Monday, 3 June 2019

A RAMBLING REMINISCENCE...


Nah, this isn't it, but it's vaguely similar

Here's a true tale of something that happened around 34 or 35 years ago that I've suddenly just remembered.  I was walking home one evening, along a route that took me past a school, when I noticed that the bottom glass panel of a door had been kicked in.  I was all for passing on, when curiosity got the better of me. Perhaps someone had broken the pane to gain access, and maybe they were still inside.  If so, they'd be bound to be teenagers, and I was then strong, fit, and confident that I could look after myself - even against more than one person. (Maybe one day I'll relate a couple of events that demonstrate I'm not just confusing ambition with ability.  Hark - is that the John Williams SUPER-MAN theme I hear?)

Anyway, I walked over to the door and crouched down at the aperture, listening to hear if I could detect any sounds of activity from within, but there was nothing.  I decided to call the police when I got home and alert them to the vandalism, assuming that they'd check to see if anyone was on the premises.  Thing is, by the time I got home, I was so lost in thought that I took the dog out for a walk and forgot all about it, and never did call the local constabulary.  When I eventually remembered a couple of days later, I figured it was too late to bother and that the door would have had at least a temporary repair effected by then anyway.

Cut to quite a while later.  I no longer recall whether it was weeks or months afterwards, but I know it wasn't in the immediate aftermath.  As I was again walking home one night, I heard one of two or three passing boys say to the other(s) "That's the guy who broke into the school!"  It was a mumble, and at first I had to think whether I'd heard right, but that's what it sounded like.  Of course, by then, I'd completely forgotten about the broken panel, and it took me a while to work out what the boy could've been referring to.  (Which is why I know it wasn't any time soon after the event.)  Then it hit me - the boy must have seen me (from some hidden vantage point) crouching beside the door, listening, and assumed I'd been the culprit.

I fully expected a chap at my door at some stage after that, but nothing ever came of it.  It bothered me though (and still does) that I was considered a 'suspect' in the very crime I'd intended to report, but didn't.  These boys will be all grown up by now with wives and kids of their own, and I can't help but wonder if they still remember me and consider me a vandal or a burglar.  The school seemed to be a target for neds, as some years later it fell victim to arson, necessitating it being demolished and a new building being erected in its place.  The new construct was more like a fortress than a school, but given its history, is it any wonder?

Anyway, this has been a rambling reminiscence - I hope you found it worth your while to read.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

THE TRUE-LIFE TALE OF BILLY LIAR...


Me in St. Andrew's Road in Southsea, Portsmouth, 1978

Reading about a tall tale-telling cartoon character reminded me of a real-life inveterate 'fantasist' (by which I mean liar) who used to pal about with me from 1965 until he joined the Navy shortly after his dad died in 1977.  We remained friends until 1981, when I concluded that he obviously had mental health issues and finally severed all ties with him.

I last saw him in Gosport near the end of April '81 when I was living nearby, and it was then I realized he was no longer the person I thought he was - if indeed he ever had been.  This man simply couldn't open his gob without a monumental, unbelievable 'porky-pie' popping out.  For example, even before he joined the Navy he used to wear an over-sized diver's watch, and when a friend (RONNIE ROSS, now sadly deceased) asked him what it was, he replied that it was an atomic power-pack for his bionic arm.  (This was around '76/'77, when the SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN was still on TV.)

Had it been an 'off-the-cuff' remark intended as a joke, that would've been fine.  However, in between starting and finishing the sentence, he'd somehow managed to convince himself it was true and fully expected to be believed.  Another example (on a flying visit to our house in December of 1980) came when my father asked him if he had any kids yet.  (He'd got wed in Portsmouth Registry Office two years before, and I'd been best man.)  "No," he said, "I caught an infection from a toilet seat and they had to cut my tubes.  They operated through my back passage so as not to leave a scar."

To the best of my knowledge, those 'in-the-know' say that infections can't be caught from toilet seats (at least, not the kind which affect internal organs) so his claim couldn't be true.  However, why the bit about back-door surgery?  It's unlikely that anyone would ask to see his scar so why say that if it wasn't true?  Then I realized - as a Navy man, he shared showers and quarters with others, so he'd need a 'cover-story' to explain his obvious scar-free condition when he first told his bizarre tale.  A normal person would simply have said that he didn't want kids until he left the Navy, not produced a fantastic fable that defied accepted medical facts.  Not so 'BILLY LIAR'.

His lying was no recent development, but stretched all the way back to childhood, as this 1966/'67 account illustrates.  One morning in the school playground, myself, 'Billy Liar' and a fellow called ROBERT (or ROBIN) GOLDIE were standing in line, waiting for the bell to ring to gain access to the building.  Robert was holding an ACTION MAN and opened the jacket to show us AM's dog-tag.  Action Man (or GI JOE to U.S. readers) had a rather 'stylised' musculature with a bit of a gap between his pecs.  My brother owned a TOMMY GUNN action-figure with a more realistic physique, so I remarked on how odd Action Man's torso was by comparison.  "That was his sister who did that - she's got really sharp nails!" volunteered 'Billy', ignoring the fact that Robert's sister would've had to be SUPERGIRL to make a dent in such hard plastic.

Regular readers may recall a previous post in which I mentioned a pupil who came into school one morning with a tracing of RUMPELSTILTSKIN (from a class reading book) on a piece of IZAL toilet paper, claiming he'd drawn it the night before.   (Though when the sheet was placed over the book illustration and the fraud exposed, he then said it was the work of his sister.)  Yes, you've guessed it - it was the very same guy.

For almost as long as I'd known him he'd been plagued by cartilage problems in one of his knees.  This meant that not long after joining the Navy it was discovered that he wasn't fit for active duty.  So he was given a choice - either leave the Navy or take up a 'landlubber' position at Haslar Hospital in Gosport.  (He invented a tale which attributed his long-term problem to getting his knee caught between two practice mines while on a training exercise.)  According to him his new job was that of 'medical assistant' (nurse), but in all likelihood he was a hospital porter.  Not for long though, as two or three years later he was back in civvy-street.

In 1981 I'd returned to Portsmouth - at his invitation - only to find that he steered clear of me and never came to visit - apart from one time when I saw him on his moped coming from the direction of my bed-sit while I was returning from the shops.  I hailed him, but he stopped for only just long enough to tell me he'd no time to talk - then he was off again.  He was only about two minutes away from my place and two minutes away from his base (by bike), so I wondered why he'd gone out of his way if he'd no intention of stopping.  When I got back, my landlady revealed to me that he'd only been checking-up to see if I'd returned to Scotland yet.

Me in my room in Boulton Road, Southsea in 1981.
Yes, I know - it looks like a Crimewatch photo

Obviously he was worried that the longer I was around, the greater the chance I'd eventually meet some of his newer friends and perhaps inadvertently blow the gaff about some of the 'tall tales' he'd spun.  After all, this was a guy who, with crash helmet tucked under his arm, used to visit bars that bikers hung out in - even before he had a motorbike.  (No joking.)  

Months later, when I finally returned home, my father told me that while I was in Portsmouth, 'Billy' had 'phoned one night with a curious request.  "Mr. Robson, I was in a bar the other night having a drink, and I told a guy I was talking to that I'm a Lieutenant Colonel in the Royal Navy."  (This was when he was a porter in Gosport's Haslar Hospital.)  "He didn't believe me, so I gave him your number and told him to 'phone you and you'd confirm it.  If he does call, could you back me up?"  Naturally, my father told him not to be so daft.  "Go on - a favour for a favour," pleaded the deluded 'Billy'.  My father enquired what he meant.  "I visited Gordon the other day and it cost me money for petrol for my bike," quoth Mr. Mental, referring to his lightning-quick dash to check if I was still around.  When I heard this, I gave my parents strict instructions that, if 'Billy' ever 'phoned, I was out - even if I was in.

About six or seven years later, the 'phone (then in the hallway) rang and the answer-machine clicked on.  As I stood at the top of the stairs to hear who it was, an unfamiliar voice emanated from the speaker - a Detective Inspector someone (couldn't make out the name) wanting to talk to me.  I went downstairs and picked up the 'phone - "Hello?" I said.  "What's the matter, don't you recognize an old friend?"  The voice had changed, being that strange hybrid accent that many 'Jocks' acquire from spending years down south, so at first I didn't recognize it.  Then the penny dropped and I hung up without replying.  The 'phone rang again and his voice from the speaker said:  "I'll use my warrant card if that's what it takes to talk to you!"  Poor, deluded fool.  He was never in the police - I checked, even though it was a racing cert that he wasn't.

It seems that Leopards can't change their spots.  Egged on by a pal who'd also known 'Billy' we both looked at his Facebook page about a year ago.  According to him he's a Falklands war veteran who was fast-tracked through the ranks of the Royal Navy, is thinking of taking a course in astro-physics (or something equally far-fetched), was taught to cook by both GORDON RAMSAY and JAMIE OLIVER (or two other equally famous TV chefs), has hacked into NASA satellites to take photographs of outer space (with a clearly-cribbed pic from the Internet), had a successful career as a world-class photographer (although his webpage is conspicuously absent of any evidence which would indicate it), and is a personal buddy of BILLY CONNOLLY and folk-singer RALPH McTELL, who he claims to have known since the age of twelve.  Oh, and he learned to scuba-dive at the age of nine.  (Which was all news to me - and I'd known him from when he was six.)

Right, altogether now - "JACKANORY, JACKANORYJACKANORY".  Need-less to say, we both fell about laughing at this catalogue of absurdity.  Unfortunately though, there was a sad side to his inabiltiy to grasp reality, and let me wind up this overlong reminiscence by revealing what that was.

As I previously said, I was best man at this fantasy merchant's wedding in 1978, but I had gone down to Portsmouth a few days in advance of the 'big day'.  The morning before the ceremony, while he was out somewhere, his fiancee broke down in tears and confessed to me that she was now having severe doubts about going through with it.  Her brother and her friends considered him a complete weirdo and had expressed concern over his alarming propensity to tell the most outrageous lies at the drop of a hat.  What was I to do?  What I should've done was tell her that I didn't think he was mature enough to get married and had been telling porkies for as long as I had known him so was therefore unlikely to change.

However, I was faced with a dilemma.  If she called off the wedding as a result of anything I said, I'd then be the bad guy.  I knew that he'd continue to pursue her and woo her after I'd gone home, and probably persuade her (against her better judgement) into marrying him, and I'd then be excluded from the celebrations and most likely be a pal short as a result.  So I chickened out, telling her that I'd have a very serious talk with him and explain that all his lies had to stop; that he was about to embark on a wonderful new chapter in his life which he should take extremely seriously and stop embarrassing both himself and his beloved with his absurd fabrications and fantasies.  So I did - at great length and in excruciating detail (as is my wont).  At the conclusion of my sonorous oration he soberly assured me that he was 'indeed an altered Toad'.

He was lying of course.

On the day of the wedding, when the registrar asked her if she took this man as her lawful wedded husband, there was a long, long pause.  Then, with tears streaming down her face, she hesitantly said "I do" and thereby made one of the worst decisions of her life.  A decision that I could probably have prevented - and to this day am filled with regret that I didn't at least try to.  The marriage lasted a couple of years or so and the poor woman went through hell.  I hope she's happy now and, should she ever get to read this, can forgive me for my inaction.  I last saw her around August or September 1980 when they were both up on a brief visit.

So there you have it.  Trust me, the cartoon character I alluded to at the start of this post is nowhere near as bad as the guy I've just been telling you about.  He's certainly a lot funnier though.

Monday, 22 October 2018

ROOM WITH A VIEW...



Something that occurred to me only recently is that when I was younger, I only ever looked out any of my windows for one specific purpose or another, never merely for the sake of it.  Things like, to see which of the neighbourhood kids were playing in the field across from my house, or to check what the weather was like, or to catch the approach of someone I was expecting a visit from, or to see what the source of some noise was.  I never, as far as I can recall, looked out of the window just to appreciate the view.  At school, I would gaze out of the windows and lose myself in dreams, but I wasn't really focussing on the scenery.

And now, having typed that, a couple of exceptions have just occurred to me.  I'd look out at freshly-fallen snow, because there's something magical about snow I'm sure you'll agree, and sometimes at night, me and my brother used to look out of our bedroom window at the lights of Glasgow (or its outskirts), twinkling on the far horizon like tiny, dancing fireflies or the glint of frost on the pavement when it catches the sun or the beam of a street-lamp.  I last saw that night-time scene over 46 years ago, though I've seen the view in daytime on occasional visits to my old home - the first of which was 30 years ago, and the last 27 years back.

I first became aware of looking at the view for its own sake during the countdown to my family and myself flitting from my present house to a new one back in 1983.  For some reason it filled me with sadness to realise, as I gazed out into the familiar distance one evening, that I would probably never see twilight again from that bedroom window and that an era was passing.  (Melodramatic?  Me?)  Of course, as many of you will know, just over four years later, we moved back to this house, and I was reunited with my old room and former view from the window.  Strangely, although I'd never wanted to flit to that new house, I now find myself even missing that view, and I'm glad I took quite a few photos of it in the four-plus years we resided there.

Views can change however, as mine has to a certain extent, what with new houses and flats being built on 'spare' ground.  Of course, it was never spare (or 'underdeveloped' as the local council later categorised it), it was intended for recreational use, and to alleviate the monotony of the brick and roughcast-bedecked structures surrounding it;  to provide a welcome oasis of greenery amidst the grey 'sentinels' which stood on its borders, and to provide a sense of space in what has now become an overcrowded concrete ghetto.

Do you ever think back to once familiar views you knew in your youth, readers, and wish you could return and see them again, even though you know that the harsh reality of time and so-called 'progress' consigned them to the phantom mists of history long ago?  Feel free to relive those bitter-sweet memories in the comments section.

******

(Incidentally, the above photo was taken in August 1988, 16 years after moving away in 1972, and a year and a day after returning to the house we'd flitted to in '72 and vacated in '83.)        

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

A TALE OF GEORGE AND THE DRAGON - AND THE BEAR...



Elsie held the little porcelain figure in her hand and regarded it thoughtfully.  She'd always hated it - ever since George had first brought it home on her birthday and laid it proudly before her, like a cat presenting an expired mouse to its horrified owner.

"It's horrible" she'd growled, contemptuously.  "Whatever made you buy that?" she spat, without even the slightest attempt to season the cold nakedness of her words with a hint of gratitude for the thought behind the gift.  Elsie was the kind of person who called a spade a spade and was proud of it.

George looked pained... crestfallen... devastated.  Like a small child receiving an unnecessarily sharp rebuke for a relatively minor offence.  "I... I thought you would like it" he stammered, trying to conceal his hurt.  "Look - it's a little bear - with a hat - and a collar and tie.  I thought it was cute" he ended, lamely.

"I'm not having it in the house.  I don't want the ladies from the guild thinking I've no class, cluttering up the house with cartoon ornaments.   It's junk - get rid of it!" she ordered.  And that was that.

Or at least, it would have been... had George not been made of sterner stuff than his wife gave him credit for.  He just couldn't - wouldn't - discard the porcelain testament of the love he held for the unappreciative Elsie.  Over the ensuing months, he would tuck it away, half-hidden, behind a picture-frame or a vase until, inevitably, she would discover it and the game of 'hide-and-seek' would begin anew.  Many a time she wondered why she simply didn't throw it away or 'accidentally' drop it, but there was something about its irritating 'please love me' expression that mysteriously prevented her from doing so.  That was impossible, but she hated it - hated it with a passion.  "Damn the man!" she would say.

And so it went.  Until the fateful day she received a call from George's office.  The voice on the 'phone sounded like that of a concerned parent speaking to a little child. Was she sitting down?  They were terribly sorry.  There had been an... 'incident'.  It was so sudden.  He wouldn't have felt a thing.  If ever there was anything they could do, it said.  She put down the 'phone, slunk into the chair beside it - and let the tears explode from her soul.  She cried for two hours, then put on her best coat and went down to the hospital mortuary.  When she returned, she was clutching a bag containing her late husband's personal effects.  Along with his watch, wallet and wedding ring was a little porcelain bear which was found in his pocket when he died. For a moment she wondered why, but other concerns drove the thought from her mind.  She made herself a cup of tea, watched 'Coronation Street', then went to bed.  Elsie never cried again.

A few months later, the sum total of poor George's life lay in an assortment of boxes and carrier bags in a corner of the hall.  In one of the boxes, lying on top of George's best lambswool sweater, was the object of Elsie's loathing - smiling inanely at the ceiling as if it expected the ceiling to smile back.  "Hark at me" she thought. "It's almost as if I thought the blasted thing was alive."  She laughed at her foolishness and consoled herself with the knowledge that, from tomorrow, it would be gone forever.  Sam from next door had offered to drive George's things down to the charity shop in the town.  Then it would be time to forget the past and move on.  A new optimism had recently begun to permeate her soul and she looked forward to the future with enthusiasm.  Life with George seemed almost like a dream.

"This all there is?" Sam asked when she opened the door to his knock the next morning.  He took the carrier bags first, then carried out the boxes one by one, puffing and grunting as he did so.

"Last one" he said.  As he stooped to pick it up, Elsie's eye fell upon a small porcelain object and a strange sensation suddenly welled up within her.  Feelings of grief, loss, pain, remorse, pity - a Kaleidoscope of emotions that threatened to engulf her.  "Wait a minute" she heard herself saying as she plucked the figure from atop the sweater.  "That's it, Sam.  Thanks very much for all your help" she said, in a slightly bewildered tone.

Elsie held the little porcelain figure in her hand and regarded it thoughtfully.  She had always hated it - but - now she was astonished to find that she couldn't stand the idea of being parted from it.  She couldn't explain why, but that's how she felt.  Sometimes people are surprised to find that they are not as hard, or as heartless, or as unfeeling as they imagine themselves to be.

And so it was with Elsie.  She looked at the little porcelain bear and thought of George - and remembered how much she'd loved him - and realized just how much she missed him.  Tenderly, she caressed the small figure, kissed the top of its head, and then placed it on the top shelf of her very best display cabinet where visitors would be sure to see it.   Then she smiled to herself, made a cup of tea, and sat and thought of all her wonderful years with George.  "Bless the man!" she sighed.  From its prize position in the display cabinet, the little bear sat and smiled at Elsie.

And - wherever he happened to be - no doubt George was smiling too.

Thursday, 21 June 2018

A TASTE OF PARADISE...



Robert wasn't sure what had suddenly made him think of his old neighbourhood and want to visit it again, but before he knew it he found himself walking along the street where he'd lived as a child.  It was a beautiful sunny day, which puzzled him as he could've sworn it had been pouring with rain not too long before.  He prepared himself for the shock of the changes he'd first seen around forty years ago, on a visit twenty years after he and his family had moved to another house in another area.  He'd lived in many different houses and areas since then.

But what was this?  The old folks' home that had been built on the field he'd once played football on with his pals had gone, and the field was once again as it had been in his day.  What's more, the new houses which had been erected on the site of his former primary school had also vanished, and a perfect duplicate of his boyhood seat of learning now occupied the space.  Robert was astonished, reminded of his dreams of winning the Lottery and restoring the neighbourhood to as it had been when he'd lived there.  Had someone else done that very thing?

"Let's have a look at the old house," he thought, and made his way down the back lane of the top terraced row where he'd lived from the age of seven to fourteen.  He froze in his tracks as his eyes fell upon his former home, the site of so many joyous childhood and teenage memories.  A man worked in the back garden, while his wife sat in a deckchair, sipping lemonade and reading her women's magazine.  A boy played keepie-uppie in the corner, and the impression of domestic bliss was almost tangible.  Robert rubbed his eyes, not quite believing what he was seeing.  Wasn't that his father and mother, as well as his brother he saw before him - or at least their very doubles?  It couldn't be them, because they'd died years ago, at different times and in different places.  Was someone playing a trick on him?

Perhaps he was dreaming, but he could feel the cool breeze that lovingly caressed his heated brow and hear the musical murmur of birds twittering in the nearby trees with a greater potency than even the most seductive dream was capable of.  Surely this was no delusion?  He tried to recall what had prompted him to revisit his old environs.  Last thing he remembered was that it was raining, and that he was about to cross the road to buy a paper from the newsagent's on the other side of the street.  Was that a rapidly approaching car he saw from the corner of his eye as he stepped out onto the road...?  Why did he find it so difficult to think, to remember?

His father looked over and hailed him, and his mother and brother smiled in happy surprise.  "We were wondering when you'd turn up," his mother said.  "Come into the house and we'll have a bite to eat."  Not quite understanding, Robert glanced at his watch to see if he had time to indulge this welcome fantasy, whatever its explanation, but the watch was gone from his wrist - a wrist which now belonged to that of a young boy.

And then he understood, fully and all at once, what had happened, and with that knowledge came the realization that Paradise is precisely what we wish it to be. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

LET ME DREAM...

                               

                                   They've ruined my old street they have,
                                   they've blotted out the view.
                                   No far horizon can be seen,
                                   the place seems smaller too.

                                   The green field where I used to play,
                                   is long-since built upon.
                                   More kids today than ever was,
                                   but space to play has gone.
                               
                                   The hills that once I spied afar,
                                   no longer meet my gaze.
                                   A looming building blocks them out,
                                   the street's seen better days.

                                   They call it progress - that's a laugh!
                                   The neighbourhood's a sight.
                                   Too many years of 'adding on'
                                   have packed it much too tight.

                                   And yet in dreams I see again
                                   the street I knew when young.
                                   In dreams, the dear remembered past
                                   seems near and less far-flung.

                                   So let me sleep and live in dreams,
                                   where things are as before.
                                   And if I could I'd never wake,
                                   and dream forevermore.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

THEY SAY YOU CAN'T GO HOME AGAIN - BUT DO YOU EVER TRULY LEAVE? (UPDATED)...



A few years ago, I was walking past one of my former homes and observed a family (who had just exited a vehicle) walk up the front path and go inside.  The family consisted of mother and father and two young sons, the same as my own family when we'd stayed in the house.  I couldn't help but wonder if the two kids would one day look back on their time there with the same fondness as I did, or have the same sense of atmosphere - or to be more precise - sense of the same atmosphere as I had.  That's probably unlikely, because different furniture, different fashions, toys, TV programmes, comics - all the things which add to the flavour of one's life when growing up - surely affect the perception that different people at different times will have of the same place.  Also, a new church had been erected on the site of the old one (which had only been built in 1965/'66 and was demolished around 1991 due to structural defects) across from the front of the house, and amenity flats for the elderly now filled two thirds of the playing field across from the back, so even the views from the front and rear windows were no longer exactly the same, which no doubt affects the 'sense' of a place. 

Another thing that occurred to me to wonder about is who exactly has more of a sentimental 'claim' on a specific house years after the fact.  The ones who have the fondest memories, or who lived in the house first, or longest, or last - or some other arbitrary factor?  I must confess that I'm a bit flexible in my own approach when it comes to that.  I regard every house I've ever lived in as 'my' house, but my justification differs from house-to-house.  For instance, my family lived in the previous house to this one for four years, and we were the first to live there as it was a brand-new house.  However, the current family who reside there have done so for around 28 or so years and now own the property, so, legally, the house is theirs.  However, that doesn't matter to me - I lived there first so in my mind it's mine.  Contrariwise, there have been homes where we weren't the first to inhabit the premises, but we lived there longer than the previous tenants (if not the subsequent ones - or vice versa), so I still regard myself as having a preeminent 'stake' in them.  Yes, you're right - I just make the 'rules' up as I go along to suit myself.  What is it that drives my unwillingness (my inability even) to sever the ties with, the sense of 'ownership' of, all my former domiciles so long after the fact?  Is it simply because happy periods of my youth are inextricably linked to them, and to give up my feelings of connection would be to abandon - reject - those periods?  One for the philosophers perhaps.

How do you feel about your previous homes, fellow-Mellows?  Have you left them behind in the foreign country that is the past, or do the memories of them still loom large in your life and remain a never-ending presence in your day-to-day existence?  Do you yet regard them as 'yours', or have you long since given up any feeling of special connection to them?  Feel free to indulge yourself in the comments section.  Before you do, however, here's another thought that's just occurred to me.  If houses had 'sentience' of some kind and could have favourite tenants, how would you feel to learn that the favourite dwellers of one (or all) of your former abodes were not your family, but some other one from either before or after your term of residence?  Would you feel slighted by the knowledge or wouldn't it bother you?  I like to think (here in Castle Bonkers) that all of my former homes (and current one) regard my family and myself as the best occupants they ever had.  And who's to say me nay?       

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

A VANISHED AGE...



The ageing process is a curious thing, in that its effects are gradual and don't usually register with us until they've gathered a fair bit of steam.  This applies not only to ourselves, but also our possessions.  Take my bedroom walls for example, or to be more precise, the posters, pin-ups, pages and pictures which adorn them (and are somewhat obscured in the accompanying photo by some of my collectables).

Most have now been in place for at least 30 years (though some go back nearly 40), but it's only in the last couple of years or so that it began to dawn on me just how faded, tanned, and wrinkled many had become, prompting me to begin the time-consuming task of replacing them with brighter, newer, and more colourful duplicates.  I've now renewed around 80 of them, and my room looks all the better for it, but it occurs to me that I'm living in a 'vanished age' which I've preserved by means of a scanner and printer.

Some were replicated by scanning the originals and digitally restoring them, others by scanning spare issues of the comics they came from - some purchased at the same time as the originals, others a few years afterwards (and a good many years ago).  Truth to tell, many of the wall pics had probably begun to look old quite a while back, but it wasn't until they became noticeably mottled that I realised time had taken its toll and decided to do something about it.  However, when younger, I'd probably have just replaced them with new (and different) posters and pin-ups, so why indulge this odd compulsion to preserve things the way they were?

I think I know the answer.  As regular readers of my other blog may be aware, my family originally lived here (in the house I currently occupy) from 1972 to '83, whereupon we moved to another house in a different neighbourhood and resided there for just over four years before returning to our former home.  Not wanting to move from this house back in '83, I felt like one who'd been "from the room untimely ripped" (to misquote Shakespeare) and this made me want to re-create (as much as possible given the different dimensions of my new room), the ambience of my old one.

Had we never moved, this desire to replicate my former surroundings would likely never have occurred to me and, as I said, I'd probably have replaced time-worn pictures with new and different ones when the occasion required.  The irony is though, that even if we'd never moved, my room couldn't have remained the same anyway, as I'd have had to remove my 'wall adornments' to accommodate renovation and refurbishment to the house a mere year or three down the line.  (Thankfully, we were spared that inconvenience.)

This would've meant being decanted to a caravan for a fortnight (with furniture and possessions put into storage) while the house was gutted of original fixtures and fittings, then rewired, re-plumbed and, where necessary, re-plastered.  (New wall sockets and light switches were installed, but not in exactly the same spots, hence remedial work being required on the walls.)  Upon completion, the entire house would've needed redecorated, and as some of my old pictures were glued to the wallpaper, I'd more than likely have just put up new ones.  However, not happy at moving, my reluctance to abandon the warm familiarity of my former surroundings inspired me to try and re-create them in my new room, and again in my old one when we returned.

I've never managed to shake that compulsion, so now sleep in a room that's largely the same as it was between 1975 and 1983, resulting in me living in a bygone age that vanished into the mists of time 35 years ago.  I can only conclude that moving to another house in '83 was a traumatic experience for me, and one which affects my outlook to this very day.  Or it could be that I'm just bonkers I suppose, but if you agree with that diagnosis, I'd much prefer you kept it to yourselves.  After all, you know what a timid, sensitive soul I am, so there's no need to be cruel.

Thoughts, theories, observations or empathy can be left in the considerately-provided comments section if you feel so motivated.
              

Thursday, 22 February 2018

I'LL SEE YOU IN THE MORNING...



Like poems?  Maybe you'll like this one.
Hankies at the ready, three, two, one - go.


            I'll See You In The Morning.

            And so to bed my little lad, I'll see you in the morning,
            there's new adventures to be had with each new day aborning.
            Though not for me alas, my son;  my days on Earth are fading,
            the doctor says I'm nearly done and Death comes 'serenading'.
        
            I'll not be here to watch you grow in each new bright tomorrow,
            I must confess I'm feeling low and in the grip of sorrow.
            I won't be here to hold your hand each time you trip and stumble,
            though not exactly what I planned it does no good to grumble.

            I stand and watch you as you sleep and nearly cry a river,
            you've given me a joy so deep, but now I feel a shiver.
            My time is short, but I'll give thanks as long as I am able,
            though soon enough I'll join the ranks of 'one short at the table'.

            So many things I want to say before I have to leave you,
            it's not my fault I cannot stay, but you'll have mum to cleave to.
            Be strong for her my little man, she'll need you in her sadness,
            give mummy all the help you can and be a source of gladness.

            Perhaps in time she'll wed again;  if so my little laddie,
            should that occasion happen, then - please don't forget your daddy.
            I'll keep an eye out from above, I'll see your joys and sorrows,
            you'll always have your daddy's love throughout all your tomorrows.

            Goodnight to you my little lad, I'll see you when you waken,
            and I will always be your dad - you will not be forsaken.
            I've stood and watched you for a week since I learned I was dying,
            each night I've stooped and stroked your cheek and couldn't keep from
            crying.

            Tomorrow I will play a game - pretend that I'm immortal;
            that things will always be the same and I won't pass Death's portal.
            So rest your head my little lad, I'll see you in the morning,
            a bit more time to know your dad - another day's aborning.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

BACK TO SCHOOL...



As I sat in bed this morning, looking around at the familiar furniture and layout of the room, I was reminded that this was the very same bedroom from which I emerged each weekday to trudge along to school back in the 1970s.  The school no longer exists (the original building anyway), so my room (and indeed house) are the last remaining links to a long-vanished period of my youth.

And then it dawned on me that it wasn't quite so.  A few weeks before my family moved from this house in 1983 (returning four years later), I had started going to night school classes in my old secondary school.  You see, I'd left the hallowed halls of Academia without sitting any Highers, so decided to pursue Higher Art, English, and History and increase my meagre qualifications.

I soon dropped out of art as I found it too boring, and then had to choose between History and English as they swapped English teachers on the night I attended that particular subject a few weeks into the course.  To keep the teacher I'd started with (who knew his stuff), I had to give up History, as the two subjects were on the same night and I couldn't attend both at the same time.

So, ten years after leaving school, I was back at the very same one, trotting along every week from our new house, though I'd begun the course while yet living in my old one.  I eventually acquired my Higher English qualification to add to my two O' levels (Art and English, the only two I ever sat), and had enjoyed the experience of reliving my schooldays in the process.

But, to get to the point (finally), I now realize that I regret having left school at 16, and wish I'd stayed on for yet another year or two.  In that way, I would have remained a 'schoolboy', and extended the period of my boyhood for just a little while longer.  After all, you can't really consider yourself an 'adult' while still going to school, can you?  Unless you're a teacher of course.

Some of my classmates stayed on after I left, and I find myself envious if I ever hear any of them reminiscing about their schooldays after I'd departed.  I was out in the working world, pretending to be an adult, while they continued their existence as 'schoolkids', with all the attendant holidays and lack of financial responsibility that such a life entailed.  Would I really do things differently though, if I had my time over again?

Maybe, maybe not, but it's strangely fascinating to ponder how things might have been had I stayed on and continued life as a schoolboy.  Would the duration of my youth have seemed longer in retrospect, or would it have made no difference in the long run?  Feel entirely free to indulge my fanciful thoughts by adding your two cents worth in the comments section.

Or see me after school!

"I YAM WHAT I YAM!"


POPEYE & Co. copyright KING FEATURES SYNDICATE, Inc.

When I was at secondary school, my main claim to fame was drawing POPEYE.  My classmates were always pleading with me in earnest tones, "Draw Popeye, Robson, draw Popeye!"  They were entranced by the sailor's image coming to life on the page (in the back of a school jotter usually) with only a few deft scribbles.  The celebrity status accorded me, the adulation bestowed upon my exalted self, the adoring awe in which I was held - it was almost intoxicating as I strode heroically through the school corridors.

"Look!", cried lesser pupils as I passed, prostrating themselves in obeisance, "Tis the Mighty Robson, he who is to be regarded as unto a god by we lowly mortals!  All hail the Mighty Robson!"  Even teachers aligned themselves with the 'Cult of The Robson' as it came to be known;  I often used to hear them refer to me (in hushed tones and from a respectful distance naturally) as "a bit of a cult!"

Well, okay - I might, perhaps, have indulged in the slightest bit of hyperbole halfway through that little reminiscence, but only a tad.  The reality was pretty close to how I recall.  (Cough!)

Anyway, I've continued to draw Popeye from time to time over the years, and above is a picture I whipped up for someone-or-other in the mid-'90s.  DUNN KWIK is one of many pseudonyms I use on occasion, the afore-mentioned being reserved for stuff produced in a bit of a hurry.  Still - not too shabby, is it?

******

When I first posted this on my other blog, one commenter (Martin) said "When I was at secondary school, I seemed to spend most of my time trying [to] avoid lads who bore an uncanny resemblance to Bluto."

To which I replied "When I was at secondary school, I seemed to spend most of my time trying to avoid girls who bore an uncanny resemblance to Bluto.  Why'd they always seem to single me out?"

See?  Commenting can be fun.  Why not try it and see?
  

Sunday, 18 February 2018

THE 'OUTSIDER'...



was looking at a photo of where I used to live back in the mid-'60s and early '70s, comparing the field where I used to play across from my house with how it looks today (see below) and a memory jumped into my mind.  Which was that, on the evening of the flitting, after settling into our new home, I made my way back along to that field.

It was almost an instinct.  After all, I didn't know anyone in our new neighbour-hood, so it felt only natural to continue the habit of nearly seven years and seek out the environs that were familiar to me.  As I entered the field, a group of local kids sitting in a far corner, turned and saw me approaching them.  "What are you doing here?" one of them asked in an unwelcoming tone.

I didn't understand their sullen coldness towards me then, but I think I do now.  We hadn't informed any of our neighbours of our intention to move, so it would have been a surprise to them on the day.  Maybe our moving was regarded as a betrayal of sorts, an abandonment of the area and those who lived there - as if we'd thought we were too good for the place and turned our backs on it.

In only a few short hours the locals now viewed me as no longer belonging there, but it was yet too early for me to feel part of our new neighbourhood - leaving me in a kind of limbo as far as 'district identity' goes.  Luckily, I didn't feel too dis-placed, as our new residence sat atop a hill just as our old one had done, so the general impression of the topography was similar in some ways, which doubtless helped me adjust to the new locale.

I've never quite forgotten just how quick people can be to shut others out of a group at the drop of a hat and consider them 'outsiders'.  Luckily, I've never had a 'gang' mentality, so it didn't much bother me that I was no longer regarded as one of 'the lads'.  Still, like I said - I've never quite forgotten.

******

And here's a 'below and after' comparison of how the view used to look and how it is today.  Before, open and spacious - after, crowded and confining.

Click to enlarge

Saturday, 17 February 2018

MORE MUSINGS ON MEMORIES...



In seeming contradiction to the previous post on remembering things, here's a contrary example of someone forgetting stuff that should have been embedded in their memory banks.  (And maybe they were, somewhere in the deepest recesses of their mind, and they'd only forgotten how to access those particular memories.)  Incidentally (and ironically), I think I may have related some of this before, but I can't quite recall.

Anyway, first though, I have to set the scene.  The family who used to live in my house, with whom we swapped in 1972, had lived here for about 17 or 18 years before us.  16 years after we'd swapped houses, I arranged to visit the mother (who now lived in the house alone) to take some photos from my former bedroom window, as building work was shortly due to commence in the playing field across the road and I wanted to capture the view (as I'd known it) before it changed forever.

I took along some photos of the view from the back bedroom window of what had once been her house and was now mine.  Remember that she'd lived here for 17 or 18 years, but when she saw the photos, she enquired where they'd been taken as she didn't recognise the scene she'd once been familiar with for very nearly 20 years.  "That's the flats on the other side of the garden at the back of the house" I replied, but she still didn't recognise them.

Also, in the kitchen above the sink used to be a small cupboard with sliding doors, upon the top of which I used to keep my pet white mouse in its cage.  When I walked into the kitchen with her, I observed aloud that the cupboard was now gone, and was surprised when she said in response that there'd never been a cupboard there.  When I said I used to keep my pet mouse above it, she repeated her assertion (not in an impatient way) because she obviously had no recollection of it.

I found this puzzling, because I couldn't understand how someone could live in their old house for 17-odd years and forget the view from the window, and also forget that there used to be a cupboard on the wall above the kitchen sink in their new house.  The only possible explanation I can think of is that some people aren't very observant, and because they're unaware of certain things at the time, they can't recall them later as they were never assimilated into their consciousness.  In short, they can't remember what they never noticed to begin with.  (I don't think she was suffering from any kind of dementia, but I suppose that's another possible explanation.)

So, 'fellow Mellows', have you any experience of someone you know forgetting something that you'd have thought it was impossible for them to forget?  If so, reveal all in the comments section. 
     

Friday, 16 February 2018

DID YOU FORGET TO REMEMBER SOMETHING?



Have you ever noticed how soon we 'forget' things that we're used to seeing every day once they're no longer part of our daily experience?  Not that they disappear from our memories completely, but when they're out of sight, they tend also to be out of mind - until that is, something (a photo, an aroma, a word, etc.) reminds us of them - or we see them again.  So "What exactly are you talking about?" you may be wondering.

Well, as I sit here typing this, I'm also casting my gaze around the room and seeing little bumps or indentations in the ceiling which have been there for as long as I can recall.  Yet, 35 years ago, when myself and my family moved to another house, I pretty soon (if not immediately) 'forgot' all about them, even though they'd been a familiar part of my life on a day-to-day basis for 11 years.  Not that they were constantly at the forefront of my thoughts or consciousness, but I was aware of them on a subliminal level at least.

Then, when we moved back to this house after four years, upon seeing certain things again, I immediately 'remembered' them (or perhaps 'was reminded' of them is a better description).  For example, when we first moved into this house in 1972, there was a long crack in the plaster of the ceiling in a corner of the room I'm now in, which had been caused be the weight of the water tank in the attic above.  The previous tenants hadn't fixed it, we hadn't repaired it, and the subsequent tenants hadn't seen to it either.  It wasn't until around 30 years after we'd moved back (last year) that I finally attended to it, and all that needs to be done now is for me to paint the ceiling for the former blemish to be totally invisible.

Also, when we resided here the first time, my brother affixed his heavy metal posters to the wall with a stapler.  When I was papering the room around a year ago (a mammoth undertaking that took me many months, a bit at a time), I noticed that quite a few of the staples still remained in the wall.  I could have removed them, but decided to leave them where they were and simply papered over them.  (I actually tapped them into the wall for a closer fit, so that they wouldn't protrude through the new wallpaper.)  The thought that these staples may well remain there forever to mark our first stay in the house appeals to me in some strange way.

As I've said before somewhere, not thinking about something is not quite the same as forgetting it, but the result is similar - it's like forgetting.  However, all we need is a trigger for a particular memory to burst forth anew, as if it had been hiding behind a tree and suddenly jumped out in front of us, shouting "Hi, remember me?" - and we do.

So let me ask you - have you 'remembered' something recently that you thought you'd forgotten until you remembered it?   If you can understand that, you're im-pressively sober for a Friday night - so feel free to tell your 'fellow Mellows' all about it.
    

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

THERE'S BEEN A MURDER...



I witnessed the aftermath of a murder a few days ago.  The body was cordoned off behind yellow tape and bits of the corpse lay about on the surrounding grass.  The victim?  A tree I'd known from when I was 7 years old, situated in a far corner of the grounds of my old primary school.  I'd seen it only the week before, I'm sure, and had been glad to note it still guarding its space, but just a short time later it was dead and dismembered, and yet another old friend from childhood had bitten the dust.

I presume it must've been diseased, hence the tape around it warning people to keep their distance in case branches fell onto them, or the old tree collapsed on top of someone.  Still, it was yet alive when the chainsaw made its first cut into its trunk and it must've felt each burning blow.  It's at peace now, though I miss it standing like a sentinel in the grounds of my old school, which is actually now a new school as the old one was demolished (and replaced) a few years back, yet another victim of time.

The base of the tree and its roots remain in the ground however, and maybe new shoots will sprout from it, as I've seen happen with other trees.  I once saw one that had been shattered by lightning and wasn't much more than a husk, but after several years, it grew back to almost its former glory.  (I published the 'before and after' photos in the previous post.)

Some of you may wonder why I mark the passing of this tree, but it's like seeing yet another piece of my childhood being consigned to the dustbin of history, and with that comes the chilling reminder that my time to join them isn't so far away as it once was.

******

Incidentally, I was standing at the foot of this tree (perhaps even clambering over its lower trunk) when my primary school dinner-bell rang on the day that this incident occurred back in the 1960s.

Monday, 12 February 2018

NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL REGENERATION...



Well, I said I'd do this post when I found the relevant photos, and after much searching - which has taken me months (if not years) - I've finally tracked them down.  True to form, they were in completely different places, and I had to go through hundreds, if not thousands, of pics in order to find them.  That's even harder than it sounds, because my photo wallets are scattered all around the house in whatever space I can fit them.  Anyway, the fact that I'd intended to do this post over on the now defunct Crivens! won't hold me back.  Isn't it lucky for you that I've got another blog, eh?  (H'mm, gone kinda quiet all of a sudden.)

Of course, there's always the chance that you'll think the result of my hunt wasn't worth the effort, but I'll take my chances.  The above photo was snapped by me around 1986, and shows the remains of a tree that had taken a pounding.  I think it was struck by lightning, and it's a shame I don't have a photo of the tree before its 'accident' as it was quite an impressive looking item.  (Could be I do have a pic somewhere, but if so, I've forgotten ever taking it, never mind where it might be if I did.)

Anyway, I took the photo below sometime around the early or mid-'90s, and it shows the tree in its 'recovery stage'.  It's not exactly as it was before it endured a kicking, but I thought it was a goner back then, so it was nice to see that it had survived - and thrived.  There's a moral in there somewhere, eh?  Let's just hope that council workies haven't chopped it down after it making such a magnificent comeback.  I must take a walk along to the area and see if it's still there.  I'll let you know.


Saturday, 10 February 2018

ONE BOY & HIS DOG (AND A CAKE TOPPER)...


THE OPTIMIST

One of the items I remember from my childhood right up to my late teens (at least) was a biscuit tin that was kept in a cupboard (or larder) in four of our houses.  I don't recall it ever having biscuits - it was used for storing screws, nails, clips, curtain hoops, and all sorts of odds-and-ends that had no other place for them to go.  One day it just disappeared, though I'd have been unaware of its absence until some time after the fact.  I've thought about it often over the years, and, with the passage of time, slightly misremembered the illustration on the lid.  I recalled it as a TOM SAWYER-type boy (wearing a straw hat) on a raft, with a little Scottie dog, but it was actually a wash-tub, as I discovered when I saw a picture of the tin on PINTEREST recently.  'Twas good to see it again - and in the very same house I was living in when I last laid eyes on it.

In a previous post on my other blog, I showed you a photo of a chalk snowman (or Eskimo) the original of which had been one of our Christmas decorations ever since I'd been a kid.  The first one got damaged at some point, and was relegated to the biscuit tin which, at that time, was stored in our larder.  They may well have been consigned to oblivion on the same day, but I managed to obtain a replacement for 'Chalky' around 30 years ago, and he's adorned the base of the Christmas tree ever since.  I thought I'd show that photo again, and reunite both of them (or their images at least) just for old times' sake.  I guess I'm just a great, big, silly, sentimental old Hector.

Any Criv-ites ever have this tin?  It contained biscuits by McVITIE & PRICE, and was available circa 1960 onwards.  I managed to track one down and bought it, and the first thing I did was place it in a wall cupboard which now occupies the upper space of where the larder once was.  I thought it fitting to put it in pretty much the same spot I'd last seen the original, as it suggested to my mind a continuity and resumption of how things were in the 1970s.  It must be around 40 years since the first tin 'disappeared', yet seeing its replacement banished the passage of time in an instant and immediately returned me to back then, allowing me to indulge in the illusion that I'm 40 years younger than I am.

Sad?  Maybe.  Fulfilling?  Definitely.           


Thursday, 8 February 2018

HEY, MUM...IT'S THE DUSTBIN MEN!


Not exactly the same as '60s bins, but similar

Remember when exterior refuse bins (or dustbins as they were called) were made of metal, and the racket the bin men (who weren't made of metal) would make when uplifting them every week?  Then, sometime around 1969 or '70 (I think - anyone know for sure?), metal bins were replaced with double-layered brown paper bag ones, which sat behind a curved wire-mesh frame.  The bag was held in place to the wall by a metal attachment, with a lid, which lifted to drop household refuse into.  At some point (late '70s, early '80s perhaps) the paper bags were replaced with black plastic bags, and nowadays it's wheelie bins into which we drop our household waste.  The various councils of our fair land have even managed to con householders into taking the bins out for the bin men to collect, so we're doing part of their job for them.  No doubt a few jobs were lost in the process, but that's 'progress' so they claim.

At one time, only one bin was needed per house, now it's four - five counting the internal food waste bin - and once again, we have to do part of the job on the various councils' behalf.  I have a plastic bag in the kitchen into which all the rubbish is dumped - I then have to stand outside for several minutes when time comes to empty it, because I have to sift through it in order to put the 'correct' waste into the appropriate bins.  What annoys me though, is the fact that, apparently, despite our efforts, only a small percentage of that waste is actually recycled - the rest is buried in landfill sites or incinerated.  So much for me freezing my @ss of in Caledonia's inclement weather, doing my bit for the environment when the council isn't fulfilling their part of the process.

Anyone else miss the old 'tin' (or whatever they were) bins of the olden days (which only seems like yesterday to me), or do you prefer the unsightly spectacle of numerous plastic wheelie bins parked outside your house?  If so (and even if not), feel free to leave a comment if you so desire.

Monday, 5 February 2018

A FANTASMAGORICAL MACHINE...



I never owned a CORGI TOYS CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG when I was a kid, but a relative had one so I almost feel like I did.  (Which is like that old joke of nearly winning the Lottery recently because the guy next door won.)  In fact, I never got to see the movie until it was on TV in the mid or late '70s, but I must've enjoyed it 'cos I bought the soundtrack album not too long after.  Around 1991, Corgi reissued the car as a collectors' piece (and priced accordingly) and I raided the piggy bank to buy it, with wooden plinth, replica box and all.  Some time later, I managed to acquire a 1968 original and when I compared the two, I noticed that the figures in the reissued version were ever-so-slightly different, as was the car dashboard.  A Corgi employee later confirmed to me that these parts had to be re-created from scratch because they couldn't find the pieces from the original moulds for them.  (I believe the rest of the car was from original moulds though.)


Some years back, Corgi reissued their 'Corgi Juniors' version of the car (which was a rebranded HUSKY model made by Corgi and, I believe, originally sold only in WOOLWORTH's) and I bought one.  Sadly, in a cost cutting exercise, the figures weren't included, which, to my way of thinking, was a huge mistake.  The car looks better with the figures, and the better the car looks, the more likely it is to sell in larger numbers.  What's the point of keeping the price lower if the product is less likely to sell because it doesn't look as good as it once did?  Anyway, I recently managed to buy original Husky/Corgi Jr. figures from eBay and added them to the car, improving its appearance by at least 100%.  Don't believe me?  Take a look at the photos I took afterwards and see for yourselves.


I probably will stump up for an original Husky model one day, but for the moment, this combi-version will suffice.  'Tis a thing of beauty, but I'm debating within myself as to whether I should paint the wings so that the car has the proper complement of colours.  What do you think, fellow Mellows, should I paint them or leave them as they are?  Decisions, decisions.  As I said, I didn't have this car as a kid (either version), but because I was aware of it, merely looking at this great wee toy reminds me of the '60s and the joys of childhood.  I was going to end this post by saying I wish I was a boy again, but the truth of the matter is, I've never really grown up.  And guess what?  I wouldn't have it any other way.


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