Nottingham High School on ebay (3)

Last time I was looking at a postcard sent to Noel George Peet of 2 Gorsey Close in Mapperley Park. The postcard was sent on October 27th 1926 and it was stamped with an 8.00 pm postmark. Here is the sender and the message:

It reads “Sorry! I shall be unable to play on Saturday next.”

I would say that the signature is of “JG Sykes”. October 27th 1926 was a Wednesday and JG Sykes is clearly writing to the person who organises a local sports team, probably the captain or the secretary. At this time, Noel was only 24 years old and I would therefore presume that he was the captain of the team, rather than the secretary, who is the man who organises the fixtures, the renting of the pitch and so on. At first reading, I would have said that the team was probably the Old Nottinghamians and that they were going to play rugby, but there is one big problem about this best guess.

JG Sykes did not go to the High School. It cannot be a local cricket team in late October, so it must be football, or soccer as my American friends would term it. Between 1914-1968 the High School did not play football, at least officially. There were, though, one or two renegade teams which I intend to talk about in a separate blog post. All I can offer, therefore, is that JG Sykes and NG Peet were members of a local football team, unconnected directly to the High School. Which one, I cannot imagine. Sherwood United? Mapperley Rangers? Who knows?

I did though, find out who JG Sykes possibly was. In the Kelly’s Directory for 1928, this entry appears:

That is “James Gordon Sykes of 97 Mansfield Street, which I feel should be written in that same old fashioned way, as “Mansfield-street”. However you write it, Mansfield-street is deep in the heart of Sherwood, the suburb, of course, rather than the leafy place where the Merrie Men hang out. The orange arrow points to Mansfield Street which does in fact continue northwards over Winchester Street.  If you look at where “the Yellow Road to Woodborough” goes off the bottom of the map, the letters “-RSEY RD” to the left refer to Gorsey Road.

In the bottom left corner is the double roundabout only a hundred yards from the High School. Clearly, as regards games of football, this really was a local team for local people.

Sooooo…….what’s on the postcard? Well, James Gordon Sykes clearly knew his captain’s educational ancestry because he chose this beautiful scene. The front of the High School:

And there have been one or two changes since, say, 1920. A lot of pinnacles and chimney pots have been removed, presumably in the days before the concept of listed buildings was invented. The School field gun has gone. Here’s the School in more recent times:

The photograph for the postcard was taken from over on the right, behind the bushes and the hedge. Most noticeable, though, is the war memorial which has been there since 1922. On the top is a life size statue in bronze which represents a young officer leading his men into attack. The statue was designed by an Old Nottinghamian, Colonel AS Brewill, the commander of the 7th Sherwood Foresters and it was cast in bronze by Henry Poole.

Just over 1,500 boys and masters had fought in the Great War. Two Victoria Crosses had been won, 124 men had been awarded other decorations, and 29 had been mentioned in dispatches. Most important of all, though, was the fact that between two and three hundred men had been killed, from a School which had an annual total of between 350-450 pupils in the years before the war.

The only other object in front of the School before 1922 was a 25-pounder field gun which somebody had brought back from the war as a souvenir. I haven’t been able to discover who it was, or exactly when or indeed, why. After four years of a war memorial and a field gun within thirty yards of each other, a decision was taken to remove the gun and have it made into ploughshares somewhere. Even then, the gun had its supporters:

” In July 1926 the Old Boys’ Society spoke out against the removal of the field gun from the front of the school. They felt that its barrel provided a wonderfully useful litter bin for the boys walking past.”

Here is that old field gun enlarged:

The building behind the gun is the caretaker’s house, demolished long ago. The tower is still there to this day. It is nothing to do with the High School or the caretaker’s house. It belonged to a man who was extremely keen on the horse races which were held nearby until 1890 on what is now the Forest Recreation Ground . He therefore had the tower added to his house so he could see if he had won or lost his money. The last meeting took place on September 29th-30th 1890, and the last race, the Cotgrave Gorse Plate, was won by Sir Hamilton, owned by Mr T Tyler, and ridden by A Nightingall. Horse racing subsequently moved to Colwick.

Just to finish, here’s an aerial view of the School taken in 1920 or thereabouts. It is isn’t of very great quality, but then again neither was the camera or the plane:

Notice the shrubbery, Dr Dixon’s house on Waverley Mount, AKA the “Last House on the Left”.  The caretaker’s house is opposite and notice the boys near to it. Top left is the Fives Court and Brincliffe  School still stands to the right of that, where the staff car park now is.

The back of the School was very different then. Here is the North Entrance in 1915:

Notice the bell tower and the extra flag pole.

One last fact about Noel Peet by the way. I have only just realised where he has appeared before in the context of my blog. His name is to be found carved into the mantelpiece of the fireplace between the General Office and the Assembly Hall. You can read all about that here.

 

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1792 : a vintage year

The details that I found for the year 1792 come from a source that I have used quite frequently before, namely “The Date Book of Remarkable Memorable Events Connected With Nottingham and Its Neighbourhood”.

The year started in spectacular fashion on February 25th:

“Between the hours of eight and nine this evening an alarming shock of an earthquake was felt in the Midland counties, but particularly at Nottingham, many of the inhabitants running out of their houses, expecting them to fall upon their heads. The shock was preceded by a rumbling noise like the rolling of a cannon ball upon a boarded floor.”

A bit like this, then:

At this time, there was, of course, no real sport in the city…no Nottingham Forest, no Notts County, no Nottingham Panthers, no Nottingham Outlaws, no Nottingham Rugby Club. And so people had no choice but to busy themselves by showing enormous interest in council planning applications:

May 9th . “On the arrival of the intelligence that the bill authorising the formation of the Nottingham Canal had received the royal assent, the bells of both churches were set a-ringing, and other congratulatory manifestations indulged in.”

Thank the Lord. We’re going to build a canal. Canals are wonderful :

If you look after them, and remember, like pot plants, to water them regularly:

I think by now people’s nerves were already on edge after over indulging in their personal celebrations of the success of the planning application for building the new canal. They were a little like small children who get fractious and behave badly after their routine is disturbed:

May 12th.  “A number of people assembled in a riotous manner in the Market-place, on account of the high price of butchers’ meat:

The Market-place did look quite different then:

The account continues:

After a stout endeavour to retain possession of their property, when further resistance might have proved dangerous, the butchers retreated from the Shambles, and left the mob in undisturbed possession. It being Saturday, the stock of meat was large and in a few moments the whole of it disappeared.

The magistrates at once called out the military, and by the expostulations of the Mayor, and the firing of the soldiers in the air, the mob dispersed, and the military returned to their quarters.”

Here come the military. They do look a little bit regimented, I suppose, but they are a lot easier to draw this way:

“Very unexpectedly, in the course of the evening the depredators reassembled, and bearing down upon the Shambles with renewed force, destroyed and conveyed away every door, shutter, implement, and book they could find in the shops, and made a great bonfire of them in the Market-place, yelling and shouting round it like  savages. The fire was burning from eleven at night till one in the morning, when the military succeeded in extinguishing it, and tranquillity was restored.”

For a moment there, it must have been touch and go:

I would think that for the second military intervention, they used the soldiers with the silly hats. Most people, when faced by these picked German troops, just ran away clutching their stolen sausages:

“For several days after, symptoms of a recurrence of the disorder were apparent, but the vigilance of the authorities at length finally suppressed them.”

Nobody nowadays ever thinks of England as ever being on the edge of revolution, but it had already happened once during the reign of King Charles I when the king was executed. The end of the 18th century saw a fair few Englishmen holding up the French Revolution as an example of good practice. They were pushed into that by a royal family who were perhaps the least charismatic of the many Germans who have ruled over our country. Parliament was no better. It was a place where rich landowners were vastly over represented. Their excessive number of MPs kept the price of the food their estates produced artificially and permanently high.

Many revolutions around the world have started with hungry people robbing shops full of food they wanted to eat but could not afford.

 

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The Battle of Britain (1)

We visited RAF Hendon on July 22nd 2010. It seems an age ago. Hendon is a fantastic museum, easy to get to from the M1 and FREE ENTRY. What is there not to like?

The first few photographs show the display outside the museum. One is a Hurricane and the other is a Spitfire. I’ll leave you to work out which is which. Here’s an aircraft with a cannon in each wing which, I think, means that it cannot have been a Battle of Britain participant:

Here’s another view of the very first aircraft:

And the second aircraft again… This is as close as I get to that weirdo artistic sort of photograph:

Here’s the last picture of aircraft No 1 and 3:

And here’s a free clue to the identity of this aircraft. American readers…”Sorry!”

And here’s aircraft No 2 and 4 again:

Well, the odd numbers are the Hawker Hurricane and the even numbers are the Supermarine Spitfire, originally called the Supermarine Shrew. The way to tell them apart is that the Hurricane, or “Harry Kane” to give you the answer to the clue, has one huge radiator under the fuselage and the Spitfire always has two smaller ones, one under each wing.

It was months after our visit that I found out that both aircraft outside the museum were counterfeit. Made of plastic, apparently. The museum people don’t make that particularly obvious. I suspect that they’re scared that they’ll be killed in the crush of middle aged men who all want one for the front lawn.
The Spitfire was, of course, designed by Reginald Joseph Mitchell who worked for Supermarine Aviation of Southampton. Here he is:

Many Germans could not separate RJ Mitchell from the man who played him in the film, Leslie Howard. Here’s Leslie Howard:

They could be identical twins, couldn’t they?

The Spitfire’s wing was of an innovative shape at the time. I didn’t know though, that there was a good deal of input from Beverley Strahan Shenstone, a Canadian engineer. Here he is. He isn’t in the film. The British  always seem to have kept Australians, Canadians and New Zealanders well out of their films:

Beverley Shenstone studied in Germany under Hugo Junkers and Alexander Lippisch. I found this out in a marvellous book I read recently called “Secret Wings of World War II” by Lance Cole. Here it is. It’s an excellent book:

To quote the author:

“By 1932, Shenstone had authored several papers stemming from his German studies…he was soon employed by RJ Mitchell, Shenstone was the man who within four years had shaped the Spitfire’s ellipsoid wing, its wing fillet and many of its aerodynamic design features.”

A wing fillet is the smooth curve between the fuselage and the wing. It improves air flow. It isn’t particularly obvious in the plastic Spitfire above but there will be a Spitfire Mark I appearing soon and it’s a lot more obvious on that aircraft.

Hugo Junkers was beyond the cutting edge of aircraft design in 1945. This is his Junkers Ju 287 bomber with forward pointing wings. And yes, it flew perfectly:

Even in the 1930s, his designs were astounding. Swept back wings with propellers:

 And a flying wing, the J 1000 Super Duck:

Alexander Lippisch was even better than Hugo Junkers. Here he is:

His first aircraft was not very good:

But after that, by the standards of 1940, WOW!

 The Americans are still flying around in his thoughts and ideas:

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Nottingham High School on ebay (2)

As well as not buying a rather expensive medallion on ebay, I have actually bought a postcard or two over the years. The first one was sent on October 27th 1926. It is stamped with an 8.00 pm postmark, so I presume that it was written earlier that day and then posted perhaps before dinner, or, more likely perhaps, on the sender’s way home from work. It was a Wednesday, which in those days would have been half day closing, so he probably left work at 1.00 pm and put it into the post box on his way home:

Notice how the Post Office slogan is “British Goods are best”. Only a few months after the General Strike, the economy was in real need of a boost if further discontent and upheaval was to be avoided. Notice too, the beautiful, classic stamp. King George V was a fanatical stamp collector, and loved nothing better of an evening than sticking his stamps in his thousand albums. When you’re an emperor, this is the album for you:

The postcard is addressed to NG Peet of 2 Gorsey Close in Mapperley Park. I couldn’t trace a Gorsey Close but I did find a Gorsey Road. Here is a close up view of the area. Gorsey Road is between the B684 Woodborough Road and Mapperley Road, in Mapperley Park, one of Nottingham’s leafier suburbs. Look as always for the orange arrow.  No 2 is on the corner with the B684, Woodborough Road. :

If you look at this larger map, you can see that Gorsey Road is not too far away from the High School which is in the bottom left corner in the area between Arboretum Street, Forest Road East and Waverley Street. The School is on the corner either side of the pale green patch. Gorsey Road, I should have said, is again indicated by the orange arrow.

This is No 2 Gorsey Road now, a little overgrown perhaps, and in a street which looks to have gone a little downhill, but obviously, it was a very beautiful house in its time:

The Peet family had only recently moved to Gorsey Close when that postcard arrived in the late evening of October 27th 1926. In the Kelly’s Directory published in 1925, their future abode was owned by Edward Westwick Kirk of Kirk & Macdonald. The Head of the Family, WG Peet, was living at that time at 249 Woodborough Road, presumably with everyone else in the family. Here it is:

Three years or so later, when all of the information had been collected for the 1928 edition of the Kelly’s Directory, the house in Gorsey Road was now recorded as being occupied by Mrs Ann Elizabeth Peet. She was presumably NG Peet’s mother, rather than his wife. At this time her son was still in his early twenties and it is by no means surprising that he was still living in the parental home. There is certainly no NG Peet listed as living elsewhere in Nottingham, nor indeed in the rest of the county.

In 1929, the High School prepared its own list of the Old Boys’ addresses. In that, NG Peet is listed as still living at 2 Gorsey Close although it could just be that they carried an old address forward.

NG Peet, incidentally, I should have introduced him earlier. He is Noel Gordon Peet, who was born on December 26th 1901, hence the name. His father was William George Peet who was a “General Agent”. Six years later, in 1925, the relevant Kelly’s Directory listed William George Peet as working for “WG Peet, Son & Company”. By 1928, he is listed as a “yarn merchant” operating from Kaye’s Walk. His telephone number was listed as “TN 42769” and his telegraphic address as “Knitiarns”.

Noel entered the High School on April 26th 1917, at the age of 15. He was Boy No 3662 and he stayed there until July 1919. At this time, 1917 at least, the family was living at 413 Mansfield Road. Here’s 413 Mansfield Road, in spirit a very similar house to 2 Gorsey Road. I’m a huge lover of trees, but these need a tree surgeon and his assistant for a day and the whole place would look so much better:

Noel packed a lot into his two and a bit years at the High School. He won the Fifth Form B Prize in 1918 and the Fifth Form Writing Prize in the same year. In 1919, he won the Sixth Form B Prize. In the Officer Training Corps, he became a Corporal in 1918 and a Sergeant in 1919. In cricket, he won the School Prize for Batting in the same year.  He had 13 innings and scored a total of 144 runs at an average of 11.07. His top score was 36. Not a classic season for the School apparently !

Also listed in the High School’s list of Old Boys in 1929 was William Ronald Peet, Noel’s younger brother. He too is recorded as living at No 2 Gorsey Close. He was born on October 9th 1910 and entered the High School as Boy No 4036 on May 1st 1919. He left in December 1926 at the end of the First Term. By the time William entered the School, the family had moved from Mansfield Road and were living at Sutherland Lodge in Lucknow Drive in Mapperley Park. The boys’ father is listed as a “manager”. Lucknow Drive, or rather the word “Lucknow”, is visible in the top right corner of the second map above.

Did anything significant happen on the day the postcard was posted, namely October  27th 1926, anywhere in the world ? Well, nothing really earth shattering, but there was one episode which I found quite amusing. Here’s a clue, with a picture of a Shipstone’s Brewery beer crate and some of their products:

Shipstone’s Brewery lasted from 1852-1991. I always felt that it was, at best, an acquired taste. Anyway, here’s the funny story to finish with. It comes from ‘Hansard’ which records everything said by everybody in debates in the Houses of Parliament. The story came out because Labour Party MP, Alfred Salter, was censured in the House of Commons for refusing to retract remarks of his that had appeared in the Daily Express:

 “I am not prepared to withdraw, modify or apologise for anything I have said on this matter, and I propose to repeat the words I made use of and about which complaint has been made.

I said, and I repeat it here to-day, that I have seen members of all parties in this House, my own party I regret to say included, drunk in this House not on one occasion but on many.”

A motion was passed calling the statement “a gross libel on the Members of this House and a grave breach of its privileges.”

 

 

 

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the Gloster Meteor at Hendon (2)

Last time I was talking about my visit to RAF Hendon where I saw the Messerschmitt Me 262, and I also saw the first RAF jet fighter, the Gloster Meteor F8. I ended the post by saying what the Meteor’s good points were:

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Set against the positives of the Meteor, though, is its dreadful safety record which soon led to the new jet fighter being called “The Meatbox”.

Almost 900 were lost by the RAF, the peak year being 1953 with 145 crashes:

Factors to blame were apparently poor brakes, the landing gear, completely different flying characteristics from piston engined aircraft, a flight endurance of less than 60 minutes which caused pilots to run out of fuel and lots of difficulties when only one engine was working. Even with two engines, response times were very sluggish. To add to the list, when pilots in those days were taught how to fly on one engine, the other engine was switched off completely so, to quote the forum where I found it, “you had no chance if you fouled it up”. The aircraft also apparently had a nasty habit of diving straight into the ground when any flap or the undercarriage was lowered when the wing mounted airbrakes were out. There were no ejection seats in early aircraft and it was therefore very difficult to bale out of, although it was extremely easy to hit the tail on the way out. The foreign air forces had the same kind of difficulties. Here is a Belgian crash:

According to one account I found, the Coroner at Darlington actually subpoenaed the commander of the local base to make him come and explain the steadily increasing size of the RAF section of the municipal cemetery. No problem for the commander. All he needed to do was to invoke the Official Secrets Act and it was problem solved. At least one student pilot on every course was being killed. No 74 Squadron had three killed in as many months:

In “The Meteor Boys” by Steve Bond there is an account by a prospective young pilot of his going on a course to learn to fly Meteors at RAF Driffield. He went to a funeral on his first Thursday and then to another the following Monday, and a third on the following Thursday.
In foreign service in the Netherlands, the Meteor was the second most dangerous jet aircraft they ever had with almost 36 crashes in every 100,000 hours of flying. (And the winner is…… the F-84 Thunderjet with almost 56 crashes per 100K hours):


Perhaps we should put these figures for the Meteor in RAF service in context, though. One forum I came across said that in 1953 the RAF lost 486 aircraft with 334 fatalities. The other years of the 1950s are believed to be 1950 : 380 aircraft lost and 238 fatalities, 1951 : 490 aircraft lost and 280 fatalities, 1952 : 507 aircraft lost and 318 fatalities, 1954 : 452 aircraft lost and 283 fatalities, 1955 : 305 aircraft lost and 182 fatalities, 1956 : 270 aircraft lost and 150 fatalities, 1957 : 233 aircraft lost and 139 fatalities, 1958 : 128 aircraft lost and 87 fatalities and 1959 : 102 aircraft lost and 59 fatalities

If my trusty calculator is correct, that makes 3,353 aircraft lost and 2,070 young men killed. My quick mental arithmetic says that you had, therefore, a 61.73575902177% chance of a premature death if anything went wrong with your 1950s RAF aircraft.

It must have been this kind of situation that provoked Prime Minister Winston Churchill to ask the Air Minister “Is the RAF training or killing its pilots?” The Air Minister told Churchill not to worry as these kind of figures were merely par for the course.
None of this takes away from the Meteor, though, the honour of being the first ever British jet fighter:

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My Dad came across a Gloster Meteor once:

“one day in late 1944, everybody was in the mess at Lossiemouth, eating their lunch and drinking their cups of tea. Suddenly the door was flung open, and a very excited young man came in shouting “Quick ! Quick ! Come outside and see this ! There’s a crate out here without any props ! ”

And sure enough, outside the mess hall, on the runway, stood one of the RAF’s first jet aircraft, a Gloster Meteor, a fighter plane which did not have any propellers. The mechanics could not believe that the strange aircraft would even be capable of flight. But then they realised…..

“ No more prop changes ! ”

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Nottingham High School on ebay (1)

I always keep an eye on ebay to see if anything is on sale which is connected with Nottingham High School, the school where I spent my entire teaching career. First, here’s something that I didn’t buy because I thought it was far too expensive. Here’s the front:

And here’s the back:

The seller wanted £85 for it which I thought was just too expensive for me. It was a medal awarded to Benjamin Herbert Heald of Wilford, a little village on the River Trent to the south of Nottingham. Born on September 16th 1874, Benjamin entered the High School at the age of 12 on September 11th 1887 as Boy No 664. His father was Francis Berry Heald, a designer. Benjamin left the High School on the last day of what was at the time quite frequently called “Term Three” in July 1893. He went on to Queen’s College, Oxford with an Exhibition of £42. That would have been at least 20 times the average worker’s weekly wage.  At the High School he was a true Clever Clogs of the Very Highest Level. He was a Foundation Scholar (1890), a William Enfie Exhibitioner (1892), a Morley Exhibitioner (1891). He won 12 School Prizes in his time at the school, and a number of medals. You can make your choice as to which one this was. They were the Bronze Medal for Good Conduct (1889), the Gold Medal for the Best Open Scholarship (1893) , the Silver Medal for Classic (1893) and the Bronze Medal for Good Conduct (1893). If anybody knows which medal this is, please make a comment. I presume it is one of the Bronze ones. Notice how the reverse has the normal badge of the School:

It also has the cross which appears on the coat of arms of Nottingham:

I don’t recognise the shield with the ring on it, but it does seem vaguely familiar so perhaps somebody has an idea about that.

I found out one strange detail about Benjamin Herbert Heald. In the School Register is a boy called Benjamin Arthur Heald who was born on May 11th 1856. He entered the English School at the Free School on Stoney Street, as it then was, in January 1866. His father is listed as Benjamin Heald and he was a “lace agent and designer” living at 18 High Pavement. Benjamin Arthur Heald was surely a relative of Benjamin Herbert Heald. Anyway Benjamin Arthur is recorded as having died at home from the effects of overbathing, probably in June 1867, when he was 11 years old.

Eventually, Benjamin Herbert Heald became the Headmaster of Midhurst Grammar School in Sussex. In later years he was to reminisce about how the High School’s Headmaster during his time at the School, Dr James Gow, was different from all the other teachers. He never called boys up to his desk to go through their work, but always went to sit alongside them. Lessons usually finished with the customary phrase, “…I think that just about finishes our dose.”

This is Dr Gow, the High School’s greatest ever headmaster:

Next time, some dirty postcards. Well, second hand, at least.

 

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Fred joins the RAF (4)

We left Fred last time in Blackpool doing his basic training with Sergeant Parry. All of the RAF’s young volunteers were billeted in boarding houses which, in peacetime, would have accommodated holiday makers. Here are Fred and his friends:

And here is the section with Fred in it. It always reminds me of the RAF version of “Where’s Wally?”:

The boarding house landladies in Blackpool were paid for every recruit they took, but a substantial minority saw this as a fine opportunity to profiteer, accepting money for meals that were never to materialise in the quantities that the payments might have implied. Instead, these unscrupulous women either ate the food themselves, or, more frequently, sold it to their neighbours, who were themselves short of food because of rationing.

In the boarding house where Fred was billeted, thanks to their particular greedy grasping landlady, the individual portions served, were, at best, markedly small. One day, after Physical Training on the beach, Fred and his friend Jacques, came back early from their exercise.

Jacques was Fred’s best pal at this time. He was the son of a Yorkshire farmer, with the physical build, and indeed the appetite for food, to match his origins. Here is the group as a whole in a formal class photograph:

And here are Fred and Jacques as a close-up :

If you remember,  Fred and Jacques had come back early from their Physical Training on the beach. Fred went straight upstairs to wash and make sure he was properly dressed for the meal. Jacques, however, went immediately into the dining room where he found a whole ham, meant for twelve hungry young recruits, waiting in the centre of the table. Jacques, clearly accustomed to Yorkshire farmer sized servings, immediately presumed that the meat was for him and without further ado, he ate the lot.

The reaction of his colleagues when they eventually arrived from their afternoon’s exertions, has not been recorded for posterity, but at best, they were not very impressed.

One of the other men in Fred’s boarding house had  a knowledge both of chemistry and of the behaviour of dogs. One fine, sunny day he went down to the local chemist’s shop, and bought a very large quantity of aniseed concentrate which he then proceeded to dilute:

He took this magic potion and laid scent trails through the streets of Blackpool, all of which led back to the boarding house. He then continued the trails inside the building, entering through both the front and the back doors, leading up the stairs to the different floors, then onto the landings, into the bedrooms and into the bathrooms. In short, his aniseed trails reached every single square inch of the property. Aniseed is desperately attractive to dogs. Once they get the scent…

…off they go, like addicts to their next fix:

They just cannot resist that aniseedy smell:

The result was one glorious afternoon of revenge, as every dog in Blackpool, driven crazy by the overpowering and intoxicating scent of aniseed, arrived at the house and ran berserk, up and down the stairs, careering backwards and forwards along the landings, chasing in and out of the rooms, widdling, piddling and scent marking up every wall and in every recess and corner as they went.

Never make an enemy of the RAF.

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