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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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 …

cottages

(click on image to enlarge)

… 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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(click on image to enlarge)

…  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 »

Risible royal rubbish.

Posted by Big John on March 5, 2016

Those of you who are fairly regular readers of this blog will know just how big a fan I am of ‘er Maj and her mob, so it will come as no surprise to know that I was keen to watch the Channel 5 TV series ‘Inside Buckingham Palace’ which was supposed to show the history of the place …

… “With the help of former Palace staff, royal confidantes and celebrities, ‘Inside Buckingham Palace’ reveals what life is really like behind its imposing walls, exploring the scandals, tragedies and triumphs that have taken place over the decades and made the place what it is today”…

Umm ! .. That sounds like a load of ‘old cobblers’ .. I thought .. and it was !

The title suggested, a fly-on-the-wall documentary about life inside  ‘Buck House’, but what we got was a potted history of royal gossip, tittle-tattle, speculation, codswallop and hearsay, half brought to life via interviews with some weird hangers on and the like and some very strange dramatizations which featured actors people who looked nothing like the ‘royals’ they represented. There must be thousands of photographs and miles of film footage available showing the British monarchs and their families since the time of Queen Victoria, so why these very silly reconstructions ? I know that King George VI was also Emperor of India, but the black haired young bloke playing him made me wonder if someone who had selected him for the part thought that meant the king had Indian ancestors.

I’ll give it a rest now, as you can read more about the programme .. HERE. .. but before I go, I’d just like to point out that Princess Margaret’s lover (is this them ?) was not a “palace servant”, but a highly decorated Group Captain in the RAF and ‘Equerry’ to the King …

… Not a bloody flunkey !

Posted in entertainment, humour, rant | 2 Comments »

Creative constipation !

Posted by Big John on March 3, 2016

I’ve been feeling a bit ‘under the weather’ for a few days, and have appreciated the comfort of my nice warm home, particularly as I looked out of the window at the freezing rain and sleet this morning. I had a hot shower, a light breakfast, poured myself a second cup of coffee, settled down in my favourite armchair, and thought … ‘I must get back to blogging later today’ …

… So, here I am sitting in front of my computer and waiting for inspiration … Nothing ! … Not a glimmer ! … How much would you like to bet that I feel it coming on …

… about 3am ! 

Posted in humour | 2 Comments »

“There is no sin so great as ignorance”… Rudyard Kipling

Posted by Big John on February 26, 2016

Recently I watched a TV documentary about Rudyard Kipling. It was a very interesting programme and reminded me of how much I have enjoyed reading his works over the years.

You may have guessed that ‘Barrack-Room Ballads’ is one of my favourites due to my interest in Victorian times and the lives of the ‘rank and file’ who fought and died in the far flung corners of the British Empire during that period in history. My use of the word ‘Gawd’ in my posts may also have given it away.

If you have not read these poems, I should warn you that they do not fall into the category of politically-correct, although ‘Fuzzy-Wuzzy’ was written about the bravery and fighting skills of Sudanese tribesmen and his …

“Of all them blackfaced crew
The finest man I knew
Was our regimental bhisti, Gunga Din…

… Though I’ve belted you and flayed you,
         By the livin’ Gawd that made you,
     You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”

… are extracts from a poem complicated by the reality of imperialism and the overtones of racism. However, this soldier’s tribute to the Indian servant who saved his life is touching nonetheless.

 When I was just about old enough to read, around 70 or so years ago, I made friends with a boy named Lenny. We sometimes played together in his house, and one day we discovered some rather battered old books hidden away under the stairs. One of them was …

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and once we started reading it, we couldn’t put it down. In fact, we read it over and over again. In the end I’m sure we knew most of it by heart and would quote long passages as we played at being Mowgli in some imagined jungle.

So, as I look at my overloaded shelves, I have to thank old Rudyard (and Lenny) for ‘firing my imagination’ and for my great love of books …

… “pass the duster” ! 

Posted in humour, nostalgia | 2 Comments »

‘Brexit’ … Not such .. “A leap in the dark”.

Posted by Big John on February 21, 2016

My very first job when I left school in 1955 was with a large travel agency. It was at a time when ‘package holidays’ were just taking off and I found myself working with a team of people from all over Europe. The job itself was a bit boring, but the company and friendship of those ‘foreigners’ more than made up for it. I even managed to wangle a few free trips across the Channel. I loved it, and I have loved visiting Europe ever since. I have travelled extensively on the continent, speak ‘food and drink’ in several languages and once owned a modest holiday home in Spain. I have been employed by both Italian and German companies. In fact, I have always considered myself to be ‘European’.

So .. How will I vote in June ? .. IN ? .. or .. OUT ?

That’s possibly a tough one, and our Dave’s recent pissing about in Brussels has not made it any easier, because as I see it, the Eurozone countries will continue towards their full political and monetary union, and we, as some sort of junior partner, will be at their mercy as they make decisions which are in their own interest. We will have no influence, but, I assume that, as the second largest contributor to the EU bottomless money pit, we will still be handing over billions of pounds to the Brussels’ bureaucrats.

I doubt if co-operation on issues as important as security, science, defence and, above all, ‘trade’ would disappear if we vote to leave. So I would still be able to enjoy my German beer, my French wine, my Dutch cheese, my Belgium chocolate, my Italian salami, my Spanish olives and all those other European ‘goodies’.

“How will I vote?” … I’ll give it some thought, but it’s beginning to look like a …

… ‘no-brainer’ !

Posted in humour, nostalgia, political, travel | 2 Comments »

Saint or sinner ?

Posted by Big John on February 16, 2016

Now there’s a surprise … a Pope with a girlfriend !

According to press reports, there is no indication that the former pontiff, had a sexual relationship with Anna-Teresa, a vivacious, married, American/Polish aristocrat, or that he ever broke his vow of celibacy.

Of course he didn’t ! … What a dreadful thought !… and, anyway, if he did, it probably meant that the alter boys were safe and could relax after mass. Although the nuns may have thought that old John Paul’s blessing was a bit too ‘hands on’.

A Vatican official is quoted as saying .. “There was never any suggestion of wrongdoing. It’s not like they had a secret lovechild or anything”.

Now would be a good time to creep out of the cloisters, you blessed …

…  ‘son of a saint’ !

Posted in humour, religion | 3 Comments »

“Fingers Crossed !” …

Posted by Big John on February 15, 2016

… I’m now ‘up and running’ with my ‘all singing and dancing’ new ‘Superfast BT Infinity’ fibre optic broadband, and ‘so far so good’.

BT delivered my new kit exactly when they said they would and advised me that they would connect my home to their service today between 8am and midnight. In fact I received a text at 9am to say that I was connected, and, bugger me ! .. so I was.

It only took a few minutes to set up the ‘Hub’ (wi-fi router) as following the brief instructions was so easy that even my old brain could cope with it.

I must say that communications with BT have been excellent. I just hope that everything …

… stays that way !

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

 
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