Category Archives: Humour

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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Filed under History, Humour, military

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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Filed under History, Humour, my Dad, Personal, Wildlife and Nature

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

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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Filed under Criminology, Film & TV, Humour, Personal, Politics, Russia, the Beatles

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

Shaka Zulu (3)

Last time, I finished by mentioning how the regiments of the Zulu army were distinguished by differently coloured shields and the number of marks on them. Shields might be brown, white or black and might have black spots, brown spots, white spots or no spots at all. Here’s a display in a South African museum:

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It occurred quite frequently that the Zulus would use the captured shields of their enemies as a ruse, causing confusion or even panic among the ranks of their adversaries. Chaka actually owned his own army’s warshields, the isihlangu, and they were handed out only in times of war. Men were punished for losing them.

Years later, when the Zulus were fighting the Boers,  Bongoza, a General in the Zulu army of King Dingane, even showed his men how to hide behind their shields and pretend to be grazing cattle.

Funnily enough, that was actually the only innovative idea that I came across that did not come from Chaka, the most brilliant military thinker ever in  sub-Saharan Africa. I found this coloured version of what is usually a black and white illustration of him on the internet:

Chaka was the one, for example, who changed his men’s diet, having them consume a fairly constant mixture of beef and cereal porridge. The existence of a new, fitter, stronger, army, would, of course, ultimately create more wars, but at the same time it would allow free access to further supplies of beef and cereals from the territories of the conquered tribes.

I don’t know if this dietary régime really did keep the Zulus leaner, fitter and more able to march long distances but that was the widely held belief among non-Zulus in Natal and Zululand in the 19th century. The problem, of course, was that the Zulus themselves left no written accounts and that all we have to go on are the accounts of one or two white traders such as Francis Farewell and Henry Fynn. And any books written by men who merely want to make money, of course, tend to exaggerate, just to make even more money.

For that reason, we shall never know for certain just how bloodthirsty and crazy Chaka was after his mother, Nandi, died on October 10th 1827. Did he really order every Zulu mother-to-be to be executed? Did he really seek out more than 7,000 people who were not sufficiently grief stricken and have them all killed? And even more crazily, did he really have every cow with a calf to be killed so that their offspring would all know exactly what it felt like when your mother died?

Only written records from an unbiased source can tell us such things. We are, for the same reason, still unsure about how far a Zulu regiment, an impi, could  run in a day. In 1879 the whites firmly believed that the answer to that question was FIFTY miles. It is even quoted in the film “Zulu”.

South African historian, John Laband, however, thought the idea was ridiculous. He gave 12 miles per day as the absolute maximum with only nine miles per day as the normal distance.
A very similar example would be the use of sandals by Zulu warriors. In the absence of written records, it has been handed down over the years that in order to toughen his warriors’ feet, Chaka had them stop wearing sandals and then any who refused were executed. Nowadays, we just don’t know if that is true or false.

Modern Zulus, especially the politicians, wear spotless, bright, white trainers. Their followers  frequently wear very brightly coloured jeans and carry golf umbrellas :

Some other aspects of bygone Zulu life we do know about through photographs. Across the world, many kings wear crowns. Zulu kings were slightly different and we have photographs from the nineteenth century to prove it. Here is King Cetshwayo:

He is wearing an “isiCoco”, an emblem of rank in pre-colonial days, meaning variously “the king”, “married man” or “warrior”, depending on the person wearing it. It was originally made from a mixture of beeswax, charcoal and snake skin, the latter being a symbol of African royalty and kingship. Warriors would wear leopard skin, because that was the animal they usually hunted. Nowadays, the isiCoco is made more easily, perhaps, by twisting a fibre ring into the hair. The ring has been covered in charcoal and gum and then polished with beeswax.

One final Zulu speciality weapon was the “knobkerrie”, a type of club with a large knob at one end. It can be thrown at the enemy like a javelin, or at animals while out hunting, or it can be used to club an enemy at close quarters. Sometimes it was used in stick fights as young boys practiced their combat techniques. In the Zulu language, it is called an “iwisa” and nowadays is not considered a weapon.

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I have always been fascinated by the Zulus. As a little boy, I was an avid reader of books by H Rider Haggard. It began when “Allan Quartermain” was given to me as a Christmas present, and then I bought “King Solomon’s Mines” and “She” with my pocket money. I was entranced by the heroic Zulu warrior, Umslopogaas, who appears in “Allan Quartermain” and in its sequel “Nada the Lily” a book unique in the nineteenth century in that all of its characters are black. Absolutely remarkable for that era.

I even tried to learn some Zulu phrases, but I never really had the chance to use the phrase “Kill the white wizards” so I soon forgot it. In actual fact, the only one I do still remember is “Amba gachlé ” which means “Go in peace”. Not a bad phrase to be the only one you know.

Here’s Umslopogaas :

 

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Filed under Africa, History, Humour, Literature, military, Politics

The Sandiacre Screw Company (2)

Ivan Keith Doncaster, usually known as Keith, began his education at Wellington Street Infants’ School in Long Eaton, built as recently as 1911 for 320 girls and 320 infants.

Keith left his local school and moved to the High School on May 2nd 1933. Just nine years of age, he was Boy No 5701 and he went straight into Hardy’s House and First Form C with Miss Richmond. There were 28 boys in the Form and Keith, very much a latecomer to the school year, finished an extremely creditable tenth. Here is a  fairly poor picture of Miss Richmond:

The following year it was First Form B with Miss Baker. Of the 21 boys, Keith came 11th. Here is Miss Baker, in between Mr Kennard and Mr Bridge, a pedagogical rock and a hard place.

Here’s a picture of Miss Baker a few years later:

The next year Keith was in First Form A with Mr Day, who, tragically, was to die of pneumonia on March 25th 1935, just before the end of the Easter Term. Mr Page took over his form. During that same year of 1934-1935, Miss Richmond had already passed away from pneumonia on January 7th. Keith finished fifth of the sixteen in the Form and also won the Preparatory School Drawing Prize.

Outside the classroom, Keith was in the Preparatory XI team for the “Preparatory Schools Spelling League Competition No 23”, although I couldn’t find out how he fared.

In 1935-1936, Keith was with Mr Hardwick in Second Form A. Here is Mr Hardwick in 1959, a picture taken by the Reverend Stephens:

Keith was now in a Main School house, Maples’, rather than Hardy’s House. There were 28 in the Form and Keith came 21st, not a disastrous result in a form which contained seven Entrance Scholars and Foundation Scholars and the winner of the Second Forms French Prize, Peter Robert Scott. This year, Keith found true fame by having a short poem featured in the School Magazine. It was entitled “Poetry” and this is how it went:

Poetry

“I’m not a Poet

And I know it.

The next line will take some time.

Now I’ve started,

All thoughts have parted

From my head,

So now I think I’ll go to bed.”

Next time, another poem published in the Nottinghamian. You will not be able to read it without putting on your salty sea dog accent. Or even, perhaps, pirate.

 

 

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Filed under History, Humour, Nottingham, The High School