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 ‘nostalgia’ Category

“Cheers !”

Posted by Big John on October 3, 2018

I downed my first ‘pint’ in 1955 when I was sixteen and had just started my first job. Well, actually it was only a half pint of ‘bitter’ and it was handed to me by a workmate on a Friday evening, after a week working of pissing about in the office, and was at a regular weekly gathering in an old fashioned ‘spit and sawdust’ pub which was situated close to our place of employment. As I recall, I was not that keen on the taste at the time. I soon got over that !

I was reminded of this momentous occasion when reading about this load of old bollocks new research which has found .. “that the perfect time to enjoy a pint is 5.30pm on a Saturday – and ideally in the beer garden of a country pub, in the company of your partner, and with a bag of crisps (potato chips) on the side”…. Oh ! .. and that pint .. “should take 28 minutes to quaff”.

Now, as a once champion “quaffer” I have to say that I don’t know where these researchers found their subjects, as these days most of our surviving ‘country’ pubs (and the rest) seem to be in the hands of major breweries and the like, or have become ‘gastro pubs’. Which means that you mostly have a choice between loud music, giant TV screens, flashing slot machines and, worst of all, out of control screaming brats !  .. or .. a pub where the “bag of crisps” has been replaced by Avocado on Artisan Sourdough with Dill Butter, followed by, 28 day Matured Steak served on a bed of Fennel, with a Fricassee of ‘freshly picked’ vegetables and Rock Salted Parmentiere Potatoes. All served on a small plank of wood decorated with a sprig of Rosemary, a “drizzle” and a small dollop of Gawd knows what !

I remember the pubs of my youth as places where I used to meet with my mates for a game of snooker and a pint or two of ‘brown and mild’, a place to relax after work, or even as somewhere to enjoy a pint with your “partner” girlfriend.

These days, I rarely enter a pub, but all this nostalgia has made me wonder if there is a pub near here that still sells …

… “a pie and a pint” ?

 

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Posted in humour, nostalgia, rant | 3 Comments »

“Mad dogs and ….”

Posted by Big John on July 26, 2018

It’s hard to believe, but even those “Englishmen” who “go out in the midday sun” are beginning to complain about the present heat wave.

Today the temperature is over 90º where I live, and it’s going to get even hotter tomorrow !

I’ve crossed some pretty hot desserts in the western USA including Death Valley and have been to the west coast of Africa close to the edge of the Sahara, but I don’t recall feeling as uncomfortable as I do right now.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s a popular BBC TV show was the funny but not very ‘PC’ .. “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum” ..  Good title ! .. I echo their message !

One minor character in the series was a not very energetic ‘punkah wallah’. In this heat …

… I know how he felt !

Posted in humour, nature, nostalgia, travel | 5 Comments »

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 »

“Worlds Apart”

Posted by Big John on July 4, 2018

I don’t know about you, but the more that I look around, the more I feel that the world has gone completely ‘bonkers’, with all those … ‘everything offends me’ zealots .. ‘mixed up’ millennials  … the ‘snowflake’ students in their ‘safe spaces’ … the ‘cotton wool’ kids and their ‘helicopter parents’ …  all those ‘me too’ and ‘look at me’ celebs …  those TV ‘reality show’ morons, “like yer know like what I mean and like stuff” and those ‘scream your bloody head off’ audiences … the ubiquitous internet and smartphone addicts …and… the multitude of religious ‘nutters’ and “grief lite” mourners … It makes me wonder how they would have survived in the ‘real world’ I once occupied ?

As a child I lived in a place of death and destruction, although I was a little too young to understand much of what was happening. I played amongst the ruins of what had once been family homes. We often read today of how so many people are suffering from ‘stress’ and ‘anxiety’, but can you imagine the stress when taking shelter at night and not knowing if you would still be alive in the morning; or the anxiety of wondering if your loved ones in uniform would ever return ?

School in the 1940’s and 50’s was not exactly fun, but the discipline meant that ‘ADHD’ (and ‘Ritalin’) was unheard of, and “face the front” teaching of a variety of subjects, unlike today’s ‘dumbed-down’ system, provided most of us with a fairly sound education; although very few working class school leavers made it to university.

However, every healthy young man could look forward to spending two years in the military after they reached the age of eighteen: and, speaking of ‘health’, food rationing made sure that ‘obesity’ was an unknown condition.

I remember a more dignified world where good manners were appreciated and courtesy was expected. My father was a blue collar worker with a limited education and some very ‘rough and ready’ workmates, and yet, I never once heard him utter a swear word in all the years I knew him.

I’m going to leave it there just for now. Now where did I last see …

… that old photo album ? 

 

Posted in humour, nostalgia, political, rant, religion | 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 »

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 »

The granddad she never knew.

Posted by Big John on November 11, 2017

Some time ago I was talking with a cousin about our grandfather and his service during World War I, when she happened to mention that her ‘other’ grandfather had died during that terrible conflict and that she had his medals stored away in a drawer somewhere. We agreed that this was a pity and that I should ‘restore’ them as best I could, attach the original ribbons and mount them in a frame as I had done with my own collection of medals.

So, on this one day in the year when we remember all those who gave their lives in so many wars since that “Great War” I thought that it might be appropriate to show the result …

…His name was Henry and he served as a private in The Royal Fusiliers. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. The frame also contains his memorial plaque, better known as ‘the dead man’s penny’. Henry is buried at Beaulencourt in Picardy. He died in September 1918…

                                         …just two months before the war ended.

Posted in family, History, nostalgia | 3 Comments »

A Shenandoah Stopover.

Posted by Big John on August 19, 2017

Here is a photo of a statue of some American Civil War ‘hero’….

It was taken by me, when, back in the 1980’s my wife and I visited some friends in Pennsylvania and decided to take a trip further south, first visiting Gettysburg …

… before journeying on into …

… I only mention this as it now seems that some Americans wish to change history by removing or destroying similar statues of soldiers of the Confederacy. We have had this sort of protest about our colonial past here in the UK, and what this achieves ? … I have no idea !

Mostly what I recall from our trip through …

… that part of the U.S.A. were friendly people who seemed to show great respect for the memory of those who fought and died in that terrible conflict. There appeared to be very little commercialism relating to the Civil War. In fact it was hard to locate a souvenir of any kind, apart from the ubiquitous Confederate flag, which I believe has also ‘fallen into disrepute’.

My final picture is not very clear, but it shows part of a motel in which we stayed near Front Royal when visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was called ‘The Lee Jackson Motor Hotel’ and you can just about read that name on the restaurant building in the background (click on image).

Now it could just be that the motel was named after some local ‘good ‘ole boy’ named Lee Jackson, and not after ‘Robert E’ and old ‘Stonewall’, but I doubt it. Which makes me wonder …

… Is it still there ?

Posted in family, History, humour, nostalgia, political | 12 Comments »