Author Archives: jfwknifton

My best friend, Widdle (3)

Widdle was extremely photogenic, and didn’t he know it! Mind you, he does have such beautiful soft eyes……..

In the days when he had a wife and cubs to support, Widdle did his very best to be the perfect husband and the perfect Dad, but that didn’t mean that he never felt tired. Indeed he had a number of different places that he would use for a rest, and if it was sunny and warm, then so much the better.

If we weren’t at home when he came to call, he would graciously sit quietly and wait for us. Sometimes, he would get nice and comfortable in a large empty planter. Our garden is on two levels, and directly behind the planter there was a fifteen foot drop. It didn’t bother him, though. Widdle never seemed to have any fear of heights…….

When we went to say hello and to ask him what kind of a day he was having, Widdle wasn’t ever frightened.  He liked that lofty perch,  even though he was sitting with his back to any potential attackers. What he saw as the biggest plus point of that planter was the fact that he could immediately spot us as we emerged from the house with his sausages……

On other occasions he would sit like a dog, making sure that there were no rival male foxes on the lawn some twenty feet below:

At other times he seemed very cautious and preferred to sit in the foliage:

Occasionally, he would have his attention drawn by a noise he didn’t recognise:

His proudest moment, however, came when he showed off his new winter coat:

His fur was always at its most luxuriant in the winter, whehn he needed the extra warmth, of course. In summer, he would moult his coat and go around looking a lot more grey than red, and overall, extremely tatty. Picture 4 above illustrates the Punk Fox look perfectly, as does the one below…..

In this photograph Widdle is a little more advanced in his moult, and the grey tones to his fur are really obvious. This picture dates from a different day to Photograph 4, when he spent a sunny warm afternoon in the planter, and woke up so stiff that he needed a good stretch before he could even think of eating.

Having said that, just a few minutes warming up, and he was soon ready for his favourite food…….

 

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Filed under Humour, Nottingham, Personal, Widdle, Wildlife and Nature

The Sandiacre Screw Company (6)

Keith Doncaster took off on his last mission with 166 Squadron at 18:12 hours on October 22nd 1943 from RAF Kirmington, 11 miles south west of Grimsby in Lincolnshire. Here’s what RAF Kirmington looks like today:

Keith was in “Z-Zebra”, an Avro Lancaster Mk III with the serial number EE196 and the squadron letters AS-Z . During the course of the war, because of the astonishing levels of bomber losses, nine different aircraft in 166 Squadron were to carry those letters of AS-Z, “Z-Zebra”. That means, over time, 63 different young men as crew, of whom a minimum of 54 would have experienced disaster of some kind, up to, and including, their own deaths.

There were also nine different aircraft for AS-E, “E-Edward”, (63 more young men’s lives risked) and for AS-F, “F-Freddy”, (63 more) and for AS-N, “N-Nuts”, (63 more) and for AS-S, “S-Sugar”, (63 more). Those five different letters, then, E, F, N, S and Z, accounted for 45 Lancaster bombers and 315 young men all put into extreme danger.

In an Avro Lancaster, if the aircraft was shot down, only one man of the seven crew, on average, escaped with his life. That makes 54 young men killed in the nine different aircraft which carried the letter “Z”. And overall, those five different letters, E, F, N, S and Z, accounted for 270 young men, all of them in all probability, killed.

The members of the crew all had a financial value and cost. The Head of Bomber Command was Arthur Harris, aka Bomber Harris, aka Butcher Harris (to his men). Harris always used to reckon that to train just one member of a Lancaster crew cost as much as sending six men to Oxford or Cambridge for three years. Whether that is true or not, we do know that the actual figure was £10,000, although the website did say that that total is expressed in 1943 prices. Allowing for inflation, in today’s money, the cost becomes £500,000 per man.  And the crews of those five different letters, E, F, N, S and Z, therefore, were trained at a cost of around £135,000,000.

 

That all created some startling casualty figures for Bomber Command. A total of 51% of all bomber crew were killed on operations, 12% were killed or wounded in non-operational accidents and 13% became prisoners of war.  Just 24% survived.

Those five letters, E, F, N, S and Z, also stood for enormous sums of money. In the early 1940s, Lancasters cost, in today’s money, around £2,000,000 each. Those 45 aircraft would therefore have cost £90,000,000. Here’s “Z-Zebra” and its crew, possibly with the members of the ground crew ho kept if flying…….
Never forget, though, that there is a difference between “cost” and “value”. Let’s look at two sentences……
“What is the cost of just one of those aircrew to the RAF?”
“What is the value of just one of those aircrew to his family?”
Here’s the crew of Z-Zebra, and, presumably, five of the ground crew who kept them flying……..

Tonight, the target was Kassel, a city to the northeast of Frankfurt. No satellites in those days meant that accurate weather forecasts were very rare and the bombers frequently encountered unforeseen meteorological difficulties.

And so it was on this occasion, when 569 bombers, including 322 Lancasters and 247 Halifaxes, set off for Kassel. Twenty of them encountered heavy rain, ice formed on the aircraft and they were forced to turn back. Other various problems forced 39 more bombers to turn back. Eventually, 444 aircraft arrived at the target, 78% of the original force.

Kassel was a prime target because of the Fieseler aircraft factory, the Henschel & Sohn factories producing Tiger tanks, an engine factory, a motor vehicle factory, and the headquarters of the organisation responsible for all railway and road construction in central Germany as well as two military headquarters and the regional supreme court. Kassel housed the headquarters of Military District 9 and the local satellite camp of Dachau provided slave labourers for the Henschel factories.

The 444 survivors from that original force dropped 2,000 tons of bombs and an amazing 460,000 incendiaries. Native speakers were used, broadcasting from special Lancasters, to give the German night fighter pilots incorrect orders over the radio or to countermand their previously given orders. A diversionary raid on Frankfurt, by 28 Lancasters and eight Mosquitoes caused further confusion.

The main target was marked exceptionally well and the bombs fell extremely accurately, creating a minor firestorm, made all the more severe when the main telephone exchange and the city’s water supply were put out of action.

4,349 blocks of flats containing 26,782 individual family flats were demolished. The bombers damaged 6,743 more blocks, containing 26,463 individual units. 120,000 people became homeless. There were 1,600 major fires and a thousand smaller ones. Overall, 160 industrial premises were flattened, along with 140 government buildings. At this time Henschel were manufacturing V-1 missiles, so this severe damage impacted hugely on the date of the first launchings against England. Two German spectators watch the spectacle :

Kassel was devastated and burned for seven more days. Casualties were dug out of the hot rubble for weeks. 5,600 people were killed and 3,300 just disappeared, cremated in the firestorm and its week long aftermath. After the previous raid of October 3rd-4th 1943, up to 90% of the city centre was now destroyed. There were only two more significant raids on Kassel during the rest of the war. One on the Henschel motor transport plant, and the RAF’s final farewell on March 8th-9th 1945. The RAF really had done an enormous amount of damage:

All of this success had its price though. That night, 241 men were killed as 25 Halifaxes and 18 Lancasters were destroyed. On the way to Kassel anti-aircraft fire accounted for three bombers, and night-fighters claimed a couple more. The anti-aircraft fire at Kassel, aided by 70 searchlights, brought down five more bombers. Searchlights could be a formidable opponent, especially if they had a cathedral to defend:

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The night-fighters then struck as they returned home. No 10 Squadron lost 21 men, with further losses from No 12 Squadron (eight men), 35 Squadron (two men), 49 Squadron (nine men), 50 Squadron (one man), 51 Squadron (seven men), 57 Squadron (ten men), 61 Squadron (six men), 76 Squadron (eight men), 77 Squadron (ten men), 78 Squadron (six men), 100 Squadron (five men), 102 Squadron (eight men), 103 Squadron (19 men), 158 Squadron (14 men), 166 Squadron (12 men), 207 Squadron (nine men), 408 Squadron (seven men), 419 Squadron (five men), 427 Squadron (26 men), 428 Squadron (one man), 429 Squadron (11 men), 431 Squadron (seven men), 434 Squadron (22 men) and 467 Squadron (seven men).

In addition to these 241 men killed, 71 became prisoners of war. This constituted a completely unsustainable loss rate of 7.6 %. In other words, at that rate, nobody would live to carry out more than fourteen missions.

Not many of the young men in this photograph will be over thirty:

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Football Programmes of the Soviet Union (4)

The old Soviet Union, of course, had a huge number of less well known teams in the lower divisions, and they can often be quite interesting because they have such marvellous names, the Russian equivalents, perhaps, of Scottish football teams such as “Bonnyrigg Rose”, “Civil Service Strollers” and “The Spartans”.

This first programme is “Кубань Краснодар” aka “Kuban Krasnodar”, a team which used to play in Krasnodar, the 16th largest city in Russia. It was built by the Cossacks on the southern plains as a fortress to guard the River Kuban. “Krasnodar” means “gift of the Reds” aka “the dirty Commies”. Before that, the city used to be “Yekaterinodar”, which means the gift of Catherine the Great. In modern times, “Кубань Краснодар” became FC Kuban but that didn’t prevent bankruptcy on May 17th 2018 and, as far as I know, a short trip into oblivion. Like most football clubs, though, oblivion didn’t last that long, and on August 5th 2018, the club was back in business, now called FC Kuban (2018). Here is their badge.

Below is one of the old programmes of “Кубань Краснодар” aka “Kuban Krasnodar” . It dates from September 1st 1967 (top right). Just above the number 1 is the word Russian “пятница”  or  “P-ya-t-n-ee-ts-a” which means “Friday”. The origin of the word is that “пят” or “P-ya-t” means “five”. It’s the fifth day of the week, of course.

In Russian, the home team is always on the right, so the visitors this Friday are “Динамо Кировобад” aka “Dynamo Kirovabad”. Kirovabad was the city’s name from 1935-1989 and it is now called “Ganja”. It is the third largest city in Azerbaijan, but the most mellow by quite a long way. The team is now called “Kapaz PFK” incidentally…….

Inside the programme, which is a single sheet folded in two,  are the two teams, complete with an illegible autograph:

Look at the three vertical lines down the middle. On both sides of that vertical division, the bottom two horizontal  lines, on both left and right, contain the words “Тренер” and “Капитан”, trainer and captain. The left hand trainer has the very unusual first name “Hamlet”, which in Russian is “Гамлет”.

This is literally “Gamlet” but Russian has no letter “H” and replaces it in foreign words with a hard “G” sound. In the USA this gives you “Gonolulu” /”Гонолулу”  and “Gollyvood”/”Голливуд“. In England, this gives you “Galifax”/”Галифакс” , “Guddersfield” / “Гуддерсфилд” and “Garry Potter” / “Гарри Поттер“.

Chaos ensued with the fact that England had two ports very close to each other. One is called “Hull” and the other is called “Goole”.   Both of these places came out as “Gooll” / “Гулл” which caused so much confusion that Russian ships completely stopped going to Goole and only ever went to Hull.

The next programme is from “Ташкентская Обл(асть)” or the Tashkent district. Tashkent, of course, is nowadays the capital of Uzbekistan, a country usually regarded as being in Asia.

The programme is from a home game for a team called  “Политотдел” which is “Politotdel “ aka “Political Department”:

Tashkent is home to this stunningly beautiful mosque:

On the left, Politotdel’s visitors are called “Уралмаш Свердловск” or “Uralmash Sverdlovsk”. Sverdlovsk has now been renamed  “Ekaterinburg”, and is to the east of the Ural mountains. It is the third largest city in Russia with around two million inhabitants.

Nowadays, “Политотдел” has become the beautifully named “FC Dustlick” of Uzbekistan. “Уралмаш Свердловск” have been at various times  “Avangard”, “Zenit”, and “Mashino-stroitel”. “Avangard” must be the  well known French expression, “Avant garde”. ”Mashino-stroitel” in Russian, means “car constructors” and “Uralmash” is an acronym type creation meaning “Ural Car”. Nowadays, no cars are manufactured in this area, hence the present name of the team, which is just “Ural” or  “Урал“:

The final programme, below, is “Локомотив Челябинск” or “Lokomotiv Chelyabinsk”, who are  the home team. They face “Селенга Улан- Удэ” or “Selenga Ulan Udé”. The match took place on Friday, “пятница”, still pronounced “p-ya-t-n-i-tz-a”,  and based, as we know, on “пять”, “p-ya-t”, the Russian for five. “Пять”, “p-ya-t”, is related to the Greek “pent” as in “the Pentagon”. The match kicked off at 1600, which was a very early end to the working week. East of the Urals, and sheltered away from central government in Moscow, “Уралмаш Свердловск” games always used to bring about a “POETS” .

Chelyabinsk aka “Челябинск” is the seventh largest city in Russia with 1.1 million inhabitants. It is to the east of the Urals (just).

The football club “Selenga Ulan Udé” is now called “FC Buryatia Ulan-Udé”. Ulan Udé is to the south east of Irkutsk  and Lake Baikal and stands at the confluence of the River Selenga (hence the team name) and the Uda. The city is the capital of the Buryatia region, which is directly north of Mongolia. It has a population of slightly less than a million, of which 450,000 live in Ulan Udé. Buryatia therefore, must be really empty with an effective  population destiny of roughly four per square mile. Alaska has 1.3 and Wyoming six. Here’s a map. Look for the black arrow:

Ulan Udé is the centre of Tibetan Buddhism in Russia but most spectacular of all is its 25 foot tall Head of Lenin statue. I wonder how the people at the Nottingham city planning department would feel about one of those on our nearest Ring Road roundabout ?

 

 

 

 

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Stories about my Dad (1) Manchester Lane

Just after the war had ended, in 1947,  there was a horrendously hard winter in England, with huge amounts of snow, and much hardship for ordinary people, with the extreme cold and the continuing spectre of rationing.

Manchester Lane is a tiny country lane which runs between the village of Hartshorne and the hamlet of Boundary. As my Dad, Fred, used to live in Woodville, at either No 9 or No 39 Hartshorne Road (in red), he would make frequent use of Manchester Lane to produce a circular walk around the district. He would walk down Hartshorne Road to the very bottom, near to church with a square tower (cross “+” with a black square attached, and turn right at the Bull’s Head Public House (PH). He would then follow the summit ridge of Horn Hill, a route used since Neolithic times, and walk at last along Manchester Lane itself (in yellow) as far as the water tower (“Wr Twr”) at Boundary.  He then turned right and right again, and returned finally to Woodville along Ashby Road (in green), and then High Street (also in green). You can see his route on this map:

The orange arrow points to Woodville. Hartshorne Road is the red road running to the north east. In those days, it was very countrified…..

When he reached Hartshorne, Fred would turn right past the Bull’s Head, which dated from Georgian times, into Manchester Lane :

He was now in Manchester Lane which he followed for quite some distance. In 1947, this tiny country road was completely blocked by the snow. Indeed, the snow was so deep that the authorities, with the help of the RAF,  improvised an emergency snow plough by mounting an aircraft engine, complete with whirling propeller, on the back of a lorry. They then backed the vehicle into the lane, and it cleared the twelve feet deep snowdrifts without any problems.

This country road had always created a big impression on Fred, and he was forever going off for “a walk round Manchester Lane”. This healthy jaunt was around three or four miles long, and it would take at least a whole morning. It left behind the factory chimneys of Woodville and, once you got to Manchester Lane,  it went right out into open countryside, between leafy hedges and past green fields, with a splendid view looking back towards Hartshorne, Woodville and Midway. Fred never tired of the fresh air and the blue sky, the sun, the wind, the ever-changing faces of the weather and the varying aspects of nature.

Occasionally he would see a remarkable sight, such as one of his abiding memories, an old man well into his eighties, sitting astride the gable of his house roof on Manchester Lane, mending or replacing the broken ridge tiles. This is the cottage today, gentrified beyond belief:

On a darker note, Fred would often tell the tale of an isolated barn, in fields down to the south of the lane, which had been the centre of a deathbed confession by a man in faraway Australia. This macabre episode took place in the 1930s, when a farmworker who had emigrated from Woodville, well before the turn of the new century, lay dying in Tasmania, and asked to make his peace with God. He confessed that, years before, he had murdered a young woman and buried her body beneath the floor of a particular cold grey stone barn near Manchester Lane in far away England. The barn was something like this:

The Australian authorities notified their English counterparts of the man’s confession, and the calm tranquillity of the South Derbyshire countryside was soon  disrupted by the arrival of teams of policemen who dug up the floor of the barn, and indeed, a number of other similar barns in the area. They found nothing, although their researches were extensive. It remains a minor mystery to this day, why the dying man said what he said. Perhaps he just disliked policemen, or alternatively, perhaps he thought that many of them were too fat after all those donuts and needed to work off a little of their excessive weight.

The barn nowadays seems to have been swallowed up by the extended farm buildings at this farm. It may even have been demolished:

Whatever the case, this was a good place  to pause, and to take in the beautiful view. And then it was upwards and ever onwards to the right turn that would take him towards the old Toll House at Boundary:

Originally, the toll house was eight sided so that the toll keeper could keep a wary eye out for people who were approaching from whatever direction.  In addition, eight sided buildings are supposed to be immune to demonic possession, which is nice. Then it’s another right turn so that Fred could follow Ashby Road which would eventually become High Street and take him homewards. But there was more to see yet. A quarter of a mile beyond the Toll House was the Water Tower at Boundary:

Just after Ashby Road became High Street in Woodville, there is a small turn off which used to lead to a tiny farm which nestled among the shops and terraced houses. One day, when my daughter was just six years old, Grandad Fred took her to see the farm. It was lambing time and she was able to feed some of the newborn lambs with a bottle.  She will never forget doing this for the rest of her life. She will never repeat it though, because this is the turn off today. I just love our brave new world. It’s so interesting and so clean:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My best friend, Widdle (2)

As you have seen in the first instalment of this story, the best animal friend I ever had was a fox called “Widdle”. He taught me more of value than 90% of my teachers ever did. And Widdle, he also learnt a little bit.

Widdle, of course, soon learnt which way his sausage was buttered.

The usual scenario was that he would be out on “Lone Hunter’s Patrol”, looking for geese and turkeys, hurtling round the gardens at top speed:

And then he would hear me calling his name :

And then he would come up the path to the patio

And then he’d let you know why he was here:

And then he’d take a sausage or two from you. He was quite prepared to touch you and he wasn’t afraid :

If he was hungry he would often eat the first one, but otherwise he would put it on the floor and then come for a second sausage. He could always be trusted to carry two sausages in his mouth, and as he grew older and more experienced, he managed to carry three. Here, he seems happy to take just two. As we human thick-heads eventually worked out, neither of them were for him:

Now for the second:

A very tricky manoeuvre :

And then it’s “Up, up and Away !!!

His wife, Mrs Widdle, will get her share of the two sausages, but only if the cubs, up to four of them usually, have had their fill. I was always 100% sure that in the rather extensive fox family, Widdle, the individual who provided all the food, was always the last to eat any.

A lesson for us all. And not just in sausage eating.

 

 

 

 

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An impossible Beatles Quiz (2….the Answers)

I know that a lot of you have already offered me your answers to this quiz and I have checked them and told you your scores. Anyway, for the benefit of Mr Kite and anybody else who doesn’t yet know whether their answers were right or wrong, here are the answers to my second even more difficult Beatles quiz. Hopefully, you didn’t do the quiz by writing “Dunno” ten times. Or:

“Dunno”, “Dunno”, “Dunno”, “Dunno”, “Dunno”,

“Dunno”, “Dunno”, “Dunno”, “Dunno”, “Dunno”.

As in the first quiz, all of the questions and answers involved Sergeant Pepper and the other LPs after this.

1     Who had a silver hammer?

One of the comparatively  few Beatles songs about a serial killer:

“….Maxwell Edison majoring in medicine
Calls her on the phone
Can I take you out to the pictures, Joan?
But as she’s getting ready to go
A knock comes on the door
Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer
Came down upon her head
Bang, bang, Maxwell’s silver hammer
Made sure that she was dead.”

Your clue was about coffee. What brand of coffee is it in the picture ?

Maxwell House, of course. No marks for anybody who thought it was either “Nescafé’s Silver Hammer” or  “House’s Silver Hammer”.

2     Who always arrived late for tea?

This is a humdinger of a question, though I say so myself. In the song “Cry baby, cry” on the White Album, the song suddenly includes various verses from the Beatles version of “Sing a Song of Sixpence”, which is one of the many traditional English nursery rhymes:

“Cry baby cry
Make your mother sigh
She’s old enough to know better
So cry baby cry
The Duchess of Kirkcaldy always smiling
And arriving late for tea
The Duke was having problems
With a message at the local bird and bee”.
Kirkcaldy is a town in Scotland, and the home of Raith Rovers Football Club.

The photograph provides an easy answer. Look at the name of the pub:

3     Which fairground attraction gives its name to a Beatles song?

Well, as everybody knows except Charles Manson, it’s a helter skelter, as we English call it:

When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again

Charles Manson didn’t know what a “helter skelter” was, and interpreted it differently. Paul McCartney explained:

“Charles Manson interpreted that ‘Helter Skelter’ was something to do with the four horsemen of the Apocalypse….. It’s from the Bible, Revelation . Manson interpreted the whole thing – that the Beatles were the four horsemen, ‘Helter Skelter’ was the song – and he arrived at having to go out and kill everyone.”

4     What was the name of the lovely meter maid?

In the song her name is Rita:

“Took her out and tried to win her
Had a laugh and over dinner
Told her I would really like to see her again
Got the bill and Rita paid it
Took her home I nearly made it
Sitting on the sofa with a sister or two
Oh, lovely Rita meter maid
Where would I be without you?
Give us a wink and make me think of you 
Lovely Rita meter maid, Rita meter maid

5      What was anybody doing in “Penny Lane?

There are so many that you could make it up and probably get it right! Here’s a list:

“a barber showing photographs             all the people stop and say hello

(a banker with a motorcar) the little children laugh at him behind his back

I sit                      a fireman with an hourglass  he likes to keep his fire engine clean

the pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray                               she feels as if she’s in a play

the barber shaves another customer       we see the banker sitting waiting for a trim        the fireman rushes in”

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6      She was a working girl, north of England way. But what happened to her?

Well, success on a fabulous scale:

“She was a working girl
North of England way
Now she’s hit the big time
In the U.S.A.
7      What had the crabalocker fishwife pornographic priestess done to be such a naughty girl ?

She had been so bad, in actual fact, that the song was banned immediately from the BBC.

“Yellow matter custard
Dripping from a dead dog’s eye
Crabalocker fishwife pornographic priestess
Boy you been a naughty girl
You let your knickers down  I am the eggman
They are the eggmen
I am the walrus
Goo goo g’ joob”
And here again are the said knickers:

Apparently the BBC did not allow any reference on air to sex, body parts south of the navel, underwear in the same location and so on. For the BBC censor, the mere use of the word “knickers” was enough to condemn the song into the fires of hell. Implied drug use saw off a further two Beatles songs, another was banned  for mentioning suicide, and the final one was banned twenty years after it was released for political reasons.

8     Who has a barrow in the market place and what did Molly do?

Well, in “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” :

Desmond has a barrow in the market place”

and Molly gets up to quite a lot. Any one of :

“Molly is the singer in a band                         Molly says “I like your face” as she takes him by the hand

she begins to sing                       Molly stays at home and does her pretty face

in the evening she still sings with the band                      

happy ever after in the market place                  Molly lets the children lend a hand*

The picture, by the way, refers to the fact that a group, called “Marmalade”, released this song as their own single.

9     Which two other colours are mentioned in “Yellow Submarine” as well as yellow?

Take your pick:

White, red, brown, blue and possibly purple. That’s about it for me.

And the origin of the song? Well, Paul explained:

“in that moment before you’re falling asleep – that little twilight moment when a silly idea comes into your head – and thinking of ‘Yellow Submarine’. ‘We all live in a yellow submarine…”
One Spanish soccer team is nicknamed “The Yellow Submarine”. An explanation here…..

10   “Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly.” Who is it?”

Well the song begins with the answer:

“Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes”
The song is, of course,  “Lucy in the Sky  with Diamonds”. Its origin is:
Either
John Lennon’s son, Julian, comes h0me with a picture and tells his Dad, “It’s about “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”.
Or
Lysergic acid diethylamide
Or
It’s taken from Alice in Wonderland when Alice is in the boat. Lewis Carroll was a hard core user of Lysergic acid diethylamide, of course.
Or

“It’s the image of this female who would come and save me – this secret love that was going to come one day. So it turned out to be Yoko, though, and I hadn’t met Yoko then. But she was my imaginary girl that we all have.” (John Lennon)

Supposedly, we even know the identity of “Lucy”.

“She was Lucy O’Donnell, and she was a fellow pupil at Heath House, a nursery school, with Julian Lennon. She only found out she was in a Beatles song when she was 13, in 1976.”

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The Sandiacre Screw Company (5)

Young Keith Doncaster, whom we have met already four times, was a mid-upper gunner, who sat in a perspex dome half way along the bomber’s fuselage. He protected the aircraft from attacks originating from above the horizon, mostly diving attacks from the rear. His turret was rather like an upturned goldfish bowl and could become extremely hot on occasion. That occasion was quite rare, and cold, particularly at altitude and at night, was a far more frequent problem:

An ex-Lancaster gunner, Russell Margerison, listed the clothes he wore for each mission:

“Women’s silk stockings, woollen knee-caps, woollen long johns with sleeves and a high neck, a shirt, trousers, ordinary socks and over those, long woollen ones. Then a thick pullover, a battle-dress top, a heated suit, an outer suit of kapok, electrically heated slippers, fur-lined boots, silk gloves, heated long gloves, and leather gauntlets. And anti-freeze ointment on any exposed flesh.”

If the perspex was shot away, temperatures might drop to 60° below.

Margerison said that the gunners hardly ever fired their guns. If anybody spotted an enemy aircraft, they would shout: “Corkscrew port !!” or “Corkscrew starboard !!” and the supremely agile thirty ton bomber would embark on its famous twisting and turning manoeuvre which no German fighter could possibly keep up with, especially in darkness:

Keith would have been familiar with this life. Ruled by superstition, clothes were always put on in a set sequence and mascots such as lucky dolls or toys were always taken along. And there were “chop girls”, young ladies whose boyfriends kept getting killed and whom nobody would date any more, no matter how pretty they were. And then there was the constant hunt for fuel for the metal stove in the middle of an icy Nissen hut:

The crew were the most important people in Keith’s life. Outside these seven men, you were a fool to make other close friendships when life expectancy was six weeks with just four weeks for a rear gunner. Only your family counted for more than your crew:

Before D-Day, 65% of crew members were killed before they completed their “tour” of thirty missions. Each mission carried a 4% chance of being shot down. Overall, the casualty rate was around 45%, and eventually 55,573 men would be killed. The death rate in the US Eighth Air Force was considerably lower. This was because they wore their parachutes during missions. Those silken life savers were not stored away from the owner. And the Eighth Air Force flew in daylight when it was easier, theoretically, to get out of the plane:

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, military, Nottingham, The High School

Another impossible Beatles Quiz (2….the Questions)

Hello there again, sad children of the sixties! I’d like to cheer you up with the second of a series of four Beatles quizzes. The questions all refer to albums, including “Sergeant Pepper” and afterwards. If you want to look up the answers and do it that way, then good for you, but you might enjoy the questions more if you tried to do them yourself without any help from the Internet. I have tried to make the questions doable, but clearly, one or two are meant to be difficult. Incidentally, the questions do not necessarily relate to the illustrations, although sometimes the illustrations are a very large clue.

1     Who had a silver hammer?

2     And the most difficult question of the lot, who always arrived late for tea? Mind you, the answer is staring you in the face!

3     Which fairground attraction gives its name to a Beatles song?

4     What is the name of the lovely meter maid?

5      What were any of the people doing in “Penny Lane?

6      She was a working girl, north of England way. But what happened to her?

7      What had the crabalocker fishwife pornographic priestess done to be such a naughty girl ?

8     Who had a barrow in the market place and what did Molly do?

9     Which two other colours occur on the cover of “Yellow Submarine” as well as yellow?

10   Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly. Who is it?

 

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Filed under Criminology, Film & TV, the Beatles

Football Programmes of the Soviet Union (3)

Last time we were looking at Soviet football/soccer programmes for the top division, Division No 1. One or two more to look at. This  is “Спартак Москва” or Spartak Moscow, against “Зенит Ленинград” or “Zenit Leningrad”. Still a top team nowadays, “Spartak” was originally an international fitness and sports society and in Soviet times, was supported by the “Komsomol”. The latter was the “All-Union Leninist Young Communist League” or “Всесоюзный ленинский коммунистический союз молодёжи” abbreviated to” ВЛКСМ”. Despite all that, Spartak Moscow is today still considered to be “the people’s team:

This next programme has another famous team over the years in “Динамо Москва” or “Dynamo Moscow” who are playing “Спартак Орджоникидзе” or “Spartak Ordzhonikidze” on Saturday, April 25th 1970. The latter became “FC Spartak Vladikavkaz” in 1990 and then “Spartak-Alania Vladikavkaz” and then “Alania Vladikavkaz”. The club are still in Russia nowadays and they play in the North Ossetia–Alania region of the Caucasus:

They are based in Vladikavkaz, which in the days of the tsars was the frontier town of the Caucasus, a region which was very much the North West Frontier of the Russian Empire. All the dashing young officers would seek postings to Vladikavkaz, the one outpost of western ideas, surrounded by thousands of wild tribesmen:

Here are the team line ups and the team changes, written in by my friend, Oleg Soloviev, all those years ago, in a place as remote as you are likely to find. I presume he was there watching one of the teams before Zenit Leningrad had to play them, perhaps checking what their tactics were:

The Dynamo Moscow goalkeeper (No 1) was very famous. The Russian says “Лев Яшин” and the English is “Lev Yashin”. He always played dressed completely in black and was known as the “Black Octopus”. He was a legend in world football history and one evening, my Dad drove me to Leicester City to see them play Moscow Dynamo. Yashin didn’t play but they brought him out onto the pitch to wave at the crowd and he got a standing ovation. The Dynamo goalkeeper that night was the player below Yashin in the list. He was Vladimir Pilguy (Владимир Пильгуй).

My last top class Soviet programme is one that I actually bought myself on the day of the match in Leningrad. It was for Zenit Leningrad aka “Зенит Ленинград” against Nacional (Uruguay) aka “Насьональ (Уругвай)”, which was an international friendly match.  It was a beautiful sunny summer’s early evening, July 19th 1969, and Nacional won easily by 4-0. The Uruguayan national anthem was interminable, and when it finally finished, our school party thought both anthems had been played.

 

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Filed under Football, History, Personal, Russia

My best friend, Widdle (1)

One summer’s day in 2007, I was sitting out on the patio when all of a sudden I looked down and there was an animal standing right next to me. It was a fox!! Latin name “Vulpes vulpes” for anybody who lives in a country where foxes are not known.

I said to him “What do you want?” “Are you hungry?” “Would you like some food?”

He looked back at me and I said, “Just stay there and I’ll go and fetch you something.”

And he stayed there and I went into kitchen, opened the door of the fridge and looked around.

Some milk. No, that’s cats.

Just a piece of apple and some cooked sausages.

That’s it. I’ll take him that. I picked up the apple and went out to feed him.

He was still there. I offered him the apple which he initially sniffed and then gave me a look of such disdain, as if to say,

“Hurry up and get back to your village. They’ll be missing their idiot.”

I went back to the fridge. I got a sausage and I took it out to him. He sniffed it and I put it on the floor. He picked it up in his mouth and off he went. Back into the beautiful green world of flowers, bushes and trees.

That sausage would be the first of literally thousands, with the occasional lump of beef, pork or chicken to stop him getting bored. I soon became an expert on sausages, their make-up, their price, their value for money. We used to buy them in some quantity. I remember once going through the checkout at Iceland (the frozen food supermarket chain, not the island nation). I was buying the usual six packets and the woman said “Do you like sausages then?”  and I replied “Not really, I feed them to a fox”.

And she looked at me with complete disdain as if to say….

“Hurry up and get back to your village. They’ll be missing their idiot.”

Little did she know, though, and little did I know, that very soon I would value our fox at ten times the value of almost all human beings. Being with him was like being with an extremely wise child who was always steps ahead of you. Somebody who could do amazing things that were as if he knew magic. Somebody who was always on his best behaviour. Who never hurt a fly. Who was a damn sight closer to God than I ever was. Here’s his four stage method to being given a sausage:

Stage 1            Look as if you’re hungry:

Stage 2           Reach for the Food of the Gods: sausage fried with extra fat :

Stage 3           Make that strange gesture with your lower jaw that is a basic part of “Talking Fox” but one which we never managed to  understand :

Stage 4    Show the kind humans your lovely brown eyes, and they’ll probably give you more sausages next time :

Sometimes, though, our new friend was nervous and he showed this by cocking his back leg against anything available, and squirting a tiny quantity of fox urine. He only did that when he was not 100% certain of our intentions, because we were human beings and potentially not as well behaved as he was. It gave him his name, though. We called him “Widdle”.

Over the next few weeks, we all grew to love him.

He was a gift from God. A wild creature who let us into his world for a few short years. We fed him morning and evening, day in, day out, and we saved his life several times. When he could not hunt because of injuries we saw to it that he was fed. Thanks to us, he had five lives.

We fed too, all of the minimum of 15 fox cubs that he raised. With a little bit of help from Mrs Widdle, of course.

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Filed under Humour, My Garden, My House, Nottingham, Personal, Widdle, Wildlife and Nature