Category Archives: Personal

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

Football Programmes of the Soviet Union (5)

I don’t often begin with a dedication but perhaps, just this once……

“Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.”

And certainly, when I started out, I never thought I would one day be writing Blog Post Number Six hundred threescore and six. Anyway……

 

Last time we were looking at some of the old Soviet football/soccer programmed that I still have.

The first programme today has “Uralmash Sverdlovsk” / “Уралмаш Свердловск” as the away team, but this time with “Stroityel Ashkhabad” / “Строитель Ашхабад”, as their hosts. You may remember from Blog Post 4 that “Uralmash” was a little like an acronym, where “Ural” referred to the range of mountains and “Mash” was short for “Mashina” , the Russian word for “car”. The two together referred to a car factory in Sverdlovsk, the main city of the Urals. Sverdlovsk is now called Ekaterinberg, just to add to the confusion:

“Stroitel Ashkhabad” /“Строитель Ашхабад” means “Ashkhabad Construction Workers”, although this particular team have previously been “Locomotiv Ashkhabad” / “Локомотив (railway workers) Ашхабад”  and “Колхощи (collective farm workers) Ашхабад”. How original, and different, those names were, compared to the modern “FK Köpetdag Aşgabat”. “Köpetdag” by the way, means “Many mountains”, presumably in the local language.

Ashkhabad, by the way, is the capital of Turkmenistan, which is to the north east of Iran, and certainly part of Asia. Just to puzzle everybody further, on this map, the cartographers have decided to label Iran the “Middle East”. I have no idea why.

Here are the team line ups:

The top two words mean “make-ups” and “of the teams”. In brackets, the next few words mean “about- possible- changes- listen…….“по радио” ……..to-the radio -before-the beginning…….. “матча”  of the match.

Russian is a very ancient language, of the same age and vintage as Latin or Ancient Greek. There are a surprisingly large number of Russian words which do not come from Latin, but which are close relations of the Latin words. ““по” / “po” is the same word as the Latin “per”, as in “per ardua ad astra” the motto of the RAF, “Through difficulties to the stars”. “Before the match” was “перед  матча” and the word “p-e-r-e-d” is our “pre” as in “prehistoric” or “premature”.

Notice how on this programme, there is a late change to the team so that Papuga doesn’t play at No 7 but instead he is replaced by what might be “Yegorshin” although it’s not particularly clear. But just think of the circumstances of that team change, made with Oleg Soloviev’s fountain pen. He is sitting in a seat at the Central Stadium in Sverdlovsk, the city to which, in 1941,  Stalin organised the  large scale removal of the Soviet Union’s industry, so that it was beyond the range of German bombers. For Oleg, it is Monday, October 9th 1967, just a few moments after 6 o’clock, when the team changes are announced. He is more than 3,000 miles away from where I, aged just 14, am still working away in school.

In a few hours’ time,  ground control at NASA will crash the American space probe, “Lunar Orbiter 3”, deliberately onto the Moon’s surface after eight months in orbit. In La Higuera, a village in Bolivia, in his cell, the prisoner has just a few hours left to live before Army Sergeant Mario Terán takes his semi-automatic rifle and shoots him nine times. His prisoner is a young doctor and revolutionary Marxist named Ché Guevara. And on Saturday, October 21 1967, the first ever national demonstration against the Vietnam war will take place in Washington.

Our penultimate  programme is a match which took place in what was then called Kuybyshev (Куйбышев) and is now called Samara. It is a city of 1.14 million residents, situated on the River Volga:

This football team is still in the Russian Premier Division and is still called “Krylia Sovetov” just as as it was in  those “Golden Days of Communism”. In Russian “Krylia Sovetov” is “Крылья Советов” and it means “Wings of the Soviets”, surely one of the most dramatic names in world football.

The away team, on the left, is from Zaporizhzhia (Запорожье) which is nowadays a city in south-eastern Ukraine., once the site of a big car factory and nowadays the largest nuclear power station in Europe. Here is their badge of today…….

The name of the team is “Металлург” or “Metallurg”, a reference to Zaporizhzhia’s factories during the Soviet era in which they produced steel, aluminium and many other products of heavy industry.

The last programme of the lot is another home game for “Кубань Краснодар” aka “Kuban Krasnodar”. If you remember, “Krasnodar”, the name of the city, means “gift of the Reds” and the Kuban was the local river. The opponents are “Терек Грозный” aka “Terek Grozniy”. Nowadays the team is called “FC Akhmat Grozny”. Back in 1969, the game was a seven o’clock evening game on Tuesday, June 17th 1969. Top left is the complete date, namely “Вторник 17 июня 1969 г ”  The “г” is short for “года” (“goda”) which means “of the year”.

Grozny is not really a place for a romantic weekend break. It is the capital of Chechnya, home of the Chechens, who are primarily of the Muslim faith. You can read about the wars here, the first of three wikipedia articles.

The new team, “FC Akhmat Grozny”, is now named after Akhmat Kadyrov who was the Chief Mufti of the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria in the 1990s. He changed sides in 2000 and became the President of the Chechen Republic. On May 9th 2004, he was assassinated by Chechen Islamists in Grozny.

Grozny is a place name, but in Russian it also means something. “Грозный” is an adjective meaning “terrible, formidable, redoubtable, menacing, threatening, stern or ferocious”. It can be applied to a look, a glance, a storm, a danger, or a tsar. “Иван” is “Ivan”  and I’m sure that you can work out which of the many Ivans was the tsar called “Иван Грозный”.

But what is a “Terek”? Well, it’s a river in the northern Caucasus. Here it flows through Vladikavkaz,  the old Tsarist fortress and garrison town, and nowadays, the home of the beautiful Mukhtarov Mosque:

To me though, the word “Terek” will always be associated with a rare bird in England, the Terek Sandpiper, a wader which always runs to the water’s edge to wash its food before it eats it. It is also one of the very few birds whose beak points upwards. Not many people know that.

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Stories about my Dad (2)

In 1946, my Dad, Fred,  left the Brylcreem Boys of the RAF and Bomber Command, and signed up to be trained as a teacher. He finished up getting a job quite near to his home in Hartshorne Road, Woodville. It was at the school in Hastings Road in Church Gresley. He taught there until the mid-1950s. In the 1990s, when I used to go and watch the local football/soccer team, Gresley Rovers, I met one or two of his erstwhile pupils who all remembered him, as a very strict teacher who brooked no nonsense. That might well have been because the teenage sons of coalminers at Hastings Road would have been a tough proposition to keep under control in classes of more than forty, especially for a first time teacher. I can quite well imagine that Fred would have had to employ what DH Lawrence, faced also with teaching the teenage sons of coalminers, called “three years’ savage teaching of collier lads”.

Here’s Hastings Road School. I have used one of the reprinted Victorian maps of England sold by Alan Godfrey . Hastings Road is in the middle of the eastern edge:

Notice how many “Old coal shafts” there are, even in this small area. Just after the war, there were up to 17 coal mines active in the area, as well as numerous vast open cast clay mines. Just try to imagine how small a human figure would be on this postcard, if those are full sized factory buildings in the background. Open cast clay mines were really gigantic…….

All of these activities, of course, left the entire area prey to subsidence. I found a very short article about this particular area on the internet. It said that

“…….the subsidence here was so severe the town’s plight became a national embarrassment. Schools, libraries and even entire streets were either propped up or knocked down as the town sank at an alarming rate.”

As a little boy in the late 1950s, we often used to drive up to Church Gresley to see the houses which had been damaged by the subsidence, which was produced by a 150-odd years of intensive coal mining. These houses were easily recognisable, being  propped up with huge beams of wood or extra long railway sleepers. Here are some of the less serious supports in a picture from a 1949 newspaper. I can remember enormously thick beams of wood when I saw them in the late 1950s. The houses must have been in an even worse state by then. Most of them had, in fact, been evacuated.:

The caption reads:

“SOME OF THE HOUSES IN CORONATION STREET” Built between the two great wars, and therefore comparatively new, as age is assessed in terms of bricks and mortar. There are nearly 50, supported by great baulks of timber, like those shown above and bound together with iron rods. Two are empty, being quite uninhabitable, and in others ceilings are falling, windows cracking and doors refusing to function.”

If the the houses were built in a coronation year, “between the two great wars” they can only date from 1936 and were thus only thirteen years old at  the time of the newpaper photograph. There is a very short video available.  The title refers to “Swadlincote” which is the name of the local area:

Thirty, forty years after my Dad had left Hastings Road School. I went to Hastings Road to take some photographs of the school. Alas, the buildings were no longer there, and had clearly fallen victim to the subsidence that I knew had claimed so many local houses. I began to investigate but I couldn’t find anybody who knew for certain the true detailed story of the demise of Hastings Road  School. Perhaps one day, the beams arrived, and the next day, before they could be put into position, the whole school fell down. That must have cheered up all those “collier lads”. Here’s the school today. Today’s pavement would have been directly in front of the school’s front wall:

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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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Football Programmes of the Soviet Union (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tashkent is home to this stunningly beautiful mosque:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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Stories about my Dad (1) Manchester Lane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My best friend, Widdle (2)

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

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

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

And then he would hear me calling his name :

And then he would come up the path to the patio

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

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

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

Now for the second:

A very tricky manoeuvre :

And then it’s “Up, up and Away !!!

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

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

 

 

 

 

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An impossible Beatles Quiz (2….the Answers)

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

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

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

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

1     Who had a silver hammer?

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

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

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

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

2     Who always arrived late for tea?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4     What was the name of the lovely meter maid?

In the song her name is Rita:

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

5      What was anybody doing in “Penny Lane?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, success on a fabulous scale:

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

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

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

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

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

Well, in “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” :

Desmond has a barrow in the market place”

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

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

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

in the evening she still sings with the band                      

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

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

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

Take your pick:

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

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

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

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

Well the song begins with the answer:

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

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

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

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

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

Football Programmes of the Soviet Union (3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Filed under Football, History, Personal, Russia

My best friend, Widdle (1)

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

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

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

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

Some milk. No, that’s cats.

Just a piece of apple and some cooked sausages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stage 1            Look as if you’re hungry:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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