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 ‘nostalgia’ Category

Bullet or Baton ?

Posted by Big John on June 8, 2017

When I was young it was common to see policemen ‘on their beat’ patrolling the bobby (239x398)streets. They were usually impressive figures in their helmets, smart high collared uniforms, blue and white striped armlets and silver whistle chains. Their only means of defence was a short wooden truncheon which was concealed in a side pocket of their trousers.

Today’s coppers look very different, and although some still wear the traditional helmets, most are dressed in ‘Hi-Viz’ clothing, stab vests, polo shirts, even baseball caps and the vast majority still rely on a similar ‘weapon’ for self defence , as did those very brave officers who were the first to tackle the three terrorists in the recent London Bridge atrocity.

Now my question is … Is it time to arm all British police officers ? .. for if those officers who first confronted the fanatics had carried side-arms and used them, it is possible that there would have been far fewer casualties including the officers themselves.

The days of the ‘beat bobby’ are long gone. We now have ‘robocops‘ and armed response units and, as far as I know, members of the public do not feel threatened by them.

It has been said in the past that our police officers do not want to carry guns. In view of recent events and future threats, I wonder how many …

…  still feel that way ?

Posted in History, nostalgia, political | 6 Comments »

“Thanks for the Memory”.

Posted by Big John on May 30, 2017

At the age of 78 memories fade, and it is hard to believe that my earliest memory is of sitting up in my pram on a rainy day and watching the raindrops splashing on the waterproof fabric covering my legs. I guess that I must have been about one year old at the time.

I have clear memories of my young days during World War II, of aircraft engines, searchlights in the sky, gunfire and sheltering with my mother. I can remember the troop trains that steamed passed our house around the time of ‘D Day’.

My first day at school is as clear to me now as it was then, as are the names of most of my young friends and the games we played in the street.

My ‘world’ was a very small one back then, but it was soon to expand into employment, military service, marriage and parenthood. I’ve had a good life. I have been bloody lucky ! .. I have many happy memories; and the old brainbox is still functioning, if a little slowly, when I try to recall some event or other: which is more than can be said for the confused, but smiling, ‘old dear’ I met this morning, who couldn’t remember …

… where she had parked her car ! 

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia | 4 Comments »

The pedaller from the Palace.

Posted by Big John on May 11, 2017

When writing my recent post about ‘Phil the Greek’ I was reminded of an amusing incident back in the early 1960’s when I was working in the sales department of Art Metal Inc. which, at that time, was the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world. The company’s London office was situated in Buckingham Palace Road about half a mile or so from ‘Buck House’ itself.

One day I was sitting at my desk when the ‘phone rang and the switchboard operator asked me if I could take a call from “the palace”. I smiled to myself and said .. “OK, put them through” .. and was about to give some prankster an earful, when a very posh voice said something like ..

.. “Hello, this is the Duke of Edinburgh’s office here and we are in urgent need of some more file folders for His Royal Highness’s filing system” ..

Well, to cut a long story short, Prince Philip’s aide or whoever he was, agreed to send someone to pick up a box of folders and I agreed to have them ready for collection.

Not long afterwards I got another call to say that someone from Buckingham Palace had just arrived outside the building, so I picked up a box of files from the stores and went out to meet them, expecting to see what ?  .. a footman in a taxi ? .. a horse drawn carriage ? .. a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce ? .. a mounted groom from the nearby royal stables ?.. or even just some lowly clerk arriving by bus ?

To my amazement, when I stepped outside, there, sitting astride his ‘steed’ by the kerb was a tall palace guardsman, looking incredibly smart in his No.1 dress uniform. Except that ‘his steed’ wasn’t one of the Household Cavalry’s magnificent black geldings, but one of these …

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..  Yes, an old fashioned delivery bike complete with basket.

I dropped the box in the basket and the soldier proudly rode away into the traffic heading back towards the palace …

… ‘Mission Accomplished !’

Posted in humour, nostalgia | 4 Comments »

Imagine John Wayne wearing them!

Posted by Big John on May 1, 2017

When I was in my early ‘teens’ I always wanted a pair of those American trousers made of some blue fabric with big pockets, lots of white stitching and lighter coloured turn-ups (cuffs); just like the ones I saw in the Hollywood movies and in imported US comic books.

I learned that they were called ‘jeans’, and sometime in the early to mid 1950’s I managed to obtain my first pair from a ‘surplus store’ which sold hard wearing clothes for manual workers such as my father, who always wore a blue denim ‘bib and brace’ and jacket when working on the railway … (He is the one with the saw).

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Over the years I ‘ve worn many pairs of jeans of all styles, including narrow legged ones, flared ones and even ‘cut-off’ ones, but I never wore ones with holes in the knees, tears across the thighs or with rips in the arse.

Now such jeans are all the fashion and don’t ‘come cheap’, so, over the years, I must have lost a small fortune when my scruffy denim pants had seen better days and were thrown out.

So, what’s the latest in ‘must have’ jeans ? .. It’s mud stained ones !

I can’t wait for the ‘pissed your pants’ look …

… or  “Oops!” far worse !

Posted in humour, nostalgia | 3 Comments »

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 …

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… 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 | 3 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 »

“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 »

A Chilli Christmas !

Posted by Big John on December 15, 2016

I can remember a time when the most exotic thing to appear on the Christmas dining table was the ‘brandy butter’ to accompany the Christmas pudding and mince pies; and the only thing needed to ‘spice up’ the ham sandwiches at our family gatherings on Christmas Eve was my mum’s ‘home pickled’ onions.

Now just about every festive dish has to be mucked about with by stuffing it full of ‘blow yer ‘ead orf’ spices or overpowering flavours from ingredients which, once, could only be found in the far flung corners of the British and Ottoman Empires or perhaps “down Mexico way”.

As much as I love most foreign food I don’t want my turkey stuffed with jalapenos, my parsnips curried, my ham boiled in coconut milk or my roast spuds coated in guacamole.

There is a saying that “Too many cooks spoil the broth”, but this is more of a case that ‘Too many TV chefs could …

… ruin your Christmas !’

Posted in family, humour, nostalgia, rant | 5 Comments »