as The China War Medal of 1839-1842 (The Opium War) and The Cabul Medal (same place, different spelling) of 1842 awarded to a young Scottish corporal who served in the 1st Anglo-Afghan War (we never learn) and was discharged “in consequence of a gunshot wound to his right forearm”. He returned safely to Scotland and married his sweetheart (say Ahh!).

The latest medal I have, The Queen’s South Africa Medal, is from the time of Victoria’s death and belonged to a rather ‘posh’ young volunteer in The Imperial Yeomanry who served in The Boer War. He lived until 1966 and died at the age of 83.

Obviously I could write pages of this stuff, but I suspect that some most of you are already yawning, so I will restrict myself to saying that I have medals awarded for campaigns in Afghanistan, China, Abyssinia, Egypt, Southern Africa, The Crimea, Canada, Syria, The Sudan and India (including those issued by ‘The Honourable East India Company’).

Most of these medals were issued by the British Government and a few by The Ottoman Empire, and were awarded to British and Indian troops, from drummer boys to lancers; and one medal stands out from the rest, for it is The Queen’s Sudan Medal (1896-1898) and the details impressed around the edge are in Arabic, as it was presented to a Sudanese Infantryman, serving in The Khedive of Egypt’s army.

Now comes the question, for although most British soldiers were happy to wear their Ottoman medals with their Islamic symbols and Arabic script. How would a black Muslim, with little or no knowledge of Britain or it’s Empire, feel about wearing a medal that must have seemed very strange to him, as Islam discourages the depiction of the human form, and both the obverse and reverse faces of this medal shows the figures of two …

sudan medal 

…  women ?

 

Posted in History, humour, nostalgia, religion | Leave a Comment »

He may look like Bill Sikes, but Dickens it ain’t !

Posted by Big John on February 18, 2017

As you may know from some of my earlier posts I do enjoy a good historical costume drama, and so I have been watching the latest offering on BBC TV .. “Taboo” .. although I’m not sure that ‘enjoy’ is the right word to use when referring to this mysterious, dark, brutal and somewhat historically inaccurate tale.

The story is all about some scruffy bloke with a bad haircut returning to England after spending years in Africa, and getting into a bloody dispute with The Honourable East India Company over the ownership of a piece of land off the west coast of North America referred to as “Nootka Sound”, although how a body of water can be described as ‘land’ beats me.

I’ll skip a lot of the plot other than to say that it’s set in 1814 when England is nearing the end of a war with America, with, according to this story, both countries seeking control of Nootka Sound Island, and the East India Company being far from “Honourable” also wanting to grab it for themselves … ‘er ? .. Something to do with .. “all the tea in China”. It’s worth noting that, at this time, they (HIEC) were more powerful than most nations, having a huge private army and navy.

Of course, as you would expect these days, there’s lots of swearing, ‘rumpy-pumpy’ (including incest), graphic violence, mystical mumbo-jumbo and bloody tattoos galore !

So, if you like your historical fiction grim, your sets gloomy, your hero leading character mean and morose, and you can cope with the rather muddled plot. Give it a try and stick with it. You never know…

… There could be a happy ending !

Posted in entertainment, humour | 2 Comments »

“At my age flowers scare me.” … George Burns

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 …

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 Of course we are !

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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 »

Definitely a ‘wrong number’ !

Posted by Big John on February 9, 2017

The other evening I watched a movie on ‘Sky’ based on a book by Stephen King. It was called ‘Cell’ and was a story all about people being turned into ‘zombie-like’ creatures after answering a call on their smartphones. So as I see dozens of such people walking our streets every day and they bump into me on a regular basis, I thought that this film could be based on ‘true life’.

I was wrong ! .. It was the biggest load of crap I have seen in a long time, and the plot (if you could call it a ‘plot’) involved a small number of survivors being chased around the New England countryside by mobs of rabid killers who have had their brains re-programmed by an electronic signal broadcast across mobile phone networks. Apparently these murderous “phoners” were part of some evil plot to see the world descend into apocalyptic madness.

At this point I have to give up on trying to explain anything else about this dreadful drama as it would require my own old brain to be re-programmed before I could begin to understand what the bloody hell was going on !

Perhaps the next time I visit my local Sainsbury’s I’ll ask one of those resident ‘zombies’ who wander the aisles, to enlighten me with regard to the baffling ending of this load of old codswallop. I just hope that she it doesn’t try to beat my brains out …

… with a can of baked beans !

Posted in entertainment, humour, rant | 6 Comments »

Duck ! .. ? .. Well it is ‘The Donald’.

Posted by Big John on February 4, 2017


For the moment I will reserve my judgment on Donald Trump as it’s still early days in his presidency and it could take some time before the media (at least on this side of the Atlantic) gives an accurate account of what the silent majority of ordinary American people make of him, and stop concentrating on our ‘special relationship’, the bloody ‘state visit’ and the protestations of all the ‘celebs’, ‘luvvies’, political pundits and those US voters who are still ‘in shock’ over how democracy works.

However, I must say, that although there is much about the new resident of the White House that I find distasteful and somewhat unnerving, he does score “Bigly” with me for not being the usual slippery, self-serving career politician and being so stinking rich that he won’t need to reach under the table for those brown paper envelopes.

Anyway, we (Yes ! I do mean ‘we’) are stuck with him, and to misquote the late Bette Davis in the movie ‘All About Eve’, all I can say at this point is …

… “Fasten your seatbelts, its going to be a bumpy ride” !

Posted in humour, political, rant | 4 Comments »

1957 … a happy year ?

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  …

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… 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 »

‘Sun Seekers’.

Posted by Big John on January 20, 2017

The weather has been so cold lately that my old brain has developed a case of ‘Below Zero Blogger’s Block’, so until my grey matter stops shivering, my wit warms up and some inspirational thoughts thaw out, here are a few pictures taken in my garden this morning, as the sun melted away the night’s frost …

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“Blimey ! That was a cold night”

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“Real ‘brass monkeys’ weather”.

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“Never mind, it’s the mating season

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“She doesn’t look too interested”.

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“I think I’ll take a nap before we get to bonking in the bushes”.

What do you mean .. “In your dreams” ?

Posted in humour | 4 Comments »

“Trigger Warnings” ! … but no bullets.

Posted by Big John on January 7, 2017

I see that ‘Generation Snowflake’ is in the news again because theology students at the University of Glasgow are receiving advanced warnings that they might be upset by seeing distressing images while studying the Crucifixion of Jesus, so that they can avoid this harrowing experience by leaving lectures if they are unable to cope with reality outside of their ‘ivory tower’ which provides them with ‘safe spaces’ where they also need never fear someone from the real world offending them in any way or not using their ‘preferred gender’ title when addressing them.

How on earth did previous generations of 18 and 20 year olds cope with the ‘reality’ of their lives ?

In my case, I, and many thousands of others of the same age, had to spend two years in the armed forces and I can’t imagine our sergeants and corporals saying ..

“Fall out all those who want to be excused bayonet practice as it makes them feel a bit queasy” .. or .. “Please don’t cry if I call you a nasty name or be offended if I appear to doubt that you are ‘equipped’ as a man”.

Now I’m pretty sure that today’s students are not all ‘precious little souls’ and my experience of military life took place nearly 60 years ago. However, although the world of the young has changed almost beyond recognition, one thing remains somewhat the same, for I did have my own ‘space’ to which I could retire, although it wasn’t exactly ‘safe’ as it was called a bunk and was situated in a barrack room …

… alongside 23 others ! 

Posted in humour, nostalgia, rant, religion | 3 Comments »