Category Archives: My House

Poems in “The Nottinghamian” 1922-1946 (4)

The author of the following poem which appeared in the Nottinghamian of December 1940 was Robert Norman Walters of VI Classics. Robert was the son of a “Master Fruiterer” and lived at 159 Cinder Hill Road in Bulwell. He was in the High School from 1930-1941. The winter of 1940-1941 was legendary for its severity and was excellent practice for anybody thinking of taking a winter break in Stalingrad a couple of years later.

SNOW

Snow shall fall and ice

Shall bind the lane in slithering shields

Of white and whitish blue.

Winds shall blow and howl and roar

And tiles shall fall.

Wood shall burst and split

Like statues known of old.

Rivers may cease to run

When snow shall whirl and swirl

And formless roofs gleam white.

Yet when this comes,

Let our strong, deep affections

Unfrozen, freeze not.

But with winter seen afar

Retain the burning heat

Of mid-June’s torrid air.

Robert left to go to Jesus College, Cambridge to study Classics. In the section of his poem :

“Winds shall blow and howl and roar

And tiles shall fall.

Wood shall burst and split

Like statues known of old.

Rivers may cease to run”

Robert has come remarkably near the words of Wace, who was possibly Robert Wace, a Norman poet, born in Jersey and brought up in mainland Normandy.

Wace was the first author to speak of the Round Table and the Court of King Arthur :

“Eventually

All things decline

Everything falters, dies and ends

Towers cave in, walls collapse

Roses wither, horses stumble

Cloth grows old, men expire

Iron rusts and timber rots away

Nothing made by hand will last.

I say and will say that I am

Wace from the Island of Jersey”

Wace lived, approximately, from 1100-1180.

James Theodore Lester was the son of a Leather Factor & Manufacturer who lived at 42 Bedale Road in Sherwood and then at Castleton House at 5 Castle Avenue in Arnold. The poem occasionally struggles for a rhyme, but the last verse is lovely.

“When I was six”

“When I was six I’d play at boats

And build a fort with many moats

Which I’d replenish with my pail

And put my little boats to sail.

 

 

Round and round and round they’d go

Till the water ceased to flow.

Then back home I would repair

And sit upon my rocking chair.

 

When it was time to go to bed,

Upon the pillow I’d put my head,

And think and dream of things I’d done,

And call the day a happy one.

 

We’ve already seen Frank Alan Underwood of 51 Charnock Avenue in Wollaton Park with his poem ““Evacuated”. This poem is a lot deeper and a lot more chilling. It was published in April 1943.

THE MIRROR

The dead man lay upon his bed

In the pause at dawn ere the Soul had fled,

And the Lamp burned dim as the East glowed red.

The Soul rose as the man had done

For twenty years at the beck of the sun:

But as yet it knew not that Death had won.

Then still as man and not aware

It looked in the mirror to brush its hair

–Looked in the mirror and found nothing there.

Ivan Keith Doncaster wrote a poem in The Nottinghamian in March 1937 which was pretty good:

 

THE FISHPOND

There’s a fishpond in our garden,

Not very big or wide ;

But fish just love to dart about,

Among the rocks inside.

And if you sit there on the bank,

You’ll see a sudden flash—

A big fat frog has just dived in,

And made a dreadful splash.

 

The frightened fish swim swiftly round

In search of safe retreat,

The frog looks at the golden line,

And croaks his sad defeat.

When ice seals up our gold-fish pond,

Neath winter’s frozen spell ;

We just catch golden gleams below,

To tell us all is well.

 

In summer when the fountain plays,

And sends forth silver rain,

The fish all frolic in great glee,

As cooling showers they gain.

 

We feed the fish with large ant eggs,

And when the days are warm

They jump to catch the flitting flies

Which o’er the pond do swarm.

 

Some happy moments there we spend,

Watching the fish at play ;

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter too,

They move in swift array.

 

Ivan Keith Doncaster only lived from 1923-1944 but he had already succeeded in the previous year in writing the most beautiful piece of poetry by any High School boy, bar none. It summarises how much we love our oh-so-beautiful lives, yet all the time are well aware of the price we will all one day pay as the distant bells toll our inevitable doom.

Keith paid his price in the mid-upper turret of a Lancaster over the German city of Kassel on October 22nd 1943, five days after his 20th birthday.

This poem appeared in April 1936 and had Keith lived, he would have been a great poet. He has a masterful touch and is capable of the most astonishing subtlety.

GATHERING SHELLS

“Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.

We think that gathering shells is fun.

Along the silvery beach we run.

And as we go beneath the sun,

We hear the distant bells.

Along the silvery beach we run,

Gathering coloured shells.”

I have read that poem literally hundreds of times and I do not even begin to tire of it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Famous Adverts of Filmland (2)

Last time I talked about the American magazines which appeared in Albert Taylor’s newsagent’s shop from time to time during the early 1960s. They all had one thing in common. They had advertisements for what we all thought were rather bizarre products which were largely unobtainable in England. On the other hand, had a lorry arrived in our village, full of “Crawling Hands”, we would have been fighting each other for the chance to purchase this amazing toy for only $4.95, plus an extremely reasonable 50c for postage and handling:

Wow and double wow!! It walks across the room and the ring on the third finger sheds light over the floor. What a bargain.  I wondered how much $5.45 in 1960 might be worth today. Well, it’s between $45-$50. In English money, that’s around £34-£37. I repeat. What a bargain!

I’m not so sure about the next one though.  A whistle for dogs?

What kind of trick is that? You can’t hear it but the dog can? What rubbish. How do you know if it works?

And how will you know the dog has heard it if he is habitually disobedient? And why should he obey a whistle that you cannot hear when he can pretend he hasn’t heard it and you are none the wiser?? He’ll just carry on in the same old way and you’ve wasted your money.

This is a much better product. While my friends join the Boy Scouts, I can put on my black mask and become a member of the Judean People’s Front, or perhaps the Judean Popular People’s Front, or even the Popular Front of Judea.

What have the Romans ever done for us ? “Romanes eunt domus“:

As an adult, I can see now that the majority of the adverts appeal, for the most part, to two categories of customer. The first category is that of the person who is perhaps less intelligent, shall we say? He does not know the names of the simplest dinosaurs. He needs pictures to distinguish between a cave BEAR and a Giant BIRD, or between a GIANT WOOLLY MAMMOTH and a thirteen inch long JUNGLE SWAMP :

In the intelligent section of the magazine, however, much more technical language is used. And if you’re intelligent enough to know what a Styracosaurus is, you’ll definitely want one with a wind up motor :

It isn’t the most intelligent kind of person, though, who will pay money for an authentic fingerprint kit, but is unaware that it will be completely useless without access to the FBI fingerprint database and three years at Police College:

Other adverts just offer products for customers who want to frighten people. They want to scare the living daylights out of the last few friends they have. Perhaps they’ll do it with a monster fly:

They’d like a mask that makes them look like their movie heroes:

Or, the only full colour advert that I could find, a zombie mask:

Presumably, they will wear their mask with their eyeball cufflinks:

And what a slogan.

“NO–THEY’RE NOT REAL, BUT THEY LOOK LIKE IT !

Surely that has a future with a publicity hungry plastic surgeon. It’s certainly better than this excessively subtle 1950s ad :

I borrowed that advert from a website which boasts 39 more. Take a look. It certainly shows how attitudes towards women have altered over the years.

Or have they?

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What would you do ? (2) The Solution

Here’s the emergency from last time:

And here’s the situation:

The proverbial has hit the fan. A deep, fast flowing river. A rally car in mid air, about to plunge into its surging, ice-cold waters.

So, not a good situation. The water will easily submerge the car, but the water pressure on the doors will be too strong for the men to open them. How will they escape?

And page 2 says that the solution is:

“Your first reaction might be to keep the water out. But this would be fatal. You would quickly use up the oxygen inside the car and suffocate. The only solution is to take a deep breath, wind down the windows to allow the water in, so that the pressure of the water inside will be almost equal to that of the water outside. Then the doors can be opened for you to escape.”

Just don’t try any of this in an Austin Allegro, though, because the percentage rates of success in the “Window Lowering” section of this “Star Car of 1975 Competition” were actually very low. After all, Merseyside Police were officially ordered by the Chief Constable never to jack the car up because the car’s chassis would immediately be twisted and permanently deformed by the vehicle’s weight.

Don’t try it in a car with electric windows either. Presumably in a top of the range luxury saloon, you will all die.

In the comic’s illustration of the “Dilly of a Pickle”, the car looks like an ordinary Ford Cortina, but is probably not. In the 1960s, there was a very popular racing and rallying variant of the Cortina, fitted with a Cosworth engine, called a “Lotus Cortina”. It was usually white with a green stripe and a Lotus Badge on the rear wing:

The smug car behind, driven by Dick Dastardly, is a very popular and successful rallying car, the Saab 96, the model used by the Number One Man, Swede Eric Carlsson. Here he is, one of the absolute masters of the commute to work:

 

 

 

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The place where I grew up (5)

After Smart’s wool and dress shop, the next shop was Burton’s Stores, which sold food and general groceries. As a little boy, of course, I did not realise that this was just one shop in a chain of many hundreds, stretching across most of the East Midlands, and in particular, the area around Nottingham. Still less did I anticipate the fact that one day, I would spend my entire working life in the school where the founder of the firm, Frank Burton, had received his education, in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Here he is, ten minutes after he won the Gold Award in “Waxed Moustache Magazine” for December 1886:

Here’s Burton’s Stores today:

Just past Burton’s Stores was Shepherd’s the Chemists where, one day in the late 1950s, I was treated for the severe forehead cut which I suffered when I fell over on the pavement outside the shop, near the bus stop. Here’s the Chemists today:

Conceptually, the last business in the High Street was the Post Office which was just past the chemist’s. It was run by Ernie Chell and many is the First Day Cover I purchased from him over the years of the late 1960s and 1970s. Here is a first day cover from the early 1960s:

And here is the Post Office today, its presence in this rapidly decaying village guaranteed by government hand-outs, as was recently revealed in the local newspaper:

Next to the Post Office was the motorbike shop, which we as little boys always thought was the home of the Woodville Chapter of the Derbyshire Hell’s Angels. Now its changed its orientation and is home to “Chaps” and “Swishhh”:

Opposite was Dytham’s Dairy, which delivered milk to most of the area. Now it is home to “Timber Town Trophies whose opening hours are on their website“:

Beyond that on the right was the road which led up to the Infants’ School and to Woodville Secondary Modern, the destination, alas, of so many young people of the village over the years.  More striking, though, before its demolition in the late 1950s, was the vast bulk of the Wesleyan Church, which, in the vision of a five or six year old boy, towered as high as a medieval cathedral. Like the products of so many of the local pipe works, it was of a dark, reddish brown, made of bricks which may well themselves have had a partially glazed surface:

Beyond this was Leese’s furniture shop, which, despite its distant location at the top end of High Street, survived as a business for many years after I left the village.

Here is the shop today. Closed at 11 o’clock in the morning:

I was simply amazed at the economic desolation of Woodville today. So many shops were derelict. Presumably that is why everybody voted for Brexit. It was hoped that this gesture would be a punch on the nose of our politicians who have allowed the life of the ordinary working man in the north and Midlands to degenerate to an unacceptable standard. He no longer has any pride in what he does, and that is wrong.

I suppose the slogan will have to be “Let’s make Woodville great again”. Or at the very least, nice to live in.

One feature of life in the 1950s which has disappeared for ever from Woodville, and indeed from the whole of the rest of the country, was what used to happen at the end of every single working day, as all the factories closed down at five o’clock in the late afternoon.

Every single works, every single factory, had its own siren or hooter which would be sounded loudly in the still calm of the evening. From my Dad’s own back garden, he would have been able to hear perhaps as many as ten different factories closing down for the day, one after another.

Each hooter had its own distinctive note, and this, coupled with the direction the noise was coming from, meant that, with practice, every single one could be identified. Every night too, they would sound in the same order, a few seconds apart, and it was therefore possible to anticipate Outram’s, say, or Knowles’s or Wragg’s, all finishing work for the day.

Pretty much the same thing used to happen at the end of every lunch hour, as the managers and owners tried to bring their tired staff back for the afternoon. This was always less impressive, however, as invariably, the end of the midday break was always slightly different by at least a few minutes for every single factory.

I could only find a single factory hooter on Youtube. Listen from one minute onward:

Youtube also features the really unusual work of composer Arseny Avramov who created both a “Symphony Of Factory Sirens” and a second “Symphony of Industrial Horns” in 1922, using the various factory hooters of Baku in what was then the Soviet Union.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The place where I grew up (4)

Last time we were walking through my home village of Woodville, down to the school and the church. Now, though, we return to the High Street, the most important street in the village. The first shop on the left was Ormes’s. Here they sold boiled ham, crusty bread, ice cold milk and cream cakes. Hot ham hocks were delivered to the shop, I think, on perhaps a Monday or a Tuesday, and there were also special arrivals of savoury ducks, which were very large meatballs, on a Monday and a Thursday. The manager here was Eric Boss, a man who could out-flirt and out-innuendo even the Co-op butcher. Here’s Ormes’s. As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict:

There’s one Eric Boss story that I cannot not tell you.

“On one occasion, my grandfather, Will was pushing his huge old fashioned wooden wheelbarrow up Hartshorne Road towards the Toll Gate at the top of the hill. It was full of clay, and weighed a colossal amount. This, of course, was of little concern to Will, who was extremely strong, having spent his entire adult working life carrying huge quantities of wet clay on his back at Knowles’s and at Wraggs.

Down the hill came Eric Boss, the manager of Ormes’ grocer’s and cake shop, and a middle aged “Jack the Lad”, a man with a great eye for the ladies. He was always chatting them up as he served them. When he met Will, he obviously saw it as a chance to show off, for he said to him, “Hold on there, old man, I’ll give you a hand.” He reached down to grasp the handles of the barrow and take some of the weight off my apparently frail old grandfather.

Imagine then his embarrassment, when he could not even lift the wheelbarrow legs off the ground.”

Next door to Ormes’s was Taylors’ newsagents, run by Albert Taylor and his wife. As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict :

Among many other products, Taylors’ sold magazines from America such as “Famous Monsters of Filmland”:

And I well remember having to go up to Taylor’s to pre-order my copy of the new British comic for boys, namely “Victor”, complete with free gift, a plastic presentation wallet full of postcard sized photographs of the great football and rugby teams of 1961-1962:

Next on the left was Renée’s fish and chip shop, with her fabulous fishcakes, made almost exclusively of potato, and her special batter, imported daily from Derby by special van in special plastic buckets.
Here is Renée’s today:

After Renée’s fish and chip shop, with her fabulous fishcakes, came the Viking Coach Company which took clubs, societies and just ordinary passengers all over the country. A holiday in Scarborough. A fortnight on the Isle of Wight. A visit to a show in London or off to Birmingham to see “Godzilla: the Musical”. Alas, the Vikings are no more. They are now a flower and furniture shop where business is so good that they are closed at eleven o’clock in the morning on a Friday:

Opposite Albert Taylor’s newsagents, was, I think, a dry cleaners, As you can see, it too is nowadays derelict :

Next door was Charlie Fowell’s barber’s shop.  Strangely, it is also closed this fine Friday morning:

Further up on the right hand side of the street was Ashmore’s, a second newsagent’s. As everybody has now forgotten how to read, it is now a curry shop:

Then there was Whyatt’s the greengrocers. Today, it is a Vape Shop, whatever that is:

I can remember though, the days when this greengrocery business was further up the street, on the left, until it had to be demolished to construct an important car park, and they had to move their premises. Here is that vital car park today, keeping the commerce of the area ticking over:

Whyatt’s original shop was at the side of a little road which ran away to the north from the High Street, on the opposite side from the Queen Adelaide public house. Whyatt’s always had boxes made of bright, thin, cheap orange wood on the pavement in front of their shop, where they displayed their fruit and vegetables. It was in this part of High Street that the demolition of a number of buildings occurred and, in the ruins of an ancient terraced house, a vast tangled rats’ nest was revealed in the ceiling of the back bedroom. It must have been ten or twelve feet across, and the product, one supposes, of generations of work on the part of countless hundreds of rats. As seven year old children, we always stopped to look at this natural wonder as we walked up to the Infants’ School at the top of High Street.

Opposite these shops and houses, on the other side of the High Street to Whyatt’s the Greengrocer’s was Woodville’s third newsagent’s, namely Jones’s, perhaps the least successful of the three. Nowadays it has been converted to a vitally needed fast food shop, one of forty three million  in the country:

Back in the day, the shop was a fine source of what we called “shilling war books”:

There was at least one other shop in this block, but I cannot remember exactly what it was. There are vague memories, perhaps, of a TV repair shop. As you can see, though, it too is nowadays derelict:

Further up on the opposite side was Smart’s shop, which was divided into two halves, both equipped with bright orange cellophane sheets in the windows to protect their goods against the sun. The right hand half of the shop sold, if I remember correctly, wool, knitting patterns, knitting needles  and sewing requisites, while the left hand side contained ladies’ dresses and other clothing. It was a marvellous shop for middle aged women to visit, to buy everything they needed for their hobbies.

Here is the knitting shop today. It was converted into a vitally needed fast food shop, one of forty three million  in the country:

And here is the clothes shop. It’s used, I presume, to store the uncooked ingredients for Kim’s Kitchen. It’s very pretty, though, and I take my hat off to the architect who came up with that conversion of the original shop, after only seven years of study:

Next time, my attempts to get Woodville twinned with Florence.

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The place where I grew up (3)

Last time, we finished Part Two standing in the middle of Moira Road with our backs to the traffic, hoping that Woodville, my natal village, did not yet have anybody with a silent electric car. First on the right is the Junior School that I went to, now closed down and fenced off, and used by Derbyshire  County Council as a Youth & Community Centre:

My Dad went to the Junior School in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and I went there in the late 1950s and early 1960s. My Dad then worked there, and, in fact, taught me in what would one day be Year 4. I was also taught by Miss Cartwright, Mrs Burman and Mrs Simpkin. All four of them were excellent teachers and tried as hard as they could, even though their classes had around forty five to fifty pupils.

Next to the school is the church of St Stephen:

Nowadays it’s a lot more dramatic as St Stephen the Martyr, but we all knew it as St Stephen’s. After going to the school next door and standing in the playground  as a little boy and watching the swifts nest under the eaves of the church, Fred had his funeral there in  2003.

The next building was the Church Hall where our School Choir, District Champions, gave a concert for the Old Age Pensioners in 1962:

I think it’s just being repaired rather than being derelict. Next comes the only shop in the road, namely Hopper’s, which always seemed to sell the coldest fizzy drinks and ice cream, when we returned from playing sport at the Recreation Ground. Hopper’s had a door which clanged with a mechanical ringing effect and this unique sound was emphasised by a grey, metal grille on which customers were supposed to wipe their feet as they entered the shop.

Here is the shop today, alas:

Between the Church Hall and Hopper’s is the house where Fred, my Dad, was born on November 30th 1922. No blue plaque as yet. It’s the house with the three windows in the roof:

Right at the very far end of Moira Road was another shop which was close enough to the Recreation Ground to provide cold fizzy drinks and ice cream for young children playing sport up there. I have forgotten the name of the shop owners, but they were much more like a convenience store with tinned vegetables and canned fruit for sale. Here is the shop today. It’s as good as derelict if you’re thirsty from a good game of football:

Next time a trip up High Street, or, as my Grandad would say, a trip “up Box”, using the old expression for Woodville, taken from the man who took the toll money in the eighteenth century. We’ll see Albert Taylor, Reg Ashmore, Renée and her chip shop and Graham Fowell, who left his Dad’s business to become a minister of the church.

 

 

 

 

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The place where I grew up (2)

Last time, we looked at the pretty little village where I grew up. It was called Woodville and it is in Derbyshire, England.

The school I went to was down Moira Road, one of the five roads that met at the Tollgate. Much more interesting, though, was Donald Ward’s scrapyard, where we would call in hoping that we would be given metal ball bearings to use in our schoolboy games of marbles:

Occasionally the metal ball bearings would be thrown at us, but none of us were too proud to reject any projectiles that came whizzing our way. Legend told of an immensely strong gentleman of Ukrainian heritage, who worked in the scrap yard, and who was so strong that he could lift a length of railway line off a lorry without any outside help. Here’s his brother, as I could not find any pictures of a man carrying a railway line. He’s just bought his lunch at the takeaway:

Inside the scrapyard was a traditional bottle kiln, which is still there to this day, because it is a Listed Building:

My grandfather, Will, spent a great deal of his adult life working in a bottle kiln. It was hard physical work, which required an enormous physical effort. Grandad was immensely strong and, although he was only a small man, he had huge slab like forearms and muscles made powerful from years of lifting heavy objects. He worked in the pipeyards at Wragg’s and then at Knowles’s. Both of these companies were near Swadlincote, and they manufactured underground pipes, mostly for drains and sewers. During the 1920s and 1930s, because of the severe physical strains of his job, Will was a relatively well paid employee, earning at one point some 42/- per week (£2.10):

Will’s job was to carry a tray of soft, “green ware” which would have weighed around a hundredweight, perhaps some fifty or so kilos. He took them from the place where they were made from moist clay, on a large wooden carrying tray, into the bottle kiln, to be fired and hardened. The bottle kiln, in an effort to retain heat and to economise, was slightly recessed into the ground. It had a very small door, so that Will was obliged firstly to slide down a gentle slope, and then to dip down so that he could enter through the tiny, heat conserving, door. Finally, Will had to lift the heavy tray with its cargo of wet clay objects upwards onto the racks inside the kiln.

Here, of course, inside the kiln, it might be immensely hot, and stories were often told of how men, stripped to the waist, would drink a whole bucketful of water to slake their huge thirst. They always wore sacking on their feet. Newcomers who arrived wearing a pair of shoes for their first day on the job would find that their footwear barely lasted until finishing time at the end of the first day. When he finally retired in 1964, my Grandad was replaced by a fork-lift truck.

Continuing down Moira Road, on the right was, firstly, the Junior School, and then St Stephen’s Church and then the Church Hall. We’ll look at them in more detail next time, but for now, here’s a glimpse. When I was a child, of course, the younger generation were so clever that they did not need to spray paint the names of the roads on the asphalt:

 

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The place where I grew up (1)

I grew up in a small village called Woodville, just to the south of Derby, in more or less the centre of England. Cue The Orange Arrow:

The village had around 4,000 inhabitants who worked for the most part in the local industry, which was digging up the local clay and using it to make water pipes, sewage pipes and the like.

Originally, the village was called Wooden Box, because five roads met in the centre, and the man who collected the tolls from the travellers on those five roads lived in a large wooden box the size of a small house. The place where he stopped the traffic therefore became known as the Tollgate. Nowadays, it is a roundabout.

Here is the High Street shortly after the end of World War Two:

It was quite grim when the snows of 1947 began to get a little grimy:

Over a series of blog posts, I would like to show you what Woodville was like when I was a little boy in the late fifties and early sixties, and what all those places are like now.

In the 1950s, the shops of Woodville were vastly different from what they are nowadays. At the top of Hartshorne Road, where I lived, was the Co-op butcher’s, with its decorated ceramic tiles, where meat was displayed on a big white slab behind a huge plate glass window. Here are some of the ceramic tiles:

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Inside was the counter with a wooden chopping block at the side. The butcher wore a striped blue and white apron, soiled with smears of old blood. He was, like all butchers, a Smart Alec, who fancied his chances with the women and was always over familiar with them.

Here’s the butcher’s shop today. It’s derelict:

Higher up, on the corner of the roundabout was a large shop called the Co-op. In the picture below, it’s on the right:

Margaret who worked in the Co-op was my mother’s particular friend. Here’s the shop today. It’s derelict too:

On the opposite side of the road was what had been the old Police Station. Here it is, in the centre of  a very old postcard:

The County Library was to move into the derelict police station around 1960. The story was told locally that four special garages were constructed to house the mobile library vehicles, but that the people in charge forgot to measure the huge vans’ lengths, so that they eventually stuck out of their garage by some  three or four feet and it was impossible to close the doors of the new buildings.

Around this time, the same location also housed the local Civil Defence, who had a large and enormously loud siren next to the building’s chimney. It was a frightening machine which could be sounded should “Our Friends the Soviets” ever launch a nuclear attack on Woodville. In the early 1960s, I well remember the threatening and haunting sound of this siren curling around the walls of the houses on, thank goodness, just one occasion per month, possibly the first Sunday, when testing was allowed to occur if my memory serves me well. Here’s the police station pretending to be a library:

Over the road from the Police Station was a ramshackle, black, wooden garage where cars were repaired and petrol was sold, BP, if I remember correctly. Further along this road towards Burton on Trent, on the left hand side stood a garage which sold Cleveland Driscoll petrol, and which was unstinting in the way in which it gave away primarily purple coloured advertising lapel badges to small boys.

Here’s the garage today. It’s derelict, with weeds growing in front of it:

The roundabout was called the Toll Gate, and it had a third garage, which sold, again if I am not mistaken, Regent petrol. It was called the Clock Garage and here it is today, repainted and restored:

Next time we’ll look at my old school and the house where my Dad was born.

 

 

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Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill

When we were first married, my wife and I bought a house in the Meadows area of Nottingham. This was traditionally a place of slums, crime and general unpleasantness, but at the time, the early 1980s, huge numbers of unhealthy hovels were being demolished to be replaced by newly built, better quality, council houses, as they were then called. Mixed in with all the rented accommodation though, was a small estate of private houses, and we bought one of those. When we first moved in, we were surrounded by a vast building site:

photo 1

In the background is Nottingham Castle, which has very little remaining from the medieval period and dates mostly from the 1670s. It is perhaps most famous for being the trademark on Players Cigarettes:

trade markxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

And now, it must be nine minutes past four and the teaching day is ended and I have driven home at top speed:

“Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.”

photo 3

I used to have an old 1964 Hillman Minx De Luxe, with the registration plate BLT 141B. It was my first car, and I loved it dearly. I wish I could have it back again. It had previously belonged to my Dad, Fred, who loved it even more than I did. When the seventeen-year-old car failed its last roadworthiness test, he was so glad that I took the trouble to drive it, fairly illegally, the 35 miles to his house, just so that he could then drive it himself on its last ever journey down to the scrapyard.
This beautiful blue car was “the one” as far as Fred’s motoring career was concerned. One day in 1966, he took me with him to nearby Derby and we visited Peveril Garage, on Friar Gate, up near the headquarters of the Derby County Supporters’ Club:

dcfc
Fred told me not to mention anything whatsoever about the day to my mother, not under any circumstances. Without any consultation with her at all, therefore, he bought this marvellous car, which was priced at £510. In those days, that was a princely sum indeed. If truth be told, it was actually a total sufficiently royal, that when my mother did eventually find out what he had done, she would have had Fred beheaded if she could have organised it.

The car was a rich blue, half way between sky blue and navy blue, with a black side stripe picked out in metallic chrome. In later years, when he had problems with rust on one of the wings, Fred was to opt for a total re-spray, which allowed him to retain the same colour blue for the body, but to incorporate a black roof which added that extra, unique, little detail to his beloved car:

photo 4

At this time, I had only recently passed my driving test, so, while I waited for the green “Provisional” plates to be invented, I retained my Learner plates, with the Big Red Ell on them. That was enough to be pulled over by a young policeman, apparently tired of arresting burglars, drug dealers, terrorists, murderers and bank robbers. Still, no hard feelings.
And here I am, looking like the man who designs the stage costumes for a 1970s pop group:

photo 2

I am wearing my favourite wide lapel purple jacket which had a wonderful Polyester feel to it. My shirt was short sleeved and chequered in pink and white. My extra wide tie was scarlet, and again, made of Polyester for easy cleaning. My glasses were gold-rimmed and my hair was a deep delicious dark brown without the slightest trace of grey:

photo 5

I had probably been wearing a pair of trousers throughout my day as a teacher, but they are not visible in this photograph. They may well have been my favourite pair ever, which were generously flared and mid-grey with an emphatic large black check design all over them. This created a whole series of huge squares perhaps four or five inches in size. I eventually gave these show stealers to a charity for the homeless in Africa. I often wonder who got them and what he made of them. Conceivably, some kind of shelter.

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Filed under Criminology, History, Humour, My House, Nottingham, Personal

It’s the Witching Hour : Story Number Eleven

Number 11

“E pur si muove” : “And yet it moves” (Galileo Galilei)

When my father, Fred, died in hospital at the age of eighty, his wristwatch was found to have stopped at 11.04. I went round to his house a couple of days later to check everything was all right, and I found that the old brown wooden clock in the sitting room, which had been a wedding present some fifty or more years earlier, had also stopped at that very same time of 11.04. This is like his sitting room clock, but the time is wrong:

big clock

 

Towards the end of his life, Fred had been both blind and bed ridden and his house had become very neglected. During the period after Fred’s death, both my wife and I spent a lot of time cleaning and redecorating all the different rooms.

As we did this, day after day, on more than one occasion, we both smelt what we thought was my mother Jean’s perfume. It was as if she were watching over us in approval as we dusted and hoovered. I suppose that if that were the case, then it should not have been too surprising, given that Jean was a typical 1950s housewife, always cleaning and re-cleaning, and immensely house proud.

At this time, my brother, Ken, who had always been so firmly convinced that the house was haunted, refused to go into the empty property on his own. He had always had the idea that spirits, whether good or bad, are pushed into the background by human activity, but that when potentially haunted houses are empty, then the ghosts will begin to claim them back as their own. Ken certainly believed in the story of the little man who had lived there in the 1940s.

Similar feelings were expressed by my daughter Lauren. As I mentioned above, during that period immediately after Fred’s death, my wife and I were readying Fred’s house to be put on the market. We were spending all of our time cleaning, painting and decorating.  Meanwhile, Lauren sat upstairs in the smaller of the two bedrooms revising for her imminent GCSE examinations. She spent all of her time sitting with her back to the wall, scared stiff as she worked. She felt that there was somebody else in the room with her, but that they really did not like her being there. These disquieting feelings only came when she was on her own. As soon as anybody came into the room to see her, all her fears disappeared.

It is easy to dismiss ideas like these out of hand, but it is a little like the difference between walking through a graveyard at three o’clock on a sunlit afternoon:

sunny graveyard

as opposed to three o’clock in the cold, dark depths of a winter’s night:

graveyard_zps723fe69f

With this idea in mind, on the very last evening before the contracts were exchanged and Fred’s house passed out of my possession forever, I decided to do an all-night vigil in an effort to experience something ghostly.

To cut a potentially long story short, I saw or heard absolutely nothing. But, at the same time, though, I was, throughout the entire night, so scared that I never did manage to switch the lights out. I really was very frightened. And, just like Lauren, I too spent all my time sitting with my back to a wall.  Read into that what you will.

There were other strange happenings as well as the stopping of the wristwatch and the old wooden clock. We were experiencing them, I suspect, because we were clearing out Fred’s house after his death. It is very frequently said, for example, that building work, and many other types of physical change such as painting or wallpapering, are extremely good for provoking a strong reaction from any ghosts that may be present.

One day, I had been cleaning and painting the living room. This was the downstairs room where Fred had spent the last two, painful, years of his life, except for his stays in hospital. He had a bed, an armchair, a commode and a television, so he was self-contained in a sad, forlorn sort of way.

That particular day, we had reached lunchtime, and my wife and daughter were outside in Fred’s old summerhouse, finishing off their fish and chips from Renée’s Fish Bar. For some reason I now forget, I was alone. Suddenly, I had the strangest feeling that Fred was there in the room with me. I called out to him,

“Are you there, Dad? It’s me, your son, John. If you are there, give me a sign.”

Straightaway, the curtains in the window looking out towards the garage and the concrete drive where Fred had parked his cars for so many years, began to shake and move. Then they stopped. I waited a few seconds and then called out for a second time.

“Is that you, Dad? If you are there, then make the curtains move again.”

Without delay, the curtains again began to move. I went outside, and called in my daughter, Lauren. I told her to come into the living room and just to stand still and watch, and not to say a word. I called out to Fred for a third time,

“Are you there, Dad? This is your granddaughter, Lauren. If you are still there, give her a sign. Make the curtains move like you did for me.”

Immediately, again the curtains began to move, and then stopped. I turned to Lauren, and asked her if they had actually moved, and that it was not just a coincidence. She replied that she had seen the curtains, and that, yes, they had moved, and that apparently, it had been in response to my request.

So, for a fourth, and final time, I called out loudly,

“Are you still there, Dad? If you are, make the curtains move again.”

And sure enough, they did. I have no explanation for these events other than the supernatural.

There was no window open. No door was open. The central heating radiators underneath the window were switched on throughout the entire episode, but this would not explain the fact that the curtains actually came to a fairly abrupt stop on four separate occasions. Neither was it my imagination or wishful thinking. That was one of the reasons why I asked Lauren to come in and be a witness to events. And to this day, she maintains, Galileo-like, that, yes, the curtains did move.

.
Not surprisingly, perhaps, for quite a while afterwards, Fred was to appear in my dreams. There was one that stood out among the rest.

This dream took place on a huge luxurious ocean liner, standing around a grand piano which stood at the meeting point of several long and wide corridors:

fingersccccccccccccccccccc

Fred was standing there, listening to the pianist who was tinkling away at the ivories in rather desultory fashion. I was talking to Fred, and was trying to trap him into giving me details about the afterlife.

“Where do you live now then, Dad?”, I asked.

“You know that already.”, he said with a slight smile.

“And where you will you go tonight ?”, I asked. “Where will you sleep after we’ve left ?

He did not offer any reply.

“Well, Dad, will I be able to come and see you sometime?”

“Of course you will come and see me…..one day,” he replied, with a strange, wry look, and then walked off for ever down one of the corridors.

I have had no real contact with Fred since, but deep down, I am sure that this will not be the end of the story.

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