Harringey Literary Live, Homework, Most fearful moment.

For Thursday 08/02/2018.

I’ve always thought that my early life was without any highs or lows, so when our homework was to describe a moment of courage, shame or fear. I found it hard to recall anything.

I started thinking about my earliest memories but nothing jumped out, only small fears came to mind, these really did last only a moment, such as when Fred, my stepfather, held me over the edge of Chertsey Bridge, I was probably 4 or 5 years old. How could that be expanded—as a certain person was always urging me to do?

Nothing stood out, I tried to bring to mind my first day at school or the first time I was caned for being late and things such as that.

Even the time, during our dinner break, earlier in the war, when we heard the Vicker’s factory being bombed, just a few miles away in Weybridge, I was not afraid— not knowing, of course, that more than eighty workers had been killed.

I saw that the other children, going through the same things just carried on as normal and I did not want to make a fuss and just put my worries to the back of my mind.

Then, as sometimes happens, a memory started to come back, at first it was none of the homework emotional triggers that were set out for us.

As I write this, I am astonished how I am able to put myself back in our home 75 years ago.

I was eleven years old; my mother has kept me home from school, as I had been sick during the night.

I am sitting in Mrs. Salmon’s old green armchair—so called because Mrs. Salmon always sat in this chair when she called round to look after us, when we came home from school.

 

It is Monday morning, my mum is doing the washing in the large wood fired copper in the corner of the scullery, the smell of the Sunlight soap and the crackle of the wood flaring under the copper seems to be overwhelming my senses, even my mum is looking bigger as she is pushing the bleached copper stick into the clothes and boiling water.

After all these years being lost to me, these memories came back in the finest detail, as if they had just occurred.

I now assume, that as I was quite unwell my senses were sharper, smells, sound and hearing were much more intense, even the worn out pattern of the ‘lino’, that was on top of the extra large Morrison shelter was dazzling.

The really surprising thing is, that I can even smell the Sunlight soap and clothes being washed.

The moment of fear that had blocked all these memories from my mind for all these years now came into sharp focus.

 

   I am upstairs in the lavatory, and staring down at the bright red wee in the pan. I straightaway think of the Saturday morning film where a man is bleeding from his eyes and ears after being bitten by a spider, there are a lot of spiders in our house.

   “Mum, I’ve been bitten by a poisonous spider” I shout, running down the stairs, with my trousers flapping around my ankles.

   I tell her of the blood in the lav’, she is laughing as she climbs the stairs just to humour me, then I hear her shout and in a moment she is in the kitchen looking at me, giving me a glass of water and feeling my forehead.

   Now, I am really frightened, I have never seen my mum look so worried, even after being bombed out.

   She is carrying me down the road to the doctors, the washing pegs she had in the big pocket of her pinny are poking into my stomach.

   I am having pains in my belly, just like the time when I had eaten too many green apples the week before, now I really was afraid.

   We stop at Mr. Izzi’s shop, and Pippernell, his wife, is looking after me, but without her usual smile, while mum goes down to Mr.Foster’s, he has the only car in our road, to take me to the doctors, at the same time, ‘Pippy’ is making me an ice cream.

   I don’t feel so bad now, having a free ice cream is like magic medicine, my fear has gone and so has the bellyache.

While we wait in Mrs. Izzi’s kitchen, I see lots of tomatos, they are everywhere. Dominic sometimes gave us something from his allotment, usually tomatos, that’s all he seems grow.

   Mum is back with Mr. Foster, his car is making a very loud noise, and we climb in, it smells very bad, as it has not been used for a long time.

   Doctor Ward is out on his calls, but Mrs. Ward lets us in to the his surgery, she is a nurse and as she listens to our story, she gives me some horrible green medicine and we wait for the doctor to return, all the while I am again getting more and more fearful.

   As soon as Doctor Ward looks at me, he says “I will have to take you to the hospital young man”. Mum and I sit in the back of his Rover car, I have a bowl on my knees in case I am sick again.

   St Peter’s Hospital is full of wounded soldiers, the man next to me is very ill, nurses are with him all the time, his breathing is very bad, every little noise in the ward sounds extra loud and my bed seems to be rolling.

   The next morning his bed is empty and the nurses are cleaning it for the next person.

I am thinking this is where they put people when they are dying, I am very afraid again.

   The wounded soldiers are now making funny jokes, although some of them have bandages all over them; they make a fuss of me, as I am the only child in the ward, soon the fear fades away again and I am back to normal.

While I was in hospital some of the soldiers told me how they were wounded, others never mentioned the war.

It made me realise, even at eleven, that war wasn’t as exciting as I thought it was.

I was in hospital for about three months and then went to St Dominic’s Open Air School in Hambledon, Surrey; this was a convalescence home for boys.

I have never found out what was wrong with me, I stayed in this home for about six months to recover, before going home.

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.

.

 

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.