The Story of Eric.

Homework for Haringey Literary Live.         )7/03/2018.  Edited  12/04/2018

In the early days of the war, around 1941, pets such as cats and dogs were abandoned, as it was difficult to feed them, our rations being so meager.

It was common to see a poor dog roaming the streets looking for food and a friendly face.

One of these poor creatures, a little Jack Russell, adopted our home; he just sat on our doorstep until my mum let him in.

He had a little tag on his collar with the name ‘DICK’ on it.

Now, although we were a big family,  living in a poor area of Chertsey,  my mum tried to keep up her standards, this meant absolutely no swearing,  and to have something called ‘DICK’ roaming the house was just too much for her to bear.

In fact, any word that even sounded like a rude one would have a more proper alternative.

For instance,  we would not be allowed to say ‘FART” it would  instead be, ‘BLOWOFF’ or ’LET OFF ‘and such as that. Even now I am uneasy about saying this forbidden word.

As for saying ” I want to do a number two”,  mum would cut you short by wagging her finger and say,   “Ah– ah”.

From then on,  instead of saying I want to do a number two,  we would say “I want to do an Ah–ah”.

Following this rule, ‘Dick’, our little Jack Russell was renamed ‘Eric’.

Besides these rules for naughty words,  my mother had a problem with tangling her word’s, she hardly ever remembered the our right name, in a family of six that could be quite confusing.

For instance I was called Trevor for weeks on end and then she would revert to my proper name, Alan—we  once had a cat called Trevor.

Eric was in a very poor condition and continually scratching himself.

We looked to see if he had fleas or something like that,  but all that could be seen was a bare patch where he had removed some fur from his belly.

Going to a vet was out of the question as it was a bus ride away in Addlestone,  but luckily our doctor was quite willing to give advice if needed, but could not treat the animal.

We put Eric in a shopping basket with an old jersey covering him to keep him warm and joined the queue outside Doctor Ward’s surgery.

No one in our road had a phone to make an appointment, so all you had to do was to take the chair nearest the door and as each person was seen, we moved along to the next chair until we were shown into the surgery.

It was not unlike musical chairs,  but  without any music.

Doctor ward smiled as he saw my mum, he had been our doctor for ages and had delivered most of our family. My mum had also been an unofficial midwife to most of our neighbours.

I held the shopping basket up so that the doctor could see Eric, but he didn’t look in it.

“Hello Ethel, what can I do for you today?”.

“Doctor, could you look at my little Jack Russell, it has a nasty itch”

Now the doctor was well aware of my mum’s aversion to rude words, and suchlike and also her ’Malapropisms’—mixing up her words.

I saw him look at her intently, trying to work out what on earth she was talking about, then he smiled as he thought he knew what she meant.

“Ah, I see, your little ‘little Jack Russell’ needs some attention”.

Still smiling, he took a jar of ointment from his cabinet and said,  “Here we are Ethel, just rub this on your ‘Little Jack Russell’  twice a day and don’t ride your bike for fortnight”.

Family Traits.

Family Traits 6th March 2018

 

 

Most families have a trait or an oddity that passes through the generations.

My family has a very good share of these.

Some of these are simply tangling up words, ‘ Malaproppisms’ I think they are known as.

My mother had this ability with knobs on; she could utter a whole sentence with every word starting with the wrong first letter.

I am also blessed with some of this gift.

It was very funny to hear someone else tangling their words in much the same way.

Such as when I was having dinner with my wife Wendy at the Marriotts Care home, which was very close to my home in Chichester.

On the next table sat four old ladies, we used to listen to their stories of their younger days and how, if they could go back, things would be different.

Lillian was a fine singer and would sing along with ‘Smooth’ radio.

Hilda, who was probably the eldest, said.

“ If I had my time again, I would do everything as soon as it became needed, such as paying my bills on time and not putting anything off till later”’

She went on “There is a saying that Masturbation is the thief of time’”

There was a slight pause, then Lillian said.

“ No, Hilda, you have it wrong”

“The expression is ‘procrastination is the thief of time’ “

They all laughed, so did Wendy and I.

Then Molly, who is the quiet one, leaned forward with a barely disguised grin said.

“I think Hilda is right, masturbation is the thief of time”

Then with a chuckle she said.

“I have just worked out it has stolen six months of my life”

 

Brief Encounter.

Brief Encounter. March 1 2018.

 

Last month I spent six days in the cardiac ward of the wonderful Whittington Hospital.

I was in the Mary Secole ward, there were 5 patients, 3 of us with heart problems and two elderly men who had badly bruised faces from some sort of accident.

After spending five days in bed my feet become quite numb from diabetes, so I very carefully walked to the loo. On my way I thought I would say hello to the chap with half his face black and blue.

He was short and stocky and for some reason I thought he was Irish, I stood next to his bed and leaned forward to say good morning.

He looked up at me with what I have to say was a quite aggressive expression.

He said something so fast that I could not understand him; he repeated it, this time in a very agitated way.

“ArHIStdfeckINfFeCKingFTTT”

I tried to lip read but he had a rather long top lip, which hid the rest of his mouth.

“ARFkithiRfEcKYer FEckier”

He said again, this time with feeling.

When I am in a position of not catching what someone says to me, I usually say.

“Yes you could be right”

This did not seem to satisfy him and he once again he went into a steam of words as before.

One of the nurses came in to see what the commotion was all about. I think she was Eastern European, maybe Bulgarian, she also had a very strong accent which I found hard to understand.

“ Michael, what’s all the fuss” she said.

“ARFkithiRfEcKYer FEckier” he said pointing at me, again without a trace of humour.

The nurse looked at me in disbelief and said.

“ Michael said”

“ Tell the fecking idiot he is standing on my fecking foot”

 

 

 

The Tree Of Life

The Tree Of Life

“Waggy are you coming out?”

A short pause,

”Waggy I know you’re in there, I can hear you sawing some wood”.

I knew it was Pansy but I was at a hard bit of modeling and tried to ignore her.

Then she started shouting louder, I finished the hard bit and looked out the window, there she was, hands on her hips, she still had her gymslip on and she really looked like Pansy Potter, the new girl in the Beano, her arms were thicker than my legs—which wasn’t difficult.

Her three sisters had nice names, April, May and June, but her parents had run out of nice ‘month’ names and started on flowers and came up with Pansy.

“I know what you want me to do, Pansy, but after yesterday I think we should wait for a while before we try it again”.

“ I really want to do it now, if my sister can do it so can I”

“I don’t think so”, I said under my breath, after hearing what my brother Don told me about what her sister got up to behind the ‘rec’ pavilion.

“Come on Waggy, I promise it want take long”.

Girls seem to know that if they keep on about something they will always have their way.

“ All right, but I’m not going to waste the whole afternoon like I did yesterday, I’m in the middle of something that I want to finish today”.

The hard bit I was having trouble with, was the ribs of the model Tempest fighter I was making, it used to be easy when a sheet of Balsa wood was used for these parts, all you had to do was cut round the ribs already printed on the thin sheet. Now that Balsa wood was scarce—it was used to build the Mosquito fighter bomber and made it one of the faster aircraft in the war—we had to use strips of ‘Obeche’.

This was long lengths of wood about the thickness of a match stick, we had to soak a piece in hot water and then bend it to the shape we wanted, then use some drawing pins to keep it’s shape until it was dry, this took much longer to make a model than before.

“ALUNNNN” she shouted, now, I have found when someone really wants your attention, they always call you by your first name.

That is, everyone except my mum, there were so many of us, she could never get the name right, so she would just shout as loud as possible, anyone’s name, we would all look up to see who she looking at go from there.

I crossed the road to where the bomb had fallen a couple of years ago, it was now just a heap of bricks, but the front garden of one of the houses still had a bit of lawn and an Almond tree, mum said it was the tree of life because it was hardly damaged when the bomb fell, and it still had lovely blossom and almonds in the autumn, but they were not for eating, she said.

Pansy was waiting under the tree, so was Danny, his house was badly damaged as it was directly opposite the bomb, but had been rebuilt and they moved back in. Danny was a bit younger than I but just as tall and always had a girl hanging around.

This time it was Maureen from Cowley Avenue. The last thing I wanted was an audience, especially after yesterday.

“ I’m only going to try this a couple of times Pansy”

She didn’t answer; she just looked at me.

She was the only girl in the school who had steel studs on her sandals, and yesterday they had cut into my hands.

Posh boys, like my mates Alex and David always had brown shoes and had ‘Blakies’ on the soles, other boys had steel studs like Pansy had, I usually had plimsoles.

I wanted to get this done as quickly as possible, I grabbed her foot and with all my strength pushed as hard as I could, Danny helped me and finally we did it.

Pansy grabbed the lowest branch and pulled herself up into the tree.

“There” she shouted, “ I’ve done it, my sister owes me a sixpence, she bet me I couldn’t do it”

 

Our day in Bentalls department store.

 

 

 

I have so many moments of shame or embarrassment in my life; It is difficult to decide which one to write about.

Could it be the one that I have found very hard to overcome?, the fear of being the person everyone was focused on, for instance when having to stand up in a cinema, when everyone around are sitting, and then moving along the rows of seats to buy an ice cream from the girl who was always in the furthest corner of the theatre.

Moments such as this are so easy for other people to dismiss, but as any shy person will tell you, they are very real.

Probably a moment, or should I say several moments of shame, embarrassment or what ever you wish to call it, occurred when I was thirty-one, my wife Ann and I, having been married for four years, were expecting our first child.

For some reason, that I now find inexplicable, we decided to take my five-year-old niece, Karen for a day out in Kingston.

Without any knowledge of children, we may have thought it would make us prepared for our own children when they arrived.

We found our little niece amusing, she had lots to say in the car journey to town, she was a lovely looking child and her mother Sylvia, had dressed her in a very nice frock.

Had we not been expecting a child, I think the day in Kingston would have prevented us from going into parenthood at all.

For as soon as we entered the large showrooms, our angelic little niece became a tornado in a pink dress, she disappeared into racks of ladies’ dresses, and then up and down the escalator.

Only by one of us standing at the top and the other standing at the bottom of the escalator, were we eventually able to capture her.

Keeping a firm hand on her, we thought a dinner followed by a nice pudding would keep her occupied for a little while, and then we would return home as quickly as possible.

We sat down in the restaurant, it was full of group’s of ladies, they seemed to belong to some sort of women’s club out for the day, the tables were joined together to make several long tables.

We ordered our meal and Karen was fascinated with all the pretty hats, at last she had quieted down, and her meal was soon eaten.

While Ann and I were deciding on our pudding, there was disturbance a couple of seats along the row, the ladies’ were looking under the table, I looked round to see where Karen was—thinking the worst—, sure enough the pink tornado was travelling under the table, now more like a pink torpedo, through the legs of the startled diner’s, then to emerge at the end of the table with a wave, in much the same manner as our twenty minute ordeal on the escalator.

Now started the moments of my greatest fear, trying to work out where she would surface from, not only from which end of the table, but which row.

I looked over to Ann for some support, she was very intently looking at the menu, I could see the large open card she was holding, shaking, I could be mistaken but I think she was either laughing hysterically or was just plain hysterical.

A rather superior looking waiter managed to grab our little treasure and bring her to me.

A round of applause went through the dining room; I think the ladies’ thought it was amusing to see a mere male trying to cope with a little girl of five and then losing the battle.

On the plus side, we were escorted from the room and didn’t have to pay the bill.

 

 

 

 

 

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.