Thursday, 5 March 2015


Today is it appears World Book day.  This sounds good to me but it appears this is directed only at children!  That is somewhat annoying!  Books are so important as they open the world  to us. Everything involving human life, both good and bad, can be found on convenient small paperback books somewhere in this world.  I accept that most waste their lives by reading story books rather than something useful but nonetheless a vast library is available to us all.  

It is a wonder that writing took so long to emerge some three and a half thousand years BC.  The needs of trade among a growing population brought versions of writing into use in what is now south Iraq then India and China and South America.  The style was very different from today and tales until then spoken or acted by travelling minstrels were written down on a variety of materials. The clay tablets bearing Cuneiform writing found in Nineveh in the 19th century were only part of a huge library Assurbanipal collected during his forty year rein.  What is lost is the parchments that decayed during their stay under the sand or indeed were burnt during the loss to the victorious Medes an Persians.  The fantastic thing is that we can read their words today - in translation!  While no Akkadian books gather dust on the shelf those written in Greek or Latin do.  Not only but once copied laboriously onto long scrolls by hand we now have the delight of the concise books we see above.  How much easier it is to read today than it was 500 years B.C?

There is a strange fascination in reading the words of those who lived thousands of years ago.  No longer just a dot in history but a real individual struggling with the same problems facing us today, but with less complicated technology.  The sad thing is that many did not leave behind writing, often just designs on walls and large structure difficult to interpret.  If only Stone Age man could have found a way of communicating with us, or the people who wandered over the earth into China or South America.  What stories they could tell.  Indeed they would have been telling stories to one another, the lure of the 'soap opera' sadly is always with us!  Tales of daring do, romance and history of the people must have been told and retold for centuries before writing arrived.  Some are still kept in the tribal tales of some peoples.  

This World Book Day sounds as if they are scared kids do not read but as billions of books are thrust at them each Christmas and many happily read daily I see no problem.  They must use computers, there is no way of avoiding this, but they do read that is why so many books for the little horrors exist.  The brighter child reads about the subject that interests him, the dumb one reads stories but they read and this can only be a good thing.  One day this will pay off when reading the small print on all those documents that we face in our free world!

Oh and by the way, this one is still available:- Amazon



Tuesday, 3 March 2015

An Empty Chair

Friends of mine are at an interesting but none to pleasant juncture in their lives. Well into their seventies they see their friends of long standing and those of their acquaintance passing away. Once you get into your fifties this does affect all of us.  Those who have filled our television sets, acted in films or been football heroes when young begin to die as age and illness take their toll.  It has to happen and cannot be avoided.  One by one friends leave us, pop/film/TV stars appear old, youngsters ask "Who were the Beatles?"and our Christmas card list shorten in length.  Such is life.  For us three score years and ten or thereabouts is indeed our lot.  Life is short and once you realise that you realise you are no longer young.  Your ageing is reflected in the appearance of friends, the gray hair, wide midriff, grumbles about grandchildren!     
My friends problem however is that they love too much and in this latest situation the dying man was his 'Best Man' well over forty years ago and has always been part of their life.  To see his life ebb away through a horrid illness was not easy for them.  
When my mother died at 94 years of age she was the last of her lot as it were. All her family had gone before her, husband, father, brothers, sisters, even many nephews and one of her own daughters.  Her friends, some going back to the 1930's, had left before her.  As she looked around she could say she was the last remaining member of her family and her 'crowd,' and how lonely must that have been for her? Actually in a sense it was not too bad as she was the type to talk to anyone and would always find a woman with nothing to say to talk about the nothing for hours with!  However if you are used to people being there and suddenly there is an empty chair it is a strange experience and difficult for some to deal with.

Amongst those leaving us is one Dave MacKay!  This man supported the Heart of Midlothian as a boy and became a player at the age of 16.  By the time he was 24 he was captaining the side to the greatest ever League Championship in Scottish or British football.  The team that was the 1957/58 competition scored 132 league goals, losing only 29, losing also only one game and finished the season 13 points ahead of their nearest challengers.  Well over two hundred goals were scored in all games that season.
MacKay's determination to win as well as his ability to play football made him a legend in the game. Against his will, he remained a Hearts man all his life, he was transferred to Tottenham Hotspur at the end of the great season for a mere £32,000.   A bargains for Spurs and rather typical of the Heart of Midlothian board.  At Spurs he participated in winning the League and Cup double, winning the Cup Winners Cup and continued as a stalwart of the great Scotland side of the sixties. 
When his time at Spurs had come to an end he intended to return to Hearts and become player manager but Brian Clough locked him in a room and would not allow him out until he joined him at Derby County. A shrewd move as this began Clough's managerial career and extended MacKays.  A few years later he managed Derby himself and won the League Championship.  
He continued in football at lesser clubs for some time before retiring and left behind a legacy few can equal.  His hard tackling, his fair play, his gentleman like behaviour was not forgotten.  A tough man capable of hard work and tough on those around him to get the best out of them.  George Best, a real world class player, one of the greatest, considered MacKay his hardest opponent. Jimmy Greaves the great English forward who played alongside him at Spurs and spent much time with him on the field and in the bar knew that many of his goals came from the talent shown by Dave MacKay.  This man was unusual in that he is considered a football leged by three clubs, the Heart of Midlothian, Tottenham Hotspur and Derby County.  I doubt any man has equalled that record!

However Dave MacKays real heart was seen when watching a Spurs side play Derby County.  A TV commentator asked him what team he would support, came the reply "I'm a Hearts fan son!"   


Sunday, 1 March 2015

A Sunny Lark

It was as I was raking through the dust at the back of the sofa for enough lost coins for some breakfast bread  I realised something was different.  It took me a while to comprehend that the colour (note correct spelling) on the floor was yellow.  Yellow indeed because the sun was shining through the grimy window! I was so shocked after days of gray cloud that I rushed outside at once! I rushed straight back in and put some clothes on and then walked up to the shops in the sunshine. Of course the wind chill made it cold but the sky was blue, daffodils were showing yellow heads and discarded beer cans in the park reflected the sunshine.  
Nothing else happened mind you so here's a Lark ascending.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Mixed Feelings

Mixed feelings today.  The good side is the deserved victory the Heart of Midlothian obtained by defeating their opponents today by ten goals to nil!  Such an event I have never witnessed in the flesh, a mere five or six goals at one time is as far as I can recall being scored.  History tells us in the days of yore such scores were not uncommon but today they are indeed rare.  The Heart of Midlothian in their present mood were not slow to take advantage of their despairing visitors.  This victory sounds cruel but in the world of football such events must happen, the team at the top must show the killer instinct to defeat this opponent and ensure fear is offered to the next.
I regret not being there in person, but living four hundred miles away, and in abject poverty at that (oh yes I am!), being there is not possible.  Such a victory, even over a part time side with limited resources, is to be relished!  Sadly such sides know before the season starts such an event may occur, yet as always they go out full of hope anyway.  I suspect they will not be too happy tonight however while our young men will be boasting (quietly) of their prowess!  It must be stated their women will I suspect be more interested in 'The Voice' or 'Ant and Dec' and other drivel!

The other side of the situation is that the team we defeated is Cowdenbeath.  I have a soft spot, not the one in my head, for this town.  My mother came from Cowdenbeath and we often visited there, indeed the house was on the hill overlooking Central Park and in days of your the boys would climb up onto the roof to watch the game and save sixpence!   When the ground was open the town was awash with money.  24,000 persons lived there, the vast majority employed in the coal mines that once dominated the area.  My uncles were all miners, and what a tough life they had!  The people running the football team appear to have thought the good times would continue for ever, Cowdenbeath was called the 'Chicago of Fife' and the ground at opening day could they say hold 70,000 people!  Changes to the ground, deterioration, Health and Safety and common sense now limit the crowd to a couple of thousand.  The population might reach 15,000 today and the mines have long since disappeared.

So I am grateful for the victory but I wish it could have been against a more worthy opponent, Hibernian perhaps?  


Friday, 27 February 2015

Senility Dawns.

I put the used teabags into the teapot, as you do, recycling means a lot if it saves money.  I placed the mug at the side, filled the kettle and switched it on. I took the milk from the fridge and began to pout the milk into the teapot. It was then I stopped as it dawned on me something was not right.  
This was typical of my week. 
OK we have all walked in front of cars because we didn't look, everybody has walked out the door in their slippers, all have forgotten the lunch was still sitting on the cooker instead of inside it cooking, all forget dinner is in the oven and go on to eat burnt things.  I've done that this week.
It was judicious of me to stay indoors this week, I was feared to go outside into the real world!

My plight did not get ignored however.  As I lay on my bed I noticed eyes watching me.  Up in the tree the, vulture like, the crows gathered around eyeing me up and muttering about 'road kill.'  It was a bit anxious like when one of them started to grumble 'Let's do something!'  I shut the curtains quickly and asked the neighbour to send the cats out!  I locked the doors also just in case. I have seen that Hitchcock film!

Pleasure came from watching endless repeats of 'Time Team,' and one or two of the better 'Top Gear' programmes and several dozen football matches!  Falkirk ought to have stuffed the blue bigots tonight by the way.  I also have been reading Tacitus, WW2 diaries and Jerry's latest book. More of that later. The rest of the time I lay on the floor watching the Ladybird walk around the lampshade while I cried "Why me?  Why me?" plaintively.

I did no work of any sort, as the mess in the place reveals.     


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

There's a hole... my bag today. 
Thinking is not working.
Mind has stuttered and closed down.
Confusion reigns.
I've switched myself off and back on but it makes no difference.
I'm back off to bed until my mind restarts again.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Talk to the Wall

I've been talking to the wall.
Early this morning I had a word with one or two folks at the market stalls, later I phoned a woman and listened for fifteen minutes, and after making the stew I spoke to the wall.
It struck me this wall had something to say about the life that had passed by since 1812 when it was erected, possibly as cottages for workers at the 'Big Hoose' behind us.
The 'Big Hoose' has long since gone and been replaced with the Police station, hence the regular sirens you hear while reading this.  Whether the owner of the 'Big Hoose' remains there is unknown.
So I asked the wall about previous residents, mostly in recent years short term tenants of a few months to a couple of years, except me obviously.  
The landlord took over the place from the doctor.  He moved in during the thirties and used the house as it then was as his surgery.  Scratching around it appears to me his dad lived round the corner in one of the expensive houses there, dying in 1944, and the doctor happily practiced for many years until selling out to my landlord.  Why I ask did he have to practice?  Did he not study enough?  Anyway I have the feeling he served in the Notts & Derby regiment during the Great War, being 'gazetted' in 1918.  This a regiment that was billeted on this town during that war but would they be billeted on such a house as this was then?  My neighbour heard tow women mention this as 'that used to be the doctors house' as they passed.  Doctors appear to be something women do not forget. This however makes me wonder how the house was set up then. Certainly it was changed when the landlord converted it into flats and rebuilt the back end with little major change since.  Did he live upstairs and operate, if you see what I mean downstairs?  Not much room and lots of nosey people looking in as they pass too.
Before this  a couple married in 1930 moved in.  No idea what he did but to buy or rent this place at that time he must have been well paid.  Too little time at the moment to investigate and relying on details I discovered a long time back. Certainly he moved out when the doctor needle arrived and lived until 1981 somewhere cheaper in the town.
Before him, at least during 1926, a woman describing herself as a 'corsetiere' worked from here. She knew how to get around women!  I suppose that explains the whale bones that turn up every now and again.  
The wall saw them all.
It saw some strange things when the doctor was here, his examinations, his explanations and the often tearful response of his patients.  The couple with a possible family may have been more fun of course while the wonders of corsets and the sight of those requiring them may have made the wall look away!
During that time the town was lit by gas, the street lighting until 1956 indeed. The houses may have had electric light but did they have bathrooms by the first world war?  The wall saw, or heard, bombs fall during two wars but remained unmoved, horses clip-clopped past while folks ran out to help their roses grow. Gas lamps and more often oil lamps, candles and roaring coal fires lit the house during the hours of darkness.  No radios until the thirties, no TV, no noise for most of its life bar human voice and movement.  A occasional phone when the doctor was here perhaps.  
The original dwellers may have had a family of up to a dozen children running around.  Possibly a senior employee of the big house moved in, maybe a manager on a farm, there were lots around.
Just how many folks have lived here intrigues.  Their ups and downs would make a better TV show than that shown today.  The wall however will not reveal if any buried treasure in the garden, it claims he could not see from here!  Bah!


Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A Walk in the Past.

Having slept well I disobeyed orders and changed my mind about trekking to Chelmsford and the Record Office as I wished to go back to bed catch up with things.  This I singularly failed to do!  Instead I fiddled, fuddled and avoided things that could be avoided and caught up with emails regarding fallen soldiers. That did take a while mind.  
The bright sun fooling people into thinking it was warm tempted me out to capture pictures of the blue sky and something nice.  All I found was a chimney. It so happened that yesterday I was busy browsing a book on a local village housing.  The old houses date back to the 1300's in some cases though more came later and all have been constantly revamped.  One thing that struck me was the use of chimneys. These appeared in the late 1400's so what did they do before I wondered. However work meant I was unable to read further and satisfy my curiosity.  This building, like many down this street, are worth looking at, try it here Bradford Street.  This one started in the 15th century and was added to in the 16th and 17th, constantly improved but showing some style, even if somewhat mixed.  I have always been attracted to the scene at the side, reminiscent of an old world look.  Most of these houses have connections to the wool trade later evolving into weaving, dying and so on.  The Flemish weavers and their 'Bays and Stays' were so honest that once ordered people never checked the goods as they knew it would be as required with no cheating.  The cloth trade continued until recently when Courtauld's closed down in the 90's.

Once home I attempted work and failed.  

That was not a new experience.


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

I'm Tired....

I'm so tired!  Half term holiday and thousands of kids arrived at my door.  Just after Jean remarked that it was quiet, 10:30 ish is always quiet, we were inundated with mum's bringing the kids in.  The sun shining brightly fooled them into thinking it was warm, it wasn't really, but they had to get put of the house and here they arrived.  Not only but also there were human beings also visiting, lots of them. Many others came with queries, asking re photographs or tourist information, one visitor liked to talk as being far from home and alone he was a bit lonely, very nice he was.  Then I had to return later as the lass had to go visit a woman to record information re her wartime experiences. So I missed my much needed afternoon siesta and this is not good.  Adrenalin kept me going and now it has ceased!  
I might not be able to keep my eyes open during the football, this is bad....


Monday, 16 February 2015

Night & Football

Having spent most of the weekend watching mediocre football matches on TV or laptop I took myself out into the dark night.  The place I headed to was unobtainable so I wandered around streets I have not known for a while.
How different everything is in the early Sunday evening when dark.  
Away from the main roads all is relatively quiet, even those main roads have much less traffic. Lights at windows shine out revealing through open curtains adults wasting their minds on brain blurring TV, kids playing with tablets and policemen asking why I am looking at the buildings.  The family is quiet and at rest, the kids safely locked into their rooms, all is quiet.  
Had I ventured round here late on Saturday it may not be quite so quiet.  Late night revellers, parties here and there, an occasional police car.   At least when I delivered in this area that was the norm.  The austerity life has changed this somewhat I suspect.  
One noticeable thing then was the unfortunates who fell for Thatchers foolhardy idea of selling council houses.  These were erected to give folks a decent home, and the Conservatives under Harold MacMillan built three million themselves, she flogged them for a few votes!  The problem came when sickness or unemployment arrived and these people, fooled into buying cheap, selling high and moving 'upwards' now found themselves out on the street or in Council 'half way houses.'
In the past few years I suspect many more from here have fallen this way.  The happy contented families may be less contented than my quiet walk indicated.

I spent so much time watching football and being unsatisfied I had to start the day watching a game rerun on BT Sport.  It also was rubbish!  From Airdrie to Rome the games were not good. Still it's better than working.  Anyway I must go, Preston play Man U tonight and I have to watch it in case something relevant to the WW2 research comes in.....


Saturday, 14 February 2015

Fire Valentinus!

Interesting isn't it when you see the inside of a house that you pass daily.  The chimney stack is a beaut innit?  Shame it has to come down!  The result of a fire is quite awful and a very expensive repair is now required on two or possibly three, listed buildings.  The water damage alone will take a while to dry out. The man alleged to be responsible has appeared in court today charged with arson. I suspect we will not see him again for some time. 

Today I offer to the pretty young women who frequent this site this bouquet  of roses. Women so perfect as yourselves deserve these.
Today, as if you did not know, is another jumped up commercial money grab known worldwide as 'Valentines Day.'  The History of this one time saint is obscure, there are at least three of them, and you can take your pick as to which was the one given a backhander to start this codswallop.  The whole thing has hung around since the third century or thereabouts making many men guilt riven for not spending enough, spending too much, and no matter what he spends she still blames him and says her mother was right all along!  Why do we keep falling for these commercial led emotional robberies?  Surely men run after their women all the time?  Surely he informs her of his love daily?  Surely he has no need to spend cash because the florist says he will not be getting any if he doesn't?  Cards, flowers, eating out, events, money, holidays, all for a Valentinius we know nothing about, or if he actually existed!  Bah!  I will not fall for that!

Naturally when I wandered downstairs to greet the postwoman it goes without saying that she wandered right past my door offering a multitude of reasons why there were no cards, no flowers, no offers of dates, nowt, nil, zilch NOTHING for you!  It may of course be the lack of a tip at Christmas might still rankle with her.  Whatever I received no cards, again, this year, including the one I sent myself, and have spent the night wandering around restaurants, hanging about the windows holding a large sign saying "Divorced and able to afford TV Football!" In large black letters.  This of course is a lie but it's a giggle innit!


Thursday, 12 February 2015

Fire, Library, Butcher.

Returning from a day in Chelmsford Library looking at microfiche and searching through books I stopped off to look at the fire damage.  This building has stood here since the late 1500's and has of course been much changed over the years. I always loved it, the jetted front, the small dated windows, and I suspect creaking stairs inside.  In recent years the bottom has been a wine bar, restaurant and so on, all have failed and now the premises are used by a church group working with the 'homeless.'   Up above rooms are let and a variety of types make use of them.  In spite of original complaints there appears to have been no problems, at least none I have heard of anyway. Last night however rumour tells us a young man was informed he would be leaving, evicted is the word, and he apparently was none to happy about this.  
It has become obvious he was none to happy as his method of expression was to throw White Spirit about the place, light a match and stand well clear.  The chap who rumour claims was in the shower at the time was not happy with this expression of opinions.  He was high up in the three story building when he discovered the smoke choking him.  He got onto the roof and a double decker bus returning to the garage was brought close and he leapt onto the roof from where the firemen rescued him.  
The top floors are damaged, water damage from the fire hoses has reached the shops on the ground and the poor florist on the corner may end up losing her business.  Three of them were working on the Valentines Day (none for me thanks) flowers when the firemen knocked on the door to tell them the flats above were burning!  Luckily an empty property in the centre has been given to them for temporary use. Her business may still suffer badly mind.
Police are looking for a nineteen year old man, so there is no doubt who is responsible, and work on the building, if it survives, may go on for months.  The smell hangs about in the air as the fireman slogs his way dampening down the place.  

This blocked the road and caused my bus to drive the long way around town to head south.  In fact we arrived a wee bit early while I expected it to hinder us. I therefore headed through the town, stopping at the Cathedral for a moment and found myself impressed with a sculpture in the prayer chapel.  It is not often such things attract me but this one, photographed discretely from a distance, did look OK to me. Less impressive was the price on the second hand cameras in the local camera shop.  Certainly asking £45 for an aged Olympus Trip was excessive so you can imagine the prices of the better stuff!  Following an attractive thin legged well dressed woman, by accident obviously, I came to the market where I had a butcher at the butchers while not surprisingly I lost her as she entered a show shop, drawn irresistibly as a moth to a light bulb!  Looking at the butchers was useful however as my fridge was as empty as my intellect, and my chances as it happens.  
So I found myself in the library (pronounced 'in t' library' for those in Yorkshire) climbed down the stairs to enter, climbed up the stairs to the quiet local reference area and began to browse.  It amazed me that such a building should house the library and the Essex Council Buildings when so many stairs are in use. To enter the council many more stairs climb up and down, only a council could get away with it!  There are lifts obviously but really!  
Anyway I browsed the books, grabbed very little info and discovered the microfiche of the WW2 newspapers!  I browsed, once they had been unlocked and instructed on how not to break the machine, a suitable periodical and was impressed as to how little difference there was between those editions and today's.  Certainly tales of war derring-do are limited today but the theft, complaints letters, and sensational headlines are similar.  One thing was very good, the ability to advertise for male or female staff!  How lovely to see PROPER ADVERTS again!  Mind you the housekeeper adverts never revealed how much you were paid, so that was not good!  I loved the advert for 'Craven 'A'' Cigarettes, 'For your throat's sake' it claimed!  Another interesting point was how little was expressed in this weekly newspaper.  A German 'Junkers 88' aircraft brought down by anti-aircraft fire 'a bright orange glow in the sky' was said to have crashed 'seven miles north of an Essex town.'  No town name is given in 1944 just in case the Germans find out.  In fact considering the years of war past so little was said in the paper, but that is to be expected.   
Now I know all about this I must go back and research better when I have more time and know what I am looking for.  On returning I went to see the boss to discover a lead as to what next and found her elsewhere. Tsk!  Typical!  So I made my way home clutching the chicken, meat and pies I bought at the butchers.  £11 for a few days meals is not bad all things considered as this will do for most of the week now.  
One thing I noted is the attitudes in a large town, now called a 'city' in comparison to those of this sleepy market town.  How miserable they appear, how unwilling to speak, unless selling something, although the staff at the library were acceptable in their behaviour.  I did note the unsmiling nature the larger the town however.  Incidentally Chelmsford was granted 'City' status not because it is the centre of Essex, a boring centre I say, but because Colchester, a much more interesting place, turned it down.  The peoples if Colchester regard their town as the 'oldest town in England,' this title they would lose if they became a 'city' so they avoided it to keep the tourists!
Ah fame!