A New Shopping Experience.

An Evening in Tesco Express.

 

Jamie, my son, and I were shopping in Tesco Express a few months ago; we had filled our basket and were about to pay.

These small Tesco shops have very narrow isles, and I was coming down the centre one when I heard one of the assistants say that the self service tills can only accept cards, so anyone with a card please come forward.

I could see that one or two people queuing in the first isle next to the tills, remained still, obviously they needed to pay by cash.

I thought that’s handy, so I stepped forward and quickly placed my basket on the self-service counter.

Unfortunately, I had never used one of these new contraptions before.

I looked at the instructions above the machine but could not work out what I had to do.

The assistant was looking at me over her glasses with what I can only describe as murderous intent—she probably has had a hard day and when I said.

“What do I do now”?

I think the intent had now become real.

Not only that, but the one or two people I thought were alone in the first isle, turned out to be about twenty, they were hidden to me by the shelves of goods.

There was a unified moan, as not only had this old duffer jumped the queue, he was completely out of his depth with any new technology.

The assistant started to tell me how to work the machine but soon realized it was futile and started to slam my purchases down on the scales herself, in what I thought was a quite aggressive way.

Finally she said.

“Put your card in there and you are all done”

I’m sure most of us at some time in our lives, have a mental block, and with so many pockets on modern trousers we don’t know where the credit card is.

There was another collective moan from the now rather excited queue.

As I slapped every available pocket on my entire outfit and then to feel, with great relief the outline of my wallet.

I looked for Jamie, but he had run out and was looking through the window, making out he was nothing to do with me.

At last I put the card in, but with all the commotion I could not remember my number and when I said to the assistant.

“This is a new card and I’m not sure if this is the correct number, but lets see shall we”

For some reason she took her glasses off and just looked at me, I actually think she thought it was some sort of ‘candid camera’ game.

The rest of the queue didn’t seem to think it was a game at all, and they were becoming quite agitated.

I finally completed my card transaction and left the shop, to what I think was a rather nice round of applause.

The British public is so generous and forgiving when faced with the older generation.

On the other hand Jamie said.

 

“Dad, that’s last time I’m going shopping with you”

 

All in a days work.

Buster.

 

1972, A nice summer evening, I have finished work and looking forward to relaxing time with Ann and the boy’s.

I could see my favourite dinner being prepared, all seemed right with the world.

As I was cleaning up and changing into something comfortable, I heard the phone ring, this was quite normal as I was a washing machine repairer and worked for myself, phone calls meant money to us.

Jamie, aged about seven always answered phone, just in case it was for him.

“Dad” he shouted “It’s Mrs. King again. Her machine is not spinning”.

To say my heart sank would be putting it mildly, Mr. King was a very wealthy lady living in a large house in the most desirable part of Surrey.

She and her housekeeper Mr. Murgetroid seemed to think the washing machine could wash anything, I am sure, that between them they have posted a small fortune of coins in the soap dispenser, there could be no other reason for the amount of cash I regularly removed from the pump filter.

 

This was not the reason for my angst though.

 

“ Hello Mrs.King, what seems to be the matter?” I asked, trying to sound surprised, as I had only last week repaired her machine.

“It’s made a funny rattling noise and it’s now stopped full of water with all my tennis clothes in it” she said.

“Don’t worry, I’ll call round tomorrow and sort it out for you”

Mrs. King was a lovely lady but a bit odd, her husband was a chairman of some international company and mostly lived in London, to me she was a gold mine, and at twenty pounds a call well worth looking after.

Like all things in life there is always something that spoils what seems like a honey pot.

The fly in this particular pot was a small dog called Buster.

A lovely little Jack Russell. Now I’m not a great fan of dogs, partly because of my job, but buster was very special to me, or should I say, I was very special to him.

The next day I arrived at the gates and rang the bell, trying not to be seen from the house, in case I alerted Buster, as soon as the gates opened I reversed my van as near as I could to the utility room door as possible, still trying to hide myself from view, I looked through the rear window to see if I had been spotted.

There he was peering out of the kitchen window with a huge grin on his face, at least that’s what it looked like.

I have, over the years of dealing with Buster, developed a strategy, I know he would not leave the window until I stepped out of the van, as soon as I did so, he would run to the other end of the house and race to greet me, or should I say bite me.

I quickly vacated the van, picked tools up and scattered a few Polo mints to cover my tracks and sprinted to the safety of the door, Mrs. Murgatroid, her live-in house keeper was already keeping the door open for me.

Now this might, at first sight seem a very elaborate performance, but Mrs. ‘M’ and I had perfected this over a few years, it was to protect my shoes from even more damage than they had already suffered under the teeth of Buster.

Thinking back I think Buster was over sexed, he certainly had an enormous willy, it could be mistaken for a fifth leg.

In a funny sort of way this super appendage was a great help to me in my efforts to avoid his amorous advances.

I could gauge his speed of arrival by the frequency of his painful yelps, for as he ran his willy would touch the ground with every stride, 50 yelps a minute would give me ample time to walk quickly for cover, more than this I would have to run.

I reached the door just in time, even the scattered Polo mints, this time, would not deter him in his quest for satisfaction.

Once indoors he was a changed man, no more biting or barking instead a sort calmness overtook him, Mrs. King showed me to the washing machine, she had her normal glass of red wine in her hand and said to me.

“ Alan, you certainly have a calming affect on buster, look at him lying there, butter would not melt in his mouth”.

Mrs. ‘M’ threw me a glance with a half smile, she new this calmness usually preceded a storm.

As soon as I opened my toolbox, Buster’s ears pricked up, he was eyeing my every move.

Since my very first visit to the house, years earlier, I was advised not to move in any jerky or quick way, in case it upset buster, so I had to pick up a tool from my box and use it a very slow motion sort of way, for some one who liked to work quickly this was not always achieved, resulting in more Polo mints being scattered on the floor.

However, this was only a preview of what was in store for me.

To an onlooker what followed must be one the strangest sights they would ever see

A beautiful woman dressed in tennis clothes drinking a glass of red, a rather short Mrs. ‘M’ standing with her arms folded across her ample breasts, and me moving in slow motion towards the broken machine, all this in a quite small room.

With one step I was in position, unfortunately so was Buster, he clamped his little front legs tightly around my right trousers, and without further ado proceeded to to make unbridled love at such a speed it made the car keys jangle in my pocket.

All this was being viewed by the two ladies as if it was normal behavior, in fact Mrs. King said.

“ He,s certainly taken to you, hasn’t he Alan, look at him Mrs. Murgatroid”.

Mrs. ;M; Just smiled and watched as I slowly moved around the machine dragging the blur that was Buster still attached to my leg shagging away.

It seemed like forever, but possibly less than 20 minutes, when he suddenly fell back in his little bed exhausted.

I managed to finish the job, removing about four pounds in mixed change from the pump, tossing a couple of coins in my toolbox for our charity box in the shop.

I pushed the machine back in place, now just one more job to do and possibly the most hazardous, it involved getting down on my hands and knees, to check the hose’s under the sink.

I noticed Mrs. ‘M’ move her vantage point; possibly to get a better view of what we all knew was about to unfold.

Buster, ever ready to take advantage of any chance to satisfy his insatiable lust for me took me from behind, mercifully  this was a very short affair for the now exhausted Buster.

I gathered my tools, and made my escape.

They both waved me goodbye, and Mrs. ‘M’ said under her breath.

“See you next week then, Alan”.

I didn’t reply but I knew in my heart of hearts, she was probably right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The swinging Fifties Part Two

As I am slightly colour blind, so hadn’t noticed that the lovely scarlet sleeves that had caught my eye in ‘Cecil Gee’s Outfitters For the Younger Man’, had also lost their vibrancy and were now a sort of rusty colour.

The heavy knitted woolen texture of the whole jumper was more like a cheap wool mixture, with most of the wool missing; this made it all rather floppy.

I soon found another problem with this loosely knitted material,

It made cycling even more difficult in an unexpected way

The ‘batwings’ would flap, even at quite low speeds, and if I were in a hurry, the whole jumper would inflate, causing a large hump on my back.

All this plus the ‘Anna Karenina’ cuff’s was not the image I had originally sought.

 

Like all my clothes, once I had tired of them or more likely they had become just tired; I would then wear them to work.

This was a common practice and some worker’s could be seen riding their bikes dressed in clothes not at all meant for cycling.

The ride to and from the Vickers Armstrong factory was always an exciting affair, with so many workers arriving in the morning at about the same time— eight thousand of them— it was a race to ‘clock in’ at eight.

One of the most inappropriate of these garments was a single-breasted raincoat, which a year or two earlier were all the rage with local youths.

Now these younger workers could be seen with these cheap coats flapping around them, racing to work, looking like a posse of cowboys lead by Clint Eastwood`—me— chasing Doc Holliday in a cowboy film.

As if this was not enough of a pantomime, some of the older worker’s had invested in a little petrol engine, which was fixed to the rear wheel of their bikes, with these, they were more than capable of overtaking the ‘posse’.

They looked a grand sight with their ex army waterproof capes billowing in the wind at twenty miles per hour.

 

The swinging fifties.

My twenty’s, and the age of fashion.

I left the Airforce in June 1953; I am now 21 and have been away from England for nearly three years, I had been posted to Egypt, with no contact with girl’s or any of the latest trends.

Back in England things have changed, all my friends have moved on in their lives, some of them are even married with children.

I am completely out of touch. The rather staid clothes I would have worn before are now replaced by anything American.

My friend David, who had finished his National Service a year earlier, and therefore more up to date with things, agreed to help me with choosing a complete outfit with my demob money.

As nearby Staines, had a larger selection of men’s outfitters, we decided to shop there.

We avoided Mark’ and Spencer’s, as their clothes were still quite dated. Instead buying all my kit in a small shop nearby.

David took control, first an emerald green sports jacket, next a pair of dark brown 22 inch bottomed trousers with turn-ups followed by a beige shirt, a green woolen tie and some brown suede brothel creepers.

Total spend fourteen pound’s and five shilling’s.

I wasn’t absolutely sure about this style at first but most of my friends thought I looked fine.

In my first two weeks I seemed very popular as the ‘new boy on the block’, I had a very deep tan, my dark hair was bleached on top and together with all the local fashion that Dave had so carefully chosen for me I felt great.

This lasted a full two weeks, once my tan had faded and a haircut by ‘Bonny’, our barber, had removed the bleached parts of my hair, and even my new sports jacket was not looking very sporty, the lapels started to droop, much like my confidence.

My total lack of small talk was now a big problem, I once tried talking to a lovely girl at the Abbey Barn youth club, she soon told me to get lost—or words to that effect.

After drifting about aimlessly for a year, I met the lovely girl who had shunned me in such an unseemly way at the Abbey Barn.

Now I was more assured and asked her for the last waltz at the Airscrew dancehall, this time she agreed.

After a couple of years swanning around we became engaged.

Ann was very clothes conscious, and took me in hand regarding what I wore.

Once again I was at the mercy of fashion.

We now shopped in Kingston on Thames, the shop that was in the forefront of youth fashion was ‘Cecil Gee’, I saw this lovely men’s jumper, which for a change I liked but Ann wasn’t so sure about.

By now I had become more interested in what I wore, and this jumper looked just the ticket.

It was a ‘batwing style’, this meant the sleeves started at the cuffs and gradually swept up to about mid waist, it was black with a red stripe along the top of the sleeves to the collar, this was all held together with very large black stitches. I loved it.

One drawback was that it was very hard cycling against the wind.

My brother David had just been married to another Ann, and they were staying with us for a while.

I came home from work one day and was greeted by the jubilant young bride, she pointed to the washing line and said.

“Guess what”.

I’m never very good at this guessing game, so I looked to where she was pointing.

With what can only be described as my heart hitting my bladder, I saw my lovely black batwing jumper with the red stripe and black stitching hanging from the washing line by the sleeves.

“I’ve done your washing and it’s dry already”.

It may have been dry but not as dry as my mouth, as I said.

“That’s very kind of you Ann, I didn’t know it needed washing though”

I looked in dismay at what now looked like a large Manta Ray that some fisherman had hung up to display his prowess at fishing.

In a moment Ann, had removed the jumper and was urging me to try it on, actually it wasn’t too bad; it was just the sleeves that I could see might be a problem.

They were always a bit long, but now they were about a foot too long, but the ever-resourceful Ann, said.

“All we have to do is roll the sleeves up a bit”.

This, she helped me to do, I had the feeling that she had begun to realize that all was not well with the sleeve department, and I saw the jubilation drain from her body.

To save her feelings I said it all looked great— the rolled up sleeves looked like something Anna Karenina would wear as a muff in the Russian winter.

“At last” I said. “I may be at the forefront of men’s fashion, by leading instead of copying”.

 

But it never caught on.

Sibling’s.

Sibling’s. Homework for Haringey Literary Live, 17/05/2018

 

 

The time must be before the war; this is because of butter.

Not because butter was in anyway responsible for causing the war, but just because of it’s plenty.

It is Saturday afternoon, I am the only one of my sibling’s not doing anything important, Don has a job with Mr. Placito’s ice cream round, Deidre is now living in Weybridge, Chris is helping mum with the ironing, Iris is enjoying her day off and Bernard is working.

That leaves me, and baby David.

I have been given an errand to run.

Why is it that your grown up sister thinks you would like to stop playing with your mates, and run an errand?

I know exactly what she would say if I asked her the same question.

In any case my errand running never involved any actual running.

I am in Denyer’s the grocer’s, Mr. Denyer, a very short man with a blue apron that reached almost to floor.

He is patting a block of butter with a pair of flat wooden spoon’s, he keeps doing this until it resembles a half pound of butter and then wraps it up— something that every other grocer in town sells ready packed— but that’s Denyer’s for you.

I know I was no older than eight, as rationing would start just before my birthday in January 1940— hence the large block of butter.

Once rationing did start, a butter ration for one person would be 2 ounces (57g), a similar amount I would now put on one crumpet.

Not content with wasting my valuable time with his butter performance, he created a lovely bag out of some blue paper as if it was some sort art, and carefully measured out two pounds of sugar.

Then came the bacon, A large side of bacon was carefully unhooked from the low ceiling, he placed it on his new ‘Berkley’ bacon slicer, a red and chrome masterpiece.

“Thick or thin” he asked.

“Thick” I replied, 6 slices would be quicker than 12, I thought.

“Any thing else young man?”

I looked at my shopping list, “No thank you”.

There were only three items listed, Chris already knew about my short or completely absent memory.

It seems to me now, that in those times everything was a performance, even my brother Don whistled as he helped Mr.Placito pedal his three-wheeled ice cream trike up and down the town, between calling for people to “Stop him and buy one”.

On a good day, Don would earn more money than anyone in the house, so I was always asking him for a few pence to buy ice cream —always at Mr. Izzi’s, the best in Chertsey.

As the youngest operational child—David was a baby—, it was me who seemed to be chosen one when it came to all these little jobs.

Now that I think about it, our family was in the forefront of ‘Trickle down economics’; everything seemed to end up with me.

At this time I had very little to do with my other siblings, Iris was in service and was only home at weekends, as was Deirdre, she had a flat in Weybridge over ‘The White Rabbit’ woolen goods shop.

Bernard worked most Saturdays as a painter decorator, on private jobs.

This left Don and Chris.

Chris was friendly with the daughter of Mr. Frailer, he was the Commissionaire at the Playhouse Cinema.

Once again here was an entertainer, dressed in a magnificent uniform of shiny scarlet cloth with gold braid everywhere, his military hat matched the rest.

He would control the crowds queuing for tickets with a firm and friendly hand.

He also let all his daughters’ friends in free, and sometimes me.

 

There was rarely any friction in our family, I think we all knew mum had been through a lot and we were very lucky.

 

 

 

 

Father’s

Father’s,

Homework for Haringey Literary Live.

 

As I had three fathers, you would think that I would have plenty to write about.

In truth, this is hard to do.

Charles Luz Weguelin is my biological father, he died in nineteen thirty-four when I was two year’s old, and of course I have no memories’ of him.

What I do have is other people’s memories’, but these are sometimes hard to believe.

For instance, I have been told he was privately educated and came from a reasonably wealthy family.

I have only two photos’ of him, one at the age of fourteen as a builder’s labourer on the Wentworth Estate in Sunningdale, and another a year later as a sheet metal worker at the Airscrew Propeller factory in Weybridge, a job he kept until he died at the age of thirty-four.

These are not the sorts of job for a little rich boy.

I can’t even describe him as an adult, as I have no other photos of him.

I am told he was a clock maker/repairer in his spare time, a carpenter making most of his own furniture and generally clever with his hand’s.

There are several examples of this work still about, so this is true.

 

Fred Barker, joined mum and our family of 6 kid’s, in nineteen thirty-seven.

I always regarded him as my father; yet never called him Dad, it was always just Fred.

It was Fred, who did all the things dad’s do, I wish I had given him credit for this, in the short time we had him with us—just seven years.

He taught me how to play the ‘clappers’, the ‘spoons’ and the mouth organ; he could play a tune on a carpenter’s wood saw by bending and tapping it.

He spent a lot of time with my brother Don and me, teaching us how to cook—mostly chips and pancakes.

None of these skills remain with me now, although Don always was a fine cook, especially with the barbecue.

 

In nineteen forty-seven, mum married Albert Stacy.

Our family had now shrunk to four children and mum; Albert’s family was also four plus Albert.

Within a year, with marriages coming one after another, the family now totaled six; It was a larger house so we seemed to have more room.

Albert, or ‘Pop’ as he was called, was a very quiet man, I never quite got to know him, but he seemed to keep us all fed and clothed, and was an excellent gardener.

Albert died in nineteen sixtynine.

 

My mother was always the strong one; from the early days she had to be both mother and father.

My brother Don, just fourteen month’s older than I, was the nearest to a father, he seemed to know what to do in every situation from a very early age.

He carried this role for the rest of his life, being the main man in our family.

Mother and teenage me.

This is a rewrite to include my mother, for our homework.

 

January 30th 1945.

I placed the bowl of washing on the kitchen table, I had just put it all through the old wooden mangle, that stood outside the back door, my hands were frozen and I’m glad to be back in the warmth of the scullery.

Saturday was washday in our house, as mum worked every other day of the week— probably doing some one else’s washing.

I dipped my hands into the hot washing water to warm them up.

 

“ Don’t do that love, you will get ‘cold aches”.

 

I already knew this, but my hands were so cold, anything to warm them must be better than the cold.

Every winter our house was so chilly, that we would try to keep ourselves warm by any means, usually followed by ‘chilblains or cold aches’, so I knew what to expect.

It was about nine o’clock in the morning, but mum already looked tired out, there was a lot of washing in our house and it all had to be done by hand, always by mum’s hand.

 

“Mum do you know what day it is today?

“Whhaat?” she said.

 

She would often answer me with this long drawn out ‘whhaat’ word, whenever she has had enough of my silly questions, but this was not silly.

 

“ I am thirteen today, it’s my birthday”.

 

She stopped scrubbing; she leaned forward and looked out of the steamy windows, then she turned around to me, drying her very white wrinkly hands.

 

“ You can’t be”.

“ Yes I am, I am thirteen today, all-day long”—this was the sort of comment that usually seemed to irritate her, but I just can’t help myself.

 

She turned back to the washing tub and started scrubbing again, this time a bit more vigorously, as if she didn’t want to know my good news.

She stopped washing and dried her hands again, and turning around to me she said.

 

“Put the kettle on and lets have a nice cup of tea”

“ I can’t believe it” she said, wiping a tear from her eye’s,” Thirteen! Thirteen! You are now one of those new teenager’s that everyone’s talking about”.

 

We drank our tea, and then she looked me up and down. I could see she was thinking I looked a bit of a jumble.

I had my sister Chris’s Land Army Aertex shirt on, and the long socks that I had also gained

I thought I looked pretty good though, I’ll admit my grubby grey flannel trousers could do with a bit of a wash.

 

“Trevor”. She said —Now for some reason, which I have never quite understood, she sometimes called me Trevor.

“Trevor, I think this is a good time for you to begin to smarten yourself up.

For a start you must do something about your hair, I’m sure you can’t see properly”

 

She rummaged in her old handbag hanging on the door, and gave me a sixpence.

 

“ Go to Mr. Norris’s and get a short back and sides, and, I want the change back this time.”

 

Mr. Norris had a barbers shop in Guildford Street, and as I crossed the road I saw my reflection in Miss Stott’s ‘ladies outfitters’ shop window, which is nextdoor.

With my mum’s words still ringing in my ears, I saw this scruffy, lanky, knock kneed, youth walking with a sort of nodding motion, toward the shop door.

As I got closer, and trying to have a better view through the criss‑cross tape on the window—all windows had this to stop the glass from shattering in case of a bomb blast—I could see what my mum meant.

While I was taking all this in, I couldn’t help noticing some big curtains twitching inside the shop, it was young Miss Stott, (she was well over eighty).

Whoever thought of using a giant pair old ladies bloomers for the curtains of the changing room was a total genius.

Our eyes met, she had a really unpleasant look on her face —it was if she had just chewed a wasp— as my mother was fond of saying, I tried to lip read but it was impossible, It looked like bugger off.

Mr. Norris was very busy,, I watched him moving round the chair and chatting to all his customer’s. He was a tall man, and had a wooden leg; he must be doing this all day long.

This made me realize how lucky I was, I had my haircut and from that moment I decided to change my image.

As I walked home I started by standing up straight with my shoulders pulled back; I swung my arms military style and tried pushing my knees apart as I walked.

Trying to push my knees apart while walking was really difficult and made me sort of roll from side to side, but I kept at it.

Then, there was the trousers, I was never sure whether they were ,short, long trousers or

Long, short trousers, but that’s what you get when you buy clothes from a ‘Tally’ man

. Either way I decided to wash them when I got home, mum had gone shopping so I                 thought I would just pop them in the copper, as the water was still nice and hot.

You would have thought, wouldn’t you? That I should have known that boiling trousers that were partly made of wool was not a good idea.

However, one thing is now certain, they are now short trousers, very short trousers.

Next day, I showed my mum my new walk, she was quite overcome.

She said “Oh Trevor” and covered her face with both hands and just shook with emotion. She was obviously amazed, I was really pleased.

 

A few day’s later, I was going up Pyrcroft road, and I could see Mrs. Mant and her neighbour at her gate. Both had the same pinafores and matching turbans —probably bought from Miss Stott’s— I did wonder if they also had the same bloomers on as well, Miss Stott seemed to have cornered the market for all this sort of stuff.

They both had a fag in their mouths and I could see by the wagging of the cigarettes that they were having a good old gossip.

This, I thought, was a good time to see if my new walk would be noticed, I straightened up, swung my arms and marched toward them.

I hadn’t really perfected the knee thing yet, and still had a bit of a roll but I carried on anyway.

I noticed them both looking at me, and then, with the acute hearing that we have when we are young, I heard Mrs. Mant say.

 

 

“Look what’s coming down the road, you would think that poor Mrs. Waglin has got enough to put up with already, wouldn’t you”.

“ Yes” said her neighbor, “It’s a shame, they say there is one in every family”

 

As I strode past, they stood stock still, even their fags just hung loosely.

Then, without actually moving their heads, their eyes followed me slowly as if they were on a swivel.

Once I was past they started laughing, really laughing, and very loudly.

 

But I am proud to say I had the last laugh, I am now square shouldered, upright and with a manly walk.

 

There is always a downside to this sort of thing though; I think I overdid the knee

thing, as I am now quite bandy.