My Teenage Years, Haringey Literature Live. 01/02/2018.

Homework for Thursday 1st February. 2018 Haringey Literary Live.

 

My teenage years.

 

  1. I am now in my teen years.

The war has ended and with it the daily excitement of the latest news from the front.

At school I have just been moved up a stream from M2 to T3, after losing nearly a year of education while in hospital and in a home for frail boys.

There are three streams in our school, C for the bright kids, T for the not so bright and M for the rest of us.

I leave school at 14 and look for my first real job, although I had been working as a delivery boy since I was 12, for a wage, in today’s money, of 45p.

I gave my mother 35p and kept the rest, I spent this on model aircraft kits and Pippernell Izzi’s lovely ice cream.

In the first month I had three jobs, the first one lasted only one day, I cut the top of my finger off on an unguarded circular saw, in the next job, the bandage on this finger caught up in a drill press, luckily it was loose and I managed to pull it off, before I was pulled into the machine.

My mum told me to get a safer job, “What about a postman?” she asked, this sounded pretty good to me, as I would have a company bike.

Instead I decided to try for a job working in a boat-building firm on the Thames, I loved it, I stayed for two years.

I reluctantly left this job because the bus fare went from 2p a day to 4p, and as I only earned 95p a week I couldn’t afford it.

Girl friends were no problem for me, I just didn’t have one.

Our bunch of boys thought it would be disloyal to break away and start to go out with a girl.

Apart from the job on the Thames, it was the most boring few years of my life. I had several other dead-end jobs until I was eighteen, I was then called up for National Service.

National Service changed my life, amazingly I was chosen for the Royal Air Force, normally only boys from grammar or private schools seem to be lucky enough to join the RAF.

I received a travel warrant to go to Euston to have my medical examination. Although I lived only 20 miles away, I had never been to London..

I arrived at Waterloo station and looked for a sign saying Euston, with so many people rushing about, I didn’t like to ask the way, after about half an hour I gave up and went home.

A week later I tried again, this time I found Euston, it was miles away, I hadn’t realised London was so big.

The medical was very strange; I joined a queue of young men, completely naked with our hands in front of us hiding our bits, we were being examined by a group of doctors and nurses, I felt very uncomfortable.

I was afraid I would fail the medical, because for the last two years I had been weight training to try and gain some muscle; I had overdone this and had a rupture in my groin.

When I came to the ‘coughdoctor’ who was checking our ‘nether regions’, I tensed my stomach muscles and when he asked me to cough he didn’t notice my hernia.

He then asked me to urinate in a little bottle, but as usual nothing happened, when, eventually it did start to flow, it wouldn’t stop. “Just finish it in the bucket” he said, but the bucket was already full, and unable to hold back, I caused a flood.

I can still see the look he gave me as he sort of danced around the pool spreading towards him.

They still let me join though.

Then we queued for our inoculations, still completely naked, all still with our hands in front of us so that we didn’t embarrass the young nurses, giving these ‘jabs’ as we called them, It was like a production line; first a nurse wiped your arm with an alcohol swab. At this point some of the chap’s fainted, even before a needle had even touched them.

Here they were, the pick of the nation’s youth, now with their manhood fully exposed and legs ‘akimbo’, felled by a young woman with a bit of cotton wool.

It was not a pretty sight.

After a drink of water I soon recovered though.

When I told my friends I was joining the RAF they told me to keep a lookout for ‘queers’— as gay’s were called then.

In the next room, now fully clothed, the chap filling the forms with our hair colour and other features, was sitting in front of me. He looked very closely at my face and said “Umm, you have nice little scar on your top lip” he then entered this on the form, he next leaned forward even closer and looked into my eyes, remembering my friends advice, I moved away quickly, I thought he was going to kiss me, “ Sorry”. He said, “I’ve got to put down the colour of your eyes, let me see now, I think they are a rather nice dark hazel”.

I’m glad my mates weren’t watching. I now think he was just winding me up.

My pay was £1:40 all found, I had never had so much money to spend, I volunteered to have £1 sent home to my mum every week, as many of the other recruits did. Then we were told if we signed on for three years instead of two years, we would double our pay to £2:80; I did this and sent my mum £2 a week.

Still only eighteen, I was posted to the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt, we were taken across the North Sea to Holland, and then through Europe by various trains to Trieste. Lastly by an old ship to Egypt, the whole trip took two weeks, just like an expensive cruise.

In just six months I had gone from not knowing where London was, to sailing down the Adriatic and the Mediterranean, and then seeing the Pyramids in Egypt.

The camps along the canal were mainly tents in the desert. I was pleased that there were no girls to complicate things, which I welcomed. But it soon became obvious that the warning about ‘queers’ was very real.

It was a criminal offence to be open about this, but we soon knew who they were, being ultra smart and always wearing their uniforms, I made a point of wearing ‘civvies’ when ever I could and being scruffy, as if anyone would fancy me.

In fact some of them became my best friends, I felt sorry for the constant teasing they had to put up with in those days.

One these mates was L,C, Jones, on the pay parade, it was always amusing to hear him called ‘Elsie’ Jones by the paymaster.

My job was a driver/mechanic, the driving test for the roads of Egypt, consisted of driving a small lorry for about a mile, I had never driven one of these but passed, it was impossible to fail.

I soon learned that the British armed forces treated Egypt and it’s population as second class and we could do as we pleased.

No wonder they hated us. They eventually chucked us out.

 

My first journey was to Port Said in a small convoy, the lorry I was given to drive was a 10 tonner plus a 5 ton trailer, I was terrified, I had never even seen one of these before, let alone drive one.

In 1952, I left my teens, it ended up being the most exciting time of my life, from a slow boring start to doing things I never thought possible.

I stayed in Egypt for a total of two and a half years, I loved it, swimming in the Great Bitter Lakes every day of the year, it was just one long holiday.

Homework for 25th Jan 2018

Haringey Literature Live , subject : Loss.

 

Our homework subject is loss.

 

I was two years old when I lost my father and too young to feel any grief, my mother was left with six children to bring up alone.

During WW2, it was common to hear of someone’s family losing a loved one.

Our neighbour Mrs. Martyr lost her young son at sea when HMS Hood was sunk early in he war.

Another neighbour; Mrs. Edwards lost her husband at about the same time, also at sea.

A fireman was killed by an accident with a high-pressure hose while fighting an incendiary bomb.

A whole family was killed, when a bomb struck a house just across the road from us, our house was badly damaged, and we had to live with my Grandmother for a few weeks.

All these things happened within a 100 metre square.

In the Chertsey area there were also two doodle bugs, a V2 rocket, and 5 or 6 bombs, mostly landing in local fields.

This made some people to live for the day, as no one could know what tomorrow would bring.

The British sense of humour has always been able to find a way to deal with grief.

This is known as ‘Black Humour’.

As I was a child during this time, I and my friends began to use a similar way of thinking to the people around us, making a joke of everything that happened.

When mum met Fred, he took over the family and I had a new brother and a sister, making us a family of ten.

The house had three bedrooms, plus a front room used as a fourth bedroom, it was pretty crowded.

Today we would be described as a dysfunctional family. There was was nothing dysfunctional about us, in fact my mum was extremely functional, she had given birth to nine children.

Our jokes always had a dark side; we kids would say if someone in the family died, one of us would at least have somewhere to sit.

In 1944, Fred died of TB.    With the news of heavy losses in the D-day landings, Fred’s passing hardly affected me, I felt no grief, and obviously I was very upset for my mum.

The first time loss and grief really penetrated this shield was in 2008, when I lost my lovely wife Ann.

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My First Love, homework for Haringey literature live.

My first love.

 

I had a late start with girlfriends, although I knew a lot of girls, I didn’t seem to be very popular.

On the otherhand my brother Don had no trouble, he was always dating some girl.

I must admit I was an odd looking boy, over six foot tall and only weighing 10 stone, my trousers were 33 inch legs and 28 inch waist— almost the exact opposite now.

I was 21 years old when I first met Ann Batty.,  it was a very brief meeting, she more or less told me to get lost.

A year later I saw her with my friend Alex, at the Saturday night dance at the Airscrew Dance hall, he never had any trouble with girls, he was tall, good looking and very relaxed with the opposite sex. Where as I was just plain awkward and had nothing to say that girls wanted to hear—mostly about cars and motorbikes.

At least I had learned to dance with the help of ‘Kate Walker School of Dancing’.

I tried to catch Ann’s eye as she jived with my mate, and even had a go at an ‘excuse me’ quickstep, I had no chance, he was actually singing to her. —I couldn’t even whistle.

Finally I pushed Alex aside and asked Ann for the last waltz, he wasn’t too happy as he had been with her all night, buying her rum and blackcurrent—a very popular drink at the time, I have no idea why, it was horrible.

Ann was lovely; she had a great figure, not unlike Sophie Loren, my favourite actress.

While we were dancing and out of earshot of Alex, I asked her for a date the next day, to my amazement she said yes, I said I would meet her at the Dukes Head in Addlestone, about 2 o’clock, and we could go to the Regal Cinema in Walton.

I waited at the bus stop from about 1:30, the bus from New Haw, were she lived, came at 2:pm but there was no Ann.

I had hardly expected her to turn up, I had been let down a few times before, I hung about for while and then waited for a ‘bus back to Chertsey.

As I crossed the road , there was Ann, she had left her ‘bus a stop too early and was walking towards the Dukes Head.

At this moment, I had two emotions, one was delight that she had turned up and the other was, how was I going to tell her I had no money and would she mind very much going for a walk.

She laughed and said she had no money either, so we had a nice long walk, back to her home in New Haw—I know how to show a girl a good time.

She often said that she should have left me standing there that day, as we never had any money for pictures or anything.

This went on for 4 years, (mainly walking).

We married in 1958, Alex was our best man.

 

She once joked that she married me because my name Weguelin was better than her name Batty.

 

 

 

 

Ottershaw Park Drama

My dear friends, Alex and Sheila, are a very popular couple in the village of Ottershaw, they have a lovely bungalow with an immaculate garden overlooking the local park.

One day my wife, Ann and I popped in for a cup of tea, and Sheila talked about a problem with the lawn.

She told us how Alex had sorted it out.

A large tree in the park was casting shade over part of their garden; this was causing some of the lawn to be less than perfect.

Alex, she said, decided he would prune some of the offending branches to give the lawn time to recover.

Laughing, she said “You know what he is like, he even cut the branches into small logs and put them around the tree”.

Alex then added, “When I cut the branches off, the security light on the scout hut behind the tree now shone straight into our bedroom”.

“So I removed one of the lamps from the light”.

A week later, my wife Ann, again, called round for a cup of tea and an excited Sheila showed her a letter they had received from the Ottershaw Parks Committee Chairman.

The letter read as follows;

‘Last week our park was the scene of some depraved activity, a security light was removed so that members of some cult could carry out their evil rituals, a tree was vandalized and parts of the tree were formed in some sort of altar..

Fortunately, there was a camera as part of the security light and I enclose a photo of the person removing the light.

Although the photo is blurred someone may be able to recognize the man involved.

This follows the accident last week; When Mr. Thomas, the volunteer park warden, broke a leg after falling from the roof of the toilet block.

There had been some activity in the car park, including drunken behavior and some thing called dogging—apparently this does not involve animals.

Mr Thomas had taken a position on the roof of the toilet block, to better see and to photograph the activity of the group of people in some parked cars.

Mr. Thomas, a heavily built man, lost his balance and fell onto the roof of one of these cars.

He broke his hip and was unable to get down from the roof of the car.

The car was so damaged, that the doors could not be opened, this also caused the car alarm to sound and all the airbags inside to activate.

The fire brigade and ambulance were called and rescued Mr Thomas and the four-trapped occupants of the car.

 

They and Mr. Thomas were taken to St Peter’s hospital, all suffering from severe shock

 

 

Alex and Sheila soon realized the letter was a spoof that some rotter had sent them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first girlfriend.

My first Girlfriend ???.

 

As a child I was very shy, during lessons at school I would not ask the teacher if I could go to the lavatory, sometimes with unintended consequences.

One day, in the carpentry class, I was looking anxiously at the clock around dinnertime for a chance to rush to the lav’.

Then, Mr. Woodhead—a good name for a woodwork teacher—picked me to sweep the floor of shavings and sawdust.

Normally I was never asked to do anything such as this—unlike my mate Alex—who, being clean and tidy seemed to be every teachers favourite, he was milk monitor, ink monitor— if there was a monitors monitor, he would be the one.

Mr. Woodhead and all the boys left the classroom, leaving me trying to sweep the floor with my legs crossed.

I could hold out no longer, and I wet myself.

I quickly swept all the shavings and dust over the spreading pool of piddle.

Just at that moment Mr. Woodhead came back into the classroom.

He looked at the pile shavings in the middle of the pool for quite a time, and then said, “Well done Alan, that’s the way to keep the dust down.”

Looking back at moment I now think he knew what I had done and being the nice teacher that he was, spared my shame.

 

Now, about my first girlfriend—she was more of friend who happened to be a girl—lived in New Haw, a bus ride away.

Actually I think she wanted to be more of a girl friend than just a friend, I say this because she would keep bumping into me accidently and touching me, and then there was the funny way she kept puckering her lips as if she was going to kiss someone.

I didn’t want any of that sort of stuff, I was only 15.

I had my Sunday dinner there for 9 months and I never kissed her, although there were times when I though it might be worth a try.

 

The ability I developed of being able to hold on for quite long periods before I had an accident, while I was at school, came in useful when I spent several hours with her.

I would arrive at her home around midday and leave at ten o’clock without having to ask for the lav’.

 

But, it became very urgent late in the evening, especially when we would fill the hot water bottles just before I left for home.

Fortunately, there was no lingering good night kisses, and I flew out of the house.

As soon as I was at the gate of the house, I pushed into the bushes and had the longest wee ever.

The night was cold and a great cloud of steam could be seen coming out of the beautifully trimmed privet hedge.

I sometimes wonder if any of the neighbours ever waited for this 10 o’clock Sunday night ritual.

The privet hedge never recovered.

 

 

 

A bit of do—to coin a phrase

A bit of a do, to coin a phrase.

 

In November 2017, one of my son Jamie’s friends bought some Bitcoin, a fairly new type of digital currency.

He had been told that he could have a better return on his savings than the low interest he was getting from his building society.

At first the returns seem to go up and down, but overall it was only slightly better than his previous building society savings account.

Then in December, one month later, his account balance more than doubled in just 24 hours, then in the next 24 hours the balance more than doubled again.

He now had twice the amount that he had started with in his ‘wallet’—a crypto term for account.

He then removed his original deposit back into his building society account, leaving the rest in Bitcoin, in effect he is now trading for free.

I should say now, that I am uneasy about this sort of easy money, like most people I have always worked for whatever money I have.

Apart from myself, my family were all gamblers, my brother in law owned a betting shop, my mother was a bookies runner—she collected bets from her friends and neighbours for him—then gambled with her commission.

One of my brothers lost his marriage because of his gambling,

Seeing all this, I thought gambling was not for me.

Like me, Jamie is not a gambler but after seeing his friends good fortune, he thought he would have a go, and put in the minimum amount, after 3 weeks his stake has hardly changed , but it was still better than his normal saving accounts.

His mistake being, he ‘followed the herd’ of optimistic ‘gamblers’—for gambling is what this is—and bought bitcoins at near their highest value.

The attraction of these accounts is that governments and the normal banks can’t interfere with them, the money you are risking is money that you have earned, unlike normal money men who invest some one else’s cash—until it’s all gone—usually, you are responsible for your own gain or loss.

In other words it is much the same as buying lottery tickets or doing the football pools, it is a pure gamble, you have as much chance of winning a big payout as swatting a gnat with a knitting needle in a darkened room, but it’s your choice.

Now, I think I would rather have a bit of excitement by chancing a few pounds, than allowing the normal banks to pay me about 1% for my savings, and then for them to lend that money to some one else for some ridiculous interest and then pay themselves a nice commission for doing so.

I am ashamed to say, greed has made me a gambler after all, I opened an account and deposited the minimum amount, luckily at a lower price than Jamie’s.

Then the ‘market’ price for bitcoin started to rise, and in a day without doing any work I ‘made’ 73 pounds.

There is a saying ‘That if something is too good to be true, it usually is’.

The next day my wallet contained less than my original deposit.

I have left any remaining money in the ‘wallet’ to see if this old adage is true.

It was quite exciting at first, a bit like trying to guess who Donald Trump is going to sack next.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A new beginning.

 

  1. A new beginning.

 

On Wednesday the 3rd of January, 2018, I finally sold my flat in Chichester and moved to London.

 

I am now living in Wood Green with my son Jamie, his wife Eddi and two young boys aged 6 and 5.

 

I am very pleased to be here, last year I joined two art groups and a writing group.

 

I find people in North London quite different from the folk in Chichester where the population is mainly white middle class.

 

In London, contrary to what I had been told to expect— when I decided to move here— everyone I have come across is very friendly.

 

I think this could be because North London is comprised of several quite small districts, almost like villages, even the names point to this; Wood Green, Palmers Green and so on.

 

In my ‘village’, near Alexandra Palace, the shop workers are all very friendly, more like my childhood home, Chertsey, a small town in Surrey

Last year I had my first taste of North London nightlife, when I was invited to a garden party in Archway, the garden was very small, with raised beds on all sides, leaving just enough space for a table and several chairs.

 

When we were all seated— about twenty of us— it was very cosy, the evening was still warm after one of the hottest days of the year, the food had to be passed round as it was not possible to move once we were sitting down.

The owner of the house, who was sitting next to me was rolling a cigarette with great care, I asked him what tobacco he was using, he looked at me for quite some time before he said with a little smile, that it was weed.

 

I remember people growing their own tobacco back in the 60’s, but I have never heard it called weed, and looking around the very well kept garden, I could see nothing resembling a tobacco plant or for that matter any weeds.

 

Trevor— he was Turkish with an English name, which was quite amusing— rolled another cigarette, he took a couple of deep puffs and passed it to the lady next to him, who did the same and so it went round the whole party, it missed me as I don’t smoke.

 

This went on all evening, Trevor kept making more and more cigarettes, it was like they were all chain smoking.

 

The evening was a great success, we were all chatting away like excited children, someone was playing a guitar and we all joined in some singing. Until the guitarist suddenly fell asleep.

 

In the small-enclosed garden with hardly a whisper of air, there was a cloud of very pleasant mist that hung over us, probably from the smoking that was going on.

 

After the party was over I drove back to Ally Pally. Although I only had one glass of wine all evening I felt as if I had drunk the whole bottle.

 

Dally, who lives with us, asked me what I had been up to, as I looked a bit green, when I told him about the party he nearly wet himself with laughter.

 

He said it was a good job I wasn’t stopped by the police as I was—as he said—high as a kite.

 

I like North London everyone is so friendly, I’m waiting for another of these party’s.

 

It’s so unlike Chichester.