Category Archives: Humour

Phonetic Alphabets (2)

Last time we looked at a number of phonetic alphabets. There was the British Army in 1904, the  British Post Office in 1914 , the  Royal Navy in 1917 and the  Western Union in 1918. Then came the good sense of the US Army and the US Navy in 1941 to have the same alphabet (for both) in contrast with the four different alphabets used by the RAF in different periods of World War II.

But what about the foreigners?

Here’s the Luftwaffe alphabet  in 1940. The very same one was used by the Wehrmacht, the German army:

Anton, Ärger, Bertha, Cäsar, Charlotte, Dora, Emil, Friedrich, Gustav, Heinrich, Ida, Julius, Konrad,

Ludwig, Martha, Nordpol, Otto, Ödipus, Paula, Quelle, Richard, Siegfried, Schule, Theodor, Ulrich, Viktor,

Wilhelm, Xanthippe, Ypsilon, Zeppilon

It is obviously different from the Allies’ alphabet, being based on names, but that must surely have made it quite easy to learn. Incidentally, “Ärger” and “Ödipus” were used for any words which contained either ” ä ” or ” ö “. Notice too how they have a code word for Ä and Ö. There is also a quick way of doing ‘c’ and ‘ch’ with Cäsar and China along with ‘s’ and ‘sch’ with Siegfried and Schule.

The most frequent marks of the Messerschmitt Bf109 such as the 109D, the 109E, the 109F and the 109G were frequently known by their phonetic letters, the Dora, the Emil, the Friedrich and the Gustav.

Here’s a young man and an old man who are the one and the same man. He was a Luftwaffe radio operator in WW2. The shape of his ears is a giveaway. Age yourself by seventy years but you’ll never change your ears.

And here is the cloth badge to be sewed on the uniform of a crewmember that the Luftwaffe called a “bordfunker”:

The German Navy, the Kriegsmarine, had a very slightly different alphabet, but , again, it was based on names:

Anton, Ärger, Bruno, Cäsar, China, Dora, Emil, Friedrich, Gustav, Heinrich, Ida, Julius, Konrad,

Ludwig, Martha, Nordpol, Otto, Ödipus, Paula, Quelle, Richard, Siegfried, Schule, Theodor, Ulrich, Viktor,

Wilhelm, Xanthippe, Ypsilon,  Zeppilon

The Wehrmacht used pretty much the  same alphabet with:

Anton, Ärger, Berta, Cäsar, Charlotte, Dora, Emil, Friedrich, Gustav, Heinrich, Ida, Julius, Konrad,

Ludwig, Martha, Nordpol, Otto, Ödipus, Paula, Quelle, Richard, Siegfried, Schule, Theodor, Ulrich, Übel, Viktor,

Wilhelm, Xanthippe, Ypsilon, Zeppelin 

 I couldn’t find a guaranteed French phonetic alphabet for World War II, but I did find this one, which is obviously based on first names:

Anatole, Berthe, Célestin, Désiré, Eugène, François, Gaston, Henri, Irma, Joseph, Kléber,

Louis, Marcel, Nicolas, Oscar, Pierre, Quintal, Raoul, Suzanne, Thérèse, Ursule, Victor, William, Xavier,

Yvonne, Zoé

That was a real list of sex bombs for French soldiers of every sexual persuasion to drool over. I don’t know what a “Quintal” is, but this happy curly haired chap is Ryan Quintal:

Actually I did look up “quintal” and one website said “a hundredweight  or a weight equal to 100 kilograms”. Another website said “backyard”. I often confuse the two.

The Italians, like many other nations, base their alphabet on towns and cities:

Ancona, Bologna, Como, Domodossola, Empoli, Firenze, Genova, Hotel, Imola, Jolly, Kursaal,

Livorno, Milano, Napoli, Otranto, Padova, Quarto,Roma, Savona, Torino,

Udine, Venezia, Washington, Xeres, Yacht, Zara.

Surely we all know the telegram sent by the humourist Robert Benchley to the New Yorker magazine:

“Have arrived Venice. Streets full of water. Please advise.”

I did find a Soviet spelling alphabet. The Russian alphabet, though, uses 33 letters, so it was quite complicated.  I decided to transcribe only the words for our Western letters. That came to:

Anna, Boris, Konstantin, Dmitri, Yelena, Fyodor, Grigory,

Khariton, Ivan, Zhenya, Leonid, Mikhail,

Nikolai, Olga, Pavel, Roman, Semyon,

Tatyana, Ulyana, Vasiliy, Zinaida.

Some letters such as ‘k’, ‘q’,  ‘w’, ‘x’ and ‘y’ do not really exist in Russian. Here’s a link to some of the letters of their alphabet.

Here are some Soviet signallers, giving a report to Headquarters in an unknown German town that has just been captured:

Two final points. If you can understand this, you’re a better man than me. This is perhaps 20% of a very large presentation of the Japanese phonetic alphabet. My best guess is that a word stands for a syllable, so that “suzume” stands for the syllable “su” and so on:

And finally, here’s the weirdest phonetic alphabet I found, taken from Tasmania in 1908:

Authority, Bills, Capture, Destroy, Englishmen, Fractious,

Galloping, High, Invariably, Juggling, Knights, Loose,

Managing, Never, Owners, Play, Queen, Remarks,

Support, The, Unless, Vindictive, When, Xpeditiously,

Your,  Zigzag

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Aviation, History, Humour, military, Russia, the Japanese

Phonetic Alphabets (1)

Signalling by one group of soldiers to another, or by one ship to another, has gone on for centuries. Signalling flags were used on ships in the time of Admiral Nelson:

And there was always semaphore. As used by the Beatles:

The advent of radio, however, made things a lot more difficult, because when men spoke to each other, interference was a frequent problem. Sometimes words, especially place names, had to be spelt out, and merely giving out a list of letters, such as L-O-N-D-O-N did not always work, especially if the interference was intermittent.

In 1904, British Army signallers started to use a partial spelling alphabet, where only the more problematic letters had their own code word. This produced:

ACK, BEER/BAR, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L ,  EMMA, N,O, PIP, Q, R, ESSES, TOC, U, VIC, W, X, Y, Z

Only seven letters needed! By 1918, the problems of using the 1904 alphabet had added  a few words:

CORK,   DON.   EDDY.    INK.    JUG.   QUAD.   TALK

Here’s a war artist’s rendition of a signaller:

Things got better once for the British army when they adapted horse drawn radios:

Overall, it is crucial to have only ONE spelling alphabet, otherwise the situation becomes downright confusing. There used to be different alphabets for:

the 1914 British Post Office with Apple, Brother, Charlie, Dover, Eastern,

the 1917 Royal Navy with Apples, Butter, Charlie, Duff, Edward

the 1918 Western Union with Adams, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Edward

Much more sensibly, during World War II, the US Army and Navy used the same alphabet. It is familiar from so many war films and so many comics:

Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, Easy, Fox, George, How, Item, Jig, King, Love, Mike,

Nan, Oboe, Peter, Queen, Roger, Sugar, Tare, Uncle, Victor, William, X-ray, Yoke

These men were some of the members of the real “Easy Company” :

What is important here is to have no words whatsoever that sound like any of the others. In this alphabet maybe jig and king, or able and baker, or dog and fox might cause problems.

Here’s the RAF spelling alphabet until 1942:

Apple, Beer, Charlie, Don, Edward, Freddie, George, Harry, Ink, Johnnie, King, London, Monkey,

Nuts,  Orange, Pip, Queen, Robert, Sugar, Toc, Uncle Vic,  William, Yorker, Zebra

And here’s the RAF alphabet after 1942

Able, Baker, Charlie, Dog, Easy, Fox, George, How, Item, Jig, King, Love, Mike, Nan, Oboe,

Peter, Queen, Roger, Sugar, Tare, Uncle, Victor, William, X-ray, Yoke, Zebra.

Smart people will have noticed how close it is to the US Army and Navy alphabet. How sensible!

In actual fact, the RAF was already using quite a few other alphabets anyway, such as this one noted in 1942-1943 :

Apple, Beer, Charlie, Dog, Edward, Freddy, George, Harry, In, Jug/Johnny, King, Love, Mother,

Nuts, Orange, Peter, Queen, Roger/Robert, Sugar, Tommy, Uncle, Vic, William, X-ray, Yoke/Yorker, Zebra

And there was a further alphabet for the squadron letters on the side of the aircraft in the Dambusting 617 Squadron:

A-Apple, B-Baker, C-Charlie, E-Easy, F-Freddie, G-George, H-Harry, J-Johnny, K-King,

L-Leather, M-Mother, N-Nuts, O-Orange, P-Popsie, S-Sugar, T-Tommy, W-Willie, Y-York, Z-Zebra.

I presume that the missing letters were non-existent aircraft. Here is 617 Squadron and these are B-Baker, G-George and M-Mother:

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I wrote a number of blog posts about my wife’s friend, Len, who flew in 617 Squadron, in G-George. His full name was Len Dorricott, and this link will take you to the first of the three posts. If you copy and paste the surname “Dorricott” into “Search”, then finding Blog Posts No 2 and No 3 about Len becomes a doddle.

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Humour, military

Madame Lionnet, the High School’s French mistress

Madame Marie Lionnet was one of the very few women to work at Nottingham High School during the Victorian era. She may even have been the second-ever woman to be employed by the school. Regrettably, I have found out relatively little about her, with only a series of mere snapshots of her fascinating and colourful life available at various intervals.

Marie Lionnet was born in middle to late 1835 or early 1836, although I have failed abjectly to discover either her maiden name or her place of birth, beyond “France” and probably “Paris”. We have no pictures of Madame Lionnet either. When she worked at the High School she seems to have slipped between the staff photographs of 1883 and those of 1895. The only woman we have on a staff photograph of that era is Mrs Bowman Hart, the music teacher. Here is the staff of 1883-1884:

As far as we know, they are :

back row:

Mr H Lupton ?, the Reverend EAT Clarke ?, Mr C “Carey” Trafford, unknown

middle row:

Mr JA Crawley, Mr WE “Jumbo” Ryles, Mr W Jackson, Mr S “Sammy” Corner, Mr S “Cheesy” Chester, Mr J Russell, Mr B “Benny” Townson.

front row:

Monsieur JLE Durand, Mr C “Donkey” Bray, the Reverend JG “Jiggerty” Easton, Dr. R Dixon (Headmaster) Mrs Bowman Hart (of whom, more later), Mr H “Donkeys” Seymour

Here is the High School at that time:

Notice that the school’s enormous coal fire chimneys have not yet been added. That was something that happened around 1890. There were originally two crosses on the roof, but clearly, one has been taken down, or more likely, blown down in some long-forgotten storm. In front of the school, the bushes are beginning to grow out of control but eventually they would all join up to form one enormous shrubbery, home to foxes and sixth formers with cigarettes.

Madame Lionnet is known to have married an engineer called Lionnet and they spent a good few years travelling with his work around the United States, Canada and various European countries. They went back to Paris, France, however, in early 1870 and were present in the capital during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871. Here is a single soldier from each side:

On the left is a member of the famous “Grenadiers de Bretagne” who would express their reluctance to retreat by tying their beards or moustaches to the beard or moustaches of the man next to them, often forming defensive lines up to two or three miles long.  On the right is a member of the famous Prussian “Bismarcken Shocken Troopen” who would always fight so bravely in Germany’s many wars that in late 1939 the Führer designated them the first ever “Sacred Regiment of Adolf Hitler Impersonators”.

We presume that in 1870 Madame Lionnet must have been visiting her family, who hailed from the capital, because we know that she was present at home in Paris when her father was killed in combat. He had been fighting in one of the battles around the city’s fortifications during the siege. Shortly afterwards Madame Lionnet’s husband was killed and, with hardly any family left,  when the siege was lifted, she came to England to work as a teacher of French, possibly a little like this one:

On the French version of Google, I did find a rough fit for somebody who may well have been Madame Lionnet’s husband. This was Étienne Napoléon Lionnet, who was born on April 13th 1815. He began his studies at the “Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées (School of Bridges and Roadways) in 1837 at the age of 22. Here is a postcard from that era. Even then, the notorious Parisian traffic was absolutely ferocious:

Monsieur Lionnet died on December 15th 1870 which would have been in the very middle of the Siege of Paris which lasted from September 19th 1870 to January 28th 1871.  I also found mention of the Lionnet brothers who ran an ambulance service during the Siege of Paris in 1870-1871. People were really hungry during the siege, and some rather queer markets soon sprang up, Rat is very obvious, but “viande canine et féline” means “dog and cat meat”. Tastes a little like chicken, apparently:

The whereabouts of Madame Lionnet in the 1870s are unknown, other than just generally, “in England”.

The first exact piece of news came from Nottingham. Madame Lionnet became the University College’s first ever lecturer in French, having started her employment there in the college’s opening year of 1881:

Before that, she had worked at the High School for Girls as “A French Mistress”:

Madame Lionnet started her career at the High School in, probably, the academic year of 1885-1886. She died on March 9th 1895, so she worked there for nine years.

She had her own house, which seems to have had the name “Esplanade”. It was at 5 Dryden Street. Dryden Street, indicated by “La flèche orange”, runs north from Shakespeare Street and ultimately, via Addison Street, finishes at Forest Road East. If you turn left out of Addison Street, and walk along Forest Road East, you will soon come to the High School, which is the white rectangle near the corner with Waverley Street:

Madame Lionnet seems to have bought her house from John Hudson, a machinist, and after her death, it passed into the hands of Mrs Betsy Stevens. Nowadays, every single square inch of Dryden Street has been used to build new buildings for Nottingham Trent University. This is where Dryden Street joins Shakespeare Street. No 5 would have been near to the junction. Perhaps Madame Lionnet would recognise those mature plane trees on the left:

In her obituary in the school magazine, “The Forester”, Madame Lionnet is described as

“a woman of wide culture and well read in the literatures of several languages, and was a most capable and energetic teacher who spared no pains with her pupils. It will ever be a sincere regret to her many friends that her last years were embittered with heavy losses; for she lost the savings of many years through the failure of the Liberator Society.”

The Liberator Society crashed in 1892 when £3,500,000 of investors’ money was lost after the closure of the London and General Bank which, along with the House and Land Investment Trust, was investing money in “gigantic building speculations”.

“Madame Lionnet was remarkable for open handed generosity, and those who knew her well could speak of many deeds of charitable kindness, and pay a tribute to the courageous industry and independence of character which enabled her to work so successfully in a foreign land.”

Madame Lionnet was killed by a bout of pneumonia which “supervened on influenza”. Pneumonia was the commonest killer in Victorian England, and just before the First World War, Sir William Osler would call pneumonia the “Captain of the Men of Death” as it was by then the most widespread and dangerous of all acute diseases. As we have seen, Madame Lionnet died on Saturday March 9th 1895 and she was buried in the Church Cemetery on Mansfield Road on the following Wednesday, the Reverend Peck, a teacher at the High School, conducting the service.

The Forester said that the interment took place:

“in the presence of many friends and pupils and of representatives from the School, the University College and the High School for Girls. Numerous beautiful wreaths, with which the coffin was entirely covered, testified to the respect in which the deceased lady was held.”

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Filed under France, History, Humour, Nottingham, The High School

Stories about my Dad (3)

In 1946, my Dad, Fred,  gave up his exciting job as a Brylcreem Boy of Bomber Command and signed up to be for what was called at the time “emergency training” as a teacher. It has always intrigued me as to how many veterans of Bomber Command became teachers. And I have my own ideas about that! Fred finished up getting a job quite near to his home, at a school in Hastings Road in Church Gresley. The school was built in 1898 for 420 children. Fred taught there until the mid-1950s.

Here’s a modern map of the area. The Orange Arrow points to where Hastings Road School used to stand before it had to be demolished in the late 1950s, lest the subsidence problems made it collapse completely with the teachers and children inside :

When my Dad, Fred, worked there, the vast majority of the children were the sons and daughters of miners, both of coal and of clay. They were all what you would call “rough diamonds”.

Most of them, therefore, were far from sophisticated, either in their knowledge or their behaviour or, indeed, their hygiene. Fred used to tell the story of having a boy in his class called “Stinky Roberts” . At the beginning of the school year, Fred was given the helpful advice by his colleagues never to let this particular boy sit next to a hot radiator under any circumstances. If he sits next to a radiator, then make him move!

Whether it was because Fred did not believe the other teachers, or whether it was because, in the absence of any particularly obvious hygiene problem, he quite simply forgot their advice, remains unclear.  But on one unfortunate day, when “Stinky” did get to sit by that scorching radiator, the wisdom of his colleagues became manifest, as the unbelievable stench of long unwashed filth and ancient, uncontrolled urine wafted inescapably around the room. In this way, Fred learnt one of the most important basics of teaching, namely that no boy is ever given a nickname without very good reason.

At one point, Fred had a bet with another teacher that he could leave his class working quietly while he went down to Lloyds Bank in Swadlincote to draw out some money. The pupils were told to behave themselves properly while he was away, and to continue with their work. This they duly did, and Fred won the bet.

In another variation of what was obviously the same story, Fred did not go down to the bank in Swadlincote, but instead, went to post a letter at the Church Gresley Post Office, a destination considerably nearer to Hastings Road School, and, from the point of view of unsupervised children, a much shorter, and therefore, perhaps, a more plausible time to be away.

One of Fred’s more pleasant jobs was the fact that he ran the school football team. He was partnered in this by his young friend, Vernon Langford. We do actually have a misty photograph of the staff at Hastings Road. Here it is :

The teachers are (back row), Mr Morris, Mr Roberts, Mr Baker, Mr Picker, Mr Goodall and Mr Knifton. The front row comprises Miss Rowe, Miss Smith, Mr Handford, Mrs Errington and Mrs P Middleton.

Fred’s teaching career at Hastings Road reached its pinnacle when he was conducting a lesson in Physics. At this time all secondary school teachers, even those who were trained to teach Geography, were expected to be able to turn their hand to more or less anything.

Fred’s brief was to demonstrate the effects of air pressure, so he took a pint glass, filled it with water, and then put a sheet of card over the top. He then explained that in a moment, when he turned the glass upside down, the contents would not spill out, because the air pressure on the card, which was equal to hundreds of pounds, was pressing down and keeping it in place. This news was received by the children, of course, with immense scepticism.

When Fred turned the glass over, however, perhaps as much to his surprise as anybody else’s, the rather unlikely result was that the card did actually stay in place, and the water did not spill out. The children’s reaction was astonishing. They were all totally amazed. One boy stood up, and shouted at the top of his voice, “A miracle ! A miracle ! Mester Knifton’s worked a miracle ! ” And then he ran out of the room and around the school, still shouting

“A miracle ! A miracle ! Mester Knifton’s worked a miracle ! ”

I believe that this incident was the closest that Fred ever came to being regarded as divine. Here’s a video of a mere mortal man trying out this trick:

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Humour, my Dad, Personal, Science

What would you do ? (15) The Solution

“What would you do ?” used to figure on the cover of a boys’ comic called “Boys’ World”. This was a publication, obviously, aimed at boys, and first appeared on January 26th 1963. There were 89 issues before the comic was merged with Eagle in 1964. The last issue of “Boys’ World” came out on October 3rd 1964.

I used to buy the comic every week, mainly for its front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle. It was called “What would you do ?” and was based on somebody being in what Ned Flanders would call “A dilly of a pickle”. Here’s the situation:

The blue square carries the following text:

“Shoulder to shoulder the Roman soldiers stand tensed to face the thundering might of Hannibal’s elephants. But the Romans’ spears are of little use against the living battering-ram that sweeps down on them. Great gaps are torn in the tightly packed Roman ranks. Now Hannibal’s soldiers can follow through and rout the enemy. The Roman general, Scipio, knows that if he is to win future battles he must stop the elephants breaking his shield wall. What can he do?”

And the correct solution given on page 9 of the comic is:

And in case you are reading the extract from “Boys’ World” on a 1962 b/w television set, here is the text given above:

“In future battles, Scipio formed his ranks not as a solid mass, but with a soldier in every other space. When the elephants charged, the soldiers had room to move aside. This left clear lanes through which the elephants stormed harmlessly. When they had passed, the soldiers merely returned to their original positions.”

And as a very brief trip down memory lane, here is the advertisement right next to the problem solution on page 9. It is for the two latest Matchbox toys :

Nowadays, even the 24 page Matchbox catalogue is valuable, and certainly worth more than the original threepence, which was, theoretically, two pence in today’s money.

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Filed under Africa, History, Humour

What would you do ? (15) The Puzzle

I used to buy “Boys’ World”, a boys’ comic aimed, funnily enough, at boys. The comic was in existence for only 19 months of 1963-1964.

I bought it mainly for the front cover which always featured a kind of puzzle called “What would you do ?”. Somebody was in what Ned Flanders calls “A dilly of a pickle” and you had to get him out of it.

Here’s the situation:

In case you can’t read it, I’ve enlarged the blue box which reads…….

The exact text is :

“Shoulder to shoulder the Roman soldiers stand tensed to face the thundering might of Hannibal’s elephants. But the Romans’ spears are of little use against the living battering-ram that sweeps down on them. Great gaps are torn in the tightly packed Roman ranks. Now Hannibal’s soldiers can follow through and rout the enemy. The Roman general, Scipio, knows that if he is to win future battles he must stop the elephants breaking his shield wall. What can he do?”

Your task is to solve the situation. Perhaps you might like to write your ideas in the “Comments” section.

It certainly is a dilly of a pickle, although I wouldn’t depend too much on finding the answer in there!

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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

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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